Role of the Press in the Pakistan Movement

Prof. A. Sattar Khan

The importance of Press in an independent society cannot be underestimated. The journalists and the Press play a significant role especially during the freedom movements and national struggle. The Press is moreover. A powerful agent a influencing public opinion and mustering support for public or political movement.
   The existence of Muslims Press in the subcontinent, before and after the war of 1857, was rather insignificant. The consequence of the War of Indian Independence of 1857 adversely affected the Muslim Press which was already a mere shadow of an independent and free agency. It was further subdued and strangulated on flimsy grounds. Consequently, the tone and style of Muslims journalism, after the War of 1857, remained soft, and the attitude compromising. Most of the newspapers were busy in projecting the western arts and sciences and ways of life. There were some newspapers, however, which continued criticising the policies of the government and expressed their own point of view about the affairs of the country. The newspapers like Sho’la-i-Tur, Khair Khahan-i-Khalq, however, and Akhbarul-Alam were notable for publishing political news of national importance and giving useful suggestions to the government on administrative matters; sometimes they also criticised the policies of the government.

Some newspapers movingly portrayed the picture of Muslim suffering under the British rule. They also tried to arouse and develop political and national consciousness amongst the Muslims. Credit goes to the great leaders Sir Syed Ahmad Khan for publishing the periodicals Scientific Society and Tahzibul-Akhlaq to educate the Muslims and to train them for the struggle for survival. Tahzib-ul-Akhlaq was monthly magazine which was published on the pattern of the British journal Spectator. These magazines were the torch bearers of his movement and representative of his policies. Through these, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan wanted to apprise the government of the problems and difficulties of the Indian and the same time he wished to create political consciousness amongst his countrymen and introduce to them the new system of government. Besides, he also aimed at giving a new line of thought and action to the Muslim. It is interesting to note that in the beginning, Sir Syed’s ideas could not attract to common Muslims. But slowly and gradually their influence penetrated into a limited receptive circle. The Tahzibul-Akhlaq exhorted the Muslims to accept that was good and attractive in European norms and way of life.

Some contemporary newspapers also tried to follow in the footsteps of the Tahzibul-Akhlaq. Agra Akhbar was the most dauntless amongst them which tried to kindle the fire of freedom in the garb of a newspaper. They contemporary newspapers like Khairu’l-Muwaiz, Dabdaba-i-Sikandari and Manshur-i-Muhammadi were notable for countering propaganda of the Christian missionaries in the subcontinent. Some newspapers were keeping a regular touch with the world of Islam and preached the gospal of Muslims brotherhood. The Shamsu’l-Akhbar, Nasir’ul-Akbar and Ahsanu’l-Akhbar were well-known in this field.

After Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the outstanding person who used the press as a source of propagating his ideas was Abdul Halim Sharar. He tried to awaken the Muslims out of Political rethargy through his journals, Dilgudaz and Ittihad. His distinguished publication in this respect was Muhazzab Abdul Halim Sharar was a strong exponent of a separate political entity of the Indian Muslims and wanted to keep away from the Congress. In an editorial of Muhazzab in 1890, he presented in idea of the division of the sub-continent which was, in his opinion, the only solution of Hindu-Muslim problem. It was a novel idea and was presented in the Indian press for the first time. The Urud-i-Mu‘alla of Hasrat Mohani was daring journal which always published his revolutionary thoughts against the foreign rulers. On account of daring thoughts expressed through his press, he was arrested several times.

The twentieth century press concentrated on the politics of the country. The newspapers and journals represented the sentiments and thoughts of the people during the stormy period of political movements and disturbances in the country. In the beginning of the 20th century. The Comrade of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, Al-Hilal of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Zamindar of Maulana Zafar Ali Khan provided an outlet for the Muslim sentiments already perturbed against the British rulers. During the stormy days of Khilafat Movement these journals and newspapers took the Indian Muslim by storm and stirred the Indian politics.

Maulana Muhammad ali Jauhar published two newspapers, the Comrade in English and Hamdard in Urdu. The Comrade was started on January 1, 1911, from Calcutta. The Maulana had made thorough preparations for the paper and everything concerned with it was of a high order. He himself was a man of parts about whom H.G. Wells said: “Maulana Muhammad Ali had the pen of Macaulay, the tongue of a Burke and heart of Napolean”. Lovat Fraser wrote in an editorial in the Times of India, that Maulana Muhammad Ali had “marvellous command over the English language. No Indian, and perhaps few Englishmen could write better that he did. Thus, Maulana Muhammad ali Jauhar, with the help of a talented band of youngmen, gave Muslim India the best weekly it ever had.

