Economic Roots of Partition

Economic roots of partition

An overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are thankful that we have a sovereign, independent country where we have risen to senior positions in every profession. We are nearing the seventh decade of independence and these years have given us plenty. From a very narrow base of industry, educational institutions, health, banking, insurance, infrastructure and trained manpower, we have developed an impressive network of each of the above in both public and private sectors. Though there are problems and issues concerned with various sectors in our economy, but such issues confront many countries, which need to be addressed.

The question that still arises in certain minds both in India and Pakistan is that what was the purpose of the creation of Pakistan? Was there actually a need for its creation?
To find answers to these questions, we have to look into economic factors behind the making of Pakistan.

The sharp educational and economic differences between the Hindus and the Muslims coincided with their religious and cultural differences. Irrespective of their geographical distribution, the Muslims as a community were economically a backward entity in India. There were no two views amongst them that something was needed to be done to end their backwardness. The dominance of the Hindus in the government services and other professions as well as in business, trade and commerce extended to the Muslim majority areas too, and it was taking a heavy toll on their lives. The desire and demand to protect their rights in the political and economic sphere engendered permanent tension between the Hindus and the Muslims. Although educated Muslims did compete for economic and political assurance, identification of economic backwardness and hold of Hindus on the economic life of India nurtured the feelings of an economic nationalism among them. The Muslims saw no future for themselves against a Hindu community that was far superior to them in economic terms, unless they themselves cared for the protection of their own interests. This developed into an effort to support Muslim business classes by Muslim consumers and encouragement of business trade and commercial pursuits among the Muslims. Such efforts had started since the early 1920’s and continued and increased in intensity right until the partition of India in 1947.

Economic roots of partitionThis is shown by various Muslim League resolutions from May 1924 to December 1940 and Muslim League publications available at National archives of Pakistan during 1940-1947. There were numerous resolutions which urged the Muslim leaders and associations to make every effort to induce Muslims to start businesses. They had to make a special effort to improve themselves in this respect. Similarly, private societies and urban classes of townsmen and artisans were urged to come forward in the fields of industrial development by forming co-operatives and paying attention, especially to the handloom industry which employed a large part of Muslim artisans. Muslim youth was encouraged to make efforts towards trade, arts and industries.

After 1940, a new life was infused in the Muslims. Jinnah set up an economic planning committee during the All India Muslim League Session in Karachi on 24-26 December 1943, to make a scientific study and survey to find out the natural and mineral wealth and the scope for various industries in the new country. This committee submitted its report in June 1945.

Jinnah was successful in developing vital economic institutions for the Muslims of India with the help of the Muslim industrialist classes. Memons, Khojas, Bohras and businessmen like the Ispahanis, Habibs and Adamjees supported the League. In Bombay, Sindh, Madras and Bengal, a very powerful section of the mercantile, professional and industrialist support formed the backbone of the Pakistan movement.
In setting up daily newspapers such as Star of India, Dawn, Pakistan Times and other dailies, M. A. H. Ispahani, Ahmed Ispahani, Adamjee Haji Dawood and Rafi Butt supported the ventures financially. By October 1944, the Federation of the Muslim Chambers of Commerce and Industry at Delhi had grown into a robust and representative organisation of Muslim merchants and industrialists of India. Jinnah worked indefatigably to establish such a Federation. Muslim industrialists and businessmen as M. A. H. Ispahani, Sir Adamjee Haji Dawood, Sir Sultan Chinoy, Habib Rahimtoola and Sikander Dehlvi supported the formation of the Federation.

Economic roots of partition

The idea of a Muslim airline was given by the Jinnah in June 1946 with the help of Ahmed Ispahani and Sir Adamjee Haji Dawood — the Orient Airways was floated. Muslims all over India bought shares in the airline valued up to one crore. The airline symbolised the growing economic independence of the Muslims of India. Orient Airways was the first and the only Muslim airline operated in pre-partition India. Jinnah realised the vital importance of banking and insisted on the creation of another first class Muslim bank in the Subcontinent. He pointed out that they claimed to be a nation of hundred million strong and yet they just had one bank out of the scores, which operated in India. The Habib Bank was small in size as compared with other banks operated by Hindus and foreigners. The Muslim Commercial Bank was brought into existence by Sir Adamjee Haji Dawood and Mirza Ahmed Ispahani, before the partition in July 1947.

Jinnah was also instrumental in the floatation of the Muhammadi Steamship Company by the Habib brothers in Bombay. It gave an opportunity to create Muslim workers in yet another nation-building effort. The realisation by the Muslim leadership and the Muslim professional and business classes of their economic backwardness in India generated interest in the economic development of the Muslim majority areas and lent mass support to the Pakistan cause. The readiness and enthusiasm displayed by different Muslim classes in supporting Pakistan were reflective of a desire to see Pakistan offer as many economic opportunities to the Muslims as India did to the Hindus. Therefore, the investments made by Memons, Khojas, Bohras, Agha Khanis, Ispahanis, Habibs and Adamjees to Pakistan resulted in the emergence of Karachi as one of the major industrial centres in South Asia.

We have come a long way, 14th August, our independence day should not only be an occasion for celebrating but for thoughtfulness of the financial contributions made by Muslim industrialists and businessmen under the guidance of Quaid-e-Azam to give a sound economic foundation to Pakistan. The private sector led development strategy followed by Jinnah during pre-partition and post-partition eras should continue to make Pakistan’s economic future better.

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