Text of Prof. Karrar Memorial Lecture on 2 November 2002 in Karachi delivered by Prof. Hamza Alavi

On Religion and Secularism in the making of Pakistan

by Prof. Hamza Alavi

Professor Karrar Husain was one of those rare individuals who are
blessed with knowledge and wisdom, which they share freely with
others with extraordinary modesty. I did not get to know him
until the last years of his life because for 45 years I have
lived abroad. But even the short few years, when I did get to
know him, were very valuable. I attended the Monday evening
discussion group meetings at his house which were stimulating and
profitable. There were also questions that I needed to discuss
with him individually. For that I would go round and see him at
his home during the day and he gave freely of his time. Karrar
Saheb was a devout person and someone with vast learning in
matters of religion. But at the same time he was liberal and
secular in his outlook. Remembering that, and in homage to Karrar
sahib, I propose this evening to speak about Religion and
Secularism in Pakistan.

II

Many of you will recall Mr. Jinnah's well known speech that he
gave when he inaugurating Pakistan's new Constituent Assembly. In
that speech he spelt out the secular vision for our new country,
which had inspired him and others through the many decades of
struggle. He said:

'You may belong to any religion or caste or creed. That has
nothing to do with the business of the state. - We are starting
with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and
equal citizens of the state. - We should keep that in front of us
as our ideal and you will find that in the course of time Hindus
will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not
in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each
individual, but in the political sense, as citizens of the
State.'

It was not until 1952 that Jinnah's unworthy successors turned
away from that ideal and began to exploit the worn out rhetoric
of religion to restore their failing political fortunes. They
cried out that 'Islam was in danger' ! Coming from them, that was
an insincere, bogus and empty slogan, when they had nothing
positive to offer to the people. Our tottering leadership
believing mistakenly that the slogan of Islam would be sufficient
to silence any opposition, resorted to that stratagem.

At first they had not yet gone beyond paying lip service to the
name of Islam. In March 1949, the Constituent Assembly adopted
the 'Objectives Resolution' which included a clause which said
that: 'Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives, in the
individual and the collective spheres, in accord with the
teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran
and the Sunna.' That was not intended, as yet, to signal adoption
of Islamic ideology. That was made quite clear in the speech of
Liaquat Ali Khan when he moved the Objectives Resolution. This
was no more than a formal nod in the direction of religious
rhetoric, without actually restricting the constitution in any
way. When moving the Objectives Resolution Liaquat explicitly
ruled out mullah ideology. He said: 'Sir, I just now said that
the people are the real recipients of power. This, naturally,
eliminates any danger of the establishment of a theocracy'. That
was followed, in September 1950 by the Interim Report of the
Basic Principles Committee which too said little about Islamic
ideology. Indeed, Prof. G. W. Choudhury, who was a committed
Islamist, said that it contained 'very little if any provision as
to the Islamic character of the new Constitution. The ulama, he
continued were most unhappy about that. (Speeches and Documents
on the Constitution of Pakistan, p. 30)

However, before the BPC could move on to prepare its final
Report, a major event took place which shook the foundations of
the state of Pakistan to its roots. At the end of January 1952.
the Bengali language movement erupted spontaneously all over East
Bengal, with great force For several days the whole of East
Bengal was in the hands of the Language Movement Committee.
Surprised at the unbelievable success of the movement, the
leadership of the language movement were unprepared to take their
movement any further forward. In a few days it subsided. But it
remained a major potential challenge. Rather foolishly our ruling
elite, instead of going some way to meet Bengali demands, thought
that they could isolate the Bengali nationalists by raising
religious slogans. Slogans of 'Islamic' ideology and 'Islamic'
identity were taken up to counter Be ngali anger. Instead of
looking at the underlying causes of Bengali discontent, they put
forward an argument that we are all 'Muslims and Pakistanis' and
therefore we cannot be Bengalis or Sindhis or Baluch or Pathan.
This was an ethnic redefinition which had little to do with
religious values as such. It was merely a bankrupt political
argument which led only to disaster.

