By Yasser Latif Hamdani
An impartial history of the Pakistan Movement and the rise of the Muslim Nationalism in South Asia shows that the main engine behind it – the Muslim Bourgeoisie – was entirely drawn from the modernist educational tradition of Aligarh and other Muslim educational institutions founded and run by pro-west Muslim reformers like Sindh Medressah (which was a school modelled after British tradition, name notwithstanding), Anjuman-e-Himayat-e-Islam schools and colleges as well entirely secular institutions like the Government College, Punjab University and Peshawar University. In comparison the religious and scholarly class – i.e. Ulema- largely stood either aloof or in opposition to the the Pakistan Movement. Darul Uloom Deoband, the most important Islamic seminary in all of India, was as much an arsenal of pro-Congress Muslim Ulema after the Khilafat Movement as Aligarh was that of Muslim Nationalism. As the independence movement progressed, the pro-Western Aligarh Muslim University came to be associated more with Muslim minority’s cause and was denounced as “reactionary” by Congress as a whole. Pro-Congress Muslims created their own parallel Jamia Milli in Aligarh which was alter shifted to Delhi. Today it is the premiere Muslim institution in India, whereas Aligarh has been decaying.
The point that I am trying to make is that Pakistan Movement was fed by financial, moral and political support of a Muslim bourgeoisie that had emerged directly out of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s activities in the 19th century. While Jinnah himself did not come out of Aligarh having been called to Bar in London, the Muslim leadership and rank and file of the League were generally the product of Aligarh. These gentlemen were the epitome of Macualay’s minute on Indian education albeit with an additional Muslim angle. A great many of them were Shias and Aga Khanis. Right from Syed Ameer Ali to Aga Khan III all of them could pass as the finest Englishmen in culture, outlook and lifestyles but for their obvious racial features. Consequently they got along better with the British conservatives than the liberal or the Labour party (here too Jinnah was an exception because till 1939, his relations with the Conservative Party were particularly bad because of his own Indian Nationalist views and his opposition to pro-British elements in India). The point that I am trying to make is not that they were good or bad but that historically these people had been the lights of the Pakistan Movement and Muslim Nationalism. Often enough they were denounced as “reactionaries” or “communal” only because they chose to stay away from the Congress and its push for independence. Yet these men were very consciously modern and attempted to reconcile their faith with modernity.
Somehow soon within the first decade or so of independence these westernized modern Muslims became irrelevant considered colonial hanger-ons. They were denounced- perhaps accurately but acerbically- as “brown sahibs” or “kala angraiz” types. As the process of indigenization took root in the post colonial state, their contribution to the cause of Muslim education and modernity was glossed over and discarded for the most part (except Sir Syed Ahmed Khan) and others like Jinnah were presented in a particularly fabricated manner as a caricature of himself- most young people don’t even recognize Jinnah in trademark Saville Row suit having been grown up with the greyish blue sherwani and topi image of the man. Similarly forgetting Iqbal’s reconstruction of religious thought which was a sine qua non for his project of a Muslim state in North West India, he was presented only as a poet philosopher of imagery and Islamic revival. Many people pin point the Zia era for this change. There is no doubt that the process of turning history on its head reached its climax during General Zia’s Islamist dictatorship, but it seems that the turning point in Pakistan’s history must have come at least a decade before Zia’s take over.
There is a curious document called Educational Policy of Pakistan 1969 which m1akes interesting reading. To our eternal shame this document was drafted by Air Marshal Nur Khan, one of Pakistan’s finest heroes in battle. If anyone wishes to understand how the worst enemies of Pakistan Movement and Muslim Modernism in the subcontinent came to be hailed as “important to the formation of Pakistani Nationhood”, they ought to read this document.
To put things in perspective before I move on: The previous two important landmarks in Pakistani educational history may well be the first National Education Conference in 1948 and the Sharif Commission of 1959. The educational principles that emerged from these two sought to reconcile Islam with modernity and emphasized the role of science, technology and western languages – especially English. Particularly praiseworthy was the Pakistani education policy till 1969 both recognized the great contribution of Christian missionary institutions and lauded them for their contribution to Pakistani society. All this was to end with the trend set by 1969’s policy. The Sharif Commission’s recommendations were denounced as “secular” and “obstructive” to the “ideology of Pakistan”. Interestingly the term “Nazaria-e-Pakistan” was coined here allegedly by one Sher Ali Pataudi. In its overzealousness, the post colonial state described the English language as a major hindrance to equality, denounced the missionary institutions as anti-national and replaced instruction in English with Urdu and Bengali.
