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Muslim League leaders with the Quaid-i-Azam after arriving at the venue of Pakistan Resolution Session in Lahore. -File Photo
Muslim League leaders with Quaid-i-Azam after arriving at the venue of Pakistan Resolution Session in Lahore. -File Photo

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.

Though the Lahore Resolution talked of a Muslim homeland, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah did not wholly give up the idea of some political accommodation within the framework of a loose federal model.

The Muslim League acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan (March -April 1946) clearly showed that its leaders were willing to work within a loose federal model that grouped the Muslim majority provinces into two political groups and non-Muslim majority provinces were put together as the third group.

These three groups were joined together under a weak federal order.

The provinces in each group could review their relationship with each other and the federal government after ten years.

The Muslim League withdrew its acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan when it learnt that the Congress was only interested in getting into the constituent assembly without giving any specific commitment that the future constitution would be based on the provisions of the Cabinet Mission Plan.

The Lahore Resolution did not use the name “Pakistan” in the text and it did not link up the demand with Islam.

The Resolution presented the Muslim demand in the context of British Indian politics rather than giving a constitutional framework for a proposed Muslim homeland.

The Muslim League used Islam and made Islam-based appeals for political mobilization for the 1946 provincial elections.

A large number of people and rural-based Islamic clergy, pirs and sajjadanasheens in the Punjab, Sindh and NWFP (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) joined the Muslim League after 1940, especially during 1945-47.

Some of the rural clergy helped the Muslim League in its election campaign. Most of them believed and advocated that Pakistan would have an Islam based political system.

There is a territorial basis of the Lahore Resolution and its demand for a Muslim homeland.

This demand became credible because of territorial contiguity of Muslim majority provinces in Northwest and Eastern zone where Bengal and some of its adjoining areas made it possible to put forward this demand.

Had the Muslim majority provinces been scattered the homeland demand would not have worked.

The Muslim League leadership was invoking the imperatives of modern state that included people, territory, government and sovereignty.

The Lahore Resolution has been a basis of three debates in the pre- and post- independence periods.

The first debate relates to the non-use of the name Pakistan in the demand.

The Hindu press and leaders were quick to describe the resolution as the demand for the creation of Pakistan; some people began to call it the Pakistan Resolution soon after the Lahore session of the Muslim League.

The second debate focuses on the use of certain terms in the Resolution.

These include “independent states” and that the constituent units will be “autonomous and sovereign.”

Was the Lahore Resolution talking of one or more than one state for the Muslims of British India?

These ambiguities can be addressed if a literalist approach is not adopted to understand the Lahore Resolution.

Rather, it has to be viewed in the political context of British India in and around 1940 and the Muslim political experience over time.

In a federal system sovereignty is the prerogative of the federal government and its constituent units cannot be both “autonomous and sovereign” at the same time.

In the case of Pakistan, the British government transferred power and authority to the state of Pakistan through its federal government established in Karachi.

Pakistani provinces got power from the federal state and the first Interim Constitution.

Pakistan’s federal system was not created by the provinces deciding to set up a federation.

Pakistan’s federation was built into the Indian Independence Act, passed in July 1947 by the British Parliament and the First Interim Constitution.

This envisaged a strong centre and weak provinces.

This legacy has haunted Pakistan’s political system from the early years.

The Pakistan movement developed gradually.

It did not stop with the passage of the Lahore Resolution.

Next seven years were important to understand the making of Pakistan.

The Muslim League demands became more specific and assertive in the post-1940 period.

By 1942, the Muslim League focus shifted to a singular phrase of state.

In September 1944 Jinnah was very categorical in asserting that he was taking of one state of Pakistan.

This issue was finally clarified by the convention of Pakistani parliamentarians held in Delhi in April 1946.

The evolutionary process of the movement for the creation of Pakistan began before March 1940 and ended with the attainment of independence in Pakistan in 1947.

The third political debate relates to the post-independence period.

Some regional-nationalist leaders in Sindh and Balochistan invoke the Lahore Resolution for seeking maximum autonomy for provinces.

They demand that Pakistan’s federal model should be based on the Lahore Resolution. Some leaders have talked of turning Pakistan into a confederation.

This is a literalist interpretation of the Lahore Resolution which can be described as flawed.

