Pakistan Resolution: A Milestone in the History of Indo-Pak Subcontinent

Published in Hilal English

Written By: Prof. Dr. Riaz Ahmad

The Muslims ruled over the present areas of Pakistan for more than one thousand years, i.e., from 712 AD to 1857 AD and over the whole of Indo-Pak subcontinent for about seven hundred years from 1192 AD to 1857. In this period the entire character of the subcontinent in terms of its historical perspective, cultural pattern, social norms, legal ethos, folklore were changed. On one hand new ideas were introduced, but on the other it was social and cultural synthesis, both of the new and the old ones, giving a new trend to both the Hindu and Muslim societies. Even the religious norms in terms of jogism and sufism were affected giving birth to a new religion of Sikhism in the 15th century AD. The Mughal rulers were actually broadminded rulers encouraging all kinds of cultural diversity. They welcomed new trends, particularly the new religion of Sikhism founded by Kabir and Nanak. The half a century rule of King Jalaluddin Akbar was a great blessing for Sikhism. Akbar not only encouraged them but granted lands to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The Sikhs were also recruited as Mansabdars. After the death of King Aurangzeb in 1707, the Muslims faced declining trend of their power because of weak successors of Aurangzeb paving the way for the British to capture power gradually. It was by 1858 that the British East India Co. rule was turned into the British Raj which continued up to 1947 when Pakistan came into being.

In the new age, the concept of ‘nation-state’ emerged. The Muslim thinkers like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Allama Muhammad Iqbal contributed to this idea of a separate Muslim state. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, gave this idea a final shape on March 23, 1940 and struggled hard as head of the Muslim party, the All-India Muslim League, galvanized the Muslim Nation, won in the elections of 1945-1946 and, finally, saw the creation of Pakistan on August 14, 1947. This revival of Muslims in to power again in 1947 was termed by the Quaid-i-Azam not a new thing, but rather return to their golden past in the Indo-Pak subcontinent.

The scheme of Pakistan prepared by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was presented at the 27th session of the All India Muslim League held in Lahore on March 1940 in the form of a resolution. As the language of the resolution runs, it was put: “Resolved that it is the considered view of the 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, that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so 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 India, should be grouped to constitute ‘Independent States’ in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.”1 In his presidential speech, the Quaid said: “We find that even according to the British map of India, we occupy large parts of this country where the Musalmans are in a majority—such as Bengal, Punjab, N.W.F.P., Sindh and Balochistan.”2 He also declared: “Musalmans are a nation according to any definition of a nation, and they must have their homelands, their territory and their State.”3

The resolution was presented in the session on March 23 and approved on the next day after fully debating it in which representatives from all parts of the subcontinent participated. As Jinnah planned, the resolution was moved by A. K. Fazlul Haq, Premier of Bengal. Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman, a leader from U.P. seconded it. Others who spoke in favour of this resolution were Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Editor of the popular Urdu daily Zamindar, Sardar Aurangzeb Khan, Leader of Opposition in the NWFP (now KP) Assembly, Sir Abdullah Haroon, a veteran leader from Sindh, Khan Bahadur Nawab Mohammad Ismail Khan, President of the U.P. Muslim League, Mohammad Isa Khan, President of Balochistan Muslim League, Abdul Hamid Khan, Leader of the Muslim Party in the Madras Assembly, I. I. Chundrigar, Dy. Leader of the Muslim League party in the Bombay Assembly, Syed Abdur Rauf Shah, President of the C.P. Muslim League, Dr. Mohammad Alam from Punjab, Syed Zakir Ali, Begum Mohammad Ali, widow of late Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, and Maulana Abdul Hamid.4 The resolution was passed on March 24 “unanimously amid great enthusiasm.”5 This reflected the unity of the Muslims of the subcontinent belonging to both the majority and minority Muslim provinces of British India who fully supported the Quaid in his scheme of Pakistan.

This was not a new idea. Various ideas for the division of South Asian subcontinent into Hindu zones and Muslim zones had already been put forward. John Bright in the late 19th century was the first to suggest in this direction. It goes to the credit of Quaid-i-Azam and his followers that first they mobilized Muslim public opinion, both in the historical and political sense, and then presented the idea. The idea coming in this background duly enjoyed the backing of the whole of Muslim India. The leaders of the majority Muslim provinces expressed their willingness to accept this. At the same time it was supported by the leaders of the minority Muslim provinces. The common factor which bounded the Muslims of both these areas was the fear of Hindu Raj exhibited in a number of Hindu writings and speeches by certain Hindu leaders. Thus the State of Pakistan was designed to serve the purpose of both the majority Muslim areas as well as those of the minority Muslim areas.

