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Clues to Understanding Jinnah

In Quest of Jinnah Diary: Notes and Correspondence of Hector Bolitho edited by Sharif al Mujahid


Clues to Understanding Jinnah

Balraj Puri

officers – or from some other country – should be lent to Pakistan to administer its government as Pakistanis were incapable to governing themselves. When he was invited to lunch by the British High Com-

uaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was an unusual personality in more than one sense. He belonged to the Aga Shahi sect of Shia Muslims. No other Shia is known to have been the leader of any consequence in the subcontinent, which is predominantly inha bited by Sunni Muslims. In fact, he was not much conversant with the religious pre cepts and practices of Islam and for all practical purposes was a non-practising Muslim.

Jinnah was arraigned against almost all known Islamic scholars and religious ulema, including those of the internationally renowned Islamic institution of Darauloom, Deoband. He could hardly speak a few words in Urdu and often used English in his public speeches, not much understood by Muslim audience. He did not have much following in the Muslim majority part of undivided India, which eventually made up Pakistan. Nor did he have a team of very distinguished leaders.

Yet, he emerged as the sole spokesman of the Muslim community, as the third party, besides the Congress and the British government, during negotiations on the independence of the country. He succeeded in carving out the greatest Muslim country of the world. In the words of the historian Percival Spear “alone he did it”. Nasim Ahmad, correspondent of the Dawn told the author, Jinnah created Pakistan in spite of Muslims.

Any clue to understand this amazing pheno menon and any information about such a personality would obviously be of great interest not only to scholars, but to the citizens of the subcontinent. Herein lies the value of the book written by Hector Bolitho. The services of the British writer were commissioned by the Pakistan government. His study was first published under the title, Jinnah, the Creator of Pakistan in late 1954, supposed to be his first biography. The present book, under review, was posthumously published in 2007 and includes confidential “Diary, Notes and Correspondence” of the writer. According to Sharif al Mujahid, who has

Economic & Political Weekly

March 1, 2008

In Quest of Jinnah Diary: Notes and Correspondence of Hector Bolitho edited by Sharif al Mujahid; Oxford University Press, Karachi; pp xxxii + 221, Rs 495.

edited the book, the author had copyrighted his notes “until I die”. He died in 1974. “The present volume is an edited version of his Diary and Notes”.

‘Rude with Pakistanis’

Why it has taken so long after the death of the author to publish this volume and what portion of it has been omitted in the process of editing may never be known. It is based on, as per Sharif, interviews of some 200 people who knew Jinnah (the author puts the figure at 100), besides a sizeable number of people in England. He also adds his own comments and observations. He found the Indian and British response far more fair than of Pakistanis. But he suspected all the anecdotes he heard in Pakistan till he confirmed them by a Briton. He complains that “nobody in Pakistan ever answers my letters”.

Sharif adds: He was given a VVIP treatment by the government and was feted and greeted by every body when he was in Pakistan. He was put up in a three room set in a posh hotel Metropole, all expenses paid, besides an undisclosed but enormous sum for biography. Yet, he had not an iota of sympathy for Pakistan or Pakistanis. Not one good word for them. On the contrary, he was extremely rude. He asked (read order) Qudratullah Shoab, then an officer in the Information Ministry, not to ring the bearer of the hotel to have his shoes polished but to take them himself and get them polished.

Sharif thus justifies

Pakistan government’s contract with the author which included enforced amendment and deletions. Otherwise, given his ignorance of Indian history and politics, and his con tempt for Pakistani society, culture, customs and behaviour pattern, one can imagine what he would have actually produced.

There are many comments in the book that justify Sharif’s observation. The author, for instance, suggests that British missioner, he observes, “after being entertained to curry struggles in Pakistani houses, with no one object worth looking at, it was a delight to eat at a table with good silver and see pictures and furniture that brought some of the beauty of England into this parched ugly city (Karachi) – all camel dung and sand”. He even disliked his subject, Jinnah for his rudeness, “but must relate to his honesty and added”. “He (Jinnah) was an insolent warrior but was forced into it by the sleepy, dishonest people he led to freedom”.

Nevertheless the value of the book lies in its being a rare “treasure trove of oral history concerning Pakistan’s founding father. But for his interviews with people who had known Jinnah personally in various capacities, and at various stages of life, recorded within four to five years of his death, a good deal of oral history would have been lost forever.”

The oral history, however, comprises only 92 pages and includes 32 pages of a preface and introduction, 47 pages of correspondence between the author and the principal information officer of the Pakistan government deputed “to correct the book” (in the correspondence, the author says “you orientals and your pro mises”), 20 pages of author’s miscellaneous correspondence, 27 pages of contem porary reviews on his earlier book on Jinnah and 28 pages of expunged passages of it. As the page num bers in each part are from different manuscripts, it is difficult to locate their context.

Contradictory Views

There are two more main difficulties in arriving at a conclusion from these interviews. Firstly, apart from repetition of views, varying and sometimes contradictory views have been expressed by different persons. Secondly, these interviews are not arranged in a sequence to correspond with the various phases of Jinnah’s life or its different aspects. Thus a respondent talks about his childhood at the middle of the narrative which might start with the interview of somebody who knew


him as the governor general of Pakistan in the last phase of his life, and end with that of a person who was close to him during his Bombay days. Their arrangement subjectwise or according to life sequence of Jinnah would have facilitated the task of the reader and the reviewer.

Thus somebody who claims to know the family of Jinnah tells the author that his family was so poor that he used to read as a student under a street lamp post. Another says that it was a rich family which could afford to send its boy to England for studies. A third person asks if the family was so rich, why could not his six brothers get edu cated. Nobody could tell what happened to his brothers, where were they settled and did they ever meet their brother when he was a prosperous lawyer in Mumbai or head of the new state. Much less is known more about the early life of Jinnah.

There is plenty of evidence, more or less reliable, of his days as a successful lawyer in Bombay, in fact the “only Mohammad lawyer of consequence” in India. He charged a heavy fee because he told a client “you cannot travel by Pullman with a third class ticket”. He also had a reputation of integrity in his profession. He returned a fee to a client on whose behalf he had to file an appeal but had won the case without filing the appeal. His relations with eminent Hindu and Parsi lawyers were cordial though formal.

Jinnah’s Arrogance

A number of instances have been cited about his arrogance in the court and in his public life. The following conversation bet ween him and the judge will illustrate it.

Judge: “Mr Jinnah, please raise your voice”. Jinnah: “I am a lawyer, not an actor”. Judge: “Please raise your voice. We cannot hear you”. Jinnah: “If you moved that pile of books in front of you, then you would be able to hear me”.

When the secretary to the governor called Jinnah to convey his message, Jinnah refused to respond and said “if your Excellency is too busy to come to the telephone, so am I”. Similarly, Wavell, then viceroy of India, invited him to talk and asked him what should they discuss, he said “I have nothing to discuss” and left.

When Mountbatten visited Karachi, the then capital of Pakistan, Jinnah did not receive him at the airport, nor at the front door of his official residence. He did not even rise to greet him when he walked into his room. Mountbatten, however, said that if Jinnah came to Delhi, he would be received with all the courtesies due to a head of a state.

At a press conference in Delhi, in July 1947, one of the reporters asked Jinnah, “will Pakistan be a theocratic or a democratic state”, he answered, “Get that dirty nonsense out of your head”. The reporters were so furious that all 100 of them walked out.

A B Habibulah, who was Jinnah’s disciple in Muslim League told Hector Bolitho that Jinnah had a tremendous ego and was always susceptible to flattery. He discarded Mehmudabad for saying, “my leader must be closest to God”. He put Jehangir down when he became too powerful, even though he was devoted to Jinnah. He never, or seldom kept his servants for more than a year. He also never kept his political friends for long. In the first Pakistan cabinet there was not one single man who had been with him at the beginning. Wavell told the author the story of the ex-president of America, Hoover. When he came to India, he wished to see Gandhi and Jinnah. While Gandhi drove to call on Hoover, Jinnah said that he expected Hoover to come to him.

