This is in response to Ishtiaq Ahmed sb’s article published in Daily Times. I also encourage everyone to read my article “Heretic, Communist, Muslim Leaguer” in DT today of which I shall produce a detailed version later. -YLH
Ishtiaq Ahmed’s distortions about Pakistan Movement
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed in his article has once again faithfully reproduced his arguments from an earlier article which was in my view historically inaccurate and wrong. I do not dare question Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed’s motives in distorting history – though it is sadly second nature to him but I do question the wisdom of Dr. Ahmed’s deliberate targetting of Shias and Ahmadis in his articles.
Consider: He writes that the demand for Islamic state in the League came from Raja of Mahmudabad- a Shia and one of the closest confidantes of Jinnah. Nothing wrong with that claim but Dr. Ahmed deliberately omits what Jinnah- who was himself a Khoja twelver Shia- said in response. This is how Raja sahib himself recalled the event:
“Lahore Resolution was passed earlier in the year, and when Pakistan was formed it was undoubtedly to be an Islamic State with the Sunnah and Shariah as its bedrock. The Quaid’s face went red and he turned to ask Raja whether he had taken leave of his senses. Mr. Jinnah added: `Did you realize that there are over seventy sects and differences of opinion regarding the Islamic faith, and if what the Raja was suggesting was to be followed, the consequences would be a struggle of religious opinion from the very inception of the State leading to its very dissolution.
Raja sahib was then asked to distance himself from the League which he did. This is no small omission on part of Dr. Ahmed and this is an omission he makes repeatedly. A half truth is – as good doctor would admit- no truth at all. Then comes his usual “Pir of Manki Sharif letter” argument. Ishtiaq Ahmed alleges that in this letter proves that Jinnah had promised Sharia to the Pir. May I suggest to Dr sahib to see what Jinnah promised and then pick up the Shariat Act of 1937 and compare the two. Shariat Act of 1937 is the bedrock of Muslim laws in Secular India mind you. Jinnah had promised the application of Shariat to affairs of the Muslim community and this would include matters like inheritance, family laws etc. Ofcourse Dr. Ahmed either would not know or would not admit that much later – long after independence- it was a Jinnah-trained lawyer- Daniyal Latifi, a leftist, a member of the Muslim League and the author Punjab Muslim League’s manifesto, who got a hapless old woman, inappropriately named Shah Bano, a Supreme Court verdict on alimony. It was the secular Congress Party which then overturned the verdict through legislature on grounds that offended the religious sensibilities of Muslims (read Deoband).
Perhaps the unkindest cut of them all is the claim that Ahmadis were wary of the Pakistan Movement initially till “Zafrulla was won over”. There is no doubt that the Munir Report is an extraordinary document- perhaps the finest in our history- but that doesn’t mean everything claimed in it is in toto accurate. A researcher’s job – Ishtiaq Ahmed told me in private correspondence- is to sift through facts and arrive at independent analysis. Well historically everyone is aware of Sir Zafrulla’s role in the roundtable conference as Punjab’s main man. No less a person than Khan Abdul Wali Khan – whose book forms a major reference point for Ishtiaq Ahmed – claimed with absolute certainty that Sir Zafrulla, “a Qadiyani”, was the author of the Lahore Resolution. Ostensibly if Zafrulla was the author of the Lahore Resolution and the Lahore Resolution marks the start of the Pakistan Movement, wouldn’t Ishtiaq Ahmed’s claim amount to blowing hot and cold over nothing?
The truth is that Ahmadis were closely involved with Jinnah as early as 1931 when he went and attended Juma prayers at their London Mosque. It was the Imam of the Woking Mosque who being Jinnah’s close friend convinced him in 1934 to return to India and take over the Muslim League. The Ahmadiyya movement’s chief – Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud- was at this time the president of the All India Kashmir Committee. One of its more famous board members was Allama Iqbal. This was before Iqbal turned notoriously anti-Ahmadi in his last years over a familial dispute over his Ahmadi half brother.
I could go on demolishing Ishtiaq Ahmed’s assertions which are historically completely off the mark but that would take up too much space. One must however question Ishtiaq Ahmed on his private griefs. In my view there have always been two kinds of threads in South Asian Islam – the heterodox variety which consists of Barelvis (the low church), Shias, Ismailis Ahmadis, Mahdavis (Nawab Bahadur Yaar Jung was a Mahdavi for example) and the high church Deoband. The former overwhelmingly sided with Jinnah and the Muslim League, with the exception of a small unrepresentative body. The latter overwhelmingly supported the Congress Party with the exception of a small unrepresentative group.
I suspect however that Ishtiaq Ahmed’s loyalties don’t lie with Deoband. I would put him squarely in the camp of Agha Shorish Kashmiri – the Ahmadi-hater – who also invented a fake interview with Maulana Azad to discredit Pakistan and its creation. With ideological gurus like that is it any wonder that Ishtiaq Ahmed has such a hardtime telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth?