‘Hours of penance and regret’ - S Iftikhar Murshed - Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=37629&Cat=9

The man who moved the Lahore Resolution on March 23, 1940, A K Fazlul Haq, was late in reaching the venue of the Muslim League session. Jinnah had already started speaking but, as Fazlul Haq walked in, there were thunderous shouts of “Sher-e-Bangal, zindabad!” and the Quaid-e-Azam, who was constrained to interrupt his address, remarked with ill-disguised irritation, “When the tiger appears, the lamb must give way.”

The Lahore Resolution stipulated that Muslim-majority areas “in the north-western and eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states.” The word “Pakistan” was not used in the resolution, which envisaged the establishment of two or more states. This provided the basis not only for the creation of Pakistan but, unwittingly, also for the establishment of Bangladesh.

Six years later, a Muslim League convention in Delhi on April 11, 1946, adopted a resolution which demanded that Bengal, Assam, Punjab, Sind (Sindh), the-then NWFP and Baluchistan (Balochistan) “where Muslims are in a dominant majority be constituted into a sovereign independent state.” This deviated from the formulation in the original Lahore Resolution, which envisaged the creation of “independent states.”

Abdul Hashim, the secretary of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League, objected to the change but was overruled by the Quaid-e-Azam, who said that the word “states” in the Lahore Resolution was a misprint. However, legal experts are of the opinion that it was not within the competence of the convention to amend the Lahore Resolution, which had been incorporated into the constitution of the Muslim League during its 1941 session in Madras. Any modification of the original text would have required the endorsement of a plenary session of the League, and this was never done.

The Lahore Resolution did not clearly define the smallest administrative unit that would be used in determining Partition, and neither did the leadership of the Muslim League, unlike that of the Indian National Congress, seriously attempt to specify what areas and units should be combined for accession to either state. This posed no problem in Baluchistan and Sind, which had outright Muslim majorities of 91.8 and 72.7 percent, respectively, and acceded to Pakistan, as did the NWFP after the July 1947 referendum.

But difficulties arose in Bengal and Punjab, where the preponderant Muslim populations of 54.4 and 55.7 percent were concentrated within districts and sub-districts, as was the case with Hindus and Sikhs. Thus, the British were given a free hand to determine the boundary in the two provinces and this had far-reaching consequences for Pakistan.

The responsibility for carrying out this task was entrusted to Sir Cyril Radcliffe on June 27, 1947, whose reputation as “the most brilliant barrister in England” did not compensate for his ignorance about India. In effect, a scalpel had been handed over to a blind surgeon to carve out massive swathes of territory within six weeks of his selection for the job.

For the division of Punjab and Bengal, Radcliffe relied heavily on a blueprint devised by V P Menon, who had redrafted Mountbatten’s Partition Plan. The mischief was in the arbitrary criterion that was adopted. Under the scheme, the areas were to be divided on the basis of districts, but with the proviso that this could be at the sub-district, or tehsil, level, where needed. The Lahore Resolution lacked this specificity.

Gurdaspur, which was a 51 percent Muslim-majority district, should have been awarded to Pakistan. Of its four sub-districts, one was on the west bank of the Ravi and three on the eastern side of the river. Though only Pathankot had a non-Muslim majority, it was decided by the Radcliffe Commission to award not only Pathankot but also two other Muslim sub-districts to India, on the flimsy pretext that a decision to the contrary would have affected important irrigation projects. Had the division been on the basis of districts, Gurdaspur, with its critically important tehsil of Pathankot, would have been given to Pakistan, thereby depriving India of its only land link to Kashmir. Under these circumstances, Maharajah Hari Singh would not have had the option of acceding to India.

The Muslim-majority principle as embodied in the Lahore Resolution was applied in a strangely wayward manner in Bengal. Murshidabad, which had a 75-percent Muslim majority, was awarded to India because the two Muslim League representatives, Pakistan’s first advocate general, Muhammad Wasim, and Hamidul Haq Chowdhry, later to become foreign minister, were unable to present Pakistan’s case effectively before the Boundary Commission. Similarly, the Muslim-majority Malda district, whose inhabitants had even hoisted the Pakistani flag before the Radcliffe Award was announced, was also ceded to India.

With these setbacks, the two Muslim League advocates were replaced and Fazlul Haq was requested to argue the case in respect of Hindu-majority Khulna which, despite the odds, was eventually given to Pakistan. Fazlul Haq, who had earlier been expelled from the Muslim League because of the machinations against him by Khwaja Nazimuddin and Husayn Shaheed Suhrawardy, both of whom were subsequently to become prime ministers of Pakistan, also implored the League leadership not to hand over Calcutta on a silver platter to India. He argued that the metropolis owed its glory to the whole of Muslim-majority Bengal, but his appeal fell on deaf ears.

In 1945, a student at Aligarh University wrote to Fazlul Haq, accusing him of abandoning the Muslim League. In his reply, on Oct 13, Fazlul Haq, said that he stood by “the Resolution whose wording I drafted and which I moved at the Lahore Session of the Muslim League...It is a pity that Muslim leaders do not understand what Pakistan means and merely shout slogans to catch the fancy of Musalmans.” He also wrote that he was ready to rejoin the League if the ban against him was removed.

It is significant that none of the speakers at the Muslim League session which adopted the Lahore Resolution mentioned the need for an Islamic government or the imposition of shariah. The Quaid-e-Azam also repeatedly emphasised that he had never envisaged Pakistan as a theocratic state. Yet, on March 12, 1949, barely six months after his death, the non-representative Constituent Assembly adopted the 10-point Objectives Resolution, which pledged that the future constitution would be underpinned by the tenets of Islam.

Since then, as Fazlul Haq had previously lamented, Pakistani political leaders have exploited Islam. Even worse, extremists and terrorist groups have distorted its teachings to justify cold-blooded murder. In 2010 alone, there were 2,113 terrorist-related incidents in the country. Drastic measures are required. Bangladesh responded to the threat by banning religious political parties on July 28, 2010, and this decision has been accepted by its people.

The founding fathers of Pakistan were men of exception ability. Like all mortals they had their failings, but these were never fatal to their commitment to the people, and neither did they hesitate to admit their mistakes. Shortly before his death on April 27, 1962, Fazlul Haq wrote: “I have my hours of penance and regret. I am introspective enough to take an interest in the examination of my own conscience... Disappointments have not cured me of an ineradicable romanticism. If at time I am sorry for something I have done, remorse assails me only for the things I have left undone.”

Email: iftimurshed@gmail.com

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