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VIEW: The demand for Pakistan and Islam —Ishtiaq Ahmed
The Muslim League’s propaganda struck terror in the hearts of the Hindus and Sikhs who were told that they would be paying jazya and Islamic law will prevail in all sectors of individual and collective life. The minority Shia and Ahmediyya communities were also fearful that it would result in Sunni domination
The recent attack on a congregation of Ahmedis during prayers, which claimed more than 90 innocent lives, has revived a discussion as to whether there is a connection between the creation of Pakistan and Islam. Within the Muslim League there was always a constituency in favour of Pakistan becoming an Islamic state. One of its proponents was a close confident of Jinnah: Raja Sahib Mahmudabad, a Shia. In 1939 he wrote to the historian Mohibul Hassan:
“When we speak of democracy in Islam it is not democracy in the government but in the cultural and social aspects of life. Islam is totalitarian — there is no denying about it. It is the Quran that we should turn to. It is the dictatorship of the Quranic laws that we want — and that we will have — but not through non-violence and Gandhian truth” (Mushirul Hasan, 1997: 57-8).
If the March 23, 1940, Lahore Resolution be taken as the start of the Pakistan campaign, then Jinnah had to make a breakthrough in the Muslim-majority provinces of northwestern India — Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh — each of which had regional parties headed by Muslims. The Muslim League had to convince the Muslim voters in these provinces that their leaders were courting Hindus and Sikhs and thus were paving the way for Hindu Raj under the Indian National Congress. That opportunity arrived in July 1945 when the British government announced provincial elections for February 1946. Punjab Governor Sir Bertrand Glancy has recorded in several secret fortnightly reports (FR) the tactics that the Muslim League adopted during the long election campaign. In the FR of December 27, 1945, Glancy noted:
“Among Muslims the Leaguers are increasing their efforts to appeal to the bigotry of the electors. Pirs and maulvis have been enlisted in large numbers to tour the province and denounce all who oppose the League as infidels. Copies of the Holy Quran are carried around as an emblem peculiar to the Muslim League. Feroz [Khan Noon] and others openly preach that every vote given to the League is a vote cast in favour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). These deplorable tactics, as I have frequently said, were only to be expected; they provide a grim augury of the future peace of India and they are certainly not easy for the Unionists to counter” (Lionel Carter, 2006: 160).
In the FR of February 2, 1946, Glancy wrote:
“The ML [Muslim League] orators are becoming increasingly fanatical in their speeches. Maulvis and pirs and students travel all round the province and preach that those who fail to vote for the League candidates will cease to be Muslims; their marriages will no longer be valid and they will be entirely excommunicated…It is not easy to foresee what the results of the elections will be. But there seems little doubt the Muslim League, thanks to the ruthless methods by which they have pursued their campaign of ‘Islam in danger’, will considerably increase the number of their seats and Unionist representatives will correspondingly decline” (Carter, 2006: 171).
Similar tactics were adopted in the campaigns in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh. In his doctoral dissertation, India, Pakistan or Pakhtunistan?, Erland Jansson writes:
“The pir of Manki Sharif…founded an organisation of his own, the Anjuman-us-asfia. The organisation promised to support the Muslim League on the condition that Shariat would be enforced in Pakistan. To this Jinnah agreed. As a result the pir of Manki Sharif declared jihad to achieve Pakistan and ordered the members of his anjuman to support the League in the 1946 elections” (pg 166).
Jinnah wrote in November 1945 a letter to Pir Manki Sharif in which he promised that the Shariat would apply to the affairs of the Muslim majority. He wrote:
“It is needless to emphasise that the Constituent Assembly, which would be predominantly Muslim in its composition, would be able to enact laws for Muslims, not inconsistent with the Shariat laws and the Muslims will no longer be obliged to abide by the un-Islamic laws” (Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates, Volume 5, 1949, pg 46).
The Muslim League’s propaganda struck terror in the hearts of the Hindus and Sikhs who were told that they would be paying jazya and Islamic law will prevail in all sectors of individual and collective life. The minority Shia and Ahmediyya communities were also fearful that it would result in Sunni domination. This is obvious from the correspondence between the Shia leader Syed Ali Zaheer and Jinnah in July 1944 (G Allana, 1977: 375-9). Although the Council of Action of the All-Parties Shia Conference passed a resolution on December 25, 1945, rejecting the idea of Pakistan (SR Bakshi, 1997: 848-9), most Shias shifted their loyalty to the Muslim League in the hope that Pakistan will be a non-sectarian state. Initially the Ahmediyya were also wary and reluctant to support the demand for a separate Muslim state (Munir Report, 1954: 196). It is only when Sir Zafarullah was won over by Jinnah that the Ahmedis started supporting the demand for Pakistan. To all such groups Jinnah gave assurances that Pakistan will not be a sectarian state.
In my forthcoming book on the partition of Punjab, now running into more than 1,000 pages but which is at last completed and for which I am now looking for a publisher, I will shed light on how the fierce Islamist propaganda impacted on the partition of Punjab. The Sikhs had more fears than anyone else about what could happen to minorities in Pakistan. In a meeting in May 1947 sponsored by Lord Mountbatten to help the Muslims and Sikhs reach an agreement on keeping Punjab united, Jinnah offered the Sikhs all the safeguards they wanted if they agreed to support Pakistan. Only in March 1947 some 2,000-10,000 Sikhs — depending on who you cite — were butchered in the Rawalpindi rural areas so the Sikhs were very wary of Jinnah’s overtures. Chief Minister of Patiala Hardit Singh Malik writes he had an inspiration and asked Jinnah: “Sir you are making all the promises but God forbid if something happens to you, what will happen then?” The exact words Jinnah used in reply will be revealed in my forthcoming book, but the reasoning was that his followers will treat his words as sacred.
Ishtiaq Ahmed is a Visiting Research Professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) and the South Asian Studies Programme at the National University of Singapore and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Stockholm University. He is currently working on a book, Is Pakistan a Garrison State? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org