Studying the history of one’s homeland is required to ensure that a nation of well-informed individuals, aware of its past and conscious of what the future may hold for it may emerge. For a nation to embark on the journey of enlightenment, it must analyse history in the light of contradicting set of evidences and should formulate judgments accordingly.
At school and college level, we were taught a standard chronology of events that led to Pakistan’s creation. We were taught that Pakistan was the product of a continuous struggle between the Muslims and Hindus of the British ruled sub-continent, and that the state of Pakistan was formulated in the name of Islam. We were taught that Muslims required a state where they could exercise their distinctive religious, cultural and social ideologies, as Muslims and Hindus were poles apart and could not co-exist.
Recently, in my university, I was able to uncover an entirely different perspective on the creation of Pakistan, popularly known as the modernist perspective, which clears many ambiguities inherent in understanding of the history of Pakistan. It challenges the much popular Two Nation Theory by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and afterwards propagated by Jinnah at a later stage of creation of Pakistan, the propagation of which is seen as a ‘conjuror’s trick’ by some. According to Alvi (2002), “Fundamentalist Islamic Ideology played no part in the origin of Pakistan, although contemporary ideologues of Islamic fundamentals, including academics, claim that it was Islamic ideology and slogans that created Pakistan.”
A slightly misunderstood notion that is held about the All India Muslim League is that getting a separate homeland for Muslims was the major challenge facing the League; however, the real challenge for the League was to mobilise the Muslims of the subcontinent and bring them all to a common platform. In the subcontinent, the Muslim population was scattered in three different areas, and those were the Muslim majority areas of (a) Punjab (b) Bengal and the Muslim minority areas of (c) UP/Bihar. The Muslims of these areas had completely dissimilar interests. The Muslims of Punjab sought feudal supremacy which the Congress was unable to offer to them since Pandit Nehru was a champion of land reforms. In Bengal, the Muslim peasant population was exploited by their feudal lords. Abdul Hashim, the general secretary of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League, promised the Muslims of Bengal a state where the economic needs and demands of the small peasants would be fulfilled. Thus, Muslim League won over the people of Punjab on the basis of a feudal ideology while a peasantry ideology was at work in Bengal. On the other hand, UP/Bihar had Muslim minority and comprised ‘educated ashraf who depended mainly on careers in government employment’. They were looking for a state where they could acquire socio-economic rights and adequate representation in political arena. Thus, religious ideology was neither part of the agenda of the Muslim majority areas of Punjab and Bengal nor of Muslim minority areas of UP/Bihar.
In 1940, the Muslim League started thinking on the lines of achieving a sovereign state due to a result of the betrayal by the Congress manifested by the Nehru Report and Muslim exclusion in Congress ministries of 1937. Before 1940, Muslims sought freedom from the British colonial rule. After 1940, Muslims sought freedom from not only the British but the Hindus, too. Once all the Muslims of India were on board with the All India Muslim League, the party incorporated the dissemination of Muslim nationalism in its agenda.
After the creation of Pakistan, Jinnah spoke of Pakistan nationalism rather than Muslim nationalism. While addressing the Pakistan Constituent Assembly in August 1947, Jinnah elucidated that the new state believed in the equality of its citizens and had no business with citizens’ religions or beliefs. Jinnah was basically presenting a secular state ideology where the rights of minorities were meant to be safeguarded at the highest possible level. However, with the later developments in the history of Pakistan, we see that religious ideology was cemented especially while formulating the Objectives Resolution 1949, The Constitution of 1973 etc.
The creation and making of Pakistan was a process that involved reverting back and forth from the notions of Pakistan nationalism and Muslim nationalism. 64 years have passed since Pakistan was created and we are still a nation of perplexed individuals confused about our national identities. The only way forward that I see is to amalgamate the two identities in the right proportion if we wish to make a mark in this world