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From March 1940 to March 2017

Finding the way forward by juxtaposing the vows taken in 1940 and our present circumstances

From March 1940 to March 2017

The Muslim League held its annual session at Minto Park, Lahore in March, 1940. The draft prepared by the 25-member working committee was presented by A.K Fazl-e-Haq. It stated that “No constitutional plan would be workable or acceptable to the Muslims unless geographical contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary. That the areas in which Muslims are numerically in 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.”

Subsequently, the chasm between the Muslim Leagues and Congress widened due to successive events and thus came into being two independent states India and Pakistan.

Many historians are of the opinion that two separate Muslim states were conceived in the draft, not one Muslim state. But we don’t need to get into such historical complications, as 1971 jolted the foundations of this resolution through partition of Pakistan. Ironically, India and Pakistan may refer to their independence from Britain, but Bangladeshi historians emphasise their independence from Pakistan more than Britain or Indians. By the way Muslim League was born there and A.K Fazl-e-Haq, who presented the resolution, was also from present day Bangladesh.

Moreover, the Pakistan Resolution was drafted by the working committee of Muslim League and ratified by their general body, hence not an inclusive exercise to take members of the other parties on board. The religious and nationalist parties, who somehow prospered in Pakistan, were not taken on board and, to put it candidly, were against the idea of Pakistan.

The narrative of Congress labelling the partition of India as “vivisection of the motherland” too would fail the test of history. India has never been a nation-state or an integrated unit until the Britain consolidated it administratively. Even in 1947, more than 500 princely states were semi-autonomous entities. The empire of Mughals and their predecessors waxed and waned at different point of times — sometimes restricted to Northern India and at times extending their writ as far as Afghanistan and Central Asia. Hence, any community had the right to opt for any administrative arrangement for their specific geographical units.

The division of subcontinent into twenty nation-states or ten or a single unit may be justified within a given context. Rhetoric of each community apart, nation states come and go and change forms through an evolutionary process.

The silver lining amidst all these violations of the Pakistan Resolution is the burgeoning youth of Pakistan. They are to come forward and take the reins of statehood. They are to venture on some crucial reforms in order to let the boat sail again.

Coming to the relevance of 23rd March in 2017, we would fail on many counts to find symmetry between the vows taken in 1940 and our circumstances in 2017. What happened to Bangladesh is either well-known or not known at all to us. It should not have happened and could have been managed, but what is done is done and we may cater for the remaining Pakistan, provided the lessons of 1971 are learnt. However, I doubt if the state will pass the test of “lessons learnt from 1971” and correct policies accordingly.

India-Pakistan relations have never improved significantly. As of now, skirmishes at borders are a routine, proxy war in Afghanistan and lobbying at international forums to outdo each other is a pass time. Indian threat may have some relevance and the policies of Indian state with all their minorities and especially Kashmir must be condemned, but we too are sharing our part in this collective failure of sub-continent.

Afghanistan and Pakistan’s relations too have been on a roller coaster despite our shenanigans of friendship and how we helped them at various fronts. Something is seriously wrong either with us or our neighbours, except China. However, Pak-China relations are to proceed further on the “promising and uncertain affair of CPEC”. The standing question is if we should be at daggers drawn with our neighbours till eternity or go for some reconciliation. Yes, Kashmir is an issue, but it needs to be resolved through wishes of the Kashmiri people. If they wish to join Pakistan, we should embrace them. If otherwise, let them exercise their due right.

Other historical issues kept constant, the argument of religion is not suffice to claim it uncompromisingly, as Indian Muslims are more in number than Pakistani Muslims. Besides, we have two other Muslim neighbours and across them several others.

Tightening borders have adverse impact on economy and curtail the right to movement, but biggest yet often unnoticed impact is the sense of alienation, estrangement and nurturing false sense of patriotism with misplaced hatred for those at other sides of the border. The number of people killed in the sub-continent in various battles (not wars, as there never has been a full-fledged war) is far less than killed in WW-1 and WW-2 across Europe. Now, one can move freely across Europe. Why fuss over Durand Line if it is legitimate or not, and if Pakistan’s claim is right or that of Afghanistan; make it a soft border and the debate may end. As for LoC, at least allow both Kashmir to move freely along with their goods. A conducive political environment with people-to-people interaction and commerce is bound to create natural goodwill between the governments and provide avenues for settling issues. We need bridges for peace and prosperity, not walls.

A federation or, we may say, a confederation of Muslim states was conceived in the original draft of Pakistan Resolution, not a centralised state with almost all the powers resting with a strong centre. The centre got stronger vis-à-vis the provinces partly for genuine administrative reasons of the time (temporary arrangements were made permanent) and partly vested interests of the elites (in the garb of paranoia and fear mongering).

It is pertinent to mention that, Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman referred to Pakistan Resolution while putting forth his famous six points. Please don’t be in haste to conclude that six points were the sole cause of our dismemberment. There were genuine issues and all the affairs were grossly mishandled by the then military and political elites of West Pakistan. Strong provincial units will strengthen the state, not weaken it as is being touted by the pro-centre class.

Arguments apart, history and contemporary world can be taken as a study where it has been proved that strong states devolve powers, not snatch them from the units. Pashtuns, Balochis, Sindhis and Urdu speaking still feel disempowered in their own lands.

Military operations, economic exploitation, political deprivation, centralised bureaucracy and centralised nature of policy making have led to tendencies which are harmful for the sustainability of any state.

Seventy seven years have passed since the idea of Pakistan was coined, yet meetings are being held at various levels to devise a “national narrative”. Well, states go from crisis to crisis and thus grow, yet brainstorming after seventy seven years for “national narrative” is quite telling.

The enterprise was launched as a social welfare and democratic state, yet down the road things did not work and we ended as a security state. A security state is not designed to pursue and fulfill the objectives of this resolution. If we are to pursue with the security state, then the state should formally disown the Pakistan Resolution of 23rd March, 1940. If we want to celebrate the same in letter and spirit, then turn the page towards democracy.

The draft has underlined Muslim faith and made it the basis of parting ways with other communities. Well, more Muslims have been looted, cheated and killed by Muslims here then the followers of other religions.

The economy, if not capitalistic, is not based on the principles of social welfare. The quality of education is far low to run a sustainable economy let alone becoming leader among the “comity of nations”. The political class has yet to come of age.

The silver lining amidst all these violations of the Pakistan Resolution is the burgeoning youth of Pakistan. They are to come forward and take the reins of statehood. They are to venture on some crucial reforms in order to let the boat sail again. However, even the youth, if not educated and freed, can prove disastrous and a tool for the elites to perpetuate their rule.

Fahad Ikram Qazi

One comment

  • As you write, the British consolidated India administratively. If it had been divided into autonomous or even independent regions which were friendly with each other, like in Europe, then it wouldn’t have been a vivisection. But the Partition that occurred was definitely a vivisection. It led to Hindus fleeing from large areas and Muslims from the eastern part of Punjab.
    Thus, Partition was also a vivisection of the Indian Muslim community; they are in 3 countries with roughly comparable Muslim numbers. I wonder what the Muslim League thought about this in 1940.

    Your last paragraph is very relevant. Unemployed youth from the north and east of India migrate to the south and west. The movement includes Bangladeshis, some of whom are extremists.

    Will these problems be solved in the next few years?Will SAARC become like the European Community?

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