Jinnah’s 11 Aug. speech was a con trick; Indians saved his Pakistan project from miscarrying, says Pakistani-Swedish academic

Was the Aug 11, 1947 speech by Jinnah a ploy to stop Muslims based in India from migrating to Pakistan?

Muslim League's poisonously communal campaign since 1940s rebounded on them -- within Jinnah's lifetime. It's Indians who bailed them out!
Muslim League's poisonously communal campaign since 1940s rebounded on them -- within Jinnah's lifetime. It's Indians who bailed them out!

Jinnah’s 11 August 1947 speech embracing secularism was a stratagem to get Nehru and Gandhi to help stem the tide of Muslim exodus from India to Pakistan amid a raging communal conflagration which, he feared, would cause a “collapse” of the inchoate State through a flood of in-migration, says a Pakistani-origin Swedish academic.

In fact, Jinnah himself had been going around promising Muslims that Pakistan would be a “democracy”, predicated on “democracy” that Islam had already achieved 1300 years earlier

“The practical reason (for the secularist stance taken by Jinnah in his 11 Aug. speech) was the fact that Sikhs and Hindus were being hounded out (of West Punjab) and they (Jinnah and his team) could see that in East Punjab too Muslims were being massacred,” says Ishtiaq Ahmed, professor emeritus of political science at Stockholm University, who is also a visiting professor at the Government College University, Lahore.

“And then somebody said: ‘Jinnah Sahib, imagine if Indian government were to send 30 million Muslims from there; Pakistan will simply collapse.’”

“Areas within Pakistan already accounted for 37.2 per cent of (United) India’s population. The North had then just acquired a little bit industry. So there was nothing here except agriculture,” Prof. Ishtiaq Ahmed said in a talk he gave in Islamabad that can be watched in this video posted on YouTube on 31 Dec. 2017.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah was so desperate to prevent the possibility of an uncontrolled Muslim exodus overwhelming new-sprung Pakistan that he delivered a grandiloquent vision of a State that will have “nothing to do” with a citizen’s “religion or caste or creed,” suggested Prof. Ahmed, whose book on the partition of Punjab has so far won three awards.

‘Secularism’ the con trick

Jinnah presided over the constituent assembly of Pakistan until his death on 11 Sepetember 1948.

He delivered his first address to the constituent assembly in a grandstanding manner with an eye on the foreign dignitaries present in the gathering, says Prof. Ahmed.

In that address, on 11 August 1947, Jinnah had said: “We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State… and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus, and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

The cruel irony was that it was the same Jinnah whose party had since 1942 been running – as Prof. Ahmed has emphasized in his writings – a poisonous campaign, “telling the Punjabi Muslims that their economic liberation will be guaranteed if they were to get rid of the Hindus and Sikhs,” – not to mention Muslim League’s direct involvement in carrying out murder, rape and plunder of the non-Muslims.

In fact, Jinnah himself had been going around promising Muslims that Pakistan would be a “democracy”, predicated on “democracy” that Islam had already achieved 1300 years earlier, Prof. Ahmed said, citing a letter that Jinnah had written as early as 1945 to the Pir of Manki Sharif of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in which he supposedly promised that Shariat would be applied to the affairs of the Muslim community.

For instance, Jinnah stated at Karachi Bar Association in January 1948: “Why is this question being raised as to whether our constitution would be in conflict with Shariat laws

So the speech of 11 August 1947 was an anomaly – a bolt from the blue – rather than a reflection of an essentially secular temperament that was eventually betrayed by the Islamists.

Prof. Ahmed says Jinnah’s apparent embrace of secularism was a one-off event in contrast to Indian National Congress’s (INC’s) consistent vision – enunciated as early as 1928 in the Nehru Report – for India as a polity with no state religion and equality of all citizens.

“I throw a challenge: show me just one speech delivered before or after the 11 August speech in which Jinnah would have said what he stated in that one-off speech.”

“One sunny day does not make a summer. Do you think what Jinnah had been saying all along comes to naught on the basis of a single speech?”

The 11 August speech caused “a huge amount of confusion” among Muslims who already had an offer from the INC of a secular State (India) right since 1928, but who had chosen rather listen to Jinnah’s rhetoric about a State that was eventually obtained in the name of Islam, says Prof. Ahmed.

“Were the Muslims Ullu ke Paththe (fools) who listened to Jinnah and supported him… who abandoned their home and hearth to come to this side?”

“What for? For a secular state?

