Broad support for Jinnah film

June 7, 1996

Simon Targett correctly pointed out that, as an academic, I wished to avoid being "embroiled" in Pakistani politics while attempting to make a film on its founder M. A. Jinnah (THES, May 31). Unfortunately the slant in the article may do just that by giving the impression that the film is a vehicle for Imran Khan's politics. I am writing on behalf of the board of the Quaid film project to say that this is a grossly inaccurate reflection of our position.

For a start we have been working on the project for several years while Imran joined politics a few weeks ago. Besides, many commentators far from seeing the Jinnah film as a platform for Imran, knowing that Jamil Dehlavi, our producer/director, is also directing a film on Z. A. Bhutto for Channel Four, argue that Benazir Bhutto will pull off a double coup when a film on her father and one on Jinnah, the father of the nation, are made during her tenure.

Although other people were interviewed for the article, I had suggested that all Pakistani politicians who believe in the democratic process see Jinnah as a model. Benazir Bhutto has often said that Jinnah is her hero.

Ms Bhutto as prime minister has gone out of her way to support the film project. To say otherwise is incorrect. The story that she "withheld support" may have arisen, I suspect, from the delay in release of the investment funds of the Banking Council (which includes the leading banks of Pakistan). They were to be released once we had the counterpart funds. Now that we do, Ms Bhutto has approved release of the funds.

Many Pakistanis feel a sense of disillusionment because Jinnah's legacy has been squandered over the years. If the film acts as a catalyst to improve matters then it will be a welcome bonus. But our aim is not to be partisan or promote political figures. We emphasise the "global Jinnah" in the context of the universal debate on Muslim leadership. We have therefore consciously made an effort to draw in as broad a base of supporters as possible from different parts of the world, not just Pakistan.

Our aim is also to pay a long overdue tribute to an extraordinary man. In the West people know about Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and Lord Mountbatten, the other giants of 1947, but virtually nothing about Jinnah.

We have had a large mountain of prejudices and stereotypes to confront in making the film. Getting entangled in Pakistan politics will not make our task easier.

Akbar Ahmed Selwyn College Cambridge

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