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Sunday June 23, 2024

Minority perspective

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
March 24, 2017

March 23, 1940, is undoubtedly, a historical day and is considered an important milestone in the Muslim struggle to achieve an independent state. On this occasion, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, while emphasising the Two-Nation Theory, had repudiated the concept of a united India. He had said that the Muslims of the Subcontinent were an entirely different nation and needed a separate state to live their lives according to their traditions.

The Pakistan Resolution stated: “No constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principle, namely 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 [British] India should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’ in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign”.

The historical resolution was passed at a critical time when the All-India Muslim League had lost the elections in 1936 and had failed to establish the government in a single province. This raised a question mark on the claims of the Muslim League that it was the only representative body of the Indian Muslims.

On the other hand, unnecessary undemocratic steps taken by the Congress government made the Muslim minority even more insecure. Muslims feared that once the British left India, they would be exploited even more at the hands of the Congress majority. The Two-Nation Theory was, thus, a political move to prevent Hindu-Muslim clashes and to ensure the protection of the rights of Muslims.

The fact that Prime Minister Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, during Holi celebrations at a hotel in Karachi on March 14, reiterated that Pakistan was created to prevent religious confrontation and that the constitution of Pakistan guarantees equal rights for all communities living in the country, irrespective of their religious beliefs or practices, is a good sign.

The areas that would form part of Pakistan were identified on the occasion of the three-day Delhi Convention on April 7, 1946. The moot was held in honour of Muslim League legislators who had won the newly-concluded elections to central and provincial assemblies. The zones comprising Bengal and Assam in the north-east of India and Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sindh and Balochistan in the north-west of the country – where the Muslims were in majority – were to become a sovereign independent state. Contrary to the March 23 Resolution, the demand for only one Muslim state was presented on this occasion.

If two friendly allied Muslim states were formed – according to the Pakistan Resolution – at the time of Partition in 1947, the ‘Bangladesh tragedy’ could not only have been avoided but the balance of power on a regional level could also have been maintained. A united state separated by a distance of 1,000 miles with an enemy state in between was an anomaly. The cultural, linguistic and other differences also made the separation of the eastern and western parts of Pakistan inevitable.

Pakistan Day has historical links with the adoption of the first ever national constitution on March 23, 1956 but the martial law imposed by Ayub Khan linked all the celebrations of March 23 with the Pakistan Resolution. The Pakistan Resolution urged the importance of internal sovereignty but the Ayub regime harmed provincial autonomy which ultimately led to an increasing sense of inferiority among Bengali citizens. Though the Objectives Resolution, which created a gulf between Muslim and non-Muslim politicians, became an integral part of the constitution, the Pakistan Resolution was unfortunately not included.

On March 14, the PM’s address during Holi celebrations in Karachi, won the hearts and minds of Pakistan’s non-Muslim citizens, especially the Hindu community. Pakistan Day demands that we remain committed to building a peaceful society for all. While Operation Zarb-e-Azab played a pivotal role in defeating terrorism, bolder steps are needed on the ideological front. We must work together to transform Pakistan into a minority-friendly state.

The negative attitude shown by the Indian National Congress towards Muslim minorities in the 1940s must not be repeated with non-Muslim Pakistani minorities. All citizens, regardless of their religion, must be treated equally. This is what Quaid-e-Azam also demonstrated when he appointed non-Muslims in his cabinet. Patriotic non-Muslim Pakistani citizens are right to ask why, unlike Muslim citizens, they are not allowed to send their representatives in parliament through election, instead of selection.

 

The writer is a member of the National
Assembly and patron-in-chief of the
Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani