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The Quaid and the Quetta massacre

By Haider Nizamani

If Muhammad Ali Jinnah happened to be on the Quetta-bound bus of Shia pilgrims on June 28, the self-proclaimed custodians of Islam would have killed him, along with 13 others. They would do so because Jinnah was a Shia and that would have been reason enough.

Jinnah, for most Pakistanis today, is the Quaid-e-Azam — the man above any sect in the Islamic Republic. As the Republic he founded increasingly becomes a place where minorities feel vulnerable, it would be remiss to forget that the founder of the country was a Shia. Born into an Ismaili family, he later converted to the Twelver (isna ashri) branch of Shia Islam. He died in 1948 and his sister, Miss Fatima Jinnah, filed an affidavit in the Sindh High Court stating that her brother was a “Shia Khoja Mohamedan”. Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister of Pakistan, jointly signed the affidavit. Khaled Ahmed, in his book Sectarian War, documents in detail how the last rites of the Quaid were performed according to Shia stipulations. Jinnah’s Shia colleagues such as Yusuf Haroon and Hashim Raza attended the namaz-e-janaza (funeral prayer) at the Governor General’s House, while prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan waited outside in the adjacent room. After the Shia funeral prayer, the nascent state took the body for Sunni last rites at the grounds where now stands the Quaid’s mausoleum in Karachi. Miss Fatima Jinnah passed away in 1967 and in her case, too, private last rites were performed according to Shia guidelines and the state-sponsored namaz-e-janaza followed it.

Sunni militant outfits portray Shias as lesser Muslims and thus, lesser Pakistanis. This commandeering of state discourse on Islam from the 1980s onward has emboldened the militants to take up arms against their coreligionists in select parts of Pakistan.

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