Bolitho also observes that he might donate money for the poor but never shook hands with them or visit their colony.

Jinnah was not a scholar or interested in literature, music and culture. His reading was mainly confined to newspapers. According to the architect of his house in Bombay, Jinnah had no taste for architecture or furniture. But he had a taste for cigars and whisky. Also he was always keen to be well-dressed and expected his colleagues to be similarly dressed.

When his foreign minister Zaffarullah arrived at a reception in a lounge suit, having just returned from a foreign tour, Jinnah said to him, “this is the last time you shall come here improperly dressed”. He conveyed his unhappiness when Khwaja Nazimuddin, the prime minister of East Bengal along with his wife came to see him at Chittagong because she was in purdah. Even when he was dying, he refused to undertake the trip – from Ziarat to Queta en route Karachi – unless he was properly dressed. He said, “I will not travel in my pyjamas”. A new coat was brought – that he had bought in Karachi but never worn – pomp shoes, monocle in grey silk chord and fresh handkerchief before he agreed to undertake the journey.

Unhappy Marriage

Jinnah was a lonely individual devoid of personal emotional relations till he saw a pretty Parsi young girl who charmed him. He met Ruttenbai in the summer of 1916 when he was the houseguest of Dinshaw Petite, a business magnate of Bombay, at the summer resort of Darjeeling. Ruttie, then 16, was entranced by the tall, urbane, polished, handsome and immacutely dressed Jinnah 40 at that time. She proposed to him. Reportedly Jinnah answered, “it seems to be an interesting proposal”.

But not only her father Dinshaw Petite, but the entire Parsi community of Bombay was up in arms. He got a court injunction, restraining Jinnah from seeing her. After she turned 18, she went straight to Jinnah’s house and married him a day later, according to Muslim rites, much against the wishes of her parents. Sixteen months later, she gave birth to a daughter and on her suggestion Jinnah agreed to name the child Dina after Ruttie’s mother.

But the marriage hardly reduced his loneliness as it was an unhappy marriage which soon broke down. Though persons differ in apportioning the responsibility for the breakdown to either of them, basically it was due to an temperamental incompatibility between Jinnah and Ruttie. According to Hector Bolitho, Jinnah was a cold fish – much too formal ever to be a good lover. Jinnah is reported to have said, “We never got on, she got on my nerves – she drove me mad. She was a child and I should never have married her. The fault was mine.”

A friend went to Ruttie and pleaded, “it will hurt his political career if you stay apart”. She said, “she would return if she could be sure that she would be welcome”. The friend hurried to Jinnah’s house and offered to discuss the matter. But Jinnah said, “the chapter is closed”. Atiya Begum told the author that

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Economic & Political Weekly


“Sarojini Naidu, who was in love with Jinnah did all she could to break up the marriage”.

Both mother and daughter (Dina) returned to the Parsee fold. Dina married a Parsee. Ruttie died on February 20, 1929 when Jinnah was 50.

Political Career

The above narrative throws enough light on the personality of Jinnah which may help in understanding his political role, which was shaped as much by his temperament and psychological factors as ideological and political considerations. Though Percival Spear thinks that Bolitho’s book “is neither complete nor authoritative as a political record, yet it adds traits to Jinnah’s personal life to the political records for a fuller understanding of his politics”.

He started his professional and political life with Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the eminent Congress leader and lawyer of his time. Jinnah aspired to be a Muslim Gokhale. He regarded Gokhale and Ferozeshah Mehta as the only two honest leaders of India. After their death, he was never inspired by any other Congress leader.

He formally joined the Indian National Congress in 1913. In its first session, he refused to sit on the ground as was the practice in those days and insisted on sitting on a chair which was provided. D Peel Yates, an Englishman, told the author in Lahore, that Jinnah had three ambitions:

(1) To become the highest paid lawyer in India. (2) To marry the most beautiful girl in India. (3) To become the president of the Congress. Yates said that, Jinnah’s interest in the Muslim League, his later opposition to the Congress, and his desire to establish Pakistan, were the outcomes of the denial of his third ambition.

