Article on The Lahore Resolution
By Pravin Pania, WSI Advisory Board Member
“Pakistan Day”, on the 23rd of March, is a day of celebration in Pakistan, commemorating the passage of a resolution in 1940 that is believed to have paved the way for the formal creation of Pakistan, which was carved out of British India as a homeland for the Muslims of India. This resolution was passed in 1940 in Lahore by a full annual session of the All India Muslim League, the political party that led the Muslim separatist movement in British India. Since its passage, Pakistan has deemed March 23rd a national holiday, in observation of its role in the birth of a nation, and has erected the impressive Minar-i-Pakistan monument in that spot in Lahore on which the resolution was passed in 1940.
Yet while the Lahore Resolution is officially credited for the creation of the state of Pakistan, it marks a more somber note for the various autonomy-loving ethnic peoples of Pakistan. For them, the creation of Pakistan violates the very sentiment of the Lahore Resolution, and March 23rd marks not a day of celebration, but one of steadfast refusal by the Pakistani establishment to acknowledge its true meaning and intent. The disparities between what is and what was meant to be warrant an in-depth understanding of this influential document, its goals and its vision.
The history of the Lahore Resolution dates back to the year 1857, when a violent uprising swept throughout India against the emerging power of the British. Hindus and Muslims alike, and Indians from all walks of life, fought gallantly against the foreign conqueror to defend their autonomy and sovereignty. In the face of superior weaponry and a disciplined military, however, the British defeated Indian forces led by the last Muslim ruler of India. The year 1857 marked the official end of Muslim rule in India, and the beginning of a new era of British colonial domination. In the years that followed, it also meant a revived struggle for independence from foreign rule in India.
The Indian National Congress, established in 1885, comprised of all communities, classes and regions of India, engaged in a protracted struggle of independence. Its governing principles – secularism, democracy and rule of law – fired the imaginations of the Congress’ leadership and its followers from early on. In contrast, the All India Muslim League, established in 1906, strived exclusively to protect the Muslim community from threats – both real and perceived – by the Hindu majority. Over the years, as prospects for independence and democracy grew brighter, Muslim League leadership distanced itself from the mainstream independence movement, and began asking for a separate Muslim homeland instead. The Muslim League argued that the two hostile nations, one Hindu and one Muslim, existed within India and should be formally separated. This argument became known as the “Two Nation Theory”.
In the Indian provinces with Muslim majorities - Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, North West Frontier Province (NWFP), and East-Bengal – democracy was not viewed as a threat by Muslims. The Urdu-speaking Muslims of central India, however, were a minority in their province and felt threatened by democracy in independent India. To prevent their eclipse, they quickly assumed positions of leadership in the All India Muslim League, and supported a religious division of India and the creation of a separate country for Indian Muslims. Their most difficult task would be to convince Muslims in majority provinces to follow suit.
The All India Muslim League began a quest to assert Muslim unity – espousing the belief that all Muslims of India were one nation, with not only one religion, but also one language, one culture and one destiny. Undoubtedly, that one language was their Urdu language, one religion was their version of Islam, and one culture was their Mogul culture and one destiny in which they hoped to gain supremacy in the new Muslim country. Although having a common religion, the Muslims of India themselves, however, were not a homogenous nation. Distinct cultures, diverse religious outlooks, separate languages, individual histories and unique national identities all existed within the diverse Muslim population of India. As a result, the “Two Nation Theory” did not initially sit well in all Muslim circles. In the elections of 1937, for example, having campaigned on a platform based on the “Two Nation Theory”, the All India Muslim League suffered a humiliating defeat in all the Muslim majority provinces. Only 4.6 percent of the Muslim population voted for the Muslim League, and it won a mere 3 out of 33 seats reserved for Muslims in Sindh, 2 out of 84 seats in Punjab, 39 out of 117 seats in Bengal and none in NWFP. Thus, just a decade before its birth, Muslims of India had almost unanimously rejected the very idea of Pakistan.
In year 1940 All India Muslim League called its full annual session at Lahore, where a sharp division of visions was vividly visible. Urdu-speaking Muslims of central India, proponents of a unified Muslim country, formed one faction; leaders of Muslim majority provinces, who advocated linguistic, cultural and ethnic preservation, formed the other. Emboldened by the results of the 1937 elections, the Muslim majority provinces held the upper hand, and proceeded to set forth their own, divergent aspirations. The results were formulated in a resolution presented at the session by Bengali nationalist A.K. Fazlul Haq. However, before Fazlul Haq could present his resolution, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League tried to usher sentiments of oneness of Muslims of India. In a thundering speech before the delegates of the session at Lahore he said:
“Mussalmans (Muslims) came to India as conquerors, traders and preachers and brought with them their own culture and civilization. They reformed and remoulded the sub-continent of India. Today, the hundred million Mussalmans in (British) India represent the largest compact body of Muslim population in any single part of the world. We are civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, value and proportion, legal laws and moral code, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitude and ambitions, in short we have our distinctive outlook of life and on life. By all canons of international law we are a nation.”
Despite such roaring words of Muslim nationhood, neither Jinnah nor any other leader of the Muslim League presented a resolution demanding a Muslim homeland. In wake of fresh memories of the defeat in 1937 of the “Two Nation Theory”, probably, the leadership was not sure of support for such a demand from the Muslim majority provinces. Instead Fazlul Haq, leader of one of the Muslim majority provinces of Bengal, ignoring the word Pakistan altogether, as well as support for the future creation of a Muslim state, proposed a resolution for the future of Muslim society. The Muslim League formally adopted this resolution on March 23, 1940 in Lahore. It states the following:
The Lahore Resolution
March 23, 1940 - Lahore
While approving and endorsing the action taken by the Council and the Working Committee of the All India Muslim League, as indicated in their resolutions dated the 27th of August, 17th & 18th of September and 22nd of October, 1939, and the 3rd of February, 1940 on the constitutional issue, this session of the All India Muslim League emphatically reiterates that the scheme of federation embodied in the Government of India Act 1935 is totally unsuited to, and unworkable in the peculiar conditions of this country and is altogether unacceptable to Muslim India.
It further records its emphatic view that while the declaration dated the 18th of October, 1939 made by the Viceroy on behalf of His Majesty's Government is reassuring in so far as it declares that the policy and plan on which the Government of India Act, 1935, is based will be reconsidered in consultation with various parties, interests and communities in India, Muslims in India will not be satisfied unless the whole constitutional plan is reconsidered de novo and that no revised plan would be acceptable to Muslims unless it is framed with their approval and consent.
Resolved that it is the considered view of this Session of the All India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to the Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principles, viz., that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North Western and Eastern Zones of (British) India should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’ in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.
That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in these units and in the regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them and in other parts of India where the Muslims are in a minority adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards shall be specifically provided in the constitution for them and other minorities for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them.
The Session further authorizes the Working Committee to frame a scheme of constitution in accordance with these basic principles, providing for the assumption finally by the respective regions of all powers such as defense, external affairs, communications, customs, and such other matters as may be necessary."
The Lahore Resolution of 1940 consists of five paragraphs and each paragraph is only one sentence. Although clumsily worded, it delivers a clear message.
The first paragraph of the Lahore Resolution states that the Government of India Act 1935 passed by the British Parliament, under which a federation of India was promised for with one-third Muslim representation in the Central Legislature guaranteed and a new province of Sindh was created, was unacceptable to Muslims.
The second paragraph demands a new constitutional draft, with approval provided by Indian Muslims. Interestingly, the Resolution does not ask for approval by the All India Muslim League. Instead, it appeals to the support and consent of the Muslim masses, possibly highlighting the League’s lack of resounding support, as witnessed in the 1937 elections.
It is the third paragraph, however, that is the essence of the Resolution, offering a plan for the future of the Muslim majority provinces. The Resolution importantly and unambiguously asks that all the Muslim majority provinces be converted into fully “independent states” (countries), each autonomous and sovereign in their own right. This statement was a dramatic deviation from the original vision of a single Muslim country, as advocated by Jinnah and other members of the mainly Urdu-speaking faction of the All India Muslim League.
The fourth paragraph of the Resolution reiterates the concept of “autonomy”, separating each Muslim majority province from the rest of British India. It then requires constitutional guarantees for the non-Muslim minorities in these provinces, as well as for Muslim minorities in British India.
