Mnto Park: Witnessing military to political journeys

LAHORE: Minto Park, Lahore (later known as Iqbal Park and renamed Greater Iqbal Park) has been there for centuries. In the early days, the venue was used as a parade ground and different militaries launched their expeditions from the very ‘Parade Ground’ during the Muslim, the Sikh and the British rule.

But what won Minto Park lasting fame was the political gathering instead of the military assembly between March 22-24, 1940 to host 27th general session of the All India Muslim League to adopt Lahore Resolution as Muslims paraded to achieve a common goal of independence through peaceful means. The Lahore Resolution, also known as Pakistan Resolution, ultimately paved the way for the creation of Pakistan on August 14, 1947.

Selection of ‘Minto Park, Lahore’, as a venue, is significant for the fact that the Muslims decided to launch a movement against the British colonists from the very spot which signified their centuries-old rule besides the might and the power

in the sub-continent. Tracing origins of Greater Iqbal Park of today, one discovers that park was renowned as Minto

Park – renamed after Lord Gilbert Elliot Murray Kyuynmound, 1st Earl of Minto, and Governor General of India between 1807-1813 – for the most part of the 20th century and 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 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.

Former Principal Oriental College, Punjab University (PU) Prof. Dr. Mazhar Moeen believes Lord Minto was the Governor General of the British East India Company 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 Muslim across the country to wage a struggle for a separate homeland.

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 given 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.