By Dr Mirza Sultan Ahmad
The resolution, ‘Aims and Objectives of the Constitution’, was presented in the Legislative Assembly of Pakistan on 7th March, 1949, and was approved after just a few days ‘discussion. All members of the Muslim League who were Muslims cast their vote in favor of the resolution. The respected members of the Assembly who belonged to the Hindu faith suggested a few amendments in the resolution which were rejected by a majority vote. Regardless, the Hindu members of the Assembly voted against the resolution. The resolution is known as, ‘The Objectives Resolution’ and now serves as the preamble of the Pakistan Constitution.
A lot has been said and written about the Objectives Resolution during the last decade. Much has been said about the speeches delivered on that occasion. Extracts from the debate that took place at that time have been quoted in numerous books and articles. However, as the reader did not find the full text of these speeches available to him in those books and articles, this lead to many wrong conclusions. Consequently, facts that were so important to know remained hidden from the sight of the people.
There is no doubt that any important treatise on law, constitution, or history is bound to be a topic of discussion. However, the tragedy is that at times factual misunderstandings begin to develop around an historical incident. This gradually results in the intelligentsia quoting that misinformation in their books, thus making that misinformation credible in the sight of the general public and forcing the masses to become oblivious to the actual facts.
Just a few months ago, a leading university in Pakistan held a seminar, which, like many others, I too had the honour to attend. Right in front of me in the next row was seated a famous Pakistani writer. Towards the end of the seminar, he too expressed his opinion on the subject. Among the things he said one was that Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafarullah Khan did not offer the funeral of Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah behind Maulana Shabbir Usmani, because he had issued a fatwa against the Ahmadiyya Jama’at. However, when the Objectives Resolution was presented, Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan referred to Maulana Shabbir Usmani as a great scholar of Islam, who had given his word that Pakistan would be a state whose foundations will be based on the principle of religious tolerance. How was it possible for Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan to acknowledge the authority of Maulana Shabbir Usmani on this occasion, whereas he refused to stand behind him to offer the funeral prayer of Qaid-e-Azam?
The writer raised other objections as well; however a suitable answer was given to him during discussion. However, as the actual text of the speech delivered by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan on that occasion was not available, I declined to comment on his words said during the seminar on this issue.
Another pertinent issue is that certain people have been claiming that the Objectives Resolution was presented in the Legislature Assembly of Pakistan by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, and that he was the brain behind this resolution. A debate has also ensued regarding what the members of the assembly said on the occasion about the liberty and freedom of expression in the new state.
Since those who make such claims regarding this historical issue also include people from the intelligentsia and other renowned writers, efforts were made to acquire the original draft of the sppech made by Chaudry Zafrullah Khan during this debat. Accordingly, National Archives Department was contacted and an authentic copy of the speech delivered by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan on 12th March, 1949, was duly obtained. The full draft of the speech can be seen on pages 65 – 72 of Volume 5, Number 5 of Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates.
To begin with, there are two things that must be explained:
- The Resolution was NOT presented by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, but rather it was presented by Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan, then Prime Minister of Pakistan. (Constitutional Assembly of Pakistan Debates, 7th March, 1949, Volume 5, Number 1, Page 1)
- Nowhere in his speech did Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan say that the audience had among them a great scholar of Islam, namely, Shabbir Usmani. Nor did he mention him as an authority on the teachings of Islam. His name was mentioned only once during the speech. The exact wording of the speech recorded in Volume 5, Number 5, Page 70 is given hereunder:
‘I have no doubt, however, the constructive and statesman like pronouncement with which honorable mover introduced the resolution served to allay apprehensions on that score. Since then several speeches made in support of resolution, notable those of Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, Dr Ishtiaq Hussain Qureishi, and my honorable colleague the minister of communication should have removed any lingering suspicion to which the minds of some of the honorable members may still have clung’.
Nowhere in this paragraph is any mention of any ‘great scholar of Islam’ or ‘an authority on the teachings of Islam’.
Some honorable Hindu members of the assembly had expressed their reservations about the resolution stating that it could be interpreted in the future in a manner as would harm the religious, social and political freedom of the minorities in Pakistan, and that such a situation may arise where they are not considered to be equal in status to the Muslim citizens of Pakistan. A number of Muslim League leaders including Liaqat Ali Khan then tried to allay the fears of the said Hindu members.
Quite a few speeches had already been made prior to the speech of Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, to which he had referred in the above-quoted paragraph. It is a parliamentary tradition that when a speaker speaks, he refers to the speeches made earlier.
I, therefore, sent all these facts to the writer I have spoken of in the beginning of this article. As a result, he denied some of his comments saying he had made those conclusions after reading the debate on the objectives resolution r. However, it is interesting to note that a recording of the seminar clearly showed that I was right about what he had actually said.
As mentioned earlier, the Hindu members of the Legislative Assembly had expressed their reservations about the Resolution saying it contained certain clauses as might hamper the due fulfillment of the rights of the minorities and their religious freedom in the country. A debate had then followed on such clauses in the Resolution; whereafter members of the Muslim League had made speeches to allay the fears of the Hindu members of the Assembly. The Muslim League members assured their Hindu brothers that no one’s rights will be tampered with in the name of faith or creed, and that all citizens of Pakistan will be equal in status. So far as the speech made by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan is concerned, speaking about religious freedom and tolerance he said that despite the fact that Muslims during the centuries of decline failed to live in accordance with the Quranic injunctions, the Holy Quran, , guarantees complete religious freedom for everyone. He said:
‘On the tolerance I might however say a word. It is matter for great sorrow that mainly through mistaken notion of zeal, the Muslims have during the period of decline, earned for themselves an unenviable reputation for intolerance. But that is not the fault of Islam. Islam has from the beginning proclaimed and inculcated the widest tolerance. For instance, so far as freedom of conscience is concerned the Quran says:
لا اکراہ فی الدین
فمن شاٗ فلیومن و من شاٗ فلیکفر
‘There shall be no compulsion in matter of faith An alternative rendering can also be There can no compulsion in matters of faith inasmuch faith is a matter of conscience and conscience cannot be compelled; it also signifies there need be no compulsion in matters of faith. Guidance has been made manifest from error. Let him therefore who wills believe and let him who wills deny.’
