The Struggle for Pakistan
The story of the struggle for Pakistan is unique among other independence movements in the sense that it relied more on mass public support through democratic mobilization, peaceful negotiations and consensus building rather than armed opposition and use
Earlier, Muslims had played a lead role in the 1857 War of Independence and therefore suffered suppression under the British colonial rule. They also did not reconcile with the supremacy of the British and thus remained at a disadvantage as compared to the majority Hindu community that had better adjusted to the changed environment and dominated commerce and services under the British. By the late nineteenth century, the condition of Muslims in the subcontinent had sunk so low in the political, economic and social spheres of life that they were unable to compete with the Hindu majority. An important first response to change this predicament was the reformist movement of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan who founded the Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh to encourage Muslims to receive modern education.
The other towering figure who emerged on the political scene around the turn of the century was Muhammad Iqbal, a poet and philosopher, who wished to make progress an integral principle of life of Muslims. He was of the view that the spiritual force of Islam bound the Muslims of South Asia together into one nation.
Politically, the Muslim concerns about their rights led to the founding of the All India Muslim League in 1906. The immediate cause that precipitated this development was the Muslim reaction to Hindu agitation over the partition of Bengal into a Muslim majority province of East Bengal and Hindu majority province of West Bengal that was later annulled by the British disregarding interests of Bengali Muslims.
The formation of the League proved to be one of the most vital steps towards mobilization of the Muslims of the subcontinent, as the party primarily focused on safeguarding Muslim interests such as separate electorates and assured representation for minorities in the central and provincial legislatures. The League also played a broader role such as in reflecting the sentiments of the Muslims over the Balkan war (1912) which was regarded by the Muslims of the subcontinent as an attempt by the European powers to drive Turkey out of Europe.
By 1909 following the Minto-Morley reforms, even though the possibility of the British leaving the subcontinent still seemed remote, the demand for constitutional selfgovernment had gained ground. In 1913, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a prominent political leader and barrister, (who later became known as the “Quaid-e-Azam” or “the great leader”) was persuaded to join the Muslim League. One of the significant achievements of Jinnah, after joining the League, was to secure an agreement between the Muslim League and the Congress on a scheme of constitutional reforms leading to self government, known as the Lukhnow Pact (1916). It earned him the title of “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity” and demonstrated his willingness to work with Hindu leaders in the vital interest of securing an end to alien subjugation.
An All Parties Conference met in 1928 to draft a constitution for India. The drafting sub-committee headed by Motilal Nehru, published the Nehru Report after the Conference which came as a shock to the Muslims since it provided no safeguards to protect the rights of the Muslims as a community. The Report’s constitutional provisions virtually relegated them to remain permanently under the government of an unalterable Hindu majority.
Jinnah put forward his counter proposals to the Nehru Report, in an attempt to give a workable shape to the constitutional scheme for the independence of the subcontinent. His proposals known as the historic “Fourteen Points” mainly envisaged: a federal constitution, a uniform measure of provincial autonomy, an adequate representation of minorities in all elected bodies, including the legislatures; a system of separate electorates, not less than one-third representation of Muslims in Parliament in accordance with the Muslim population, a guarantee of religious freedom to all communities, an assured share for Muslims in the services and safeguards for the protection and promotion of Muslim culture. However, the Congress rejected Jinnah’s “Fourteen Points”. His disappointment was acute and it was shared by Muslims throughout the subcontinent.
Muslim suspicions of the Congress further deepened in 1937 when elections to the provincial legislatures were held and led to the formation of Congress ministries in 7 out of the 11 provinces. The Congress rule was seen as discriminatory and insensitive to Muslims and their distinctive culture. The Congress flag flew on public buildings; Bande Matram, a song from an anti-Muslim novel, was made the national anthem; Hindi replaced Urdu; Muslim representation in the public services was reduced. The Congress rule produced a deep sense of insecurity and resentment among Muslims.
Finally, on 23 March 1940, at the Muslim League session in Lahore, the historic “Pakistan Resolution” was adopted which gave a clear direction towards independence and a homeland for Muslims, spurring political awareness and action among the Muslims of Bengal, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and the North West Frontier. They rallied around Jinnah, whom they reverently called the Quaid-e-Azam (the Great Leader).
Congress reaction to the Muslim demand for a homeland was strongly negative. When negotiations between the League and the Congress failed to arrive at an agreed modus operandi, the British government decided to hold general elections in January 1946. The League emerged vindicated as the representative of the Muslim voice by winning all the Muslim seats in the Central Assembly.
In June 1947, the British announced the ‘Partition Plan’ based largely on the principle of majority Muslim areas constituting Pakistan. On 11 August 1947, the Quaid-eAzam inaugurated the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. On 14 August 1947, the last British Viceroy Mountbatten arrived in Karachi and formally proclaimed the transfer of sovereignty to the new state. On the same day, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was sworn in as the first Governor General of Pakistan.
Young Pakistan faced daunting challenges of nation building with no resources and absence of industry and infrastructure compounded by massive influx of refugees and the early confrontation with India on Kashmir, which should have been a part of Pakistan in accordance with the partition plan and the manifest wishes of the Kashmiri people. The Kashmiris still await implementation of UN resolutions for a plebiscite to determine their future. Despite these tribulations, hard work and dedication helped the new country to steady itself.
Today, Pakistan is a strong, stable, democratic and economically vibrant Asian and Muslim country, vigorously pursuing the aspirations of its people and the vision of its founding fathers for building a prosperous modern society committed to promoting peace and progress in the world.
Quaid-e-Azam taking the oath as the first Governor General of Pakistan from Justice Sir Abdul Rashid on August 15, 1947
Father of Nation Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain