The Haroon Report

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By

A.G.Noorani[1]

Abstract

The Haroon Report is the most neglected document in all the discourse on the Pakistan movement, but is second in significance only to the Lahore Resolution which it was intended to supplement.  We have travelled a long way since. But even in the altered situation India and Pakistan can reflect on that precious nugget in paragraph 16 of the Haroon Report and apply its logic to the realities of 2008. Its core lesson is Indo-Pak cooperation on an institutional basis as sovereign States as equals. This was the core of the concerns which Jinnah articulated seventy years ago, in 1939. Author

The Haroon Report is the most neglected document in all the discourse on the Pakistan movement, but is second in significance only to the Lahore Resolution which it was intended to supplement. Its tragic fate reflects the course which events took. It still bears a profound relevance to the relations between India and Pakistan and to the state of the minorities in both countries. The Report touched the very core of the problem as it existed in 1940.

Only the political skills of Mohammed Ali Jinnah could have managed the contradictions between the claims of the Muslim-majority provinces of British India and those of Muslims in other provinces. He performed the feat to emerge as the Quaid-i-Azam of the Muslims of the entire sub-continent. Compromises had to be made. Punjab was not happy with the Lucknow Pact of 1916, for instance.

Imminence of independence made the dilemma acute. Secession ensured the independence of the Muslim-majority provinces from an all-India federation. Their separation spelt problems for Muslims minorities elsewhere. Ayesha Jalal holds “There were contradictions between Muslim interests in majority and minority provinces, and between an apparently separatist demand for autonomous Muslim states and the need for a centre capable of ensuring the interests of Muslims in the rest of India. At no point was Jinnah able to reconcile these contradictions. He came away from Lahore not with a coherent demand which squared the circle of these difficulties, but simply with the right to negotiate for Muslims on a completely new basis.”[1] Ayesha Jalal’s view is shared by many. The Haroon Report resolved the dilemma.

Circumstances forced Jinnah to mould his strategy but he was always prepared to negotiate. The Congress was not, because accord implied sharing power. The Congress set its face against it. It never propounded an alternative which the Muslim League could reasonably be expected even to consider. The last paragraph of the League’s Lahore resolution of 23 March 1940 on the partition of India was overlooked by politicians on both sides. “This session further authorizes the Working Committee to frame a scheme of constitution in accordance with these basic principles, providing for the assumption finally by the respective regions of all powers such as defence, external affairs, communications, customs, and such other matters as may be necessary”. That “scheme of constitution” was never framed. Nor did the Congress ever demand that it be produced. The word “finally” clearly signified an interim centre during the transitional period. In December 1940 The Haroon Report addressed both these points. Its background and its aftermath provide lessons for today.

In 1938, Sir Abdullah Haroon was not only Chairman of the Reception Committee of the Sindh Provincial Muslim League Conference at Karachi but was the brains behind the resolution on partition moved by Shaikh Abdul Majid Sindhi. It envisaged “the federation of Muslim States and the federation of non-Muslim States.” Jinnah disapproved of it. With his tacit consent, Haroon’s draft was passed as modified on 9 October. It mentioned “two nations” but merely asked the League “to review and revise the entire question of what should be a suitable Constitution of India” and “to devise a scheme of Constitution under which Muslims may attain independence.”[2] In 1965 Shaikh Abdul Majid said in a press interview that he was prepared for a centre with limited powers including safeguards for minorities.

Sir Abdullah’s ardour was not dampened. He wrote to the Aga Khan on 7 November 1938 “We are seriously considering the possibility of having a separate federation of Muslims States and Provinces.” [3]

The League Council took a fateful step. On 4 December 1938 it set up the Foreign Committee with Sir Abdullah as Chairman. Its objective was propagation of the League’s policies and programme in India and abroad.  Later in the month the League’s 26th Session at Patna authorized the President “to adopt such a course as may be necessary with a view to exploring the possibility of a suitable alternative” to the federation set up by the Government of India Act, 1935.

But if not the Act, “precisely what alternative did Jinnah propose,” the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, kept asking. Lord Linlithgow reported to the Secretary of State, Lord Zetland, on 28 February 1939 on his meeting with Jinnah “a couple of days ago … I asked him what suggestions he had to make, to which he replied that, while he did not reject the federal idea, it must be a federation which would ensure an adequate equipoise between Muslim and Hindu votes, and in which there should be an appropriate balance between the communities. I asked him how he contemplated securing this, to which he replied that he had in his mind the manipulation of territorial votes and the adjustments of territorial divisions as to bring it about. He blushed a little as I pressed the implication of these suggestions upon him, but in the end maintained that at any rate his project for the carving up of this country was a better one than Sikandar’s.”[4] In plain words, a sharing of power on the basis of equality.

The League’s Working Committee set up another Committee when it met in Castle Mustafa at Meerut on 26 March 1939. Recalling the Patna resolution, it said “the President with the concurrence of the Working Committee hereby appoints a Committee of the following gentlemen to examine various schemes already propounded by those who are fully versed in the Constitutional developments of India and other countries and those may be submitted hereafter to the President and report to the Committee their conclusions at an early date.”[5]The members were Jinnah, as President, Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, Nawab Mohammed Ismail Khan, Sir Abdullah Haroon, Khwaja Nazimuddin, and three others. Liaquat Ali Khan was appointed its Convenor. Only the day before, on 25 March 1939, when Liaquat Ali Khan spoke of “dividing the country in a suitable manner” he added “If this is done, a limited and specific Federation would not only be easy but desirable.”

By then many proposals were afloat “including that of dividing the country” but Jinnah made plain to the League’s Council on 8 April 1939 that the Committee was not pledged to any but was examining all of them “to produce a scheme which … would be in the best interests of the Muslims of India”[6] One which caught fancy was by Dr. Syed Abdul Latif of the Osmania University in Hyderabad. He wrote two monographs; The Cultural Future of India (1938) and the Muslim Problem in India (1939). He proposed “cultural zones” to achieve which transfer of population may be necessary and a centre.

Sir Abdullah sought to stir a discussion and invited the Doctor to meet the Foreign Committee on 29 January 1939 when he was asked “to prepare a scheme.” He wrote a Foreword to the 1939 paper and donated Rs. 2,000 for its printing and circulation. No shrinking violet, Latif released his scheme to the press. Haroon had written to Jinnah on 22 April 1939 that Latif’s scheme “evoked lot of criticism in the press in the North.” Apparently the Foreign and Constitutional Committees coordinated their work but as Aqeel-uz-Zafar Khan wrote in Dawn on 23 March 1989 the task of framing the constitutional proposals was mostly performed by the Foreign Committee. On 15 April 1939 Haroon intimated Liaquat Ali Khan regarding the holding of the meeting of the Sub-Committee at Lahore and requested him to issue a “Press note to the public to the effect that any one desiring to send any scheme may do so till such and such date.” Liaquat Ali Khan issued a circular letter to the Provincial Leagues on 7 July and again a reminder on 19 August urging them to send the views and suggestions of the Provincial Leagues on the “schemes for the constitutional development of India as an alternative to the Government of India Act.” On 27 July, Haroon wrote to Liaquat Ali Khan and stressed that he should “impress the authors to send schemes as early as possible,” to be considered by the Sub-Committee in October 1939. This shows that his work had the sanction of the Muslim League.

He felt that time was running out and urged Jinnah on 17 July 1939 that “the Constitution Sub-Committee must finish its work by October so that a definite goal is placed before the people …. The Lahore Session of the League ought to be great success.” Ayesha Jalal reveals that in an unpublished draft of the Working Committee’s resolution of 22 October 1939 immediate independence for India was demanded on the basis of a “Constitution of a Confederation of free states” in which the “rights and interests of all communities shall be adequately safeguarded.”[7] Jinnah’s article in Time and Tide (London) on 19 January 1940 said “there are in India two nations who both must share the governance of their common motherland …. so that … India may take its place among the great nations of the world.” This was a mere two months before the Lahore Resolution. Events moved briskly to a finale.

On 1 February 1940 the Foreign Committee met the authors of the various schemes, which were “submitted to the League,” under Sir Abdullah’s Presidentship. He wrote to Liaquat Ali Khan the next day with a request to place the letter before Jinnah. It is truly a historic document. It propounded 5 points “(a) The Muslims of India, who constitute ninety millions of people, are a separate Nation entitled to the same right of self-determination which has been conceded in respect of other Nations; (b) The Muslims of India shall in no case agree to be reduced to a position of minority on the basis of extraneous and foreign considerations, or for the sake of any political conveniences or expediencies; (c) That in order to make the Muslims right of self-determination really effective, the Muslims shall have separate National Home in the shape of an autonomous state; (d) That the Muslims living in the rest of India shall be treated as the Nationals of the aforesaid Muslim state and their rights and privileges shall be fully safeguarded; (e) That any scheme of Indian Reforms, interfering with these basic principles, shall be stoutly resisted by the Indian Muslim Nation, till it has achieved the aforesaid objectives.”[8]

