Today is the142nd birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. As usual, the nation is celebrating his birth anniversary with “traditional zeal, enthusiasm and national spirit”. Definitely, today, our national leaders, ministers and politicos will be renewing “pledge to make Pakistan a modern warfare state in accordance with the Quaid’s vision”. A number of special functions will be arranged throughout the country to pay homage to this great national leader who created a separate homeland for Muslims of South Asia. And his guiding principle of “Unity, Faith, and Discipline” will also be highlighted. However, regrettably, these activities have somehow become flimsy rituals meant only for marking this important national day. Though the state emblem of Pakistan essentially features “Iman, Ittihad, Nazm” (read faith, unity, discipline), we have yet not succeeded in substantially incorporating this golden principle into our national discourse. Therefore, ours is currently an undisciplined, unorganised, divided and compartmentalised nation.

Having gotten independence after rendering a lot of sacrifices, there has been a hot debate in the country that whether the Father of the Nation intended to make Pakistan a liberal or a theological state. Both liberals and conservatives generally present various speeches made by Quaid-i-Azam on certain occasions in favour of their claims and assertions. Ironically, both of these so-called liberal and religious segments of the pre-partition Muslim society in India were predominately unionists who opposed the partition of British India on communal basis owing to their ideological orientations and compulsions. There were only the common Indian Muslims who, under inspiring leadership of Quaid-i-Azam, worked hardly and sacrificed to make Pakistan. Therefore, instead of being entangled in any kind of philosophical debate, we should focus on the welfare and uplift of the ordinary people, which is also the raison d’etre of Pakistan. Indeed, Quaid-i-Azam wanted to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state where every Pakistani could flourish irrespective of his/her cast, creed or colour.

During my college days, I happened to visit the premises of Lahore High Court in Lahore in connection with a family case. I saw a large number of young and middle-aged men wearing Jinnah Cap and Sherwani strolling around premises of different courts. I wondered why they had been made to wear a uniform resembling the dress associated with Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Later, I came to know that they were the court peons (Qasids and Naib Qasids) who wore Jinnah Cap to cover their heads besides wearing a Jinnah-styled Sherwani over their clothes as a matter of their official uniform. In fact, these court peons (Qasids and Naib Qasids are low-grade government employees who have been recruited to perform some insignificant routine and protocol duties for judges in the courts. At that time, I didn’t like at all this strange practice. I found this practice particularly to be disrespecting and rather disgracing to our great Quaid. I was really upset to see these court peons wearing a dress associated with Quaid-e-Azam while the judges and lawyers in two-piece dress suit and black tie. Ever since, I have been having an irritating and unpleasant feeling whenever I have seen these court peons while appearing before any court as part of my job.

National culture and heritage have always been protected and promoted by the world’s great nations. Moreover, national dress of a country is also considered to be an important source of its national pride and identity. Even India, a country which is known for its great modern and western inclinations, has been active in promoting its own culture and traditions. We can always observe their politicians and parliamentarians wearing their national and traditional dresses everywhere. Jinnah cap and Sherwani were often worn and greatly admired by our founder Quaid-i-Azam. Therefore, Jinnah cap and Sherwani were later officially declared as the Quaid’s dress. After the death of Quaid-i-Azam, most politician and especially Muslim Leaguers used to wear this dress. Prominent national Leaders like Liaquat Ali Khan, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar and Ayub Khan were frequently seen wearing Jinnah Cap and Sherwani in their public appearances. But unfortunately, this tradition of wearing Qauid’s dress has become almost extinct in Pakistan with the passage of time. More worryingly, low-grade government employees and peons have been made to compulsorily wear this dress to the disrespect of Quaid-i-Azam.

This inappropriate practice is not limited to a High Court in Pakistan. As a matter of fact, it is also currently underway in the important state institutions, including the President House, PM House, the Supreme Court, other provincial High Courts, District Courts, and many other important government offices in the country. We can see these peons and servants sitting right behind the President and provincial governors during the oath-taking ceremony of various federal and provincial minsters. To me, through this practice, we have frequently been disgracing our great Quaid knowingly or unknowingly.

Recently, I have also formally made a recommendation to Honourable Chief Justice Lahore High Court Muhammad Anwaarul Haq to abolish the current dress code for the court peons (Qasids and Naib Qasids) in Punjab to put an end to this undesirable practice at least in the country’s largest province. I wonder why an institution like Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust, an important academic and research NGO which claims to safeguard the ideological boundaries of Pakistan, has ever not to seriously taken up this issue which essentially involves the honour and dignity of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. I also expect that PM Imran Khan, who is currently hell-bent on erasing the imprints of colonial legacy in the country by demolishing the walls of Lahore Governor House, would seriously look into this issue which is a matter of our national pride. This dress code for peons and servants in Pakistan should be abolished forthwith. Indeed, we shouldn’t at least disgrace a dress associated with our founder if we can’t honour it.


The writer is a lawyer and columnist

based in Lahore.