Everyone has the right to his own opinion and I would like the counterparties to realise that I too have the right to my opinion about Ishtiaq Ahmed’s work. Nevertheless, I still think that his recent book is a drastic improvement upon his earlier work. It is precisely for this reason the book needs to be highlighted. Coming as it is from a certain one-sided point of view, the content of the book shows that the violence in Punjab was caused by the insistence of Congress to partition Punjab at the insistence of the Sikhs.-YLH
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
On Ayesha Jalal, H M Seervai and Hamza Alavi
I reproduce Ayesha Jalal’s lecture at LUMS which is a corrective and rebuttal to claims made by Ishtiaq Ahmed on the one hand and Safdar Mahmood on the other:
It is not that Ayesha Jalal, H M Seervai or Hamza Alavi have a monopoly on Pakistan’s historical wisdom. H M Seervai was not even a Pakistani as Mr Chaudhry assumes. However, their points of view have long been accepted as a necessary corrective to the myths about partition perpetuated by the two nation states and sadly, which Mr Chaudhry and Mr Ahmed adhere to. To dismiss them outright as sophists or people not having training in ‘democratic theory’ as Mr Ahmed wrote to me is therefore something that raises questions about his impartiality as an author and a scholar. Similarly, I have read both H S Suhrawardy’s biography and the treatise by Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman on the emergence of Pakistan and the statements attributed to them by Mr Chaudhry is at best drawing room chatter, which is not based on any real historical account. Nevertheless, it is a moot point that partition as it happened did not serve anyone, least of all Jinnah, and the Muslim League who were arguing for a consociationalist counterpoise.
Two Nation Theory
One of our most persistent national myths — put forward by both the state and its detractors — is that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam.
It is said that Pakistan was created with the use of the slogans “Islam in danger” and “Pakistan ka matlab kya, La illaha ilallah”, both slogans which — ironically — were never used by Quaid-e-Azam himself. Indeed Jinnah ruled out “Pakistan ka matlab kiya, La illaha illallah” when he censured a Leaguer at the last session of the All India Muslim League after partition in these words: “Neither I nor the Muslim League Working Committee ever passed a resolution — Pakistan ka matlab kiya — you may have used it to catch a few votes.”
Nevertheless, the fact that Pakistan was created as a result of a group’s nationalism, which was based — in whatever watered down form — on common religious beliefs, has damned Pakistan to a perpetual identity crisis that continues to sap its vitality. That no one on top since September 11, 1948 has been able to talk sense in this country has only aggravated our predicament.
Fundamental to this identity crisis is the national confusion surrounding the Two Nation Theory, which is hailed as the ideological foundation of the state of Pakistan. It is one of the most misunderstood ideas in modern history, both in terms of what it claimed and how it has been applied by various currents in our history.
Both India and Pakistan do not disagree on what they consider the essentials of the theory, but while in India it is a symbol of exclusivism and communalism, in Pakistan it is part of the Islamic ideological narrative. This is the publicist’s view of history, but not necessarily one that is accepted without question by historians. Perhaps the time has come to turn such conventional common (non)sense about the Two Nation Theory on its head.
The Two Nation Theory, as adopted by Jinnah and the Muslim League in 1940, was a mere restatement of the minority problem in national terms and not a clarion call, to use Dr Ayesha Jalal’s vocabulary, for partition. What Jinnah was aiming for was what in recent years has been coined as ‘consociationalism’, a power sharing between disparate ethnic and communal groups in multinational and multiethnic states. Though the term was coined only a decade or so ago, consociationalism as a political system is quite old and is tried and tested in states like The Netherlands, Switzerland and Canada.
When the Quaid-e-Azam articulated the Two Nation Theory, he referred to language, culture, family laws and historical antecedents. He was, as an adroit lawyer, making the case for changing the status of a minority to that of a nation and not for separation of Islam from India as is alleged by his detractors.
The truth is that Jinnah’s idea of Pakistan was not predicated on the partition of India. His idea of Pakistan was a power sharing arrangement between the Muslims and Hindus. His Two Nation Theory did not, at least not until December 1946, suggest that the Hindus and Muslims must be separated. And yet, even in May 1947, Jinnah was pleading against the partition of Punjab and Bengal by arguing that a Punjabi is a Punjabi and a Bengali is a Bengali before he is a Hindu or a Muslim.
