Wolpert’s Jinnah

Posted on September 11, 2007
Filed Under >Salim Chowdhery, People
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Gues Post by Salim Chowdhrey

It was late summer in 1984 or 1985. I received a surprise call from a friend in Pakistan. We had been friends since kindergarten but our destiny had carried us on different trajectories. However, to date we have managed to keep abreast of what is going on in eachother’s lives. When my friend called me he said that he was in New Jersey, USA. He said he was sent here from the then President Zia-ul-Haq. I was very impressed that he was sent here by the President and conveyed my thoughts to him. He gloomily said that that he may not be able to meet the goal of his visit.

Zia came to the dinner that evening. No not the President Zia-ul-Haq but Zia Hussain my childhood friend. In our conversation that evening he shared that he was the General Manager of Oxford University Press (Pakistan) - a Publishing house in Karachi. Their parent company in New York had published the biography of the Father of the Nation titled as Jinnah of Pakistan. Though the book was full of unvarnished facts, it was also scholarly honest and unbiased. Most of all; the image of Jinnah that came through the book was of a once in a century hero- much like George Washington of the US.

Amazingly enough the book got banned in Pakistan. President Zia-ul-Haq, on the other hand, not only wanted the book be published, but he also wanted it to be the core of all undergraduate studies in the Universities across Pakistan. In his mind President Zia could not smudge Jinnah Sahib’s image. So the mention of Jinnah Sahib ‘s indulgence with whiskey and eating forbidden flesh was unacceptable to him. It had to be excluded from the book. This was Zia Hussain‘s mission. He had to convince Mr. Stanley Wolpert to expunge a part of Mr. Jinnah’s Life, in order to make him a “True Hero”.

Zia Hussain‘s mission failed. Wolpert didn’t even feel the need to meet Mr. Hussain. His publisher Oxford University Press and Zia Hussain were told firmly and politely (which was his style as I later found out) that the book was written to document the life of a Great Man. A part of President Zia‘s message contained the temptation of selling millions of copies in Pakistan as it was proposed to be part of a perpetual curriculum of all the Universities in Pakistan. Mr. Wolpert alluded that having written many books, text and otherwise; and being a Professor at Stanford University (He is now Professor Emeritus there), he was financially more than secure and riches were not his goal.

Years later Mr. Wolpert came to Asia Society in New York City, to introduce his book Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan. I had the good fortune to meet him. He had flown in from California; and had directly arrived at the Asia Society. It was dinner time. A few friends and I invited him for dinner. He graciously accepted. We instantly arranged for a catered Pakistani meal at Tariq Malik‘s place. We spent five unforgettable and precious hours with Mr. Wolpert. In an informal setting one could see that he himself is a great man. No pretensions, but very proper, gentlemanly, polite and firm. We talked about ZAB, Nehru and Gandhi. He has since then written books about all of them. He was respectful talking of his subjects but there was a special respect for the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In the conversation, more often he called him the Quaid than Mr. Jinnah. He said that no one suggested to him to write about Jinnah Sahib. It was his own admiration that led him to research and write about this remarkable hero. I was left wondering whether great historians have heroes too? And heroes from far off lands?

About the Author: Salim Chowdhrey M.D. is a Clinical Associate Professor at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and an Attending at St Barnabas Medical Center. He practices Psychiatry in Livingston. NJ

26 Comments on “Wolpert’s Jinnah”

  1. Eidee Man says:
    September 11th, 2007 10:32 am

    I think it’s UCLA, not Stanford.

  2. September 11th, 2007 11:00 am

    I had a couple of encouters with Dr. Wolpert while I was in Los Angeles. He is a jolly nice fellow and very very down to earth. There can be no better ambassador for Pakistan than him in the United States. I’ve heard him taking on and even bashing pro-Indian crowds at conferences. However, there is one thing that I want to highlight here. I think, like all of us, he also made serious errors in judgement in assessing Musharraf.

    This was immediately after 9/11 and he was talking at Los Angeles Word Affairs Council meeting. During that meeting he repeatedly refered to General Musharraf as Pakistan’s Second Quaid-e-Azam. It would be interesting to see if he still stands by that assessment. I bet, he won’t.

    I think a lot of people in the West make an error in judgement when they view things in our part of the world with Islamic vs. Secular lens. Anything secular is wonderful and anything Islamic is not so. Thats just the perinial bias in Western foreign policy that they can’t seem to get around. Not everything secular is clearly good and not everything Islamic is clearly bad. I hope.

  3. dawa-i-dil says:
    September 11th, 2007 12:28 pm

    @Athar Osama

    nicecomment…i agree….

  4. Ali says:
    September 11th, 2007 2:01 pm

    Mr. Chowdhery naively states that “President Zia could not smudge Jinnah Sahib?s image” and so “the mention of Jinnah Sahib ?s indulgence with whiskey and eating forbidden flesh was unacceptable to him.”

    It seems fairly obvious to me that the issue wasn’t smudging Jinnah’s image, but to reinforce (or at least not contradict) Zia’s islamization drive (from which we suffer to this day). Zia simply did not want it to be noted that Jinnah ate pork and drank whiskey because it contradicted the farily tale about the Islamist Jinnah that he was creating.

    Finally, from my own (perhaps flawed) reading about Jinnah, I understand that he prefered to be called Mr. Jinnah rather than Jinnah Sahib.

    Likewise, Zia also “expunged” any references in texts to Jinnah’s famous exhortation that Pakistani’s were “free to go to their temples, to their mosques or churches…because that has nothing to do with the State” and also that he looked forward to the day when “muslims would cease to be muslims, hindus would cease to be hindus and christians woudl cease to be christians”…not in the religious sense becasue that is a personal perogative, but in relation to the State.

  5. Ali says:
    September 11th, 2007 2:09 pm

    Apologies for the multiple posts – it seemed that I was getting an error and kept trying again, only to discover that it got posted each time.

    Admin: could you remove the additional postings.

    Again, my apologies.

  6. YLH says:
    September 11th, 2007 2:35 pm

    Mr. Chowdhrey,

    Thanks for this informative article…. I am a bit of Jinnah biographer myself and this certainly is a reaffirmation of a lot of what we do know.

    It is ironic that we did not come across each other in NJ. Around half a decade ago… I was a student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick and Robert Wood Johnson was my hospital.

  7. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    September 11th, 2007 4:21 pm

    Dear Dr. Athar Osama: Some one said the other day that I was getting nasty towards you. I want to dis-spell that notion by agreeing with your comments regarding the commonly held believe in the West that anything secular is wonderful and anything Islamic is not so. I concur with you when you say that not everything secular is clearly good and not everything Islamic is clearly bad. Similarly true is the opposite. Not everything religious is clearly good and not every thing secular is clearly bad.

    and to YLH: I have come across your one reference regarding my earlier teacher Professor Syed Ali Abbas Jalalpuri. I am trying to write about the late Shah Sahab and if you would kindly contact me through ATP I will be highly obliged. Thanks.

  8. Salim Chowdhrey says:
    September 11th, 2007 9:38 pm

    Re: Wolpert’s Jinnah;

    Eidee Man you are right SWis at UCLA and not at Stanford.

    Athar Osama ji; Musharraf fooled many of us by his gallant stance portraying himself in the Ataturk mould. In 2001
    his apparent sincerity and liberal outlook seemed to signal
    the emergence of a second Quaid-e-Azam. Alas the faintness
    of heart was shrouded by the uniform. In my opinion it was not a lapse of judgment by Wolpert but Musharraf’s trajectory falling short. We now have 20/20 hindsight.
    You are right that secular-religious and good- bad are separate axes(s:axis) and can cross each other at any level.

  9. Salim Chowdhrey says:
    September 11th, 2007 10:37 pm

    Janab ALI;
    Subtlety over crudeness is my preference.You as a critic are free to call it naive. In fact you and Iare saying the same thing but differently
    Jinnah Sahib is my address for him not Wolperts.
    There is a typo in:
    In the conversation, many time he called him Mr. Jinnah. He said that no one suggested to him to write about Jinnah Sahib.
    It should read as:
    In the conversation, more often he called him the Quaid than Mr. Jinnah. He said that no one suggested to him to write about Jinnah Sahib. It was his own admiration that led him to research and write about this remarkable hero. I was left wondering whether great historians have heroes too? And heroes from far off lands?
    About ” Plain Mr. Jinnah”. In pre-partition days, as The Quaid was gaining recognition and popularity as the leader of the Muslims,people would greet him every where he went. Once a man of religious persuasion greeted him as Maulana Jinnah Sahib. It is here that he pointed out that Plain Mr. Jinnah would suffice, since he was a political leader and not a religious leader.
    You are right Zia-ul-haq’s ambition to be Amir-ul- momineen of the Islamic world has not only left
    Pakistan in taters. He has also left many pretenders to follow him ;first among them the brave (late by 7 years)N. Shareef.

