The establishment of Pakistan in August 1947 was the culmination of the long drawn political struggle for the protection and advancement of Muslim socio-culutral identity, political rights and interests in British India. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the All India Muslim League (AIML) did not launch a religious movement and they never put forward a puritannical religious agenda. They dealt with the everyday and worldly issues of the Muslim community in British India that gained political relevance as the British rulers created a modern state system.
The Muslims and the Hindus lived in the same land over many centuries. However, the advent of the modern state system on British legal and constitutional lines created a sense of competition between the Muslims and the Hindus. The British introuduced open competitive recruitment to civil services and launched the electoral process in a slow and graduated manner. This set the stage for competition between the Hindus and the Muslisms and the efforts of educated Hindus to seek the replaclement of Urdu with Hindu written in Devnagri script in the 1860s created a cultrual divde between the two communities in parts of India. By the turn of the century, it became very clear to the Muslims that religion-based identity had become politically releveant and that they could not rely on the Congress Party for protection of their rights and interests. This party was established in 1985 mainly by non-Muslims but it calimed to represent all Indians. It had some Muslims in its fold.
The Muslims search for security for their identity, rights and interests passed through several phases. Initially they sought a political and constitutional arrangement in a federal India. The AIML made the formal demand for a separate homeland in 1940.
Political stratgies of the Muslims: The AIML was established in December 1906 as the first all-India forum of the Muslim elite to deliberate on socio-political and economic issues of their comunity and to take them up with the British government.
In 1913, the All India Muslim League began to demand the setting up of local self government in India and worked towards building a co-operative relationship with the Congress Party for seeking its support for the Muslim demands, including separate electorate for the Muslims, that is, Muslim voters electing Muslim representatives to the elected assemblies. The Lucknow Pact, 1916, between the Congress Party and the All India Muslim League, was the first commitment by the Congress to accept Muslim political demands on reservation of seats in the assemblies, allocation of government jobs to them and other demands.
It is interesting to note that Jinnah did not make any religious demand in the Lucknow Pact and his famous speech of 1929, popularly known as the Fourteen Points. These were purely political, economic and social issues for which he wanted categorical guarantees. The same can be said of the demands of the Muslim leaders at the Roundtable Conferenes, 1930-32.
In other words, the Muslim leadership initially wanted constitutional and legal guarantees for their rights and interests in the form of separate electorate, reservation of seats for the Muslims in elected assemblies, reservation of government jobs and constitutional and political reforms in NWFP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Balochistan. They also demanded the separation of Sindh from Bombay and to give it the status of a full province. Expected that the realisation of this demand would enable the Muslim majority provinces to enjoy autonomy in managing their affairs and establish a government of their choice.
The AIML began to think seriously about seeking an alternative to federal system in 1938. The Sindh Muslim League made this suggestion to the AIML leadership. The bitter experience of the Muslim in the Congress ministries in the Muslim minority provinces (1937-39) led the AIML leadership to review its demand for a federal system. The policies of these Congress ministries intensified Muslim insecurities with reference to their socio-culutral identity, rights as a separate community and their economic interests like recruitment to government jobs. The AIML leadership realised that the Congress Party dominated independent India would not offer any security to the Muslims.
The Lahore Resolution presented to the annual general session of the AIML on March 23, 1940, demanded the separation of Muslim majority areas, with some territorial adjustment, from other Indian provinces. To create a homeland for them. This idea was fully articulated during the next seven years, 1940-47.
Despite the passage of the Lahore Resolution, March 1940, the AIML did not give up the option of political accommodation with the Congress Party. It agreed to accept the Cabinet Mission Plan (1946) for the future political arrangements under a weak federal order. The Cabient Mission Plan had created two groups of Muslim majority provinces which were kept separate from the non-Muslim majority privinces which were grouped separately. The AIML was willing to give this system a try because this arrangement also provinced that the provinces or their groupings could review their relationship with one another and federal government after ten years. The AIML viewed this option as a way out if the political arrangement did not work to its satisfaction.
The Cabinet Mission Plan could not be implemented because the Congress did not agree with the division of provinces in three groups and the option of opting out after ten years. It agreed to go the constitutent assembly but refused to abide by any limit imposed by the Cahinet Mission Plan about the nature of constitutional arrangements. The non-accommodating attitude of the Congress led the AIML to withdraw its earlier approval.
It was after the failure of the Cabinet Mission Plan and the controversy on the setting up of the interim government (1946) that the AIML finally made up its mind for pursuing the separate homeland option as the final solution of the Muslim problem.
Purpose of the State: Any dispassionate review of the AIML political struggle shows that it wanted to protect and advance the distinct Muslim identity, rights and interests from being overwhelmed by an unsympathetic non-Muslim majority. It changed its strategies in view of political experience but the goal of protecting and advancing Muslim identity, rights and interest remained unchanged.
The AIML and its leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah never argued that a separate homeland was needed because Islam was in danger in India. They were worried about the future of the Muslim community which they thought would be insecure in independent India dominated by the Congress Party that essentially reprented non-Muslim political and economic interests.
Islamic idiom and references to Muslim history increased in Jinnah’s political discourse after 1934, especially after the 1937 provincial elections. He built an ALTERNATE NATIONALISM that challenged the Congress sponsored secular, one-nation Indian nationalism. The alternate nationalism was bound to have a different basis. Jinnah therefore argued that the Muslims of British India were not a community but a separate nation with an outlook of and on life. The separate Muslim identity was articulated with reference to the impact of Islamic principles and teachings of Islam on the Muslim mindset, nostalgia of Muslim rule in India, and the political experience of the Muslims in India based on their interaction with the Congress Party as the British created a modern state system.
Jinnah employed Islamic idiom and reference to Muslims heritage and civilisation as instruments for identity formation and political mobilisation. He argued repeatedly that the Muslims of British India were a nation separate from non-Muslims and therefore deserved a seprate independent state. This would, he argued, secure the future of the Muslims.
Jinnah’s nationalist struggle invoked Islam but this does not mean that he was working for establishing a puritanical religious state. He was totally opposed to the notion of a religious state. He strongly believed in freedom of religion for all citizens who could practice any religion of their choice. Tolerance and mutual accommodation were the hallmark of his political discourse. He never argued that the state should enforce Islam by using its apparatus. The state was to treat all people as equal citizens irrespective of religion, caste, creed, region or gender.
What mattered most to Jinnah were the Islamic ideals of equality, socio-economic justice and tolerance and he wanted these to be the characteristic feature of Pakistani state and society. He thought that Islam served as the ethical foundation of the state and society and one of the sources of law rather than a legal and constitutional code.
There is no resolution of the AIML that the Shariah will be the constitution and supreme law of Pakistan. Such a demand was made by Islamic parties after the establishment of Pakistan. Most Islamic parties dd not support the political movement for the making of Pakistan. They demanded the setting up of a religion-oriented Islamic state on orthodox and fundamentalist lines in order to create a space for them in Pakistani politics.
The founders of Pakistan were convinced that the modern notion of state and governance could be combined with the teaching and principles of Islam to create a modern democratic state which subscribed to elected governance, constitutionalism, rule of law, socio-economic justice and equal citizenship.
The Taliban and other extremist and hard-line Islamic groups that use coercion and violence to impose their vision of a religious system violate the spirit of the movement for making of Pakistan. This also negates the principles and guidelines enunciated by Jinnah for the state of Pakistan.—Business Recorder
Written by Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi