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TEXT: Pakistan is entering the Seventy-seventh year of independence. However, we go on discussing Pakistan’s state identity, especially its relationship with Islam.

Given Pakistan’s constitutional and political problems in the post-independence period some people ask the question if Pakistan was sufficiently imagined before its establishment?

Other raise the question if Pakistan was created as a homeland for the Muslims of British India or the founders wanted to create an ideal Islamic State based strictly on the classical Islamic state and society of the earliest period of Islam?

Or the founders of Pakistan favored a modern democratic system that derived inspirations from the teachings and principles of Islam that emphasized non-discriminatory treatment of citizens, socio-economic justice, equality, fairplay, and welfare of all people. Some intellectuals invoke Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, to argue for a secular state system.

The identity debate turned contentious since the days of General Zia-ul-Haq’s military rule. The general began to define Pakistan’s identity with reference to the slogans that were raised in Punjab in connection with the 1946 provincial elections and the July 1947 referendum in North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP, KP) rather than the pre-independence resolutions of the All-India Muslim League.

He also accommodated some of the demands of orthodox and fundamentalist Islamic clergy for creating a religious state and the Pakistani state began to enforce conservative Islamic values and laws. Jinnah’s statements on Islam were reinterpreted to justify the military regime’s implementation of Islam on orthodox and fundamental lines.

The radical Islamic movements that proliferated in Pakistan in the last three decades advocated for militancy and Islamization of the state and society on orthodox and fundamentalist lines, as advocated by them.

If we analyze the historical roots and dynamics of the movement for the making of Pakistan in a dispassionate manner, we realize that a large number of slogans for creating a puritanical Islamic state originated in the post-independence period, mainly by religious parties in search for a role for them in Pakistani politics.

The Punjab based pro-military intellectuals were the major supporters of General Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization.

Separate Homeland

In the pre-independence period, the Muslim League demanded the establishment of Pakistan as a HOMELAND for the Muslims of British India to secure their civilizational and cultural identity, political rights and interests as a distinct historical, socio-cultural and political identity, described in the 1930s and 1940s as a nation.

There is no resolution of the Muslim League during these years which demanded the separate homeland of Pakistan because Islam was not danger in British India.

The Muslim League leadership concluded from their political experience that the political, cultural and economic future of the Muslims of British India would not be secure unless they have a separate homeland. In united independent India, the Muslims would be overwhelmed by an unsympathetic majority whose leadership under the flag of the Congress Party wanted to replace the British as the ruler. This would have continued colonialism for the Muslims of British India.

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in his Presidential Address to the annual session of the Muslim League in Lahore on 22, 23, 24 March 1940, talked of separate “homelands” for the Muslims and Hindus.

He said: “If the British Government are really in earnest and sincere to secure the peace and happiness of the people of this Subcontinent, the only course open to us all is to allow the major nations separate homelands, by dividing India into autonomous national states.”

He also said in the same speech: “Musalmans are a nation according to any definition of a nation, and they must have their homelands, their territory and their state.”

Jinnah published only one article in a British magazine “Time and Tide” (London), March 9, 1940, under the title of “The Constitutional Future of India.” This article, published two weeks before the start of the Lahore session of the Muslim League, contained strong arguments for the unsuitability of the pure and simple form of British Parliamentary system for British India’s diversified society where the numerical majority of Hindus and the minority of Muslims were permanent.

He wrote in this article: “Democratic systems based on the concept of a homogeneous nation such as England are very definitely not applicable to heterogeneous countries such as India, and this simple fact is the root cause of all of India’s constitutional ills.”

He argued that the Hindus and the Muslims were “two different nations” and that the Muslims had a reason “to question the wisdom of the British government in forcing on India the Western system of democracy without the qualifications and limitations to which the system must be subject to make it at all suitable for Indian conditions.

If therefore, it is accepted that there is in India a major and a minor nation, it follows that a parliamentary system based on the majority principle must inevitably mean the rule of the major nation.”

He demanded that no constitutional advance should be made without the consent of the Muslim League and that the constitution to be evolved for India must recognize that there are “two nations” in India. These views were fully articulated in the Lahore session of the Muslim League and the Resolution of March 23, 1940.

Basic Assumptions

The Muslim League formally demanded a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India in 1940 which was based on three basic assumptions:

  1. The distinct Muslim civilizational and cultural identity inspired by the principles and teaching of Islam.

  2. The establishment of modern state by the British which changed the nature and direction of Indian politics and the relationship among different Indian communities because of modern western education, new state institutional arrangements and competition among Indian political forces for protecting and advancing their interests.

  3. The political experience of the Muslim leadership in protecting their historical and civilizational identity, rights and interests in the context of the modern constitutional and legal arrangements introduced by the British government.

The Muslims of British India were either the descendants of Arab traders who first came to western India and based in the present-day Indian state of Gujarat or the migrants from Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia.

Local converts were later added to this category. With generational change they could neither be described as Arabs nor Central Asians because they had established local roots and adopted some local practices. Though they lived with the followers of other religions, they were not fully assimilated in local cultures and religions. Their identity was shaped by Islamic principles, teachings and heritage.

The identity of these Muslims, described as the Indian Muslims, was also influenced by the nostalgia of Muslim rule in India and their contribution to its history, art, architecture, literature and human welfare. One could talk of some overlap with other communities in British India, but the Muslims maintained their distinct civilizational and cultural profile and worldview.

The Muslim identity and mindset became politically relevant after the British government embarked on creating a modern state system after 1857 with the establishment of different state institutional arrangements and role differentiation of these institutions.

The British introduced modern western education, dating back to pre-1857 period, whose pace was speeded up in the post-1857 period. This was followed by a gradual introduction of competitive recruitment of Indians to government jobs. The electoral process was also introduced in a gradual and guarded manner.

These changes led to an atmosphere of competition among the Indian communities and those who adopted to these changes at a faster pace were better off than those who were slow in accepting the new political, administrative and educational realities.

The Hindu revivalist and reformist movements of the 1890s strengthened religious and cultural consciousness not only among the Hindus but also the Muslims who were partly targeted by the Hindu revivalist movement.

Whether it was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and his colleagues in the Aligarh based educational movement that emphasized the learning of modern knowledge and the English language to compete in the colonial system or the Islamic clergy who turned inward and sought a refuge in religious orthodoxy, both talked of Islamic civilizational and cultural identity of the Muslims as distinct from other communities in British India.

The protection and advancement of Muslim religious-cultural identity, their rights under the legal and constitutional arrangements of the modern colonial system and their political, economic and cultural interests dominated their political struggle in the 20th Century.

These goals remained unchanged but the strategies to achieve these goals changed over time on the basis of the political experience of the leaders of the Muslims.

Political Strategies and Political Experience

The major political strategies of the Muslims were as follows:

First, the Muslims should seek modern education and avoid active politics (Aligarh Movement in the last quarter of the 19th Century).

Second, the Muslim began to enter politics by the beginning of the 20th Century. Their leaders demanded separate electorate for electing Muslim representatives to the elected councils in India (October 1906). They established a political platform under the name of the All-India Muslim League on December 30, 1906. The Muslims got separate electorate under the Government of India Act, 1909.

Third, the Muslim League demanded constitutional guarantees and safeguards for the protection of their religio-cultural identity, rights and interests which included, among other things, separate electorate, electoral weightage to minorities in the provinces, reservation of seats in the assemblies, various cabinets and government jobs.

(The Lucknow Pact, 1916, with the Congress Party, and Jinnah’s Fourteen Points (1929) in response to the Nehru Report summed up the Muslim demands).

Fourth, federalism with autonomy to the provinces so that the Muslims have their own governments in the Muslim majority provinces. See the statements of the Muslim leadership in the late 1920s and in the Roundtable Conference, 1930-32, and later.

Fifth, Allama Muhammad Iqbal gave a presidential address to the Muslim League annual session at Allahabad in December 1930, underlining the importance of Islam in the mindset and profile of the Muslims. He advocated the establishment of a Muslim political authority in the Muslim majority areas of northwestern India which he thought would secure their future.

Sixth, Separate homeland and independence, 1940 onwards.

It was the political experience of the Muslim interaction with the Congress Party that they changed their political strategies because the Congress Party was dismissive of the Muslim League leadership and their demands.

The Congress leadership could not appreciate the impact of Islam and its history on the mindset of the Muslims and it thought that it could by-pass the Muslim League leadership by relying on a small number of Muslim leaders who associated with the Congress Party.

It repeated refused to give constitutional and legal safeguards for the identity, rights and interests of the Muslims. The Muslim experience under the six Congress provincial ministries in 1937-39 was so bitter that the Muslim League leadership concluded that their rights and interests would not be secure even under a federal system because the Congress wanted to rule India on the basis of Hindu numerical majority.

It was in 1938 that the Muslim League began to think of a political solution beyond the federal model. It presented the demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India.

In 1946, the Muslim League was inclined to accept the Cabinet Mission Plan that proposed a three-unit loose federation whose future could be reviewed after ten years. The Muslim League thought this to be a stage toward their demand for Pakistan. However, the Congress was not willing to concede anything that kept the option of separate homeland open.

The adamant and aggressive disposition of the Congress Party was a ‘bitter experience’ for the Muslim League which led it to ultimately opt for an independent state.

The Muslim League leadership recognized the relationship of the Pakistani state with Islam, but it did not articulate any legal and constitutional plan for implementation in the post-independence period.

While employing Islam for articulating Muslim political identity and their mobilization as well as talking of a homeland for the Muslims of India, the Muslim League leadership emphasized two issues. First, they never entertained the idea of a religious-Islamic state on orthodox and fundamentalist lines.

The state was not to be dominated by religious clergy. Second, they viewed non-Muslims as an integral part of independent Pakistan and promised them equal citizenship and rights as well as freedom to practice their religions.

The Lahore Resolution of March 1940 included a promise of safety and freedom of religion to religious minorities. Several other Muslim League resolutions and Jinnah’s statements before and after independence repeated the promise that the state would treat religious minorities as equal citizens with no discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, creed or ethnicity.

Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan and most other Muslim League leaders were convinced that Islamic teachings and principles of socio-economic justice, the rule of law, equality, fair-play and human welfare were a source of inspiration for the state system.

These principles provided an ethical and moral basis to the state and society. They also believed that the teaching and principles of Islam did not conflict with modern democratic political system. They believed that Pakistan would be a modern democratic state that derived its ethical basis from the teachings and principles of Islam.

This was described in the 1940s and the 1950s as the modernist view of Islam which focused on the principles and spirit of Islamic system rather than the structure and practices of the state in the earliest period of Islam.

Most Islamic clergy and Islamic parties did not share this perspective and talked of establishing an Islamic-religious Islamic state on puritanical and literalist interpretation of the religious text that gave them an in-bult advantage.

All constitutions in their original form reflected modernist view of Islam and assigned to the State the task of enabling the Muslims to lead their lives in accordance with the teachings of Islam rather than the state enforcing Islam on people.

To conclude, Pakistan was established as a homeland for the Muslims of British India, but non-Muslims were viewed as an integral part of this homeland.

It was the product of a long drawn political struggle that convinced the Muslim elite that civilizational and religious-cultural identity, rights and interests would not be secure without having an independent homeland.

The ordinary Muslims responded positively to this demand and demonstrated in the provincial elections in early 1946 that hey stood for the making of Pakistan.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The author is a Lahore-based Independent Analyst who holds the PhD Degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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