In response to the Bengali movement, therefore, the Final Report
of the BPC, presented on 22 December 1952, now contained a large
dose of 'Islamic' ideology. G. W. Choudhury, jumped with joy and
wrote: 'The second draft constitution (which was his name for the
Final Report of the BPC) was noted for its elaborate provisions
relating to the Islamic character of the proposed constitution.'
(ibid, p. 31) . Liaquat and his cohort, when faced with the
challenge of regional movements as well as a crumbling Party,
shouted even more loudly that 'Islam was in Danger'.

Nearly five years after the Partition, thus, Islamic ideology was
adopted by our mediocre rulers, who had nothing positive to offer
to the people. To make this about-turn more credible, they
decided to give the newfound religious ideology an institutional
form. A Board of Talimat-i-Islamia was set up and some leading
ulama were given jobs in it. The Board was not to have any real
powers. Pakistan's ruling bureaucracy was in no mood to share
power with mullahs. Therefore, the function of the Board was only
advisory and that too on matters specifically referred to it.
'Advice' from the Board was not binding on the Government. When
the Board did make suggestions, they were unceremoniously brushed
aside. But the senior ulama seemed to be happy enough with their
well paid jobs and attendant prestige. Recalcitrant mullahs such
as Maulana Maududi found themselves in jail. Such nominal
concessions to Islamic ideology continued under successive
governments until Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, with his misguided
populist policies, reactivated the mullahs who, ironically,
turned out to be his nemesis. General Zia, in turn, lacking all
legitimacy, decided for his part to exploit Islam to the hilt.
Several decades later, we are still suffering from his legacy
which even successive democratically elected governments have
failed to undo. We are now reaping the inevitable fruit of their
opportunism.

Sweeping aside Jinnah's clear statement about Pakistan ideology,
his successors belatedly redefined it. They now claimed that
'Islamic ideology' was to be 'Pakistan Ideology'. This solution
was projected backwards into the past and our historians took up
the task of justifying that bogus claim. Textbooks were
rewritten. Today we are separated from our past by half a century
of lies. Even people with a secular outlook, have begun to wonder
whether it was not religion, after all, that really brought about
the creation of Pakistan. What other explanation could there be,
they ask. No one has as yet examined the social forces that were
actually responsible for the creation of Pakistan. Thereby our
true past has been snatched from us and buried where it cannot be
found. We have to disinter it. Let us therefore have a brief look
at that past.

II

Modern Indian Muslim politics had its beginnings in the Muslim
minority provinces of Northern India, notably the UP, and in
Bengal. In the Muslim majority areas of Western India, that now
form Pakistan, namely the Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and the NWFP
, Muslims were relatively backward and the urban population was
predominantly non-Muslim. The educated classes that were behind
modern Indian Muslim politics were absent in those areas.

It was in Northern India, that modern Indian Muslim politics were
triggered off by the new Anglo-Vernacular language policy that
was introduced by the British in the 19th century. It abolished
the use of Persian as the official language. Persian was the
language of the Northern Indian Muslim Ashraf, the pre-colonial
ruling elite. Abolition of Persian as the official language hit
them hard. To qualify for Government jobs, they had to take to
English education. Hindu service castes, like Kayasthas, Khatris
and Kashmiri Brahmins in Northern India (or the Baidyas,
Kayasthas and Brahmins in Bengal) took to English education more
rapidly and competed more successfully for jobs that the Muslim
Ashraf had previously monopolised. Muslims began to lose their
primacy.