The fifth and final paragraph of the Resolution expands upon its notion of “sovereign”, authorizing the working committee ‘to frame a scheme of constitution’ under which each independent country would assume the powers to maintain its own armed forces, conduct foreign policy, establish a communications structure, levy customs duties and govern as deemed fit. As such, each Muslim majority province would be transformed into fully autonomous and sovereign countries
At its core, the Lahore Resolution exposed the rift between the Muslim nationalists of majority provinces, unwilling to sacrifice their ethnic identities and their political independence, and Muslims of Central India, who were unwilling to respect diverse Muslim ethnicities and their political pluralism. However, since its inception, the leadership of the Muslim League as well as the Pakistani establishment, are wrestling to misinterpret it – namely, that it calls for the creation of a single Muslim state. Recognizing such forms of manipulation in advance, some leaders at Lahore felt it necessary to further clarify the true intentions of the Resolution. Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardee, a Bengali nationalist and future Prime Minister of Pakistan, for example, stated at Lahore session, “Each of the provinces in the Muslim majority areas should be accepted as a sovereign state and each province should be given the right to choose its future Constitution or enter into a commonwealth with a neighboring province or provinces”.
As such, the text of the Lahore Resolution, along with further elaboration such as that provided by Suhrawardee, gives us a very clear understanding of its true intent: each Muslim majority province should acquire the status of a fully independent, autonomous and sovereign country. Further, these autonomous and sovereign states should be each equal to and independent of each other and to the rest of the British India, and should write their own constitutions and decide their own destiny. In particular, the Resolution is a determined endeavor to prevent the creation of one amalgamated Muslim state. It does, however, leave open the possibility for mergers between some or all the autonomous and sovereign countries, at a later stage, and should they choose to do so of their own free will and as equals. The actual formula the Resolution established was the following:
Sovereignty First. Then, Perhaps, Confederacy.
Another significant feature of the Lahore Resolution is that it attempts to prevent any form of population exchange caused by the separation, autonomy and sovereignty of Muslim majority provinces. In so doing, paragraph four clearly offers “adequate, effective and mandatory” constitutional guaranties to non-Muslim minorities in future Muslim independent States, and demands the same guaranties for Muslim minorities – especially Urdu-speaking minorities – in their native provinces of India. The drafters of the Resolution clearly realized that should India be divided into two homelands, one for Hindus and one for Muslims, it would mandate that Muslims from all over India migrate to their respective “homeland.” Likewise, such a policy would force Sindhi, Bengali, Baluch and Pachtun Hindus to be uprooted and expelled as well. Cross migration, whether slow or rapid, and with all its miseries, would be the only outcome of such a creation. The Lahore Resolution very deliberately built safeguards to avoid it, by demanding autonomy and sovereignty for all Muslim majority provinces, and protections for all minorities throughout. These new countries, as envisaged by the Lahore Resolution, were not to become a Muslim homeland, but homelands for the countries own natives.
Naturally, Jinnah and other Muslim League leaders were furious at Fazlul Haq and his Resolution. Fazlul Haq understood early on that the interests of Bengali Muslims were of little consequence for Jinnah and the Urdu lobby, and acted accordingly. He called Jinnah, “a single individual who seeks to rule as an omnipotent authority even over the destiny of 33 million Muslims in the province of Bengal.” Protesting in sharp words the intensions of Urdu lobby to dominate the rest of Muslim communities of India, Fazlul Haq wrote to the Urdu speaking general secretary of the League, Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan: “For my part, I will never allow the interests of 33 millions of the Muslims of Bengal to be put under the domination of any outside authority, however eminent it may be.” As a result, while the Muslim League proceeded to subvert the spirit of the Lahore Resolution by promoting the cause of Pakistan, Fazlul Haq declared, “the Pakistan scheme could not be applied to Bengal.” This pronouncement effectively shattered the belief that the Lahore Resolution, and Fazlul Haq, could pave way for the creation of Pakistan. Fazlul Haq and his ideas were now seen as a mortal threat to the vision of the Muslim League leadership, who alleged that his “conduct amounted to treachery.” Jinnah formally expelled Abul Kasem Fazlul Haq, the author of the Lahore Resolution of 1940, from the Muslim League in December 1941.
