The Lahore Resolution (Urdu: قرارداد لاہور, Karardad-e-Lahore; Bengali: লাহোর প্রস্তাব, Lahor Prostab), was drafted by the working committee of All-India Muslim League and presented by A. K. Fazlul Huq, the Prime Minister of Bengal was a formal political statement adopted by the All-India Muslim League on the occasion of its three-day general session in Lahore from 22–24 March 1940. The resolution called for independent states as seen by the statement:
That geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North Western and Eastern Zones of (British) India should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’ in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.
Until mid-1930’s the Muslim Leaders were trying to ensure maximum political safeguards for Muslims within the framework of Federation of India in terms of seeking maximum autonomy for Muslim majority provinces. They got some safeguards through a system of separate electorate on communal basis in the Government of India Act, 1935. As a result of elections held under this Act, Indian National Congress formed government in six out of eight provinces. During Congress rule from 1937–39, its “High Command whose iron control over its own provinces clearly hinted at what lay ahead for the Muslim majority provinces once it came to dominate the center. Much of the League’s propaganda at this stage was directed against the Congress ministries and their alleged attacks on Muslim culture; the heightened activity of Hindu Mahasabha, the hoisting of Congress tricolor, the singing of bandemataram, the Vidya Mandir scheme in the Central Provinces and the Wardha scheme of education, all were interpreted as proof of ‘Congress atrocities’. So, Congress was clearly incapable of representing Muslim interests, yet it was trying to annihilate every other party.”
Therefore, by 1938-39, for most of the Muslim Leaders, in or out of Muslim League, the idea of separation was strongly gaining the ground. The Sindh Provincial Muslim League Conference held its first session at Karachi in October 1938, adopted a resolution which recommended to the All India Muslim League to devise a scheme of constitution under which Muslims may attain full independence. The Premiers of other Muslim majority provinces e.g. A. K. Fazal-ul-Haque (Bengal) and Sir Sikander Hayat Khan (Punjab), who were not in Muslim League, also were quite convinced towards the idea of separation. The idea was more vividly expressed by M. A. Jinnah in an article in a London Weekly Time and Tide on 9 March 1940. Jinnah wrote:
Democratic systems based on the concept of homogeneous nation such as England are very definitely not applicable to heterogeneous countries such as India, and this simple fact is the root cause of all of India’s constitutional ills……If, therefore, it is accepted that there is in India a major and a minor nation, it follows that a parliamentary system based on the majority principle must inevitably mean the rule of major nation. Experience has proved that, whatever the economic and political programme of any political Party, the Hindu, as a general rule, will vote for his caste-fellow, the Muslim for his co-religionist.
About the Congress-led provincial governments, he wrote:
An India-wide attack on the Muslims was launched. In the five Muslim provinces every attempt was made to defeat the Muslim-led-coalition Ministries,...In the six Hindu provinces a “Kulturkampf” was inaugurated. Attempts were made to have Bande Mataram, the Congress Party song, recognized as the national anthem, the Party flag, and the real national language, Urdu, supplanted by Hindi. Everywhere oppression commenced and complaints poured in such force…that the Muslims, despairing of the Viceroy and Governors ever taking action to protect them, have already been forced to ask for a Royal Commission to investigate their grievances.
Furthermore, he added:
Is it the desire (of British people) that India should become a totalitarian Hindu State….? ….. and I feel certain that Muslim India will never submit to such a position and will be forced to resist it with every means in their power.
In his concluding remarks he wrote:
While Muslim League irrevocably opposed to any Federal objective which must necessarily result in a majority community rule under the guise of Democracy and Parliamentary system of Government...To conclude, a constitution must be evolved that recognizes that there are in India two nations who both must share the governance of their common motherland.
The British Government was against any kind of division in India and they did not want Muslim League to pass a resolution for separation. Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy, tried to influence through Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, a Member of Viceroy’s Executive Council, who prepared a Note against the proposal of Pakistan or any other kind of separation and supported with arguments in favor of a united Federation of India as a Dominion. This Note was sent to Lord Zetland, Secretary of State for India, as referred in a letter by Linlithgow dated 12 March 1940. A copy of this Note was sent to Jinnah with the intention that his proposal of a united Indian Federation be adopted by Muslim League in the forthcoming Session at Lahore 22–24 March. The Note unequivocally opposed Pakistan stating:
There is for instance the Pakistan scheme which broadly speaking, seeks to divide India into Muslim and non-Muslim parts, the Muslim part being described as Pakistan. …One has only to contemplate the expense, misery, suffering and horror involved in any such attempt on the scale on which it would be necessary in India, to discard the scheme at once…….we are convinced that the scheme is utterly impracticable and would result in nothing but misery and suffering and can therefore make no contribution towards the solution of India’s problems…..Another very serious objection to the scheme is that it seeks to confine the progress of Muslim faith and culture in India within certain geographical limits, than which no greater disservice could be done to Islam.…any critical examination of it carried out by those who are responsible for putting it forward will be sufficient to demonstrate to them the utter impracticality of this scheme.
