The Troubling Legacy Of Objectives Resolution
A resolution on the ‘Aims and Objectives Of the Constitution’, popularly known as Objectives Resolution was one of the most important documents passed by the Constituent Assembly in 1949. It was presented by the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawabzadah Liaquat Ali Khan. It laid down the principles on which the future constitution of the newly-founded state was to be based. After independence, the uppermost objective of the assembly was to frame the constitution of the country. The government termed it as a significant step in constitution-making and achieving a stable political system. However, the way it was hastily passed by the assembly raised concerns of the minority members.
Some parts of the resolution were imbued with traditional Islamic ideas that paved the way for the religious clergy to intervene in politics. Thereafter, the religious clergy became actively involved in politics and sought to make Pakistan a Muslim majoritarian state. On the other hand, Objectives Resolution played a positive role by a providing a list of fundamental social, political, and economic rights. Since it became preamble of all three constitutions passed by the subsequent assemblies in 1956, 1962, and 1973, a detailed and holistic appraisal of it would help comprehend the political philosophy of the state. On the whole, the resolution rejected the notion that the state of Pakistan would be modeled on European political system.
The debate in the assembly and concerns of minorities:
Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan elaborated the resolution in his speech delivered in the Constituent Assembly on March 7, 1949. He said it was “the most important occasion in the life of this country, next in importance only to the achievement of independence”. He was of the view that the ultimate authority vested in Allah Almighty and we can exercise this authority in accordance with the principles propounded in Islam. He further added that this authority would be exercised by the chosen persons which is the raison d’être of democracy, and stressed that there is no room for theocracy.
However, when it was debated, the members belonging to minority communities harshly criticized it. A non- Muslim, Prem Hari suggested to delay the process and demanded that a motion must be first circulated for eliciting public opinion. Subsequently, the resolution should be discussed in the house on April 30, 1949. Sris Chandra Chattopadhyaya, another member of minority community, supported him, and proposed some amendments. He stated that the committee of Fundamental Rights had already finalized their reports; this resolution should not recommend these rights. His main concern was that the Objectives Resolution would provide Ulema ample opportunity to intervene in politics by amalgamating religion and politics. In this way it might create ambiguities with relation to its application in constitutional framework. He demanded that all members should be given time to study and understand the Objectives Resolution so as to debate it at great length.
While discussing rights of religious minorities, Chandra Mandal stringently opposed the resolution and said that in India, Pundits were not demanding to make India a Hindu state; so why Ulema are insisting. He was of the view that the state did not have any religion but individuals had their religion and practice it in their private lives. Kumar Datta stood against it by saying that ‘if this resolution came in life of Jinnah it would not have come in its present form. Let us not do anything which leads our generation to blind destiny.’
Some other Hindu members also did not support it and suggested amendments. They recommended that some words like “…sacred trust”, “…within the limits prescribed by Him”, and “… as enunciated by Islam” should be omitted from the document. Furthermore, they insisted that the words like, “as prescribed by Islam and other religions”, and “National sovereignty belongs to the people of Pakistan”, should be inserted so as to make it more inclusive and acceptable to all minorities.
The only Muslim member in the house who opposed the resolution was Mian Muhammad Iftikharuddin. He questioned the vagueness of resolution and raised objections to many words used in it. Furthermore, he stressed upon the need to make it a document reflecting the wishes of all and sundry, not only the members of Muslim League sitting in the assembly. Hence, he recommend that the amends proposed by the minority members should be given due weightage.
On the other hand, the prominent individuals who supported the Objectives Resolution were: Dr. Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, Sardar Abdurrab Nishter, Noor Ahmad, Begam Shaista, Muhammad Hussain and others. They put forth the idea that “Islam is a complete code of life” and it governed individual relations in all spheres of life. They reiterated it by saying that Islam is not only about believing in Allah but exercising Islamic principles in private as well as in public life.
After five days, it was hastily adopted by the Constituent Assembly on March 12, 1949. All the amendments proposed by the minority members were rejected by the assembly. It was a matter of grave concern and further alienated the minority communities who feared a muslim majority sate will overwhelmingly be dominated by Ulema either directly or indirectly. Despite the assurances given by Liaquat Ali Khan, the passing of resolution created communal divisions.
The East Pakistan had a significant Hindu community. They were all well-to-do families and owned large business centers in Dhaka and other cities. The feelings of estrangement created by the resolution gave them no option but to leave Pakistan; they shifted their businesses to India and a large number of Muslim workers in urban centers were left in the cold. The number of unemployed people increased by leaps and bounds.
