March 12: Death Anniversary of Jinnah’s Pakistan

Appeared in Daily Times on March 13, 2011

Liaqat Ali Khan who presented Objectives Resolution on March 7, 1949

Many leading historians and legal experts have been accomplices of religious right-wing, within the PML and outside the Constituent Assembly, in distorting the spirit of a non-theocratic state Jinnah had been advocating for so long

The week starting March 7 to March 12 had very special consequences for the Pakistan that was going to start its journey post-1949. The non-representative First Constituent Assembly of Pakistan started debate on the document that laid down the aims and objectives of the future constitution(s) of the country. The infamous Objectives Resolution, presented on March 7, passed on March 12, 1949, generated alarm among the minority members as well as Muslim members believing in secular ideals. The resolution called for Islam to be made the basis of the future constitution and statutes while guaranteeing the rights of minorities.

The resolution, although in line with the demands of Abul Ala Maududi, the founder head of the orthodox Jamaat-e-Islami and the strongest opponent of the idea of Pakistan, did not please religious groups completely. The right hand man of Jinnah and his most trusted lieutenant, Liaquat Ali Khan, made sure to drift the business of the Constituent Assembly away from what Jinnah had laid down as the guiding principles in his address to the first session of the same assembly on August 11, 1947. Jinnah had clearly said: “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” Before this address, Jinnah had made the point clear on a number of occasions.

If we go back to All India Muslim League’s Annual Session on March 23, 1940, in the entire proceedings, none of the speakers made any reference to Islamic system, shariah law or Islamic government — not even Muslim government. The discussion revolved around two main points, i.e. settling the constitutional question of united India through readjustment in its geographical units by making sets of Muslim majority states (please note the plural) as separate administrative units for Muslims; secondly, appropriate, effective and obligatory measures were demanded for the minorities in such territorial readjustments. The explanation of ‘minorities’, it goes without saying, was not restricted to Muslims (who by default would be in majority in such readjustments), but comprised diverse religious communities living in these parts of India.

In 1946 again, when the newly elected members of parliament from All India Muslim League adopted the word ‘state’ instead of ‘states’ in the Lahore Resolution of 1940, no reference to an Islamic system or theocracy could be traced in their discussions and documents relating to the objectives of the League or aims of partition. On April 11, 1946, Jinnah, while speaking to All India Muslim League’s (AIML) Convention in Delhi, said, AIML’s aim was not theocracy: “… neither do we want a theocratic state. None of us could deny the existence of religion as an important factor of our individual lives but there are other things that are very important for life”. He further elaborated it by giving examples of people’s social life and economic life, which he placed as more important things than theocratic considerations. Remember, it was 1946, just a year from his making that speech to the first Constituent Assembly of 1947. It may also be noted that for such views, Jinnah had to face edicts of being a kaafir (non-believer) from religious leaders in 1938.

Now let us get back to what happened in 1949 in a clear divorce from Jinnah’s principle of representative democracy, which should have had nothing to do with religion or theocracy. The session on March 7 starts with the recitation of the Holy Quran (it may be noted that under Jinnah’s presidentship it never started with it, which he viewed as dominance of one religion and against the principles of equality — the very principle for which Muslims had fought in united India for Pakistan) followed by Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan’s speech, at the end of which he presented the 10-liner Objectives Resolution that laid down the foundations of present Pakistan and buried the one Jinnah had envisioned and mobilised the Muslims of India to fight for.

The resolution sparked instant reaction and alarm among the minority members who started proposing amendments to it that very day. The 10 points of the Objectives Resolution reposed the sovereignty of the entire universe in Allah Almighty and delegated authority upon the state of Pakistan through chosen representatives of the people as “enunciated by Islam”, where Muslims would be enabled to order their individual and collective lives in accordance with the teachings of Islam set out in the Quran and sunnah with “adequate provisions for minorities to freely profess and practise their religions and develop their cultures”.

The debate that followed the tabling of this resolution shows almost all the minority members shrieking the dying principle of all-encompassing and egalitarian democracy. The opposition in the first Constituent Assembly comprised the 11-member Pakistan National Congress, all Hindus from East Pakistan. The pressure for Islamic provisions on the Pakistan Muslim League, the party in government, did not come only from its partners Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (led by Maulana Shabeer Ahmad Usmani), Pir Sahib of Manki Sharif from the then NWFP, etc, but was also from some of its own members from provincial chapters of PML according to the research paper written by Kauser Perveen on the Objectives Resolution debate. This pressure also came from the historical baggage of All India Muslim League that had portrayed itself as the sole representative of all the Muslims of united India, thus losing the ability to talk against religious considerations openly and categorically in the absence of the only strong leader who had led it without being able to create a second line leadership capable enough to spell out the secular principles.

Many leading historians and legal experts have been accomplices of the religious right-wing, within the PML and outside the Constituent Assembly, in distorting the spirit of a non-theocratic state Jinnah had been advocating for so long. Hamid Khan is not an exception when he writes his voluminous Constitutional and Political History of Pakistan. In this one-sided account of the Objectives Resolution debate, Hamid Khan picks up Jinnah’s quotes out of context, which are made to appear as supportive of what the resolution claimed, while conveniently ignoring every reference of Jinnah that he had been categorically spelling out against theocracy before and after Pakistan’s birth. Hamid Khan is not alone in this distortion; scores of Pakistani authors have done it on purpose and in utter ignorance.

The resolution, although differed from Maududi’s demands in not including the sentence “sovereignty belongs to Allah Almighty alone and government of Pakistan has no right other than to enforce the will of Allah”. Maududi also called for the shariah as basic law of Pakistan and revocation of all laws that were, in his view, repugnant to Islam. He had also proposed that no law should ever be passed in Pakistan that goes against shariah and that the government should exercise authority within the limits prescribed by Islamic shariah. There was no mention of minorities in the demands made by Maududi though.

Whereas the orthodoxy demanded by Maududi did not become part of the Objectives Resolution, the spirit of the resolution remained the same, which was adopted with increasing tilt towards Maududiisation in subsequent constitutions of Pakistan. The Islamic provisions kept on increasing with every coming constitution till 1973 that made the state of Pakistan, finally, an Islamic state, followed by the interventions of military dictator Ziaul Haq, who made this resolution an integral part of the constitution as against the previous ones that included it as a mere preamble. There matures Maududi’s Pakistan, the seeds of which were sown on March 12, 1949 when the Objectives Resolution was passed. Rest in peace Jinnah’s Pakistan!