The year of Fatima Jinnah
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

THE first twenty years of Pakistan’s history have witnessed the presence of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah as a resonant political force. After her brother’s death, she acted as the conscience of the state. On every national anniversary her message was published along with the message of the head of state.

She repeatedly reminded the rulers of Pakistan of their duty to the nation, assuming a role that was informal and subdued. It soon became formal and vocal once she decided to contest the presidential elections against Field Marshal M. Ayub Khan.

Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah was also the first political personality to give currency to the term Islamic ideology. In December 1961, she defined it to embody the virtues of democracy, fraternity, veracity and justice. In the same speech she had espoused the cause of “Islamic socialism”. She made this ideology the yardstick to judge successive governments.

In the year 2003, which was designated the year of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, tremendous literature on her personality and political career has been churned out. A representative section of this is under review. We should be grateful that the political heir of Ayub Khan took the bold step of designating the year to his rival candidate in the 1965 elections than to him, thus awakening memories of a hard hitting campaign, the outbreak of ethnic violence in Pakistan, and her death which the then foreign minister under Ayub Khan, Sharifuddin Pirzada, has described as murder (Dawn, July 23, 2003).

So far, there are three primary source materials available to analyze the life and work of Fatima Jinnah. Her own book was My Brother, published by the Quaid-i-Azam Academy, Karachi, 1987. The second book is Speeches, Messages and Statements of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah edited by Khan Salahuddin Khan, and Surayya Khurshid’s Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah Ke Shab-o-Roz. The books under review have relied mostly on the information contained in these books.

Muhammad Afzal Hameed’s Hayat-i-Madar-i-Millat, serves as the most handy and short introduction to her life. He writes that Quaid-i-Azam had entrusted his daughter under Fatima Jinnah’s care when he went to London in 1925. Of all the three biographers, only he has praised Ayub Khan. “He had served the nation, he built dams, set up industries, launched agricultural reforms and kept inflation under control... But his undemocratic government transformed his merits into faults,” (pp 64, 65).

M. Afzal Hameed seems to have brushed through some of her life’s significant moments. For example, her choosing Peshawar, Ayub’s base, to start her election campaign, or the significance of having both Khawaja Nazimuddin and Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman in her trail. He emphasizes, quoting Surayya Khurshid’s work, that Fatima Jinnah considered beggary a menace and preferred organized charities. The other books on Ms Jinnah’s campaign speeches receive the most prominence.

Chiragh-i-Mehr-o-Wafa, written by Khalid Pervez, elaborates on accounts that have been already published in various other books, and has explained their significance. He however, quotes and refers too much from the works of Rizwan Ahmed. In discussing Fatima Jinnah’s early life, his mode of expression is rather obscure.

Discussing her pre-Partition achievements, Khalid Pervez lauds Fatima Jinnah’s initiative in holding a Meena Bazar at Lahore to raise funds for the Muslim League. She became a member of the Bombay Provincial Muslim League.

During the 1938 Patna session, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah founded the Muslim League’s women’s subcommittee. She also became the founder of the All-India Muslim Women’s Students Federation. Khalid Pervez also informs the reader that Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah checked the draft of every statement issued by the Quaid-i-Azam.

Khalid Pervez also cites from Surayya Khurshid about Fatima Jinnah’s impression of Ruttie Jinnah, her sister-in-law. Ruttie, he mentions as narrated by Fatima Jinnah, complained that “he (Mohammad Ali Jinnah) neglects me,” but added that, “she loved Jinnah.” Ruttie Jinnah died of tuberculosis. Later, Fatima Jinnah also contradicts herself by arguing that had Ruttie really loved Jinnah, she would have held his mission and aspirations dear. There is no independent source to show that Ruttie Jinnah had failed her husband politically. For during Ruttie’s marriage to Jinnah, Fatima Jinnah lived separately.

According to Khalid Pervez, it was Fatima Jinnah who made Mohammad Ali Jinnah the Quaid-i-Azam. “...Behind all the achievements and triumphs of Mohammad Ali Jinnah lies a long chain of sacrifices made by Fatima Jinnah (which) can neither be enumerated nor described in words” (56).

During the ravages of Partition, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah had quilts and blankets prepared under her personal supervision in the Governor General’s House for people migrating from India. She provided dwellings, set up industrial homes, dispensaries and centres for the distribution of food and supplies. During her brother’s lifetime in Pakistan, she did not make politics her concern but contributed greatly to social welfare. Health and education were to remain her main concerns till 1964.

