Business of the state
The curious case of
nation's first anthem
Politicians in the parliament have strongly objected to the criticism that the 18th amendment seeks to lay down a precondition for the prime minister to be a Muslim member of the state through article 91(3). The condition is already there in the constitution, they claim. Sadly, that is not the whole truth.
The condition may have been there in the original 1973 constitution (Article 91) but when Gen Ziaul Haq brought in his 8th amendment in 1985, he accidentally removed it from the constitution. Article 91(2) as amended under the 8th amendment then read "President shall, in his discretion, appoint from amongst the members of the National Assembly a Prime Minister who, in his opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly."
The constitutional reforms committee, apparently wanting to restore the spirit of the 1973 constitution, reintroduced the amendment as part of the reform package. As a consequence, historic milestones have been achieved for the majority population of this country through the untiring efforts of a committee that did not have a single non-Muslim member. The committee could have used this technical flaw in the constitution to its advantage and correct a historical wrong but it squandered the opportunity. We may never know who in the committee was exactly responsible to bring this article back but the fact remains that it's there, because the committee chose to work by consensus. Some might point out that now there is no contradiction between the prime minister's oath and the constitutional provision.
A few saner voices here and there are trying to project this matter as a serious issue but the debate is as old as the country's history. Whether Pakistan is going to be a theocracy or a democracy, what was the Quaid's vision -- Islamic, Muslim or secular state? The questions have been consistently asked ever since Pakistan's creation and never adequately addressed.
Today's Special Report is pegged on the issue of a Muslim prime minister. Actually, it attempts to revisit the political history of the country and how, through successive political developments, minorities in Pakistan have been denied their rightful place as equal citizens. A lot has been written about Jinnah's speeches that articulate his secular vision. Especially where he says: "We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state." Not many people know that Jinnah assigned a Hindu poet Jagan Nath Azad to write the first national anthem of the new state.
Subsequent political developments clearly indicate that Jinnah's vision was laid to rest soon after his death. Objectives Resolution was the first document that set the tone for all regressive measures that followed. We have reproduced here excerpts from the speech of Sris Chandra Chattopadhya, the Hindu member from East Bengal, in which he strongly opposed the Objectives Resolution while speaking to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in March 1949. We believe that this was a prophetic speech and a must-read for all students of Pakistan's history which we have recounted here albeit briefly in Kamila Hyat's piece.
It's been a history of intolerance marked by anti-Muslim rioting, discriminatory laws, social discrimination and how the bigoted positions made it to the most sacred document of this country. We have also tried to juxtapose the stated position of political parties on minorities and their actual conduct.
It is a sad fact that in today's Pakistan, it is impossible for a non-Muslim to assume the highest office in politics. But to state that he will not be allowed to become one, in black and white, in the constitution of the country, is sadder still.
Watch that word ‘Muslim’ in Article 91(3) of the 18th Amendment. It clearly reflects that non-Muslims are a persecuted minority and Muslims are special in Pakistan. The Article reads:
‘’After the election of the speaker and deputy speaker, the National Assembly shall, to the exclusion of any other business, proceed to elect without debate one of its Muslim members to be the prime minister.”
This seems to be a dangerous amendment and, given our treacherous history of discrimination against minorities, one that will be hard to ignore. It is even more dangerous as it has been proposed by the members of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms representing the so-called secular-oriented parties.
“It’s practically impossible for a non-Muslim to get elected as the prime minister of the country. Why then assert such a condition?” wonders political analyst Rasul Bakhah Rais. “Perhaps to appease the religious parties and get their support for other amendments in the constitution.”
Or, as Executive Director, PILDAT, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, says, “it’s a larger question of the nature of state and the place of religion in it.”
Rais reiterates that the minorities are marginalised in Pakistan to the extreme. “There’s hardly any space left to push them further. This provision will earn the country international scorn and ridicule. It’ll further mess up its international image.”
