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Pakistan Resolution and Freedom of the Press: East India Company, the Events of 1857 and the British Raj


March 24, 2020

The inception of Pakistan started before the 23rd day of March 1940 when the All India Muslim League in its annual session passed a resolution in Lahore, which came to be known as the ‘Pakistan Resolution’.

The Indian subcontinent had slipped away from the centralised Muslim Mughal rule and had fragmented into different kingdoms and fiefdoms; gradually a trading company in London took control. Combining ruthless commerce with military prowess, the East India Company subjugated large swaths of the Subcontinent and the native population. The 1857 War of Independence (aka the Indian Mutiny), precipitated the decline of the company which was abolished in 1873. The Subcontinent was then taken over by the British government and the British Raj commenced.

British Imperialism and the Indian National Congress

As a result of British imperialism, which perpetuated economic exploitation and deprivation of political rights, nationalism began to ferment in the communities of the educated Hindus and the Muslims towards the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Many of these people were foreign educated. The Indian National Congress (aka Congress Party) was founded by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a Hindu Brahman, and Annie Besant, an English Fabian socialist and theosophist. Tilak introduced and organised two Hindu festivals ‘Ganesha’ (elephant-headed god worshipped by Hindus) and ‘Shivaji’(who fought against Muslim power in India and founded the Maratha state in the 17th century). Allan Octavian Hume, a retired British officer of the Indian Civil Service helped organise the Congress Party and served as its general secretary for its first 22 years. The first session of the Congress Party took place in Bombay and of the 83 delegates who were invited only two were Muslims. Thus, the seeds of alienation amongst the Muslims were planted. At the time, the Muslims lagged behind the Hindus in every field, including the ability to articulate their political demands.

Education and Muslim Awakening

Syed Ahmad Khan, a Muslim visionary, was a philosopher, jurist, author and educator. In 1875, he set up the Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College in Aligarh, which later became the Aligarh Muslim University. He promoted Urdu and his brother set up the first Urdu press. In 1870, he started the Urdu journal TahzeebulAkhlaq, published in simple prose, the journal pointed out that the Muslim political decline was linked with the community’s moral decline and Syed Ahmed Khan aimed to invigorate both culture and good manners, the intermediaries between the religious and the modern. In 1886, he organised the All-India Muhammadan Educational Conference, which met every year, and until the establishment of the Muslim League in 1906, it was the principal centre of emerging Muslim-nationalism in India.

All India Muslim League

Syed Mehdi Ali, better known by the titles, bestowed on him by the Nizam of Hyderabad, of ‘Mohsin-ul-Mulk’ and ‘Munir Nawaz Jung Bahadur’, succeeded Syed Ahmad Khan. He convened a delegation of 36 Muslim leaders headed by Agha Khan III to highlight the interests of the Muslims of India to Viceroy Lord Minto in 1906 and later in December of the same year at Dacca laid the foundation of the All India Muslim League, “to protect and advance the political rights and interests of the Mussaalmans of India”.

World War I and the Khilafat Movement

In August 1914, Britain entered World War I. The Congress Party and its leaders, Tilak and Gandhi, backed the war effort and urged Indians to join the British army. However, the Muslims who had an emotional attachment with the Ottoman Caliph (Khalifa), the titular head of the Muslim world, sided with the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey) therefore the Muslims of the Subcontinent became hostile towards the war effort particularly when the war was taken to Muslim lands, to Mesopotamia (later Iraq), Egypt and Sudan. The suffering of Muslims gave rise to the emergence of a pan-Islamic movement, which supported the Muslim Caliphate, the ‘Khilafat’ Movement, which was organised and led by two brilliant orator brothers, Maulana Shaukat Ali and Maulana Muhammad Ali. The Khilafat Movement however was short lived. It received its first setback in 1920 when Sultan Mehmed VI signed the Treaty of Sevres, the terms of which were imposed by the victorious Allied powers (British Empire, Russian Empire and France) and dismembered the Ottoman Empire and divested Turkey of all its non-Turkish territories and then in 1922 when the Grand National Assembly of Turkey under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Attaturk abolished the sultanate; Mehmed VI fled to Malta on a British warship sixteen days later, bringing an end to the Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate.

