Original Articles

A Rebuttal to Dr. Safdar Mehmood’s article “Did Jinnah Aspire to a Secular Pakistan” – by Naveed Ali

Naveed Ali has contributed the following rebuttal to Dr. Safdar Mehmood’s article “Did Jinnah Aspire to a Secular Pakistan” which you can read here

I again strongly condemn the notion used by Dr. Mehmood that these are atheists or anti-religious who talk in favour of secularism (and subsequently suggest that Jinnah was a secular and wanted a secular state) or that secularism is against religion or that being secular means being an atheist. These are basic misconceptions deliberately told to Pakistani public every now and then, matter of fact is that secularism goes hand in hand with democracy; it demands equal rights for all citizens so state cannot adopt a religious policy and it should remain neutral and shows no bias towards any religion. Certainly, all citizens of a state have equal rights, otherwise how will you ensure justice and provide equal opportunities to your citizens?

In Pakistan, a non Muslim cannot get commission in Army, you have to declare your religion on your Passport, a non Muslim Pakistani cannot hold many high level designations and there are many other examples which show a negation of basic human rights and equality by state under disguise of religion. Dr. Mehmood and like minded can come up with reasons, but all those reasons will be based on insecurity and fear. No nation can progress with insecurity and fear and prejudices.

Take state of Israel as an example, where religion plays an important role in state affairs. Can I ask if ‘anti-secular’ Pakistanis support state of Israel as a Jewish Democratic State? Can they see equal rights for Arabs (Muslims and Christians) in that state? Cannot they see that Israeli state supports a particular religion and has discriminatory policies against others hence against its own citizens? I hope it will be justified for anti-secular elements (as what you chose for yourself should be right for others as well) when PM of Israel proposed an amendment to the Citizenship Act, mandating that all aspiring citizens would be required to pledge their allegiance not only to Israel but to a “Jewish, democratic” Israel.

Basic flaw in political thinking and understanding of many Pakistani scholars is that they are insecure and inflexible because of incomplete knowledge and assumptions made by them to fill the gap in their knowledge; they try to interpret the world around them which is largely changed and progressed. The more it agitates them the harder they try to justify themselves and it results in distortion and narrow mindedness apparent in every walk of life in Pakistan.
Now coming back to Jinnah, we must look at his complete career from start to finish, in order to understand him better. We must acknowledge that fact that India and its political leadership were facing internal challenges of communalism, illiteracy and poverty along with imperialism, and it was a complex situation they were dealing with. Jinnah started his career in this scenario and gradually progressed, most of his career he tried to find common grounds for Hindu Muslim unity and later concluded that separation is a better path though he was fiercely opposed by certain sections of Muslim community.

Creation of Pakistan is not his achievement as events do not take place on will of a single person, there were many factors behind his success besides his own leadership and political skills, yet he has to be accommodating and flexible to get advantage from situations he find himself in. We must look at the context of his speeches; when, where and in which circumstances they were delivered and whom were his audience. He was manoeuvring with various interest groups and contrasting motivations and that is why he never clearly outlined the objectives of Pakistani state.

“The new state was meant to achieve different things for different people; emancipation from Hindu landlords for the peasantry of Bengal and Assam; creation of new economic and political opportunities for frustrated urban classes of Dehli, Bombay, UP and CP, and establishment of an Islamic state for religiously minded in Sindh, Punjab and NWFP” [1]

Importance of speech of 11 August 1947 is that it was delivered to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan and it stressed on religious freedom, supremacy of law and justice and equality for all citizens of Pakistan. Founder of Pakistan was advising the elected members of first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan to follow these principles and these principles are secular in nature which of course comply to any religion’s teachings as well, because secularism is not against religion.

History has complexities, many say it was mere clever tactic by Gandhi to offer Jinnah premiership of united India, but imagine if it would have been done? We must also regard the fact how Jinnah is understood by those outside of Pakistan, despite what ‘conspiracies’ alike of Dr. Mehmood can ‘discover’. Following from L. K. Advani attest to what most in outside world understand about Jinnah.

