Pakistan: The Muslim League(s)

The innumerable Muslim Leagues that traverse the spectrum of Pakistan’s dominating political establishment in a number of ways reflect the disarray and the pathetic conditions of the ruling classes and society they try to scathe and exploit. Like Pakistan, their putrescence lies in their origins.

The Muslim League was created in 1906 by a number of Muslim aristocrats to present their servitude to the Raj in order to gain economic and political benefits from the imperialist masters. The first letter sent to the Viceroy Lord Minto from the leadership of this “new” party narrated these desires of the Muslim elite of India. But the real evolution of this force and its unpopularity even amongst the oppressed Muslims was written in one of the last letters by Sir Allama Mohammad Iqbal to whom is attributed the Two-Nation ideology.

In a letter to Mohammad Ali Jinnah dated May 28, 1937, a few months before his death, Iqbal wrote, “I have no doubt that you fully realise the gravity of the situation as far as Muslim India is concerned. The (Muslim) League will have to finally decide whether it will remain a body representing the upper classes of the Indian Muslims or the Muslim masses, who have so far, with good reason, taken no interest in it. Personally, I believe that a political organisation, which gives no promise of improving the lot of the ordinary Muslim, cannot attract our masses. Under the new constitution the higher posts go to the sons of upper classes; the smaller ones go to the relatives of ministers. Our political institutions have never thought of improving the lot of Muslims generally. The problem of bread is becoming more and more acute.”

In the ensuing decades, the various Muslim Leagues have hardly ever heeded the concerns of their professed ideologue. However, the concocted history of the creation of the Pakistani state, even being linked to the Indus Valley Civilisation, would not have come into being if all had gone according to the decisions of Jinnah and the Muslim League. In early May 1946, the Cabinet Mission arrived in India. According to the Cabinet Mission Plan published on May 16, “partition” as an option was dismissed and there was to be a united India where the central government would control defence, foreign affairs and communications. The subcontinent would be divided into three confederated units A, B and C. The Muslim League Council deliberated for three days before coming to a decision. On the final day, Jinnah announced the acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan. The Council voted unanimously in its favour. This in reality meant the refutation of the so-called 1940 “Pakistan Resolution” and a retreat from the idea of partition. The sacrifices and the struggle of the “veterans” of the Pakistan movement had been for what? The millions who perished in the massacres and mayhem came as a result of this bloody partition and not for its cause.

Paradoxically, it was Nehru’s provocative press conference, at the behest of Edwina Mountbatten and the conservative sections of the British elite, in Bombay on July 10, that forced Jinnah and the Muslim League to retract from the Cabinet Mission Plan and re-embark on the discourse of partition. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, veteran leader of the Indian National Congress, wrote in his renowned book, India Wins Freedom: “Now a situation had arisen where we were becoming greater supporters of partition than Jinnah. I warned Jawaharlal that history would never forgive us if we agreed to partition. The verdict would be that India was divided not by the Muslim League but by Congress.”

In 64 years of Pakistan’s existence the role of all arrays of the Muslim League have been to gain political power for the benefit of the different factions of the ruling classes who needed the state to enhance their rates of profit and primitive accumulation through corruption and criminal methods. This ruling class was historically belated and economically too weak and therefore could not develop a modern industrialised society. Their relentless lust for plunder created frictions and conflicts between different sections of the Pakistani bourgeoisie and feudal aristocracy. This severe crisis was reflected in the political arena, leading to bickering and conflicts amongst the elite and hence various Muslim Leagues representing different interests of the ruling class. In adverse situations, the military stepped in to rule directly. To assume a political role, every dictator embarked on a path of acquiring a concubine in the shape of the Muslim League and used it as an instrument of political usurpation. The only time the Muslim Leagues were ejected from the corridors of power was after the revolutionary upheaval of 1968-69 when the toiling masses rose to transform society. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was propelled into power by the mass movement but did not carry out its programme of revolutionary socialism and was penetrated by the elites. Failure of reforms paved the way for the vicious dictatorship of Ziaul Haq.

With the passage of time the ruling class continued to putrefy. They utterly failed to develop the productive forces. Rapid deterioration in industry, the economy and infrastructure ensued. The rise of the services sector and the parallel economy of black money enabled crooks and gangsters to begin to dominate as the new elite. The demise of the classical bourgeoisie and the weakening of the landed elite due to the patterns of uneven and combined socio-economic development left a vacuum for these reactionary upstarts to gain control of politics and the Muslim Leagues. Crime, corruption, bigotry, mafia operations and tax evasion became the hallmark of Pakistan and its political parties. The largest faction of the Muslim League — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — has its support base mainly amongst these elements along with traders, shopkeepers, commission agents and businessmen. These multi-Muslim Leagues have become a tool of petty business interests increasingly becoming dependent on the state for protection of their ill-gotten wealth and the criminal means they use to accumulate it. They have nothing to offer to the downtrodden masses nor do they have any notion of developing society. Due to the weakness of the right wing, the imperialists and local elites, having infiltrated its incumbent leaders, used the PPP to carry out unprecedented attacks on the impoverished masses to prop up capitalism. This could pave the way for a right-wing regime. What the masters of the universe cannot anticipate is seething revulsion in society that is bound to explode with volcanic eruptions. A mass revolt will not only sweep away the many Muslim Leagues and other religious and right-wing forces, but will also reincarnate the original PPP with a socialist programme ushering in a new revolutionary situation where society could be transformed.

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at

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