The Charismatic Leadership of Quaid-i- Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah

July 2, 2015

Talks & Interviews

Dr. Sikandar Hayat

Dr. Sikandar Hayat, Distinguished Professor of History and Public Policy, Forman Christian College and author of the book, The Charismatic Leader: Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Creation of Pakistan, was invited to deliver a talk on The Charismatic Leadership of Quaid-i- Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah on March 20, 2013.

Dr. Hayat began his talk by drawing upon the German sociologist, Max Weber’s theoretical work on charisma. Weber had identified two perspectives on charisma. In his later writings on ‘charismatic leadership’, Weber conceptualized it as rational-ascetic type of leadership as opposed to his earlier orthodox concept of charismatic leader as an emotional demagogue. The First World War and particularly the irresponsible and irrational leadership of Wilhelm II had helped change his mind. He now promoted the concept of a rational sober leader who had both a sense of ‘responsibility and proportion’, along with ‘passions’, but tempered with ‘reason’. Thus, only a leader who could stand the test of reason and rationality was a charismatic leader.

Weber stressed that charismatic leadership was a function both of personality and circumstances- a situation which necessitated its emergence. Leadership was thus not simply a personal quality as both personality and the situation together constituted political leadership particularly of the charismatic type. In fact, Weber identified and explained three kinds of leadership. One, a ‘traditional leadership’ which was obeyed out of traditional beliefs and habit due to kings, tribal chiefs and feudal lords. Two, a ‘charismatic leadership’ which was obeyed due to the exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person. In other words, because a leader inspired and moved people. Third, a ‘legal-rational leadership’ obeyed for its legitimate authority because people believed in the legality of rules, and the right of those elevated to authority under such rules. In this scheme of things, charismatic leadership was meant to be a transitory form of leadership; a transition from traditional to legal-rational authority.

Hayat stated that Weber had defined charisma as “a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as not accessible to the ordinary person but are regarded as of divine origin or exemplary and on the basis of which an individual concerned is treated as a leader”. Based on the above stated two perspectives, the earlier emotional and the later rational, Weber’s account of the salient features of charisma was as follows: one, charisma depended on ‘recognition’ by followers and thus no recognition meant no followers; two, recognition meant ‘complete personal devotion’ to the leader, born out of ‘enthusiasm, despair and hope’ in a crisis-like situation; three, the leader must have the heroic quality of passion which must be tempered by reason and sense of responsibility; four, the leader must be sober and rational, otherwise it would be a case of ‘false’ charisma; five, a leader must be devoted to his ‘cause’ and the only one who could lead ‘in spite of all’ because of his true ‘calling’ for politics; six, the leader must be an organizational person and should work for his vocation i.e., politics through an organization such as, a political party to promote his cause and accomplish his mission; seven, the leader must be economically independent of the income politics can bring him such that politics cannot be his primary source of income; eight, the leader must demonstrate ‘proof’ of his charismatic power because if unsuccessful for long, or above all if his leadership failed to benefit his followers, “it is likely that his charismatic authority will disappear”.

Hayat then presented a systematic, operational framework for the study of charismatic leadership, a combination of both personality-related and situational factors. In terms of personal attributes, a charismatic leader required the following personality characteristics: one, he needed to be perceived by the followers to possess exceptional, extraordinary personal qualities; two, he must have the ability to offer to the followers a way out of their difficult, distressful situation, ‘a formula’ for their salvation; three, he must have an absolute faith in himself, his mission and the cause he espoused; four, he must have a sober, rational character – passionate but with reason; and lastly he must have the ability to manifest his charisma before attaining actual power. Further, the situational factors included: one, the followers were confronted with difficulties, crisis, or maybe a set of crises; two, the followers were lost, frustrated and in a state of despair; three, the followers wanted a way out of their distressful situation.

In the light of the aforementioned theoretical framework, Hayat then proceeded to analyze the charismatic personality of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah during the creation of Pakistan, the distressful situation of Muslims in India, and how Jinnah indeed delivered on his formula, the separate state of Pakistan for the salvation of the Muslims.

