This is the second post in the series “The untold story of Pakistan from 1858 to 2026“.
When we say that we want to see the history of Pakistan from the perspective of its creators, we first need to determine who they were (and to the younger generation, it may need to be mentioned that when we refer to Pakistan before 1971, we also mean the territory which is now called Bangladesh). So, let’s first determine who we mean by the creators of Pakistan.
We know that the founder of Pakistan was Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. But what we have forgotten is that he wanted us to remember that it was not he alone but his party, All-India Muslim League, which created the new country (and, according to him, also freed the other country, now called the Republic of India).
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.
In the third chapter of my book Jinnah: The Case for Pakistan, you can find sufficient evidence that Jinnah indeed wanted us to remember that Pakistan was created by All-India Muslim League, and you can also see that some of the most influential writers, such as Stanley Wolpert and Ayesha Jalal, have obscured this important point either by manipulating the evidence or by fabricating completely baseless lies. Some of these points will get reiterated during this series of posts.
So, the thing I am trying to say here is that according to Jinnah, the All-India Muslim League created Pakistan. If this much is clear to you, we can move on.
Now, it is a fact that we have long stopped looking at our past, present and the future from the perspective of the All-India Muslim League. I have tried to fill this gap with my recent Urdu publication, Aazadi (watch the video below). The present series of posts and the course “The Untold Story of Pakistan” are essentially based on this book.
Let’s go back to the day the All-India Muslim League was founded at Dacca (now Dhaka, in Bangladesh). It was 30 December 1906. It was clarified on that occasion that it was new beginning, but a continuation of the work started by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan informally some time after the takeover of the Indian subcontinent by the British Crown in 1858, and formally from 1887 onward. Hence, there are two preliminary periods before the creation of the League, and we will take just one important learning point from each.
From 1858 to 1886, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan led the efforts to revive the Muslim community of the Indian subcontinent. This community was later called the Muslim nation of India, and we may now call it the Muslim nation of South Asia.
He was helped in these efforts not only his Muslim friends and British benefactors but also by some of the most representative and well-respected Hindus of those days, especially his close friend Jai Kishan Das. Because, as Sir Syed and his colleagues never failed to emphasize, although the Hindus and the Muslims had always lived as two distinct communities, there had been great love and friendship between them. This love and friendship was not based on any misconception of being a single nation but on the contrary, it depended on an honest and frank acknowledgement of mutual differences.
This is again a fact which has been distorted in our mind, mainly through the influence of those who have been opposed to the existence of the Muslims in this region – the predecessors of our contemporary Narinda Modi. They have tried to put the blame of the hostility between the Hindus and the Muslims on the Muslims.
Whereas, Sir Syed and his school of thought had always taken the pains to make it clear that the hostility between Hindus and Muslims was a direct result of the education provided by the British. Not necessarily due to any mischievous designs of the rulers, but simply because the history taught in those schools was too critical of the Muslim rulers of the past (you can check my Urdu post on this topic for details, or look at the image slide below for a quick explanation).
I hope that it is quite clear to you now that the efforts of Sir Syed and his friends to revive the Muslim community were not based on any negative feelings.
Then what were they based on? In a famous lecture delivered by him in Calcutta in 1863, as his first wake-up call to his community, he started by explaining that according to the Sufis, there were many stages in the journey of Love. The love of someone you know (“ishq-i-majazi”), the love of your own community or society, the love of humanity, the love of Nature and the love of the entire universe as a manifestation of the Divine Beauty (“ishq-i-haqeeqi”) were not contradictory to each other. They were stages in a process. Given the existing situation of the country, he said that we must begin with the love of our own community or society.
So, in his own words, Sir Syed based his movement on the Sufi paradigm of love. This love was driven by a desire to seek consensus. Therefore, Sir Syed never tried to impose his own ideas on his community. He always desired to seek consensus. He believed in finding out what his immortal beloved, i.e. his community, wanted him to do and then he did it even if the entire world tried to stop him. Even the idea of building a Muslim college (which was eventually built at Aligarh) was not his own. It came from a poll which he conducted in 1870.
These efforts of Sir Syed and his friends (including many non-Muslims) resulted in a great revival of the Muslim community. We may call it the Muslim Renaissance, in short for “the National Renaissance of the Muslim India”, 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
So, our first learning point is that the All-India Muslim League was a child of the Muslim Renaissance. The Renaissance was based on the Sufi concept of love. It was animated by a desire to seek consensus within the community, and not by any negative feeling towards anybody else. Therefore, many Hindus also supported it (and hostility was shown mainly by some of the modern educated Hindus, due to the history taught in the British schools).
Once the spirit of a new life was stirred in the community, another step taken by Sir Syed gathered several representatives from across the subcontinent at Aligarh on 27 December 1886. They founded an organization which could enable the community to take unanimous decisions regarding education and progress. The name of this organization was altered slightly a few times, but it was generally known as Mohammedan Educational Conference.