“There are many people who leave an irreversible stamp on history. But there are few who actually create history. Qaed-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual. In his early years, leading luminary of freedom struggle Sarojini Naidu described Jinnah as an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. His address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947 is really a classic and a forceful espousal of a secular state in which every citizen would be free to follow his own religion. The State shall make no distinction between the citizens on the grounds of faith. My respectful homage to this great man.” [2]

This is a continued debate between two contrasting viewpoints in Pakistan whether Jinnah wanted a secular or a theocratic state? Importance of this debate lies in the fact that both groups suggest a different solution to the challenges faced by Pakistan today. Qauid-e-Azam is important for both of them as a leader who is admired by the nation and hence his portrayal under one or other framework can benefit them. It is however on us to understand what the best course is for future of Pakistan. What is choice for ordinary Pakistani? It is to understand that where they want ‘their’ Pakistan to be, they can take inspirations from past and learn to not commit the mistakes made by their predecessors. Pakistan was not only Jinnah’s; it was and it belongs to us, millions of Pakistanis, and we have to be intelligent and progressive enough to decide our fate. And it is also on us how we understand our Quaid-e-Azam, our fate will not change the fact who M.A. Jinnah was. End of the day, it is now on us to lead Pakistan, to success or destruction.

[1] Shahid Jawed Burki in “Pakistan: The Continuing search for nationhood,2nd ed. p22”
[2] L. K. Advani wrote this on his visit to Jinnah’s Mausoleum, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Ali_Jinnah%27s_11th_August_Speech
[3] http://www.hinduonnet.com/2005/08/08/stories/2005080801672000.htm

About the author

Laila Ebadi


Click here to post a comment
  • To present and twist the message of Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a supporter of Mullaism, is a cruel attempt.
    He was a brilliant child born to a Muslim family but wished for a progressive and liberal way of life for the Muslims of India.
    Why he was attacked by a member of Allama Mashraqi’s Khaksar Party, who claimed to be champion of theocratic system for India?
    The debate between Secular and Islam, has blocked the progress of Pakistan for the past 60 years.
    Intellectuals and authors like Safdar Mahmood are making money by creating a confusing through emotionalism.

  • Though agreeing in principle with the grounds on which the article stands I grievously have to say that Naveed Ali in a hurry to refute Dr. Mehmood has based his piece of note on very weak, beguiling and fake basis.

    “No law abides the minorities of Pakistan from being commissioned in Pakistan’s Armed Forces. As a matter of fact many Christians have not only been a part of Pakistan’s Armed Forces but have excelled to high ranks. Major General Jackob, Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf, Group Captain Cecil Chauhdary are just glimpse of quite a lengthy list that can be provided. Brig. Simon even served as the Deputy Director Military Operations and was in charge of overseeing the nuclear tests project in 1998. So one must not think that Non-Muslims do not qualify for the Armed Forces. Many Christians, Sikhs and Hindus still are a part of the officer cadre of Pakistan’s Armed Forces.”


    “No law abides Non-Muslims from holding high designations Justice Durrab Patel a Parsi was not only a renowned jurist but has served as the Chief Justice of Sindh High Court and later became part of the Apex Court of Pakistan thus involved in the most key decisions of the state. Justice Rana Bhagwan Das a Hindu has served as the Chief Justice of Pakistan and is now the Chairman of the Centeral Selection Board a body that controls the promotions of the most senior bureaucrat of Pakistan. Many other minority members are also a part of the Civil Services of Pakistan”


    As LUBP is widely read blog fortunately having visitors from not only Pakistan but across the globe, one must present his argument in a responsible manner and must not harm the reputation of Pakistan via blatant lies.

  • Thank you very Mr. Ali for pointing to the facts, I am very well aware of these exceptions, let me know the number of commissioned officers in armed forces as proportion of their population? Secondly how many Hindu and Sikh in your knowledge in Army specifically who have commissioned or on senior posts, and Ahmadis as well.
    That can not be said that people from minorities do not join Armed forces on their will. It is the procedure and our attitude towards them which deprived them.

    They are various other high designations left for which a person has to be a Muslim. May I also mention to the Article 62 of constitution.

    It is not reputation of Pakistan which is on stake here, it is its existence, and that is why we need to be open for criticism. This Article is not intended for the world but for Pakistanis.

    As this was not the main topic in debate, I have not indulged into it in detail, I have discussed our attitude towards the minorities, I have not lied to best of my knowledge.