“.. charismatic leadership was a function both of personality and circumstances…”

Discussing Jinnah’s Personality, Hayat articulated a number of points in light of the charismatic leadership framework. One, Jinnah was a man absolutely sure of himself and of his cause, the Muslim cause, and particularly the Pakistan demand, after the adoption of the Lahore Resolution in March 1940. He had immense faith in himself and “never courted popularity”. He told one of his political rivals, “You try to find out what will please people and then you act accordingly. My way of action is different. I first decide what is right and do it. Then people come around me and the opposition vanishes”. It was precisely because of this conviction that nothing could detract him from his mission. He could “neither be bought nor cajoled; neither be influenced nor trapped into a position that he had not himself decided upon”. Two, Jinnah not only could feel Muslim aspirations but he was the only Muslim leader of India who could express, aggregate and articulate these aspirations in concrete propositions whether in the form of his ‘Fourteen Points’, or eventually in the demand for Pakistan. None of his opponents and particularly the ‘nationalist’ Muslims, who were pro-Congress, could offer any viable alternative to Pakistan for the protection of Muslim rights and interests in India. Three, Jinnah was a constitutionalist and a lawyer who was ideally suited to negotiations with the British to secure the interests of Muslims in the final phase of the freedom struggle. He was part of almost all constitutional deliberations of India, be it inside the assembly or outside, whether between the Muslim League and the Congress or between the League, Congress, and the British. Four, Jinnah was a sober, rational leader, not a demagogue. He always “avoided the display of emotion in public”. This did not mean that he was devoid of passions. He believed passionately in his cause of Pakistan. Indeed, he was to “hasten his death to a cause to which he gave his will and logic, as passionately as Gandhi led his disciples, with zeal and intuition”. Five, Jinnah was a keen organizer in public life. Nothing was to be taken for granted or left to chance. He never operated outside party routine and discipline. His entire political life revolved around parties, the Congress, Home Rule League, and eventually the Muslim League, after 1913.

Six, Jinnah was a keen strategist who knew fully well when to take the tide and when to make amends. He always knew his limitations as well as the weak points of his opponents. Thus through his ‘unrivalled tactical skill’, he was able to take advantage of every situation, however ‘unpromising’. The mistakes of the Congress, for instance, helped him to “convince the vast majority of the Muslims that Congress rule meant Hindu domination”. The mistakes of British rulers who underrated him and his cause by insisting that his Pakistan demand was “a deliberate overbid”, cost them dearly. In the end, they were forced to concede to Pakistan despite their vehement opposition to the partition of India. Seven, Jinnah was a man of character. Almost all of his contemporaries in politics saw him as “a man of high integrity, principles, sincerity, honesty, incorruptibility and honour”. Dr. Syed Hussain, a nationalist Muslim and Congress Minister, who was opposed to the idea of Pakistan swore publicly: “Though I am opposed to Pakistan, I must say that Mr. Jinnah is the only man in public life whose public record is incorruptible. You cannot buy him by money or by offer of post. He has not gained anything from the British.” Eight, Jinnah was one of the self-sufficient, indeed rich political leaders of India. His primary source of income was his enormous legal practice. Thus, as a charismatic leader, as Weber suggested in his formulation of the concept, he was “economically independent of the income politics can bring him”. In fact, Jinnah himself contributed to the activities of the League.

Elaborating upon the situational factors, Hayat emphasized that Jinnah’s political struggle, especially after his return to India in 1935 from his self-imposed exile in London, was meant to address the distressful situation of Muslim India as the Hindu majority community, led by Congress, advanced towards self-government and freedom. Some of the main difficulties explaining the distressful situation of Muslims in India were as follows

“Almost all of his contemporaries in politics saw him as “a man of high integrity, principles, sincerity, honesty, incorruptibility and honour”