In looking at the impact of colonial rule on the Muslim Ashraf,
we can divide them into three categories, for they were affected
differently. Firstly, there were the Landlords who were political
allies of the British for which they were much favoured. As a
class they were the most loyal to the Raj. There were some
exceptions though, like the Raja of Mahmoodabad, who was active
in the Muslim League. The Second group of Muslim Ashraf were the
ulama, who were the hardest hit by the new language policy. They
lost out when children who used to go to their madaris, to learn
Persian and Arabic, were now sent to English teaching schools.
The Introduction of new statute law written in English, took away
legal roles which the ulama performed by way of the application
of shari'a law in particular cases or issuing fatawa on
contentious issues or mediating disputes. These functions atr
ophied. In response, the ulama at first engaged in militant
campaigns against the British (and the Sikh) and played a
prominent role in the National Revolt of 1857. They were crushed
brutally. After the revolt the ulama retreated into their
seminaries such as the newly established dar-ul-uloom at Deoband
or the older Firangi Mahal etc. As a class, they did not re-enter
the political arena until they were drawn into the Khilafat
movement in 1918.

The most important Ashraf group, however, behind modern Indian
Muslim politics, were the educated Ashraf who depended mainly on
careers in government employment. I have designated them as the
'salariat', i.e. those who aspire to and depend on careers in
salaried employment in the government. Associated with the
salariat were professionals such as lawyers and doctors. For them
the new language policy meant that they too had to have English
education. Competing with the Muslim salariat and professionals
were Hindus who aspired to similar employment in government or as
professionals. Unfortunately, given the communal (caste!)
structure of Indian society, Muslim and Hindu members of the
salariat and professionals were pitted against each other because
their lives and careers were embedded within rival
institutionalised communities. The mutual competition between the
Muslim and Hindu salariat was of no concern the vast majority of
Muslims or Hindus. Likewise, Muslim Ashraf were preoccupied with
questions about their own future and they ignored poor Muslims
and their problems. For example large numbers of Muslim Julahas
were going through a profound crisis in the 19th century, because
of competition from mill made cloth, both imported and locally
produced in Indian textile mills. The Ashraf were unconcerned
with the problems of the very poor and suffering Julahas. The
salariat and the professionals had their own specific interests
to pursue. Competition between these petit bourgeois Muslim and
Hindu groups, shaped the policies of the All India Muslim League,
and the Indian National Congress, respectively. They used
concepts of Indian Nationalism and Muslim Nationalism, to
legitimise their na rrow class demands.

There is a myth that Muslim Ashraf were underprivileged and
backward. That idea comes from William Hunter's book on Indian
Musalmans, which is based on Eastern Bengal data, where Muslims
were truly underprivileged. But Muslim Ashraf of Northern India
were over-privileged. Muslims were only about 12% of the
population of UP; Muslim Ashraf were a small minority within that
small minority. Nevertheless, in 1857 Muslim Ashraf of UP held no
less than 64% of posts in the subordinate judicial and executive
services ñ above that rank was the domain of the white-man.
However, the highly privileged Muslim Ashraf were rapidly losing
that lead. By 1886 Muslims held only 45% of those posts. With a
Muslim population of only 12%, they were still very privileged.
But these figures show that their lead was being cut down. Sir
Syed Ahmad therefore proposed that there should be a 50-50 quota
each for the two communities. Modern Indian Muslim politics, in
its origin, was therefore quota politics, with which we are only
too familiar today. The Aligarh movement sought to propagate
English education to enable Muslims to compete better for
government jobs and in professional careers. English education
was the key to future prosperity. Given Sir Syed Ahmad's lead
Muslim educational societies began to come up all over India, to
teach English.

A new Anglo-Vernacular culture, which was relatively more
oriented towards science and reason, began to evolve, though
often expressed in Indian idiom. It was the culture of the Muslim
Ashraf salariat and professional groups. It did not extend to the
poor, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. The culture of the Muslim
poor tended to be dominated by the mullahs. Sir Syed Ahmad
pioneered the cause of English education and rational and
scientific thought amongst Indian Muslims. He was concerned only
with the future of Muslim Ashraf ; not with the future of all
Muslims i.e including the poor. This is not widely realised. He
looked upon 'low born' people with contempt. For example,
commenting upon qualifications for Membership of the Viceroy's
Legislative Council, Sir Syed expressed his deeply rooted class
(caste ?) prejudice when he said that 'It is essential for the
Viceroy's Council to have memb ers of high social standing. Would
our aristocracy like that a man of low caste or insignificant
origin, though he may be a BA. or an MA., and have the requisite
ability, be placed in a position of authority above them and have
the power of making laws that affect their lives and property ?'

