Punjab and the Pakistan movement

As Pakistan marks Independence day, it faces a political disconnect between the ruling political elite and the people.

Malik Tariq Ali August 16, 2010

As Pakistan marks its 63rd anniversary, it faces a complete political disconnect between the ruling political elite and the people of Pakistan. This is not the Pakistan that had been envisioned by the founding fathers. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had very clearly defined the role of army and the civil bureaucracy, who were to serve the people. The Quaid had no tolerance for corruption and he led by example. Instead, the country has had a series of rulers, some elected, others self-imposed, who transformed this welfare state to a nation hostage to a nexus of corrupt individuals, who became billionaires overnight, while the country was driven to a state of bankruptcy and its institutions weakened. It is important to look back at how the state was created to understand just how far it has fallen.

While the political awakening for a separate identity had started in Bengal, it gained momentum in Punjab, under the dynamic leadership of Allama Iqbal. In Punjab, a Muslim-majority province, the Unionist Party, a conglomerate of Muslim and Hindu feudals was in power. Towards the end of 1926, Muslim leaders in Punjab decided to unite on one platform and reconstitute the Punjab provincial Muslim League. It was headed by Sir Mohammed Shafi, with Dr Muhammad Iqbal as general-secretary and Malik Barkat Ali as propaganda secretary. On 12 April 1936, the All India Muslim League, in its session held in Bombay, authorised Jinnah to formulate a Central Parliamentary Election Board, in order to rally round Muslim opinion to contest the approaching elections. Jinnah came to Lahore on April 29, 1936, to organise the Punjab Provincial Election Board. He approached Mian Fazale Hussain, the leader of the Unionist Party, to extend support to Muslim League candidates in the forthcoming elections, but he declined.

In October 1936, the Punjab Muslim League had invited applications for those seeking tickets for the forthcoming elections. It is an unfortunate fact of history that the Punjab Muslim League had its affiliation cancelled by a committee headed by Nawab Liaquat Ali Khan on April 5, 1936, to accommodate Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan. At the Lucknow session of the All-India Muslim League, held at Bombay in 1937, Iqbal proposed replacing 28 Unionists on the Council with dedicated Muslim League loyalists. A large delegation from Punjab had proceeded on the instructions of Allama Iqbal to attend this session. On 18 April 1938, the All-India Muslim League, in its session held at Calcutta, dissolved the Punjab Provincial Muslim League and reconstituted a new League with 25 pro-Sikander Hayat nominees and 10 belonging to the Iqbal faction of the League.

The Unionist Party had openly opposed the Muslim League in the June 1936 session held at Lahore. This disenchanted Muslim League loyalists, and brought to the fore the Unionists of Punjab, who were toadies of the British Raj. These remnants of the Raj continue to haunt the politics of Pakistan, especially of Punjab, even today.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2010.


Ankit Gurkh | 11 years ago | Reply History recalls that when Bhagat Singh, the great revolutionary, was tried in a mock trial and sentenced to death by British Kangaroo courts, it were the Muslim League leaders like Allama Iqbal and Barkat Ali who moved a resolution in Lahore High Court Bar condemning this gross injustice, while men like Sikandar Hayat served them loyally. It is also a fact that an Honorary Magistrate( father of Ahmed Raza Qasuri) who was affiliated with Unioinst Party volunteered to witness the hanging when none other was willing. The tyrannical role of Unioinist Party is the bitter truth, which cannot be hidden. Sikandar Hayat, a former bureaucrat serving in the revenue department had good relations with muslim and hindu feudals, including those within the Muslim League. He was the son of a poor man who became a big feudal, thanks to the British Raj, who rewarded those that served their colonial masters. Pakistan suffers today because of them.
M. Ahmed | 11 years ago | Reply The flag of the Unionist Party resembled the union jack of the erstwhile Great Britain. This truth adds to the toady and lackey tilt of the Unionist towards the British Raj. At all cost, the head should go to Punjab and the tail to the rest of the crowd. This attitude took away half of Pakistan because after 1970 elections 85 MNAs out of 313 seats National Assembly belonged to Punjab who could have demonstrated against the postponement of National Assembly session by Late Gen Yayha Khan due to be held on 3rd March 1971. But they did not ! The rest is history. But the thigh thumping general Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi was made Governor Of Punjab ! A reward for not fighting and loosing half the country !
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