Founding Fathers Journey to Pakistani Nationalism

Midway in the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood, for the straight path was lost. Ah, how hard it is to tell what that wood was: wild rugged, harsh; the very thought of it renews fear! It is so bitter that death is hardly more so–Dante

Like Dante, today we feel adrift after losing the path charted by the founding fathers Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Hakim-ul-Ummat Allama Iqbal. Many years ago on August 14, 1947 we arose as a nation under the leadership of our great leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who had traversed a long journey from Indian nationalism to Pakistani nationalism. The Quaid like the Allama started off as an Indian nationalist, but both eventually advocated Pakistani nationalism, which is a harmonious amalgam of love for our land and for the universal values of Islam.

Tracing their political evolution from Indian nationalism to Pakistani nationalism should help us to properly appraise our national identity and find our way back to the ideal for which our nation struggled hard and long.

In his introduction to the collection of letters that Iqbal wrote to him, the Quaid wrote: “Iqbal’s views were substantially in consonance with my own and had finally led me to the same conclusions as a result of careful examination and study of the constitutional problems facing India. 

The Quaid and the Allama abhorred theocracy, or rule by priests, and condemned obscurantism; drew inspiration from the past, but revolted against living in the past; and stood steadfastly for freedom, equality, social justice and tolerance. Both were born as sons of India, but destined to be the founding fathers of Pakistan.

In the beginning of the last century, Jinnah appeared on the political scene as a great Indian patriot. In December 1904, he attended the twentieth session of the Indian National Congress held in Bombay.  Next year, he opposed the partition of Bengal characterizing the separate electorate for the Muslims under the Morley-Minto reforms as “the obnoxious virus introduced into the body politic of India with evil design.” While attending the Congress session in Calcutta in 1906, as personal secretary to its President Dadabhai Naoroji, he said “he was proud to be a congressman.”

In 1913, he joined the Muslim League but made it clear that loyalty to the Muslim interest would in no way and at no time imply even the shadow of disloyalty to the larger national cause to which he was dedicated. Within the League, he tried to weaken the hold of the pro-British elements. In 1916, under the Lucknow Pact, which he authored, the Congress and the Muslim League joined together to fight for self-government.

When the government arrested and interned Annie Besant in June 1917, the Quaid immediately joined Home Rule League and became the president of its Bombay branch. During the First World War, he opposed unconditional support to the British war efforts and wanted first of all political reforms in India.

He strongly criticized Britain’s intensified recruitment drive in India, while Gandhi, temporarily setting aside non-violence and still believing in the usefulness of British connection to India, worked actively for Britan’s war efforts. Gandhi even attended the Viceroy’s war conference held in Delhi in April 1918, and supported the resolution on recruitment.

When the Rowlatt Bill was enacted in 1918 curtailing civil liberties, the Quaid resigned in protest from the Imperial Legislative Council. The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in April 1919 made him indignant.  He denounced the government and held several public meetings condemning this British “butchery.” On the other hand, for six months Gandhi refrained from making any public declaration on the event.

When Gandhi announced the commencement of the non-cooperation movement in August 1920, uniting the issues of the Punjab wrongs and the Khalafat movement, the Quaid warned him against extending support to the Khalafat. He characterized it as a “pseudo-religious movement likely to lead to a reactionary revivalism.” He saw in the non-cooperation movement “the danger of mental despotism.”

Thus The Quaid parted for ever with the Congress.

In the election for the Central Legislation Assembly held in 1923, the Quaid was elected from Bombay as an independent candidate. By then, some Congressmen who were against the boycott of legislatures had formed the Swaraj Party. The Quaid cooperated with them.

The Quaid was the first to oppose the Simon Commission, announced by the Viceroy on November 8, 1927. He agitated in a mass movement against the Commission. Gandhi did not make any direct appeal for boycott. The patriotic outburst on the part of the Muslim League led by the Quaid worried both the British as well as their loyalists within the League, who left the League and formed a separate party.

Like the Quaid, the Allama also traversed a long path towards Muslim nationalism through the “soz-o-saz-e-Rumi and paich-o-tab-e-Razi.” He started with Wahdat-ul-Wajud and fervent Indian nationalism, then moved to Pan-Islamism, condemned nationalism and rejected Wahdat-ul-Wajud. But during 1926 to 1938 he came to his most creative period when he delivered the Allahabad address, exalted the martyr Mansur-al-Hallag in Javed Nama, compiled his magnum opus Six Lectures on the Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam and went back to Wahdat-ul-Wajud as propounded by Rumi.

At the Allahbad address Iqbal clarified that the demand for the creation of Pakistan originated in the universally accepted postulates of nationhood. He declared: “It is clear that in view of India’s infinite variety of climates, languages, creed and social systems, the creation of autonomous sates based on the unity of language, race, history, religion and identity of economic interest is the only possible way to secure a stable constitutional structure in India.” 

Iqbal’s vision of the basis of our nationhood has nothing to do with the theocratic interpretation that is being put on it these days by religious zealots. In 1937, Iqbal wrote to the Quaid reiterating that “it is obvious that the only way to a peaceful India is a redistribution of the country on the lines of racial, religious and linguistic affinities.” 

In his famed Lectures Iqbal gives a clarion call to Muslims to discover and uphold their identity: “For the present every Muslim national must sink into her own deeper self, temporarily focus her vision on herself alone, until all are strong and powerful to form a living family of republics.” 

Iqbal urges Muslims to use ijtihad (creative thinking), to solve social problems in the light of the imperatives and demands of the present rather than look back nostalgically to the past: “Life is a process of progressive creation and necessitates that each generation, guided but unhampered by its predecessors should be permitted to solve its own problems.” According to him: “a false reverence for past history and its artificial resurrection, constitutes no remedy for a people’s decay. The verdict of history is that worn-out ideas have never risen to power among a people who have worn them out.” 

Iqbal interpreted tauhid as equality, solidarity and freedom, while the purpose of the state is to transform these ideals into a definite human organization. In a letter to the Quaid May 28, 1937 Iqbal wrote: “How is it possible to solve the problem of Muslim poverty? For Islam the acceptance of social democracy in some suitable form and consistent with the legal principles of Islam is not a revolution but a return to the original purity of Islam.” 

The Quaid concurred. When he delivered the inaugural address in the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947 he laid the foundation of Pakistani nationalism on this firm footing. He declared: “You may belong to any religion, 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 one state. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in 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 every individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state. 

The Quaid also clearly elaborated the rational for the Muslims’ struggle for Pakistan at Chittagong on March 26, 1948: “You are only voicing my sentiments and the sentiments of millions of Muslims when you say that Pakistan should be based on the sure foundation of justice and Islamic socialism which emphasize equality and brotherhood of man… After all, the story of Pakistan, its struggle and its achievement is the story of great human ideals struggling to survive in the face of odds and difficulties.” 

The Quaid foresaw the danger of theocracy and warned against it. At the Muslim League legislators’ convention he said: “What are we fighting for? It is not a theocracy. Religion is there and religion is dear to us; but there are other things which are very vital: our social life, our economic life, and without political power how can you defend your faith and your economic life.” 

The Quaid believed that social emancipation must go hand in hand with national liberation, because according to him the real aim of freedom is the uplift of the masses. He said: “We have suffered from exploitation at the hand of a foreign power and now that a new era has been ushered, we shall have to stretch every nerve to improve the lot of the common man.” 

Let us march on towards a truly democratic, egalitarian, pluralist Pakistan bearing in mind what Goethe said: “Only he deserves his life and his freedom, who conquers them anew every day.”


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