Quaid-i-Azam was the leader who had a strong sense of history. He not only rightly interpreted the historical development in the contemporary realities, but he was also the person who thought along the lines of giving new direction to history. He also understood the main forces which shaped history. At the international and national level it was the British Government which formed the greatest force of history. In the internal political developments it were the Indian National Congress leaders who were another big factor in history representing the Hindu majority will. Jinnah, in his long political career of working with the Congress leaders since his entry into politics in 1897, had visualized that the Congress leaders were not allowing the Muslims any respectable position in the body politic of South Asia. For making the Muslims a third majority power factor of South Asia, Jinnah got the chance against the backdrop of World War II that broke out in September 1939. On this issue he challenged the British masters and made them realize that the Muslims are a third major factor without whose approval the future of South Asia could not be determined. Through his wise policies Quaid-i-Azam brought unity amongst the rank and file of the Muslims of the subcontinent. After having achieved this unity during 1935-1939, he presented the goal of Pakistan for their approval in March 1940. Now with the united Muslim backing he was ready to deal with the Congress leaders.

The Lahore session of the AIML was closely watched by the Governor of the Punjab, Sir Henry Craik. He sent his secret report to the Viceroy on March 25, 1940 in which he wrote: “The session of the Muslim League finished last night and I am glad to be able to report that my Ministers have emerged comparatively unscathed from a situation that at one time seemed extremely critical.”6 He also wrote: “As regards the result of the Muslim League session, I imagine you are in as good a position to appreciate these as I am. My own impression is that the influence and that the unanimity and enthusiasm shown at the session have given the League a position of far greater authority than it previously enjoyed.”7

At that time Lord Zetland was functioning as the Secretary of State for India. When he heard of the popularity of the Muslim demand, his first reaction was the realization that he could not avoid expressing his hostility to the Pakistan demand. Writing to Lord Linlithgow in April 1940, Zetland observed:

I think that in the course of the forthcoming debates I shall be bound to express my dissent from the proposals which have recently been put forward by the All India Muslim League in the course of their recent conference at Lahore. I should very much doubt whether they have been properly thought out and in any case to create a number of Ulsters in India would not only mean the wrecking of all that we have been working for a number of years past, but would also imagine, give rise to the most violent opposition on the part of the Congress and possibly of others who are not actually attached to the Congress in India. There is, of course, great force in Jinnah’s arguments that the circumstances of India are unsuited to the form of democracy which we have evolved in this country. We have always recognized that and we have of course provided various restrictions on the free working of the democratic system. Even so, it is clear that the working of parliamentary institutions in India is characterized by some strange practices.… The fundamental difference between the Muslims and the Hindus is certainly a much greater obstacle in the way of the smooth working of a democratic system. But nothing appears to have been said in the Resolution of the All India Muslim League in which they sketched their constitutional policy about the form of government in the units which are to be created in those parts of India which are inhibited mainly by Muslims or in the unites which lie outside the Muslim sphere of influence.8

In a number of telegrams the Viceroy had advised the Secretary of State for India and the Home Government not to express their public opposition to the Pakistan Scheme. This was thought because of the fact that the idea had firmly gained ground in the Muslim mind. What was desired by the Viceroy was a policy of the British Government by which sympathy to the Pakistan demand was to be shown as long as the war was continuing. After the War comes to an end, the British should resort to devise their policy in this connection. In another telegram in April 1940, the Viceroy advised the Secretary of State for India:

I am myself disposed to regard Jinnah’s partition scheme as very largely in the nature of bargaining. I think he has put forward this scheme, the many objections to which I need not set out here, partly to dispose of the reproach that the Muslims had no constructive scheme of their own; partly to offset the extreme Congress claims to independence, etc. and the Congress contention that the Congress is the mouthpiece of India; and that a Constituent Assembly on the basis of adult suffrage is the only machinery for deciding future progress, as put forward in the Ramgarh resolution. That many Muslims are unhappy about the partition scheme, I have no doubt, more particularly Muslims in the minority provinces. That it may lose some non-Muslim support for Jinnah is clear from speeches by, e.g., Chhotu Ram in the Punjab and by Sikh protests that they will not readily submit to Muslim domination. But at the present stage my impression is that, while the scheme will be much criticized and rightly so, there is a doubt apart from that whether many Muslims of substance could face up to Jinnah over it…. I would myself agree with Craik’s estimate that the effect of Lahore has been to a remarkable degree to increase Jinnah’s prestige and to consolidate his position as an All-India Muslim spokesman, and with the view reported by Stewart that unsound as the partition idea may be, it is one which will get into the hands of a very large numbers of Muslims, and many prove increasingly difficult to dislodge. I get the general impression that the Muslims in the light of Lahore resolution and despite the internal dissensions connected with the Khaksar movement are in a far more confident and resolute mood that they have hitherto been. I am perfectly clear as to the seriousness of the factor which is hardening on their part represents; and I am confirmed in the view expressed in my telegram of 8th March of the difficulty of ignoring or overriding it, and the necessity for giving full consideration to Muslim claims.