Against the Separation Scheme i.e. without involving exchange of population, Zafarullah wrote:
We are not in a position at this stage to measure the support which a scheme of this kind might succeed in securing from the other communities in India and from Britain. We recognize that the devotion to the principal of All-India unity may in the end prove too strong to permit wisdom and foresight to govern the situation.
However, as opposed to this Note, Jinnah and majority of other Muslim Leaders, including both the Leaguers and Non-Leaguers, by that time had already reached to a common consensus of demanding separate sovereign states for Muslim majority areas in the subcontinent for reasons described by Jinnah in his essay of 9 March referred above.
The session was held between 22 and 24 March 1940, at Iqbal Park, Lahore. The welcome address was made by Sir Shah Nawaz Khan of Mamdot, as the chairman of the local reception committee. The various draft texts for the final resolution/draft were deliberated over by the Special Working Committee of the All India Muslim League
Later on, A. K. Fazlul Huq presented the resolution before the public and the AIML General Assembly. The resolution text unanimously accepted the concept of a united homeland for Muslims on the grounds of growing inter-communal violence and recommended the creation of an independent Muslim state.
After the presentation of the annual report by Liaquat Ali Khan, the resolution was moved in the general session by A.K. Fazlul Huq, the chief minister of undivided Bengal, and was seconded by Choudhury Khaliquzzaman who explained his views on the causes which led to the demand for partition. Subsequently, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan from Punjab, Mohammad Abdul Ghafoor Hazarvi from North-West Frontier Province, Sir Abdullah Haroon from Sindh, Qazi Esa from Baluchistan, and other leaders announced their support. In the same session, Jinnah also presented a resolution to condemn the Khaksar massacre of 19 March, owing to a clash between the Khaksars and the police, that had resulted in the loss of 32 lives.
The resolution for the establishment of a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India passed in the annual session of the All India Muslim League held in Lahore on 22–24 March 1940 is a landmark document of Pakistan’s history. In 1946, it formed the basis for the decision of Muslim League to struggle for one state [ later named Pakistan] for the Muslims. The statement declared:
No constitutional plan would be workable or acceptable to the Muslims unless geographical contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary.
The Hindu press and leaders were quick to describe the resolution as the demand for the creation of Pakistan; some people began to call it the Pakistan Resolution soon after the Lahore session of the Muslim League. It is landmark document in history of Pakistan. Additionally, it stated:
That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards shall be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in the units and in the regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights of the minorities.
Most importantly, to convince smaller provinces such as Sindh to join, it provided a guarantee:
That geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North Western and Eastern Zones of (British) India should be grouped to constitute 'independent states' in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.
The unity was important to British interests even in an independent India. Lord Zetland, Secretary of State for India, reacted to this Resolution in his telegram to Viceroy terming the unity as something “which we aim to perpetuate after British rule ceases”; the League’s Resolution was a “council of despair” and added up to a “Silly…. scheme for partition”. Viceroy Linlithgow responded to Lord Zetland in his telegram "my impression is that...the partition scheme will be much criticised and rightly so..".
There remains a debate on whether the resolution envisaged two sovereign states in the eastern and western parts of British India. Abdul Hashim of the Bengal Muslim League interpreted the text as a demand for two separate countries. In 1946, Prime Minister H. S. Suhrawardy of Bengal, a member of the All India Muslim League, mooted the United Bengal proposal with the support of Muslim and Hindu leaders, as well as the Governor of Bengal. However, it was opposed by Lord Mountbatten, the Muslim League, the Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha.
Although there were and continue to be disagreements on the interpretation of the resolution, it was widely accepted that it called for a separate Muslim state. Opposing opinions focus on the phrase "independent states" claiming this means Muslim majority provinces, i.e. Punjab, Sindh, etc. would be independent of each other. They ignore the phrase "geographically contiguous units." They also rely on the claims of certain Bengali nationalists who did not agree with one state. They accuse their opponents of diverting the "spirit" of the resolution.
The majority of the Muslim League leadership contended that it was intended for not only the separation of India but into only 2 states (Muslim majority and Hindu majority). Therefore, it is indeed a statement calling for independence and one Muslim state. Eventually, the name "Pakistan" was used for the envisioned state.
The Sindh assembly was the first British Indian legislature to pass the resolution in favour of Pakistan. G. M. Syed, an influential Sindhi activist, revolutionary and Sufi and later one of the important leaders in the forefront of the Sindh independence movement, joined the Muslim League in 1938 and presented the Pakistan resolution in the Sindh Assembly. A key motivating factor was the promise of "autonomy and sovereignty for constituent units".
This text was buried under the Minar-e-Pakistan during its building in the Ayub regime. In this session the political situation was analysed in detail and Muslim demanded a separate homeland only to maintain their identification and to safeguard their rights. Pakistan resolution was the landmark in the history of Muslim of South-Asia. It determined for the Muslims a true goal and their homeland in north-east and north-west. The acceptance of the Pakistan resolution accelerated the pace of freedom movement. It gave new energy and courage to the Muslims who gathered around Muhammad Ali Jinnah for struggle for freedom.