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On October 19, 1941, the central leader of the All-India Muslim League and future founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in his Eid message asked the Muslims of India to demonstrate unity (ittehad), faith (yaqeen) and order (nazm). Celebrated journalist and author, the late Zamir Niazi, in his 1994 book The Web of Censorship wrote that Jinnah repeated these words in December 1947, three months after the creation of Pakistan, when he said: “I have no doubt that with unity, faith and discipline we will compare with any nation of the world.”

The three words were adopted as the country’s national motto in 1948. They were then inscribed on the country’s state emblem. But since Jinnah had explained the last word ‘nazm’ as ‘discipline’ in his 1947 speech, it was translated into Urdu as ‘tanzeem’. But school textbooks till the early 1970s used both. Sometimes they stated the motto to be “Ittehad, Yaqeen, Nazm” and sometimes “Ittehad, Yaqeen, Tanzeem” — even though tanzeem largely means ‘to manage’ or ‘to arrange’ and it can also mean ‘organisation’.

This sequence of the words also appeared prominently in the special coins issued by the Z.A. Bhutto regime during Jinnah’s 100th birth anniversary in December 1976. The words on the coins only appear in English. However, the order of the words was suddenly changed after Gen Zia toppled Bhutto’s regime in July 1977. The word ‘faith’ was put before ‘unity.’ But it seems that the change went almost unnoticed by the media. Despite the fact that the altered order of words increasingly replaced the previous sequencing of the motto in textbooks, government documents and on the state emblem, I have yet to find anything written on this in newspapers published during the Zia regime (1977-88).

How Jinnah’s motto was deconstructed and misconstrued

What’s more, no one is quite sure exactly when the motto was rearranged. In his book Asia’s New Geopolitics, Andrew Small writes that the Zia regime almost immediately rearranged the order of the motto after taking over power through a reactionary military coup in 1977. Zamir Niazi in The Web of Censorship quotes Hamid Jalal ­— a former civil servant and father of the acclaimed historian and author Ayesha Jalal — as saying: “Jinnah’s ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline’ has been presented as ‘Faith, Unity and Discipline’. Perhaps our theocrats, clutching at straws, equate the word ‘faith’ used in the Quaid’s motto with Islam. There is evidence to show that for the Quaid, ‘faith’ was to be used in the context of the Pakistan Movement. Once Pakistan had been achieved, the Quaid as Governor General, in his first broadcast from Lahore on August 31 reworded his motto. He said: “It is up to you to work, work and work and we are bound to succeed and never forget our motto, ‘Unity, Discipline and Faith’.”

Famous author and intellectual the late Sibte Hasan was perhaps the first noted person to comment on the changed order of the motto. In an article published in a 1983 issue of the now-defunct progressive Urdu monthly Jido-Jehad (The Struggle), he wrote: “Zia, after failing to extract anything from Jinnah’s speeches to furnish his idea of a theocracy, ordered the word ‘faith’ to be put before unity in the motto.” In the same article Hasan added: “By faith Jinnah had meant faith in Pakistan, but Zia explained it to mean Jinnah’s desire for a theocratic state…”

Shuja Nawaz in his book Crossed Swords wrote that Zia had initially changed the motto of the Pakistan army from “Unity, Faith, Discipline” to Iman (Faith), Taqwa (Obedience) and Jihad fi Sabilillah. Probably this move eventually inspired the change in the order of the state’s motto as well.

Perhaps our theocrats, clutching at straws, equate the word ‘faith’ used in the Quaid’s motto with Islam. There is evidence to show that for the Quaid, ‘faith’ was to be used in the context of the Pakistan Movement.

Nevertheless, it was after Zia’s demise in August 1988 that more and more historians, columnists and intellectuals began to comment on the change. But almost all post-Zia governments in the 1990s were reluctant to rearrange the motto’s order. Ironically, it was during another military regime that the state finally decided to address the calls of those demanding that the motto be put back in its correct order.

In November 21, 2005, Dawn reported a former colleague of Jinnah’s and veteran politician Mahmud Ali as saying that he has asked the government of president Pervez Musharraf and prime minister Shaukat Aziz to correct the order of the motto. Mahmud had noticed the ‘incorrectly-ordered motto’ on both sides of a hillock on the main Islamabad Highway. PM Aziz ordered the change in all state documents. Even though the change was made in some places, the motto remained the same as it has been ever since Zia altered its sequence. It remained the same on the Islamabad hillock as well.

When questioned by some journalists about the non-compliance of PM Aziz’s directive, Zawwar H. Zaidi, head of the Quaid-i-Azam Papers Project, said that Jinnah had used the words “either way”. History records Jinnah using the three words thrice: in 1941, in 1947 and in 1948. As already mentioned, in 1941 and 1947, he used “Unity, Faith, Discipline.” However, during his last speech in September 1948, he had said, “With faith, discipline, unity and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve…”

As for the motto on Islamabad’s hillock, it was quietly changed to “Unity, Faith, Discipline” in 2011, only to be changed back to “Faith, Unity, Discipline” in 2013. Though it is likely that the PPP-led coalition government (2008-2013) had changed its sequence on the hillock, my research could not determine exactly who had ordered the word ‘faith’ to move back up before ‘unity.’

Those who want the motto reverted back to its ‘original order’ agree that the overall meaning of it does not change with the altered order. But they add that since the reordering was undertaken by a reactionary dictator, the motto has become his legacy more than Jinnah’s.

Published in Dawn, EOS, October 8th, 2017

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