By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Corruption has become one of the defining features of Pakistani politics. Our Quaid, considered this the most lethal disease afflicting our country. His motto was ‘If character is lost, all is lost’.
Jinnah’s take on taking graft can easily be found in his documents and letters. My own family had access to 72 well-catalogued letters and documents, which he had received from various leaders in India. Among these historic documents is a letter Jinnah had received from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was a student when he wrote it(1945). In the letter, Bhutto promises that he would lay down his life for Pakistan whenever need be.
There is also a letter in the archives from Sindh Muslim League leader Yusuf Haroon regarding the Sindh Legislative Assembly elections. According to Haroon, the position of Muslim League’s candidate was weak. He suggested to Jinnah sahib that if he could donate of Rs 100,000 to the leading Maulana — who had a great following — then their candidate might win. Jinnah tersely responded, “Nothing doing. We cannot bribe to win. Let’s lose it rather than win”.
His unimpeachable and impeccable honesty was Jinnah’s most outstanding feature. My father used to keep a diary in which everything was recorded, especially daily accounts of money received and money spent. We came across many diaries with those details. Once we were dusting his papers, looked into the diary and found something interesting. Statement of grass cut and sold with the difference of one rupee between its sale in two years. One year it was something like Rs 13, and the next year Rs 12. Jinnah Sahib wrote a letter to my father in the midst of all of his politicking, asking “Why the difference. Was there something wrong?”
Jinnah Sahib never spent a penny of the Muslim League’s funds on himself, his travel or other League related activities. When he appealed for raising funds for the party, millions of money orders with ‘silver bullets’ flowed in. He made it a point to sign receipts of even measly contributions of two Annas to the party.
Was he a miser? This perception of him was spread by his adversaries. The fact is that he lived in style, wore the best textiles —including hand stitched suits from Saville Row and the best handmade leather shoes. His clothes used to be dry cleaned in London. If you go to one of the top shirt tailoring shops in St. Germain Street and search for a customer ‘MAJ’, you will not be disappointed.
My father used to say that Jinnah Sahib would not charge a penny more than what had been agreed upon earlier with his clients, and return every last rupee if they had paid more. If any Muslim League leader did not submit proper accounts for the money given to him by the party for election campaigns, he would lose respect in the eyes of Jinnah Sahib as well as his position.
The Quaid was also fond of good limousines. He had a beautiful Packard car that he adored. During the war, petrol was rationed and the government used to give coupons to the members of the Legislative Assembly. Often Jinnah Sahib sent his car by train from Bombay to Delhi. And he did not use petrol ration coupons for weeks. Whenever he was in Delhi, he used to hand over unused coupons to my father to return them to the Ration and Supplies Department.
In 1940, the Quaid decided to launch the English newspaper Dawn and another daily in Urdu named Manshoor. He owned both the newspapers and he appointed my father as their publisher. Dawn was primarily the voice of the Muslims of India, thus it was surprising that Jinnah Sahib chose a top Anglo-Indian journalist Mr Pothan Joseph as its first Editor. Its editorial staff was selected on merit, irrespective of caste, creed or colour. My father used to receive complaints meant for the Quaid from the Mullahs, who questioned as to how Dawn could speak for the Muslims when its Editor was an Anglo-Indian and other staff members belonging to various religions — including a few Ahmedis.
For Jinnah, religion was a personal affair. This was manifested in his August 11, 1947 speech — which called on Pakistanis to cease being Muslims, Hindus and Christians in the political sense. My father once recalled a meeting that Jinnah sahib held with Sheikh Ul Ulema Hind Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi in Delhi in which the learned sage advised the Quaid to keep Pakistan free of the stranglehold of religious politics.
Last but not the least came the speech by Sir Anthony Blackburn on Jinnah Sahib’s life as a barrister, which was highly scintillating, as was Barrister Sheikh Shuja’s speech on Jinnah Sahib in which he declared him a world-class statesman. The function was attended by nearly 200 members of the gentry. It was well conducted by the President, Pakistan Forum leading British Pakistani Physiatrist Dr Farrukh Hussain, his colleagues Shoaib Sheikh and Dr Javed Sheikh. In his concluding remarks High Commissioner Sahibzada Ahmed Khan reiterated the need for national unity as the best tribute to the memory of this country’s great founder, who died on September 11, 1947.
(The first part of the article has been published in previous edition. The author is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.)