Apart from being 48th Imam of Ismaili community, he was known for contributions towards independence of Pakistan
Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III was undoubtedly one of the most prominent figureheads in the international community during the Pakistan Movement years, and was equally venerated by Muslims and the Western world, particularly Great Britain.
Apart from being the 48th Imam of the Ismaili community, he was known for his monumental contributions towards the independence of Pakistan from the British. In his simultaneous roles as the leader of a Muslim sect as well as the voice of Muslims in the subcontinent in their struggle towards achieving their dream of Pakistan, Sir Aga Khan III left his mark on history with his achievements on both fronts. In terms of achieving the goal of independence for the Muslims, he focused his energies towards two specific goals: Political struggle and educational uplift
Seeking to secure the civil rights of Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah laid the foundation of All-India Muslim League (AIML). He led the party from its inception in December 1906 as he was unanimously elected as the first president of the AIML.
Sir Aga Khan III had continued to play this leading role as he headed a delegation representing Muslims of India who met Indian Viceroy Lord Minto in Simla in the same year, 1906. He presented the address also known as ‘A Bill of Muslim Rights’ seeking security of civil rights of Muslims, in particular, the right to form a separate electorate, and have a reserved number of seats in the parliament for Muslims. At that point in history, it was clear to both the British Raj and the Muslims of India that this young leader, only in his late 20s at the time, heading a delegation of representatives from respective Muslim areas comprising the likes of Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk and Nawab Waqar-ul-Mulk amongst others, was to become the cornerstone of struggle towards achieving a separate homeland. The importance of this single event is significant as for the first time Muslims rejected the idea of a homogeneous Indian nation, or the Western simple majority based democracy in which Muslims were to always remain and be treated as a subjugated minority.
By embedding the separate electorate through all subsequent legislative reforms by the British Raj, such as the Indian Councils Act of 1909, it was well established that Muslims were to be considered a nation, a vision that was further cemented later as the Two-Nation Theory.
In addition to overseeing the developments of AIML, Aga Khan III was equally passionate about educational reform of the subcontinent. He considered educational decay as the main reason why Muslims were socially and politically downtrodden, while the British and Hindus were controlling the stakes of the government through bureaucracy. After the death of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, 1898, his vision to elevate the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College was kept alive and fulfilled by Aga Khan III through a nationwide fundraising and awareness campaign stretching almost a decade from 1910 to 1920, eventually culminating into the formation of Aligarh Muslim University. Aga Khan III was appointed as the first pro-chancellor and continued to support the university through his generous grants. Through this university, he not only envisioned education but character building of Muslims, and deemed it a necessary platform for promoting intellectual development.
Aga Khan III had a multifaceted personality; he authored books, served as the first Muslim president of a predecessor of the United Nations type body, the League of Nations, and helped build schools such as Diamond Jubilee schools which still operate in Gilgit-Baltistan.
It was his political and educational vision for Muslims and practical efforts to institutionalise these two aspects through a party and university respectively proved to be the two pillars upon which the entire Pakistan Movement was built and launched. His efforts were rewarded when Pakistan ultimately came into being. His Independence Day message for Pakistan is as fresh and relevant as it was back then, and is a beacon of light even today for the entire nation:
Pakistan is now an accomplished fact but our work now begins. If the Muslims were depressed by the misfortunes of the last 200 years throughout the world, now, at last, the wheel of fortune has turned and we are no longer justified in being either half-hearted or pessimistic.
We must, with an our energy, heart and soul with faith in Islam and trust in God, work for the present and future glory of Pakistan and give help to the unfortunate Muslims who still suffer under foreign dominion. We must work for a better world, and be no more hypnotised by the dead glories of the distant past, or by the misfortunes of the near past.