Hindu-Muslim Communalism: Hindu- Muslim communalism reflected in the religio-cultural differences between the Hindus and Muslims had a major impact on the political life and processes in India. In spite of Jinnah and other Muslim leaders’ efforts to promote Hindu-Muslim unity, the two communities remained distinct and indeed became mutually hostile as India began to advance towards freedom. The prospects of a Hindu-majority government in India agitated the Muslims and reinforced their fear of being overwhelmed by the system. The Congress’s failure to accommodate the Muslim League in the provincial governments in 1937-39, particularly in the UP where the League did fairly well, alarmed the Muslims and made them insecure and helpless, indeed suggesting to them that the partition of India and a separate homeland was the only viable alternative to communal conflict between the Hindus and the Muslims in India.

The Constitutional Problem: The representative system of government introduced by the British in India through its various constitutional reforms, i.e., the 1909 Act, the 1919 Act, and the 1935 Act made the Muslims a ‘minority’ in India, and a permanent one at that. The system, based on numbers, was inherently biased towards the majority community, the Hindus, and there was nothing the Muslims could ever do about it. They were a minority community, and in ‘democracies, majorities rule’. But, as Jinnah put it, the Muslims were not prepared to submit to a “government with the Hindu majority and Hindu rule throughout the country.”

“… prospects of a Hindu-majority government in India agitated the Muslims and reinforced their fear of being overwhelmed by the system.”

The Devolution of British Authority in India: The British rule in India rested on their physical strength and resources to hold their “prized possession.” Steadily their power to coerce began to erode. Although the British were able to put down the challenges to their authority during the Khilafat and the ‘Quit India’ movements, they found it extremely difficult after the Second World War to resort to arbitrary use of power to put India down. In September 1946, the Viceroy, Lord Wavell, was willing to concede that, “on administrative grounds we could not govern the whole of India for more than a year and a half now… the withdrawal should be completed not later than the spring of 1948”. However, the Second World War alone did not terminate British rule but an increasing loss of legitimacy added to their woes. From 1858 Act to 1935 Act, the British had come up with constitutional reforms, to associate Indians in the system of government in order to legitimize their rule, but it did not help anymore. Paradoxically, however, each constitutional advance proved to be a major step towards the devolution of British authority in India. In turn, this transfer of power strained Hindu-Muslim relations, as one British author put it: “The fact is that the more we delegate our authority to the natives of India on the principles which we associate with self-government, the more we must necessarily in practice delegate it to the Hindus, who make the majority, however much we may try to protect the rights and interests of the Muhammadan minority.” Indeed, the more the process of devolution proceeded and more the prospects of British withdrawal became imminent, the more the conflicts between Hindus and Muslims increased. The anticipated freedom not only moved the Muslims towards a greater realization for their rights and interests, it also fanned their old, lingering fear of Hindu domination. This was the herald of a crisis in which the Muslims having lost power to the British, in the wake of 1857 Uprising, were now confronted to the possibility of losing it permanently to the Hindus in independent India.

The Leadership Crisis: The Muslim leadership in India was composed of: one, the social elites such as, the nobility, gentry and land owners; two, provincial leaders of the Muslim-majority provinces; and three, the ulama, particularly the ulama of Deoband associated with the Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Hind. The social elites were patronized and promoted by the British. They were given special representation in the legislative councils under various constitutional reforms. Though the social elites took advantage of their favorable position to advance Muslim interests, they could not offer any long-term solution to the Muslim predicament in India. Thus, the Muslim masses found little comfort in the status-quo oriented politics of the social elites. In addition, the pro-British policies could hardly allay Muslim fears and apprehensions as the Hindu majority led by the Congress advanced towards the goal of freedom of India.

The provincial leaders were a product of the system of ‘dyarchy’ introduced in 1919 and reinforced by the 1935 Act, the grant of provincial autonomy, and were a formidable force in Muslim politics. However, once the British, during the Second World War, were forced to enter into negotiations with the Indians, with the League and the Congress, the two all-India organizations at the centre, the provincial leaders were pushed out of the main stage. Ultimately they could not even play a decisive role in provincial matters, let alone in the politics of India as a whole, as became evident in the division of Punjab and Bengal.

