In the Senate today, Haji Adeel’s statement on yesterday’s Kal Tak was raised by Senator Saleem Saifullah of PML-Q. Haji Adeel’s statement was that Muslim League leaders drank wine and ate pork. On the show itself the statement was not met with such a strong reaction but today in the Senate Senator Saifullah said that Haji Adeel was maligning Quaid-e-Azam and following some more back and forth the members of PML-Q and PML-N staged a walkout on the issue.
Now the irony of the situation is the context in which the statement was made by Haji Adeel. Haji Adeel’s remark was in a debate with the PML-Q talkshow guests about historical truth. PML-Q leaders had, as usual, brought up the issue of the 1947 referendum. So in response, Haji Adeel said that if certain historical facts were being brought up then he could also say that Muslim League leader ate pork and drank wine. Interestingly, Kashmala Tariq said that “You can’t change history” refering to ANP’s predecessor’s opposition to the creation of Pakistan.
However, Senator Saifullah’s taking up of the issue, and the PML walkout show that history can be rewritten, in fact in Pakistan it’s completely acceptable (and in fact required) to change history in a way to suit the national narrative and image of Jinnah. After all, Stanley Wolpert’s biography of Jinnah was banned in Pakistan in 1984 because it quoted AC Chagla’s famous claim that Jinnah drank whiskey and ate ham sandwiches.
Akbar Ahmad, in his book Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity: the Search for Saladin discusses the various viewpoints and historical sources on Jinnah’s dietary habits (sources who confirmed that he did, indeed drink are AC Chagla, Yahya Bakhtiar, Jinnah’s daughter Dina and Jinnah’s friend Woodrow Wyatt) and why they are so important to paint Jinnah in one light or the other.
Ahmad rightly states that the obsession with Jinnah’s dietary habits is related to each groups vindication of its own particular position. Liberals within Pakistan stress that Jinnah drank to vindicate their own position that Pakistan was not created as an Islamic state. Indian opponents of Jinnah stress that he drank in order to show the hypocrisy of someone who founded a country for Islam but didn’t even practice it. And finally, religious Muslims within Pakistan censor the fact that he drank because they want to show that he was a good Muslim. Seen that way, it would be fair to say that Haji Adeel’s statement was just another example of a statement about Jinnah’s personal habits to justify a particular political position, in this case, ANP’s position on the creation of Pakistan.
We’ve all seen PML-Q’s revolting use of history this week to paint ANP as a party of fifth-columnist Gandhi-loving traitors. So while Haji Adeel’s remarks may indeed have been undiplomatic and impulsive, it is interesting how they exposed PML-Q’s rather one-sided dedication to historical truth.