Significance of 23rd March
On 23rd March 1940, a clear concept of two-nation theory was laid down when All India Muslim League in a meeting at Manto Park (now Iqbal Park) Lahore passed a resolution, known as Lahore Resolution of 1940 on the basis of which Pakistan was created in 1947. In 1956 again on 23rd March, first constitution of Pakistan was adopted, which marked the transition from the Dominion of Pakistan to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, making Pakistan the world’s first Islamic republic. Indeed, Allama Iqbal had dreamt of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the sub-continent, and Quaid-i-Azam converted that dream into reality with the support of the Muslims of undivided India.
From 1916 to 1940, Quaid-e-Azam had tried his best to get constitutional guarantees for the Muslims. Since he believed in democratic struggle, he had even tried to get the rights of Muslims secured by accepting Cabinet Mission Plan in 1946. But after Gandhi’s assertion that the Congress alone represented India, Quaid-i-Azam was convinced that Muslims would not get a fair deal in the united India. Completely destroyed during World War II, the Britain was incapable of controlling the large swathe of the sub-continent and decided to quit India. Quaid-Azam thus thought it an opportune time to declare that he would not accept anything less than a separate homeland for the Muslims of undivided India.
As envisioned by the founding fathers, Pakistan was to be modern and progressive state where a free and independent people would invoke Ijtihad to reconstruct Islamic thought and assimilate its eternal principles and values in order to overcome centuries-old stagnation. As a matter of fact, the Sindh Provincial Muslim League had held a conference at Karachi in October 1938, and it was on this occasion the words ‘Muslims as separate nation’ were used. In Resolution No. 5, the Conference castigated the Congress policy of dividing and ruling the Muslims, and characterized the Congress as a fascist organization. Having said that, Quaid-i-Azam had frustrated the designs of the British who wished to see the sub-continent united in one form or another till the last moment,
Before partition, Muslims were not allowed to lead their lives according to their faith and culture; they were deprived of their basic rights, and were not provided equal opportunities in education, services and business fields. But beauty of the Quaid’s leadership was that there was hardly any instance in the annals of history whereby a leader got independence and created a sovereign state without a shot being fired.
In the words of Professor Akbar S. Ahmed, a Cambridge scholar: “Islam gave the Muslims of India a sense of identity; dynasties such as the Mughals had given them territory; poets like Iqbal created in them a sense of destiny; Jinnah’s heroic stature can be understood from the fact that by leading the Pakistan movement and creating the state of Pakistan, he gave them all three”.
Being a democrat, the Quaid did not even think of imposing his will on people. When he was asked about the type of constitution of Pakistan he had said the Holy Qur’an is there for guidance, and that the people’s representative would frame the constitution. In his 11th August 1947 speech before the Constituent Assembly, he had categorically stated that all citizens of the state would be equal irrespective of religion, caste, creed or gender.
Unfortunately, efforts are also being made to create confusion by debating whether Quaid-e-Azam was secular or he stood for a religious or theocratic state. Vested interests had, however, tried to distort his speeches during his life time. His address to the Constituent Assembly on 11th August 1947 provided the guidelines and parameters within which constitution of Pakistan was to be framed by the representatives of the people.
As envisioned by the Quaid, Pakistan was to be a modern Islamic welfare state, where a free and independent people would enjoy equal rights without discrimination on the basis of religion, sect, ethnicity or gender. When the Quaid said that Pakistan was not going to be a theocratic state, it was because of his realization of the fact that every sect would come out with its own interpretation of Qur’an and Sunnah endangering the stability and security of the country. The Muslims of Pakistan despise and reject bigotry, as they believe that Islam is a religious of peace and exhorts Muslims to understand the universe through their sense perceptions. The Quaid had also warned that beneficiaries of Jagirs, feudal lords and exploiters were to have no place of privilege in an independent and sovereign Pakistan.
The people of Pakistan are proud inheritors of traditions of great sufis, saints and poets who fostered the message of peace and brotherhood over the centuries. But where did we go wrong? Unfortunately, Pakistan lost its Quaid and other founding fathers too soon, and conglomerate of privileged few devoid of political acumen and vision, took over the state. Their myopic thinking and flawed economic and foreign policies, bad governance, disregard for the aspirations of the people, failure to distribute benefits of growth equitably, led to disintegration of the country. But people have not lost hope, and they are determined to get Pakistan a respectable place in the comity of nations. They have a dream that one day this nation-state will implement the concept and the ideals of our faith - Islam.