“… charismatic leaders were not born in a vacuum. They emerged when there were many leaders around but could not deliver,”

The ulama were a product of the traditional madrassa school system and were custodians of religious learning and values. However, the Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Hind, established in 1919 committed themselves to ‘composite nationalism’ without really understanding the long-term implications of such a concept for Muslims, the rise of Hindu nationalism, Hindutva being a case in point. In fact, they were more concerned with “safeguards against interference with the Sharia” rather than the political future of the Muslims.

Hayat argued that there was no denying that the traditional Muslim political leadership, as a whole, failed to produce any farsighted leader who could understand the difficulties faced by the Muslims and show them a way out. He pointed out that charismatic leaders were not born in a vacuum. They emerged when there were many leaders around but could not deliver, leading the people to turn towards a charismatic leader as their ultimate savior. Rather than a dearth of leaders, it was the special quality possessed by the charismatic leader coinciding with the crisis like situation that led him to emerge from the lot as a distinct leader.

Jinnah’s Formula and the Creation of Pakistan: Jinnah, after exploring formulas meant to help the Muslims, the latest being his ‘Fourteen Points’, declared on 22 March 1940 at the annual session of the Muslim League in Lahore that the only way Indian Muslims could survive and “develop to the fullest their spiritual cultural economic, social and political life” was to have their own “homelands, their territory and their state”. On 23 March 1940, the League endorsed Jinnah’s formula of a separate state for the Muslim nation and, in a resolution, adopted on 24 March resolved that “geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are a majority, as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India, should be grouped to constitute ‘Independent States’ in which the constituent units will be autonomous and sovereign”. Jinnah’s formula, as given in the Lahore Resolution, had tremendous appeal for the Muslims as it ensured them physical protection and political survival as well as an independent political community, free to shape its own destiny according to its own religion, culture and norms. They enthusiastically supported him and, in the process, validated his status as a charismatic leader of Muslim India. But Jinnah knew that he had to get everybody to agree to the formula he had now resolved upon. He had to make a strategy to mobilize the Muslims for the creation of Pakistan.

“Jinnah also took advantage of Congress’ absence from the political scene during the ‘Quit India’ movement to secure the support of pro-Congress Muslims.”

Jinah launched his strategy of political mobilization based on a number of systematic moves. In the first instance, he modified the organizational structure of the Muslim League to make room for the newly mobilized social groups such as, the educated urban middle classes, who had responded very positively to the demand for Pakistan. Jinnah followed this up by concentrating powers in the hands of the President of the Muslim League so that the party could emerge as ‘the sole representative body’ of the Muslims of India. In addition, he planned a mass mobilization campaign to reach all groups and classes of Muslim society. Finally, Jinnah decided to make the most of the ongoing war (the Second World War), with the Congress not cooperating with the British and making many mistakes in the process, to help win the support of reluctant Muslims. For instance, Jinnah took advantage of the Congress’ resignation of its ministries in the provinces in protest against the British declaration of war in 1939, and went on to install League ministries in Assam, Bengal, Sind, and NWFP provinces. The League badly needed these provinces to strengthen its claim on Pakistan. The Punjab was already on board through Jinnah-Sikandar Pact. Jinnah also took advantage of Congress’ absence from the political scene during the ‘Quit India’ movement to secure the support of pro-Congress Muslims. This was amply proven in the 1945-46 elections with the Muslim League bagging all 30 seats in the Central Legislative Assembly. The League did equally well in the provinces, especially in the Punjab, where it won an overwhelming majority. This electoral victory, though immensely critical, represented for all practical purposes the halfway mark on the road to Pakistan.