Much of this is confirmed by one of the most extraordinary pieces of prescience left behind by H V Hodson, who was the Reforms Commissioner in India in 1941. Hodson wrote in clear terms very soon after the Lahore Resolution that every Muslim Leaguer from Jinnah down to the last one interpreted the Pakistan idea as consistent with the idea of a confederation of India. Hodson believed that “Pakistan” was a “revolt against minority status” and a call for power sharing and not just defining rules of conduct how a majority (in this case Hindu) would govern India. He spoke of an acute realisation that the minority status with all the safeguards could only amount to a “Cinderella with trade union rights and radio in the kitchen but still below the stairs.” Jinnah’s comment was that Hodson had finally understood what the League was after, but that he could not publicly come out with these fundamental truths, as these were likely to be misunderstood at the time.
For Jinnah and the Muslim League, the Two Nation Theory was not an ideological position etched in stone. It was the restatement of the arguments needed to ensure national status for Muslims in a multinational independent India. It was also a vehicle to get parochial elements in Muslim majority provinces into line behind the Muslim League at the All India Centre. At the very least, Jinnah’s Pakistan did not necessarily envisage a partition, secession from or division of United India. This is why he jumped at the opportunity of the Cabinet Mission Plan, which did not even deliver 50 percent of what he had demanded. In the end, however, the idea of power sharing with the League and Muslims was too much for the Indian National Congress to gulp, even if Gandhi and Nehru could have been brought around to the idea. Maulana Azad’s grudging admissions in his book India Wins Freedom seal this argument.
It is important, however, to note that Jinnah’s August 11 speech and all his pronouncements thereafter made it absolutely clear that the Two Nation Theory would have no role to play in the principles of citizenship of the new state. Significantly, after partition, Jinnah went back to using the word ‘community’ for Hindus and Muslims instead of nations.
The concept of citizenship to Jinnah the liberal — a keen student of British history — could not be fettered by issues of identity. He wanted Pakistan to be an impartial inclusive democracy rather than an exclusivist theocracy, which regrettably Pakistan has become increasingly over the last 30 odd years.
Jinnah’s Politics 1940-1946
As for Jinnah’s politics from 1940 to 1946, one may refer to H V Hodson, the Reforms Commissioner in India in 1941, who wrote very soon after the Lahore Resolution that every Muslim Leaguer from Jinnah down to the last one interpreted the Pakistan idea as consistent with the idea of a confederation of India. Hodson believed that “Pakistan” was a “revolt against minority status” and a call for power sharing and not just defining rules of conduct how a majority (in this case Hindu) would govern India. He spoke of an acute realisation that the minority status with all the safeguards could only amount to a “Cinderella with trade union rights and radio in the kitchen but still below the stairs.” Jinnah’s comment was that Hodson had finally understood what the League was after, but that he could not publicly come out with these fundamental truths, as these were likely to be misunderstood at the time. In respect of what Congress and League could have done to keep India united, his entire point was that a consociational government was not possible because of a trust deficit. Again, his research lacks in this regard. The Cabinet Mission Plan for implementation did not require Congress and the Muslim League to give up their differences and trust each other but only for a brief period until the constitution was in place. Gandhi and Nehru insisted on the partition of Punjab and Bengal even when Bengal was ready to go its own independent secular way. The ‘coalition’ government formed in September 1946 came after the burial of the Cabinet Mission Plan and was not a coalition government, it was an ‘interim’ government. In fact, it was called an interim government. An interim government encompasses varying interests — often working at cross-purposes — to preside over the formation of a permanent political system through either constitution making or elections. This is why interim governments are not called coalition governments. They are not meant to function as coalitions.
Cabinet Mission Plan
The 10-year out clause does not figure in the Cabinet Mission Plan. That was a demand that was not finally placed in those terms. There was absolutely no mention of the 10-year secession in the Cabinet Mission Plan. Ayesha Jalal confirms this view on page 196 of The Sole Spokesman: “But there was no mention of the right of secession from the union. All in all the 16th of May statement contained evidence of greater deference to Congress standpoint, hinting to Jinnah that perhaps he had missed the bus.”
