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Archive for category HISTORY OF PAKISTAN

Pakistan’s Founding Fathers 1940. What were they thinking?



What were they thinking?

Dr.Adil Najam

March 1940: What were the Founding Fathers of Pakistan thinking about the minorities 

Tomorrow we will go through the motions of celebrating Pakistan Day. With song, slogan and sincere banality we will commemorate the single most important founding document of our republic.  
A document that too many of us have never read. A document that too many others believe they know so well that they do not need to read. A document whose eventual impact its drafters could not have imagined. A document whose intent seems lost on those whose lives it transformed.

Today, let us (re-)read that document. 

March 22, is not a bad day to do so. The 27th Annual Session of the All-India Muslim League actually began in Lahore on March 22, 1940, at what was then called Minto Park and has since been renamed Iqbal Park. 

Although we celebrate Pakistan Day on March 23, formal discussion on what was originally called the Qarardad-e-Lahore (Lahore Resolution) began on March 22, it was formally proposed by Sher-e-Bengal (Lion of Bengal) Fazlul Haq on March 23, and was not officially adopted until March 24. Newspapers of the time dubbed it the “Pakistan Resolution” (Qarardad-e-Pakistan), and from then onwards that is what it became.

The resolution itself is not very long: a little more than 400 words, five paragraphs. Ambiguous as it was designed to be, it is remarkably well-crafted.

The first paragraph sets the context by “approving and endorsing” decisions already taken by the Muslim League’s Council and Working Committee. Importantly, it “emphatically reiterates that the scheme of federation embodied in the Government of India Act 1935, is totally unsuited to, and unworkable in the peculiar conditions of this country and is altogether unacceptable to Muslim India.”

The second paragraph is also about context. It very strategically reminds the viceroy that he has already agreed to reconsider the 1935 Act and goes on to very clearly assert that “Muslim India will not be satisfied unless the whole constitutional plan is reconsidered de novo and that no revised plan would be acceptable to Muslims unless it is framed with their approval and consent.” 

It is the third paragraph that lays out the substance of what today’s Pakistan has come to see as the gist of the resolution. It deserves to be quoted in full: 

“Resolved that it is the considered view of this Session of the All-India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to the Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principles, viz., that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.”

Much, of course, has been written about this part. Stanley Wolpert (Jinnah of Pakistan, 1984) points out that “Pakistan was not explicitly mentioned; nor was it clear from the language of the resolution whether a single Muslim state of both “zones” had been envisioned or two separate “autonomous” independent states.” Also ambiguous was the role of the ‘centre’ and whether these states were to be part of a larger federation or not. 

But all of that was to come much later as history overtook events as well as intent. We were still, then, in 1940; 1947 had not yet been imagined; and 2014 was unimaginable.

To me, however, the fourth paragraph is equally insightful about what was on the minds of our founding fathers on that spring day in Lahore as they debated the resolution amidst a crowd of over 100,000. This paragraph – which remains poignant in terms of today’s Pakistan – also deserves to be quoted in full: 

“That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in these units in the regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultations with them and in other parts of India where the Mussalmans are in a majority adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards shall be specifically provided in constitution for them and other minorities for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them.”

The final paragraph – in carefully crafted language – gave authority of the League’s working committee to settle the details of whatever was to happen within the “basic principles” of the resolution. 

It seems to me that there were only two ‘basic principles’ in this founding document (as contained in the third and fourth paragraphs).

First, independence – whether of a single or multiple states; whether within or outside of a federation – of the Muslim nation. Indeed, this principle of ‘nationhood’ – and a total rejection of wanting to be seen as a religious or communal minority – was the centrepiece of Jinnah’s long and powerful presidential address on March 22, 1940; exactly 74 years ago, today. 

Stanley Wolpert has described the speech as “truly a stellar performance, worthy of the lead role he alone could command” and the Times of India reported that “such was the dominance of his personality that, despite the improbability of more than a fraction of his audience understanding English, he held his hearers and played with palpable effects on their emotions.” 

However, it is not his style but the substance of what he said that is of import today: the rejection of a communal minority status and the demand for nationhood: “The Musalmans are not a minority. The Musalmans are a nation by any definition. The problem in India is not of an inter-communal but manifestly international character, and it must be treated as such… the only course open to us all is to allow the major nations separate homelands.”

The second principle – an emphasis on minority rights – may surprise the modern Pakistani reader of the resolution but flowed directly from the first even though it was more difficult to reconcile. Historian Ayesha Jalal explains these “contradictions between Muslim interests in majority and minority provinces” at length in her very elegant analysis (The Sole Spokesman, 1985). Indeed, the resolution did not fully reconcile this contradiction and history went on to play its hand as it did. 

But let us return now to 2014. Reading the text today, one finds an implied promise our founding fathers had made on our behalf: that the rights of minorities would be safeguarded. They were concerned, quite clearly, about the rights of Muslims in what would eventually become India, but in reaction to that concern they had explicitly made a promise in this founding document about the rights of non-Muslims in what is now Pakistan. It is a promise that remains unfulfilled.

So, what was it that our founding fathers were thinking of as they met in Lahore 74 years ago? A desire for independence so that our sense of nationhood could flourish. And an attention of the rights of minorities as only those who have been minorities themselves can appreciate.

Divided, torn, scarred, untrusting, angered and gnawing at each other as we are today, maybe we should be thinking of the very same things again.

The writer has taught international relations and public policy at Boston University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and was the vice chancellor of LUMS.