After the removal of Fazlul Haq, Muslim League leadership was determined to undo the sentiments of the Lahore Resolution. It continued with plans for the creation of a state of Pakistan, and in the process, also won favor with the British policy of “divide and rule.” However, the Lahore Resolution stood tall and firm on its own account record, and refused to disappear. Pakistan promoters were thus left with only two alternatives: to either pass another resolution that clearly sets forth a state of Pakistan, or amend the Lahore Resolution. The main difficulty, however, was that both alternatives required approval of the full session of the Muslim League, and Jinnah was still unsure of the level of support to be received from Muslim majority provinces. As a result, Muslim League leadership embarked on a highly dubious means of amending the Lahore Resolution in smaller and unrepresentative bodies, thus foregoing the need for full session approval.
At a much smaller Legislators’ Convention held in Delhi in April 1946, it was decided that a united state of Pakistan would be formed. Many Bengali Muslim members were unhappy with the change. Abul Hashim, a senior Bengali leader in attendance, objected that the demand for the creation of Pakistan effectively amended the Lahore Resolution. Under its own constitution, only a full session of the All India Muslim League could make amendments. The Legislators’ Convention had no such right.6
‘When Abul Hashim made his complaint, Jinnah, the lawyer, could see the problem clearly enough but his first attempt to get around it was feeble in extreme. He suggested that the letter ‘s’ after the word ‘State’ in the Lahore Resolution was a typographical error. When Liaquat Ali Khan produced the original minutes of the meeting Jinnah had to concede that he was wrong and word ‘States’ was indeed in the original text. He then fobbed off Abul Hashim’s objection by assuring the convention that the Lahore Resolution had not been amended. The resolution, he said, would be the document laid before the future Pakistani Constituent Assembly that, as a sovereign body would take all final decisions.’
In spite of Jinnah’s tampering, Abul Hashim’s efforts did have some limited success. Most notably, on May 12, 1946, Muslim League leadership adopted a memorandum of minimum demands, stating, “After the constitutions of Pakistan Federal Government and the provinces are finally framed by the constitution making body, it will be open to any province of the group to decide to opt out of this group, provided wishes of the people of that province are ascertained in a referendum to opt out or not.” Nevertheless, a new formula had been created, in direct violation and reversal of the Lahore Resolution. Effectively, the new formula stated:
Confederacy First. Then, Perhaps, Sovereignty.
Pakistan was born on August 14, 1947 – in spite of the Lahore Resolution, not because of it. For many, it remains an illegitimate creation conceived of deception and born in betrayal. The existence of a Pakistani state violates the true vision, words and spirit of the Lahore Resolution. Nevertheless, Pakistan still pretends to venerate this document, as it is the only major resolution in existence passed by the full session of the All India Muslim League. To add insult to the injury, the resolution has since been dubbed the “Pakistan Resolution”, and a national monument to this effect is in Lahore. In reality, it is in Delhi, where the Legislators’ Convention was held in 1946, that proves to be the most appropriate place for Minar-i-Pakistan.
The people of Bengal never lost sight of the dream created by the Lahore Resolution. The Pakistani army, though inflicting willful massacre, rape and mayhem of millions of Bengali Muslims, could not prevent their secession from Pakistan in 1971. Unfortunately for Fazlul Haq, he died in Dacca nine years before the birth of an autonomous and sovereign Bangladesh. And the cry to implement the Lahore Resolution is still heard all over Pakistan.
 K. K. Aziz. The Making of Pakistan: A Study in Nationalism. Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 1993, p. 56
 Rajmohan Gandhi. Understanding the Muslim Mind. Delhi: Penguin, 2000, p. 203.
 Enayetur Rahim. Provincial Autonomy in Bengal, 1937-1943. Dhaka: University Press, 1981, p.235.
 Amalendu De. Islam in Modern India. Calcutta: Maya Prakashan, 1982, p. 247.
6 K. K. Aziz. The Murder of History: A Critique of History Textbooks Used in Pakistan. Lahore: Vanguard, 2000, p. 62.
 Owen Bennett Jones. Pakistan: Eye of the Storm. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002, p. 151.
 Gauhar, Altaf, Ayub Khan. Pakistan’s First Military Ruler. Dhaka: United Press, p. 19.
Through nonviolent means,
The World Sindhi Institute works relentlessly
for universal human rights and humanitarian law for the
Sindhis of Sindh, in southeastern Pakistan.