  • Mr Ali, thankyou for your input, but the names that you mention are exceptions to the wider rules and attitudes that have developed in our society, rather than a norm in it. They can be only quoted to distort facts and cannot and donot give an accurate picture. Its like saying Ahmadis in Pakistan are not discriminated against as Ahmadis like Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Abdus Salam, Akhtar Hussain Malik and M M Ahmad occupied high and prominent positions in the government and the establishment. Now we all know nothing could be further from the truth, we are all aware of the insult and discrimnitation the Ahmadis face in Pakistan. No one refutes the discrimination. Infact, sadly, many Pakistanis would defend it in the name of respect for their faith and its Prophet.

    A nation that humiliates the final resting place of its only nobel laureate; a nation that mentions Hindus (a large religios minority in its land) as deceitful and warmongering by its very nature in school textbooks, and then expects the children of that religious minoity in question to read it at the tender age of 13, 14 and agree to it; a nation whose minorites constantly fear to be implicated at any blasphemy case; a nation that has taken onto itself to determine who is a muslim and who is not, and violating fundamental religious freedoms in the process; a nation that has an article of discrimination like Article 62 of constitution, should be more concerned about how to become a just society, than to be worried on how and what harms its image and its self imagined high reputation for human rights in the world.

    Haseeb Chughtai

  • I support a secular Pakistan. In my opinion Islam and secularism can go hand in hand since Islam doesn’t allow discrimination against other religions. It does disgust me when people use religion to defend their prejudice. Although the law does not discriminate I must say for a non Muslim is allowed to joint our armed forces according to the law they’re also allowed hold positions as long as they’re qualified for it. People tend to mock religions like Hinduism. Which is something which don’t agree with but thank god atleast our laws don’t discriminate against it and that’s why I think dr. Mehmood has used opinions instead of credible facts. Like mr. Ali pointed out. To mr.Haseeb no discriminatory opinions about other religions is NOT included in our curriculum. Not anymore atleast.

  • Dear Naveed ALI,
    you are making a mistake to understand the connection between “secularism” and “religion”. At the outset, let me tell you that a person can either be religious or secular because these two or antagonistic to each other. it is quite contradictory for a person to be secular at the same time religious. first question to you is that what is the relationship between “DEEN AND DUNYA”? why did Allah almighty feel need to provide us the religion through His prophets??? is it all about religion that one has to pray five times, has to fast and perform other obligatories? is Quran the Book only to recite or there are certain laws and ordinances in QURAN which Allah WANTS us to impose on our society??? and HOW do you make a mistake to say that quad-e-azam was a secular? giving freedom to practice one’s own religion is secualrism??? does Islam put any resrtiction on any religion to be not practiced???? please, reply these questions intellectually so that the readers should be made aware of the facts…

  • Sorry Naved ALi, you have lost from the use of words as citing source by L.K Advani, that is understanding and his quote to describe Jinnah solely didnt made M.A. Jinnah as secular. But the fact of matter there are more than 100 statements recorded but lacking word “secular” if you being slave of western mentality then obv. you will sum out that Quaid-e-Azam wanted secular state but reality is Why my YOU brothers who primarily speak English mainly to show-off. B/c Jinnah is person who was not graduate of local madrasah of pre-partition but from western standard university could not inject term “secular” in sayings.
    What Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be or not to be according to you perspective is not important, but in realily his personal life he was hardcore in his ISLAMIC faith that’s why Ratanbai had to convert from Parsi’ to Muslim and named as Maryam. so marriage by itself is mutual and public “agreement” to get into that Agreement he prefered her wife to be a muslim. And he prefered to distanced himself from her daughter when she chose non-muslim man rather preferring faith that his father Jinnah followed.

    Am I being Against Secularism??
    –above one brother wrote that Islam doesnt allow discrimination, absolutely correct but why the heck we need this term secular (which not mentioned in 11 aug speech of Founder of Pakistan) to define us which was not in dictionary of Jinnah!
    You dont have to specifically molvi saab to be an islamic activist thats our mindset that to keep ourself distanced from our history and religous values but which Jinnah understood as he grew up!

    Islam in not merely a relgion but way of life that describes best ways to do politcs, diplomacy, economy, social sphere. but for that get you nee to get out from molvi box to variety of scholars, do your research!i wish next time you should quote Quaids’ statement of islamic banking while inaugurating State Bank!!

  • Started to read with great interest but left after reading this line which is not only disinformation but a complete lie: “In Pakistan, a non Muslim cannot get commission in Army” … There are living legend of PAF from 1965 war who became officer then.