While there are many reasons for Pakistanis to complain and express their despair, maybe one thing we could all celebrate about on this year's Pakistan Day is the rise in Pakistan's literacy rate. Yes, despite the tightening of educational resources in Pakistan, the extraordinary voluntary efforts of concerned Pakistanis, as well as the human development programs have resulted in the highest growth in Pakistan's literacy rate in a decade!
Nations celebrate national days to rejoice and celebrate the fruits of freedom and progress. On March 23rd, also known as the Pakistan Day, every year, Pakistanis commemorate the Pakistan Resolution, which was passed in 1940 in Lahore. However, at this critical juncture of our checkered history, we must pause to assess our achievements and reflect on the missed opportunities dispassionately.
Pakistan Day is certainly a time for every Pakistani to review the rich and dynamic history of Pakistan.
Muslims in South Asia
Muslims in India were not an occupying force as the current Hindu fundamentalist government of India is trying to depict in its revision of history which is being protested by all historians in India. Waves of people came to India along with the Aryans who brought features of Hinduism with them. Among these waves were some Central Asians, who, like the Aryans before them, settled down, married, declared the place their country, contributed and died in India. The name India itself is an English version of the Arabic word Hind for India. With hundreds of years worth of heritage when Muslims failed to defend India from Europeans, it was the beginning of problems for South Asia's Muslim population.
British Treatment of Indian Muslims
For 500 years, India witnessed a tolerant Muslim rule, under which economic prosperity, educational reforms and relative racial equality were a norm. However, as the British East India Company took over India by the mid-nineteenth century, masses of Muslim-owned agricultural and commercial lands were annexed and multitudes of Muslim professionals, elites, and officers were dismissed from government positions. While the Hindus were promoted, the Muslims of India were ignored and reduced to second-class citizens. A comprehensive analysis of the state of Muslims under British rule is documented by a British author, William Hunter, in his monumental work, Indian Musalman, published in 1871, in which he explains, "Now all sorts of employment, high or low, great or small are being gradually snatched away from the Mohammedans [Muslims], and given to other races particularly Hindus. They are reduced to Bahistee, wood cutters, peons or pen menders in offices."
Origins of Pakistan Movement
This biased treatment of the British against Muslims, along with Hindu chauvinism, gave rise to Muslims' demand for proportionate representation in government jobs and electoral seats. The constant opposition of Hindus for minority rights and the worsening prejudiced treatment of Muslims germinated the Pakistan Movement and the Two-Nations Theory. One response surfaced in the form of the All-India Muslim League, founded in 1906, in Dhaka, which served to protect and advance the political rights of the Muslims of India. Hindu nationalists, however, heavily promoted the name of Pakistan, before even Muslims adopted it as their goal.
By the 1930s and 1940s, the Muslims of India and the leaders of Muslim League realized that while politically their very existence and survival in Hindu-led independent India would be perilous from a cultural and social standpoint, it foreshadowed their gradual extinction. This was a real fear which, running through their rank, fuelled and intensified the Pakistan Movement.
The Need and Legitimacy for a Muslim State
As the poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal states in his presidential address of the Muslim League at Allahabad in 1930: "The formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North West India…The life of Islam as a cultural force in this country very largely depends on its centralization in a specified territory."
The approach of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal towards Indian Muslim freedom was deeply rooted in pragmatism - it was embedded, on the one hand, in universally accepted democratic and constitutional norms and, on the other, it represented the inalienable right of Muslims to statehood in areas where they excelled in numerical strength. The claim of Muslims to nationhood was an expression of both truth and reality of the situation.
Pakistan Resolution: Peak of Muslims' Freedom Struggle
The Pakistan Resolution of March 23rd, 1940, signified the peak of a long trailing freedom struggle of 100 million Muslims of South Asia, as well as a focal point of their destiny - Pakistan. This resolution, which was presented by Maulvi Abul Kasim Fazlul Haq, Premier of Bengal, demanded that the Muslim-majority areas in the Northwestern and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states, using a confederatory model, in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.
In a moment of enthusiasm, the resolution was later amended to ask for one country instead of a federation. However, Bangladesh movement succeeded in achieving what the Muslim leadership in South Asia originally wanted. One only wishes that was all accomplished through peaceful dialog instead of warfare.
The Original Idea Lives
Despite its meager resources, Pakistan and the idea of Pakistan have survived more than half a century despite the prediction by the Indian leadership at the time of independence that in a few years, Pakistan would be begging to join India. Hundreds and thousands of Muslims throughout India, Bangladesh, Burma and Afghanistan voted with their feet by migrating to Pakistan. On the ideological front, it symbolized Muslims' aspiration to develop a sanctuary where they could shape their lives in conformity with the principles postulated by Islam. As Quaid-e-Azam once emphasized, "Islam is not only a set of rituals, traditions and spiritual doctrine, it is a code for every Muslim, which regulated his life and his conduct - all aspects; social, political, economic etc. It is based on the highest principles of honor, integrity, fair play and justice for all."
Although the constitution of Pakistan has undergone a number of amendments, the ideology of Pakistan has survived in the preamble to the country's constitution. Pakistan was a milestone in the Pakistan movement, but the struggle continues until its ideals are achieved for all Pakistanis.