Athar Osama June 18th, 2007
By: Athar Osama
The rushed and haphazard manner in which the plans for the division of British India were devised and executed left so much to be desired, caused immeasurable suffering to the people on both sides of the border, left a crushing social and economic burden on the two countries—more so on Pakistan than on India, though—and a legacy of mutual rivalry and armed conflict that they continue to struggle with even to this day.
For the citizens of the nascent state, however, there were important and pressing matters to attend to. Pakistan had arrived and, with it brought a “promised homeland” for at least a major section of the Muslims of India. It also came with great opportunities and tremendous challenges.
Yet, with their Quaid-e-Azam at the healm, Pakistanis believed that they could beat all odds and, having secured the country, would now secure their future as well. Unfortunately, that feeling did not last for too long. M. A. Jinnah–the frail leader almost on his deathbed–presided over a tumultous year for the country and, while being a source of great strength for his followers, he left a legacy as the first Governor General that could be described as mixed or “incomplete”, at best. Several questions may be raised of this first year of the country’s existence:
- What were the factors in Jinnah’s mind that led him to adamantly deny Mountbatten’s desire to become the first Governor General of Pakistan (jointly with India)? What kind of cost-benefit analysis was made for taking that decision?
- Did Jinnah’s insistence on becoming the first Governor General of Pakistan against Mountbatten’s desire cost Pakistan to the point of becoming crippled? Would Pakistan have fared better–in terms of share in assets, Kashmir etc.–had Mountbatten been allowed to become the Governor General instead?
- Did Jinnah’s assumption of the office of the Governor General as well as President of Constituent Assembly and the President of Muslim League leave a tradition of personalization of power that afflicts Pakistan to this day?
- What was the precise role of second-tier politicians in the post-independence Pakistan? What did Jinnah think of them and how did he (or did he?) groom them to becomes future leaders of Pakistan?
- What were Jinnah’s views about democracy in Pakistan? And how did he view events such as dissolution of assemblies in Sindh and NWFP, and imposition of direct rule in Baluchistan in the light of that?
- Being the ”constitutionalist par excellence” that he was, what was Jinnah’s role toward the formation of the first Constitution of the country?
It is hard to look at Jinnah’s first and last year in office as anything other than the struggles of a dying man clinging on to life because he thinks, and rightly so, that the nation needs him most, only to lose this battle between life and death–that he has fought so hard for so many years– within a matter of months. These and many other questions highlight the critical issues confronting the country at that time. They may have also left deep legacies that continue to affect the nation today.