One can agree or disagree with Jinnah’s politics but not even his worst critics and rivals questioned his integrity. This is what Dr. B. R. Ambedkar - the father of the Indian Constitution- had to say about Jinnah in his classic Pakistan or Partition of India:
“Mr Jinnah, who represents this ideological transformation, can never be suspected of being a tool in the hands of the British even by the worst of his enemies. At the same time, it is doubtful if there is a politician in India to whom the adjective incorruptible can be more fittingly applied. Anyone who knows what his relations with the British government have been will admit that he has always been their critic, if indeed, he has not been their adversary. No one can buy him. For it must be said to his credit that he has never been a soldier of fortune.”
Gandhi, Jinnah’s most famous rival, described him as incorruptible and brave. Even Nehru, who was a fierce critic of Jinnah in addition to being his political enemy, wrote in his book Discovery of India: “Mr. Jinnah was a different type. He was able, tenacious, and not open to the lure of office, which had been such a failing of so many others.”
Of course, history being litigated and re-litigated in the national imagination is not something unique to Pakistan, but happens all around the world. Idols are made and idols fall. There is nothing wrong with questioning political positions that any historical figure might have taken during his or her lifetime, provided it is based in fact.
H.V. Hodson, the author of The Great Divide, wrote:
“One thing is certain; it was not for any venal motive that he changed. Not even his political enemies accused Jinnah of corruption or self-seeking. He could be bought by no one, and for no price. Nor was he in a least degree a weathercock, swinging in wind of popularity or changing his politics to suit the chances of the times. He was a steadfast idealist as well as a man of scrupulous honor.”
So this wild accusation that Pakistan was a British conspiracy and Jinnah was a tool or worse that has been propagated by Jinnah bashers over the years falls flat on its face. First of all, this hackneyed and exploded theory that the British wanted to divide the subcontinent is one, which has been debunked a long time ago. We now have evidence that British government and the opposition was united in its desire to leave behind a united India and to this end, the British sent the Cabinet Mission, which came up with a remarkable proposal, that if accepted, would have kept India united. It was the Congress party that torpedoed it, and made the division of the subcontinent inevitable. The idea of Pakistan posited by Jinnah and the Muslim League was congruent with a federated Indian union and not opposed to it. The creation of a separate sovereign Muslim majority state was the result of the Congress Party’s refusal to accept a consociational solution on the basis of the principle that Hindus and Muslims should have equal say in constitution making. In short, there was no conspiracy. Jinnah had this consociational vision for India’s future, which was unacceptable to Nehru and the Congress. The British tried to mediate but failed, leading to the partition of India. Let us not give into salacious gossip and wage history with a vengeance. Let us let facts speak for themselves.
The biggest supporters of the Pakistan movement in the subcontinent were the Communists. P. C. Joshi, one of the tallest leaders of the Communist Party, wrote, explaining the communist position: “We were the first to see and admit a change in its character when the League accepted complete independence as its aim and began to rally the Muslim masses behind its banner. We held a series of discussions within our party and came to the conclusion in 1941-1942 that it had become an anti-imperialist organization expressing the freedom urge of the Muslim people that its demand for Pakistan was a demand for self-determination… A belief continues to be held that the League is a communal organization and that Mr. Jinnah is pro-British. But what is the reality? Mr. Jinnah is to the freedom loving League masses what Gandhi ji is to the Congress masses…This is so because Mr. Jinnah has done to the League what Gandhi did to the Congress in 1919-1920 i.e. made it a mass organization.” The Communist Party not only supported the Muslim League, but also gave its own people like Sajjad Zaheer, Abdullah Malik and Daniyal Latifi to the League. Daniyal Latifi authored the Punjab Muslim League’s manifesto for the 1945-1946 elections, a progressive left leaning socialist manifesto. The Communist Party of India had no truck with the British imperialists and indeed was a staunch enemy of British imperialism.
Of course, history being litigated and re-litigated in the national imagination is not something unique to Pakistan, but happens all around the world. Idols are made and idols fall. There is nothing wrong with questioning political positions that any historical figure might have taken during his or her lifetime, provided it is based in fact. Jinnah’s political career spans four decades and is an open book. Criticize him by all means, but criticize him on the basis of what he did and not some salacious reimagining of history.