View Full Version : Living up to the Lahore Resolution By Mosharraf Zaidi - 22nd March 2016

22nd March 2016, 11:49 AM
The writer is an analyst and

As it is March 23 tomorrow, it may be useful to reflect on this great day for our country. Let us begin by thinking about who framed the Lahore Resolution, and what the resolution was meant to do.

The Lahore Resolution was passed by a Special Working Committee of the All Indian Muslim League, which was made up of twenty-five top tier leaders. In this group, there was at least one from Balochistan, and one from the tribal areas. There were also at least three Pakhtuns, as many as four members from what is today called Bangladesh, at least a couple of Sindhis, one Keralite, one member from Bihar, and a number of members from Punjab and Uttar Pardesh. There was only one woman in this group, but she was a powerful symbol, being the widow of Maulana Johar Ali.

It was a diverse group, and made up of not only ethnic and geographically distinct South Asian Muslims, but also reflected sectarian multiplicity – as any group of representative Muslims from this region would.

The document itself essentially establishes three ‘norms’ that Pakistan and Pakistanis with any sense of curiosity about this country’s DNA should pay deep attention to. First, it establishes autonomy and sovereignty as a norm, sought by these fathers of the nation, as they demand that constituent units of the state “should be autonomous and sovereign”. Second, it establishes the “religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests” of minorities as immutable. Third, it creates a model for federalism (whilst rejecting the model of federalism imposed by the Raj), by framing defence, external affairs, communications, and customs explicitly as central functions. In doing so, the Lahore Resolution also privileges the kind of state that the founding fathers sought to establish, at least in terms of their aspirations.

Who wrote the Lahore Resolution and what they said in it contains lessons for those seeking wisdom from the founding fathers, even today, over seventy-six years after they came together on that glorious spring day. There is an intimate connection between the diverse group of leaders of the Working Committee and the norms for South Asian Muslim nationalism that they framed in the document.

First, by ensuring autonomy and sovereignty for constituent units of the state, they sought to retain the flexibility that would allow the state to cater to the specific needs and aspirations of the respective units, without imposing what would work in Dhaka onto people living in Quetta, or what would work in Srinagar onto people in Sukkur.

Second, by asserting the inalienable nature of the rights of minorities, they were exercising both operational realism and high-minded idealism. They needed to ensure that every nook and cranny of colonised and post-colonial South Asia would be a safe place for Muslims, and that the only way to guarantee that safety would be to ensure that non-Muslims in Muslim majority areas enjoyed a privileged status in which their rights would be protected. That was the operational realism of this norm. The high-minded realism of the norm was also obvious. Establishing the safety and security of minorities, and the delivery of minorities’ rights to them would establish a moral standard by which the founding fathers wanted to govern whatever scheme of governance was to emerge from the political tumult of the early 1940s.

Finally, the federal model that the resolution’s framers were conceiving was, at that time, incredibly modern, sleek and functional. It established national security, trade and diplomatic relations, internal coherence and connectivity and revenue as being ‘essential’ qualities of the state. Today’s South Asia would make the founding fathers incredibly sad.

The Lahore Resolution was deeper and wider than the celebrations afforded to it today. Of the three countries and one disputed territory that comprise South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Kashmir), it is celebrated officially only in Pakistan.

The Lahore Resolution was more prescient than we would like to admit. It anticipated the helplessness of the South Asian minority – and thus we see Muslims being lynched in India, Christian colonies being attacked in Pakistan, and radical religious dogmas extinguishing a handful of dissidents in Bangladesh. Minorities being safe in one country leads to minorities being safe in the other – this was the Lahore Resolution’s mantra. That the opposite is often also true is a testament to the vision of the founding fathers.

However, perhaps the most striking aspect of the resolution is the consciousness of diversity that it reflects, not just in terms of its clarity on minority rights, but on the autonomy for various regions of South Asia. The founding fathers knew that they only way to secure and sustain the interest of smaller ‘provinces’ would be to invest great autonomy to them. The idea of this South Asian Muslim federalism was to create a dynamic in which association with a ‘centre’ produced little by way of burden on constituent units, and generated benefits for those units. In other words, smaller ‘units’ would be happy in marriages in which they were being rewarded for association with the centre. The Lahore Resolution is desperately and deeply lacking in any reward for the centre for being the centre. Instead, it privileges the constituent units with both ‘autonomy’ and ‘sovereignty’.

In 2016, this raises a set of important questions for us to ponder.

Were the founding fathers the same people as those that complain about Pakistani federalism (or lack thereof today)? Or were the founding fathers trying to win over those that were complaining then (and whose political successors are complaining today)? By vesting so much of the Lahore Resolution in autonomy, sovereignty, minority rights, and a minimalistic, modern state, it sure sounds like the founding fathers were trying to win over the folks that today talk of Pakhtun nationalism, of Baloch nationalism, of Sindhi nationalism, of Mohajir consciousness, of Hazarewal victimhood, of the importance of Seraiki and of Shina and of Balti.

In the South Asian Muslim tradition, spitting on the graves of one’s ancestors is among the greatest heresies one can indulge in.

When we dismiss the agonising cries of ethnic groups, or linguistic groups, or sectarian groups, are we paying tribute to the Lahore Resolution? Or are we turning our back on the values and norms that the resolution sought to establish for South Asian Muslim governance. Can a people who turn their back on the founding principles of their coming together as a people really prosper? Can we continue demonising smaller ethnic groups, and smaller linguistic groups, while hoping for a coherent and unified Pakistan? Why do people keep voting for violent Baloch sardars, or extractive Sindhi feudals, or gangster Muhajirs, or incompetent Pakhtun nationalists? They will never win a majority in parliament, but they keep winning enough seats to remain part of the national conversation. And most of the time, the conversation is a complaint: ‘We aren’t getting enough’.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Pakistan was supposed to be a safe place for Muslims and non-Muslims. It was supposed to be a place where Sindhis won, Baloch won, Pakhtuns won, Punjabis won and Mohajirs won. It was supposed to be a place where everybody and anybody could win. Parading our military hardware is an important part of our national consciousness. We are a nation upon whom war has been thrust by circumstances, by geography and by wicked and unrelenting enemies.

Yet of all the days of the year, March 23 needs to be less about our insecurities, and more about the security that the Lahore Resolution generated: for Muslims, for non-Muslims, and for all ethnic, linguistic and sectarian groups within this great country. We must ask ourselves how to deepen and widen our sense of security beyond the tanks and the bombs we parade. May Allah always protect our country, and enable us to live up to the wisdom and thoughtfulness of the 25-member working committee that wrote the Lahore Resolution.

www.mosharrafzaidi.com (http://www.mosharrafzaidi.com)

Published in The News