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Prof Stanley Wolpert: Biographer of Jinnah passes away

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March 8, 2019

Professor Stanley Wolpert, the Head of Department of History, University of California, Los Angeles, passed away in the US. News of his demise was conveyed by his wife Dorothy Wolpert to Mrs. Ameena Saiyid, Secretary General of The Jinnah Society.

Professor Wolpert was a legend in his own life time. Specializing in South Asian politics and history, Wolpert authored books on Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah. His book “Jinnah of Pakistan” is perhaps the bestbiography on Jinnah. One may not agree with everything Wolpert has stated in his book and I took up these issues with him on his visits to Pakistan. He agreed to look into these issues and perhaps clarify them in subsequent publications. He was taken away from this world at the age of 91 but will forever be remembered for his marvelous books which he left behind for all times to come.

Professor Stanley Wolpert was the patron of The Jinnah Society and not only contributed a brilliant article in The Jinnah Anthology compiled and edited by Liaquat Merchant and Professor Sharif Al Mujahid but also wrote a foreword to the book “Quotes from the Quaid” also a popular contribution on Jinnah by Liaquat Merchant and Prof. Sharif Al Mujahid. In his foreword Wolpert stated: “Every Pakistani, from your youngest child to your oldest scholar, should read this wonderful little book, Quotes from the Quaid, with pride and joy. Each page contains at least one inspiring thought, culled from the life’s work of your great leader, illuminating Quaid-i-Azam’s humane brilliance and the wisdom of his remarkable mind. The book is arranged alphabetically, and I could quote examples from every page, but will note just a few facets of Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan, which I found most valuable and exciting:

Duty of the Government: ‘Those days have gone when the country was ruled by the bureaucracy. It is people’s government, responsible to the people more or less on democratic lines and parliamentary practice……. Make the people feel that you are their servants and friends, maintain the highest standard of honour, integrity, justice and fair play.’

Human Rights: ‘No man should lose his liberty or be deprived of his liberty, without a judicial trial in accordance with the accepted rules of evidence and procedure.’

Secularism and Secular Principles: ‘Brotherhood, equality, and fraternity of man – these are all the basic points of our religion, culture and civilization and we fought for Pakistan because there was a danger of denial of these human rights in this Subcontinent.’

Vision of Pakistan: ‘The establishment of Pakistan for which we have been striving… is, by grace of God, an established fact today, but the creation of a State of our own was a means to an end and not the end in itself. The idea was that we should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice could find free play.’

Those are just a few of the inspiring gems copied from this marvelous book of Quotes from the Quaid, so you can see what a brilliant work it is, and to remind Pakistan of what a wise and great leader your Quaid-i-Azam was. I thank and congratulate my good friend, Liaquat Merchant, and his excellent Jinnah Society colleagues, for working so long and hard at culling so much of Jinnah’s brilliant vision from the archive of his complete works, and I congratulate Oxford University Press and all my good friends there, especially Managing Director Ameena Saiyid, for publishing this wonderful, this truly visionary book. Stanley Wolpert.”

Professor Wolpert visited Pakistan in December, 2001 on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of the Founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He was invited to speak at an event hosted by The Jinnah Society at the Governor House, Karachi, the event was hosted by Sindh Governor Muhammad Mian Soomro. In his address to the guests at Governor House, Wolpert stated that Quaid felt cheated by British on Kashmir. Quaid-i-Azam very strongly felt that on the Kashmir issue the British had cheated him and let him down and Lord Mountbatten’s position was compromised after he became the Governor General of India.

Prof. Wolpert said the position of Mr. Jinnah on the issue was very strong and he felt that the British had withheld their promised support.

Prof. Wolpert, a biographer of the Quaid-i-Azam and with 20 other books on South Asia to his credit, said Mr. Jinnah always felt that Kashmir belonged to Pakistan according to the rules of Partition.

Asked if Mr. Jinnah made a mistake by not accepting Mountbatten as Governor General of Pakistan, Mr. Wolpert said not he but India made a mistake by accepting Mountbatten as Governor General. He said that Quaid-e-Azam was a man who primarily focused on the importance of honesty, fair play and primacy of legal integrity throughout his life.

Drawing a parallel between Mr. Jinnah and other Indian Leaders, Wolpert said that in many ways Jinnah and Gandhi were giants of the South Asian History whereas Nehru was far behind them and diminished both in terms of character, consistency and his role was not only a negative one and harsh but emotionally driven. Wolpert further said that Jinnah’s vision was clearly set out when he said as early as 1940 that Muslims of the Subcontinent are not a minority but a Nation. Wolpert called upon the people of Pakistan to reflect upon and seek inspiration from the struggles, achievement and vision of Quaid-e-Azam so that a well disciplined and organized nation can emerge.

Professor Stanley Wolpert is now a part of history and will always be held in esteem by professors, scholars and students of history. The Jinnah Society has lost its patron and truly a great supporter of Jinnah of Pakistan.

Mr Merchant is the President The Jinnah Society

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