Seventy years on, the debate whether Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had envisioned a secular or religious country still rages on. Many individuals and parties claim that they want to resurrect what they describe as Jinnah’s Pakistan. As Christmas and Jinnah’s birthday coincide today it is an ideal time to look at what Jinnah really wanted for Pakistan and more importantly for its minorities.
Addressing the first constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, Jinnah had talked at length about the status of minorities and the State’s role to protect it.
Addressing the constituent assembly on that very day, Jinnah said, ‘I cannot emphasise it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities — the Hindu community and the Muslim community — because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalese, Madrasis and so on — will vanish. Indeed if you ask me this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain its freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free peoples long long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 millions souls in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time but for this. Therefore we must learn a lesson from this. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State (Hear, hear). As you know, history shows that in England conditions some time ago were much worse than those prevailing in India to-day. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country and they went through that fire step by step. Today you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist: what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen, of Great Britain and they are all members of the nation. Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.’
If we look at the current situation of minorities in the country, we will find that we are far from that vision. Today, we must make a vow to work for an inclusive Pakistan as envisioned by Jinnah. To achieve this aim, we as a nation must also develop an inclusive attitude and shun biases.