KARACHI, Pakistan (26/12).    A smartly turned contingent of the Pakistani army took guard at the sprawling mausoleum of the country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah — commonly known as Quaid-i-Azam (the greatest leader) — in the southern port city of Karachi Wednesday to officially kick off nationwide ceremonies marking his 143rd birthday.

Born on Dec. 25, 1876 to a wealthy merchant family in Karachi, during Pakistan’s 72 years of independence, Jinnah has remained the only leader over which people can agree on. One can find Jinnah’s name and picture everywhere in Pakistan — from paper money to the streets, from universities to naval bases.

“Thank you Jinnah” remains the top trend on local social media websites since neighboring India, which Pakistan was a part of until 1947, introduced a controversial citizenship bill earlier this month which marginalizes Muslims.

Citing the harassment of minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, the Indian parliament recently amended its citizenship law, offering citizenship rights to Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Parsi and Jain communities migrating from these countries. The law, however, excluded Muslims, triggering mass protests across India, and inviting ire from the international community.

“This so-called citizenship bill has further underscored the wisdom, and foresightedness of Jinnah. He realized decades ago what we are realizing today,” Rafiuddin Hashmi, a Lahore-based educator and thinker, told Anadolu Agency.

“It was his political foresightedness that led him to wage a struggle to protect Muslim minority rights in the sub-continent,” said Hashmi, former head of the Urdu Department at Punjab University Lahore, adding that after the introduction of the citizenship bill, “those Indian Muslims who had opposed the creation of Pakistan are acknowledging the foresightedness of Jinnah.”

Personal life

Jinnah received his early education from Sindh Madrassahtul Islam school and Christian Missionary Society School in Karachi. Later, in 1892, he was offered an apprenticeship by a family friend in London, but before he left, Jinnah’s mother arranged his marriage with his cousin Emibai.

Jinnah’s mother and Emibai died within a year after his departure to London, where he soon quit the apprenticeship and joined the famous Lincoln’s Inn as an aspiring barrister. Upon earning his degree, Jinnah started practicing law as the first Muslim barrister in Bombay and served as an interim magistrate for a brief six-month period.

In 1918, Jinnah married Rattanbai — famously known as Ruttie — from an elite Parsi family. Ruttie embraced Islam before tying the knot with Jinnah. The marriage, however, worked only for a few years as the couple separated before Ruttie died in 1929. Jinnah had one daughter, Dina, who was later raised by his younger sister Fatima Jinnah.

Dina married a wealthy Parsi businessman against her father’s will and choose not to move to Pakistan after its creation in 1947. Jinnah was the second child among seven siblings but except for Fatima Jinnah — his political aide — little is known about his other three brothers and two sisters.

Fatima Jinnah was later declared Madar-e-Millat (Mother of the Nation) by the Pakistani government. A southern slum locality in Karachi is named after Shireen Jinnah, who is believed to have been one of Jinnah’s sisters.

Jinnah’s religious affiliation is also unclear. Some historians assert that he belonged to the Gujarati Ismaili community, while others said he was a Shia. His relatives claimed that he was converted to the Sunni school of thought late in his life. Suffering from tuberculosis, Jinnah died on Sept. 11, 1948 in Karachi, and was laid to rest in the same city.

A magnificent mausoleum, Mazar-e-Quaid, was built on his grave in 1970, where thousands throng every day to pay their respects to the great leader, who envisioned a separate state for the Muslims of the sub-continent.

Political life

According to Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah’s biographer, during his time in London, founder of Pakistan was influenced by 19th-century British liberalism, based on democratic nations and progressive politics. In 1906, he joined the Indian National Congress — a party founded in 1885 in the aftermath of the 1857 revolt against the British Raj to demand more self-governance for the sub-continent.

Initially, Jinnah remained a great advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity and refused to join the All-India Muslim League, established by some Muslim leaders to protect their community’s interests in Hindu-majority United India.

In 1913, he joined the Muslim League but remained associated with the Congress until 1920, when he completely disassociated himself from his first political party. He was part of the 1916 Lucknow Pact, which set quotas for the representation of Muslims and Hindus in various provinces. However, the pact was never fully implemented.

In 1928, the British government asked Indians to propose constitutional changes to govern the sub-continent. Motilal Nehru, founder of the Nehru political dynasty in India, came up with the Nehru Report that demanded the formation of constituencies based on geography. Jinnah, for his part, presented his famous 14 points demanding mandatory representation of the Muslim minority in legislative assemblies.

Jinnah remained in Britain from 1930 to 1934 practicing as a barrister. His biographers disagree over why he lived for a such a long period, away from the political struggle in India.

Following the persistence of several Muslim leaders, including Pakistan’s national poet Allama Mohammad Iqbal and first Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan, Jinnah returned to India in 1934 to lead the All-India Muslim League amid growing Muslim nationalism in the region.

On March 23, 1940, the famous Lahore Resolution — later rechristened the Pakistan Resolution — was adopted at a massive gathering at then-Minto Park in Lahore under Jinnah’s leadership, demanding a separate Muslim state made up of five majority-Muslim provinces.

Adoption of the Pakistan Resolution is considered the most decisive point in Jinnah’s political struggle, when he came up with a clear-cut idea for his future plans. The next seven years turned out to be turbulent, following campaigns and counter-campaigns, one after the other.

In 1942, in the midst of World War II, the Congress launched the “Quit India Movement,” sensing that the weakening British Empire could no longer hold the sub-continent. In response, Jinnah launched the “Divide and Quit Movement,” sticking to his guns for a separate Muslim state.

“Pakistan is a matter of life and death for us,” Jinnah declared. In December 1945, the Muslim League won all the seats reserved for Muslims in the provincial assemblies, reflecting the rising confidence of Indian Muslims in Jinnah’s leadership.

In 1946, the British government resorted to sending a high-level parliamentary delegation, the Cripps Mission, to break the deadlock between the Congress and the Muslim League over future governance, but to no avail. Finally, on June 3, 1947, Lord Mountbatten, the last British viceroy of India, announced the partition of India and Pakistan. On Aug. 14, Pakistan became an independent state.

Jinnah was elected the first governor general of Pakistan, but lived only a year after the nation’s independence. He died on Sept. 11, 1948 in Karachi.