Two days later, on 4 February the League’s Working Committee propounded its 5 points to guide the Constitution Committee. “The following broad outline were agreed: (1) Mussalmans are not a minority in the ordinary sense of the word. They are a nation. (2) British system of democratic parliamentary system is not suitable to the genius and conditions of the people of India. (3) Those zones, which are composed of majority of Mussalmans in the physical map of India, should be constituted into independent Dominions in direct relationship with Great Britain. (4) In those zones where Muslims are in minority, their interests and those of other minorities must be adequately and effectively safeguarded and similar safeguards shall be provided for the Hindus and other minorities in the Muslim zones. (5) The various units in each zone shall form component parts of Federation in that zone as autonomous units.”[9]

When Jinnah met the Viceroy on 13 March he warned him that “if we could not improve on our present solution for the problem of India’s constitutional development, he and his friends would have no option but to fall back on some form of partition.”

The League’s historic session was held at Lahore on 21 – 24 March 1940. It appointed a Committee to draft the main resolution on 22 March. It discussed a preliminary draft based on Sir Sikandar’s draft and the 5 points of 4 February. He had proposed “(e) That the regions may, in turn, delegate to a Central agency, which for the convenience may be designated the Grand Council of the United Dominions of India, and on such terms as may be agreed upon, provided that such functions shall be administered through Committee on which all regions (dominions) and interests will be duly represented and their actual administration will be entrusted to the Units. (f) That no decision of this Central Agency will be effective or operative unless it is carried by at least a two-third majority. (g) That in the absence of agreement with regard to the constitution, functions and scope of the Grand Council of the United Dominions of India, cited above, the regions (dominions) shall have the right to refrain from or refuse to participate in the proposed Central structure. (h) That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards will be specifically provided in the Centre for minorities in the Units, in the regions and in the Centre, in regard to the religious, cultural, economical, political, administration and other spheres.”

This did not affect sovereignty. It only provided for coordination.[10]The Subjects Committee dropped these provisions for a Centre. They do not figure in the Lahore Resolution as adopted by the session. Jinnah obviously did not wish to commit himself to any central agency ahead of negotiations.

This explains Sikandar’s speech in the Punjab assembly on 11 March 1941. “I have no hesitation in admitting that I was responsible for drafting the original Resolution. But let me make it clear that the Resolution which I drafted was radically amended by the Working Committee, and there is a wide divergence between the Resolution I drafted and the one that was finally passed. The main difference between the two Resolutions is that the latter part of my resolution, which related to the Centre and coordination of the activities of the various units, was eliminated.” He, however, continued to remain a Leaguer. [11]Ayesha Jalal holds : “By apparently repudiating the need for any centre, and keeping quiet about its shape, Jinnah calculated that when eventually the time came to discuss an all-India federation, the British and Congress alike would be forced to negotiate with organized Muslim opinion, and would be ready to make substantial concessions to create or retain that centre. The Lahore resolution should therefore be seen as a bargaining counter, which had the merit of being acceptable (on the face of it) to the majority-province Muslims, and of being totally unacceptable to the Congress and in the last resort to the British also. This, in turn, provided the best insurance that the League would not be given what it now apparently was asking for, but which Jinnah in fact did not really want.”[12]

Sadly, Jinnah never reckoned with the reality that the Congress would prefer the partition of India, together with partition of Punjab and Bengal to a Union in which it would share power with him. Nehru said as much in his Prison Diary on 31 December 1943: “It is better to have Pakistan or almost anything if only to keep Jinnah far away…” and reported to the Cabinet Mission in private on 10 June 1946 that Jinnah had no “real place in the country.”[13] Jinnah evidently did not contemplate this possibility. The Haroon Report’s best parts would have helped retrieve the situation.

