An End To Exploitation: Re-Reading Article 3 Of The Constitution

A reading of the Constitution that focuses on centering Article 3 in the functioning of the state lays clear the egalitarian nature of the document. Only through ending exploitation in Pakistan can the spirit of the Constitution be upheld.


The state came into existence with an agreement between the institutions of the state and the people. The Constitution is a written form of that agreement between the state and people. Every word of the Constitution deserves unwavering honor and respect. Any step taken by the state contrary to the one written in the Constitution amounts to treachery. People willingly surrender their privileges and in return, get security and safety. Everything is done to bring order to society and ensure a peaceful life. The demand for a separate homeland in the Subcontinent stemmed from preconceived notions of exploitation of the Muslim minority at the hands of Hindu majority. 

Pakistan, since its inception, has been facing a multifaceted crisis. Owing to geographic compulsions, Pakistan always prioritized defense over the state’s welfare. Fragile institutions, floundering democracy, a kinship-based society, repeated military interventions and an unstable economic situation have all contributed to the deepening of the crisis. Nonetheless, the political parties in Pakistan tend to play their game of thrones, rather than providing the public at large with pledged facilities and services. Everyday, a great number of people are tried and convicted just because they don't keep their word, as outlined in the Constitution. Simply, people who are oblivious to their duties towards the state meet their fates in the manner prescribed by law. The idea sounds like aggression rather than a social contract. A party to the contract, the state, has placed herself above the roof of accountability. 

More than 50,000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court of Pakistan alone. People await justice. Conversely, any case involving a politician or some tycoon, gets disposed of in the blink of an eye. Justice is served speedily to those who can pay for it. It is a manifestation of a system devised to safeguard the interests of a few against the dictates of the Constitution. Likewise, the education system is designed so that it divides the society at the very initial stage. Aitchison College, Army Burn Hall College, LUMS and likes of these produce an elite, while government institutions and religious seminaries prepare a lot completely alien to modern ideas. This, in a sense, is exploitation of students sponsored by the state, or at least the state doesn't dare forbid the segregation. 

More than 50,000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court of Pakistan alone. People await justice. 

The mindsets cultivated in our segregated and distinct educational environments never adopt the same approach towards the world. Consequently, the difference culminates into exploitation, by the former and of the latter. Farmers in the fields, laborers in the factories, students in institutions, minorities and transgenders in society, and children at workplaces are continuously being exploited in the land of the pure.

Gender-based violence is growing day by day. Women are denied the right to hold an opinion and consent, even in purely personal matters. The exploitation of women at the hands of men and society at large is a cliff sized hindrance in the way of development and progress. The state has never made a serious attempt to curb the issue. A recent judgement from the Lahore High Court has revealed that out of 13307 and 20942 criminal cases under Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 of ITO (Investigation and Trial Ordinance 2020) respectively, not a single case was investigated according to statutory provisions. The police holds limited resources responsible for this negligence.  

Krishna Iyer, taking into account the dynamics that prevail here, said long ago, “sublime words in a constitution do not automatically become deeds promotive of the people’s welfare until the trinity of instrumentalities-the executive, the legislature, and the judicature- breathe life into the language and energize it with a vision and sense of mission.”

The exploitation of provinces other than Punjab and the people residing within their territories, needs no elaboration. The 18th Amendment was a serious attempt to end the Punjab domination in Pakistan, but much needs to be done still. It is not laymen who exploit but the junta. The fall of Dhaka decades ago is an instructive example. Guns and exploitation were the causes of the debacle. The less said, the better.

The Constitution of Pakistan categorically recognizes the rights to life, liberty, dignity and equality as fundamental rights. These rights can be ensured only in a welfare state. The Constitution of Pakistan was promulgated in the tenure of a socialist party, the PPP. So, to fulfil the promise of food, clothing and shelter, an article was instituted that has unprecedented importance. That article is a beam of light and a ray of hope in darker times. Article 3 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan reads as follows: “Elimination of exploitation. The State shall ensure the elimination of all forms of exploitation and gradual fulfilment of the fundamental principle, from each according to his ability, to each according to his work.”