Muhammad Iqbal

Internationally, the Muslims were beset with setbacks however things were looking up in the Subcontinent. Muhammad Iqbal was born in 1877 in Sialkot. Earning a degree in philosophy from the University of Cambridge, he qualified as a barrister and then did a doctorate from the University of Munich; his thesis was ‘The Development of Metaphysics in Persia’. His Urdu and Persian poems captured the public imagination. He expressed Muslim anguish, powerlessness and humiliation in poems such as ‘Shikwah’, ‘Jawab-e-Shikwah’ and ‘Khizr-e-Rah’. His long Persian poems ‘Asrar-e-Khudi’ and then ‘Rumuz-e-Bikhudi’ ignited the imagination and instilled a sense of Muslim community and for Muslims to serve greater causes. ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ (published in 1934) was based on his lectures delivered in Madras (now Chennai) and Aligarh in 1928-29. Iqbal gave the presidential address at the annual session of the All India Muslim League at Allahabad in 1930.

The Round Table Conference

From the years 1930 to 1932, a series of meetings were called by the British government in London - The Round Table Conference - to consider the future constitution of India and the result of the discussions culminated in the Government of India Act, 1935, establishing a federal system and provincial autonomy.

My father, Qazi Muhammad Isa, enrolled to become a barrister and my maternal uncle, Syed Shahid Hamid, a cadet at the Royal Military College Sandhurst, had the distinction of dining at the same table in London with Jinnah and Iqbal.

My father became the first barrister from Balochistan and my uncle rose to the rank of Maj General in the Pakistan Army at a time when the total number of generals in the army (both East and West Pakistan) were only twelve. During the premiership of Liaquat Ali Khan while serving as Brigadier, my uncle was called upon to set up the directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) which he did with little resources at his command.

Jinnah’s Disillusionment

In 1895, at the age of 19, Jinnah was called to the bar and returned to Karachi. His wife and mother died while he was away studying in London. Jinnah’s family business was not doing well and he had to depend on his profession. He started his practice in Bombay (Mumbai) and within ten years became one of the profession’s leading lights. He was elected to the Imperial Legislative Council in 1910. While articulating Muslim demands, he strived for Hindu-Muslim political unity and through his efforts Congress and Muslim League held their annual sessions together; Bombay in 1915 and Lucknow in 1916. However, when Mohandas Gandhi entered politics and adopted Hindu-centric politics, Jinnah became disenchanted. Then when Congress denied legitimate and minimal Muslim demands Jinnah became disillusioned and he quit politics. He moved to London and remained there for five years (1930 to 1935) practicing law before the Privy Council.

Jinnah Assumes the Leadership of Muslim League

The Muslims of India were left without a reasonable and articulate voice to formulate their demands and lead them. Iqbal and other Muslim leaders were concerned with the revivalist Hindu nationalism and persuaded Jinnah to return home to head the Muslim League. In the elections of 1937, the Congress Party got absolute majority in six provinces but refused to include the representatives of the Muslim League in any of the provincial governments. Disenchantment amongst the Muslims started to set in. Jinnah decided to look for new leaders to help him make the Muslim League a potent force in the provinces.

Qazi Jalaluddin, Pishin and Quetta

My paternal grandfather, Qazi Muhammad Jalaluddin, was a descendant of the Shah Maqsood Baba, a revered religious man, his mausoleum is in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Qazi Jalaluddin served as the Prime Minister of Kalat State.

His compilation of land-holdings and land-records - ‘Qazi Jalaluddin ka Bandubast’ was highly acclaimed. He was an Arabic and Persian scholar and calligraphist. An unusual hobby of his was painting on glass in reverse so the front of the glass remained smooth to the touch and the painted surface protected inside the frame. Specimens of his calligraphy are a sight to marvel and still hang in the house he built in Pishin. Jinnah and his sister, Miss Fatima Jinnah, stayed at the house in Pishin. The only other house that the Quaid stayed in Balochistan, before Pakistan attained independence and he became Governor General, was our Quetta house No.2, Lytton (now Zarghoon) Road, both sides of this road were lined by magnificent chinar trees, saplings of which my grandfather brought with him on camelback from Kandahar and planted; one could walk the length of the road in shade avoiding the sun in the high altitude of Quetta (5,500 feet above sea level).

My grandmother was widowed when my father was only six years old but knew of the importance of education; she sent all her children abroad for higher education.

Muslim League in Balochistan

Returning from London with a bar-at-law degree, my father was persuaded by Jinnah to join the Muslim League and establish it in Balochistan. My father was captivated by Jinnah’s personality and was galvanized by his ideals of Muslim brotherhood and empowerment and accepted the challenge. Anjuman-e-Watan, was the face of the Congress in the province, and a well-established party. The sardars of the province were not keen on the League, which wanted to emancipate the people and free them from the sardari-yolk by giving them their rights. Collecting a dedicated team of workers and leading them, my father established the Muslim League in the province, the recognition of which came when in July 1940 Liaquat Ali Khan, the General Secretary of the League, presided over the Annual Session of the Balochistan Muslim League.

The Balochistan Muslim League rose to become the most prominent political force in the province. Jinnah who was not an easy man to impress, much less to complement, wrote: “I was pleased to hear of the great success of the Balochistan Muslim League Conference. The result you are witnessing is no less due to your magnificent efforts, which you have made in Balochistan. A new life has been put in our people in this remote part of India. By the efforts of yourself and your co-workers.” (Jinnah’s letter dated 31st July 1942 to my father)

Central Working Committee of the All India Muslim League

In recognition of my father’s efforts, Jinnah appointed him on the Central Working Committee of the All India Muslim League; he was only 24 years old at the time of this singular honour, the youngest member of the Committee and the only one from Balochistan. The prestigious Working Committee included ex-officio members, it’s President (M A Jinnah) and General Secretary (Liaquat Ali Khan), and nineteen others, which included Begum Muhammad Ali (the widow of Maulana Muhammad Ali), Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Muhammad Amir Ahmed (Raja of Mahmudabad) a dear friend of my father, Abul Kasem Fazlul Huq (aka Sher-i-Bangal), Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman, Khawaja Nazimuddin (the second Governor-General and later the second Prime Minister of Pakistan), (Nawab) Muhammad Ismail Khan (who stayed back in India after independence and became the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University), Iftikhar Hussain (Nawab of Mamdot), (Sardar) Aurangzeb Khan, Saadullah Khan, I I Chundrigar and M A H Ispahani.

The Lahore-Pakistan Resolution

The Minar-e-Pakistan marks the place in Lahore, where on 23rd March 1940 the All India Muslim League held its three-day annual general session. Jinnah explained how the League and the Muslims whom it represented had come to the painful conclusion that the Hindus and the Muslims could not live together peacefully and proposed two separate homelands. He called upon A K Fazlul Haq to move a resolution and then the representatives of the provinces were called to speak. Qazi Muhammad Isa represented Balochistan, endorsed the resolution and spoke in its support, the youngest person to do so on that auspicious day 80 years ago. The Congress leaders attacked the Lahore Resolution and dubbed it ‘Pakistan Resolution’ and in an ironic twist the name stuck.

Stifling Free Expression and a Chloroformed Press

Jinnah had lamented about the prevailing state of affairs: “…gagging the legitimate constitutional expression of the public opinion and criticism of the government by banning meetings and processions … and other executive methods by which the police and the administration are used not only to gag the free expression of opinion and criticism, which are the elementary rights of the citizens, but … have destroyed all semblance of civil liberties and have, by various methods, chloroformed the press” (Jinnah Papers, published by the National Archives of Pakistan, 1993).

Women and Pakistan Movement

The Quaid and the Muslim League proactively ensured women’s participation and sought their empowerment, continuing the tradition set by Bi Amma (mother of the Ali brothers) in the Khilafat Movement. Begum Muhammad Ali was an important member of the Working Committee. Miss Fatima Jinnah was an educated lady who accompanied Quaid everywhere he went, including when he visited Balochistan. Begum Jahanara Shjahnawaz participated in the Round Table Conference in London. Begums Fatima, Shamsunissa Mahmood and Shaista Ikramiullah were members of the All India Muslim League Council and actively participated in the freedom movement. The Quaid set up the Women’s National Guard in which there were many young women, including my mother Saida Hamid.

Breakup of Pakistan

The concerns expressed by the founder of Pakistan 80 years ago were the ones perpetuated by unconstitutional Martial Law regimes, which stifled the views of those in the Eastern Province of Pakistan and precipitated events that led to the breakup of Pakistan. Experience shows that repressing voices, issues, concerns, problems, disagreements and alternative narratives and gagging the media do not redress or solve problems; what it does is prevent the steam of grievances from dissipating; anger and resentment is then a consequence.

The Constitution of 1973

In the post 1971 debacle, the Constitution emerged with unanimous consensus and guaranteed the freedom of speech, expression and the press (Article 19). The right to information (Article 19A), which was added as a Fundamental Right, bolstered the freedom of speech, expression and the press. These freedoms every citizen has to guard and those who trample on them violate the Constitution and are inimical to the country’s integrity.

To impose censorship or stifle truth is also contrary to shariah, which the Constitution incorporates through Article 227. It is a minimal religious duty to speak against falsehood and to always speak the truth to power. Jinnah exhorted as much: “You are struggling and fighting on an issue which is just and right … whatever sufferings or sacrifice you may have to go through will not go in vain” (Jinnah Papers).

From Jinnah to Quaid-i-Azam

The people who followed Jinnah lovingly called him ‘great leader’ (Quaid-i-Azam). To best honour and respect his legacy is to abide by his teachings. Addressing civil servants, the Quaid said: “You have to do your duty as servants; you are not concerned with this political party or that political party; that is not your business. You are civil servants.” “You are not rulers. You do not belong to the ruling class; you belong to the servants. Make the people feel that you are their servants and friends, maintain the highest standard of honour, integrity, justice and fair play” (Chittagong, 25th March 1948). These golden words are in complete concordance with shariah.

Sanctity of Oath

The Quaid also had advice for military officers. On his visit to the Staff College Quetta, on 14th June 1948, he said, “During my talks with one or two very high-ranking officers, I discovered that they did not know the implications of the oath taken by the troops of Pakistan” and he went on to refresh their memory and read the oath out to them and told them: “I should like you to study the Constitution which is in force in Pakistan at present and understand its true constitutional and legal implications” (Jinnah, Speeches and Statements 1947-1948, OUP, 2000). The oath (Article 244 and the Third Schedule) requires every member of the armed forces to “uphold the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan” and “not engage myself in any political activities whatsoever”. The oath that military dictators violate when they overthrow civilian governments, install themselves as heads of government, silence dissent and play politics.

Speaking Truth to Power

Jinnah never hesitated to speak the truth. As an elected member of the Imperial Legislative Council, he minced no words telling a foreign occupying power, “…are you going to keep millions and millions of people trodden under your feet for fear that they may demand more rights; are you going to keep them in ignorance and darkness for ever and for all ages to come because they may stand up against you and say that we have certain rights and you must give them to us? Is that the feeling of humanity? Is that the spirit of humanity?... it is the elementary right of every man to say, if he is wronged, that he is wronged and that he should be righted” (April 1912, Imperial Legislative Council of India).

A Beautiful Idea

Pakistan was built from sacrifice. The founders and pioneers invested their personal wealth, and the intellectuals lent their time. These visionaries did not worry if they failed and in failure they risked everything. Against great adversity, they printed, published and disseminated their views. In turn, they were able to help people believe in Pakistan, even when it was only a nascent idea, a fantastical dream. Jinnah and his team of Muslim Leaguers, dedicatedly persevered, articulated, controverted, propagated, published and convinced; they transformed an abstract idea into a tangible country, the largest Muslim country in the world. They had no army at their command, did not fire a single bullet, did not threaten, did not intimidate, did not bribe, did not stifle expression, and did not direct the press. Unity, faith and discipline proved more powerful than everything else. The 23rd day of March is a celebration of all that is best in us.