Political activity on behalf of the Muslim salariat and
professionals did not emerge on the public platform, until 1906,
when a delegation of Muslim notables called on Lord Minto the
Viceroy to lobby for the English educated Muslim Ashraf. The
delegation was triggered off by a speech of Lord Morely, the
Secretary of State for India, who announced that the government
was going to introduce some constitutional reforms. Nawab Mohsin
ul-Mulk, who then headed the Aligarh establishment at once set
about the business of arranging a delegation of some Muslim
notables to see the Viceroy. The delegation called on the
Viceroy, and presented to him a memorial setting out demands of
the educated Muslim Ashraf. Francis Robinson, summing up the
result, writes: Lord Minto 'promised (them) Ö nothing except
sympathy.' Indian Nationalist as well as communist historians
have blown up the s ignificance of that meeting out of all
proportion, claiming, in Maulana Mohammad Ali's words, that this
was a 'command performance' at the behest of the Viceroy. It has
now been established that this charge has no truth in it. Amongst
others the Indian historian Bimal Prasad has recently unravelled
the details of that story to prove that this charge is not at all
true. The initiative for the meeting came entirely from Mohsin-ul
Mulk.

Later in the same year, in December 1906, the Muslim League was
founded when Muslim leaders met at Dhaka at the invitation of
Nawab Salimullah. But the UP Ashraf, led by Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk
of Aligarh, hijacked the new organisation taking all the top
posts and a majority of the Working Committee memberships. The
League took up secular demands of the Western Educated Muslim
professionals and the salariat. Attempts to place the issue of
Islamic ideology on its agenda were rare and invariably
unsuccessful. Religious ideology played no part in it. The
mullahs were hostile to the Muslim League from the outset.

Arguably, the earliest attempt to take up Islamic ideology, was
made by Shibli Nu'mani, who was committed to theocratic values.
He proposed that the Aligarh syllabus should be Islamised. Shibli
wanted to change the syllabus away from English and modern
sciences, towards Islamic learning and the Arabic language. The
response of the Muslim professional and salariat classes to that
attempt is exemplified by the views of Sir Raza Ali, a lawyer who
was a close collaborator of Sir Syed's successors, Mohsin ul-Mulk
and Viqar ul-Mulk, and was at the centre of the Aligarh
establishment. Raza Ali attacked Shibli's proposal in an article
published in the Statesman, of which he offers an extract in his
autobiography

Raza Ali wrote that there is sometimes a conflict between reason
and sentiments. But, he wrote, the conflict between reason and
the sentiments that underlie Shibli's proposal is greater than
such conflict about any other issue. The memory of the
achievements of Cordova and Baghdad is as enticing to Muslims as
her amulet (taawiz) is to a superstitious woman who holds it
close to her heart. The truth is that it is extremely difficult
not to sympathise with such feelings of Muslims. But it is also
true that to deny reality that is open and manifest, would also
be very foolish. The proposal that is now in front of us (i.e
Arabic education, as proposed by Shibli HA.) is, superficially,
extremely appealing. However, we must not turn our faces away
from reality. Ö The question before us is: 'What kind of
education does our community want and need ? In my view the kind
of education that we most need is education that would be mo st
useful in helping us to deal with the affairs of this world Ö
which can help the coming generations to earn their livelihood.'
(Aimal Nama p. 170).