Jinnah also had to force the British to concede the demand for Pakistan. The British had opposed the Pakistan demand because of their considerable economic, strategic and political interest in a united India and thus wanted to retain the unity of India at all costs. Hindu leaders considered the territorial integrity of India as the very essence of Hinduism. They saw the partition of India as “vivisection cutting the baby into two halves.” Thus the creation of Pakistan was not to be an easy task and Jinnah had to make the most of his leadership abilities and skills to work for Pakistan. He had to furnish proof of his charismatic power. Jinnah found the war conditions ideally suited to his task. Especially in the early years, the British were on retreat in Singapore, Malaya (Malaysia), and Burma (Myanmar). The Congress was in political wilderness following the resignation of its ministries in 1939. Jinnah’s wartime strategy was to advance the case of Pakistan as much as he could. The British sought cooperation, not opposition to the war. Jinnah understood this better than the Congress. Thus he decided to cooperate, but only selectively, at the provincial level since it would help reinforce the League in the Muslim-majority provinces. He would cooperate fully only if the British conceded the demand for Pakistan first. Eventually the British had no option but to conciliate him and responded in 1940 in the form of the August Offer, which assured the Muslims that the British could not impose a system of government upon “unwilling minorities”. This assurance was an important victory for Jinnah.

This was followed by the Cripps Proposals of 1942, conceding the ‘non-acceding Provinces’ the same status as that of the Indian Union, thus advancing the cause of Pakistan further. The Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946, comprising Muslim-majority areas in its Sections B and C, ensured that the Muslims could reach their “goal and establish Pakistan.” Congress’ attempt at manipulating the plan prompted Jinnah to reject it eventually, indeed resorting to ‘Direct Action’ to achieve Pakistan. The result was foregone. There were communal riots all over the country, creating a civil-war like situation. On 3 June 1947, the British government was constrained to announce the Partition Plan, and after the division of the Punjab and Bengal under the plan, Pakistan came into being on 14 August 1947. On 15 August 1947, Jinnah took oath of office as the first Governor-General of Pakistan.

In conclusion, Hayat stressed that Jinnah succeeded in his mission because he offered a despaired people at a particularly distressful moment in their history, a charismatic leadership with an abiding faith in himself as well as the cause that he espoused. Various stages in the struggle for Pakistan clearly demonstrated “the really decisive role that Jinnah played at various junctures and in its emergence”. But for him, the struggle for Pakistan could well have been lost, Hayat concluded.

Subsequent to the talk, a question and answer session ensued. A question was raised regarding what happened after a charismatic leader and how, if possible, a successor was created. Hayat responded that, according to Weber, charisma was never entirely transferred as it was essentially a personal attribute. It could only be partially transferred, but this required a conscious effort on the part of the charismatic leader to ‘routinize’ it in an institution or person. In the struggle for Pakistan, Jinnah’s charisma was routinized in the League. In the post-independence phase, after Jinnah’s assumption of the office of the Governor- General and after relinquishing the presidentship of the League, this charisma was transferred to the state of Pakistan. Jinnah’s charisma was thus routinized in the state of Pakistan as Pakistan and Jinnah were inseparable.

Replying to a question, whether charismatic attributes varied in different societies, cultures and traditions, Hayat stated that charisma would always be rooted in the rationality and sobriety of the person, regardless of culture and society, but its outward manifestation would be reflected by the cultural norms and symbolism of the society that the leader belonged to.

Responding to a question pertaining to the place of religious minorities in a state created on the basis of a religion, Hayat argued that Muslim nationalism in India was a blend of both modern and traditional norms. On the one hand, it promoted the modern concept of nationalism based on the rights and interests of Indian Muslims as one nation. On the other hand, it stressed the tradition and ideological character of Islam. The reconciliation of the two, that is, nationalism and Islam, in the demand for Pakistan, as a nation-state, made room for all communities, including the minorities residing in Pakistan, as “citizens of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations”. Jinnah’s views on the constitution and the character of the state were absolutely clear. He was neither interested in theocracy nor secularism. He left it to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan to decide what type of system or constitution they wanted for the country. He only hoped that it will be a “democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam.”

“… Jinnah succeeded in his mission because he offered a despaired people at a particularly distressful moment in their history, a charismatic leadership with an abiding faith in himself as well as the cause that he espoused”