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ALL-INDIA MUSLIM LEAGUE. Established in I9o6, the All-India Muslim League had a somewhat limited role until it came under the leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the mid-1930s. In his hands it became the vehicle for the Pakistan movement. After independence and partition in 1947 and Jinnah’s death the following year, it became one among several political parties in Pakistan, where it has continued intermittently to play a significant political role.

The origins of the Muslim League are to be found in what is commonly called the Aligarh Movement. India’s leading Islamic modernist of the nineteenth century, Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, had in 1875 founded a college (later a university) in the town of Aligarh, with the intention of providing Western education to the upper strata of Indian Muslim society, especially the Urdu speaking landlords and professionals of North India. From the beginning the college and its graduates sought to provide a political lead to the country’s Muslims, although there was rarely unanimity. The initial forum for this task was the Muhammadan Educational Conference, and at its Dhaka meeting in December I9o6 it transformed itself into the Muslim League. The political context was provided by the election in Britain of a Liberal government and subsequent moves toward limited representative institutions in India. In October 1906, with the help of the British principal of Aligarh, a delegation of Muslim notables called on the viceroy, Lord Minto, in Simla, and presented a petition asking for various forms of special protection for the Muslim population, notably separate electoral rolls. These were in fact incorporated into the 1909 Indian Councils Act.

Founded initially as a loyalist organization, the Muslim League a few years after its creation was taken over by a different group of Aligarh graduates, most prominently Muhammad `Ali and his brother Shaukat ‘Ali, who emphasized Pan-Islamic themes on the one hand and cooperation with the Indian National Congress on the other. In 1916 the League leaders, including Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who had joined in 1913, negotiated an agreement with the Congress that secured separate electorates in return for support for a common program of constitutional change. After the end of the war, however, the League as an institution was temporarily swept aside by the force of the Khilafat movement, although several of its leaders played prominent parts in the latter. Muslim politics during the 1920s and early 1930s were dominated by provincial leaders and parties, such as Sir Fazli Husain in the Punjab. Jinnah himself had retired to London in 1931 following the failure of efforts to negotiate new agreements or understandings with the Congress, and Muslim interests at the national level were represented by conservative loyalists.

By the mid-1930s, however, the political environment had changed substantially following the civil disobedience campaign by Congress, and the 1935 Government of India Act appeared to presage an elected government at the all-India level. The possibility that the government inIndiamight represent Congress’ views and attitudes and emphasize either secular or Hindu values forced a rethinking of the Muslim position. Jinnah, seen as having the negotiating skills and contacts to represent the Muslim cause, was called back from London in 1935 and took on the presidency of the League. His first task was to contest the initial elections under the 1935 Act, which were held in early 1937. An electoral organization had to be created from scratch, and the overall League performance was poor compared to both Congress and regional parties such as the Unionists in the Punjab. A further setback came when the Congress refused to allow Muslim League representatives in the United Provinces, where the League had won a number of seats, to join the Congress government there. This confirmed Jinnah’s view that the Congress was unwilling to allow the Muslim League political space in any future constitutional arrangements.

From the middle of 1937 Jinnah succeeded in projecting the League as the representative agent of the Muslims. In September 1937 he persuaded the premiers of the Muslim-majority provinces of the Punjab and Bengal to join the League, while maintaining their provincial party structures. Simultaneously the League launched a sustained attack on the Congress, portraying it as fundamentally hostile to Muslim interests. In March 1940 the Muslim League at a meeting in Lahore passed what has become known as the Pakistan Resolution, calling for independent states in Muslim-majority areas. Jinnah’s own speech at this meeting set out his view of the Muslims of India as a separate nation. Although the resolution apparently called for the partition of the subcontinent into separate states, there has been much controversy over whether this was in fact Jinnah’s aim. Some writers have argued that it was primarily intended as a bargaining counter.

During World War II Jinnah and the Muslim League made progress on various fronts. The League moved from being mainly an agent of other groups to being a principal actor. In the Punjab and elsewhere it began to attract the support of prominent landlords and of some sections of the `ulama’ and Sufi pirs. An unbroken string of by-election victories paved the way for a landslide result in the 1945 and 1946 elections. With solid political support from the Muslim community, Jinnah then moved into the final stage of tripartite negotiations with the Congress and the outgoing British. Against a background of increasing violence, the only solution that could be found involved the partition of India and also the partition of the provinces of Punjab and Bengal, which formed the bulk of the new state of Pakistan. Millions of the League’s members and supporters from all over North India were forced to abandon their homes and move to the unfamiliar setting of Sindh or the Punjab. Although a homeland had been created for the Indian subcontinent’s Muslims, it was far from ideal.

After independence and Jinnah’s death in September 1948, the League found difficulty in establishing a separate role for itself. Within a short time the army and bureaucracy came to dominate the political process, and the only role for the League was as a vehicle for rival groups of provincial politicians. Splits occurred from time to time along factional lines. It has, however, been a convenient label for politicians to adopt, and in 1988 it formed the core of the Islami Jumhuri Ittihad (Islamic Democratic Alliance). This coalition won the 199o elections and formed the government under the leadership of Mian Nawaz Sharif, himself a member of the League.

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[See alsoIndia;Pakistan; and the biography of jinnah. For the post partition history of the League as a political party inPakistan, see Muslim League.]


Hardy, Peter. The Muslims ofBritish India.Cambridge, 1972. Masterly synthesis.

Jalal, Ayesha. The Sole Spokesman: jinnah, the Muslim League, and the Demand forPakistan.Cambridge, 1985. The most important study of Jinnah’s tactics and long-term aims, although considered controversial by some critics.

Pirzada, Syed Sharifuddin, ed. Foundations of Pakistan: All-India Muslim League Documents, 1906-1947. 2 vols.Karachi, 1969-1970. Includes presidential addresses and other important material relating to the annual sessions of the League and to the League Council in the years leading up to independence.

Qureshi, Ishtiaq Husain. The Muslim Community of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent, 610-1947: A Brief Historical Analysis. 2d ed.Karachi, 1977. Standard Pakistani account of the history of the Subcontinent.

Robinson, Francis. Separatism among Indian Muslims: The Politics of the United Provinces’ Muslims, 1860-1923.London, 1974. Discusses the dynamics of politics among the elite Muslim groups of northernIndia, from whom emerged the initial League leadership.

Shaikh, Farzana. Community and Consensus in Islam: Muslim Representation in ColonialIndia, 1860-1947.Cambridge, 1989. Challenges the widely accepted view that the Muslim League’s demands can be interpreted primarily in terms of the immediate political interests of its elite leadership.

Talbot, Ian. Provincial Politics and thePakistanMovement: The Growth of the Muslim League in North-West andNorth-East India, 1937-¢7.Karachi, 1988. Brief look at the rise of the Muslim League at provincial level.

Wolpert, Stanley A. j innah ofPakistan.New York, 1984. Thoroughly researched biography that deals with both his political and personal life.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/all-india-muslim-league/

  • writerPosted On: October 8, 2012
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