Introduction Religious nationalism as the basis of state formation and nation-building invariably carries negative implications and ramifi cations for minorities. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel are cases in point. While Saudi Arabia and Iran are fundamentalist Islamic states, Israel is an ethno-democracy which clearly privileges Jews over non-Jews. The Muslim League, which led the struggle for Pakistan, had espoused Muslim nationalism as the basis for claiming a separate state for Muslims. Quite simply it included all those who had been entered in the census records as Muslims as part of the Muslim nation. Such an approach helped it devise an inclusive strategy that sought to bring the various Muslim sects into a common fold. Equally, no distinction was made between pious Muslims and nominal Muslims. Proceeding on such a basis, it asserted that that the Muslims were not simply a minority (about one-third of the total population of colonial India) but a separate nation by virtue of their distinct religion and culture. Therefore, it claimed, the north-western and north-eastern zones of the subcontinent in which Muslims were in a majority should be separated from the rest of India and a Muslim state (or states) should be created in those two zones. This demand was made offi cially in the annual session of the Muslim League at Lahore in March 1940. To the rival Indian National Congress and the British the Muslim League gave assurances that Pakistan would be a modern, democratic state based on justice for and fair treatment of all its citizens. 1

Mobilization of the Brelawi-Sunni ulema Although radical anti-colonial ulema such as the Deobandi Sunnis opposed the Pakistan idea as a divisive one, since they feared it would split the Muslims of India between two separate states, the Muslim League succeeded in enlisting the support of the main Sunni ulema, the Sufi -oriented traditionalists known as the Brelawi, behind the mass contact movement it launched among Muslims from 1943 onwards. To the Brelawis the Muslim League gave assurances that the Shariah would be observed as law. Thus in a letter written in November 1945 to a powerful religious divine of the North-West Frontier Province, Pir Sahib Manki Sharif, Jinnah wrote:

It is needless to emphasize that the Constituent Assembly which would be predominantly Muslim in its composition would be able to enact laws for Muslims, not inconsistent with the Shariat laws and the Muslim will no longer be obliged to abide by the Un-Islamic laws. 2

The idea of an Islamic state was viewed with great apprehension not only by nonMuslims – as it could render them second-class citizens – but even the sectarian minorities of Shias and Ahamdiyya were fearful that it would result in Sunni domination. 3 However, Jinnah, who was a nominal Shia himself, was able to assuage their anxiety by giving assurances that Pakistan would be a non-sectarian state. As a result most Shias shifted their loyalty to the Muslim League. So did the Ahmadiyya community.