It used to hold a session every year. It was on the occasion of its twentieth session, held in Dacca in 1906, that All-India Muslim League was founded as the first political organization of the Muslims of the subcontinent. The clarification offered on that occasion described it as “as a turning of a corner of the course” that had been adopted twenty years earlier with the creation of the Mohammedan Educational Conference.
So, our second learning point is that the birth of All-India Muslim League marked the achievement of a goal that had been adopted twenty years earlier with the creation of Mohammedan Educational Conference.
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.
I am trying to present a detailed history of each of these stages from the perspective of Iqbal in my series of three biographies of the Poet-Philosopher in Urdu. They are called Iqbal ki Justajoo (up to 1906), Iqbal Ka Rasta (1907-1926) and Iqbal Ki Manzil (1927-1946). The last of these has already been published recently, and the other two are also expected to come out soon.
So, from the point of view of All-India Muslim League, the history of the Muslim nation of South Asia from 1887 to 1946 comprises of three stages. Each stage starts with the adoption of a common goal and completes with the achievement of that goal exactly twenty years later. This is a unique phenomenon without any parallel in modern history. It shows a nation – the only nation in the known history – which is evolving consistently through a series of goals unanimously adopted and successfully achieved. At least this is how it appears from the point of view of the League, which is the only point of view considered in this series.
If there are any questions and criticism, I would be glad to address them separately but I hope that you will agree that we first need to become aware of our own perspective before we can respond to others’.
From our perspective, the outcome of the third stage was that by 1946, the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent had become united on the platform of the All-India Muslim League. The League was no longer a political party. It had now proven its claim of being the national organization of the South Asian Muslims, as it claimed to have won the support of almost 90 percent of the Muslim electorate in the recent elections.
On 7 and 8 April 1946, the successful candidates of the League who had won the recent elections gathered in Delhi. It was called the Muslim League Legislator’s Convention. On this occasion, a resolution was adopted unanimously, which confirmed and revised the earlier Pakistan Resolution of 1940. I like to refer to it as the “Delhi Resolution 1946“.
The Delhi Resolution explained the rationale of Pakistan, defined its purpose and then demanded that the Indian subcontinent should be divided into more than one states. The areas where the Muslims were already in majority should become Pakistan, and the areas of Hindu majority should become Hindustan. However, the resolution did not suggest any exchange of population. Hindus and Muslims were supposed to be equal citizens in both states, and their rights and safeguards were to be decided “in consultation with them.”
Everyone present on the occasion took a pledge to remain loyal to this resolution and to the All-India Muslim League. The pledge was read out by Liaquat Ali Khan, and Jinnah also took the pledge like everybody else (so, he wanted to be seen as someone who was carrying out the unanimous decisions of the national organization rather than taking decisions himself and imposing it on his party or his people).
This pledge continued to be published in the newspapers for some time, with a direct appeal from Jinnah to every Muslim that he or she should also take this pledge.
So, this pledge is perhaps the most important of all the things which we have forgotten about our history. What can be a greater disaster than forgetting that we have a well-written social contract in the form of the Delhi Resolution, which defines Pakistan and its rationale, and that our ancestors took a very specific pledge to abide by this social contract and remain loyal to the All-India Muslim League?
After taking this pledge, Jinnah made it quite clear that those Muslims who were not on the platform of the All-India Muslim League “do not count but they might at least keep quiet now.” He made no exceptions, not even for any religious leader. Since there is no separation between religion and politics in Islam, the authority of the League could not have been said to be only political (see “The significance of the All-India Muslim League” for clear statements of Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan on this matter).
Can you now see that the “mission statement” which we adopted in the previous episode is nothing but reviving a part of this pledge? To make Pakistan the leader of South Asia for bringing perpetual peace and prosperity in the region, to eradicate poverty completely from our country and to achieve personal and professional success, not by ignoring these goals but by serving them, is what our ancestors promised to do when they took this pledge. But the other part of the pledge was to remain loyal to the All-India Muslim League, and this is what we are now doing, practically, by looking at our history exclusively from the point of view of this organization and giving a shut up call to its enemies (“they do not count but they might at least keep quiet now,” as Jinnah had said in 1946).
So, the most important things to remember are the Delhi Resolution of 1946 and the pledge of loyalty to the All-India Muslim League, which was taken by the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent at that time. This is the third learning point in this post.
In principle, the Delhi Resolution was accepted by the British when they announced on 20 February 1947 in clear and definite terms that they would quit India no later than June 1948 (they actually left in August 1947). They did not mention the Muslim League or the Delhi Resolution, but they accepted the possibility of the partition. Hence, the announcement was in line with the demand of the League as embodied in this resolution, and rejected the contrary demands put forth by the Indian National Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha.
