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Advani salutes 'secular' Jinnah

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RADHIKA RAMASESHAN Karachi Published 04.06.05, 12:00 AM

Karachi, June 4: In his birthplace of Karachi, L.K. Advani seemed to complete a political rebirth today by praising a man he is accused of plotting to murder six decades ago.

Two days after the BJP president publicly distanced himself from the concept of “akhand Bharat (Greater India)” and accepted the Partition as “an unalterable reality of history”, he saluted its chief architect, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, on Pakistani soil.

Standing before Jinnah’s tomb, Advani described the founder of Pakistan as “secular” and an “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity”.

That Jinnah believed in keeping statecraft and religion apart is a well-established fact of history, but Advani is the first leader from the Sangh parivar to acknowledge it publicly.

Advani’s visit to Jinnah’s mausoleum is the most high-profile by an Indian leader.

CPM leader Harkishen Singh Surjeet, too, had come visiting when he was in Karachi recently, but he had kept it low-key and made no attempts at symbolic gestures.

With Advani, everything was different. From the guard of honour by the Pakistan Navy, in whose jurisdiction the mausoleum falls, to the live coverage by local TV channels, it looked as though the event was laid out for a visiting head of state. It was a grand production, and the former deputy Prime Minister did not disappoint his audience.

He came up with another departure from his hardline image ? that had begun with his oblique condemnation of the Babri demolition on the first day of the Pakistan tour ? and seemed prepared to see the Quaid-e-Azam in a new light.

“There are many people who leave an inerasable stamp on history,” he wrote in the register. “But there are very few who actually create history. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual.

“In his early years, Sarojini Naidu, a leading luminary of India’s freedom struggle, described Mr Jinnah as an ‘ambassador of Hindu- Muslim unity’. His address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, is really a classic, a forceful espousal of a secular state in which, while every citizen would be free to practise his own religion, the state shall make no distinction between one citizen and another on grounds of faith. My respectful homage to this great man.”

A brochure on the mausoleum, given to Advani by the caretaker, was more hard-headed: “The necessity of a separate homeland became all the more vital as the Hindu majority made it increasingly difficult for the Muslims in India to live a free and unfettered life according to the tenets of Islam.? So within the short span of a few years, the Quaid rallied the Indian Muslims under the green flag of the (Muslim) League and gave the Pakistani movement a momentum which neither the British government nor the Indian Congress could contain.”

Advani’s tributes to Jinnah were ironic considering that his association with the RSS started in Karachi and he was a pracharak in Sindh in his college years.

All through his trip, he has been asked to comment on a case dating back to 1948, in which he was named a conspirator in a plot to assassinate Jinnah. The BJP leader has laughed it off, but Pakistani officials say the FIR, naming Advani, has still not been quashed.

The morning’s ceremony at the mausoleum saw Advani lay a wreath of roses and tube-lilies on the tomb after a prayer from the Quran was recited by Moulvi Liaqat.

The national anthem, Pakistan sarzameen shad bad, was played as the BJP leader, accompanied by his family and the chief secretary, home secretary and inspector-general of Karachi police, walked in.

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