This article is, in every way, of paramount importance. Article 3 envisages a society based on equality; it impliedly forbids the exploitation of every kind. Be it of man over man or state over man. The then-law minister of Pakistan Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, addressed the Constituent Assembly in the following words, “Exploitation does not mean exploitation of a person over a person, end of exploitation means end of exploitation of a brother over a brother, of a cousin over a cousin, of a relative over a relative, of region over a region, of a province over a province, because when exploitation is eliminated, it is eliminated in total land, nothing is left out of it.” 

Furthermore, the Article recognizes and incorporates class conflict into the Constitution, giving it a socialist character. The idea of a welfare state has its roots in this Article. Developing countries like Pakistan have limited resources and mechanisms to utilize these resources, which ultimately makes the concept of a welfare state an elusive dream.

The only path forward that leads to a more progressive Pakistan is the one enshrined in Article 3 of the Constitution of Pakistan. The founding fathers of Pakistan had envisioned a progressive, tolerant, and exploitation-free Pakistan. 

Howsoever, this Article has never been attended to, either by the state herself or the people. The oblivion on the part of both of the parties to the social contract reflects the thought process of a society that is deeply polarized and unequal. A state where poverty breeds crime, corruption, insecurity and hatred, the relevance of this article ought to matter more, but that's not the case here. Exploitation is a relative idea, and it prevails in almost every society. Advanced states put efforts to efface it through proper channels. 

In countries like Pakistan, exploitation is deep rooted and nearly every segment of the society faces the same issue. Exploitation has permeated in our state like the cancer at stage 4 - painful and incurable. Everyone is vulnerable to exploitation here, save a few, thanks to their pockets. The three words in the Article at hand, "elimination," "gradually," "exploitation," are of a great import. By these, an average mind may even perceive the true import of Article 3. 

Over the last 50 years, we have not even tried to eliminate exploitation, let alone seek to implement of this Article in letter and spirit. Article 3 clearly advanced the idea of a class-less society with all basic needs in the reach of farmer, laborer and the poor. 

Exactly the opposite has happened and continues to be so, widening the gulf between the state and it's citizens. Krishna Iyer, the learned Judge of the Supreme Court of India wholeheartedly appreciates the article in these words, “How magnificent, Marxian, quintessentially Islamic and allergic to ‘man’s inhumanity to man’.”

The insertion of this Article in the introductory part of the Constitution clearly lays down that the succeeding articles would follow the course. In the Articles to follow the phrase, subject to laws, has a wider connotation. Keeping in view Article 3 of the constitution, the phrase 'subject to law' demands every law to be constructed and construed in such a way that it mitigates and forbids exploitation. In this modality alone state touches the concept of a welfare state. Articles 37 and 38, outlining the principles of policy, are a bifurcation of Article 3. Although they are directory in nature, but they have great value as to the manifestation of the state’s vision.

The first part of this article, where strictly prohibits exploitation, the second part manifests socialist aspirations. That the state shall ensure that everyone is accommodated according to his ability, capacity and effort. So here people have entrusted the state with a responsibility of providing them with opportunities. It is the duty of the state. Whereas the state, unsurprisingly, negates constitutional command by letting the big fish – the industrialists, businessmen, feudal lords and other heavy pockets do the job for her. These brutes in turn play mercenary and exploit the labor, farmers and the impoverished, which is all and out an express denial of the dictates of Article 3. Laws continue to be promulgated to protect the people who engage in the exploitation.

The only path forward that leads to a more progressive Pakistan is the one enshrined in Article 3 of the Constitution of Pakistan. The founding fathers of Pakistan had envisioned a progressive, tolerant, and exploitation-free Pakistan. If the words of Constitution are honored, Pakistan can leap forward. Let all the functionaries of the state work in a manner that aims to achieve an equal society, void of exploitation.

Mansoor Ahmed Kataria is a Lahore based lawyer and a political activist associated with PPP.