Zafrullah Khan, Objectives’ Resolution And The Islamic Republic

Zafrullah Khan, Objectives’ Resolution And The Islamic Republic
Zafrullah Khan was an earnest believer in the compatibility of Islam and human rights. He wrote a book on the topic and used this conceptual framework to convince the Muslim majority countries in the UN to accept the United Nations Human Rights Declaration, writes Yasser Latif Hamdani.

In her recent piece on this website, Ayesha Siddiqa chose to criticise Sir Zafrullah Khan while making an argument about the roots of conservatism of Pakistani state and society. Sir Zafrullah Khan who was a deeply religious Ahmadi in addition to being a first rate lawyer and jurist, who Jinnah at least considered the finest Muslim mind in the subcontinent.  She writes:

Sir Zafarullah Khan, the first foreign minister of the country, whose selection had caused friction between Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Jamaat-e-Ihrar (that insisted that an Ahmadi shouldn’t be appointed to the position), had vociferously argued in the Constituent Assembly on March 12, 1949 for the establishment of a Muslim state. In his speech, Sir Zafarullah Khan snubbed the Christian and Hindu members who argued against adopting the Objectives Resolution, 1949.”

Let us be clear on this.  Majlis-e-Ahrar was a Congress-backed Nationalist Muslim party with links to Gandhi, Nehru and Azad. The friction between Jinnah and Majlis-e-Ahrar came long before partition.  Their insistence was that Jinnah should expel Ahmadis from the Muslim League, which Jinnah refused to do, first stalling and then coming straight out and saying “Who am I to declare someone Non-Muslim, who claims to be a Muslim.” (May 23, 1944 – Srinagar) 

The man of principle that Jinnah was, he resisted immense pressure from both outside forces and within the Muslim League on the Ahmadi issue.  A lesser man like Bhutto or Imran Khan would have buckled under it.  Similarly Gilmartin can write whatever he wants and Ayesha Siddiqua can interpret it however she wants, but the facts are that there is not even a single letter or statement of Jinnah in Jinnah Papers where he conceded the idea of an Islamic state to any pirs or Mullahs.  He was just not built that way.   The so called Pir of Manki letter- that many bring up as evidence  of the claim that Jinnah promised the Pir shariat- does not exist in any archive or record. It is an incredible fabrication. These are of course no new assertions.  In another article Ayesha Siddiqua wrote about Jinnah acquiring the services of Hassan Al Banna and the Ikhwan based on some obscure dispatch by some intelligence official, talking of a letter that Jinnah supposedly wrote in Arabic is another unverified assertion.

Not only does no such letter exist in record, but it is well known that Jinnah always wrote all of his letters in the English Language. There was not even a single letter by Jinnah in either Urdu or his native tongues Cutchie or Gujurati (which he spoke fluently). To imagine that Jinnah would send a letter in Arabic is preposterous. So both these claims are false and inaccurate.

Coming back to the topic, Majlis-e-Ahrar was also completely opposed to the Muslim League and the idea of Pakistan. Backed by Congress, Majlis-e-Ahrar started several sectarian movements not just against Ahmadis but also Shias. This party along with Mufti Mahmood (the person who famously called the making of Pakistan a sin) were to later become the prime movers of the 2nd Amendment against Ahmadis.  Strange that those who committed the outrage in 1974 , 2nd Amendment, were more or less allied with the Congress Party before 1947, be they Mufti Mahmood or Wali Khan or Maula Bux Soomro. Bhutto himself had been too embarrassed to attend most of the debate.

These are however smaller quibbles. Now, Ayesha Siddiqua’s claim that Sir Zafrullah Khan snubbed the Christian and Hindu members.  There were of course Hindu and scheduled caste members and I do not want to go into the controversy of whether there was a Christian member or not.  However Zafrullah Khan did not 'snub' them.  His speech is available on NA website. What Zafrullah Khan did was to explain to those members that Islamic principles were universal and did not discriminate between Muslims and Non-Muslims.

It was a most respectful and erudite exposition even if one disagrees with it. Zafrullah Khan was an earnest believer in the compatibility of Islam and human rights. He wrote a book on the topic and used this conceptual framework to convince the Muslim majority countries in the UN to accept the United Nations Human Rights Declaration.

Singling our Zafrullah Khan is unfair. There were many others including Liaquat Ali Khan who spoke in favour of the resolution.

The Objective Resolution was a grave mistake is something we can all accept in hindsight.  We also know that Jinnah would have certainly not allowed it to go through because he had even omitted the reference to God in the oaths of office and changed solemnly swear to solemnly affirm – the latter being a non-religious form. 

This is another interesting thing about the resolution. The resolution, as it was adopted on March 12, 1949, used the word ‘God Almighty’ not ‘Allah Almighty’. Interestingly this change was brought to the preamble in 1973 and then as substantive part in 1984.  So while, even though the resolution was a terrible mistake, what it did not do was create an Islamic state. It sought to enable Muslims and not force them to live in accordance with Quran and Sunnah.

In the next clause, it provided for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures.  Most importantly, though it was just a resolution – an attempt to stall at best. Speaking on the occasion, Liaquat Ali Khan said very clearly, “A Non-Muslim can be the head of administration under the Constitutional Government” under the state to be established in line with the resolution.  This was not an Islamic Republic.

A Basic Principles Committee to make recommendations for the future constitution was appointed the same day that Objectives Resolution was passed.  This committee – with Zafrullah Khan at its head- presented its report in the early 1950s.  It did not propose an ‘Islamic Republic’.  It sought to sidestep the difficulty by simply calling the country Pakistan. This was changed to Islamic Republic of Pakistan on November 2, 1953. It was also decided that the President of the Republic (though not the Prime Minister) would be a Muslim. There was however no state religion.

The writer is a lawyer and commentator. He is also the author of the book 'Jinnah: Myth and Reality'.