I actually wanted to go through a phase of introspection and make some important confessions to myself yesterday. Foremost being that I should stop finding footsteps in the mire; realizing for good the futility of my persistant infatuation with the infamous ideology question. There are number of reasons for this desperate conclusion. Firstly, Pakistan Studies in my view, is merely an academic exercise having no objective influence on present state of affairs as well as future course of our collective action. Secondly, we are a nation (if it is accurate enough to be identified as such) purposefully failing to make sense of our past and being proud of this relentless obliviousness, we are always ready to be duped by petty slogans and sleazy shibboleths. Last but not the least, the above two observations have now become conventional wisdom and there is no reason one should remain stuck forever in one’s own stubborn optimism.
Nevertheless, while I was getting fagged out by PTV’s high-sounding portrayal of Lahore Resolution and trying to find my misplaced patriotism where I usually discover it (i.e in Mukhtar Masood’s brilliant essay Minar-e-Pakistan), I couldn’t resist taking Brother Adil Najam’s excellent advice and once again read the resolution myself; only this time with a side by side exposition of Dr Ayesha Jalal.
In my humble opinion, the argument that the resolution somehow delineated the demand for Pakistan per se, as seen in the political realities of 1937-40 in Sub Continent, is not very accurate. And albeit its contextual importance vis-à-vis creation of Pakistan in 1947 has now become debatable in the light of fresh research, its textual importance cannot be undermined at all. A close look at the text itself and politics which environs it tells us so much about the bitter realities of Muslim politics in mid 30s and may further help us to investigate our failure in becoming a nation intrinsically, without founding its cornerstones on our enmity with Hindu India.
The foremost thing that breaks the presumable sacredness of the document is the fact that it miserably failed or was intentionally obfuscated so as not to point slightly towards a possible partition. The third and most sacred paragraph
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 the Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principles, viz., that geographically contiguous units’ are demarcated into regions which should be 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 (British) India should be grouped to constitute Independent States in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.
did not even consider the wispiest proposition for a center. The concessions were obviously given to get backing of majority provinces in the form of proposing independant sovereign states. The language insinuated that there was a single common national voice speaking for the collective ineterest of Muslims of Indian Sub Continent. However, there were inherent contradictions between the interests of Muslim majority and minority provinces. An apprehension to resolve these contradiction are self evident in paragraph four which states that:
That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in these units in the regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultations with them and in other parts of (British) India where the Mussalmans (Muslims) are in a majority adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards shall be specifically provided in 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.
The ostensibly complicated phraseology probably represents the political quandaries of All India Muslim League at that time. The question of safeguarding the interest of Muslims in provinces in which they were in minority could not have been left unaddressed and territorial readjustments (as mentioned in third paragraph) were deemed necessary. On the other hand it was blatantly obvious that there would be as many Muslims left outside the soverign independant states as there would be inside. What would than be the best options available?
Not many I guess, except to keep the dialogue open ended to some extent by carefully balancing and trimming the text, avoiding to resolve contradictions and hoping for some constitutional arrangement which may ultimately safeguard the interests of all Muslims of India.
This did not happen unfortunately and Muslim League finally had to settle for less i.e. to safeguard the interests of Muslims in minority provinces by trading off security of non-Muslim minority in Muslim dominated provinces; textual base of which was already there in the fourth paragraph.
What happened finally to the proposition of territorial readjustments? These were never really on the cards; as Choudhry Khaliquzzaman wrote to Jinnah on 7th October 1942 and Ayesha Jalal cites in a footnote on page 59 of her excellently researched book:
One of the basic principles lying behind the Pakistan idea is that of keeping hostages in Muslim Provinces as against the Muslims in Hindu Provinces. If we allow millions of Hindus to go out of our orbit of influence, the security of the Muslims in minority Provinces will greatly be minimised
The phrase mentioning territorial readjustments was finally removed in the revised version of Lahore Resolution of April 1946.
There is no point going too far with this and as I said in the begining, the aim can be nothing objective except academic satisfaction. We can keep on reading the resolution for different reasons, searching different motivations and reaching different (and sometimes contradictory) conclusions.Our strictly theoretic approach towards history cannot make us more or less Pakistani. Certainly not less than those who took part in drafting and expressing that resolution. In fact, the subsequent positions of those founding fathers would come as a great surprise for many young Pakistanis, if made part of history text books.
On second thoughts, I do not necessarily consider those poitical realities as bitter. Though subjected to a completely different ball game, those politicians were as pragmatic politically as we are now. Sikandar Hayat Khan, a staunch Unionist and the one who actually drafted the constitution, later denounced it openly in Punjab legislative assembly after being exposed to and pressed by Khalsa Nationalist Party’s provincial concerns. The Bengal Tiger In 1941, after the creation of National Defence Council, attacked Jinnah for being an ‘omnipotent authority over the destiny of 33 million Muslims in the province of Bengal’. Jinnah himself did not care to expand upon the Lahore Resolution till the arrival of Cabinet Mission in 1946.
On the whole, I tend to agree with the view that Lahore resolution was principally put as a political card of Jinnah and Muslim League’s search for survival and the claim that it was representing the consentaneous, realistic and coherent demand of a Muslim nation has very little backing from political history. And this realisation does not, in any way, scuppers my patriotism.