Minto Park: Muslims Parade to Independence

By Muhammad Naeem Khan Niazi

Lahore always enjoyed grandeur owing to its rich cultural and historic values. Its parks, buildings, monuments and culture had been admired by people of every era right from Aibak, Ghurid, Ghaznavid and Mughal dynasties. Its Badshahi Mosque, Shahi Qila, Shalamar Garden and number of other monuments had been source of interest for people of all ages.

However, Minar-e-Pakistan is the most unique and pleasant addition to these monuments. Constructed at Minto Park where Pakistan Resolution was adopted, it stands tall with all its beauty and magnificence reminding Muslims of sub-continent of their great achievement of a separate motherland.

Minto Park, Lahore (known as Iqbal Park and renamed Greater Iqbal Park) was chosen as the site of the three-day general session of the All India Muslim League between March 22-24, 1940 and the adoption of Lahore Resolution, also known as Pakistan Resolution. This resolution had paved way for struggle to achieve a separate state for Muslims of India and the dream came true on August 14, 1947.

Thus, March 23, 1940 became an important milestone in the history of Pakistan Movement. The venue is also noteworthy as different militaries launched their expeditions from the very ‘Parade Ground’ in the past during the Muslim, the Sikh and the British rule. But the political gathering of the All India Muslim League for the 27th general session was starkly different as the Muslims paraded to achieve a common goal of independence from colonial yoke.

Tracing origins of Greater Iqbal Park of today, one discovers that park was renowned as Minto Park – renamed after Lord Gilbert Elliot Murray Kynynmound, 1st Earl of Minto, and Governor General of India between 1807-1813. It was renamed as Iqbal Park – after Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal – once Pakistan was created.

Minto Park, during the Mughal era, made up part of the expansive green lawns adjacent to the huge fruit garden between the Lahore Fort and the Ravi River. The name of the Badami Bagh (Almond Garden) area near the Lahore Fort is most probably derived from the almond garden grown by the Mughal emperor with a large presence of mango and plum trees. This area of the open space consisting of green lawns served as the grounds where the emperors watched ceremonial military parades but after the ascension of the Sikhs into power by 1799, this park was known as ‘Parade Ground’ as the Sikhs used it for the military parade besides extending the fruit gardens.

After the British captured Lahore in 1849, the British army was housed in the Lahore Fort while the ‘exceptionally beautiful garden and parade ground’ was used for their daily drills. The British changed the nomenclature of ‘parade ground’ to give it a thoroughly English ownership. But, after their departure from sub-continent and creation of Pakistan, Muslims of Pakistan renamed it as Iqbal Park.

Former Principal, Oriental College, Punjab University (PU), Prof. Dr. Mazhar Moeen said the Lord Minto was the Governor General of the British East India Company between 1807-1813 and the naming of the park after him symbolizes the whole colonial past of the sub-continent and reflects the British might.

The Lahore Resolution of March 23, 1940, is in fact, a revolt against the colonial rule and a clarion call to the Muslims across the country to wage a struggle for a separate homeland.
“All India Muslim League at its 27th general meeting had adopted the Lahore Resolution at this place. This very Lahore Resolution later became famous as Pakistan Resolution,” Mazhar Moeen said. “After creation of Pakistan, keeping in mind the importance of Manto Park, Yaad Gaar-e-Pakistan was constructed at the same place and it was converted into Greater Iqbal Park.”

“The place once enjoying historic importance, has now also become our cultural, political and geographical heritage,” he said.

Chairman, History Department, PU Dr. Mehboob Hussain believes that choosing Minto Park, Lahore for All India Muslim League session was due to multiple reasons, adding that Lahore has remained seat of power during many eras besides being a center of culture and learning. He said Lahore was a Muslim majority city in those days and it was believed that the movement would spread in the length and breadth of India if launched from the historic Lahore.

“Lahore’s political significance was of paramount importance in selection of Minto Park as it remained capital of the Mughals and thousands of people were expected to attend the general session”, Dr. Mehboob Hussain added.

He said the police archives show that 25000-3000 people attended the general session as the Minto Park but, as a matter of fact, more than 100,000 attended the general session from all parts of India. He said the Lahore venue provided the historic session more clout and appeal.

Minto Park was renamed ‘Iqbal Park’ – as a tribute to the vision of the poet of the East Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal who had gave the idea of a separate state comprising majority Muslim areas in his Allahabad address of 1930 – soon after the creation of Pakistan which was later developed into the ‘Greater Iqbal Park’in 2017.

Today, the Greater Iqbal Park – formerly Minto Park -Lahore is a befitting example of preserving history in its entirety as the park – spread over an area of 125 acres – houses the Lahore Fort, Badshahi Mosque, Samadhi of Ranjeet Singh, tomb of poet of the East Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, tomb of Hafeez Jallundhri, sprawling lush green lawns and the Lahore Resolution monument (popularly known as Minar e Pakistan). All these monuments encompass different eras in history of the sub-continent with Pakistan Resolution monument as the symbol of an eventful occurrence which provided direction to the independence movement of the Muslims and founded the Islamic Republic of Pakistan within a short span of seven years in 1947.