There is much that could be said in criticism of Jinnah’s partition ideas and we clearly could not accept or endorse them. But quite apart from the fact that we have left the whole scheme and policy of the Act open for discussion after the war, and that Jinnah’s scheme itself has, I suspect, largely been provoked by the unreasonable demands of Congress, any condemnation of Jinnah’s scheme will at once irritate Muslim feeling and will be seized on by Congress. In present tempers here I would myself therefore think it preferable to quote it as illustrating the extent to which the gulf has widened between the parties, and to take the line that His Majesty’s Government attached all the more importance in such circumstances to reaching a solution, with the agreement of all parties, which would secure the unity of India.9

Explaining it further in his telegram of April 8, Viceroy made it more clear to the Secretary of State that while he fully appreciates the impressions of the Secretary of State with which he entirely sympathized, as regards the Muslim partition plan, he would again emphasize that great importance of saying nothing which would antagonize the Muslims and of avoiding any direct attack on them. The British Government, the Viceroy continued, should be careful enough while handling this issue so long as the War was going on. At the end of the War, as promised by the Government, the British Government would consider the situation and decide the matter to the entire satisfaction of the all the parties and communities.10

The Viceroy first thought that the Resolution was perhaps a “bargaining counter” by Jinnah but towards end of April 1940, he was convinced that Jinnah was determined to achieve Pakistan at all costs. Still he hoped that if Hindus and Sikhs are backed by the British Government their propaganda is bound to influence “Jinnah’s less intelligent and literate constituents.”11 This was to be resorted to, the Viceroy cautioned, systematically in a convincing manner without resorting to the risk of confronting the idea of Pakistan openly. The Viceroy thus advised the Punjab Governor in April 1940:

It is obvious that Jinnah does not mean to relinquish an inch of any ground which he thinks may be of any value to him, and I was amused to see that Pakistan Day celebrations had been time for the day after the debate on both houses on the extension of the section 93 proclamation.

I am not surprised that the Hindus and the Sikhs should have been so outspoken in their condemnation of Jinnah’s partition schemes. As I have made clear more than once, I do not myself take those claims too seriously, and regard them as very largely a matter of political maneuvering. But that they are beginning to have the effect, on which he has no doubt reckoned, of alarming Hindu parties, is clear (the Hindustan Times leaders are good evidence in this connection) and I am a little afraid that with the passage of time, the idea which they represent will get sufficiently deep into the minds of Jinnah’s less intelligent and literature constituents to prove a political obstacle which it is not going to be by any means easy to take either for His Majesty’s Government or for political parties outside the Muslim fold in this country.12

Lord Zetland, Secretary of State for India, was also giving serious thought to what the Viceroy Linlithgow had written to him on Jinnah’s scheme of Pakistan. Zetland took into confidence the British Prime Minister and other policy makers of the Home Government. After thorough homework, Zetland wrote to Linlithgow on April 24, 1940:

I quite understand, of course, your anxiety lest I should say anything to upset Jinnah, but I really feel that I could not say less than I regarded the scheme put forward by the All India Muslim League at Lahore as being something little short of a council despair.

