Jinnah Mohammed Ali

Jinnah, Mohammed Ali

Jinnah, Mohammed Ali (1876-1948), Indian politician and longtime leader of the Muslim League. Jinnah became the founding father of Pakistan and its first governor-general (1947-1948).

Jinnah was born in Karāchi, a city in what is now Pakistan. (At that time, India and Pakistan were part of a British colony known as British India). Although his family, who were Muslim, came from the state of Rājkot in western India, Jinnah’s father was a prosperous merchant in Karāchi. After being educated in Karāchi and Bombay (now Mumbai), Jinnah studied law at Lincoln’s Inn in London, England, and was admitted to the bar in 1896. After serving briefly as a magistrate in Bombay, he practiced law in that city and soon rose to the top of the profession. He possessed strong advocacy skills and relied on his rhetorical ability to win many cases.

Jinnah’s first important contact with political affairs was in 1906, when he acted as private secretary to Dadabhai Naoroji, president of the Indian National Congress, a political organization that was working for Indian autonomy from British rule. In 1913 Jinnah joined the Muslim League, formed to protect Muslim interests against India’s Hindu majority, though at the time he still hoped for accord between the two groups. In 1916 he was elected president of the Muslim League and in 1919 became the representative of Bombay Muslims in the Imperial Legislative Council, a national legislative body with limited authority under the British colonial government. In the same year, however, the government enacted the Rowlatt Acts, which gave the Indian colonial authorities emergency powers to suppress so-called revolutionary activities. Jinnah, a staunch nationalist, resigned from the council in protest.

In 1920 the Indian National Congress launched the non cooperation movement, a mass campaign to boycott all aspects of British rule in India. Jinnah disagreed profoundly with the movement and resigned from the Congress. Jinnah advocated a moderate approach of cooperation with the British and gradual transfer of power. He continued to believe in the possibility of Hindu-Muslim unity, and worked strenuously toward that end in his second and third terms of office as president of the league. The differences between the Congress and the Muslim League were profound.

Moreover, there was a serious personality clash between Jinnah and Mohandas Gandhi, the leader of the Congress. These differences emerged clearly in the Round Table Conference of 1930, where Indians and British members of parliament met to discuss India’s political future. Jinnah’s frustration at the impossibility of settlement led him to suspend his political activities for four years, during which time he practiced law in England. In 1934 he returned to India on a visit to preside over a Muslim League session and decided that he must remain permanently in India to look after Muslim interests.

The Government of India Act of 1935 transferred considerable power to Indian provincial governments, and in the general elections of 1937 the Congress won a majority in 7 of 11 provinces. The Congress refused to form coalition governments with the Muslim League as Jinnah had proposed. As a result, tensions between Hindus and Muslims grew rapidly. In Hindu-majority provinces, many Muslims felt they were unfairly treated, and at one point Jinnah demanded the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into their grievances. Most Muslims concluded that no legislative weighting or other safeguards could protect them in a united India, where the Hindus would be an overwhelming majority.

In March 1940 Jinnah presided over a Muslim League session at Lahore, where the first official demand was made for the partition of India and the creation of the state of Pakistan, in which Muslims would be a majority. During three decades of political life, Jinnah had believed in the possibility of Hindu-Muslim unity, and it was with the utmost reluctance that he came to the view that partition was essential.

Having reached this conclusion, however, Jinnah never swerved from it. His tenacity through constitutional discussions between the league, the Congress, and the British government in 1942, 1945, and 1946 made partition certain. During these years Jinnah came to be known as Quaid-i-Azam, or “Great Leader.” When Pakistan was created on August 14, 1947, he became its first governor-general, and the title of Quaid-i-Azam was officially bestowed on him by a resolution of the first constituent assembly. Jinnah died of tuberculosis in Karāchi in 1948.

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