Let us return to March 23, 1940, and start over, Pakistan

Published: November 4, 2016
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Founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. PHOTO: DEFENCE.PK

On March 23, 1940, the All-India Muslim League adopted a historic resolution in the city of Lahore. This resolution has since come to be known as the Pakistan Resolution as it became the forerunner to the formal demand for an independent nation state for the Muslims of India.

The following is an extract that provides the essence of this resolution:

“Resolved that it is the considered view of this session of the All-India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principle, namely, that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority, as in the North-Western and Eastern Zones of India, should be grouped to constitute ‘Independent States’ in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.

That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in these units and in these regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them; and in other parts of India where Mussalmans are in a minority, adequate, effective and mandatory safeguard shall be specially provided in the constitution for them and other minorities for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them.”

Seven years after this resolution a new nation was born. The man most responsible for the political struggle that culminated in the creation of Pakistan was Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In his first address as President to the constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, (three days prior to the day Pakistan officially became a nation) he had this to say:

“I cannot emphasise it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit, and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community — because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalees, Madrasis and so on — will vanish. Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence, and but for this we would have been free people long, long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls, in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time, but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State. As you know, history shows that in England conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State.”

Central to both these historical declarations is the idea that all citizens are equal regardless of their ethnicity or religious belief. It is clear that the founders of Pakistan gave central importance to the rights of minorities from freedom of worship to economic opportunity and political participation.

Jinnah died in 1948 and was unable to oversee the framing of a constitution. There is little doubt in my mind that the foundations of the nation would have been much stronger had this been the case. Immediately after the creation of Pakistan, the main religiopolitical parties: the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI)-started campaigning to make Pakistan a theocratic state. The JUI was headed by the heavily influential Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani while the JI was led by the fiery Abu A’la Maududi.

Both lobbied relentlessly and succeeded in making religion a central feature of the “Objectives Resolution” of 1949 and the first constitution of Pakistan promulgated in 1956. Despite dissension from several prominent members of the Hindu minority in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) Pakistan was officially named the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. Two critical provisions in this constitution set the stage for future intrusions of religion into politics: the first that only a Muslim could be the head of state and the second that no law contrary to the Quran and the hadith could be enacted.

The JUI and JI have played a prominent role in pushing theocratic legislation and opposing progressive legislation that is yet to cease-as witnessed by their current opposition to the The Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill. Even more ominous and unforgivable has been their role in the persecution of minorities. The role of the JI in the 1971 atrocities during the civil war in East Pakistan are well-documented. Party-workers functioned virtually as an irregular army and played a central role in the massacre that took place at Dhaka University and the widespread killing of Hindus in East Pakistan. In 1974, protest and rioting by Maududi’s JI resulted in the Government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto caving in and introducing the Second Amendment of the Constitution of Pakistan, which declared that Ahmadis were non-Muslims. In 1977, the JUI and JI colluded with General Zia ul Haq in orchestrating nationwide protests that culminated in a military coup d’etat and the hanging of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The worst came during the 11 years of Zia’s leadership.

Under the supervision of scholars largely derived from or affiliated with the JUI and JI, school and university curricula were revised to be in line with religious teachings, and capital punishments for adultery, blasphemy and apostasy were promulgated. Ahmadis were no longer allowed to use the traditional Muslim greeting or to refer to their places of worship as mosques. There is no greater example of denying religious freedom and creating a religious apartheid than what the state has done to Ahmadis.

The religiopolitical parties also benefited from unconditional Western support during these years due to the role they played in recruitment and logistics in the Afghan-Soviet War. During this time they were able to expand their infrastructure in Pakistan and increase their presence in legislative bodies.

Interestingly enough, after another period of the state patronising militants (the Afghan Taliban were supported by the Pakistani military in the Afghan Civil War between 1992 and 1996) and another war involving the western border – the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan – the trend towards minority persecution increased further. There were unprecedented attacks on Christians and Hindus as well as members of the Shia, Ahmadi and Ismaili Muslim sects. The bigotry appears to have grown even bolder as cases of commercial establishments and housing schemes denying entry to Ahmadis has increased.

It is time Pakistan returned to the spirit of the March 23, 1940, resolution and the vision of its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Let’s be clear about this: the raison d’etre of Pakistan’s creation was autonomy for the followers of Islam in the Indian subcontinent. Islam continues to be the prevailing moral orthodoxy and the tie that binds the national culture with all its rich and beautiful diversity together. However, Pakistan is also a nation state that is responsible for safeguarding the rights of all its civilians, both Muslim and non-Muslim. The only way to reverse this trend is to revert in letter and spirit to the ideals of protecting and providing social equality to minorities found in the Lahore Resolution.

An encouraging bit of news recently was the announcement of Easter and the Hindu festivals of Holi and Dewali as “closed national holidays for minorities”. However, much more is needed if the state is to fulfil its responsibility of protecting and empowering all of its citizens.

What must occur if minorities are to receive social justice is a reversal of the draconian and unconscionable Second Amendment and Zia’s Hudood and 1980 Ordinances including blasphemy laws. These laws have been repeatedly used as a pretext to persecute religious minorities and their mere presence is an insult to the basic principles of human conduct. Law enforcement must be reformed and rendered capable of enforcing the rights of minorities that are adequately protected in letter by the original 1973 Constitution.

Most important of all the government and civil society must resist the intimidation of religiopolitical parties and prevent them from any further sabotage of the nation’s unity and moral fabric. These entities will not dissolve into thin air and will have to be resisted, ultimately, through a refutation of their warped and self-serving vision of Islam. This will never be possible unless progressives, both – within Pakistan and abroad, realise that incessant negative portrayals of Pakistan and Islam are not the answer. These have manifestly played into the hands of demagogues who use them to perpetuate their narrative of a global assault on Islam and Pakistan of whom they are the only legitimate defenders.

What is needed is not less but more pride in the rich and complex history of a country that has inherited so much from civilisations and cultures so diverse. From the Indus Valley Civilisation to the Vedic period to the Arab and Persian conquests to the British Empire – the sources of our cultural traditions are myriad and we must learn to accept them and take pride in them. It is not through the incessant intellectual self-flagellation that so many well-meaning progressives engage in that the path to progress lies. It lies in picking the right battles and the right paths to success. There can be no meaningful refutation of the more pernicious elements of the religiopolitical spectrum, for example, till blasphemy laws exist they will not allow the free debate in public forums such as the media and university campuses that is necessary to sway public opinion. Also, there can be no meaningful legislation to protect civil rights till there is a state that has the will and the intent to do so.

Free speech and able leadership: these are the only foundations on which a free and equal society can exist. This is where the time and energy of progressives must direct themselves.

A society is judged best by the measure of how it treats the most vulnerable in its midst. In this we have faltered and failed miserably. Let us return to March 23, 1940, and start over.

Khusro Tariq

Khusro Tariq

The author is a Pakistani-American Psychiatrist currently pursuing training in Jungian psychoanalysis. He blogs on Huffington Post on matters of psychology, faith, politics and poetry. He tweets as @KhwajaKhusro (twitter.com/KhwajaKhusro)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • NK Marri

    PakPunjab is in some kind of time wrap ! Stuck in time, over and over they keep talking about partition and trying to justify the mistake of Jinnah !Recommend

  • rtnguy

    A jungli nation built on jungli foundations built by jungli people cannot start over and achieve a different resultRecommend

  • Feroz

    Well said but your plea is against the very ideology the self appointed guardians of the State have crafted and propagated.Recommend

  • chakrs

    The 140 resolution talked about independent states in the northwest and east, not a single Pakistan. It can be concluded that in 1971 India implemented this part of the resolution.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Even though objective of the article is positive but there are many underlying questions that not addressed.

    So why Jinnah disown his only daughter? Why Indian Muslims never moved to Pakistan or not moving enmasse now? Concept of diversity is completely against Islam or all Abrahamic Religion. What was the point of converting to Islam if the goal was to binds the national culture with all its rich and beautiful diversity together?

    But Pakistan is not alone, if not all then atleast half the Muslim majority countries are like Pakistan. And there is no concept of minority in Islam, otherwise Arab Pagans were still be going to Mecca to pray and Iran would be a Zoroastrian protectionists state.Recommend

  • Vish

    Why 1940. Better to written to the date when Mohammed Bin Quasim founded Pakistan.Recommend

  • Abhijeet

    It is abundantly clear that this was and continues to be a flawed ideology. One that has not and will not stand the test of time. 1971 proved it already. Before another such disaster happens, Pakistan should reinvent itself and dissociate itself from this ideology.Recommend

  • Vin P

    Einstein defines insanity as repeating the same and expecting a different result!Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Partition made natives with native spirituality and way of life in west Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan & KPK leave those places. Result is with them the sanity, peace and progress also left those areas. That is why those places are now breeding ground of parasites & terrorists.Recommend

  • Haqqani

    how 1971 proved two nation theory wrong? The theory states that Hindu and Muslims are two different nations and cannot live together. If Bangladesh had become a part of India then you could say that two nation theory is flawed but as you know it is still a separate country.Recommend

  • Haqqani

    If what you said in the last paragraph is true then how there are still Hindus present in India and that too as a majority, after almost a 1000 year Muslim rule over most of the sub-continent?Recommend

