Jinnah and Haroon

Published : Jun 30, 2006 00:00 IST

Mohammad Ali Jinnah's papers confirm his reputation as an incorruptible politican.

MORE than two decades before Mohammad Ali Jinnah was acclaimed as Quaid-i-Azam (the Great Leader), K.M. Munshi, a colleague at the Bombay Bar and in the Congress, lauded him as a man the like of whom he had never seen before. These two volumes of his papers only confirm what was known to all except the detractors. He established an ascendency in leadership by sheer dint of example in personal and political rectitude, discipline and commitment, tactical skills and organisational talent.

B.R. Ambedkar wrote: "It is doubtful if there is a politician in India to whom the adjective incorruptible can be more fittingly applied. Any one 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" (Pakistan and Partition of India; 1946; page 323).

These volumes cover the Gandhi-Jinnah talks in 1944 based on "the C.R. formula" which Rajaji (C. Rajagopalachari) drew up and Gandhi amended slightly during the talks; the Shimla Conference on the Wavell Plan in 1945, which came to nothing; the release of Congress leaders from prison at the end of the war and the general elections to the Central and Provincial Assemblies in 1946.

Liaquat Ali Khan ran the Central Office of the Muslim League in Delhi. But Jinnah kept vigil and control over the funds for which he kept accounts meticulously and insisted others did likewise. A respected leader like Nawab Mohammed Ismail Khan of Meerut sought additional funds for the Committee of Action of which he was chairman. He was No. 3 in the League hierarchy after general secretary Liaquat Ali Khan. While sending a cheque, Jinnah asked him to send an account of the previous advances to the committee. On receiving the account, Jinnah commented: "I find this method of accounting is not quite satisfactory... because these items convey nothing." He suggested reversion to "the previous method of accounting". He was then in frail health and was recuperating at the hill station Matheran as a guest of Sir Cawasji Jehangir.

Twenty years earlier he had watched from a distance how the Khilafat funds disappeared. Nor was he unaware of some scandals surrounding other parties, the Congress included (vide the writer's article "Money politics: The Congress culture"; Frontline, April 19, 1996, based on files of the National Archives). The spectacle of a Bombay Khoja instructing a U.P. Nawab in accountancy verges on the hilarious, though.

It is amazing how Jinnah was dragged into organisational matters despite his repeated protests that they be sorted out in the fora set up by the party's Constitution. The subcontinent's feudal culture ordains that all matters be settled by the top leadership. Rising to the challenge, Jinnah stunned everyone by emerging as a mass leader. He also proved to be a good organisation man and constantly reminded his followers that they had to adhere to the League's Constitution.

The squabbles that preoccupied him most were the ones that rocked the League's Ministry in Sindh. It was Sindh, not Punjab, which blazed the trail for the establishment of Pakistan. The man who led this movement there was Sir Abdullah Haroon. Orphaned by the death of his father, he hawked knick-knacks in the lanes after school hours. He dropped out from school and educated himself in a public library. Sir Abdullah became a fabulously rich business magnate. For his fine qualities as a human being, contemporaries called him a prince among men. His daughter Doulat's biography is a moving and instructive account of Sir Abdullah's life. He tried to emulate Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan's example in Punjab and floated a secular party but failed.

Sindh's disquiet lay in the unwise opposition to its demand for separation from the Bombay Presidency, which comprised Marathi- and Gujarati-speaking areas. It was separated only in 1937 after a bruising struggle. The demand was opposed on the ground that it was "communal" while it was the opposition to so sensible a demand that exposed the spurious claims to secularism by the opponents. The Congress' refusal to share power after 1937 was another factor.

Doulat Hidayatullah's book reflects hard labour and deep devotion to her father's memory. It fails dismally on a crucial phase in his political career. He initiated moves for the demand for Pakistan in 1938. Once it was formally adopted by the Muslim League in the famous Lahore Resolution on March 23, 1940, this realist insisted that a common centre, no matter how limited, was necessary, between two otherwise independent states; not least for enforcing safeguards for the minorities.

The author writes "during these days [1939-40] Sir Abdullah Haroon was also busy as chairman of the Foreign Committee". But she refrains from narrating in detail the most important phase in her distinguished father's life. It merits a detailed documented account by a scholar based on archival material. Much has been written about how the Resolution came to be drafted and adopted (vide the writer's review of Mohammed Aslam Malik's book The Making of the Pakistan Resolution in Frontline, January 4, 2002).

Sir Abdullah Haroon was the first League leader of standing to hint at the partition of India in his welcome address to the Sindh Provincial Muslim League Conference on October 8, 1938: "Unless this [communal] problem is solved to the satisfaction of all it will be impossible for any body to save India from being divided... ." On December 4, 1938, the League's general body, the Council, set up the Foreign Committee with Sir Abdullah as its chairman. Jinnah was, however, non-committal; as was his style. For instance, when E.V. Ramaswami `Periyar' wrote to him on August 9, 1944, joining his demand for Dravidistan to the demand for Pakistan, for a fight against "our opponents" Jinnah replied on August 17, 1944, to say "it is entirely for you people to decide on this matter [Dravidistan]... ".

The Foreign Committee was only one of the contributors to the Lahore Resolution. However, it set up a Constitution Sub-Committee in February 1940 with a rather lop-sided composition and presented a report on December 23, 1940. It was leaked to the press in March 1941. Jinnah repudiated the sub-committee: "The Muslim League has appointed no such committee." The report opined that the Lahore Resolution envisaged "a common co-ordinating agency" on defence, foreign affairs, customs, etc. during a "transitional stage". It went further and proposed that it deal also with the enforcement of safeguards for the minorities in both states.

The record reveals that apart from the dubious procedure of its appointment and its odd composition, the sub-committee was hijacked by Dr. S.A. Latif of Hyderabad whom Jinnah called a "busy body". In June 1946, Jinnah did accept an all-India federation under the Cabinet Mission's Plan. The Congress sabotaged it. That was the last chance for preserving the sub-continent's unity. Its partition and the bloodbath that followed on the dawn of its independence from British rule must rank among the 10 greatest tragedies in recorded human history.

Reports by successive Governors of Punjab warned against the bloodbath. Lionel Carter produced two compilations of their Reports to the Viceroy from 1936 to 1943. The latest provided warning enough (Punjab Politics: 1 January 1944 - 3 March 1947; Lionel Carter (edited); Manohar, distributed by Foundation Books; pages 392, Rs. 950). Raghuvendra Tandon's collection of press reports and public statements is an invaluable record of the massacre in Punjab (Reporting the Partition of Punjab 1947; Manohar, distributed by Foundation Books; pages 622, Rs.1,195). Both India and Pakistan paid a heavy price in overcoming this misfortune of great consequence.

Two scholars of note, Hafeez Malik and Yuri Gankovsky, have edited an extremely informative encyclopaedia on all the significant aspects of Pakistan to which other scholars of note also contributed. Its illustrations are as rich as the text.

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