Historic blunder

Some 'founding fathers' of Pakistan were the first to 'Islamize' the society and pave the way for extremism

Historic blunder
General Zia was not the sole criminal. Some of the ‘founding fathers’ of Pakistan took the first initiative to Islamize the society and pave the way for state-sponsored extremism.

The military dictator who toppled the Bhutto government in 1977 only carried forward the mission what those reactionaries had begun in 1949. However, he saw in it his own survival.

Tyranny of majority played its part sixty-five years ago suppressing the sane voices that failed to echo outside the four-walls of the Constituent Assembly.

On March 12, 1949, just five months after the demise of Quaid-e-Azam, the rest of ‘founding fathers’ defied the principles the great founder had advocated in his lifetime.

It was a deliberate attempt to divide the nation on communal lines. What they might not have comprehended that their decision would open floodgates of misinterpretation and cause exodus of non-Muslim Pakistanis.

[quote]George McGhee was impressed with Liaquat Ali Khan's ability to consume alcoholic drinks without losing sobriety[/quote]

In 1950, more than 11 million of the total 76 million Pakistanis were non-Muslims. Now when the population has crossed the mark of 180 million, less than seven million non-Muslims live in Pakistan.

For its movers, which included Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, the Objectives Resolution was a great success. The opposition, which included Mian Iftikharuddin, had termed it a historic blunder.

The ‘founding fathers’ proudly presented the Objectives Resolution and got it passed from the Constituent Assembly. They seemed to have deviated from the fundamental principle of Muhammad Ali Jinnah that Pakistan would not become a theocracy.

In 1985, military dictator General Zia made the resolution an operative part of the Constitution deleting word “freely” from the clause that originally read: “Minorities can freely profess and practice their religion.”

Wasim Sajjad, who held the portfolio of law minister in Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo’s cabinet, said it was unclear whether the word was removed deliberately.

“We were not sure what happened back then, when 8th amendment was passed,” he stated. Asked whether he tried to check whether it was an intentional attempt to further subjugate the non-Muslim Pakistanis, he explained he could not find any evidence of that.

Sajjad was one of the architects of the 18th constitutional amendment. Introduced in the Constitution during the last People’s Party government, the amendment made several corrective measures including reinserting the word “freely” in that specific clause of the Objectives Resolution.

It seems unclear what forced liberal person like Liaquat Ali Khan to agree to the Objectives Resolution. On page 47 of his latest book “Magnificent Delusion,” former ambassador Husain Haqqani quotes Washington Herald on first Pakistani prime minister’s social successes. He wrote the US assistant secretary of state George McGhee was impressed with Liaquat’s ability to consume alcoholic drinks without losing sobriety.

Sindh deputy speaker Shehla Raza said she had researched the topic and found that author of the Objectives Resolution was Jamaat-e-Islami founder Mualana Maududi. She said Shabir Ahmed Usmani and Dr Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi were the main proponents of the resolution in the constituent assembly.

Referring to the concept of tyranny of majority, she said the treasury members suppressed the voice of opposition in the constituent assembly.

Constitutionalist Hamid Khan wrote in his book Constitutional and Political History of Pakistan, “It is unfortunate that there was a division on the Resolution along communal lines. Muslim members voted against the amendments and non-Muslim members voted for the amendments. One cannot escape the conclusion that the Resolution might have sown the seeds of suspicion, alienation, and distrust among the minorities against the majority.”

A cursory look on the annals of the debate of constituent assembly on the resolution which started on March 9, 1949, and concluded on March 12, would reveal how genuine were the fears and concerns of the opposition on the resolution.

“My fear is real, as these concepts will everywhere be interpreted by much less enlightened men. Sir, it would be wiser perhaps for the House, as our Leader suggested the other day, to dispense with a Resolution of this nature at this stage,” said opposition member Bhupendra Kumar Datta, while taking part in the debate.

Another member Prof Raj Kumar Chakraverty endorsed his colleague and said: “It has been my conviction and it has one of my principles of life that religion is a matter personal to everybody. It is a matter private to one’s self and if we drag in religion of some other force or power in our everyday life, it may lead to endless complications and difficulties...”

The arguments of those two Hindu members incurred sharp criticism from Dr Ishtiaq Qureshi and Shabir Usmani. They defended the resolution and brushed aside the arguments of the opposition members.

“Islam has never accepted the view that religion is a private affair between man and his Creator and as such has no bearing upon the social of political relations of human beings. Some other religious systems may expound this theory and may, incidentally, be too idealistic to possess a comprehensive and all-embracing code of life. But Islam has no use for such false notions and its teachings are in direct contradiction to them,” maintained Maulana Usmani.

Another opposition member, Chandra Chattopadhyaya said, “You felt your incapacity to separate politics from religion, which the modern world so universally does. You could not get over the old world way of thinking. What I hear in this Resolution is not the voice of the great creator of Pakistan, nor even that of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, but of the Ulemas of the land.”

Prominent among the opposition members was Mian Iftikharuddin, who argued that only four states had drafted their Constitutions in the same way and called themselves Islamic states. He claimed those states including Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan were the most un-Islamic of all the states in the world. “These states yet retain the divine right of kings. These states, at least three of them, yet claim that the King cannot be deposed.”

Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, Sardar Abdul Rab Nishtar and ilk defended the resolution and received rounds of applause from the treasury benches. However, there was one saner voice among them which, in deed, spoiled the party. That was Begum Shaista Ikramullah.

“What exactly have we achieved? I do not think that for a State where the majority of the population is Muslim, it is such a tremendous achievement to have declared that the sovereignty of this universe belongs to God alone... I do not think mere declaration of it is such a great achievement justifies and orgy of praise we have been giving to ourselves.”

Her final words are still echoing around and seem to be most relevant to the present day Pakistan, where Council of Islamic Ideology is still grappling with the question of under-age marriages and permission of first wife to have a second one.

She concluded: “With great regret I say that it is eighteen months since Pakistan has been established, but with great regret I say there are no signs of the promises that were made to the people of Pakistan being fulfilled. There has been no improvement whatsoever in the conditions of their lives to justify the sacrifices they made for the securing of the State. Instead of improvement there is worsening of conditions, corruption is rife, black-marketing rampant and misery stalks the land.”

Shahzad Raza is a journalist based in Islamabad. Follow him on Twitter @shahzadrez