If Jinnah was saying in the 11 August speech what had long been there in the Nehru Report of 1928, then what on earth was the difference, demands Prof. Ahmed.

“Well, the only difference was that you wanted Pakistan and you got it. Let’s be fair about it.”

The Liberal mythopoeia

Prof. Ahmed pooh-poohs Pakistani liberals’ narrative, built largely on the 11 Aug. speech, which portrays Jinnah as a great statesman who always wanted his country to be a secular and liberal democracy, a vision betrayed after his death by the civil and military rulers of Pakistan who took turns to enmesh the State in Islamism and bigotry.

According to the liberal narrative (developed by historians such as Ayesha Jalal) Chaudhry Muhammad Ali (a high-ranking bureaucrat who later had a brief stint as prime minister of Pakistan), Liaquat Ali Khan (the first prime minister), and such other worthies, suppressed the 11 August speech in order to prevent the wider public from learning that ‘Quaid-e-Azam’ (the ‘Great Leader’) had favoured the formation of a secular State.

“That is bullshit,” counters Prof. Ahmed.

“Jinnah was the Governor General of Pakistan. He was virtually the ‘prime minister’ of Pakistan; he presided over all cabinet meetings; he dismissed elected governments; he appointed people as he wished.”

“Would a man, who was so completely in charge of Pakistan, let his speech be suppressed by his inferiors?”

“No way!”

What transpired subsequent to that one-off speech – i.e. more of Jinnah’s utterances favouring Shariat and the constituent assembly permanently implanting Islam into the State structure by adopting the Objectives Resolution on 12 March 1949 – goes on to show the flimsiness of the liberal narrative, argues Prof. Ahmed.

For instance, Jinnah stated at Karachi Bar Association in January 1948: “Why is this question being raised as to whether our constitution would be in conflict with Shariat laws . . . (when) Islam had already laid down our constitutional principles 1300 years ago.”

It’s the Indian government that helped Pakistan – (Mahatma) Gandhi by giving his life and (Jawahar Lal) Nehru by doing his duty in stopping the attacks …

The substantive point Jinnah made (at Karachi Bar Association) was that there would be the implementation of Shariat in Pakistan, says Prof. Ahmed.

“After 11 August 1947, Jinnah never said that there would be ‘equal rights’ (for the minorities), but merely stated that there would be ‘fair treatment’ – that in Islam ‘we extend fair treatment to the non-Muslims’.”

“’Fair’ is not the same as ‘equal’. And that is what, I think, are Pakistan’s parameters.”

“And then Jinnah gave no other statement on the constitution (in the making).”

Prof. Ahmed says the men in charge of the State of Pakistan have sought to “hide” the “practical reason” behind Jinnah’s bogus avowal of secularism and non-discrimination towards minorities in his 11 Aug. speech – the “practical reason” being the need to get Indians to somehow stop uncontrolled Muslim exodus into Pakistan.

Communal, craven and deceitful

Prof. Ahmed’s research shows that Indians played a phenomenal role in rescuing Jinnah’s Pakistan from collapse by controlling violence against Muslims, but the same cannot be said about the separatist leadership of the Muslims in its treatment of the Hindu and Sikh victims of violence, who were simply left to fend for themselves.

“It’s the Indian government that helped Pakistan – (Mahatma) Gandhi by giving his life and (Jawahar Lal) Nehru by doing his duty in stopping the attacks … (on Muslims, thus controlling the situation that would have forced more Muslims to flee to Pakistan),” he says.

Far from Jinnah’s grand vision of a secular democracy, the Objectives Resolution, presented in the constituent assembly on 07 March 1949 and adopted on 12 March 1949, envisioned “equality as enunciated by Islam” and “adequate provision” for the minorities.

Prof. Ahmed says a delegation of ‘Muslim’ leaders had virtually thrown themselves at Mahatma Gandhi’s feet in Delhi in Sep.1947, begging him to help save Muslims from being attacked by the Sikh and Hindu refugees from West Punjab and NWFP streaming into the city.

“Mahatma, only you can save the Muslims,” they pleaded, he says, citing Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, a staunch supporter of the Pakistan Movement from United Provinces (UP), who was a member of that delegation (which also included Zakir Hussain who would later become the President of India).

Gandhi, who had then just come to Delhi from Bengal after saving thousands of Muslim lives there, promised to do what he could, says Prof. Ahmed.

“And then with Gandhi’s volunteers getting the situation under control, Muslims who wanted to leave could do so, and those who wanted to stay in Delhi or elsewhere in India could stay,” he says, citing Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi.