From the date of its first appearance, the Comrade was looked upon as the mouthpiece of the grievances of the Muslims and voice of their aspiration. “Throughout its existence. The Comrade rendered yeoman service to the cause of socio-economic and political advancement of the Muslims of Indian in particular, and to the cause of India in general, by attacking the anti-Indian attitude both of the bureaucracy and of the British Government.” The Comrade played an important role in formulating the political policy of Muslim India. Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar always defended, very valiantely, the Muslim interests through The Comrade about which S.M. Ikram writes: “It was fearless in denouncing discrimination and hardships to which the editor’s community was exposed, but it also systematically criticised the Bengalee, the Tribune and other Hindu newspapers, which opposed the newly organized All-India Muslim League, or the efforts of Aligarh leaders to secure suitable safeguards for the Muslim.

The Comrade did not start with any bitterness towards the British Government, but certain event had taken place, to wit, he annulment of the partition of Bengal and political tension generated by the Tripoli and Balkan Wars which affected it attitude. Before long, there were a few other causes which fed the fires of hatred between the rulers and the Indian Muslims. Controversy about the Muslim University was one; and before it died down. There was a serious trouble at Cawnpur after the demolition of the portion of a mosque. All these event went a long way to change the attitude of The Comrade towards the Government.

When the first world war started, Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar in an editorial in The Comrade, under the caption, “Choice of the Turks”, supported the cause of Turkey in the Balkan war. The editorial was indigestible to the British rulers and eventually the security of The Comrade and its Urdu counterpart Hamdard was declared forfeited to the Government and Ali Brothers were interned under the Defence of India ordinance. The Comrade once again started its career some time later, then finally it had to close down. And in his farewell message, Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote, “we have lived because we have dared, and we shall still dare, and we shall still live.”

The Hamdard also earned a great reputation in Urdu medium newspapers and had a respectable place in the Indian press, but it could not continue for a long time.


Al-Hilal was founded, edited and published by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Its first issue appeared on 13 July 1912, and was well-timed in the contemporary political atmosphere. Muslim India was in ferment and was likely to be swayed to emotion. The annulment of the partition of Bengal had compelled the Muslims to abandon the policy of political quietism and reliance on the government. Al-Hilal generally published serious articles and religious literature. A substantial portion of al-Hilal was devoted to photographs and article on Turkey. The Muslim leaders differed with political vies of Azad. He was not in favour of a separate platform for the Indian Muslims. He as against the division of India and opposed to be creation of Pakistan. The period of Azad’s career as a journalist came to an end after three and half years. In 1914, the First World War started, and on account of certain pro-German articles the security of al-Hilal was forfeited, and it was asked to deposit another sum of Rs. 10,000 which brought its publication to an end. Although its political views were controversial yet its contribution in the field of religion was remarkable. Maulana Azad started another weekly, Al-Bilagh. This also came to an end in 1916 when the Maulana was externed from Bengal.

Muslim Press in 1940s

Towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century the Hindu newspapers, novels and other writings were concentrating on Hindu revivalism and fanning the flames of Hindu-Muslim antagonism. These activities of Hindu press provoked the Muslims. With the advent of the Congress rule in various provinces under Government of India Act 1935, they had sustained atrocious Congress injustice, which was later catalogued in the Pirpur Report. The comments of the Pirpur Report on the congress oppression, even in more lurid and gruesome details, were published in the Dawn and Manshoor under a series of articles captioned ‘It Shall Never Happen Again’. “The described how the Muslims were forbidden from eating beef, their prayer meetings were disturbed and sometimes attacked and desecrated, and how Muslims suffered a much heavier toll of life and property in the riots that took place during the two and half years of Congress administration”.

There was a marked change from appeasement to resistance in the Muslim mood henceforth, which could be seen in the Muslim newspapers, Confident defiance in the attitude of Bengali Muslims was growing into an open challenge. The revolutionary poem, given below, recited at the Muslim League Conference at Mymensingh in March 1941, was a clear indicator of the surging tide of an aggressive mode:

“The oppressed remain silent by seeing the hypocrisy of  the idolatrous Hindus on death-like eddy!
O victorious soliders; march forward on our religious pilgrimage of the Kaba under the banner of the League…

We  want Pakistan, a proper division
If it cannot be achieved by words. Muslims
Are not afraid to use swords and spears.

Where are the Muslim youths! We shall attain
The desire of their hearts by typing down the wild tiger.
Come quickly – break down Somnath…”

This poem was published in the Bengali daily Azad. Thus, the Muslim press assumed a new tone and mood. It helped the Muslim masses to form their own opinion on national and international issues. Although the British Government tried her best to repress and strangulate the Muslim press but it succeeded to establish its prestige and associated itself with the desire and aspiration of the Muslim community. The Muslim press projected and protected the Muslim community. The Muslim press projected and protected the Muslim cause very effectively. “The Muslim League had built up a very strong press, particularly in Urdu. Delhi had Anjam, Jang and Manshoor in Urdu, and Dawn in English, Lahore produced Inqilab, Nawa-i-Waqt,, and Zamindar in Urdu. Earlier, Lucknow had its Hamdam. Calcutta produced Asr-i-Jadid in Urdu, Azad Bengali and Star of India in English. There were many besides these prominent newspapers.”


The most important Urdu newspaper published from Lahore was the Zamindar. It was edited by Maulana Zafar Ali Khan (1837 – 1956). He was an eminent scholar who command mastery on prose and poetry. His writings filled the hearts of the Muslim community with religious enthusiasm and a devotion to an independent homeland. Zamindar, in fact, was symbol of the idea of Pakistan and it waged a fierce battle against Hindu domination and British imperialism. Zamindar strongly supported the League’s demand for Pakistan and its objectives. It was considered to be a “naked sword” for the Hindu and the British. Zamindar succeeded to bring about a revolution among the Muslim masses add motivated them to achieve their cherished goal-Pakistan. After the partition Zamindar was closed down.


It is the name of a powerful and prestigious daily newspaper in Urdu which played a dynamic role in the Pakistan Movement. It was founded in 1940 by an enthusiastic student leader and founder president of the Punjab Muslim Students Federation. It had a very modest beginning. It started as a small-size fortnightly. The first issue was dated 29 March 1940. Later, in November 1942, it became a weekly and afterwards a daily newspaper. The Muslim press in the Punjab, with the exception of the daily Ehsan, was under the firm control of the Unionist Party. The British and Hindu Press had launched a campaign of malicious propaganda against the Muslims community and its leadership. The Nawa-i-Waqt very successfully defused all these baseless fabrications, and Hameed Nizami had to work immensely hard on this front.

When there started a war of wits between the Hindu and Muslim newspapers, the Nawa-i-Waqt was made a target of attacks by the Hindu press. Hameed Nizami, the young and daring journalist, with his powerful pen and style tackled the situation valiantly. He introduced new trends and innovations in the traditional journalism. He wrote very argumentative and lucid prose which instantly convinced the readers and cast a great impact on their views. He was an undisputed leader of the contemporary young generation of journalists who accelerated the pace of journalistic progress before and after the Partition.

The Nawa-i-Waqt had a character of its own. It was the mouthpiece of the younger generations which had been inspired by Iqbal: its management was competent and although it was a privately owned newspaper, for all practical purpose it was the organ of the Muslim League which kept a critical watch on what the Unionist party was doing to bolster up the Zamindar League. It published poems and article in support of the demand for Pakistan and became a powerful factor in forming public opinion in the Punjab”. The role of Nawa-i-Waqt and its editor Hameed Nzami was no doubt without parallel as it gave voice to the Muslim community which was formerly fighting for rights, guarantees and safeguards in united India. This position was now changed into a demand for an independent home for the Indian Muslims. In this revolutionary change the Muslim press, especially the Nawa-i-Waqt, played a pivotal role. According to S.M Ikram: “Hameed Nizami’s greatest contribution to national struggle came through the newspaper Nawa-i-Waqt, which became mouthpiece of the new generation struggling for the achievement of Pakistan.


The Ehsan, founded in 1934, was another contemporary daily newspaper which also wielded a great deal of influence on the political currents of the subcontinent it was edited by Maulana Murtaza Khan Maikash who was a well-known journalist, and who later edited the daily Shahbaz of Peshawar. Ehsan mustered useful support for the Pakistan Movement.

At this stage, Muhammad Shafi, popularly known as “Meem Sheen” and T.K. Durrani richly contributed to journalistic literature. They projected and consolidated the stand of Muslim League and were a great source of strength for the Pakistan Movement. They immensely contributed to the demand for Pakistan. These journalists were also members of the Punjab Muslims Students Federation and they championed the caused of Pakistan with devotion and dedication.