  10. Salim Chowdhrey says:
    September 11th, 2007 10:44 pm

    What were your interests at Rutgers and RWJMS?

  11. YLH says:
    September 12th, 2007 6:35 am

    I was an undergrad at Rutgers College 1998-2002.
    My interests were mostly political… and in many ways Jinnah-related… who I studied extensively at the Alexandar Library… amongst others.

  12. Owais Mughal says:
    September 12th, 2007 8:12 am

    Salim Saheb, I’ve corrected the typo and the sentence now reads: “In the conversation, more often he called him the Quaid than Mr. Jinnah. He said that no one suggested to him to write about Jinnah Sahib.”

  13. dawa-i-dil says:
    September 12th, 2007 8:52 am

    One sentence will be sufficient to describe this great man….

    If Muslim League had 100 Mahatma Gandhis ..and 200 Abul kalam Azad….and congress had only 1 Jinnah…Sub continent would have never been divided….

    Vijay Laxhmi Pandit
    Sister of Jawahar Lal Nehru

  14. Zaheer Rana says:
    September 12th, 2007 10:52 am

    Thanks for a brilliant piece, Mr. Chawdhrey.

    Stanley Wolpert is indeed a very intellingent and fair scholar about South Asian affairs.

    I have had the opportunity to invite him at McGill University in Montreal (Pakistan Students Society) in the early 1990s and was very impressed by his demeanour and clever insights how different personalities have shaped events in South Asia as well his keen foresight of volatile conditions which were to befell Pakistan in the later years.

    Hope he continues to produce such brilliant works and possibly write about the short-coming of his “second Quaid-e-Azam”.

    We all look forward to such a discourse on General Parvez Musharraf.


  15. Aqil Sajjad says:
    September 12th, 2007 12:51 pm

    I am not sure what in particular impressed Wolpert with Musharraf. But to be fair, even if we don’t look at him through the secular vs religious glasses, there were some commendable things that he started off with. Yes, his lack of legitimacy and the fact that he put his survival above everything else also led to reversals on most of these things and that’s why he has lost the support of most Pakistanis.

    A few things that Mush started with but backed away later:

    * Accountability (even though Faujis and judges were exempt, if he had continued it instead of dealing with Ch Shujat and others, it would have been very good for the country)
    * Devolution (again, if he hadn’t started undermining it himself later on)
    * Police reforms( package announced in 2002, but not implemented to keep his political allies happy)
    * Higher education sector (despite the controversy over HEC, it’s hard to deny that no previous govt even tried it)
    * Overall level of corruption (no major corruption scandle in Mush’s first three years, but now, corruption is back with a vengence)
    * The cabinet (a small, reasonably sized cabinet comprising of technocrats in his first three years, now turned into a circus of 70 odd ministers)
    * Independence of the media (it would be a lie on our part to deny that Musharraf allowed cable TV and private channels, which previous governments were refusing to allow. However, the behaviour towards the media has been hostile in recent months)
    * intra-party democracy (the clause for this purpose in the LFO was very weak, but it was at least a start.)
    * An LFO amendment requiring that a bill would be passed only after a certain period of debate in the parliament, thus promising to make it difficult for amendments to be passed in minutes (went back on it big time)

    (Note that in this list, I haven’t mentioned any of the issues that trigger a ‘secularism vs religion’ debate.)

    I was personally in that very small minority that regarded the coup as a negative development even on Oct 12, 1999 when almost everyone around was celebrating the ouster of NS. But in the first few years of Musharraf, the above initiatives were clearly visible and one would have to be an extremist Musharraf basher not to acknowledge these things. I think history will regard Musharraf as a man who probably meant well initially, but then got so pre-occupied with the continuation of his rule that he started putting it above everything else.

  16. Aqil Sajjad says:
    September 12th, 2007 1:03 pm

    As a tangential point, I think the biggest idiot award should go to Bhutto. He was an all powerful and very popular PM who did not suffer from the legitimacy problem, and yet, he made a complete mess. In case of Musharraf, even though he is a military ruler, he did face the legitimacy problem, which led him to commit a lot of mistakes (not to be defended of course).

  17. Salim Chowdhrey says:
    September 12th, 2007 1:37 pm

    Aqil Sahib;
    You are spot on, on both Musharraf and ZAB.
    I hope to write on my encounters with ZAB post Ayub and pre-
    PPP. I was then a medical student at Dow in Karachi.