The point about the Princely states is similarly inaccurate. Princely India was to be part of the federation and would be giving three subjects including foreign affairs and defence to the Union. Therefore, no question of what Mr Ahmed says arises in the least. To think that the fourth group could carry out a policy in contradiction to the rest of India is a stretch. It is also a fact that Congress did not raise any of the points raised by Mr Ahmed. Congress wanted to interpret the groupings clause in its own way and this was seen as a betrayal of faith by all impartial observers at the time.
Reading Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed’s latest installment about partition and the Cabinet Mission Plan reminded me of a famous debate in 2008 between the late Irshad Ahmed Haqqani and Dr Safdar Mahmood. In that, the latter had argued similarly to prove that Jinnah’s acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan was tactical and did not mean that he had given up on the Pakistan idea. It is perhaps indicative of the disparity of the worldviews of the English press and the Urdu press that Dr Mahmood’s argument was seen by the readers of that newspaper as a defence of Jinnah whereas it was nothing but a disservice to the memory of the founding father of this nation.
Both Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed and Dr Safdar Mahmood, for entirely different motivations, seek to promote the thesis that Jinnah and the Muslim League were hell bent on partition. Both argue the Cabinet Mission Plan’s proposal of revisiting the constitution every 10 years was pregnant with the idea of a separate sovereign Pakistan. Both of them rely on Muslim League’s resolution of June 6 to prove their point. Dr Ahmed says in his latest piece that I did not quote from the Cabinet Mission Plan but relied instead on Dr Ayesha Jalal’s book to forward my view that the Cabinet Mission Plan did not allow for secession 10 years later. The fact is that Cabinet Mission Plan does not suggest, at any point, secession in 10 years. Dr Ahmed is unable to produce anything from the Cabinet Mission Plan that proves his point of view, which is why he instead argues that the Muslim League interpreted it as meaning secession. He fails to see the irony that Muslim League, outnumbered almost three to one in the central legislature under the Plan, could hardly impose its interpretation on the Congress, which enjoyed an absolute majority. To assume that Jinnah, whose forte was constitutional law and political haggling, overlooked such a simple fact is naïve at best.
The fact is that Jinnah — despite not having gotten quite what he wanted, i.e. a confederation of two federations within a United India — seemed quite happy with the federal solution laid down by the Plan. Now he had the herculean task of convincing his constituents that the Cabinet Mission Plan, despite its harshly worded rejection of a separate and sovereign Pakistan, had given the League the substance of what it had been after. To this end, Woodrow Wyatt’s report on Jinnah in Volume VII of the Transfer of Power Papers by Nicholas Mansergh and Penderel Moon must be referred to. In the course of a discussion, Wyatt reports that Jinnah was apprehensive of Muslim League’s reaction to his letter accepting the Union government. Wyatt suggested that Jinnah might have asked the League to pass a resolution saying that while the League did not believe that the Plan was workable, it would not go out of its way to sabotage the Plan and that it would accept it in good faith, despite the belief it was not workable, but that it was the first step to the road to Pakistan. The report goes on to say, “At this proposition, he was delighted and said ‘That’s it, you’ve got it’, and I am completely convinced that that is what the Muslim League will do.”
This report proves that Muslim League’s resolution was aimed at saving face with its own constituents and did not have any serious ramifications in terms of the federation that was envisaged under the Cabinet Mission Plan, which Jinnah seemed to believe was workable. As for Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed’s inability to prove the point of Congress rejecting the federation because it was a loose federation, is precisely because Congress within the group A of the plan would have had all the powers it craved in terms of a centre for an area that constituted all of modern India minus East Punjab and West Bengal. Group federations could be as centralised or loose as the elected representatives desired. Therefore, Congress sought to wreck the Plan through its own interpretation of the groupings clause, which went against the grain of the Plan itself. In reality, the Congress had already made up its mind to partition Punjab and Bengal along communal lines and it was that more than any vague apprehensions about the ‘looseness’ of the federation that was behind its actions starting with the ‘Nehruvian’ bombshell in early July, which I have detailed in Partition of Punjab-I. This promoted Jinnah to tell Kuldip Nayyar, “Young man, don’t blame me for partition, it is Nehru who is responsible for this.”
As for paramountcy not being transferred to the Union, perhaps Dr Ahmed can tell us if he thinks paramountcy was transferred to India or Pakistan on August 15, 1947. If not then this point is entirely irrelevant to a discussion about the merits of the Cabinet Mission Plan. As for ‘independent dominions’ the language was not confusing but a legal necessity in terms of constitutional law. For there to be continuity, the existing legal paradigm of a dominion had to continue, i.e. the King was the head of state. The dominions were independent in the sense that an act of parliament by either dominion could change their status to republic making them self-executors of their own destiny.
Jinnah’s so called Islamic Pronouncements:
Now we come to Jinnah’s so-called Islamic pronouncements, which matter, at best, is an incidental tangent from the main issue but since it was raised by Mr Shakil Chaudhry in his article (Daily Times, July 26, 2012) , it needs to be addressed.
The claim that Jinnah was secular needs to be understood before it can be argued for or against. The claim that Jinnah was secular does not necessarily pre-suppose that all utterances of Jinnah the politician were consistently secular, especially when put against secularism as we understand it today. That Jinnah used the Islamic idiom on occasion is a fact and not necessarily an inconvenient fact for those who argue for Jinnah’s secular vision. Substance not form trumps rhetoric.
If Jinnah’s pronouncements are taken in entirety, it becomes obvious that while he might have referred to Islamic principles and even Muslim ideology on occasion, his vision for a state — whether united India or Pakistan — was always essentially secular. That is, Jinnah emphasised a pluralistic polity where religion would be the personal faith of an individual, not the matter of the state and where permanent cultural majorities — be they Hindu or Muslim — would not dominate permanent cultural minorities. Those Islamists hiding behind Jinnah’s ambiguous references to Islam or Islamic socialism should answer this simple question: what would Jinnah have thought of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 2012, which persecutes people on the basis of faith, determines who is Muslim and who is not, imposes restrictions of food, dress, etc ? The answer — if anyone from any side of the ideological divide is honest enough — is that Jinnah would have cringed at the idea of being hailed as the founder of a theocratic Islamic Republic of the kind we are today. Not just his political idealism, which spanned four decades — as an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity — but his own social and material conditions dictate that Jinnah would have never wanted such a state in the first place.
Jinnah was a ‘Shia-Khoja Mohammedan’, as per the affidavit filed by his sister, Fatima Jinnah and his trusted colleague, Liaquat Ali Khan, who had heterodox beliefs, including a law of inheritance based on the Hindu law. The most ‘westernised’ Muslim leader in the history of South Asia, who flouted all dietary laws of Islam and had no truck with religious observances known as pillars of Islam, would have been out of place in the kind of society we have created in the name of Islam in this hapless country of ours.
So what then were his Islamic pronouncements starting with his famous speech at Minto Park in 1940? The 1940 speech was the re-statement of the Muslim cause as a national cause using the established cannons of international law. That it was not a clarion call for the creation of a religious state is obvious from the momentous resolution, drafted by Zafarullah and vetted by Jinnah, which emerged from that meeting. Nowhere in the Lahore Resolution does the word ‘Islam’ come up. The famous address to the Karachi Bar Association in January 1948, which Mr. Chaudhry alludes to in his article, made on the occasion of the birthday of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) simply states — if read in entirety — that the constitution of Pakistan, if framed on universal values of equality for all regardless of religion would not be in contradiction to Islam. In other words, Jinnah was trying to convince the Muslim majority in Pakistan that a modern democratic state, which was impartial to personal religious observances of its citizens, was compatible with Islam. His letter to the Pir of Manki that has been quoted time and again stated that the affairs of the Muslim community would be run in accordance with Shariah. Those affairs of the Muslim community are run in accordance with Shariah, i.e. Muslim personal law, even in India today.
Even if one was to ascribe some other meaning to these pronouncements, which would defy the logic of Jinnah’s own unique position as aforesaid, none of these remarks can trump the clear policy statement he gave in his opening address to the constituent assembly. What is not mentioned is that the speech was made as a response to a direct question posed by the Congress leader, Kiran Shankar Roy in which he had called upon Jinnah to clarify whether Pakistan would be a secular state or a religious state. Jinnah may well have had a rudimentary knowledge of Islam but he did know a thing or two about the history of the United Kingdom. The most important part of the August 11 speech is where he speaks of Catholic-Protestant conflict in English history. Great Britain was the example before him in many ways. Great Britain was and still remains essentially a Protestant realm but is in practice completely secular, having learnt from the sectarian bloodshed starting in the 16th century. There can be no ambiguity about the words Jinnah spoke on that day, especially where he warned against bars being imposed on communities on the basis of religion. He also spoke about a dissolution in due course of Hindu-Muslim differences under the patronage of a state that would remain unconcerned and unburdened by any theocratic agenda. Jinnah warned against the state being partial to any faith for this would lead to sectarian differences, not just between Muslims and Hindus but Muslims themselves, precisely what he had pleaded to Gandhi three decades earlier when the latter embarked on the course of mixing religion with politics. Later on in another speech, Jinnah declared unambiguously that, “Pakistan would not be a theocratic state to be run by priests with a divine mission.” The Federal Shariat Court and the Council of Islamic Ideology are precisely that, i.e. priests with a divine mission. It is a negation of Jinnah’s vision.
So this controversy of nomenclature — secular or Islamic — notwithstanding, a rose is a rose by any name and a spade must be called a spade. Is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan today not a theocratic state? Does it not discriminate against Christians, Hindus and other non-Muslims? Does it not impose religion on its people when it awards 20 marks to Hafiz-e-Qurans or when it determines whether Ahmadis can call themselves X Y Z? Does it not impose religion when it allows destruction of places of worship? Are people free to go to their mosques, temples or any other place of worship in Pakistan? We stand in utter and total negation of everything Jinnah stood for. This is a fact. Accept it. Move on.
Scientific thinking has an inbuilt mechanism with which it corrects errors of a previous generation. What Karl Popper called the doctrine of falsifiability helps uncover anomalies and inconsistencies in an established paradigm. Since science has its eyes on precision, the focus is on devilish details.
Ultimately, through observation, facts that are inconsistent with the reigning paradigm emerge. Slowly, one of the alternate paradigms triumphs over the competing paradigms for several possible reasons: its solution to the crisis is more elegant, and holds promise of future inquiry. Soon enough, a new crisis emerges and alternate paradigms are proposed. As science experiences a paradigm shift, presumptions are reset.
One of the greatest examples of this phenomenon is the Copernican Revolution, which changed the Earth’s status as the center of universe. Before the Copernican Revolution, the Earth’s status as the center of the universe was considered fundamental to everything from explanation of why the clouds move to why water pumps work. Faced with the new idea that it is in fact the Earth that revolves around the Sun, all fields of science had to gradually adapt to this new idea. Since then, Copernican Revolution has become a metaphor used in various fields, including Philosophy where Kant used it in his “Critique of Pure Reason”.
Politics is also a science. Political science deals with political ideas and theories of statehood and nationalisms with its own established paradigms. One such paradigm is the ideology of Pakistan. It is the view of this author that Pakistan’s ideology needs a Copernican Revolution.
The two standard established myths on which our ideology stands are the following:
1) Pakistan was created in the name of Islam to establish an Islamic state.
2) Hindus and Muslims are two nations and therefore cannot live together.
The facts do not fall quite in line with these myths. For example, if Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, why were Jinnah and the Muslim League ready to abandon the idea of Pakistan for the federal scheme proposed by the Cabinet Mission Plan? Contrary to the claims made by ideologues of Pakistani ideology, the Cabinet Mission Plan had no reference or guarantee for a future Pakistan, though it is true that Jinnah’s selling point to his own people for the Cabinet Mission Plan was that Muslims never expected the British and the Congress to give them Pakistan on a platter. This selling point, interestingly, was suggested by Woodrow Wyatt who was a confidante of Jinnah. When first suggested, Jinnah is reported to have responded excitedly “there you’ve got it”.
