The idea of Pakistan —Ammar Ali Qureshi (Courtesy Daily Times)
Pakistan as an idea in the 1940s appealed to all sections of Muslim society in India. It would be wrong to assume that sects such as the Ahmedis or Shias took a collective decision
Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed, in his article “The demand for Pakistan and Islam” (Daily Times, June 8, 2010), has raised a number of contradictory and controversial points that demand clarification and refutation. His statement about Ahmedis and Shias, of being initially wary of joining Pakistan or rejecting it first before accepting it, can be disproved from his own article. For example about Ahmedis, he says that they were wary till Sir Zafarullah was won over by Jinnah. Sir Zafarullah was present at the 1940 Resolution in Lahore and solidly behind Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah at that historic meeting, which means that Ahmedis had embraced the idea of Pakistan in 1940 when it was first presented. It is difficult to divine what anyone’s opinion was before 1940 as the idea of Pakistan had not been publicly presented or articulated before the Lahore Resolution.
Professor Ahmed quotes a statement attributed to Raja Sahib of Mahmudabad, a Shia, in 1939 in which he is talking about a separate state based on religious laws. If this statement by Raja Sahib is accepted as true, then it also has to be admitted that Shias in India were in favour of a separate state in 1939 and this contradicts Professor Ahmed’s latter statement that Shias rejected the demand for Pakistan in 1945 and later switched their loyalties to Jinnah. Raja Sahib’s statement shows that they were ahead of the game in the quest for a separate state as Raja Sahib made that statement in 1939, which is one year before the Pakistan Resolution was passed in 1940. As for the correspondence between Allama Zaheer and Jinnah, one can say that it represented the personal opinion of Allama Zaheer and it was not reflective of all Shias, just as Maulana Azad’s views or stance adopted by other religious parties towards Pakistan (although they knew that Sunnis would form a majority) cannot be considered as the opinion of all Sunnis.
It is well known that the top leadership of the All India Muslim League, since its inception in 1906, had stalwarts who were Shia — such as Sir Aga Khan, Syed Ameer Ali, Sir Ali Imam, Raja Sahib of Mahmudabad (both father and son presided over Muslim League sessions in Lucknow), Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Mirza Abul Hassan Ishpahani, etc. These leaders were at the forefront of the Pakistan Movement and played a pivotal role in Muslim League politics since its founding. After 1947, a number of presidents and prime ministers of Pakistan were Shia. A lot of debate has taken place about the idea of Pakistan, but there is little focus on who financed the Pakistan Movement. Sir Aga Khan’s generous financial contributions, as well as fund-raising efforts for the cause of the Muslim League, are well-documented. Stanley Wolpert, in his famous biography of Jinnah, has provided the exact details of Raja Sahib of Mahmudabad’s extremely generous annual financial contribution to the Muslim League and the Pakistan Movement from 1936-47, which makes one say that it was Jinnah’s mind and Raja Sahib’s money that created Pakistan. (It is said that Raja Sahib would go on hunger strikes lasting more than three days when Maharani would not allow him to donate money to the Muslim League and she would later give way so that his hunger strike could be ended.)
Jinnah and Raja Sahib had a very close relationship (like that of a father and son) till their differences arose over the nature of the future state. In his essay ‘Some Memories’ (re-published in 1994 in Mushir-ul-Hasan’s edited book, India’s Partition-Process, Strategy and Mobilisation, pages 415-426), Raja Sahib recalled: “My advocacy of an Islamic state brought me into conflict with Jinnah. He thoroughly disapproved of my ideas and dissuaded me from expressing them publicly from the League platform lest the people might be led to believe that Jinnah shared my view and that he was asking me to convey such ideas to the public. As I was convinced that I was right and did not want to compromise Jinnah’s position, I decided to cut myself away and for nearly two years kept my distance from him, apart from seeing him during the working committee meetings and on other formal occasion. It was not easy to take this decision as my associations with Jinnah had been very close in the past. Now that I look back I realise how wrong I had been” (page 425).
Pakistan as an idea in the 1940s appealed to all sections of Muslim society in India. It would be wrong to assume that sects such as the Ahmedis or Shias took a collective decision. Individual decisions were taken even at family levels and across all classes and sects as to who would opt for Pakistan and who would stay in India. Otherwise it is very difficult to explain how families were divided by partition — some brothers and sisters ended up in Pakistan while others remained in India.
Sahabzada Yaqub opted for Pakistan and found himself fighting in Kashmir few months after Pakistan’s creation while his elder brother, who stayed in India, fought in Kashmir from the Indian side. Zakir Hussain remained in India, headed Aligarh University after partition and later became India’s third president, while his brother Dr Mahmud Hussain migrated to Pakistan and later became a federal minister. Mian Arshad Hussain and Mian Azim Hussain, sons of Punjabi politician Sir Fazle Hussain, opted for two different countries in 1947 and served as Ambassadors of Pakistan and India respectively in the same capital in the 1960s. When the Shah of Iran met General Atiqur Rehman, the then Governor of West Pakistan, he remarked that although “we have not met before but I know about your family as your brother is India’s ambassador in Tehran”. All these examples are of prominent people but even among ordinary and non-prominent families countless such examples of brothers and sisters divided by partition can be found, which underscore the point that it is wrong to assume collective decision making on the part of sects or even families as individual choices played an extremely important role.
Ammar Ali Qureshi is a London-based finance professional and a freelance contributor