1946 was an eventful year – the British were showing signs of leaving the subcontinent soon. Public meetings were now being called on daily basis and so were the ones behind closed doors.
One such meeting was between Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and a delegation from Paris. The proceedings of the meetings remained a secret until recently, when two French authors, who researched for four years, interviewing people from pre-partition era numbering up to 2500, disclosed that the delegation was a team of doctors including Jinnah’s own French physician.
It was supposed to be a routine checkup – Jinnah showed normal issues regarding breathing, speaking and his throat, but the physician anticipated the worst and called Jinnah to Paris for a detailed examinations. Soon after the invitation, Jinnah, without disclosing the matter to anyone, left for England and from there to France – the only witness to these series of incidents was a Zoroastrian nurse, who voluntarily helped Jinnah.
The physician took a series of X-rays and after a thorough examination, declared that Jinnah had tuberculosis and had no more than a year to live.This opinion of the doctors was disclosed to Jinnah by his most trusted physician.
The doctors advised Jinnah to take rest like any other person of his age, but Jinnah’s soul thirsted to serve his people and he continued to overwork under his ill-health. Jinnah knew that it was only him alone whom the Muslims looked for guidance and inspiration and it was necessary for him to live and pull his nation through the turbulent days to freedom.
Jinnah made sure that the five X-rays and the medical examination reports remained secure, out of the reach of the British, who could have used those to change the entire political scenario of the subcontinent, or Nehru who was already dreaming of heading the subcontinent, in 1946 when the British decision of leaving the area was still immature.
Jinnah had discussed the political scenario and the importance of the secrecy with his physicians, but as Jinnah’s illness deteriorated within months, the physicians decided that it would be reasonable to inform Fatima Jinnah. The doctors sent her a message, via the same nurse, who was present in their earlier meeting.
The sister and companion once beautifully explained,
“God had given Jinnah massive power – devotion to reach the goal that he has fixed for himself – but it has clothed that will in a fragile body – unable to pace with his restless mind.”
She felt bitter about Jinnah’s ill-health.
“It’s harsh for a person of such tumultuous life facing overpowering odds to be bound by health – motivated to win over all hurdles to guide the people to a definite victory.”
Jinnah had a long, hard career in law and politics, but unlike any other person of his age, he was ready to drain his last reserves of energy for the cause he had fought his life.
From his early career in law he had a reputation of thrashing well-developed case with one sentence. Realizing this, Fatima Jinnah never brought rationality in any of their arguments, but stayed dependent on sentimentality.
At one occasion, distressed at Jinnah’s meager shape, Fatima Jinnah, pleaded him to work less and to rest between his endless and tumultuous visits from one end of the subcontinent to the other, to which Jinnah replied,
“Did you ever hear of a General taking a break, when his soldiers are in a combat, struggling for their survival?”
When reasoning failed, she tried sentiment, saying that his life was valuable for her and the people – he must take care of it. She spoke about the depth in his eyes while he answered,
“What is the health of one individual when the very existence of 10 crore Muslims of India is at stake – do you realize?”
As per Fatima Jinnah, this was the only and the last argument ever made on his health. Jinnah had given Fatima plentiful to mute emotions. She said,
“Jinnah’s dedication had soaked me into his struggle, completely neglecting his condition.”
His iron will and devotion enabled him to live for two more years to see the birth of the new state. He had been seen thinking and working the most in the period closest to the end of his life; it would not be incorrect to say that Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah literally worked himself to death.
Even after independence he never gave a hint that he was ill to the citizens of the newly born country, who soon after independence started facing problems regarding the settlement of refugees, empty treasury, stagnant economy, ill-equipped forces, war in Kashmir, a paralyzed administration and further masses of national and international problems.
His speech on the day he arrived in Karachi and took the position of the Governor General is considered the only clue he might have ever given regarding his health to the citizens of Pakistan, saying,
“I had never thought I will live to see the day.”