The Lahore Resolution of 23rd Mach 1940 represents the first formal claim on nationhood and sovereignty by the Muslim majority provinces of British India. This territorial claim served as the springboard from which to launch the populist Two Nation Theory so as to justify breaking up east and west wings of “Pakistan” from the rest of India on 14 August 1947. However, in retrospect, it is clear that the entire scheme lacked the vision, confidence and finesse necessary to establish the foundations of a welfare state for a peaceful and prosperous nation. Drafted by a 25-member committee of notable Muslim elite from the Punjab, Sindh, NWFP (now KPK), Balochistan and Bengal, among others, and fine-tuned by an Ahmadi judge of the Indian Federal Court, Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, the resolution addressed “the constitutional issue” facing “Muslim India”.
While completely rejecting the prevalent Indian constitution - the Government of India Act 1935 – the Resolution proposed a new principle for constitutional reconfiguration in British India: “geographically contiguous units … in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North Western and Eastern Zones of (British) India should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’…”
As an afterthought, the Resolution also proposed general constitutional protections for the rights of minorities in these Muslim majority units as well as in Muslim minority provinces.
In essence, the Lahore Resolution was not asking for independence from the British but separation from the Hindus. Quite naturally, the Resolution soon morphed into an anti-Hindu Two Nation Theory for popular consumption. However, this approach had a glaring flaw in it: it took freedom for granted. Seeing independence in the offing, AIML became fixated with breaking away from Hindus and almost completely forgot to craft a desirable vision for an independent Muslim state. By failing to sanctify the constructive aspects of its struggle, AIML left the new Muslim state vulnerable to becoming a medieval Islamic state, which clearly could not have been the intention of an English-speaking constitutionalist like Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
However, in a textbook example of the law of unintended consequences, the Pakistani state and nation have now become as Islamic as is possible for a non-Arab common law country in the 21st century. Indeed, the 21st amendment to the Constitution passed earlier this year to curb terrorism “using the name of religion or a sect” represents a point of saturation and token acknowledgment of the flaws in the Lahore Resolution.
However, whether we now have the constructive vision that was lacking in 1940 is still not clear.