Jawahar Lal Nehru too discharged his responsibility well in helping to control violence against Muslims, he says.

Prof. Ahmed does not have much to say, however, in the talk being reported here as to whether Gandhi and Nehru sought to obtain reciprocal assurances from Jinnah and other separatist leaders that violence against Sikhs and Hindus in Pakistani areas would similarly be controlled – or whether the Muslim leadership made such an assurance to the two Indian leaders.

In an email exchange with this writer, Prof. Ahmed addressed this question by merely saying that: “This was the gentleman’s understanding as well as what was stated in the Three June Plan.

(A gentleman’s agreement/understanding is one based on mutual trust rather than being legally binding. Three June Plan refers to the British government’s plan for India’s partition, announced on 03 June 1947).

What is clear from Prof. Ahmed’s research is that Jinnah and other separatist Muslim leaders were not only primarily responsible for whipping up communal polarization in Punjab which led to ethnic cleansing of Sikhs and Hindus in West Punjab and NWFP and counter-ethnic cleansing of Muslims in East Punjab, but were also cowardly and cunning in the way they dealt with the cataclysmic consequences of the conflagration they had started themselves.

Once they succeeded in getting Indians to prevent those consequences from ruining their Pakistan project, they once again betrayed their non-Muslim minorities by supporting the Objectives Resolution, which produced an Islamic republic rather than a liberal democratic state with equal rights for minorities that Jinnah had conjured up in his 11 Aug. speech.

Two faces of ‘Muslim’ identity

Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, for instance, was a member of the delegation that had in Sep. 1947 begged Gandhi to help save Muslims in Delhi from being attacked by Sikhs and Hindus, whose ethnic cleansing in West Punjab and NWFP was a direct consequence of the Pakistan Movement he ardently supported.

He took part in that delegation only a few weeks after listening in the constituent assembly (whose member he was) to Jinnah’s 11 Aug. speech in which the latter promised that “religion or caste or creed has nothing to do with the business of the State” which would start with the “fundamental principle that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State”.

Subsequently, the same Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi strongly supported the passage of Objectives Resolution in the constituent assembly, thus betraying and permanently marginalizing the leftover minorities of Pakistan.

Far from Jinnah’s grand vision of a secular democracy, the Objectives Resolution, presented in the constituent assembly on 07 March 1949 and adopted on 12 March 1949, envisioned “equality as enunciated by Islam” and “adequate provision” for the minorities.

So going by the playbook of people like Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, non-Muslims everywhere must reconcile to the ‘rights’ of the ‘Muslims’ as a majority and as a minority, including the right to secede, but ‘Muslims’ will guarantee non-Muslims nothing more than sham “equality” and “adequate provision”!

Marxists have been under fire in Pakistan right from day one. It’s a place that has never seen even ordinary democracy; where is the question of freedom for communist ideas?

The duplicity of ‘Muslim’ identity is also evident in the conduct of two brothers: Zakir Hussain and Mahmud Hussain.

While the former pleads with Gandhi in Sep. 1947 for the safety and security of ‘Muslims’ and subsequently goes on to become the President of India as a member of the so-called “minority” – his brother Mahmud Hussain sits in Pakistan’s constituent assembly trashing the rights of Pakistan’s own minorities by voting for the Objectives Resolution!

An Islamic state from the start

Prof. Ahmed says “no Muslim member” of the constituent assembly of Pakistan – not even one with Leftist leanings – opposed the Objectives Resolution, which was denounced by the Hindu members as a violation of Jinnah’s 11 August speech.

“Liaquat Ali khan, Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Mahmud Hussain (brother of Zakir Hussain), Umar Hayat Malik (from Punjab)… all spoke (in support of the Objectives Resolution).”

“And then Mian Iftikharuddin, who was a Leftist, spoke… Actually, even he supported the Objectives Resolution, but he did it in a very different way.”

“He wondered, for instance, whether continuation of feudalism and exploitation was consistent with an Islamic system… and said he was disappointed. So he spoke in support, but in the form of criticism.”

Prof. Ahmed says the Objectives Resolution was also supported by Zafarullah Khan, Pakistan’s first foreign minister, who belonged to the Ahmadi community that would later be severely persecuted in Pakistan and constitutionally deemed non-Muslim.

“In the manner of ‘more royal than the king,’ he (Zafarullah Khan) went on and on about Islam, liberally quoting the Quran. He said Islam covers every aspect of human society and does not allow religion to be separated from politics – presenting a vision of an ultra-Islamic state.”