Raza Ali warned that the need of the Indian educated Muslim
middle class was not that of a hypothetical return to original
Islam and the creation of an 'Islamic State', to be ruled over by
mullahs. Their most urgent need was the provision of an education
that would help them in grappling with the affairs of this world;
education that would help their coming generations to earn their
livelihood. He spelt out the secular ideology of Muslim
nationalism, clearly reiterating the interests of the Muslim
salariat and professional classes. Shibli had to leave Aligarh,
for it was not a place where his theocratic ideas could flourish.

As for the Muslim League, as it attracted more and more support,
there was a parallel shift in its class support base. There was
an increased participation of men drawn from more modest strata
of society. Far fewer of them were now from substantial landed
families. According to Francis Robinson, the great majority (of
them) belonged to the class which occasionally had a small
pittance in rents from land but, generally, in order to survive,
had to find employment in service or the professions. That was a
less privileged section of the Muslim Ashraf. Amongst them the
Muslim League found its enduring class base, even though salariat
members from better off families, some landlords (like the Raja
of Mahmudabad) and some businessmen, still continued to play a
part in it.

With these changes in its class base, the centre of gravity of
the Muslim League shifted away from the Aligarh conservatives to
a relatively more radical leadership based on Lucknow (to which
the League office was moved). By 1912 the energetic and radical
Wazir Hasan, took over as General Secretary. A new phase began in
the political style of the League and it's attitude towards the
Congress. There was a growing realisation in the Muslim League
that they would not make any headway against the British colonial
rule without establishing a united front with the Congress. Calls
for Hindu-Muslim Unity were therefore reiterated.

The Muslim League looked for someone who could build bridges
between the League and the Congress. Jinnah was the obvious
choice. Jinnah had a high standing in the Indian National
Congress and was ideally placed to bring the two movements
together. In October 1913 when Wazir Hasan and Maulana Mohammad
Ali were in London to see the Secretary of State for India (who,
in the event, refused to see them!) they took the opportunity to
meet Jinnah. The two persuaded him to join the Muslim League and
work for Congress-League Unity. Jinnah agreed, provided that his
commitments to the Congress would remain.

Jinnah worked hard for Congress-League Unity, which was achieved
by virtue of the Lucknow Pact which was adopted at a Joint
Session of the Congress and the League in 1916. By virtue of the
Pact, the Congress accepted some Muslim demands including their
key demand for separate electorates, a Muslim demand which was
strongly supported by GokhalÈ. The Pact also specified
province-wise weightage for Muslims. That was very controversial
amongst Muslims of the Muslim majority provinces. Muslim minority
provinces like the UP, were given a bigger share of seats than
that provided under the Morley-Minto Reforms. That was at the
cost of Muslim Majority Provinces. Bengal with a Muslim
population of 52% was given a share of only 40% of seats. Punjab
with a Muslim population of nearly 55% was given a share of only
50% of the seats. On the on the other hand, the UP with a Muslim
population of onl y 14% was given a share of no less than 30%.
After all the UP elite were running the show. This turned out to
be the most contentious aspect of the Lucknow Pact. The Congress
for its part had conceded the Muslim demand for separate
electorates because Muslims believed that they could not get
elected under joint electorates even in Muslim majority
constituencies, because of the effects of property
qualifications. Later, however, this turned out to be a sore
point with a new generation of Congress leaders.

Justified criticism of the Lucknow Pact should not make us
underestimate its significance. It had succeeded in bringing the
Congress and the Muslim League together on a single platform, to
fight British Imperialism. It was the Muslim League and Jinnah
who had initiated that bid for unity and the Congress had
responded positively. Jinnah was a unifier and not a
separationist, as generally suggested. He persisted in that
difficult role, despite setbacks, for a quarter of a century
until a point was reached when, despite all his efforts, unity
was no longer an option.