But Jinnah had another formidable sceptic to deal with, the Nawab of Chhatari, who wrote to Jinnah on 16 October 1940 “even the Lahore resolution will not solve the problem because the Muslims in the minority provinces will suffer in any case.” Jinnah assured him on 22 October “the resolution made it quite clear that we cannot leave the Muslims in the Hindu provinces to their fate” and asked him to come out “with a definite scheme of his own” which he promised to consider before making a final decision in this regard.[14]Choudhary Khaliquzzanan was also restive despite his support to the Lahore resolution.[15]

Soon thereafter, Syed Abdul Latif went to town. He sent a letter to Haroon with a copy to Jinnah on 23 April containing his scheme for the consideration of the Constitution Committee. Basically he proposed a Centre, transfer of population and the rest. He wrote to Jinnah again on 30 May proposing a confederation – as if the Lahore Resolution had not been passed. All this was for the benefit, he wrote, of “Sir Abdullah Haroon’s Committee.” He was simultaneously urging the Congress’ leaders to accept his ideas.[16] He sent Jinnah an amendment on 30 May which, he claimed, sought to “implement the Lahore resolution” and “yet preserve the unity of India.”[17]

The Constitution Committee set up in March 1939 apparently went into hibernation. The Foreign Committee did all the running, a fact well known to Jinnah and Liaquat. In November this Committee met again after a break of nine months, Jinnah was very patient with Latif. He wrote to him on 12 October “Your scheme is fundamentally different from the basic principles laid down in the Lahore Resolution of the All India Muslim League, last March.” This, Latif refused to appreciate “although I tried to explain to you in our talk on 27th of September.”[18]

Finally on 23 December 1940, Haroon submitted his Report to Jinnah as “Chairman, Foreign Sub-Committee” of the League. Clearly Latif swayed the Committee on many points. Unfortunately it went beyond the Lahore Resolution to include the princely States with special mention of – Hyderabad, predictably. Transfer of population was not overlooked.

Latif’s hare-brained ideas marred the Report but it contained a precious nugget in paragraph 16 which read : “The Lahore resolution of the League does not look forward to the proposed regional states assuming immediately as they are formed, powers of defence, external affairs, customs etc. This argues that there should be a transitional stage during which these powers should be exercised by some agency common to them all. Such a common coordinating agency would be necessary even independent of the above consideration, for under the third principle of the resolution, it will be impossible to implement effectively the provision of safeguards for minorities without some organic relationship subsisting between the states under the Hindu influence. A federation is not to the taste of the Muslims, because they fear that the Hindus will, on the strength of their majority, dominate the Muslims. But since some common arrangement is essential to the fulfillment of the provisions of the resolution, an agreed formula has to be devised whereby the Muslims shall have the control at the Centre on terms of perfect equality with the Non-Muslims.”[19]

This agency would have solved Jinnah’s dilemma of old. On relations between the two parts of India the Report said that “the subjects to be assigned to this central machinery shall be (a) External relation, (b) Defence, (c) Communications, (d) Customs, (e) Safeguards for minorities and voluntary inter migration etc., subject to the following provision in respect of defence and intermigration.” It went too far and cast an unfortunate gloss on paragraph 16. Each State would have its own army but, “the Navy will be entirely under the Centre.” The reference to “intermigration” reveals Latif’s hand.

There is every reason to believe that Jinnah the hard-headed lawyer would have separated the wheat from the chaff and used the nugget in paragraph 16 of the Report constructively – if only it had been kept under wraps so as not to tie his hands. It was to be discussed by the Working Committee on 22 February 1941. On 18 February The Statesman reported the contents – an obvious leak by a scheming member. The meeting was postponed.

A member, Prof. Mohammed Afzal Hussain Qadri complained that the Report was not “actually completed.” But the unkindest cut came from Latif. He wrote testily to Sir Abdullah Haroon on 8 March insinuating that the Report was leaked from people in Delhi and opted out of the Committee. He now quibbled over the Report’s findings which he had found “in order” on 20 February. Worse still, he criticized “the cry for Pakistan as envisaged in the Lahore Resolution.” This was rank ingratitude to a man who had helped him as Sir Abdullah did all along.[20]

Latif sent a copy to Jinnah who gave him his deserts on 15 March 1941. But the snub was accompanied by a gross injustice. “The Muslim League has appointed no such Committee as you keep harping upon.”[21] The record shows that this was simply not true. The Foreign Committee had acted with his full knowledge. Jinnah’s exasperation was understandable. The next League session was due to be held in Madras in April, where the Lahore Resolution was to be incorporated into the League’s Constitution. The embarrassment of a Committee of the League pouring cold water on some of its formulations was palpable. Jinnah, true to form, performed a surgical operation. He was later to call Latif “a busy body” not unjustly. Significantly his relations with Sir Abdullah Haroon remained close till his death on 27 April 1942.

