PAKISTAN: 'Major saab' and his tome are the toast of Pakistan media

Newspapers and television channels side with Indian politician after his party expelled him for writing favorably about the founder of Pakistan

The Times of India
Thursday, August 20, 2009

Islamabad --- Praising Mohammed Ali Jinnah in his book may have caused Jaswant Singh's expulsion from the BJP but the act also earned him attention and applause in Pakistan media. An article titled, 'Jinnah gets approval from an unlikely Indian admirer', is the most emailed item as well as the second most read item on a prominent newspaper's website. Another newspaper praised his book calling it "a significant addition to material on Partition."

Even his expulsion was the top news on the same website through much of Wednesday. Within a few hours of his expulsion, dawn.com put out a story headlined, BJP expels Jaswant Singh for praising Jinnah.

Earlier on Monday, Dawn frontpaged a story, 'Book on Jinnah likely to change discourse in India.' "Conventional wisdom in India that holds Mohammed Ali Jinnah as a communal leader who caused the bloody partition of the subcontinent is expected to receive a body blow when a new book on the Quaid-i-Azam by former Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh is released here," the report began.

Dawn wasn't the only newspaper to react. In its Wednesday editorial, 'A new look at Jinnah,' The News International said that "Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a man whose true character appears to have become lost through the chapters of history, has re-emerged in a new light in the pages of a book, Jinnah -- India, Partition, Independence, by none other than BJP leader Jaswant Singh. This is particularly ironic given that Mr Singh's own party and its 'mother organization' so to speak, the RSS, have for the past six or so decades painted Jinnah as India's greatest villain."

"Any fresh look at history and the characters who played a part in its making is always welcome. This is perhaps especially true in the case of Jinnah. Jaswant Singh's book will, undoubtedly, create waves in India. But it may also help to create some much-needed balance. Writing a fully objective history is difficult -- some argue impossible. The beliefs and biases of the writer always play a part. For this reason, having as many different points of view as possible is important. They offer an opportunity to break free of uniformity and reach conclusions after examining various possibilities. For this reason the book is a significant addition to material on Partition," the editorial said.

On Wednesday, the Dawn also published a long letter by one N Sattar. The writer said that the book was "an apt corrective by a top BJP leader to the make-believe history of Partition. Without mincing his words, Jaswant Singh has squarely put the blame for partition of India in 1947 on Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and the Congress rather than Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah."

Interestingly, Dawn's Monday edition also carried an anecdotal account of Singh's politics written by the newspaper's New Delhi correspondent that painted him in positive strokes. The article concludes with Jaswant Singh telling the correspondent on phone, "I have said objectively what I had to say in the book about Jinnah, now I am ready for the noose." The noose arrived on Wednesday.

As the news of Jaswant Singhs sacking surfaced, several TV Pakistani channels rushed to get opinion of experts and political analysts on the issue. The spin which has been given in the Pakistani media was that BJP remains a hardliner Hindu party and that it lacks tolerance.

"When the BJP is in government, it is far more Pakistan friendly. But once, in opposition, its attitude becomes totally different," said Nusrat Javed, a well known TV anchor.

Secretary General of Pakistan Muslim League, Quaid-i-Azam (PML-Q) Mushahid Hussain Syed said that, similarly, BJP was also critical of L K Advani when he visited Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore when he came to Pakistan. The reaction which BJP has shown by sacking Jaswant Singh from the party membership has proved how it thinks, he said.

Some Pakistani historians also share Singh's line that Nehru was responsible for the partition of India. To justify their argument, they quote Abul Kalam Azad's book -- India Wins Freedom -- in which he argued that partition of India could have been avoided if Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel had shown some flexibility over the Cabinet mission plan.

Political analyst Amir Mateen has a different view on the issue. Being critical of BJP's extreme step, Mateen said, "The book endorses BJP's viewpoint of greater India. I don't understand why there is so much of resentment among BJP ranks over the book written by Jaswant Singh."