We need to know and remember that even after accepting the acceptance of the partition plan on 3 June 1947, the Hindu leaders of those days announced formally that they would never accept the existence of Pakistan. The resolution adopted by the All-India Committee of the Hindu Mahasabha (the progenitor of the kind of movements whose latest representative is Narinder Modi) stated it in the following terms:
The cardinal principle of the Hindu Mahasabha has always been the unity and integrity of India, and under no circumstances could it be a party to the vivisection of India in any shape or form. This Committee deeply deplores the fact that the Indian National Congress, after having given a solemn assurance to the Hindus of India, has betrayed the country by agreeing to the partition of India without a referendum. The Committee declares that Hindus are not bound by this commitment of the Congress. It reiterates that India is one and indivisible and that there will never be peace unless the separated areas are brought back into the Indian Union and made its integral parts.Excerpt from the resolution adopted by the All-India Committee of the Hindu Mahasabha on 8 June 1947
A week later, the Indian National Congress adopted a very similar resolution, although in slightly less hostile tone:
Geography and the mountains and the seas fashioned India as she is and no human agency can change that shape or come in the way of her final destiny. Economic circumstances and the insistent demands of international affairs make the unity of India still more necessary. The picture of India we have learnt to cherish will remain in our minds and hearts. The All-India Congress Committee earnestly trusts that when present passion have subsided, India’s problems will be viewed in their proper perspective and the false doctrine of two nations in India will be discredited and discarded by allExcerpt from the resolution adopted by the All-India Congress Committee, 15 June 1947
By signing these two resolutions respectively, the Mahasabha and the Congress condemned themselves in the eyes of history in the same manner as Hitler had done when he had invaded Poland eight years earlier.
The claim of Hitler was that Europe could never have peace and prosperity unless it came under the unified authority of his party. Likewise, the position reiterated by the Hindu leaders in these two resolutions was that the Indian subcontinent could never have peace, economic progress or healthy international relations unless the entire region formed a single state.
This was, then, the final reply of the Indian nationalists to the Delhi Resolution of the Muslim League. And so, two points of view emerged in South Asia when the British left.
The Muslim League point of view, embodied in its Delhi Resolution of 1946, was peace and unity in the region through mutual respect between sovereign states on the basis of equality. The Indian nationalist point of view, embodied in the Mahasabha and Congress resolutions of June 1947, was that the entire region should form only one state, just as Hitler had desired for Europe a little earlier.
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. Significantly, this goal and all the three goals which have been achieved since 1947 (mentioned above) can be traced back to the Delhi Resolution adopted by the Muslim League in 1946. Not only these goals have been contrary to the point of view expressed by the Congress and the Mahasabha in 1947, but in most cases they were not even being pursued by any other political party at the time of being achieved (the Tashkent Agreement of 1966 is a glaring example, since it was severely criticized by many important political parties in both India and Pakistan at that time).
We can therefore predict that all the forces that distorted the original Muslim League or have been acting as its rivals and enemies, will get removed by 2026, one way or another. This is how the present stage is most likely to end, paving the way to an actual revival of the national organization of the South Asian Muslims, which alone can ensure mutual respect between sovereign states in the region, and alleviation of poverty. This is the fourth point to remember.
Because, as we can see now, the essence of the original Muslim League has survived even though the organization might have died in its physical form in the mid-1950s. It also means that the Muslims of South Asia have remained a single nation in spite of being citizens of different states, because 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.
Even more significantly, it shows that this nation has a communal self or a collective ego, just as Iqbal had stressed in almost all his writings from 1908 onward.
We can say this because, according to Iqbal, the life of an ego or self consists in conceiving and achieving goals. He also believed that a nation could also achieve an ego or self just like an individual. It would follow that the life of such a nation would then become a series of common goals conceived and achieved one after the other, and this is just what we are seeing here.
Therefore, the seven stages described above can also be used to corroborate Iqbal’s claims about the existence of a communal self or a collective ego:
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.
The conclusion to be drawn is that the Muslim nation of South Asia has a communal self or a collective ego. This communal self has a will of its own, and it achieves its goals regardless of the hindrances. We, the individuals, must learn how to participate in the life of this communal self. Iqbal can teach us how, because this was also the crux of his message.
We should now be able to see how we can fulfill the “mission statement” suggested in the previous post, i.e. to establish peace and justice in South Asia through Pakistan, eradicate poverty from our country and become individually successful by contributing towards these goals. We can do so by participating in the life of our communal self, and our communal self itself is going to achieve the goals in its own time.
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)
How to participate in the life of the communal self was 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)
By internal transformation, he obviously meant a change in our habits of thought, and by external transformation he meant a change in our habits of action. 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.