However the most damaging aspect of this policy was its distortion of history. As mentioned above, the protagonists of the Pakistan movement with very few exceptions were not the rebel types. Out of the Muslim Leaguers, only five major leaders can genuinely said to have contributed to what is broadly termed as the “Independence Movement’ (which in this author’s view is in any event hugely over-rated): Mahomed Ali Jinnah, the Ali Brothers, Maulana Hasrat Mohani and Ch. Khaliquzzaman. Ali Brothers died before the Pakistan Movement started. Jinnah’s contribution to the independence movement was constitutional as opposition and his efforts were directed towards the attainment of self governing Dominion Status for India. Maulana Hasrat Mohani was a leftist by political inclination and a devout Muslim. He chose to stay in India after partition despite having contributed handsomely to the Pakistan Movement. The rest of the leadership was by and large loyal and pro-British from the Sir Syed Ahmad Khan tradition and there is nothing wrong with that. Yet this did not gel in well with the Pakistani state’s own image of itself, particularly after the open hostility the Pakistan Movement in Punjab faced from the British in the last year and a half before independence which turned even the most pro-British of the Leaguers against the British. Thus the Pakistani state invented over time the myth of a grand and massive anti-British struggle which led to the independence from both the British and the Hindus. This self-image and unnecessary anti-colonial posture had a damaging effect.
The education policy sought to distance Pakistani Nationalism from Muslim modernists like Syed Ameer Ali, Hassan Ali Effendi and Aga Khan III. Instead it was recommended that the founders of Darul Ulooms and Islamic Madrassahs who rejected Western education and the English language be glorified as signifiers of Pakistan’s national identity. That these people opposed the creation of Pakistan was put aside. A fabricated history was fed full of crass generalization about how the “Gora” was kicked out valiantly by the Muslims. In doing so the role of the British in Muslim uplift post 1870s is completely forgotten and the support that the Muslim League got in its initial loyalist phase from the British is also set aside. All of this is done in the name of some imaginary national aspiration which to this day hurts Pakistan and puts it in a duplicitous schizophrenic mode. This fabricated anti-colonialism goes beyond being merely anti-British or indigenous. In Pakistan it becomes anti-democratic, anti-minority and anti-modernity primarily because Islam itself has undergone an orthodox revival which has made the positions taken by Ameer Ali and Aga Khan III untenable in the modern world.
The educational rot started in 1969. While Pakistan had reached a consensus of some kind of role for Islam in public life even before 1969, it was this policy and subsequent policies inspired from this policy that gave Islam a decisively anti-modern and exclusive character in Pakistan. And while this explains why history was inverted on its head and people like Maududi who were till then the anti-thesis of Pakistaniat became its uncles and aunties, what is not understood is why a man like Nur Khan would present such a policy? Those who have come across the elderly gentleman as he hikes even today on Trail 3 in Islamabad, know that the man is no bigot and from the looks of it himself a pukka brown sahib.
Perhaps the answer to that lies in the charged atmosphere of the late 1960s. First of all the 1965 war began the irrevocable process of Islamization of the hitherto secular Pakistan Army as well as the moderately Muslim population of Pakistan. The war poetry and the slogans that were introduced during this war revolved around “Jihad” and pretty much created the Islam v. Kufr dichotomy. Even though Pakistani pilots, soldiers and other citizens who contributed to the war included notable Christians, the rhetoric was almost exclusively Muslim. The war itself reinforced the perpetual suspicion of the west given what was viewed as US’ betrayal after US refused to release spare parts. Secondly the Ayub regime was seen as pro-American and the Arab-Israeli War in 1967 further radicalized the Muslim opinion.
For the idea of Pakistan to succeed and overcome the various threats and dangers it faces today, it is of utmost importance for Pakistan to undo the terrible effects of this concocted history. For better or for worse, we must recognize and give credit to the real forerunners of the Pakistan idea- those westernized and anglicized Muslims who played an integral role in safeguarding Muslim interests in the subcontinent. They are our forerunners and not the Mullahs and religiously inspired so called freedom fighters right from that ill-advised mutiny in 1857 to Darul-uloom Deoband whose role against Pakistan is well known.
We must also recognize that no one kicked the “Gora” out but that the “Gora” left once it became cost ineffective to hold onto British India and most importantly that he left through his own act of parliament.
By Yasser Latif Hamdani