To all our readers and well-wishers I would like to apologise on behalf of the magazine for the delay in publishing issue 10. We are a small team and work long hours to produce what we hope is a perfect issue. Over the last couple of months we have faced a number of the challenges and uncertainties that are part- and-parcel of producing a totally independent publication.
As part of putting together our current issue dedicated to independence I spent time researching some of the history behind the birth of Pakistan. The seeds of discord between Hindus and Muslims can in fact be traced back to the British partition of Bengal and the subsequent making of the 1909 reforms, an act that brought that province to the brink of open rebellion. The partition of Bengal was the British response to the primarily Bengal-based nationalist movement that was seen as a major challenge to colonial rule. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 was no doubt in the minds of the British, a major, but ultimately unsuccessful, uprising in India where Hindus and Muslims fought side by side.
In 1905 Gilbert John Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, the 4th Earl of Minto, became Viceroy of India. His tenure was marked by unprecedented anti-colonial protests against the partition of Bengal that divided the community along religious lines and led to the development of Muslim political separatism in the following years. The partition of Bengal had been initiated by his predecessor, Lord Curzon of Kedleston and marked a period of dramatic and momentous change in the history of colonial India. In 1906, as a consequence of the partition plan, the All-India Muslim League was founded in Bengal and formed by men of influence from north India with the support of the British.
The Morley-Minto reforms were passed in 1909 and established, among other things, the constitutional principle of separate electorates for India’s Muslim communities. The partition of Bengal greatly divided Hindus from Muslims and started nationalist campaigns with increasing intensity in other parts of India. The unrest eventually led to the reunification of Bengal in 1911 but remains an important period when examining the case for independence.
After passing the Government of India Act 1935, the British conceded a significant measure of self-governance to the provinces of India while retaining full control of the centre. Provincial elections were held in the winter of 1936-37 as mandated by the Government of India Act 1935. The Indian Congress party secured a comfortable victory and formed ministries in six out of eleven provinces. The All-India Muslim League fared badly, securing less than 5 per cent of the total Muslim votes cast, and was unable to hold power in any of the Muslim-majority provinces. In his book, “The Making of Pakistan, a study in Nationalism”, the historian K.K. Aziz argues, “Had more drastic safeguards against communal tension been devised and incorporated in the 1935 constitution, Muslims might have shown less fear of democracy and greater willingness to enter a federal union”.
It was later at its Lahore session in 1940 that the Muslim League put forward the view that Muslims and Hindus made up two distinct nations of India (the “two-nation theory”) giving Muslims an entitlement to political parity. By now Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, had realised the importance of a separate home for Muslims and called on Muslims to accept his leadership to compel both the British and the Congress to concede the idea of Pakistan. K.K. Aziz further argues in his above book that Congress “… was convinced that if it stood firm the pressure of events and the logic of history would force the Muslims to come into a united, unitary India. Another reason was that it never appreciated the strength of Muslim nationalism and dismissed it with such irrelevancies as that the Muslims were converts from Hinduism, or that religious nationalism was a relic of primitive barbarism, or that the Muslims themselves did not realise what they were asking for and so on. These arguments might have been enough to salve the Congress conscience, but they gave no clue to the political conundrum”.
The Indian elections of 1945, coupled with the provincial one in 1946, saw the Muslim League achieve a spectacular result by reversing its poor showing of a decade earlier to win the bulk of Muslim seats at both central and provincial levels. It had become clear that a united independent India would now be highly improbable.
Taking all factors into consideration, there is no surprise that both India and Pakistan were born with profound mutual distrust and enmity for one another.
Jinnah, in achieving his dream, was opposed by many including the Congress, the British and Muslim leaders. Jinnah, for his part, on achieving the homeland of Pakistan said, “We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination. No distinction between one community and another. No discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle; that we are all citizens, equal citizens of one state”. In a radio broadcast in February 1948, Jinnah declared that Pakistan was not going to be “a theocratic state — to be ruled by priests with a divine mission”.
So what was Jinnah’s Pakistan? Of course Jinnah envisaged a democratic country that would foster human rights, women’s rights, minority rights and the rule of law. During the short period he was Governor-General of Pakistan he established the importance of showing extra consideration to minorities. As Pakistanis we must reconnect to this vision that has sadly been forgotten by his successors.
I end with another quotation from our beloved grand-father, Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, “Now if we want to make this great state of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people and especially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed.”