The Lahore Resolution did not offer a framework for organizing the Pakistani state, especially the distribution of powers between the federal government and provinces.

It addressed the constitutional issues in an all-India framework and offered a framework to settle the Hindu-Muslim question on a permanent basis.

The demand for greater autonomy can be raised by political parties and leaders in Pakistan with reference to the Muslim League’s political disposition on federalism in the pre-independence period.

It favoured greater autonomy to the provinces but it turned in favour of a strong and assertive centre in the post-independence period.

The 18th constitutional amendment marks the beginning of the era of greater administrative and financial autonomy for provinces.

Provinces have more control over their finances and natural resources.

If democracy continues to function and the federal and provincial governments improve their performance the confidence of people in the state system will improve.

This will weaken the role of regionalist-nationalist leaders and they will find it more difficult to invoke the Lahore Resolution for seeking more provincial autonomy.

The writer is Professor Emeritus, Political Science, Punjab University, Lahore, and a recipient of the Presidential Award Sitara-i-Imtiaz.

Comments (23) Closed

Aadil Awan Mar 23, 2013 12:56pm
The Lahore Resolution should be seen as a bargaining counter which had the merit of being acceptable to the majority-province Muslims and of being totally unacceptable to the Congress and in the last resort to the British also. Instead of working out a common ground, this resolution laid the foundations of mistrust and halted any progress towards co-existence..
Islmail Mar 23, 2013 01:20pm
too bad our voters are illiterate and dont read the real history.
caz Mar 23, 2013 01:54pm
The city of Lahore was founded by the Hindus and was called Loh which later came to be called Lahore. Pakistan is founded on the evil ideology of communalism and has no basis to exist. It is a colonial curse and belongs in the dustbin of history
Raymond Durrani Mar 23, 2013 08:20pm
What about treatment of members of the Christian nation and Hindu minority now in Pakistan. Does it look fair to you anybody member of the Muslim nation of Pakistan.
Ram Krishan Sharma Mar 23, 2013 11:35pm
We Indians thank God that Partition did happen and that we are living in a relative peace in India for the past 65 years or so after British rule for 200 years and Taliban rule which lasted for more than 800 years.
Iyaz khan Mar 24, 2013 02:04am
Even though we lost a major portion of land to Pakistan, I am proud we have split up. India is at its maximum stability in peace, unity and in economy in her entire history, may be even more stable than in the Gupta period.
john Mar 24, 2013 03:37am
I don't think a "loose federal model" would have worked well for post British India The cultural differences would have come to the fore much vigorously and we would had some 20 countries now, the exact scenario the British took advantage off to set up their rule.
Nauman Khan Mar 24, 2013 05:05am
Lahore resolution was one of the intiatives step that gave the idea of making seperate homeland in the practical form.The dreams that were seen by Mister Jinnah are completely fall in the well.Our politicians are always busy to gain their purposes.They have not enough time to look toward their poor people so youth beware now the moments are coming when you can do something amazing for your homeland by giving vote to a right person. Selction is your, I can't show favour for any politician.
Muhammad Sabir Mar 24, 2013 08:26am
The father of the nation was not struggling for more than one states rather a sovereign and independent state of the Muslims of India.
umesh bhagwat Mar 24, 2013 10:54am
it was a great tragedy!
savyasachi Mar 24, 2013 12:49pm
Jinnah was the most astute personality of his time and to be more precise , among Muslims. It was Jinnah vs Gandhi/Congress. What he wanted he made it by all means. He chose extremism in the time constraints as the basis for quick results of a new country ,which Pakistan is still paying and will pay for the years to come.Lahore was the cultural nose of India but now ..........??????? Your attempt to teach will be hit back by bullets. Which God they are being mad about , at least I don't see that God being so generous to them for the same cause. May be peace,prosperity & wisdom on them.
observer Mar 24, 2013 01:26pm
The Lahore Resolution of the Muslim League simply stated that any future dispensation based on the principle of 'one man one vote' which implied that any non-Muslim was equal to a Muslim was not acceptable to Muslims. The Constitution of Pakistan is also based on the same principle.
wonderer Mar 24, 2013 02:04pm
A surprising fact about this resolution is that the word 'Pakistan' does not appear anywhere in it. its main purpose was to support the demand for special rights for Muslims in a united India.
