The idea of Pakistan and how it came to be, has been debated through the last six decades by intellectuals belonging to different schools of thought. The currently dominant view about the struggle and idea of Pakistan was presented initially by Dr. Ayesha Jalal in her books. Dr. Jalal analysed the struggle for a Muslim homeland through Jinnah’s ‘angle of vision’, taking into account the actions and imagined political strategy of the ‘sole spokesman’ of Indian Muslims in the cause of a vaguely defined Pakistan. She argued that a separate sovereign Pakistan was not Jinnah’s actual demand, but merely a bargaining counter to acquire political equality with Hindus in United India. A fundamental assumption underpinning Ayesha Jalal’s thesis was a ‘secret strategy’ employed by Mr. Jinnah that remained obscure from even his closest comrades. She dismissed the popular notions about Pakistan, noting that ‘a host of conflicting shapes and forms were given to what remained little more than a catch-all, un-defined slogan.’

Another viewpoint about the origins of Pakistan was presented by historian, Anita Inder Singh, who stated that Pakistan was a logical culmination of the demands mentioned in Muslim League’s 1940 Lahore Resolution. Regarding the ‘popular’ concepts about Pakistan’s foundations, subaltern scholar Gyanendra Pandey mentioned that ‘the Muslims had fairly widely supported the movement for Pakistan, though few had clear ideas about what the goal meant.’ Francis Robinson, considered an authority on South Asian history, traced the demand for a separate Muslim homeland to the Muslim community based in U.P (United Provinces) before partition. Robinson charted the emergence of a new self-conscious community of Muslims in the early-twentieth century, united by an acute awareness of its distinctive religious and political identity in a predominantly Hindu society. Ayesha Jalal disagreed with this ‘communal’ view, especially the tendency to assume a unified Muslim approach to politics. She dismissed the view that the idea of Pakistan was popular amongst Muslims in the minority provinces such as U.P in her monograph ‘Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam Since 1850’.

Venkat Dhulipala in his new book titled ‘Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam, and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial North India’ has focused on the quest among Muslims of North India for a ‘Muslim Homeland’ and how All India Muslim League (AIML) shaped its policies after 1940 to tap into this sentiment. Mr. Dhulipala has focused on pre-partition politics of UP to understand the demand for Pakistan and support for the Muslim League. He posits that the electoral defeat in 1937 propelled Muslim Leaguers to action which culminated in mass mobilization and recruitments, alongside alliance with influential Deobandi Ulema.

Muslim League’s drift towards religious authorities and symbolism can be traced to the years preceding the 1937 elections. There was an aversion to communal politics and political parties amongst the landed Muslim elite of the Punjab and UP. As a result, the Unionist party was formed in Punjab and the National Agriculturalist party was formed in UP by Muslim and non-Muslim Landlords. Sir Muhammad Yamin Khan, a Muslim landlord from UP encapsulated this line of thinking in the following words: “A Zamindar whether he is a Musalman or a Hindu has to unite with other zamindars and socialists from different religions will unite among themselves. It is preposterous to think that a socialist returned on an ML ticket will work harmoniously with a conservative zamindar returned on the same ML ticket.”

The electoral strength of AIML can be witnessed by the fact that in the 1930s, there were only 300 members on the party’s council. In 1936, a UP newspaper opined that, “the Muslim League has lost its importance since 1918 and now it can be said to be neither dead nor alive.” Today, truly speaking, the League has no existence beyond the brain and mind of Mr. Jinnah. Muslims do not know where its office and branches are located. It is evident that under such circumstances, neither the League can serve its community nor is the community prepared to take any steps for keeping the League alive. Mr. Jinnah is no doubt an eminent politician but he cannot move with an active community, nor can the community reach its goal by following him.”

During the 1937 elections, Congress and Muslim League actually worked together against the agriculturalist party with Nehru asking constituents during his election campaign to vote for Muslim League’s candidate if there were no Congress candidates in the fray and money given by Congress member Rafi Kidvai to Muslim League’s candidate from Allahabad. In Aligarh, students of Muslim University campaigned enthusiastically for the Congress candidate. Interestingly, even Jamiat Ulema Hind supported the Muslim League. After Congress had gained a clear majority in the UP assembly, it failed to include Muslim League in a coalition ministry, eroding the feeling of mutual trust and well-being.

Soon after the Lahore Resolution adopted by AIML in March 1940, prominent members of Jamiat Ulema Hind (JUH) started a campaign against the demand for Pakistan. They warned about Pakistan’s disastrous practical implications not just for the minority provinces’ Muslims but for Indian Muslims in general and the Islamic world at large. In response, Muslim League leaders and their supporters in UP resorted to Pan-Islamist propaganda (Khaliquzzaman being a prominent voice in this crowd) and characterized Pakistan as ‘a bulwark against both Hindu and western imperialisms.’ A collaboration between Muslim League stalwarts and Ulema developed steadily over time and its extent can be gauged from the fact that after the 1940 Lahore session, the UP leaders of the Muslim League formed a committee comprised of its representatives as well as the Ulama for the purpose of drafting an Islamic Constitution for Pakistan.

The Raja of Mahmudabad uttered the following words in May 1940, “Pakistan is going to be a laboratory wherein we may experiment in peace, the greatest experiment that was ever tried–re-establishing the government of Islam. The creation of an Islamic State–mark my words gentlemen–I say Islamic, not Muslim–is our ideal.”

We can’t blame Zia for everything.