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 responses to “Wolpert’s Jinnah”

  1. nudma says:

    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

  2. Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi says:

    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!

  3. Social Mistri says:

    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.

  4. Salim Chowdhrey says:

    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.

  5. Rafay Kashmiri says:

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

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