Suppose it were possible that Pakistan could become the most stable country in Asia, economically prosperous and intellectually advanced, and an instrument for establishing perpetual peace and justice in the region? Understandably, when I put this question before my educated friends, the initial reaction is one of disbelief and surprise. What is rather conspicuous, however, is that even after my friends become convinced or half-way convinced that this is possible, they do not want to do anything about this.
It is not as if they are happy with the way things are. Far from it. Everybody seems restless, dissatisfied and perpetually complaining about how bad things are at workplaces, how the rule of law is weakening in the society in general, how daily life is becoming increasingly difficult and how almost everything that could go wrong is doing so.
Yet, after I succeed in showing to my friends that the solution to all these problems – and many others – is in our own hands, they do not want to do anything about it. Why? This is a riddle which I hope to solve through The Untold Story of Pakistan, the course which I now want to make my flagship and repeat it with as many groups as possible.
The premise of the course is simple. According to the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan was created by the All-India Muslim League, the national organization of the Muslims of British India (see “Mortal Empire, Immortal League“, the third chapter of Jinnah: The Case for Pakistan). Sadly, nobody since the early 1950s has looked at the past, present or the future from the perspective of this organization and its legacy. Hence, the genesis of Pakistan from the point of view of its creators remains “the untold story of Pakistan”.
According to the explanation given at the time of the birth of the Muslim League in 1906, the genesis of this organization started with the activities of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan soon after the takeover of the Indian subcontinent by the British Crown in 1858. These activities and their collective outcome may be called the Muslim Renaissance, a shortened form of “the National Renaissance of the Muslim India”, which was the term used for it by Jinnah:
Every great movement has a philosopher and Iqbal was the philosopher of the National Renaissance of Muslim India.Jinnah, message on Iqbal Day, Hyderabad (Deccan), 9 August 1941
The All-India Muslim League was, therefore, a child of this Renaissance. Regarding the preliminary period of this phenomenon from 1858 to 1886, the most important things to remember are two:
Firstly, Sir Syed and his school of thought believed that hostility between Hindus and Muslims started as a direct result of the education provided in schools managed by the British, because the textbooks of history used in those schools were too critical of the Muslim rulers of the past (see the image slider below).
Secondly, Sir Syed based his movement on the Sufi paradigm of love, according to which the love of one’s community or society, and love for the entire humankind were aspects of a single reality. Hence, all his efforts for the advancement of the Muslim community were enthusiastically supported by many prominent Hindus of those days. The operative principle was consensus (even the suggestion to build a college at Aligarh resulted from a poll conducted by Sir Syed in 1870).
On 27 December 1886, Sir Syed founded Mohammedan Educational Conference with the acclaimed goal of enabling the Muslims of India to take collective decisions about everything related to their education and progress. On the authority of the Muslim leaders associated with this school of thought (and disregarding any criticism offered by detractors), we can divide the subsequent journey of the South Asian Muslims into gradual stages of a continuous evolution:
- Stage 1, 1887-1906: started with the work of Mohammedan Educational Conference for organizing the community, and was completed when the goal was said to have been achieved with the birth of the All-India Muslim League on 30 December 1906 in Dacca (now Dhaka, in the present-day Bangladesh).
- Stage 2, 1907-1926: the acclaimed goal of the Muslim League was to secure the right of representation for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent (technically, “separate electorates”). After the general election of 1926, the Muslim leaders began to see this goal as accomplished (and even outgrown in some ways).
- Stage 3, 1927-1946: in March 1927, the Muslim leaders proposed to forego separate electorates if Muslim-majority governments could be permitted in the areas where the Muslims happened to be in majority, and certain safeguards were also granted to the Muslims in the rest of the Indian sub-continent. This goal later evolved into the idea of Pakistan, and was declared to have been practically achieved when an overwhelming majority voted in its favour in the election of 1945-1946.
The outcome of these three stages was the resolution adopted by the elected legislators of the Muslim League in Delhi on 8 April 1946 (the “Delhi Resolution“), and the pledge of loyalty taken by the legislators and the masses alike.
On 20 February 1947, the British announced their definite and clear intention to quit India not later than June 1948 (they actually left in August 1947), and also accepted the principle of partition – or the idea of Pakistan. From the point of view of Jinnah and the Muslim League, this meant that the British had accepted the Delhi Resolution of 1946.
The crucial thing to remember is that the Delhi Resolution of 1946 defined the rationale of Pakistan as well as a vision for the rest of the Indian subcontinent. The vision is to establish equality between states, and to achieve peace and unity by respecting the independence and sovereignty of each other.
Once this is understood, it becomes self-evident that the subsequent history of South Asia is evolving continuously in accordance with the Delhi Resolution (as that resolution might be interpreted by its followers, and not by its critics):
- Stage 4, 1947-1966: The first objective for South Asia after gaining independence was to make the leaders of India accept the sovereignty of Pakistan (the former had solemnly resolved in June 1947 to see that the new country should not last long). The goal was achieved with the signing of the Tashkent Agreement in January 1966.
- Stage 5, 1967-1986: The next step could only have been to make the same principle applicable to the entire South Asia. In early 1967, there appeared to be consensus on this goal among most schools of thought in both wings of Pakistan, the West Pakistan and the East Pakistan. Although the political circumstances led to the separation of East Pakistan, which became the independent state of Bangladesh in 1971, the goal was nevertheless achieved when the SAARC Secretariat became operative in 1986 (the charter of SAARC had been signed by all the states of South Asia in 1985, and is self-evidently an extension of the Delhi Resolution of 1946, in stark opposition to the resolutions passed by the Hindu leaders in June 1947).
- Stage 6, 1987-2006: The invading troops of USSR (now Russia) agreed to leave Afghanistan in 1987, and Afghanistan was eventually set on the road of internal stability with the signing of the Afghanistan Compact in London in 2006 (in the meanwhile, Afghanistan had been accepted as a member of SAARC).
Since 2007, we seem to have entered a seventh stage. Beginning with that year, there is a self-evident consensus on achieving regional peace and justice in South Asia, and the eradication of poverty within individual states.
Can we make an “informed” prediction whether this stage is also going to end in 20 years, like the previous stages, and what the outcome will be? I think that it should be quite obvious that by 2026, we are going to witness a removal of any impediments that might be getting in the way of a revival of the “national organization” which had founded Pakistan.
This is a point that will become much clearer in the next episodes of this series. Here, it might suffice to say that all the three goals which have been achieved since 1947, and even the one that confronts us now, can be traced back to the Delhi Resolution adopted by that organization in 1946. Moreover, none of these goals were the goals of the Congress or the Mahasabha at that time. In most cases, the goals at the time of being achieved were not even pursued by any of the political parties in any of the countries involved (the Tashkent Agreement of 1966 is a glaring example).
Hence, it can be stated quite safely that the essence of the original organization has survived even though the organization might have died in its physical form in the mid-1950s. Its essence, nevertheless, has continued to fulfill its goals.
Before proceeding further, I would like to clarify that the parties called “Muslim League” today might or might not have descended from the original one. Whatever is being said about the “Muslim League” here is strictly about the original organization, and need not be applied to its present-day namesakes.
So, what was the essence of the organization once known as All-India Muslim League? In its essence, the League was the Muslim nation of the Indian subcontinent itself. To say that the essence of the League has survived is to say that the Muslims of South Asia have remained a single nation in spite of being citizens of different states.
This is just what had been envisioned in the Delhi Resolution and reaffirmed by Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan after the partition (and the fact that East Pakistan later became an independent country by the name of Bangladesh cannot be said to have altered this basic premise). Since the goals of the League, which have continued to be achieved, are also the goals of this nation, their continued timely achievement proves the continued existence of this nation as well.
From the same argument, it also follows that this nation has a communal self or a collective ego, just as Iqbal had stressed in almost all his writings from 1908 onward. The seven stages described above can be used to corroborate Iqbal’s claim that “Society has a distinct life of its own, irrespective of the life of its component units taken individually.” The series of these stages lends itself to be accepted as proof of this distinct life of society, which Iqbal has elsewhere called the communal self and the collective ego (not to be confused with the collective consciousness).
One of his most representative quotes on this topic is the following:
It has been brought to light by recent biological research that the individual as such is a mere abstraction, a convenient expression for facility of social reference, passing moment in the life of the group to which he happens to belong. His thoughts, his aspirations, his ways of life, his entire mental and physical outfit, the very number of days which he lives, are all determined by the needs of the community of whose collective life he is only a partial expression. The interests of society as a whole are fundamentally different and even antagonistic to the interests of the individual whose activity is nothing more than an unconscious performance of a particular function which social economy has allotted to him. Society has a distinct life of its own, irrespective of the life of its component units taken individually … The idea that it is merely the sum of its existing individuals is essentially wrong … [In] the successful group‑life it is the future which must always control the present; to the species taken as a whole, its unborn members are perhaps more real than its existing members whose immediate interests are subordinated and even sacrificed to the future interests of that unborn infinity which slowly discloses itself from generation to generation. To this remarkable revelation of biological truth the social and political reformer cannot afford to remain indifferent.‘The Muslim Community – A Sociological Study’ (1911)
Here, Iqbal is advising us to base all our efforts of social and political reform on this “remarkable revelation”. We can safely understand it to mean that the current of our history is going to achieve its goals whether we like it or not, but we will benefit from that achievement only if we are participating in the process.
Hence, the thing for us to do is to start participating in this process. What we must avoid at all costs is to seek independent courses of action on the basis of some other wisdom, and Iqbal was warning us against this when he said in the Allahabad Address (1930):
The second evil from which the Muslims of India are suffering is that the community is fast losing what is called the herd-instinct. This makes it possible for individuals and groups to start independent careers without contributing to the general thought and activity of the community.Iqbal, the Allahabad Address (1930)
The recommended action of participating in the current of our national history had already been explained by him in the paper “The Muslim Community – A Sociological Study” (1911), in the following words:
In order to participate in the life of the communal self, the individual mind must undergo a complete transformation, and this transformation is secured, externally by the institutions of Islam [law and government], and internally by that uniform culture which the intellectual energy of our forefathers has produced.‘The Muslim Community – A Sociological Study’ (1911)
We can safely presume that (a) by internal transformation, Iqbal means a change in our habits of thought; and (b) by external transformation, he means a change in our action and behaviour. This is what we will turn to, respectively, in the next two posts: (a) changing our habits of thought with the help of the uniform culture; and (b) changing our action and behaviour through the fundamental principle of the institutions mentioned here.