Describing her presidential campaign Khalid Pervez reports these momentous words from her opening speech at Peshawar.

“Democracy is important not only for the moral and national uplift of the people, but is also essential for Pakistan’s prestige abroad.”

Shakir Ali Shakir’s Mohtarma Jinnah: Hayat-o-Fikar is commendable for its illustrations. It contains rare photographs of Fatima Jinnah’s childhood and youth. It also contains reproductions of newspaper issues carrying leads and stories and government advertisements asking the public to vote against Fatima Jinnah in 1964. Shakir points out what is not mentioned elsewhere, that there was generally an expectation that Fatima Jinnah would succeed her brother as Governor-General and that the cabinet’s choice of Khawaja Nazimuddin came as a surprise. Shakir has devoted a whole chapter on excerpts from Fatima Jinnah’s My Brother. He recounts an interesting anecdote about Liaquat Ali Khan’s visit to Ziarat. The Quaid-i-Azam asked her to join him at the lunch table. “They are our guests.” (p63). Later on we learn that Fatima Jinnah had left the table, because Liaquat was laughing loudly and telling off-colour jokes. (p148) This is at variance with the version of Dr Illahi Bakhsh who was moved by Liaquat’s concern for Jinnah.

Farmoodat-i-Fatima Jinnah, edited by Ahmed Saleem, is an independently researched collection of speeches and statements made by Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah. It is not based on the collection of either Khan Salahuddin Khan or Muhammad Riaz. Saleem misses out on some speeches carried by earlier editors and adds a few of those that had been missed out in earlier publications. Ahmed Saleem has compiled these speeches topically and not chronologically, which helps the reader understand her discourse better. The fact that she was in constant touch with the masses is emphasized by the regular visits that she used to make to schools and hospitals. Her popularity was not of the Dale Carnegie variety however, as she had reportedly snubbed Eleanor Roosevelt during her visit to Pakistan.

Fatima Jinnah advocated an independent Pakistan where education should not follow a colonial pattern. It should be available to the masses. She emphasized that Islamic education should be mandatory in the curricula. She decried the feudal order and recommended bold and sweeping agricultural reforms.

Regarding Ayub’s preposterous allegation that the Quaid-i-Azam used to lock her up if she spoke on political matters, she asked if this were so, why did the Quaid-i-Azam take her to every Muslim League session.

Time and again, Fatima Jinnah criticized Ayub for offering joint defence to India against China, and ridiculed his rejoinder that joint defence would not harm Pakistan.{jb_quote} “We should be told why Pakistani enclaves were handed over to India without securing Berubari simultaneously,” she insisted.{jb_quote}

She protested vociferously when former barrage lands were not handed over to the haris. The term ‘Mohajir’ she said, was a blot on the good name of the nation and should be abolished. Thus on Sindh issues she would provide a basis for unity. However, on two national issues she was non-committal saying that she was not a dictator, and it was up to the people to decide the future of One Unit and the Family Laws.

The books reviewed serve a purpose, but one yet has to come across a definitive biography or researched dissertation. I very much fear that speculation over her death will overshadow the requirements of a detailed and dispassionate study of Fatima Jinnah’s political role in Pakistan.



By Muhammad Afzal Hameed

Nawabsons Publishers,

Iqbal Road. Committee Chowk, Rawalpindi

ISBN 969-530-045-6

112pp. Rs100


Chiragh-i-Mehr-o-Wafa: Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah

By Khalid Pervez

Beacon Books, Qaddafi Market, Urdu Bazaar, Lahore.

Tel: 042-7341662

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ISBN 969-534-015-6

320pp. Rs175


Madar-i-Millat — Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah: Hayat-o-Fikar

By Shakir Husain Shakir

Sang-e-Meel Publications, 25 Shahrah-i-Pakistan, Lahore Tel: 042-7220100

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

ISBN 969-35-1521-8

248pp. Rs450


Farmoodat-i-Fatima Jinnah

Edited by Ahmad Saleem

Sang-e-Meel Publications, 25 Shahrah-i-Pakistan, Lahore

Tel: 042-7220100

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ISBN 969-35-1534-X

320pp. Rs450



Reviewed by Dr Muhammad Reza Kazimi

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