“The Muslims as a separate nation in India on the

basis of their religion, is un-Islamic.”

–(Allah Baksh Soomro in All India Azad Conference, 1940)

 

Born in Shikarpur in 1900, Allah Baksh Soomro was an immensely popular politician of Sindh who also became the Chief Minister of the province twice during his political career. He was a firm critic of the two nation theory, propagated by Muslim League, and suggested the idea of a secular, united India instead. The way he dealt with the controversy of Masjid Manzilgah during his tenure is indicative of his ambitions to keep Hindus and Muslims united. Manzilgah was a building located in Sadho Bela, Sukkur which was taken over by the British after their conquest of Sindh. Local Muslims claimed the building to be a mosque and wanted to take back its control from the British. The local Hindus, however, were against this step since Manzilgah was located near their temples in Sadhu Bela. After many negotiations, Somroo allowed the local Muslims to take control of Manzilgah as a mosque but only on the condition that they will not prevent the playing of music in the nearby temples. It was an example of Soomro’s vision of religious coexistence and tolerance. He was killed in 1943.

The figures like Allah Bax Soomro are indicative of a diversity of popular conceptions, imaginations about the future of Muslims in the sub-continent, which do not necessarily fit in to the historical paradigms of two nation theory. Such figures should therefore be brought forward to open up a debate about the firmly established idea of Pakistan for Muslims and Islam; an idea which has historically been used to justify such injustices as the dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq and the persecution of minorities in the country.