It favoured greater autonomy to the provinces but it turned in favour of a strong and assertive centre in the post-independence period.
The resolution for the establishment of a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India passed in the annual session of the All India Muslim League held in Lahore on 22-24 March 1940 is a landmark document of Pakistan’s history.
The passing of the resolution marked the transformation of the Muslim minority in British India into a nation with its distinguishing socio-cultural and political features, a sense of history and shared aspirations for the future within a territory.
The Lahore Resolution, popularly described as the Pakistan Resolution, employs modern political discourse for putting forward its demand rather than using a religious idiom for creating a religious-Islamic state for protection of Islam from the onslaught of other religions of India.
It made worldly demand keeping in view the peculiar problems of the Muslims of British India, the political experience of the Muslim community and the prevailing debate about the ways to protect Muslim identity, rights and interests against the backdrop of the modern state system established by the British in India.
The Resolution addressed the Muslim question in the political and constitutional context of British India and pointed out to the course of action the Muslim League intended to adopt to secure the Muslim identity, rights and interests.
It emphasized the principles that were relevant to modern state system and the political context of British India. It made five specific demands:
1. The Resolution rejected the federal system of government as envisaged in the Government of India Act, 1935 because it was “totally unsuited to and unworkable in the peculiar conditions of this country and is altogether unacceptable to Muslim India.”
2. The Muslims would not accept any revised constitutional plan unless it was framed with “their consent and approval.”
3. The adjacent territorial units should be demarcated into regions that may involve some territorial adjustments in a manner “that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in north-western and eastern zones of India “become “independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.”
4. The resolution offered “adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards for religious minorities” in the Muslim majority units for the “protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them.” Similar rights will be given to the Muslims in “other parts of India.” 5. The Muslim League Working Committee was asked to formulate a constitutional scheme on the basis of the principles outlined in the Resolution.
The Resolution thus offered a new course of action for the Muslims of British India as compared to the Muslim League position adopted on constitutional and political issues in the past.
The change was that of strategy but not of the goal.
The Muslim League goal since its inception in December 1906 was to protect and advance Muslim socio-cultural identity, rights and interests in British India’s socio-political and constitutional context.
Initially the Muslim League demanded separate electorate for the Muslims so that they could elect their representatives.
Later, it sought adequate Muslim representation in the cabinets and state services/jobs.
It also demanded constitutional safeguards and guarantees for the Muslims.
It supported federalism with autonomy for provinces, hoping that the Muslims would be able to exercise power effectively in the Muslim majority provinces which would not only boost the Muslim community but also provide greater opportunity for advancement of Muslim rights and interests.
The change of strategy was caused by the political experience of the Muslim elite in their interaction with other communities, especially the Congress Party, and the policies of the British government.
These strategies also manifested the growing desire of the Muslims to assert their separate socio-political identity.
The Muslim League began to think about discarding the federal model in 1938, when the Sindh Provincial Muslim League proposed that the All India Muslim League needed to review its position on constitutional issues in view of the experience of the Muslims under the Congress governments in some provinces (1937-39).
What weakened Muslim League’s confidence in the federal model for the whole of India was the bitter experience of the Muslim educated classes and urban population under the Congress ministries in the provinces.
The cultural and educational policies of these ministries alienated the Muslims.
The Muslim elite in these and non-Congress provinces came to the conclusion that the Congress governments in the provinces were imposing Hindu ethos in the name of Indian identity.
Further the Muslim leaders complained about the discriminatory policy for recruitment of Muslims to government jobs and they maintained that the Muslims suffered in the economic domain in the Congress-ruled provinces.
The experience of the Congress rule in the provinces was the triggering factor that led the Muslim League leaders to explore a political alternative to a single Indian federation.