Apart from these main centres of the Muslim press in Lahore, Bombaby and Calcutta, the other centres of Muslim newspapers and periodicals had been places like Quetta, Karachi and Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) etc. The Daily “Sa‘adat, edited by Nasikh Saifi, was published from Lyallpur, It was an Urdu newspapers which faithfully represented and projected the views of All-India Muslim League. Sa ‘adat wielded a considerable influence on the Muslim of the region. The Muslim press from these centres went a long way to unite the Muslim masses under the green flag of the League for the cause of Pakistan.


The daily Dawn was published from Delhi. It was founded by the Quaid-i-Azam to meet the dire need of an English daily which could act as a powerful organ of the League as “the Hindu press had not left any gun in its armoury unfired at the Muslims”. It was edited by Altaf Hussain who was a prolific writer. According to M.A.H. Ispahani, “…..Dawn, which had captured, substantial Muslim readership throughout the north and the adjoining Muslim areas, began to grow stronger and stronger with he passage of each month. There was no looking back until partition compelled a shift from Daryaganj, old Delhi, to Karachi. But as we all know, before the machinery and records could be brought over, the office and printing press of Dawn were burnt and destroyed by Hindu and Sikh hooligans. So what was actually brought over were the name Dawn, the editor, Altaf Hussain, and I now understand, a cheque book of an Indian bank at Delhi where the funds of Dawn lay frozen”.

Another couple of newspapers, Al-Aman and Wahdat from Delhi also played a significant role in the Pakistan Movement. They were edited by Maulana Mazhar-ud-Din who was a courageous man. He bravely fought for the cause of Pakistan and very fervently presented the idea of separation of Muslims from Hindus. He met with a martyr’s death.

The other centres of Muslim journalism included Sindh, the N.W.F.P. and Baluchistan, al-Wahid was published in Sindh. In the N.W.F.P., a good number of journalists made an excellent contribution to strengthen the Pakistan Movement. Notable names amongst them were Allah Bakhsh Yousufi, Rahim Bakhsh Ghazanvi, Maulana Abdur Rauf, Ghaus Sahrai, Abdul Akbar Khan and many others. They weekly al-Islam was published from Queetta. It was founded by Qazi Muhammad Isa and edited by Maulana Abdul Karim who was a well known religious scholar. The objective of al-Islam was to apprise the Muslim of Baluchistan of the message of Muslim League. Another weekly newspapers Tanzim was also published from Queeta under the patronage of Sardar Mir Ja’far Khan Jmali. It was daring and dauntless supporter of the Pakistan movement in Baluchistan. Its editor was a famous Urdu writer Nasim Hijazi, The editor, narrating an incident of the devotion of Sardar Mir Ja’far Khan Jamali to the cause of Pakistan, said that the Sardar Sahab one day in a single sitting dictate names of 500 leading personalities of Baluchistan to whom complimentary copies of the Tanzim had to be sent regularly, because he was of the view that if these 500 leadings Muslims were mentally associated with the Pakistan movement, the entire Baluchistan would resound with the slogans of Pakistan Zindabad; and so it happened.

The Muslim Press and newspapers were, no doubt, quite alert and active on their respective fronts. They were engaged in a continuous fierce battle against the League’s opponents and successfully refuted their subtle and malicious propaganda against her leadership. They took the message of the League to every nook and corner of the subcontinent; explained the rationale of Pakistan to the Muslim masses and mustered their support for Pakistan. Thus, through their untiring efforts they made the task of the Quaid-i-Azam easier and the creation of Pakistan inevitable.


  1. Moin-ud-Din Aqeel, Musalmanaun Ki Jiddo Juhad-i-Azadi,  Maktaba Ta’mir-i-Insaniyat, Lahore, 1981, p. 203.
  2. Ibid., p. 204.
  3. Cf. G. Allana in our Freedom Fighters, Ferozesons Ltd., Lahore, 1985, p. 280.
  4. Ibid., p. 274.
  5.  Ibid., p. 272.
  6. Dr. S.M. Ikram, Modern Muslim India and the Birth of Pakistan, Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore, 1990, p. 156.
  7. G. Allana, op. cit., p. 275.
  8. Khalid bid sayeed, Pakistan: The Formative Phase, Pakistan Publishing House Karachi 1960, p. 218
  9. Ibid., p. 218.
  10. Ibid., p. 217.
  11. S.M. Ikram, op. cit., p. 287.
  12. Ibid., p. 284.
  13. M.A. Ispahani, Quaid-i-Azam As I Knew Him, Royal Book Company, Karachi, 1976, p.67.
  14. Ibid., p. 79.
  15. Inam-ul-Haq Kausar, Tahrik-i-Pakistan Baluchistan Main, Maktaba-i-Aalia, Lahore, 1986, pp. 109-110.