  18. Salim Chowdhrey says:
    September 12th, 2007 1:47 pm

    Rana Sahib;
    Thank you for your comments. I am told SW spoke to an overflowing crowd at the spacious Agha Khan Univ. auditorium last year. Such is his dynamism blended with pure honesty.
    Daw-i-dil thanks for the jewel you posted. Isn’t it ironic that her
    brother was the force behind Jinnah Sahib leaving Congress.

  19. YLH says:
    September 12th, 2007 4:55 pm

    The plain Mr. Jinnah comment was made in a letter that Jinnah wrote to Aligarh University refusing their honorary doctorate.

    His rebuke to those calling him Maulana was slightly different.

  20. Eidee Man says:
    September 13th, 2007 12:49 am

    I really enjoyed reading Wolpert’s “Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan.” However, at times it seemed as if he oversimplified his character. Wolpert notes a few things about his demeanor and his general approach to things and develops the rest of the book by constantly referring back to these ideas. He almost makes it seem as if he knew how Bhutto’s mind operated, which is a common problem with biographies, unfortunately.

    ZAB certainly did make a lot of mistakes during his tenure. But I wouldn’t call him an idiot. After Jinnah himself, he is the undisputed most popular political figure in Pakistan. He did not deliver on a lot of promises, but, hey, who said democracy isn’t messy? Also, he had the decency not to run away to exile (like our current cowards).

  21. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    September 13th, 2007 11:56 am

    What contrast between the sky and earth, would not even bother to pronounce the names together, no thanks

  22. Salim Chowdhrey says:
    September 13th, 2007 1:57 pm

    Point well made Eidee Man! True ZAB was no idiot. In fact few could match not only his intellect but the quickness of his mind. I have seen it first hand. I hope you will concede that after gaining power he more often reverted to his wadera personna,not that it had ever left him.
    I respect your opinion but I do differ with you about Mr. Wolpert. My impression is that it his genius to get into the psyche of his subject.The advantage in writing about people already departed is, your subjects cannot morph themselves as Musharraf has done, as if to give Wolpert a bad name.

  23. Social Mistri says:
    October 13th, 2007 4:20 pm

    Mr. Jinnah was dearly loved dearly by God. Perhaps this is why He called Jinnah sahib back to heaven as soon as his job was done. The Lord did not want to see such a good man torn to shreds and vilified by the very people he had freed…

    What Musharraf’s critics are doing with Musharraf is no different to what would have happened with Jinnah sahib if the latter had lived for even 5 years after partition. Ayub Khan and sons gave us a short preview during the election campaign, when the tied a dog to the back of a truck and drove it through Karachi, whipping it and referring to it with the name of the Quaid’s sister, the Mother of our Nation.

    Hamnay kissi ko nahien chora. Even if someone wants to honestly improve the country’s lot, we sharpen our knives and run after him, screaming bloody murder.

    As a Pakistani, I used to feel depressed that we were robbed of Jinnah sahib’s enlightened leadership so soon after the birth of the country. The one difference, many said, between Pakistan and India, was that India had the stable hand of Nehru to guide it for almost 20 years after partition.

    But now I understand God’s decision in calling Mohammad Ali Jinnah back to Himself. He was too good a man to have been slandered and vilified by the many ingrates in our country.

  24. Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi says:
    February 27th, 2008 9:07 am

    It is amazing how the book was banned for years jut for the sake of ten lines. I doubt if many people are in the habit of scanning books that well. They would have gone unnoticed anyway, as they are now. Wolpert made it clear to Zia that he was a historian and not a businessman. I wonder if it knocked any sense into that evil mind.

    Initially even ‘Freedom at Midnight’ was banned for very similar reasons by the same man. All that happened was that the price of the book went up and it was freely available even at book fairs. These jokers made a mockery of Islam, which is beginning to haunt us more and more!

  25. nudma says:
    April 20th, 2008 6:09 am

    i really wonder why zia-ul-haq always tried to crush the wordly appreciated PAKISTAN’S identities whether it is a book or a personality of whole package. i wish we would not have people like him on this land. amin

  26. September 11th, 2009 1:41 am

    The article is simple and communicative. Jinnah of Pakistan is the best biography written on Jinnah Saheb among fifty plus biographies already published. The first biography on Saheb was Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity written in 1916 by Sarojini Naidu, most charimatic woman politician and poet of India. Naidu had a special admiration for Jinnah even just before the partion. At a press conference in Chennai in 1945 Naidu glorified Jinnah. This statement angered Congress leaders including Nehru.

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