Reviving the spirit of March 1940

March 23, 2023

It is imperative that before we embark to talk about the spirit of the resolution, we revisit the contents of the resolution. The Lahore Statement declares “no constitutional plan would be workable or acceptable to the Muslims unless geographical contiguous units are marked into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as maybe necessary.” This resolution was the first pronouncement for a separate state for the Muslims in India and the resolution therefore further stated that “the Muslim majority areas in the northwest and northeast should be constituted into independent and sovereign Muslim states to solve the constitutional problems of India forever.” Today, when we commemorate the Lahore Resolution passed on 23rd March 1940, it is good to revisit and seek revival of the same spirit that created Pakistan. How can we today re-infuse and re-ignite that spirit? Let me elaborate, after a recap, on what minimum steps the nation must take for this purpose.

The leadership of Muslims, under the banner of the Muslim League, gathered in Lahore in March of 1940 to determine the course and direction for the future generations of Muslims in the subcontinent. With his amazing foresight, a keen sense of history, and a very clear understanding of human behaviour, Mr Jinnah was convinced that the Hindu majority would dominate the Muslim minority in an independent India. Even as early as the 1930’s and 1940’s, Quaid found enough evidence of the simmering sense of avenging the over 1000 years of Muslim rule in India, by the militant Hindu mindset. The current leadership under the ‘Butcher of Gujarat’ who has unleashed untold miseries upon the minorities living in India, with the Muslim minorities taking the worse brunt of the fire of revenge, was foreseen by Jinnah.

Kashmir is not the only example of this vengeance, all throughout in India, Muslims are being maimed and killed without provocation - the atrocities they face are no different from the brute Israeli forces who unleash terror upon the hapless Palestinians. In fact, the genocide of Muslims today is more akin to Hitler’s Germany, who wanted to perform genocide on all Jews in an act of large-scale ethnic cleansing of the human race. This vision of ethnic cleansing, unfortunately, did not subside after the end of World War II. Instead, it realised itself fully in action during the 1990’s, against the unarmed innocent Muslims of the Balkans. This is not a one-off case; Muslims have been at the receiving end of such vitriol for centuries. As such, the Muslim League’s demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent was quite justified. The fascist government of Modi and his actions today justify the two-nation theory and silence its critics. It was valid then and it is even more valid now!

Jinnah unrelentingly pursued his dream of an independent and sovereign Muslim nation within the context of the subcontinent. To lure him into giving up the demand for Pakistan, Gandhi and Nehru offered him the position of Prime Minister to a united, independent India. But Jinnah’s wisdom gave him direction; he knew that if he were to give up his demand for a separate Muslim homeland within the subcontinent and accept Prime Ministership, it would only be a matter of time before the diabolical Hindu-led Congress undid his position. Simply, Jinnah never fell for such cheap offers; he stout-heartedly pursued the cause of Pakistan.

Jinnah realised his vision of forming the state of Pakistan but unfortunately, he passed away soon after in September 1948, leaving his ‘mission’ incomplete. He had stood for instituting a country that would be in conformity with the ideals of Islam - effectively recognising the rights of other religions, and minorities - and a system of governance based on democratic ideals. Regrettably, the ‘mission’ fell into the hands of those who eventually blatantly violated the ideals of the Quaid. Democracy was put in cold storage for decades.

In his historic speech to the first ever Constituent Assembly, the Quaid spelt out and laid before the nation exactly how he perceived Pakistan to develop as a new nation state in the comity of nations. Among the many things he visualised, let me touch upon only the few critical ones; the observations were not made by him as an off the cuff remark, but they represented a very deep-seated thought base that had, at its centrality, the well-being of the Muslims of the subcontinent.

He spoke, “Dealing with our first function in this Assembly, I cannot make any well-considered pronouncement at this moment, but I shall say a few things as they occur to me. The first and the foremost thing that I would like to emphasise is this: remember that you are now a Sovereign Legislative body and you have got all the powers. It therefore places on you the gravest responsibility as to how you should take your decisions. The first observation that I would like to make is this: You will no doubt agree with me that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property, and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State.

The second thing that occurs to me is this: One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering -- I do not say that other countries are free from it, but our condition is much worse -- is bribery and corruption. That really is a poison. We must put that down with an iron hand, and I hope that you will take adequate measures as soon as it is possible for this Assembly to do so.

Black-marketing is another curse which you have to tackle. A citizen who does black-marketing commits, I think, a greater crime than the biggest and most grievous of crimes.