To explain how perfect and complete freedom has been granted by the Holy Quran to everyone with regard to the expression of one’s faith and religion, Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan also quoted an incident from the life of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, whereby a delegation of the Christians of Najran called upon him. A time came during their trip when they were also invited to have Mubahala with the Muslims. However, when the time came for their worship, the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, allowed them to worship in his own mosque.
A number of books have been written on what discussions were made in the Legislative Assembly of Pakistan at the time of the Resolution. It is pertinent to mention that although the above-mentioned part of Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan’s speech is quoted quite often in the books written on the subject, but the part of the speech wherein he gave many other important proposals is never mentioned. A couple of such books are as follows:
- Constitutional Development in Pakistan…..p.52)
- Constitutional and Political History of Pakistan…p. 80 & 81)
I would now like to quote the proposals made at that time by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, since before developing any final opinion, it is important to keep them in view.
After relating the hadith, Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan said:
‘The recital of this incident while completely reassuring our non-muslim friends might possibly come as a shock to some of the Muslims who unfortunately have gradually drifted into an extremely narrow and bigoted outlook in these matters. But for that very reason it is worth stressing’.
However, this statement pertained to his religious ideology. The making of the constitution, on the other hand, is a practical task. To move it in the right direction, one has to come up with solid proposals. The emblem in the constitution is only a brief statement of mission. To secure basic human rights for everyone, there has to be in the constitution certain sections and clauses to guarantee these basic rights.
We have to look at this point:
- As mentioned earlier, members of the opposition party in the Assembly at that time expressed their reservations about the contents of the Resolution, which, to them, failed to guarantee clear-cut political, ideological and religious freedom to everyone. They thought the minorities will not be given equal rights. What we have to see is what suggestion was given to them by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan regarding this issue. Did he tell them to abandon their demand, or did he say something else? Here is what said:
‘If I may be permitted, Sir, humbly to offer a word of counsel to my non-Muslim friends it would be to urge them to insist that the ideals set up by Islam before the Muslims and indeed before mankind in all these spheres should be fully carried into practice.’.
Let us see what he said addressing the issue of what the Legislative Assembly should do to make sure that the minorities and everyone is given equal right. He said:
‘But what is to be feared is that in place of the ideals set up by Islam, people may fall into the error of substituting tinsel imitations and narrow bigotries. That apprehension would apply particularly to freedom of thought and tolerance and it would behove both this assembly upon whom the responsibility of framing the constitution ultimately rests and leaders of the Muslim opinion generally to see that the ideals set up by Islam in this and other fields that may properly and legitimately fall within purview of the constitution, are faithfully and fully adhered and given effect to’.
Members of the Muslim League in the Legislative Assembly at the time gave assurances to the Hindu members that the Resolution will never be interpreted in a way whereby it impinges upon anyone’s religious freedom. At this, the opposition also expressed their fear that the coming generations in Pakistan will eventually slide to interpret the Resolution in a negative manner. Addressing this point, Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan said:
‘An apprehension was expressed that the explanations and assurances furnished and given on the floor of the house may be adequate, but may be disregarded and ignored by the successors of those by whom they are being furnished and given. But this overlooks the procedure that is proposed to be followed. As soon as the resolution is adapted, the house will be invited to set up a committee for the purpose of formulating, concrete proposals based upon the resolution, embodying the main principles on which the constitution is to be framed. Those proposals will then come before the house and after the house has adapted those proposals with such modifications as it chooses to make, further steps will be taken to draft the constitution in accordance with those proposals. It should thus be clear that the explanations furnished and the assurances given during the course of this debate will be reflected in the concrete proposals which the committee soon to be set up by the house will frame; and the proposals will in turn be translated into the provisions of the constitution’.
The method that was being adopted at that time for the making of the constitution was that a Basic Principles Committee was being set up to prepare the basic principles of the constitution. In response to the reservations expressed by the opposition members at that time, Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan proposed that the guarantees and assurances given by the Muslim members to their Hindu brothers regarding the freedom of religion and basic rights should also be made part of the constitution , so that future generations may not be able to temper with or misinterpret the Resolution in any manner. However, it is a sad reality that the debate that ensued kept itself concerned with and focused upon the number of the members of the Legislature from various provinces. What is more, the constitution could not be completed by 1956. The preamble of the constitution cannot render null and void the clauses that have been made an essential part of the constitution. For example, the preamble of the Irish Constitution is as follows:
‘In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of Ire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,
Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,
And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,
Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution’.
One can hardly expect a preamble more religious in tone than this. However, we see that the same Ireland had passed a bill in favour of same-sex marriage rendering the preamble completely ineffective. A debate is now going on about the constitution of the European Union as well. German chancellor Angela Merkel and many other European leaders support the idea that the preamble of the European Union Constitution must make a mention of the Christian values. However, many countries are opposed to this idea.
What is really surprising is that when references are made to the speech delivered by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan on the occasion of the Objectives Resolution, these important points he made in his speech are ignored and not quoted. The proposals he had given are also ignored.
I agree that each and every person has the right to have any opinion regarding a matter. However, one must try to know the facts before reaching a conclusion.