Jinnah told the Lucknow session of the League in October 1937 “all safeguards and settlements would be a scrap of paper, unless they are backed by power.” He said at the Aligarh Muslim Union on 5 February 1938 “The only hope for minorities is to organize themselves and secure a definite share in power to safeguard their rights and interests. Without such power no Constitution can work successfully in India.”[22]

Sir Abdullah also realized that the Lahore Resolution’s paragraph on the minorities would be of no avail unless the last paragraph was fleshed out to provide what Coupland called an agency centre in which Muslims would have a voice; two sovereign states linked by such an agency assuring minority rights.

Note the tell-tale signs. The Cripps Mission (1942) file (802) in the Quaid-i-Azam Papers contains his correspondence with Cripps “regarding the creation of a new Indian Union.” It is “embargoed.”[23]

Jinnah played with his cards close to the chest. “If you start asking for 16 annas in a rupee there is room for bargaining” – hence the omission of Sikander Hayat’s agency from the resolution. The League’s Convention of Legislators passed a Resolution on 9 April 1946 removing all ambiguities from the Lahore Resolution. When the Cabinet Mission invited written proposals from both sides, Jinnah had only to send across this resolution. Instead, he sent altogether different proposals on 12 May 1946. Overlooked by supporters and critics, it envisaged a confederation tighter than paragraph 16 of the Haroon Report. He accepted the Mission’s Plan of 16 May for a federation. Jinnah had told the Mission on 25 April he would accept a Union based on groups of provinces if the Congress did the same. It sabotaged the Mission’s plan leaving Jinnah no option but to press for Pakistan in 1947. Fundamentally it did not wish to share power with the League. [24]

We have travelled a long way since. But even in the altered situation India and Pakistan can reflect on that precious nugget in paragraph 16 of the Haroon Report and apply its logic to the realities of 2008. Its core lesson is Indo-Pak cooperation on an institutional basis as sovereign States as equals. This was the core of the concerns which Jinnah articulated seventy years ago, in 1939.


[1] A.G.Noorani is an eminent Indian scholar, legal expert and noted columnist.


[1] Jalal, Ayeshah; The Sole Spokesman; Cambridge University Press, 1985; pp.59-60.

[2] Ahmed, Jamiluddin, ed.; Historic Documents of the Muslim Freedom Movement; Publishers United Ltd., Lahore, 1970p.257. Vide also Moore, R.J.; Endgames of Empire; Oxford University Press, 1988. P.113.

[3] Vide also Haroon, Daulat; Haji Sir Abdullah Haroon Hidayatullah; Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2006.

[4] Hasan, Mushirul, ed.; Documents on the Movement for Independence of India; 1939 (Part 2); Indian Council on Historical Research; Oxford University Press; 2008; p.1760.

[5] Ahmad; p. 347.

[6] Sayeed, Khalid, B; Pakistan: The Formative Phase 1857-1948; Oxford University Press; 1968; p.108.

[7] Jalal; p.576 n.48.

[8] For the text vide Malik, Aslam, Muhammad; The Making of the Pakistan Resolution; Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2001; pp.224-5. This is an excellent survey of those events, based on archival material. It is the best  account on the work of the Committees.

[9] Ibid.; p.226.

[10] Ibid.; pp.228-229 for the full text.

[11] Menon, V.P.; The Transfer of Power in India; 1757, pp.443-458 for the text.

[12] Jalal, Ayeshah; The Sole Spokesman; p.57.

[13] Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru; First Series; Vol. 13; p.324.

[14] Malik; pp. 199-200. This is based on Quaid-i-Azam Papers, File 242 pp. 33-35. The texts merit close study.

[15] Malik; p.199.

[16] Jinnah Papers: Pakistan: The Goal Defined (1 January – 31 August 1940; Third Series Vol. XV; edited by Z.H. Zaidi, Government of Pakistan; 2007; pp. 287 – 295.

[17] Ibid.; p.373.

[18] Bahadur, Nazir Yar Jung, Nawab (Ed); The Pakistan Issue; Sh. Muhammed Ashraf; 1943; p.62. A collection of Latif’s correspondence with Jinnah and Congress leaders.

[19] Ibid.; pp. 73-92 for the text.

[20] Ibid.; pp. 92 and 96-99.

[21] Ibid.; p.100.

[22] Ahmad, Jamil-ud-Din, ed.; Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah; Vol. I pp. 30 and 43 respectively.

[23] Moore, R.J.; Escape from Empire; Oxford University Press; 1983; p.54, bn.117.

[24] Mansergh, Nicholas, ed.; The Transfer of Power 1942-47; HMSO; Vol.VII covers the Cabinet Mission.