The bureaucracy was also dominated by these two communities, whereas the army had an overwhelming Punjabi majority.
Either the multi-cultural connotations of Jinnah’s speech were not entirely understood by his immediate colleagues or simply side-lined by them.
There is very good reason to believe that these connotations somewhat threatened the League’s leadership because the Bengalis of East Pakistan were the majority ethnic group in the new country and the democratic recognition of multi-culturalism and ethnic diversity of Pakistan would automatically have translated into the Bengalis becoming the main ruling group.
After Jinnah had promptly watered down the Islamic aspects of the Pakistan Movement, the League’s leadership that followed his unfortunate death in 1948, decided to reintroduce these aspects to negate the multi-cultural and multi-ethic tenor of Jinnah’s speech.
But things, in this respect, get even more complicated when one is reminded of how it was actually Jinnah who triggered the first serious expression of ethnic turmoil in Pakistan.
In March 1948, Jinnah delivered two speeches in Dhaka (the largest city of the Bengali-dominated East Pakistan).
The speeches were delivered in English and were made at the height of a raging debate within the ruling Muslim League on the question of the country’s national language.
Bengali leadership in the League had purposed the Bengali language on the basis that Bengalis were the largest ethnic group in Pakistan.
However, the party’s Mohajir members led by one of Jinnah’s closest colleagues, Liaquat Ali Khan (who was also Pakistan’s first Prime Minister), disagreed by claiming that Pakistan was made on the demands of a hundred million Muslims (of the sub-continent) and that the language of these Muslims was Urdu.
Of course, it was conveniently forgotten that the majority of these millions of Urdu-speaking Muslims had been left behind in India and that at the time of Pakistan’s inception, Urdu was spoken by less than 10 per cent of the country’s population.
Faced with this dilemma and aggressively pushed by the arguments of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan to declare Urdu as the national language, Jinnah arrived in Dhaka and in his two speeches there insisted that, indeed, Urdu was to become the country’s national lingua franca.
As the Bengalis went on strike and held widespread demonstrations protesting the contradiction in the government’s decision, Jinnah ordered that the Bengali writing system (close to Vedic and classic Sanskrit) be replaced with Arabic script and even with the Roman script.
It was as if the government was suggesting that Bengali could not be adopted as the national language because its writing system looked too much like that of Hindi.
Jinnah’s desperate attempt to replace the Bengali writing system was vehemently challenged by Bengali intellectuals and politicians and he had to beat a hasty retreat on the issue.
But Urdu did become the national language.
The Bengalis’ resentment found immediate sympathisers within other non-Punjabi and non-Mohajir ethnic communities.
Sindhi, Pushtun (and eventually Baloch) intelligentsia were alarmed by the way the state and government had treated the Bengalis’ demands, and foresaw the same happening to their own languages and ethnic cultures.
But instead of anticipating future fissures in the country on ethnic lines, the League (after Jinnah’s death), became even more myopic and wallowed in its self-serving naivety about using Islam as a slogan that was supposed to dissolve ethnic nationalism among the Muslim majority of the country.
The slogan might have worked to haphazardly pull together the Muslim minority of various ethnicities and cultural leanings of India during the Pakistan Movement; but there was no guarantee that it would be able to do the same in a country where this minority had become an overwhelming majority.
Ideally a system and constitution advocating direct democracy should have been worked out to facilitate and streamline the political and cultural participation of all ethnicities in the nation-building process.
But this wasn’t done. Political and cultural expressions of ethnicity were immediately treated as being threats to the unity of the nation and the answer to this threat, ironically, came from elements, most of who were once staunchly against the creation of Pakistan.
Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, though steeped in the progressive Modernist Muslim tradition of Sir Syed’s ‘Aligarh School of Thought,’ was, however, willing to continue to use Islam selectively to maintain the cherished unity of the Muslim majority of Pakistan.
Being a Mohajir, he wasn’t the ‘son of the soil.’ Meaning, unlike most Sindhis, Pushtuns, Punjabi, Baloch and Bengalis, he was born outside of what eventually became Pakistan and didn’t have a large constituency based on language and ethnicity in the country.
So it is understandable why the notion of Islam being a unifying factor was important to him.
But the question was what kind of Islam?