Categorized | South Asian Politics

Pakistan: the product of political movement

Posted on 25 March 2015 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

  Every nation celebrates its national days in order to pay tribute to national heroes and remind people of the great events and political developments that contributed to the making of the nation.

 One of Pakistan’s national days was celebrated on March 23 as 75th anniversary of the resolution of the Muslim League demanding the establishment of a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India.

 The Muslim League, the main political party of the Muslims in British India, held its annual public session in Lahore on March 22-24, 1940. On March 23, a resolution was moved discarding the federal constitutional system for India and demanding a separate homeland for the Muslims in the northwestern and eastern zones of India. This resolution was passed on March 24th in the last session. Since the resolution was moved on March 23, this day been designated as the Pakistan Day or the Pakistan Resolution Day.

  The resolution of March 23, 1940, often described as the Lahore Resolution or the Pakistan Resolution, represented a major change in the political demands of the Muslim League.

Traditionally the Muslim leadership demanded separate electorate, reservations of seats in the cabinet and the legislative bodies, constitutional safeguards and guarantees for protecting their political and cultural rights and representation in governmental system.

They also talked of provincial autonomy so that the Muslim majority provinces were able to govern them in accordance with their political choices. However, the AIML leadership learnt from the bitter experience of the Congress rule in non-Muslim majority province during 1937-39 that a federal system with provincial autonomy did not guarantee their socio-cultural identity, civil and political rights and socio-economic interests, including access to government jobs and patronage. They began to think about going beyond the federal system.

 The resolution used the word “states” rather than a state to demand a separate homeland for the Muslims. Some writers argued in the post-independence period that the Pakistan Resolution suggested more than one state. The use of the plural word was not surprising in 1940 because the Muslim leaders of that time had floated several proposals for two or three Muslim homelands in India. It was against this background that the Pakistan Resolution used the word “states” in order to attract as much support as possible of the Muslim elite living in different parts of India.

If the Pakistan Resolution is read along with other proposals floating among Indian Muslim about their political future, it was not surprising that the resolution used a broadly based text which made sense in the context of 1940.

 The Muslim political struggle shaped up gradually. The Muslim political and societal elite did not demand separate homeland from the beginning. They made different demands for protecting their identity, rights and interests. In March 1940 they floated the idea rejecting the federal model for India. However, the Muslim political movement did not end in 1940. The political developments in the next seven years resulted in changes in their strategies. They were able to put forward their demand for a separate homeland in more precise terms.

 Within two years of the passing of the Pakistan Resolution the Muslim League leadership began to emphasize singular term of state. The communication between Jinnah and M.K. Gandhi clarified the notion of a Muslim homeland.

 Gandhi asked Jinnah in his letter of September 15, 1944 if the constituent units in the two zones would “constitute independent states?” Jinnah’s response in his letter of September 17, 1944, was very categorical: “No. They will form units of Pakistan.”

 The Muslim League formally articulated the notion of a single state in a resolution adopted by the meeting of the newly elected Muslim League members of the central and provincial legislatures in April 1946 in Delhi. The Muslim League contested the 1946 provincial elections on two major claims: the AIML was the sole organization representing the Muslim and that their demand was the establishment of a separate homeland of Pakistan.

 No controversy developed about the interpretation of the Pakistan Resolution in the pre-independence period. However, two kinds of controversies developed in the post-independence period.

 First, a number of regional-nationalist political leaders argued that the provinces should be given autonomy on the Lahore Resolution which talked about the units being autonomous and independent. Some argued for maximum autonomy for provinces with a federal government that exercised very limited powers. A few others suggested that Pakistan should be converted into a confederation where the provinces would be independent or semi-independent.

 Second, in the immediate aftermath of the establishment of Bangladesh in December 1971, a number of writers and political leaders argued that the establishment of two Muslim majority states, Pakistan and Bangladesh, had fully materialized the Pakistan Resolution. It was argued that the Pakistan Resolution envisaged two states for the Muslims of British India and, in December 1971, the second Muslim state came into existence.

 These two interpretations of the March 1940 Resolution are misleading, implying a literalist approach towards its text. This resolution did not offer any framework for distribution of state-power between the center and its units in Pakistan. It addressed the constitutional issues in an all-India context of the 1940s and offered a general statement on settling the Hindu-Muslim question in British India. It suggested a broad framework for articulating the constitutional relationship between the Muslim majority provinces with the rest of India.

 This Resolution used three terms, i.e., units, regions and zones, in the text rather than naming the Muslim majority provinces. Similarly, the resolution did not define the territorial boundaries of the new state. The resolution was the major step in search for a secure political, social-cultural and economic future for the Muslims of British India. By 1945-46 the Muslim League was very clear that it was seeking Pakistan as the homeland for the Muslims.

  The name of Pakistan did not figure in the resolution and there was no mention of identification of the homeland with Islam. The Muslim League never argued that it wanted a separate country because Islam was in danger. Rather, it argued that it wanted a separate state in order to secure the future of the Muslims of British India.

  The Muslim League’s success in the 1946 provincial elections gave electoral strength to the demand for Pakistan.

 Therefore, Pakistan was the product of a political rather than religious movement that incorporated the democratic process.

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