  • Bairooni Haath

    Like any politician, Jinnah said different things to different audiences as the event demanded. If you can cherry pick his speeches to point out the liberal secular Jinnah, there are any number of his speeches that can be interpreted as the Fundamentalist, Islamist Jinnah and that is exactly what General Zia did when he started his Islamization drive. Truth is that Pakistan was created on the basis of Islam, how can it run away from that. There can never be too much Islam is Pakistan.Recommend

  • kumar

    good written. this is the perfect solution for all the countries. India is based on these principal mention in the artical. pl cheak consitution of india.dont mind pl. still sometime wondering why our leader Nehru and Jinnah sahib went this way.is it ego or power or both were the lawyer by prof. and lawyer not like to lose there case.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    “Zulfikar Ali Bhutto caving in and introducing the Second Amendment of the Constitution of Pakistan, which declared that Ahmadis were non-Muslims”. It was the elected National Assembly which unanimously decided the issue, not Bhutto (who didn’t know anything about the subject).Recommend

  • Rajiv

    I wish all Muslims in India leave for PakistanRecommend

  • Salman Ahmed Shaikh

    10 seats are reserved for minorities in national assembly, 4 less than
    total general seats for Balochistan. 9 seats are reserved in Sindh Assembly. There is no seat currently occupied by JI and JUI in Sindh. It was Bhutto who negated the democratic mandate of Bengalis and it was Army who killed more than one million civilian. JI as a political party only supported the unification of Pakistan. The real massacre of was done by Army aided by leading political party from West Pakistan, PPP. Ahmadis were also declared non-Muslim under Bhutto.Recommend

  • Khwaja Khusro Tariq

    “government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto”Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Aurabgzeb tried. He was in Maharashtra for 27 years. What happened at the end, lost everything & Mughalas were reduced to Dilli Muncipalty by 1707. If India had lost its Dharma then, you would be staring at killing barbaric AfPak. Indian Dharma and culture is too deep. Numerals are Hindu, so called Georgian calendar is Hindu, even Calculus is Hindu (Madhava of Kerala Temple school of Math)… I can go on. Wannabe more Bedouin than Bedouin native converts are parasites and once the host is not there to feed on are feeding on themselves. Anglos know it and want to plant plant the parasite in India, since Pakistan’s utility is over.Recommend

  • goggi (Lahore)

    The immeasurable misery, hatred and mess what this ugly partition has bred, I doubt that Jinnah and Nehru, in case of a repetition, would survive a shower of bullets from all directions!
    Due to this insane partition, we have destroyed our ecology and ecosystems on which our and our future generations livelihood depends. These bunch of idiots saw things with their tunnel vision in a very fragmented way, unable to focus on the relationships among things. They had no knowledge of ecosystems, because to do so, one has to have a sound knowledge of ecology which is the science of relationships.
    We humans of Pakistan and India have destroyed our environment, our ecology, our ecosystems, ourselves and our coming generations. One proof is the poisonous smog which covers Delhi, Lahore and other cities of Punjab!Recommend

  • abhi

    1000 year of muslim rule is a myth.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Anglos are in the business of creating Islamic States using proxies who are Anglocized and for all purpose are residents of London. First such IS they created using Lawrence of Arabia, was House of Saud or Saudi Arabia. Second one they created was Pakistan. For this they used London resident retiree called Jinah. Now third IS is being created and nurtured using Al Baghdadi. If India is to be contained and Asia to be destroyed then these ISs have to be kept alive. All three ISs are Sunni Islamic States since Shia is a rebellion of natives to resist Bedouinization and preserving native Persian and Assyrian culture. Thus Pakistan and Islam are weapon of mass destruction (WMD) in the hands of imperialists.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    None of the native converts knew anything about later day Abrahamic legions created by imperialists, ie Christianity and Islam. These legions are not native and organic. Natives converted under duress and because of enticement such as land titles and darbari posts. Hariyanwi Rajput Bhutto converted to get more land of other Rajputs who did not convert. Then they again helped alien power, EIC in expanding into Sindh to get vast land in Sindh. Naturally they did not know anything about Islam. Recommend

  • shehryar bukhari

    Yes and there will be more states emerging from India Recommend

  • Purna Tripathy

    Time to accept that Pakistanis are not Arabs. You are Mahen jo daro people like rest of the Indians, but while Hindus resisted and protected their identity from the invaders, some could not and accepted the way of life, culture and religion of the invaders. This had happened centuries ago so there is no point in discussing who was right and who was wrong.
    You may not know but hardening of attitude in India happens when non Muslims are tortured in Pakistan.Recommend