Sam Mar 24, 2013 02:59pm
If Lahore resolution was followed honestly, there would have been three states created when Britsh left India (Pakistan, India and East Bengal). That would have been the best solution of partitioning India. That would have eliminated the need for the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, a bitter war, killing of 300,000 Bengali speaking people, raping 3,000,000 (Children, girls and women in front of their relatives for nine months). Now the same history is about to repeat in Balochistan.
tabassum Mar 24, 2013 05:00pm
well wonder why the hindustaanis keep on reading this pakistani paper and its articles, as if any one gives two hoots about their comments. All the thanks in the world to Allah for giving us this piece of land is not enough. The situation is no doubt not ideal but inshaAllah will improve, WE will improve it
pankajdehlavi Mar 24, 2013 06:09pm
Asking special rights for any person or religious group is against basic ethos of democracy and secularism. If this resolution was passed by Jinnah and his team, then people for sure should stop believing that he wanted to make a modern nation. It looks like some 6th or 7th century theocratic document talking about islam only. No mention of vision about proposed state, human rights economic structure etc.
Salman Vamiq Mar 24, 2013 09:31pm
being an Indian Muslim, I consider the 23rd march as the black day in the history of Indian muslims and the Two Nation Theory as the biggest blunder of south asia.It did not only divided India but the Muslims too,those who migrated and those who remained here.The very basic idea of two nation theory was failed on the day India was divided. You said that relatively smaller,weaker,poor and uneducated muslim community would become a slave in the Hindu dominated India and you left one third of the muslims here, the most uneducated, weakest poorest among muslims.You said it would be very difficult for a minority to survive in a democarcy, and you made us a more smaller minority and gave hindus a reason to hate us.It was an utopic and a totally visionless idea.It was my arguement when i was seeing the scenario through your glasses that there existed two nations. No doubt this is the reason, today the pakistan is paying for.Every different caste and every different ethinicity and tribe is a nation there. Alhamdulillah we always progressed and you always declined.Today the Indian Vice President,Foreign Minister,chief justice of India and the head of Intelligence bureau are Muslims.However we have some bitter memories from our hindu brothers but not more then you have among yourselves.We fight sometime but not more then you fight among yourselves. May allah forgive pakistan and bless them with peace.
Kdspirited Mar 25, 2013 12:19am
There are people who will forever be bitter about muslims of India getting their independence from the British and not falling under the rule of the Hindus. Who after being ruled by the muslims for centuries wanted their revenge. A revenge that they didnt get the opportunity to extort.Hence they are bitter about it.
Umesh Mar 25, 2013 02:17am
Muslim League wanted to have equal representation/power for Muslims as would be available to Hindus without thinking that there are more than two religions in India and Hindus were a majority. If such a demand would have been accepted by Congress, it would have been a disaster for India because the Muslim minority would have held entire India hostage to its demands and pushed India to the dark ages. From the peace, stability and progress of India since 1947, we can see that partition was a great thing for India. Thanks to the then Congress Leadership for standing firm and not yielding to unacceptable demands of Muslim League.
Shahryar Shirazi Mar 25, 2013 02:20am
Jinnah was in favor of the cabinet mission. It was Nehru who messed it up. Google what cabinet missions purpose was .. You need to peek into the history with an unbiased lens. Shahryar
Shah Abdul Hannan Mar 25, 2013 03:10am
Lahore resolution was only a step in the direction of separate statehood for Muslims.The will of the Muslims, represented by Muslim League, continued to change and refine till end in the light of the then changing reality. Too much emphasis on Lahore Resolution and ignoring Delhi resolution of 46 or other developments up to 47 is inappropriate. Shah Abdul Hannan, Political scientist, Dhaka
wonderer Mar 25, 2013 08:03am
March 23, the Pakistan day, is also the day in 1931 when Bhagat Singh was hanged in Lahore. The Pakistani nation and people also owe a debt of gratitude to him.
wonderer Mar 25, 2013 09:39am
Is it not surprising that Pakistan should still be trying to find justification for its existence even after 65 years of its birth? Forget about everything, and get on with the task of making Pakistan a respectable country and a valuable and trusted member of the comity of nations. It is time for action. What is the point of having a failed nation whose birth was legitimate?