Source: Huffington Post
On March 23, 1940 the All India Muslim League adopted a historic resolution in the city of Lahore. This resolution has since come to be known as the Pakistan Resolution as it became the forerunner to the formal demand for an independent nation state for the Muslims of India.
The following is an extract that provides the essence of this resolution:
Resolved that it is the considered view of this session of the All-India Muslim League that 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 India, should be grouped to constitute ‘Independent States’ in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.
That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in these units and in these regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them; and in other parts of India where Mussalmans are in a minority, adequate, effective and mandatory safeguard shall be specially provided in the constitution for them and other minorities for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them.
Seven years after this resolution a new nation was born. The man most responsible for the political struggle that culminated in the creation of Pakistan was Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In his first address as President to the constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947 (three days prior to the day Pakistan officially became a nation) he had this to say:
“I cannot emphasize 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. Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence, and but for this we would have been free people long long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls, in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time, but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State. As you know, history shows that in England conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. 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, and equal citizens, of one State.”
Central to both these historical declarations is the idea that all citizens are equal regardless of their ethnicity or religious belief. It is clear that the founders of Pakistan gave central importance to the rights of minorities from freedom of worship to economic opportunity and political participation.
Jinnah died in 1948 and was unable to oversee the framing of a constitution. There is little doubt in my mind that the foundations of the nation would have been much stronger had this been the case. Immediately after the creation of Pakistan, the main religiopolitical parties- the Jamaat-e-Islaami (JI)and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI)-started campaigning to make Pakistan a theocratic state. The JUI was headed by the heavily influential Mawlana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani while the JI was led by the fiery Abu A’la Maududi.