The vital principle that religion and politics must remain separate was thus negated by the Objectives Resolution without any of the Muslim members of the constituent assembly, including a Leftist, putting up any worthwhile resistance, says Prof. Ahmed.

“So the constitution that we got in 1956 gave us ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ whose president would be a Muslim and all laws in Pakistan would be brought in consonance with Quran and Sunnah.”

Deeper slide into Islamism

The constitution of 1956 was abrogated by Field Marshal Ayub Khan in 1958 when he became Pakistan’s first military dictator through coup d’état, says Prof. Ahmed.

“Ayub Khan, for the first time, dares to bring half-heartedly a bit of secularism by changing (in 1962) the name of the country to ‘Republic of Pakistan’.”

“I was 15-16 years old then and I remember the abuse hurled at Ayub Khan by not just Mullahs but also ‘normal people,’” says Prof. Ahmed.

The protests led to restoration in 1963 of the ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ – and of constitutional provisions that only a Muslim can be the president and all laws will be brought in harmony with Quran and Sunnah.

“So where is secularism (in the make-up of the State of Pakistan)? Where are we going to look for secularism? Where…,” demands Prof. Ahmed.

After suffering constitutional crises in the 1970 and a civil war in 1971, resulting in the secession of East Pakistan, the country adopted a new constitution in 1973; it was drafted by the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

The 1973 constitution further enmeshed Pakistan in Islamism, prescribing that not only the president but the prime minister will also be a Muslim and they will have to publicly affirm their belief in the finality of the prophet-hood of Muhammad (doctrine of ‘Khatm-e-Nabwat), says Prof. Ahmed.

“In 1974, the same National Assembly (during Bhutto’s premiership) declared the Ahmadis to be non-Muslims (through a constitutional amendment, on the ground that their beliefs were a violation of ‘Khatm-e-Nabwat’).”

In 1984, military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq (who ruled from 1978 until his death in 1988) imposed further restrictions on Ahmadis through an ordinance that effectively prohibited them from preaching or professing their beliefs.

“After that ordinance, they brought in the blasphemy law (in 1986 through Sections 295 B and 205-C ) of the Pakistan Penal Code, dealing with ‘anyone who desecrates the Quran or defiles the name of Prophet Muhammad’,” says Prof. Ahmed.

Zia’s blasphemy law prescribed heavy fine or life imprisonment or capital punishment.

“There were thus three possibilities, but in 1990 when the government of Nawaz Sharif (i.e. a democratically elected government rather than a military dictatorship) was in power, the Federal Shariat Court said the punishment for blasphemy should only be capital punishment.”

This brief history shows clearly that neither Jinnah nor any of the civilian or military governments since his death intended to set up a secular State, says Prof. Ahmed.

He says Jinnah and his successors also never allowed socialist and communist thinking to grow in Pakistan.

“The Communist Party bragged a lot about its plans (for the new State of Pakistan), but the very first statement of Governor General Jinnah, on 17 August 1947, was that there was a fifth column in the country looking towards Moscow and ‘we have to take care of them’.”

“Marxists have been under fire in Pakistan right from day one. It’s a place that has never seen even ordinary democracy; where is the question of freedom for communist ideas?”

Had Sikhs and Hindus been allowed to stay in areas that Pakistan got, in line with the Partition’s original understanding, their population would have been 10-11 per cent today

Pakistan was NEVER a democratic state – not even for a day, asserts Prof. Ahmed.

“If at all Pakistan was a “democracy”, it was a “majoritarian democracy”. Don’t forget it was the elected government (of Bhutto) – not a dictator – that declared Ahmadis non-Muslim. (Dictator) Zia-ul-Haq only capitalized on that; he did not first do it.”

The Garrison State

Prof. Ahmed also seeks to explain in his talk as to how Pakistan came to be a “garrison state” – i.e. a state consumed by security concerns and dominated by the military – and debunks another Pakistani myth that Radcliffe Award favoured India.

He says Pakistan became a garrison state because Jinnah could not get his wish of having the whole of Punjab and Bengal merged with Pakistan, in which case the International Border (IB) would have cut across Gurgaon, just 15 km from Delhi, for (United) Punjab extended as far as there.

Had that happened, it’s India that would have become the garrison state.

However, India got the International Border (IB) around Lahore (16 km from the IB), Sialkot (18 km), Gujranwala (28 km) and Shekhupura within striking distance too, says Prof. Ahmed.

“The whole of Punjab was within the reach of Indian Army in case of a land war. Thus, right from the beginning, Pakistan came to be a state in which defence of the country was paramount.”

