Historical background: Jinnah’s Mausoleum which is commonly known as Mazaar-e- Quaid, is one of the most frequently used public spaces in Pakistan. Located in the heart of Karachi, Mazaar-e-Quaid is the final resting place for founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his beloved sister Fatimah Jinnah. Its construction started in 1957 under the supervision of Fatimah Ali Jinnah who chose the proposals of architect Yahya Merchant, a Bombay based architect and a personal friend of Jinnah. Eventually it was completed in 1960.
The Political Symbolism of Jinnah Mausoleum: Emotional attachment to certain places has impacted world history enormously and sometimes resulted in treacherous conflicts. Mazar-e-Quaid holds the same sentiments for many patriots. After a series of dictatorships when Pakistan held its democratic election in 1972, elected Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s first visit was to Jinnah Mausoleum.
For political parties, the sanctity of this place is very crucial. Back in 2007, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto made a symbolic visit to Jinnah Mausoleum as a climax of her return to Pakistan after 8 years of self-exile. Benazir left the country after being convicted on corruption charges in 1996. After President General Musharaf granted her amnesty on corruption charges she returned to home. But this return was hit by a suicide attack which killed 136 people. Musharaf placed “state of emergency” on Nov 3rd and Benazir was house arrested.
In the following years, holding political rallies at Jinnah Mausoleum became a power move. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in 2011, held their biggest rally at Jinnah Mausoleum which defined their political understanding for common voters. PTI was able to mobilize masses because they challenged the established status quo of Pakistani politics led by two major political dynasties; Shareef and Bhutto. This rhetoric and enthusiasm of Imran Khan paid off in 2018 election when he became Prime Minister of Pakistan with an overwhelming majority.
The most recent visit to Jinnah’s Mausoleum: The Pakistan Democratic Movement, which is an 11-political party alliance held their second rally in Karachi at Bagh-e-Jinnah. This power show was against government and establishment policies. It is rare that politicians blatantly call out state administration and establishment in public rallies. Every political message should resonate with the venue thus Bagh-e-Jinnah just amplified the opposition’s message.
What went wrong: Things went smoothly until PML-N party member Cpt. Safdar chanted slogans in the Jinnah Mausoleum right after offering fateh to Quaid-e-Azam. This act sparked objection all over the social media. Some called it shameful and disrespectful to the sanctity of the place.
Cpt. Safdar was arrested this morning from the hotel he was staying in. VP PML-N Maryam Nawaz called this an assault on the opposition leaders.
Political symbolism has evolved over the period of time, such things represent sentiments and ideological standing of an individual. Unfortunately in Pakistan these sentiments have been exploited thoroughly by almost every public and private sector.
We believe that Jinnah as a visionary won’t be too proud of this moment either because he championed the politics of dignity, respect and tolerance which is definitely missing in contemporary discourse of politics.