Secondly, had the idea of Pakistan irrevocably committed the League to an Islamic state, why is it not mentioned in the Lahore Resolution? Indeed the words “Islam” or “Islamic state” do not emerge once. Then we have the testimony of Raja of Mahmudabad who claims that he was told by Jinnah not to forward the idea of an Islamic state from the Muslim League’s platform. In fact Muslim League all throughout the Pakistan Movement did not pass a single resolution calling for an Islamic state.
The issue of the two nation theory is also not as clear cut as our textbooks make it out to be. Two nation theory was a purely constitutional argument changing the status of Muslims from a community to a nation. It did not at any place say that Muslims and Hindus could not co-exist. What it did say was that the constitution of India had to recognize this fundamental reality so that a large community – no less than 90 million – was not disadvantaged in India. This is what was later coined as consociationalism which is a standard mechanism to bring deeply divided communities with competing aspirations together under one constitutional scheme. In order to establish the status of Muslims as a nation, an argument had to made in terms of established parameters of nationalism ie culture, common history, dietary habits, personal law etc. The argument forwarded by Jinnah rested entirely on these four points – none of which were directly linked to theology per se. Piercing the veil one sees that this Muslim nationalism was exclusively Indian, ie Indian Muslims constituted a nation, and not that all Muslims everywhere constituted a nation. To put it mildly, it was a skilled lawyer’s argument which was neither ideological nor irrevocable.
That the two nation theory was revocable – at least to the mind of its greatest and most successful proponent – is patently obvious in the famous 11th August speech. When he says “in due course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in a religious sense because that is the personal faith of an individual but in a political sense,” Jinnah is not just talking about fair and generous treatment of minorities – something which he did many times – but is actually speaking of gradual elimination of religious identity in favour of a single Pakistani nationality. Before 1940, by and large his attempt had been to bring Hindus and Muslims together in one yoke as Indians. After Pakistan was formed, his goal became a single Pakistani nationality without any discrimination of religion. It was for this reason that Jinnah had appointed a Hindu as the first law minister of Pakistan and asked a Hindu to write Pakistan’s first national anthem.
It might be added of course that Jinnah’s own life does not conform to the two nation theory as it is taught to the children of Pakistan. Most of Jinnah’s professional adult life was spent amongst Hindus and Parsis and it was in these communities he had his closest friends and colleagues such as Gokhale, Tilak, Sir Ferozeshah Mehta, Kanji Dwarkadas, Durga Das, Diwan Chaman Lal, Dalmiya etc. The unkindest cut he was to receive at the hands of his great rival Gandhi was that Gandhi called him “Jinnah the representative of the Mohammaden community”. He was a shareholder in most of the leading Hindu owned business concerns such as Tata and Birla and owned securities in Air India right till the end. He might not have entirely approved of his daughter’s marriage – as the story goes – but it did not stop him from sending her flowers. Contrary to myth fed to us, Jinnah never disowned his daughter. As a Khoja Shia Muslim, the inheritance law applicable to Jinnah’s estate is Hindu personal law. How ironic for a man who our textbooks say created a state based on irreconcilable religious differences between Muslims and Hindus.
Finally it may be said that Jinnah was at his finest as a luminary of the freedom struggle, as a lawyer-parliamentarian and as a statesman when he spoke out in the defence of Bhagat Singh, the great Lahori freedom fighter that our state – the state that is said owe its existence to Jinnah – refuses to honour. Here is an excerpt:
“The man who goes on hunger-strike has a soul. He is moved by the soul and he believes in the justice of his cause; he is not an ordinary criminal who is guilty of cold-blooded, sordid, wicked crime.
“What was he driving at? It is the system, this damnable system of Government, which is resented by the people.
“And the last words I wish to address the Government are, try and concentrate your mind on the root cause and the more you concentrate on the root cause, the less difficulties and inconveniences there will be for you to face, and thank Heaven that the money of the taxpayer will not be wasted in prosecuting men, nay citizens, who are fighting and struggling for the freedom of their country.”
Nation states do not need ideologies to exist. Nor can all generations to come be held to ideas of a previous generation. Pakistan’s ideology – distorted as it is – is responsible for many of the ills that plague Pakistan today. Let us jettison this ideology as outdated and face the fundamental fact that it is not sine qua non to Pakistan’s survival as a state. It is time to get rid of the excess baggage of a distorted history.