Twitter: @adilnajam 

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It is High Time for India to Discard the Pernicious Myth of its Medieval Muslim Rulers as ‘Villains’- By Audrey Truschke







Aurangzeb Alamgir














The Great Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir-Muslim History Distortions by Hindus in India

It is High Time for India to Discard the Pernicious Myth of its Medieval Muslim Rulers as ‘Villains’

Audrey Truschke

Whatever happened in the past, religious-based violence is real in modern India, and Muslims are frequent targets. It is thus disingenuous to single out Indian Muslim rulers for condemnation without owning up to the modern valences of that focus.
The idea that medieval Muslim rulers wreaked havoc on Indian culture and society – deliberately and due to religious bigotry – is a ubiquitous notion in 21st century India. Few people seem to realise that the historical basis for such claims is shaky to non-existent. Fewer openly recognise the threat that such a misreading of the past poses for modern India.
Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal Emperor (r. 1658-1707), is perhaps the most despised of India’s medieval Muslim rulers. People cite various alleged “facts” about Aurangzeb’s reign to support their contemporary condemnation, few of which are true. For instance, contrary to widespread belief, Aurangzeb did not destroy thousands of Hindu temples. He did not perpetrate anything approximating a genocide of Hindus. He did not instigate a large-scale conversion program that offered millions of Hindu the choice of Islam or the sword.
In short, Aurangzeb was not the Hindu-hating, Islamist tyrant that many today imagine him to have been. And yet the myth of malevolent Aurangzeb is seemingly irresistible and has captured politicians, everyday people, and even scholars in its net. The damage that this idea has done is significant. It is time to break this mythologized caricature of the past wide open and lay bare the modern biases, politics, and interests that have fuelled such a misguided interpretation of India’s Islamic history.
A recent article on this website cites a series of inflammatory claims about Indo-Muslim kings destroying premodern India’s Hindu culture and population. The article admits that “these figures are drawn from the air” and historians give them no credence. After acknowledging that the relevant “facts” are false, however, the article nonetheless posits that precolonial India was populated by “religious chauvinists,” like Aurangzeb, who perpetrated religiously-motivated violence and thus instigated “historical injustices” to which Hindus can rightly object today. This illogical leap from a confessed lack of reliable information to maligning specific rulers is the antithesis of proper history, which is based on facts and analysis rather than unfounded assumptions about the endemic, unchanging nature of a society.
A core aspect of the historian’s craft is precisely that we cannot assume things about the past. Historians aim to recover the past and to understand historical figures and events on their own terms, as products of their time and place. That does not mean that historians sanitize prior events. Rather we refrain from judging the past by the standards of the present, at least long enough to allow ourselves to glimpse the logic and dynamics of a historical period that may be radically different from our own.
Going back more than a millennium earlier, Hindu rulers were the first to come up with the idea of sacking one another’s temples, before Muslims even entered the Indian subcontinent. But one hears little about these “historical wrongs”
In the case of Indian Muslim history, a core notion that is hard for modern people to wrap our heads around is as follows: It was not all about religion.
Aurangzeb, for instance, acted in ways that are rarely adequately explained by religious bigotry. For example, he ordered the destruction of select Hindu temples (perhaps a few dozen, at most, over his 49-year reign) but not because he despised Hindus. Rather, Aurangzeb generally ordered temples demolished in the aftermath of political rebellions or to forestall future uprisings. Highlighting this causality does not serve to vindicate Aurangzeb or justify his actions but rather to explain why he targeted select temples while leaving most untouched. Moreover, Aurangzeb also issued numerous orders protecting Hindu temples and communities from harassment, and he incorporated more Hindus into his imperial administration than any Mughal ruler before him by a fair margin. These actions collectively make sense if we understand Aurangzeb’s actions within the context of state interests, rather than by ascribing suspiciously modern-sounding religious biases to him.
Regardless of the historical motivations for events such as premodern temple destructions, a certain percentage of modern Indians nonetheless feel wronged by their Islamic past. What is problematic, they ask, about recognising historical injustices enacted by Muslim figures? In this regard, the contemporaneity of debates over Indian history is crucial to understanding why the Indo-Islamic past is singled out.
For many people, condemnations of Aurangzeb and other medieval Indian rulers stem not from a serious assessment of the past but rather from anxieties over India’s present and future, especially vis-à-vis its Muslim minority population. After all, one might ask: If we are recognising injustices in Indian history, why are we not also talking about Hindu rulers? When judged according to modern standards, medieval rulers the world over measure up poorly, and Hindu kings are no exception. Medieval Hindu political leaders destroyed mosques periodically, for instance, including in Aurangzeb’s India. Going back more than a millennium earlier, Hindu rulers were the first to come up with the idea of sacking one another’s temples, before Muslims even entered the Indian subcontinent. But one hears little about these “historical wrongs” for one reason: They were perpetrated by Hindus rather than Muslims.
Religious bigotry may not have been an overarching problem in India’s medieval past, but it is a crucial dynamic in India’s present. Religious-based violence is real in modern India, and Muslims are frequent targets. Non-lethal forms of discrimination and harassment are common. Fear is part of everyday life for many Indian Muslims.  Thus, when scholars compare medieval Islamic rulers like Aurangzeb to South Africa’s twentieth-century apartheid leaders, for example, they not only display a surprising lack of commitment to the historical method but also provide fodder for modern communal fires.
It is high time we discarded the pernicious myth of India’s medieval Muslim villains. This poisonous notion imperils the tolerant foundations of modern India by erroneously positing religious-based conflict and Islamic extremism as constant features of life on the subcontinent. Moreover, it is simply bad history. India has a complicated and messy past, and we do it and ourselves no justice by flattening its nuances to reflect the religious tensions of the present.

Audrey Truschke is a historian at Stanford University and Rutgers University-Newark. Her first book, Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court will be published by Columbia University Press and Penguin India in 2016. She is currently working on a book on Aurangzeb that will published by Juggernaut Books.


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