He joined the Muslim League also in 1916. It was possible to be a member of two political parties simultaneously at that time. His contribution in arriving at a Congress League agreement in December 1916 was acknowledged. According to it, certain provinces in which Muslims were in a minority, were to be guaranteed a proportion of seats in the future legislative councils in excess of the number they could otherwise hope to win. Sarojini Naidu then had called Jinnah

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“the best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity”.

He was opposed to the pan-Islamic Khilafat movement, favoured by the Ali brothers and Islamic ulema, blessed by Gandhi, which sought to restore Caliphate abolished by the allies after the defeat of Turkey, where it was based, in the first world war. To quote Percival Spear again, “it was the events following the appointment of the Simon Commission which led to Jinnah’s eclipse, because the Congress favoured the popular as distinct from the parliamentary politician. Jinnah lost ground as a nationalist. His pleas at the all-parties discussions were thrust aside because he had no popular following.”

During the Congress session at Calcutta in 1927, a telegram came from Jinnah, who was in Delhi, saying that he and his six colleagues of the Muslim League would like to meet with the Congress leaders. Mahatma Gandhi prevailed upon them to invite Jinnah and his party. The demands of Jinnah were rejected by the Congress, with 18 against and two for them. The two were Gandhi and Jamshed Nurrerwanjee. The latter told the author that he saw Jinnah in tears.

According to Dr Mehta, the psychiatrist who treated him, his failure in marriage was an additional cause to his being deeply hurt. At the second Round Table Conference in London, he told C N Joshi that “I have no future in politics in India. I am not going back”. He stayed in London from 1930 to 1934. Begum Liaqat claims that she and her husband persuaded Jinnah to return. She offered to organise a young woman to support him.

Jinnah had uneasy relations with Gandhi. Though he conceded that Gandhi was sympathetic to Muslims, they ceased to speak the same language according to A L Potex, recorded in the book. His saintliness and being naked and praying in public did not appeal to him. Mohammad Norman found Jinnah sitting up in bed reading a speech that Gandhi had made. He said to Norman: “I have not slept a wink, examining this speech to find out exactly what is in his mind”. Khushid, Jinnah’s secretary quotes him saying “Gandhi took refuge in mysticism. Nehru is a dual personality, there is always a conflict between right and wrong”. He turned down Gandhi’s request to visit Pakistan after it had been created.

Breaking Point

According to Percival Spear, the breaking point came at the Congress rejection of his overtures at the time of 1937 elections and exclusion of League nominees from their provincial ministries. In 1940, in sheer desperation he opted for the Partition of India that Iqbal had proposed to him. However, Jinnah did not follow Iqbal’s advice to leave minority Muslim provinces to their fate to be decided with Hindu leaders and shift to Lahore to work for a separate Muslim majority state based on distinct culture of north-west India.

For the first time the Muslim League got a majority of Muslim seats in a number of provinces. In Louis Fischer’s view, published in the book, “having proclaimed all his life that the constitutional way was the right way, Jinnah abandoned it in the end. The unconstitutional violence followed in mounting crescendo.” He was referring to the direct action that Jinnah had launched for achievement of Pakistan in August 1946 and he achieved it within a year. Jinnah had also described the Muslim enthusiasm as being “like soda water”. Jinnah told Mohammad Noman, “what I hoped has been exceeded. They used to call me Quaid-e-Azam but now they call me Quatil-e-Azam.” He was referring to the mass massacre that followed Partition.

Thus the personality of a single person and the ups and downs of his life were as much responsible for creating the largest Muslim country in the world as unresolved Muslim grievances, the lapses of the leadership of the majority community and the British hurry to leave India without trying alternative solutions of the communal tangle.


available at

S Thanu Pillai

T.C.28/481, Kaithamukku, Thiruvananthapuram-24, Kerala. Ph: 2471943

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