By Momin Iftikhar

The passing of Pakistan Resolution, on 23rd March 1940, at the historic session of the Muslim League at Lahore, was verily a defining moment in the struggle for Pakistan.

It was the first statement of the Indian Muslims’ resolve for partition of the subcontinent to have a home of their own in order to preserve their ethos, culture and customs unencumbered by the threat of Hindu communalism. Many years have passed since that fateful day. By the grace of Allah Almighty Pakistan is a reality. It has come a long way and weathered many storms that threatened its existence. In the post 9/11 environment wherein western perceptions tend to view the Muslim world in the light of religious extremism, militancy and terrorists leanings Pakistan’s Islamic identity has come under much scrutiny.

The 23rd March provides us with an apt opportunity for checking our bearings and seeing how much we have gone adrift in realising the dream of a progressive and moderate Muslim nation as envisioned by the founding fathers. The Pakistan Resolution was moved by the Bengal Chief Minister, A K Fazalul Haq and seconded by Ch Khaliq-uz-Zaman and others. Outlining the concept of Muslim nationhood in India it 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 adjustments as may be necessary that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in 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...” Quaid-e-Azam’s address to the session outlined the spirit of the concept carried by the resolution, which later came to be known as the Two Nation Theory.

“The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different civilizations which are based on conflicting ideas and conceptions... To yoke such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a state”.

At this point in time the configuration of Pakistan as a physical reality was shrouded in the mist of uncertainty. The Resolution didn’t specify the physical contours of Pakistan; only stating that the north-western and eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’, in which the constituting units shall be ‘autonomous and sovereign’.

A long struggle lay ahead for the realisation of the dream but the goal was now defined and the clarion call for creating a homeland for the Muslims in India finally sounded.

The spirit enshrined in the Resolution carried a great appeal for the Muslim masses and they responded to the expression of Two Nation Theory in an enthusiastic manner. This resulted into a phenomenal growth in popularity of the Muslim League, which heretofore had lacked in mass appeal. It is obvious that in giving their full fledged support to the idea of Pakistan, the Muslims were not only trying to escape the inevitable stranglehold of the Hindu communal domination but wanted to create a true Islamic state where they could pursue their lives as unencumbered Muslims and realise ideals of economic prosperity, equality of opportunity, freedom from prejudice and social justice as postulated by Islam.

While the majority of Muslims rejoiced in the concept of a separate homeland constituting the Muslim majority areas, Hindu leaders firmly rejected the idea. Calling it ‘vivisection of Mother India”, Gandhi equated partition of sub-continent a ‘moral wrong and a ‘sin’ to which he would never be a party.

The Quaid, when challenged by Gandhi on articulation of the Two Nations Theory, clearly outlined his concept of Pakistan by defining the fault lines of Hindu-Muslim equation. He said, “we are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, names and nomenclature, sense of values and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendars, history and traditions, aptitudes and ambitions: in short, we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of international law we are a nation.”

It is instructive to note that raison d’être for Pakistan was a fair and just society striving to conform to the highest Islamic principles. Yet the route to this goal was not envisaged through theocratic institutions. Pakistan was to be a homeland of Muslims of India, in areas where they were in numerical preponderance to enable them to preserve their distinctive culture and customs from the inevitable Hindu resurgence.  He forcefully drove home this point during the inaugural address to the Constituent Assembly.

“We are starting with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens of one state. We should keep that in front of us as our ideal. And you shall find that that in the course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims shall cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of the individual, but in the political sense as the citizens of one nation,” he declared. The battle for Pakistan occupied Quaid’s total attention; sapping the strength of his frail body and leading to his early demise. His vision for a moderate Pakistan, where popular aspirations for a new and better social order were cast in an Islamic mould, was soon challenged by the religious quarters.

Ulema, who had so strenuously opposed the Two Nation Theory, now staked their claim to defining the soul of Pakistan and a struggle to hijack the vision of a moderate Islamic state started during its infancy.

Religious extremism reflected through the incidents of sectarian clashes making Pakistan into a proxy battlefield for the conflicting schools of thought. The long period of the Afghan jihad introduced Pakistan’s religious institutions to the Kalashnikov culture and turned Pakistan’s tribal belt into a sanctuary for the foreign militants.

The strength of Pakistan as a Muslim state, as envisioned by its founding fathers, lies in flourishing of a balanced Islam worthy of its glorious past that is poised for prevailing upon challenges posed by the 21st Century. The  anniversary of articulation of Two Nation Theory by the Quaid, at the erstwhile Minto Park Lahore, provides the Pakistani Nation and its religious institutions with an appropriate occasion for steeling their resolve to rise to the occasion.