Helm and the hymns: The Objectives Resolution of Pakistan

“Are there no pandits in India or bishops in Christian countries to insist political thinkers to adopt such a constitution…” – “Let me tell you, in real Islamic society there are no classes…” – “Sir, Individuals might have religion, but the state has got no religion” – “But, we are guaranteeing you your religious freedom, advancement of your culture…” – “But, Sir, the founder of this dominion most unequivocally said this country will be a secular state…” 12th of March 1949 following a provocative debate and a lopsided referendum the historic resolution named “the Objectives Resolution” was passed which later on laid the foundation of the constitution of Pakistan. The resolution, albeit passed by the votes of the majority, still lacked unanimous consent of the constituent assembly. The momentous debate over the blueprints of its constitution the new state was to be governed by, was no less than a breakthrough in the constitutional history of the country. It was the first time since its inception members of the constituent assembly debated over secularism and religion in flagrant terms. Non-Muslim members of the constituent assembly representing the minority class of the country laid their objections regarding the resolution and proposed a number of amendments after a controversial debate. But conclusively none of the proposed amendments was accepted by the majority of the constituent assembly. Non-Muslim members raised those clauses of the resolution which emphasized the religiosity of the resolution and argued that the founder of the new homeland was politically secular-minded and opposed the concept of theocracy. They further proposed that the entailment of religion in a democratic system would leave no room for criticism while democratic institutions grow and progress by criticism. Apart from this, some of the amendments proposed by the Non-Muslim members were not absolutely un-Islamic or unacceptable in any case. For instance, they also demanded the attendance of a clause in the proposed resolution guaranteeing the security and freedom of religion and security of cultural development to the minorities in apparent terms. Whereas, the same idea was also endorsed by Mr Liaqat Ali Khan in his concluding speech where he overtly stated that Non-Muslims would be given freedom of religion and the advancement of culture. In this context, there remains no rationale to refute the inclusion of such an idea in the resolution. But the constituent assembly, as also revealed by one of the members named Birat Chandra Mandal, seemed to be under pressure of some religious-extremist elements and in no disposition to consider the demands of Non-Muslim members. Bhupendra Kumar Datta, one of the minority representative members of the constituent assembly argued that argumentation and criticism are the crucial segments of democratic institutions, therefore, religious nature of the resolution would put the religion subject to criticism. As a matter of fact, it was obvious that endorsement of some of the proposed amendments could have helped the assembly pass the resolution unanimously.

The subsequent abrogation  of the constitution could be alluded as an attempt to question the sustainability of Islamic democracy.

It could have promoted a sense of inclusion and recognition in the minority class of the country. But all the demands were disproved cavalierly following an uneven plebiscite among the members. Conclusively, the historic resolution was adopted declaring the country a federation, based on the principles of Islam and Islamic democracy. Subsequently, in retrospect, the resolution, in the shape of a constitution, was ruthlessly abandoned in the 1958 military takeover. The abrogation of the constitution could be alluded as an attempt to challenge the legitimacy and question the sustainability of Islamic democracy. Even though it may not be the case, but it, at least, justified the arguments of those members of the constituent assembly who argued that the inclusion of religion in the constitutional document of the country would make Islam subject to political prejudice. It was obvious that with such a significant Muslim population Pakistan could not have escaped being an Islamic country; ruled under the tenets of Islam. Islam itself doesn’t motivate such a cavalier attitude towards minority the way it has grown ritual in Pakistan. It can apparently be concluded that the manner the Objectives Resolution was passed was the first episode in the constitutional history of the country where religious minorities were systematically discerned and responded by their demands differentially.

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Rehan Ahmed Written by:

The writer is one of the Senior Editors of the online journal The Geopolitics (TGP). He is a candidate of International Relations based in Pakistan.