Muslim League, political organization of India and Pakistan, founded 1906 as the All-India Muslim League by Aga Khan III. Its original purpose was to safeguard the political rights of Muslims in India. An early leader in the League, Muhammad Iqbal, was one of the first to propose (1930) the creation of a separate Muslim India.
By 1940, under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, it had gained such power that, for the first time, it demanded the establishment of a Muslim state (Pakistan), despite the opposition of the Indian National Congress. During World War II the Congress was banned, but the League, which supported the British war effort, was allowed to function and gained strength. It won nearly all of the Muslim vote in the elections of 1946. The following year saw the division of the Indian subcontinent and the Muslim League became the major political party of newly formed Pakistan. By 1953, however, dissensions within the League had led to the formation of several different political parties.
Between 1958 and 1962, while martial law was in force under Muhammad Ayub Khan, the League was officially defunct. Later, the League reformed into two separate factions: the Convention Muslim League (under Ayub) and the Council Muslim League. This latter group joined a united front with other political parties in 1967 in opposition to the group led by Ayub. The Convention Muslim League ceased to exist when Ayub Khan resigned in 1969. The Council Muslim League, which had brought about the founding of Pakistan, was virtually eliminated from the political scene in the elections of 1970.
Since the lifting of restrictions on political parties in 1985 a number of parties have used the name Pakistan Muslim League, but they have little real connection with the original Muslim League. The Muslim League survived as a minor party in India after partition, and since 1988 has splintered into several groups, the most important of which is the Indian Union Muslim League.
See M. Ahmed, ed., Contemporary Pakistan (1980).