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Sir Aga Khan’s contribution in the Pakistan Movement 1906-1947

Thursday, 2017, November 2
Aga Khan III.jpg
Prof. Dr. Riaz Ahmad

High Highness Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah, Aga Khan III GCSI GCMG GCIE GCVO PC was the 48th Imam of Ismaili Shia Muslims. He was the first President of the All-India Muslim League. He was born in Karachi on 2 November 1877, but passed away in Versoix, Switzerland on 11 July 1957. After Sir Syed Khan, he played a leading role not only in strengthening the political role of the Muslims of the Indo-Pak subcontinent, the cause of Aligarh Muslim University but the Pakistan Movement also. He was in close liaison with the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan in all the critical moments of the Movement.

Aga Khan leads Simla Deputation to Lord Minto, 1 Oct. 1906

For starting the political role of the Muslims of British India, the Simla Deputation to Lord Minto, the Viceroy, on 1 October 1906 headed by Sir Aga Khan III did play a pivotal role. This Deputation consisted of 35 leading Muslim leaders from all parts of British India. This was considered as the first all-India Muslim gathering under the leadership of Sir Aga Khan which was representative of all the provinces, regions and parts of British India. In his memorandum Sir Aga Khan presented the Muslim demands of grant of separate electorates to the Muslims under the new reforms and pleaded permission from the British Government to allow the Muslims of India to form their own political party. Lord Minto, in his address, responded positively and promised to redress the Muslim demands under the new reforms. It was in consequence of this that the All India Muslim League was formed at Dhakka on 30 December 1906, at a meeting of the All India Mohammedan Educational Conference presided over by Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk on a motion of Nawab Salimullah for the purpose of protecting the political and other interests of Muslims of British India.

First President of All India Muslim League 1908-1913

First meeting of the All India Muslim League was held at Aligarh on 18-19 March 1908. In this meeting it was announced that HH Sir Aga Khan III has donated Rs.500/- for the Muslim League fund out which Rs. 50/- were credited to the account of the League as the admission and membership fees. It was at this session that Sir Aga Khan III was unanimously elected as first President of the All India Muslim League. Second session of the AIML was held at Amritsar in December 1908. At this session also it was announced that the HH Aga Khan, permanent President of the party, donated Rs. 1500/- for the Muslim League fund. Actually, Presidents of the Party were of two kinds. First there was the permanent President who was elected for three years. The other pattern was that some prominent Muslim leaders of the country was asked to preside over the session, but his position was temporary and honorary.

HH Sir Aga Khan, the permanent President, presided over the 3rd session of AIML held at Delhi on 29-30 January 1910. He delivered a long presidential address in which he surveyed the current political situation and guided the Muslims how to move forward in advancing their demands. In a resolution passed by this session the Muslim League unanimously adopted the following resolution in which Sir Agan’s services to the cause of the Muslims were thus appreciated: “The All India Muslim League palces on records its appreciation of the great services rendered to the Mohammedan cause by His Highness the Aga Khan, GCIE, and assues him of its continued confidence and trust in his statesmanship and in his leadership of the Musalmans of India”. Sir Aga Khan was also present at the 4th session of AIML held at Nagpur, 28 and 30 December 1910 and presided over the deliberations. The honorary President Syed Nabiullah delivered the presidential address. The 5th session of AIML was held at Calcutta, on 3-4 March 1912. Honorary president of this session was Bawab Sir Salimullah of Dhakka who delivered his presidential address. At this session also the services of HH Aga Khan for the “cause of Mohammedans” were highly appreciated. It was at this session that HH Aga Khan was elected for the second tenure as President, AIML.

Since 1912, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had started his efforts for the Hindu-Muslim unity. Though he was not member of the AIML before 1913, he was invited to attend the meeting of the AIML Council on instructions from the Aga Khan by the Secretary of the AIML Syed Wazir Hasan. It was at this meeting under the presidentship HH Sir Aga Khan that the AIML adopted its new policy of “self-government suitable to India” on a motion by Quaid-i-Azam. It was ratified by the next session held in March 1913. HH the Aga Khan also attended the next 7th session of AIML held at Agra on 30-31 December 1013 where the Hon. President was Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah, a Bombay business magnate, who delivered is presidential address.

HH the Aga Khan, as President of the Party, himself moved a resolution for the creation of “Muslim National Fund” whose aimwas the “the political progress and advancement of Musalmans” at every provincial level. This resolution was passed with great “acclamation”. Seconding this resolution the Raja of Mahmudabad appreciated the vision of HH the Aga Khan. In matters of discussion on other resolutions also, the presence of HH Aga Khan had sobering effect on the proceedings of the Muslim League. Thereafter, HH the Aga Khan resigned from the presidentship of the AIML. Despite his resignation from the AIML, HH the Aga Khan had close contact with Jinnah especially during his efforts for the Hindu-Muslim unity during 1914-1916.

His Contribution in the Pakistan Movement

Sir Aga Khan was also the president of the All Parties Muslim Conference held in 1928-29. During 1930-33, he also attended the Round Table Conferences held in London for settling the future of the Muslims as delegate. Quaid-i-Azam was also attended the first two conferences in London. Both jointly pleaded the cause of the Muslims. They were very close to each other and were in regulation private and confidential correspondence, apart from the participation in the committees of the RTCs in London. They share a lot of private consulation regaring the future of the Muslims. Sir Aga Khan’s letters of 20 January 1931, 29 March 1931, 20 June 1931 and many others indicate the kind of consulation both had regarding the future of the Muslims before going to different sessions of the RTC. This showed that both the leaders were highly confiding with each other and jointly making strategy regarding the future of the Muslims in British India.

He was nominated to represent India at the League of Nations in 1932, where he continued to work until the outbreak of the World War II. He was an excellent statesman and was elected President of the League of Nations (now known as the United Nations Organization) in July 1937. He was the only Asian to have been appointed to this high office. During the Pakistan Sir Aga khan signally contributed towards the Pakistan Movement. Quaid-i-Azam and Sir Aga Khan were regularly in contact with each other for the furthering of the Pakistan Movement. Even when the AIML became united about the time when the Pakistan Movement was to be started and 24th session of AIML held in Bombay on 11-12 1936 exhibiting the unity of the Muslim Conference and the All India Muslim League the contribution of Sir Aga Khan was thus recorded: “There was no person in India except His Highness the Aga Khan who could make all the parties unite on one platform”.

During 1940 – 1947 at all the critical times, Quaid-i-Azam and Sir Aga Khan had close contact with each other and had a lot of consultation with each other on the issues such as Gandhi-Jinnah Talks, Cabinet Mission Plan and the Partition issues during May-August 1947. Thus Sir Aga Khan signally contributed towards the Pakistan Movement. Sir Aga Khan fell ill in 1954 during his visit to Dhaka and from then on struggling with ill health, passed away on 11 July 1957, in Switzerland and is buried in Aswan, Egypt. On the occasion of his birth anniversary on 02 November, we pay tribute to a great Muslim leader by renewing our pledge to make Pakistan a prosperous and advanced country.

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