The Lucknow Pact was not only about Muslim demands. It also
covered shared demands of the Congress and the League vis--vis
the colonial government against which they would struggle
together. Thus, for example, the Pact demanded that in the
Legislatures elected members should be in a majority. It demanded
that in the Provinces there should be four-fifths elected members
and only one-fifth nominated, and that the members of councils
should be 'elected directly by the people, on as broad a
franchise as possible and so on. Thus contrary to popular
opinion, the Lucknow Pact was not just about concessions to the
Muslim League. It also spelt out the basis on which the Congress
and the Muslim League could, carry the anti-colonial freedom
struggle forward together, as close allies. The significance of
the Lucknow Pact was greater than is generally supposed.

The politics of the Lucknow Pact were torpedoed by the Khilafat
Movement of 1918-24, in which the mullahs were the main force.
Until then religious ideology was absent from Indian Muslim
politics. The Khilafat movement brought about shifts in the
Muslim League leadership. Secularists like Jinnah and Wazir Hasan
were driven out of the League and second rank leaders like
Maulana Shaukat Ali moved into the first rank. Mahatma Gandhi,
however, was the true leader of the Khilafat Movement ñ in his
own words he had become the dictator of the movement. With him
were fanatical mullahs like Maulana Abdul Bari of Firangi Mahal.
But at every stage they asked Gandhi to tell them what to do.
Under Gandhi's leadership the Khilafat Movement became a
significant force. Gandhi claimed that he had made the Khilafat
Movement a means of establishing Hindu Muslim unity. But unlike
the Lucknow Pact, this was a false claim . The Khilafat Movement
triggered off fierce communal riots in the 1920s. The Lucknow
Pact which had worked for unity between the Muslim League and the
Congress, was lost somewhere along the way.

It is quite true that the Muslim League represented only a small
Muslim elite. The Muslim masses, the workers and peasants, were
largely untouched by it. The mullahs, who were behind the
Khilafat movement, did not voice the demands of the Muslim
peasant and the working class either. They, themselves, were
petty bourgeois radicals who represented the dead past rather
than the future, the direction towards which Muslims along with
the rest of India needed to go. The main consequence of the
Khilafat movement was that it dealt a blow to the Muslim League
from which it could did not recover for more than a decade. It
existed only nominally, as a side-show for the Khilafatists.

After the abolition of the Ottoman Khilafat by the Turkish
Republican Nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal, Khilafat became a
lost cause in India. It did not leave a permanent mark on Indian
Muslim Politics except that it had helped mullahs to organise a
front against the League. Gandhi helped the hardliner Muslim
Mullahs, the so-called 'Deobandis', to set up a political
organisation, namely the Jamiat-i-Ulama-i-Hind. The more
superstitious but also more tolerant Barelvis played no part in
the Khilafat Movement because they did not accept the legitimacy
of the Ottoman Khalifa, on the ground that he was not descended
from the Quraysh. One might add here that in addition to the
Jamiat-i-Ulama-i-Hind, two extremely dogmatic religious political
organisations of mullahs were to emerge, namely the
Majlis-i-Ahrar and the Jamaat-i-Islam i. All three opposed the
Muslim League and its Westernised leadership, and eventually they
also opposed the demand for Pakistan. However these religious
parties were unable to generate enough support to allow them to
stop the Muslim League, especially after it was taken over by the
feudals of Punjab and Sindh and eventually by the feudals of East
Bengal too.

By the time secularists like Jinnah rejoined the League, it was a
changed Muslim League because its centre of gravity had shifted
from Muslim minority provinces like UP, to Muslim majority
provinces. The difference was due to the implementation of the
Montague-Chelmsford reforms under the Government of India Act of
1919. Under that Act, limited power was transferred to Indian
Ministers, at the provincial level, over certain departments of
the Government. That injected a new logic in Indian politics.
>From then on distribution of state patronage by Indian ministers
began to play a part in building up political support.
Muslims of the UP, who were Muslim League's main power-base, were
now out of the game, because they were a minority. In the Punjab
on the other hand, the Muslim League existed in name only despite
the fact that it was a Muslim majority province. In the Punjab,
Muslim feudals, in alliance with Hindu and Sikh feudals and the
jat biraderi of East Punjab (led by Sir Chhotu Ram) ruled the
roost under the banner of the Unionist Party. The Unionist Party
was presided over by Sir Fazli Husain who was not a feudal but
who understood the needs of feudals better than they could
themselves. In addition to their clear class interests as landed
magnates, the Unionist ideology included Punjabiyat. The
Unionists believed that the British would rule over India for
ever. Their aims therefore were narrowly focused on governing the
Punjab. But Later, as prospects of independence appeared on the
agenda, Sikandar Hayat, Fazli Husain's successor, even tried to
get Churchill's support for an independent Punjab within the
Empire. But, in the event, that project was not taken up.

