"There are many people who leave an inerasable stamp on
history. But there are a few who actually create history. Qaed-e-Azam
Mohd Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual," commented
India's opposition leader and Bharatiya Janata Party president
Lal Krishna Advani in the visitors book at the mausoleum of Mohammad
Ali Jinnah, known in Pakistan as the Quaid-e-Azam or Great Leader.
These words, and indeed his very visit to the Quaid's Mazar appear
to be attempts to dissociate himself from the Sangh Parivar's
pet 'Akhand Bharat' (indivisible India) slogan, as he already
did in Lahore recently by acknowledging the emergence of India
and Pakistan as an
"unalterable reality of history."
A PTI report said Mr. Advani described Jinnah as ``a great man''
who had espoused the cause of secular Pakistan in an address to
his country's Constitutent Assembly. Jinnah's August 11, 2020
address was really ``a classic, a forceful espousal of a secular
state in which while every citizen would be free to pursue his
own religion, the state should make no distinction between one
citizen and another on grounds of faith. My respectful homage
to this great man.''
Advani and his family arrived in his birthplace Karachi late
Friday night, on the last leg of their visit to Pakistan. Advani's
first stop on Saturday morning was not his old school, or the
house he grew up in, but the Mazar that he and his family visited
amidst tight security. He laid a wreath on the grave to the sounding
of bugles by the Mazar's naval guard and stood in silence as a
cleric offered Fateha (prayers). He then took his time writing
in the Visitor's Book.
He also paid his respects at the graves of Pakistan's first prime
minister Liaqat Ali Khan, and Jinnah's sister, Fatima, who played
an important role in Pakistan's politics after her brother's death.
Their graves, located in the same mausoleum, have a different
entrance. Advani also spent some time at the site museum where
several items used by Jinnah are displayed.
Talking to the media, Advani himself termed his visit to the
Mazar as a "milestone" in improving Pakistan-India relations.
The gesture is reminiscent of former Indian Prime Minister A.B.Vajpayee's
historic trip to Lahore in 1999, when he visited the Minar-e-Pakistan
considered a symbol of the idea of Pakistan. Both visits apparently
sought to counter the widespread belief in Pakistan that India
has never accepted its very existence.
Pakistan is not pressing forward with the FIR lodged at Karachi's
Jamshed Quarters police station, on September 10, 1947, against
Advani, then an RSS organiser in Karachi, and 17 others for allegedly
conspiring to kill Jinnah and other leaders. News of the FIR was
leaked to the media when Advani in 2002 presented Musharraf with
India's most-wanted list of criminals that Pakistan was allegedly
harbouring. The government now says it is unaware of any criminal
case against Advani.
This should suit Advani, who has repeatedly stated during his
Pakistan visit that the past should be left behind, particularly
to awkward questions about his role in the failure of the Agra
talks, the demolition of the Babri Mosque and the targeting of
Muslims in Gujarat.
Things have in any case changed a great deal since Advani's last
visit to Pakistan in 1979 as Information and Broadcasting Minister
-geo-political realities and relations between India and Pakistan,
to name some. Karachi itself, a quiet but sophisticated seaside
town of some 400,000 in 1947, is now the country's largest city
and business and commercial capital, bursting with 15 million
What remains almost unchanged despite various additions to its
basic sandstone structure, is Advani's alma mater, St Patricks
Boy's School in the heart of Karachi's busy Saddar district, now
surrounded by an electronic market. Coincidentally, President
General Parvez Musharraf and Pakistan's banker Prime Minister
Shaukat Aziz are also alumni of St Pat's, as it is locally known.
One of the major collateral benefits of the rapprochement between
India and Pakistan is not just the restoration of physical links
like roads and railways but the chance to
restore links with the past. At least for Musharraf, this restored
link brought an unexpected benefit when he learnt that he is two
years younger than he had thought, thanks to his old school records
in Delhi, being dug out and presented to him by the Manmohan Singh
Musharraf had earlier surprised Singh with a photo album and
records from Singh's old school in Gah, in the Pakistani Punjab.
One of Advani's primary motives for visiting Pakistan along with
his family may well have been the chance to visit his birthplace,
where he lived for twenty years before migrating after Partition.
However, he has in the past turned down invitations to visit Pakistan,
despite admittedly feeling nostalgic about Karachi. In a television
interview in Islamabad earlier, Advani clarified that he had nothing
to do with Advani Street in Hyderabad's Shahi Bazaar, and had
never lived there.
Going to St Pat's after the Mazar visit, Advani was accorded
a warm reception although school holidays in Karachi are already
underway. He then called on the Governor of Sindh, Ishrat-ul-Ibad,
of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party that draws support
primarily from "Urdu-speaking" migrants from north India.
Talking to reporters at Governor House Karachi, Advani reiterated
what he has been saying during his Pakistan trip, that the present
rapprochement process would have been inconceivable four or five
years ago. He also reminded everyone again that it was his party
that actually started the dialogue process, not just with Pakistan,
also with the Kashmiri Hurriyet Conference leaders who are coincidentally
visiting Pakistan these days. Advani added that the diversity
of the Jammu and Kashmir region must be kept in mind, along with
the aspirations of the Kashmiri people as the dialogue to resolve
the Kashmir issue gets underway.
Adjani lunched at the residence of Hakim Ali Zardari, Benazir
Bhutto's father-in-law, in Old Clifton. The area with its gracious
old bungalows and wide roads lined with ancient trees houses the
Consulate General of India's residence, in disuse since the Indian
Consulate was shut down
in 1995. Ten years on, the possibilities of its being re-opened
have never seemed brighter.
This article was published in "The News" Pakistan.