Jinnah’s Pakistan and Objectives Resolution
Jinnah was of the view that the Muslims of India would not be able to exercise their socio-political rights under a Congress-dominated Hindu India. However, during the course of his struggle he made it abundantly clear that Pakistan would not be a theocratic state led by Mullah, but a Modern constitutionalist and democratic state based on the principles of freedom, equality, and social justice wherein minorities would be given full religious and political freedoms. When the first session of the Assembly was held on 11 August 1947, he made Jugindar Nath Mendal first honorary president of the Assembly. He was also given the portfolio of Law ministry. In his first speech in the assembly, Quaid expounded his idea of statehood in the following way:
“You may belong to any religion or caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the State. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”
On the contrary, just after seven months of his demise, the Objectives Resolution was passed that did not fully incorporate his ideas of statehood. Truly, some of the points i.e freedom of expression, equality, and judicial independence were reflection of Quaid’s vision. But on the whole, the resolution excluded minorities. A state dominated by a religious majority and religious clergy not willing to facilitate and giving due importance to its minorities was anathema to Jinnah.
Comparison with India
On the other hand, a similar resolution was passed by the Constituent Assembly of United India on 22nd January 1945 which became preamble of Indian Constitution in 1950 when it was enacted. However, it was far more pluralistic and comprehensive in nature containing a broader outline and reflecting the accommodation of diverse views and opinions on which the future constitution was to be based. After independence, the assembly debated the resolution at great length and finally passed it. According to this resolution, India was envisioned to be a secular, socialist and pluralistic state that would ensure religious freedom, social justice, equality, rule of law, equal distribution of resources, and provision of basic amenities. It provided an adequate mechanism for the safety of minorities and depressed classes which was absent in the resolution passed in Pakistan.
Most importantly, the Indian resolution was passed with a consensus and understanding of all the members. Later on, all the principles of the resolution were incorporated into Indian Constitution. Consequently, India followed a different trajectory and embarked upon a path that led to strengthening of democratic norms and values. Furthermore, the reactionary elements within Indian political system received a blow as their attempts to make India a Hindu-majoritarian state failed to get materialized.
Objectives Resolution: impact on the political system of Pakistan
Democracy and religion have always been at logger heads over the past seventy years. The religious ethos and norms have always been an impediment in the way of democratic values to get deep roots in Pakistan. The passing of Objectives Resolution was significant event in the political and constitutional history of Pakistan as it continued to influence the polity till date. As mentioned earlier the resolution was not the reflection of founding fathers of Pakistan. Soon after the demise of Quaid-e-Azam, no one was able to fill the void left. Undoubtedly, Liaquat Ali khan had the abilities and nerves and had commanded immense respect; yet he lacked the personality cult needed to overpower the reactionary forces endeavoring to influence the polity.
The passing of resolution was first such successful attempt that emboldened the Ulema and they began actively engaged in political activities. They started an organized campaign to garner the public opinion so as to make Pakistan an Islamic state. Soon mass rallies were held to mobilize the masses. Hence, the religious clergy succeeded in hijacking the nascent state and its political system. Egged on, the Ulema came up with famous 22 points in 1952. These points were aimed at making Pakistan a theocracy dominated by a religious elite.
In 1953, Anti-Ahmadiya movement created chaos in parts of Punjab. Lahore witnessed a worst law and order situation. So, the government had to call in the army and first Martial law was imposed in Lahore in 1953. Mosques turned into a fatwa-nursery where every religious sect was declared “Kafir”. In the same way, when the first constitution was framed, the Objectives Resolution adopted as preamble. It is believed that the word ‘Islamic’ was added to the official name of Pakistan under the pressure of Ulema.
When the first Martial law was imposed in 1958 and General Ayub Khan took charge, he promised to make Pakistan an open, responsive and inclusive state. But he too succumbed to conservative segment of religious elite and had to add word ‘Islamic’ in official title. However, during 1960s the situation remained relatively placid under the military dictator. After the fall of Dhaka, the narrative of religious elements gained attraction. The state too felt that the Ayubian secularism had miserably failed to keep Pakistan intact. As the Constituent Assembly took upon itself to frame the new Constitution, the clergy again made attempts to get the Ahmadiya community declared non-Muslim. Finally, they succeeded in 1974.
Afterwards, Nizam-e-Mustafa movement against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto generated mass protests and soon Bhutto fell victim to it. Then, General Zia took charge of the state through a Martial law; he exploited the slogan and pledged to make Pakistan an Islamic state. During this era, presence of the religious clergy in the parliament increased manifold.
The religion continued to play an important role in politics during 1990s and Musharraf era. The country has witnessed multiple religious movements that wreaked havoc across the political system: the most recent was ‘Labaik Ya Rasool Allah’ by Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi. After 70 years, it is evident that the reactionary forces, strengthened by the Objectives Resolution, are active to not let Pakistan embark on the journey of prosperity, peace and progress.
To sum it up, if the Objectives Resolution had not been passed in such a fashion and it had allayed the concerns of minorities, Pakistan might have followed a different trajectory during the course of its political and constitutional development. The retrogressive forces would not have been able to command such a huge support as they do now. It is evident that all the progressive forces have been subject to the onslaughts of reactionary forces. The democratic culture could not take strong roots because of a perennial clash between religion and politics.