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State of Pakistan: Islamist or Secular?

Umair Khan

By Yasser Latif Hamdani
Vanguard Books, 2012, pp. 183, Pakistani Rs. 795.00


Abstract notions like nationalism, secularism, and Islamism still haunts scholars of as real a movement as the one that culminated in the Independence of India and the creation of Pakistan. The politics of the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League is compared and contrasted against the backdrop of British imperialism to answer the still elusive question of the raison d’être of the Pakistan movement. The perspectives of the founding fathers of both India and Pakistan, i.e. Gandhi and Jinnah, are vigorously debated by academicians, historians, and politicians across the politico-ideological spectrum. Jinnah: Myth and Reality is an effort by Yasser Latif Hamdani, a well known lawyer and columnist from Pakistan, to argue his position on the life and politics of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in order to suggest a way forward for Pakistani policymakers to tackle the existing problems of the country. The Islamization movement starting with General Zia affected each and every aspect of life in Pakistan including the image of Jinnah. Religion became instrumental in defining everything. Even Jinnah was transformed into some kind of a modern saint which he clearly was not. This book by Hamdani serves the role of a counter-narrative on Jinnah in an effort to reclaim him as a secular leader that he was. Hamdani categorically declares that Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan was ‘one where sovereignty is vested unconditionally with the people regardless of their religion, caste, or creed.’ An interesting fact is that Jinnah appointed a Hindu Law Minister to look after the vital task of law making in the new state. Jinnah was a nationalist first, and a secular one. He represented both Tilak and Bhagat Singh against the sedition charges levelled by the British Government. He campaigned for the right of Indians to serve in the army as officers. He actively supported the Restraint of Child Marriage Bill. Some people accuse Jinnah of being an agent of the British imperialists, furthering their ‘divide and rule’ policy. The nature of Jinnah’s relationship with the British is succinctly described by Hamdani as: ‘He was their harshest critic but never a rebel.’ Hamdani explains that the Muslim nationalism of Jinnah was not based upon theological beliefs of his countrymen but on actual cultural differences not only with the Hindus but also with other Muslims of the world. The Muslim demand for a separate homeland was not based upon ...

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