Fazli Husain successfully divided the Punjabi middle class into
two rival groups, urban and rural. The salariat and professionals
of rural origin, who enjoyed feudal patronage, got priority and
preference. Urban Muslims were a deprived minority in the Punjab.
Being bitter about social injustice, many of them responded to
the hot rhetoric of the fundamentalist religious group, the
Majlis-i-Ahrar. The Muslim League was weak and ineffective. The
Punjabi feudals, especially, Sir Fazli Husain, saw the Muslim
League not as a serious rival who could possibly threaten the
Unionist hold over power in the Province. They tolerated it, and
even patronised it to a degree, as an organisation which they
could use when the occasion required it. Sikandar Hayat therefore
even entered into a Pact with Jinnah.

It was not until the mid-Forties, when the approach of
independence began to look like a reality, that the landed
magnates of Punjab realised, firstly, that they would not be
given an Independent Punjab within the Commonwealth, which they
wanted. Secondly they saw a mortal danger to their survival as a
class, if independence came to the Punjab under the Indian
National Congress. The Congress was fully committed to Land
Reform, on which a Committee, presided over Pandit Nehru himself,
had been working for some years. The Congress was fully committed
to Land Reforms. For the survival of their class, the Punjabi
feudals reckoned that Pakistan under the Muslim League was a
workable alternative for them, the more so because they knew that
if they joined the League, they would, in effect, take it over.
They would control it. Mian Mumtaz Daulatana was amongst the
first to see this and he joined the Muslim League in 1943. By
1945 virtu ally all of them had joined it except for a small
misguided rump under Khizr Hayat Khan. They hung on to the dreams
of an independent Punjab in the British Commonwealth which the
British were not going to give them. The situation in Sindh was
similar to that of the Punjab. So by the time that independence
came, the feudal landed magnates of Punjab and Sindh had taken
over the Muslim League. No ideology except their concern for
self-preservation was needed to draw them to the League.

The Pakistan movement was not driven by any religious ideology.
Many pirs in Punjab and Sindh were among the great landed
magnates who opted for Pakistan. At their behest their mureeds
celebrated the idea of Pakistan with gusto. From this a false
impression has been taken by some scholars that it was the idea
of Pakistan which had motivated them, whereas in truth what they
were celebrating was the joy of their pir , when he joined the
League and thereby averted the threat of Congress land reforms.

'Islamic' ideology was indeed invoked in the Punjab. It was
invoked by the hardliner Majlis-i-Ahrar, which bitterly opposed
the Muslim League tooth and nail, denouncing its leaders as
kaffirs. It was the only movement in the Punjab that made its
appeal in the name of Islam and with it opposed the Pakistan
idea. The main base of the Majlis-i-Ahrar was amongst the urban
petty bourgeoisie, the lower middle class, which had been
neglected because of the anti-urban policy of the Unionist Party
with whom the Muslim League had collaborated.

It was only in Bengal that the Muslim League secured a genuine
and massive popular mandate in the 1945 elections. Until the
elections of 1937 the Bengal Muslim League was under the control
of the Dhaka Nawab family and a small coterie around it. They
were then challenged by the Krishak Proja Party, led by Fazlul
Haq, whose political base was amongst the well off peasantry. The
final vote in the 1937 election was evenly divided between them
and they formed a coalition government.

