BOOK REVIEW: The nation was orphaned, forever —by Dr Irfan Zafar

My Brother

Quaid-e-Azam Academy; Pp 112

My Brother is the biography of Muhammad Ali Jinnah written by his younger sister Fatima Jinnah and edited by Sharif Al Mujahid. The publication of the author, novelist and biographer Hector Bolitho's book Jinnah: Creator of Pakistan in 1954 prompted Miss Jinnah to write the book about her brother as it was felt that Bolitho's book had failed to bring out the political aspects of her brother's life. Fatima Jinnah's unfinished biography was published by Quaid-i-Azam Academy in 1987.

The relevance of the book, in the existing gloom enveloping our country, is greater than ever, for it carries the roadmap which, if followed, can steer us back towards the path envisioned by the Father of the Nation. During his address on October 30, 1947 at the University Stadium Lahore, the Quaid said, "There is no power on earth that can undo Pakistan. It has come to stay." The book highlights those aspects of Jinnah's life, which no one else could explain so passionately and with utmost honesty and truthfulness as done by his sister.

The first chapter 'The Nation is orphaned' is dedicated mostly to the failing health of the Quaid when his personal physician Dr Ilahi Bux struggled to save his life while convincing him unsuccessfully to cut down on his daily hectic routine. As one reads through these pages, it becomes evident that he was aware of the peril his failing health posed, thus wanted to do whatever he could to build the new country whose existence was precarious owing to lack of resources and enormous challenges on the economic and political fronts.

During this period of failing health, his mind worked as clearly as ever. This is evident from his taking note of and subsequently advising the bureaucracy and the military how to conduct their business while remaining within the constitutional boundaries. On April 14, he called a meeting of civil officers at Government House in Peshawar. He mixed freely and personally met many of them. During the informal discussion with them he said, "The first thing that I want to tell you is this, that you should not be influenced by any political pressure, by any political party or individual politician." He further went on to say, "I wish also to take the opportunity of impressing upon our leaders and politicians in the same way that if they ever try to interfere with you and bring political pressure to bear upon you, which leads to nothing but corruption, bribery and nepotism, which is a horrible disease...they are doing nothing but disservice to Pakistan." In an address to officers of the Staff College, Quetta, in June 1948, he said, "I am persuaded to say this because during my talks with one or two very high ranking officers I discovered that they did not know the implication of the oath taken by troops of Pakistan." And then the Quaid went on to read the oath in totality.

Fatima Jinnah brings to light the bitter realities towards the end of Jinnah's days when he felt betrayed and was seen as a broken man. "One day, looking intently into my eyes, he said, Fati I am no more interested in living. The sooner I go the better."

These feelings of betrayal and helplessness became further evident when the ambulance which was to take him from the Mauripur Airport to the Governor General House, Karachi, coughed, as if gasping for breath, and came to a sudden stop as it had run short of petrol. The other ambulance came one hour late thus diminishing any chances of saving his life. This was not any ordinary person, but the first Governor General of Pakistan and the founder of the nation whose life was at stake. Reference to this incident in the book raises many questions, which to date remain unanswered.

His painful voice echoes as the reader is caught in an emotional trauma reading the lines addressed to his sister. "Yes ... take me to Karachi ... I was born there ... I want to be buried ... there. His eyes closed, and I stayed by his bedside. I could hear his thoughts ramble in the realm of his unconsciousness. He whispered in his sleep, "Kashmir ... Give them ... the right ... to decide ... Constitution ... I will complete it ... soon ... Refugees ... give them ... all assistance ... Pakistan." Towards the end, "He slept for about two hours, undisturbed. And then he opened his eyes, saw me, and signalled with his head and eyes for me to come near him. He made one last attempt and whispered, "Fati, Khuda Hafiz ... La Ilaha Il Allah ... Mohammad... Rasul ... Allah." His head dropped slightly to his right, his eyes closed. The nation was orphaned, forever.

The writer is a social activist. He can be reached at drirfanzafar@gmail.com

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