The Quaid then reminds us about nepotism and jobbery. He remarks, “along with many other things, good and bad, has arrived this great evil -- the evil of nepotism and jobbery. I want to make it quite clear that I shall never tolerate any kind of jobbery, nepotism, or any influence directly or indirectly brought to bear upon me. Whenever I will find that such a practice is in vogue or is continuing anywhere, low or high, I shall certainly not countenance it.”

The Quaid then mentions the need for teamwork, stating clearly, “I cannot emphasise it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit, and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community -- because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalees, Madrasis and so on -- will vanish.”

He finishes his speech to the first constituent assembly of Pakistan by making the following personal pledge:

“I shall always be guided by the principles of justice and fair play without any, as is put in the political language, prejudice or ill-will; in other words, partiality, or favouritism. My guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality, and I am sure that with your support and co-operation, I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest Nations of the world.” The charter for how he planned to build the nascent state into a formidable country was so clearly spelt out. So where did we lose our way?

Following the tragic assassination of Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, the musical chairs in making and breaking governments started - which regrettably continues to this day, except that the interregnum of music lasts a tad bit longer. The revolving door upon political machinery has cost us dearly. Constitutions were drawn up after lengthy legal debates and then were thrown out as “dirty rubbish”. We had the 1956 constitution, the 1962 constitution, the legal framework order of Yahya Khan, and finally the 1973 constitution for the truncated and remaining Pakistan, after the ignominious defeat in the 1971 war and the surrender of Dhaka. The shredded pieces of the earlier constitutions lie in the bin of history. The 1973 constitution has been amended to an extent that it is now expunged of the sting the State must have as enshrined principles and ideals.

It requires no special understanding to realise that for any nation to progress the presence of an educated population is a predominant requisite. Education, hence far in the last 75 years of Pakistan’s existence, has received the least attention from the government. It is imperative that education be brought to the forefront in our exercise of resource allocation if we wish to see positive change. The state of affairs here is so pathetic that a candidate when asked repeatedly by the interviewer questions from the subject of English Literature, awkwardly asks, the interviewer, “Sir, does my CV say that I have been a student of English Literature?” The candidate had a Masters in the subject - such an abject decline in educational standards must be addressed. We need to prepare now to celebrate our 100th independence anniversary in 2047.

The current economic morass is the collective output of the incompetence of successive governments. We are sitting at foreign exchange reserves of under $4 billion, while India basks in the glory of foreign exchange reserves of $600 billion plus. The Quaid had mentioned in his speech while inaugurating the State Bank of Pakistan, in July 1948, “I need hardly dilate on the important role that the State Bank will have to play in regulating the economic life of our country. The monetary policy of the Bank will have a direct bearing on our trade and commerce, both inside Pakistan as well as with the outside world and it is only to be desired that your policy should encourage maximum production and a free flow of trade (the Quaid said this in 1948 and today we are still tackling the same issue). The monetary policy pursued during the war years contributed in no small measure to our present day economic problems. The abnormal rise in the cost of living has hit the poorer sections of society, including those with fixed incomes, very hard indeed and is responsible to a great extent for the prevailing unrest in the country. The policy of the Pakistan Government is to stabilise prices at a level that would be fair to the producer as well as the consumers.

The first step shall have to be taken by individuals and not pushed onto a collective “they need to do this”. Individual citizens and compatriots will have to re-tool their thinking. Pakistan was created upon the burning fire of individual interests. Families were uprooted and separated. All this was done to achieve the collective goal of a Muslim homeland.

Pakistan seriously needs structural reforms. If the original edifice of a society is based on ideals of high moral ground, which in our case it is, then it needs not be razed, instead, it should be reconstructed with the structures built upon it refurnished. The country desperately needs to have its structural flaws expunged.

Are we prepared today to offer personal sacrifice for the sake of our beloved country? The answer is a vehement ‘yes’, but there is also a lurking a muted ‘no’. We are possibly today at the lowest rung of the economic Gehenna, to climb back out of it and re-enter the gardens of Eden the imperative need is to not only have selfless and honest leadership, but also have an equally committed and selfless set of followers. The current crop of political leadership is a fully depleted asset. The nation has to dig deeper into its unexplored reservoirs of humans and mine for fresh, new and honest leaders. Corruption needs to be eliminated entirely and be viewed as a malaise instead of as a success or victory. Falsehood has to be dealt with punitive action and not projected as “truth” by the ever willing “breaking news” media pundits.

To recover the Pakistan envisioned in Lahore in 1940 we collectively need to reignite the spirit of personal sacrifice. We must do so with unflinching faith that our quest is to create a country better than what we have inherited from earlier generations for the sake of our children and future generations.

The writer is a senior banker and freelance columnist.