In 1943 the great Bengal famine killed three and a half million
Bengali poor peasants who had no reserves to fall back on when
the famine hit. The peasants were soon on the warpath. Their
movement was known as the Tebhaga movement which was led by the
communist All India Kisan Sabha. It was against that background,
when the Bengal peasant had been aroused, that the 1945 elections
were held. In 1943 a remarkable man named Abul Hashim was elected
as the General Secretary of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League.
He professed a confused mixture of socialism and Islam. Pushing
aside the Dacca Nawab family and other elite leaders who had so
far controlled the Bengal Provincial Muslim League Abul Hashim
organised the Muslim League election campaign in which he
focussed on the concrete needs and economic demands of the small
peasants. He mob ilised the peasantry behind the Muslim League by
giving class slogans and not religious slogans.

Religious ideology played no part in the 1945 election campaign
in Bengal. It turned almost entirely on the economic demands of
the Bengal peasant; the genius of Abul Hashim prevented them from
degenerating into communal slogans. The Bengal peasants (who were
overwhelmingly Muslim) depended very largely on jute as a cash
crop and were thereby enmeshed in the globalised cash economy.
Their immediate conflict was with traders and moneylenders, who
were all Hindu. Abul Hashim took up both these issues but as
economic class issues to be dealt with as economic issues without
allowing them to turn into communal conflict. He promised the
peasants that the future Pakistan government would be their
government and it would scale down their debts and take steps to
prevent the traders from manipulating prices against their
interests. The peasants were also promised abolition of
Zamindari. The Be ngal peasantry was led to believe that Pakistan
was going to be ruled by the peasants. That was the opposite of
the feudal dominated Punjab and Sindh. Due to Abul Hashim's
successful campaign the Bengal Muslim League secured 114 seats in
the Provincial Assembly as against a total of 121 Muslim seats.
Religious ideology played no part in this, not even by way of
rhetoric. But, in the end, the peasants were cheated, as they
always are. Abu Hashim having served his purpose and the powerful
Dacca Nawab group had little difficulty in manoeuvring him out of
the way, in February 1947. The Bengali Muslim feudals and were
back in the saddle -ñ that is a long story and sad story by
itself.

The final result, as we can see, was a Pakistan dominated by
feudals, on he one hand, and by a bureaucracy on the other. In
the Punjab and Sindh, as we have seen, the feudals won and they
have imposed their feudal values on us for decades. In Bengal,
despite the overwhelming popular victory, it was the Bengali
Muslim feudals who were back in power at the time of the
Partition. When it was created, Pakistan's problem was not that
of religious ideology but, rather, that of feudal domination. .
Contrary to the present day claims of the Mullahs, the Muslim
League had consistently maintained a secular stance throughout
its career except for the brief Khilafat interlude. There had
been some attempts to bring Islamic ideology on to the Muslim
League platform. But such attempts were rare and they were
invariably defeated. To give an example, one of the rare attempts
to bring the issue of Islamic ideology on to the agenda of the
All India Muslim League has been documented by Sharifuddin
Pirzada in his collection of Muslim League documents. At the AIML
Session in Delhi in 1943, one Abdul Hameed Kazi canvassed support
for a resolution that he proposed to table, to commit the Muslim
League to Islamic ideology and the creation of an Islamic state.
Immediately there was pressure from everyone that forced Kazi to
abandon his idea. It was such opposition to the ideology of the
religious parties which made them so bitterly o pposed to the All
India Muslim League and its leadership and, eventually, to the
idea of the Pakistan. Whatever may be said about limitations of
the ideology of the Western educated Muslim Professionals and the
salariat classes, (and that of the feudals in the final round)
who mobilised support for the creation of Pakistan, religious
ideology was never a part of it. When Jinnah proclaimed
Pakistan's secular ideology he was voicing the established
ideological position that the Muslim League had adhered to
throughout its career. Fundamentalist Islamic ideology has played
no part in the origins of Pakistan.


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