Pakistan: The two nation theory

For the last 65 years, the attempt of Pakistan’s ruling class to impose numerous anniversary celebrations aimed at instilling nationhood has failed to resonate with society below. The media-hyped cricket hysteria, the patriotism orchestrated by the state and the distorted history in the school syllabus, whose objective is to foment national pride amongst the deprived and destitute masses has abysmally failed. Their suffering and agony does not leave much room for them to celebrate.

The compromising historians make us believe that on March 23, 1940 a resolution was passed that laid the foundations on which Pakistan was created. A similar communal and chauvinistic version of history dominates the scene in India. However, it is not as simple as that. The story of independence as peddled since 1947 is linked to the politics and the interests of the pre- and post-partition elite. Although a successful conspiracy can always finds ways and means of officialising it, there also exists the retribution of history.

The concept of the “Muslim nation” does not correspond to the realities and the historical developments that led to this fate. If Muslims were one nation then why does one need a visa for Saudi Arabia or Indonesia? There is hardly any so-called Muslim country where a Pakistani Muslim could enter without restrictions. On the other hand if the question was posed: “When did the Muslims become a distinct nation in the Indian subcontinent?”, it would be impossible for the historians of the confessional state to elicit a common answer. The same is true for the question of the Shi’a-Sunni and numerous other theological interpretations of various shades of orthodoxy representing varying levels of obscurantism. Aren’t the Baloch, Sindhi, Pashtun, Kashmiri and Punjabi nations? What has been missing from the official versions is the real causes of partition and the vested interests that it has served.

The central tenet of the British colonial state was the Roman principle of “divide et impera” and religion was amongst the instruments used to execute this policy in connivance with the local elite propped up by the Raj. It was from this elite that the politicians of the Indian Congress and the Muslim League were drawn.

The Muslim League was formed by the Muslim aristocracy under the guidance of William A J Archbold, who was a broker between them and the Viceroy and Governor-General of India in 1906, Gilbert John Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, fourth Earl of Minto. The Congress, on the other hand, was created by a British bureaucrat Allan Octavian Hume in 1885.

Most of these native politicians were to satisfy amply Lord Macaulay’s contrivance that he asserted in his 1834 Minute on Education: “Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” It was the British Raj that introduced the column of religion in the census of 1872.

In 1934, the Principal of the Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College, Aligarh, Sir Theodore Morrison wrote, “The Hindus and Muslims were two distinct nations... the Muslims should rest assured that they were not alone in their concern for the preservation of their characteristic civilisation.”

Winston Churchill described Hindu-Muslim antagonism as, “a bulwark of British rule in India”, and noted that, “Were it to be resolved, their concord would result in the united communities joining in showing us the door.” In his paper Harijan, Gandhi wrote on April 7, 1946 that, “To accept this unholy combination (of Hindus and Muslims indulging in strikes would mean delivering India to the rabble.”

In February 1946 at the peak of the naval revolt against British rule, Jinnah released a press statement to the Bombay Free Press Journal: “I appeal to all Royal Indian Navy men... particularly; I call upon the Muslims to stop and create no further trouble until we are in a position to handle this very serious situation.” The Congress, the Muslim League and the British were inexorably aligned due to the revolutionary situation to preserve capitalism and break class unity and the struggle. This truth cannot be concealed for long from the annals of history.

What is even more ironic is that after the massive general strike of February 1946 and the growing revolt within the army, navy, air force and the police, the British were desperate to leave India. Several missions were sent to devise an amicable handing over of power while keeping the exploitative system intact.

The Cabinet Mission came to India on March 23 and published its plan on May 16. According to this plan there would have been no partition of the subcontinent. Instead it proposed a confederation of three units with the currency, communications, defence and foreign policy to be dealt with by the central government. Jinnah and the central working committee of the Muslim League accepted the plan after intense deliberations. This was an unambiguous rescinding of the Lahore (Pakistan) Resolution of March 23, 1940. The foremost protagonists of the two-nation theory had discarded it. The secession of East Bengal in 1971 decisively annulled its validity. Congress President Maulana Abul Kalam Azad also accepted the plan. On July 7, the All India Congress Committee approved the plan.

However, Nehru taking over the presidency of the Congress from Azad, held a provocative press conference on July 10 and wrecked the plan, paving the way for a bloody partition. The incendiary role of Edwina Mountbatten at the behest of the conservative sections of the English bourgeoisie in Nehru’s outburst stands exposed today. This infuriated Jinnah and the Muslim League that had backed off from the demand for Pakistan with extreme restraint.

On July 27, Jinnah rejected the plan and reiterated the demand for partition. Azad wrote about those stormy events in his epic work, India Wins Freedom: “I warned Jawaharlal that history’s verdict would be that India was divided not by the Muslim League but by the Congress.” This partition was one of the most brutal genocides in the twentieth century. Millions were slaughtered, mainly in Punjab and Bengal.

Sixty-five years after ‘independence’, almost half of the world’s hunger, poverty, disease and deprivation inhabits this subcontinent. The British Raj’s serious strategists knew well that without partition on a religious basis, the national liberation struggle would not stop at national independence but would go forward on to social liberation, overthrowing capitalism and doing away with imperialist plunder.

On March 23, 1931, the legendary martyr of this struggle, Bhagat Singh, at the age of 23, along with his comrades Sukhdev and Raj Guru, were assassinated on the gallows by the imperialists, also in Lahore. In one of his last speeches Bhagat Singh had said, “I reject any freedom where British exploiters are replaced by native elites. The only genuine independence can be achieved through a Socialist Revolution.” That mission still seeks its redemption. History poses this challenge to the new generation.

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[This article was originally published in the Pakistani Daily Times]