The garrison state was thus the net result of the division of Punjab.

“It’s said that Pakistan was hard done by in Radcliffe Award (under which Punjab and Bengal were divided). I throw a bet. I can be taken anywhere and I can argue that Radcliffe Award was 99.9 per cent what the Muslim League demanded,” he asserts.

In the debate that took place in Punjab Boundary Commission, Muslim League said that Muslim-majority areas should simply be scissored off.

“Hindus and Sikhs opposed that, pointing out that it was they who had accounted for 80 per cent of the revenues of Punjab in the previous 100 years, and about 75 per cent of the properties/assets, including business assets, belonged to them,” says Prof. Ahmed.

In order to counter that, Muslim League quibbled with the terms of reference of the commission (which was ‘division on the basis of ascertaining the contiguous majority areas of Muslims and non-Muslims AND other factors’), contending that ‘other factors’ are only relevant in very specific situations.

“So according to its interpretation, Muslim League wanted Lahore to which Sikhs too staked a claim on the grounds that it was the birth-place of Guru Arjan Dev. Sikhs (and Hindus) also wanted Sialkot in which Narowal has a Sikh claim, and Hindu religion too has a relationship – a mythological connection – with Sialkot.”

Sikhs wanted Shekhupura, Nankana Sahib, Gujranwala (Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s birth-place). Sikhs said these places represented much of their history. They also wanted Montgomery or Sahiwal and Lyallpur where they held a great amount of land.

“Now you can see that under Radcliffe Award all of these places were given to Pakistan. So it is nonsense to argue that the Radcliffe Award was directed against Pakistan’s demand. It’s actually the other way round,” says Prof. Ahmed.

He says it’s true that Wavell (Viceroy and Governor General of India from 1943 to 1947) favoured awarding three tehsils of Gurdaspur to India in order to allow the country a natural defence without which Amritsar would have been surrounded on all sides by Pakistani-Muslim areas.

However, there was no conspiracy in that allowance – no conspiracy that by getting the major part of Gurdaspur district, India was handed land access to Kashmir (thus making the Indian intervention in Kashmir possible). In fact, India also has access to Kashmir through Hoshiarpur.

“If at all, the curses that Pakistanis hurl at Mountbatten (who replaced Wavell as Viceroy in 1947) should be redirected at Wavell, but remember Wavell gave us everything (we wanted); Indians got none of what they asked for.”

“Gurdaspur was a very minor thing; (We) Muslims (on the other hand) are quite incapable of giving even a small thing to others.”

No comparison

While Muslims in India have increased their share of the population from 9.5 per cent in 1947 to 14.4 per cent today, Pakistan continues to present a bleak picture of the ethnic cleansing that was carried out during Partition and ill-treatment of minorities since that time, says Prof. Ahmed.

Had Sikhs and Hindus been allowed to stay in areas that Pakistan got, in line with the Partition’s original understanding, their population would have been 10-11 per cent today, he says.

“Some Hindus remain in Sindh. Here (in Punjab) we don’t see any, and if at all we see one it is like someone being displayed in a museum and introduced with: ‘Here’s what a Hindu of Pakistan looks like’.”

“Otherwise they were very prominent part of Punjabi culture and society. Who can write about Punjab without Krishan Chander, who has as much claim over this land as you and I have.”

“But today, he doesn’t even get a mention; (Saadat Hasan) Manto Day is celebrated here, but I have never heard anyone memorializing Krishan Chander.”

“We have a complete blank on our past.”


Prof. Ishtiaq Ahmed’s book ‘The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed’ has been published by Oxford University Press (2012) as well as Rupa Publications (2011).

1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

Kapil Bajaj is a freelance journalist and blogger based in Noida (NCR-Delhi). He has worked in the past for the Press Trust of India (PTI), India Today Group, Governance Now magazine (Sri Adhikari Brothers or SAB), Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), and other organizations. He blogs at Kapil's Blog Spot.


  1. India never raises these issues before Pakistan and at international forums .India must make these issues it’s important plank of diplomacy negotiations. In fact Nehru and Gandhi have betrayed the Hindus especially Pakistani Hindus. Only they’re responsible for their uprooting and destruction from their own land.

  2. Kapil jee it look you have different version from the Jaswant shing as i have read that book entitled Jinnah by Jaswant shing . more can be said after reading your book also . Hope you have read Jaswant shing book also thanks kalyan dev bhattarai

  3. They have foresight and pragmatic and they do not want any future law and order problems as India is facing today because of the tolerant, idealistic attitude


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