The shortest history of the Pakistan Movement

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“How would you describe the ‘vital principles’ of Pakistan?” The British journalist and mystery writer Beverley Nichols asked the Quaid-i-Azam during his famous interview in 1943. “In five words,” the Quaid replied. “The Muslims are a nation.” I like it that the Quaid counted the words. This gives a finality to the statement and I am spared the trouble of looking for a second, third, fourth or fifth vital principle – the useless activity in which we, as a nation, have been wasting our precious energies instead of doing more practical things. “Of course, if you do not grant it,” the Quaid went on, paused, shrugged his shoulders, and added, “Then, there is an end of the matter.”

Thank you, Quaid. This makes our intellectual life much simpler. Rule No. 1: do not look for any vital principle of Pakistan except that the Muslims are a nation. Rule No. 2: do not engage in discussion, argument or debate with anybody who does not agree with Rule No.1.

Rule No.1, however, needs a little elaboration. To say that the Muslims are a nation does not mean that they are not at liberty to form a composite nation with the followers of other religions. The British are a nation too, yet it does not mean that the Asians, Africans and others who are now settling in Great Britain are not becoming part of the same nation. Likewise, all citizens of Pakistan are now a single nation regardless of their religious beliefs, since the country has been established. This, however, does not change history.

Following Rule No.2, I would now like to suggest that the rest of the post will make sense only to those who agree with what has been stated above. Otherwise, “Then, there is an end of the matter.”

If we proceed on the basis of the “vital principle”, we may start the genesis of Pakistan no later than the day when the Indian Muslims formally adopted the goal of organizing themselves as a nation. This was December 27, 1886, when the Mohammedan Educational Conference was founded at Aligarh for this very purpose.

  • The goal adopted on December 27, 1886, was achieved on December 31, 1906, with the birth of All-India Muslim League in Dacca (now Dhaka).
  • The goal of the League was to secure separate electorates. This was achieved with the election held in late 1926.
  • Regional autonomy in areas of Muslim majority was adopted as an alternative to separate electorates, and this was achieved through the election held in 1945-46, where an overwhelming majority of the Indian Muslims voted for establishing Pakistan (including the present-day Bangladesh at that time).

This helps us divide the entire period neatly into three stages of twenty years each: (a) 1887-1906, Inquiry; (b) 1907-26, Discovery; and (c) 1927-46, Transcendence. See the image below.

The Genesis of Pakistan

There are several reasons why I recommend this division:

  1. Each stage begins with the adoption of a collective goal and ends at achieving it. This can also be established on the basis of contemporary authority. The founder of the League referred in his inaugural speech to the goal adopted twenty years earlier, and so on.
  2. We can see the franchise expanding progressively: there were only 67 representatives in 1886 as compared to the large number of voters in 1926 and 1946. Hence it can be seen that these goals were adopted “collectively” according to contemporary standards. Personally, I feel that it takes me in the direction of a history of the people, by the people, for the people.
  3. For each period, we can find one writer whose popularity in the community was incomparably higher than anybody else’s, and whose work offers detailed elaboration of the corresponding goal: (a) Stage 1, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (even the conservative elements had accepted his leadership to some extent by 1887); (b) Stage 2, Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar; (c) Stage 3, Iqbal.
  4. Iqbal felt premonitions about the beginning of each of these stages, and his outlook changed intuitively with each new goal adopted by his people. Hence, through this division, we are only aligning the history of that era with the intuition, ideas and output of one the greatest contemporary minds.
  5. Each period is twenty years long. This is especially convenient for those who have a problem remembering dates! Just remember the year 1887, and then keep adding 20.

This is not to say that these were the only memorable incidents that happened from 1887 to 1946. However, most other incidents that happened during each stage could be linked directly or indirectly to the stated goal of the period. For instance, I included the following key incidents in each stage in my Topline Social Studies Programme 8:

  1. Inquiry, 1887-1906: the idea of separate electorates; the birth of the All-India Muslim League
  2. Discover, 1907-126: change in the policy of the League; Lucknow Pact; Khilafat Movement; election of 1926
  3. Transcendence, 1927-46: Fourteen points; Allahabad Address; Round Table Conferences; revival of the League; Pakistan Resolution; election of 1945-46; Cabinet Mission Plan

The topics added here are just those which are listed in the syllabus of secondary classes in Pakistan. Many more incidents can be added – and have been added, for instance, in my Iqbal: His Life and Our Times

The benefit of this approach is that these stages highlight the process through which a people realized their nationhood through self-determination. This has an empirical value as well. Once we accept that these successive goals led a nation to its destiny, we can use them as a case study for further exploring the general principles of nationhood given by various thinkers, especially Rousseau, Ernest Renan, C. R. Das and Mary Parker Follett.

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_social_links icons_boxed=”” icons_boxed_radius=”4px” icon_colors=”” box_colors=”” tooltip_placement=”” rss=”” facebook=”” twitter=”” instagram=”” dribbble=”” google=”” linkedin=”” blogger=”” tumblr=”” reddit=”” yahoo=”” deviantart=”” vimeo=”” youtube=”” pinterest=”” digg=”” flickr=”” forrst=”” myspace=”” skype=”” paypal=”” dropbox=”” soundcloud=”” vk=”” email=”” show_custom=”no” alignment=”” class=”” id=””/][/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_title size=”3″ content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” class=”” id=””]Topline Secondary Social Studies Programme 8[/fusion_title][fusion_text]

Social Studies 8This post is related to ‘Pakistan Movement’, Chapter 8 of the revised edition of Topline Secondary Social Studies Programme 8pp.75-86. The book is part of a set of three, and is published by Topline Publishers, Karachi, Pakistan.

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2 thoughts on “The shortest history of the Pakistan Movement”

  1. I like this a lot – esp. the beginning with the interview of Jinnah taken by Mr Nichols, one that is generally overlooked even though it gives us so much insight into the founder of Pakistan..

  2. Greetings,

    I am enjoying this article. Like so many of your others, it includes so many points on which I now wish to follow up, research, and explore.

    All good wishes,

    robert

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