I hope that the terms of the reply to Jinnah which I telegraphed to you a few days ago will be sufficient to keep him quiet, though I do not feel certain by any means that this will be so. Indeed, the present attitude of the All India Muslim League seems to me to justify the fear which I expressed last summer, with what I am afraid you must have found somewhat wearisome reiteration, that we should find the Muslims the most formidable obstacle in the way of the federation which we were then hoping to scheme. I am bound to say that if their present mood persists, I see little chance of us being able to bring them in, at any rate of any terms approaching those contemplated by the Act. The Diehards over here are secretly delighted at the widening of the gulf between the Muslims and the Hindus; but taking a long view I should myself doubt very much if a cleavage between the Muslims and the Hindus as fundamental as that contemplated by the present leaders of the All India Muslim League would prove to be our advantage. The Hindus have no particular affiliations outside India, whereas the call of Islam is one which transcends the bounds of country. It may have lost some of its force as a result of the abolition of the Caliph by Mustapha Kemal Pasha, but it still has a very considerable appeal, as witnessed, for example, Jinnah’s insistence on our giving understanding that Indian troops should never be employed against any Muslim State, and the solicitude which he has consistently expressed for the Arabs of Palestine, and I recall a statement by Sikander in a speech at Karachi on October, the 10th, 1938, which is all more significant, coming as it did from a man of much broad-minded views and so tolerant an outlook, that he would rather be ‘shot down’ than agree to Indian troops being sent to Palestine. I cannot help thinking that if separate Muslim State did indeed come into existence in India, as now contemplated by the All India Muslim League, the day would come when they fight temptation to join an Islamic Commonwealth of Nations well-nigh irresistible. More particularly would this be the case with the North-West of India, which would in these circumstances be a Muslim State conterminous with the vast block of territory dominated by Islam, which runs from North Africa and Turkey in the West to Afghanistan in the East. You may think that this is looking unnecessarily far ahead and that we can but devote our energies to endeavouring to solve our more immediate problems, I dare say that you would be right; yet I feel that one has to keep one’s eye on the possible developments of a somewhat distant future, if we are to come to right decisions in connection with the problem immediately confronting us.13

Linlithgow discussed the view of the Secretary of State with his Cabinet and some provincial governors. Other key advisers of the government were also consulted. After thorough homework, the Viceroy replied the Secretary of State in June 1940 in which his assessment of Jinnah’s scheme of Pakistan was as follows:

The Muslim League, challenged as it has been to produce any constructive programme to set against that advanced by Congress has in the last few months come out a definite position that India should be divided in Hindu and Muslim spheres of influence, a proposition commonly referred to as the theory of the two-nations; or the Pakistan claim, I have not myself ever believed that this proposal was put forward by Muslim leaders save for bargaining purposes and to offset Congress claims.

But it has been taken very seriously by Congress opinion as a threat to Indian unity, and there are now signs that even in Muslim India it is beginning to sink into the minds of the rank and file, and that it may prove very much more difficult to deal with than its authors may have anticipated. The Muslim League finally is reluctant, so far as one can judge, while they may talk about independence to see any severance of the British connection.14

…I would add only that our policy has throughout been to aim at securing the unity of India. Such unity as exists in India today may not unfairly be ascribed entirely to British rule. We can claim to have played the part of impartial arbiters, devoid of any communal feeling and outside the deep-seated and long-established differences of outlook and of religious faith between the various communities. We have contrived to produce a unity which does not go too deep. We are, I believe, in a position to contribute to the preservation of that unity.15

On Jinnah’s scheme of Pakistan, the British Government, both in India and London, were disturbed. Some thought this idea of Pakistan by Jinnah, was a “bargaining counter” to deal both with Congress as well with the Government. Others thought differently as seen before. But Jinnah was very sincere in his demand for Pakistan. The British rulers were careful enough to express publicly on this issue for fear of reaction from the Muslim public opinion whose majority had come to be commanded by Jinnah’s political leadership. It was with fears and doubts that the Viceroy, his advisers and the British tackled the political situation in British India particularly the Pakistan demand.


The writer is Ex-Director, National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, and Professor at Quaid-i-Azam Chair (NIPS), Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad.

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1 S.S. Pirzada (ed.), Foundations of Pakistan: All India Muslim League Documents 1906-1947, Vol. II, Islamabad, NIHCR, Quaid-i-Azam University, 2007, p. 312.
2 Ibid., p. 306.
3 Ibid., p. 310.
4 Ibid., pp. 311-315.
5 Ibid., p. 315.
6 Craike to Linlithgow, 25 March 1940, Linlithgow Papers, Eur. Mss. F. 125/89, British Library (OIOC), London.
7 Ibid.
8 Zetland to Linlithgow, 5 April 1940, Linlithgow Papers, Eurr. Mss., F. 125/9.
9 Viceroy to Secretary of State (telegram), April 6, 1940, Eur. Mss. F. 125/19, British Library (OIOC), London.
10 Viceroy to Secretary of State, April 8 1940, Eur. Mss. F. 125/19, British Library (OIOC), London.
11 Ibid.
12 Linlithgow to Craike, April 18 1940, Linlithgow Papers, Eur. Mss. F. 125/89, British Library (OIOC), London.
13 Zetland to Linlithgow, April 24 1940, Linlithgow Papers, Eur. Mss. F. 125/19, British Library (OIOC), London.
14 Viceroy to Secretary of State (telegram), June 30 1940, Linlithgow Papers, Eur. Mss. F. 125/19, British Library (OIOC), London.
15 Ibid.

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