Fatima Jinnah – Pakistan’s First Voice Of Dissent
One of the theories of creation of Pakistan endorses the narrative that state was created for the preservation of interests of ‘a class’ which had been marginalized in British era. Those Muslims in high power ranks had been left out after English replaced Persian as a state language.
While mentioning history of Pakistan especially post-partition political climate, the name Fatima Jinnah and her works are not mentioned in school textbooks. Even in pre-partition descriptions, her activism is not well elaborated or explored. The fact that she left everything to join her brother to fight for independence does not receive acknowledgement and recognition as it should have. The reason might lie with country’s history marred with military takeovers and military-bureaucracy establishment that was fearful of Jinnahs and their close aides.
Fatima Jinnah was deeply perturbed by state of affairs of the nascent state. Nepotism, corruption and political instability reigned in 1950s. One of the best and most authentic accounts of Fatima Jinnah’s disappointments arrived in the shape of a book that she wrote in 1955 (My Brother) but which was published 32 years later in 1987! In her book Miss Jinnah laments how heartlessly her brother was picked up and put in an ambulance (to be taken to a hospital) and how the ambulance broke down in the middle of the road. She wrote that her brother told her that many of his former colleagues were coming to meet him only to determine how much life there was left in him. They were most probably waiting for him to quietly perish, notes Nadeem Paracha.
On October 16, 1951 Pakistan’s first Prime Minister was assassinated and Miss Jinnah realized how certain forces were into play to serve their own agenda rather than the people and state of Pakistan. She had a foresight as to how freedom was going to be hijacked. Much was at stake and she became a vocal critic of government. Of course, it could not be tolerated. An incident of censorship portrays an interesting scenario. When Miss Jinnah’s radio speech was interrupted in 1951, the then controller of broadcasting Z.A. Bukhari wrote an apology letter to her, ‘I once again heartily apologise over the technical problem during your speech broadcast last night. We encountered a technical fault in our generators.’ To this Fatima Jinnah replied (selective lines): “On the 11th of September, you had requested the copy of the broadcast which was duly sent to you at 7:00pm. At 8:00pm you had called on me at my residence in a stressful condition…With sad expressions, you had requested that I omit certain parts of my speech. To which I had replied, sans any emotional aspiration, that if one does not enjoy the freedom of expression in a democratic country, I would like to withdraw my speech instead of changing it…The people who tried to create problems in my original speech, and stopped my voice from reaching the people, and tried to omit certain sentences of my speech, have in fact highlighted the importance (of these sentences) to the people.”
Censoring voice of truth was no less that a cowardice response from government. Miss Jinnah spoke alluding terms and expressions. The message got spread and newspapers condemned such notorious acts by the government against ‘Mother of Nation’.
Fatima Jinnah was the foremost torch bearer of people’s rule and supremacy and democratic traditions. A vibrant critic of martial rule that a supporter, she dared to challenge the military as a presidential candidate in 1965 against Ayub Khan even though odds were evidently against her. She could not withstand the decline and political turbulence in a country she helped created.
She held popular rallies during her campaign in both east and west Pakistan. Field marshal Ayub had to bring elections forward two months ‘to break her bandwagon’.
A sweeping victory seemed obvious. Ayub and his aides felt threatened to lose. Miss Jinnah lost, Pakistan lost. Madr-e-Millat was dubbed a foreign agent. Full page govt ads claimed “Miss Fatima Jinnah was greeted in Peshawar with the slogans of “Pukhtoonistan Zindabad’. She was accused of conspiring against Pakistan alongside Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan by trying to establish Pashtunistan.
The government did not stop there after winning. Conspiracies abound around her death. On July 9, 1967, the government announced her passing due to a heart-attack but to this day a number of politicians, and even Jinnah’s nephew Akber Pirbhai, insist that she was murdered. In January 1972, a man named Ghulam Sarwar petitioned a court regarding the matter. There were rumors that the mother of the nation had visible marks of wounds on her body. The unrest during her funeral is a question to which answers are yet to be found, and how Fatima Jinnah died remains an unsolved criminal case.
Truth always prevails but we, as youth of nation, must know the facts of history and be vigilant against its distortion. What we, as a nation, did to her is tantamount to no less than a betrayal. Petty pursuits of power blinded those in circle of authority and those on the curve. They were afraid of Miss Jinnah because people saw her as a successor to MA Jinnah.
Pakistan had to pay a great price in years to come as the voice of democracy, Miss Jinnah, was suppressed by authoritarian establishment which pursued its own interests; up until Musharraf came up with a paradigm shift – “Pakistan First”. ‘P’ in power was finally rightfully replaced within ‘Pakistan’. Some questions still need answers and inquiry as to why Miss Jinnah’s body was not shown has never been carried out.
The writer is a content editor and an independent researcher based in Lahore.