Secretary General Jamiat-e-Islam, Liaquat Baloch, while talking to TNS, brushes aside Rais’s view as frivolous, one influenced by the West. “For Jamaat, this is a non-issue. In a democratic setup the majority rules, and since Muslims outnumber non-Muslims manifold in Pakistan, Islamic principles derived from Quran and Sunnah should prevail. Islam calls for a Muslim head of the state. So, to have the condition of the prime minister to be a Muslim is but natural. What’s wrong with it?” he questions.
Likewise, PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal finds the provision of prime minister to be Muslim quite reasonable. He says, “Pakistan gives extra guarantees to minorities in politics, particularly in the parliament. The addition of four seats reserved for them in the Senate proposed in the 18th amendment is a very positive step, and testimony of the will and commitment to safeguard minorities rights in the country. So let’s not be apologetic towards this condition of prime minister being a Muslim. We have a very progressive system working in the country.”
Somehow, Iqbal’s view betrays his party stance on minorities. In its 2008 election manifesto, his party PML-N pledged to set up a commission to look into the complaints of religious discrimination, awarding scholarship for higher education to children of talented minorities and, more importantly, a commission to integrate minorities in the mainstream of national development through active participation at different levels (source PILDAT).
He, of course, can count off-hand a few benefits his party has bestowed on the non-Muslims since the 2008 elections: “Increase in job quota and scholarship to students — in Punjab where the party forms the government. Some of the minority rights have been reiterated in the Charter of Democracy too,” he states.
Here, of course, one is reminded of the dominance of the right wing bloc in the politics of Pakistan. But, the supposedly-secular PPP and smaller parties like ANP and MQM were adequately represented at the reform committee (those regrettably not represented were minorities and women). How and why did these parties let such a discriminatory provision slip by?
PPP’s Nafisa Shah says constitutional amendments can only be successful if they are worked out within the spirit of consensus, and here, the committee on constitutional reforms, which comprised different parties including the religious parties, had to build consensus. “Consensus is always built around compromise. While some decisions may be to our liking others may not be so.”
Shah is personally not happy with this condition “as it negates the fundamental rights clause, and I am sure my party has a very different view on this. But the spirit of consensus was necessary and religious parties probably considered this important provision and insisted on its inclusion.”
Shah’s party was most agile on minorities’ issues in its 2008 election manifesto. It pledged a job quota in services including army, police, intelligence agencies, judiciary and foreign affairs. Also, it called for setting up an independent National Commission for Religious Minorities; administrative control of their worship places and statutes that discriminate against minorities to be reviewed.
Long list indeed. But Shah says some of the promises have been kept, for example, Zardari spoke in his address to the UN General Assembly of promotion of interfaith harmony and further stated that blasphemy laws will not be allowed to be misused against the minority communities. A general day was declared to mark the rights of minorities on August 11. A five percent quota has also been announced. Besides now there are many members of the minority community serving on important cabinet posts.”
MQM’s 2008 election manifesto heralded, among other points, the repeal of all discriminatory laws against minorities; religious minorities to be treated as equal citizens, no religious obstruction to exercise the inherent rights of a citizen of Pakistan to participate in social, economic and political matters; and rigorous campaign to be launched in collaboration with scholars to exterminate religious extremism, hatred, fanaticism and terrorism from the country.
ANP harped on similar lines: ethnicity and faith-based discrimination to be opposed at all levels; every Pakistani citizen to enjoy equal political, economic and social rights; and ethnic and religious minorities to be protected.
PML-Q’s manifesto was least committed to the cause of the minorities. It basked in the rhetoric: the minorities to have full freedom of worship and right to employment and their religious holidays to be commemorated nationally.
Then MMA, a coalition between different religious parties, pledged constitutional guarantees to minorities, to help them cast votes and choose their representatives, their places of worship to be protected; and opportunities in education, employment and other arenas.
Reflecting on the performance of the political parties and their position on the role of the minorities in politics, Rais laments, “We have yet to see any meaningful initiative from the parties beyond rhetoric. The real issue is blasphemy laws that have targeted the minorities — and no one wants to touch them.”
Even within the party domains, he stresses, parties have no mechanism to safeguard the minorities. “They should at least be fielding minority candidates from constituencies where they have a substantial number of minority voters. They need to elect minority representatives in Senate on open seats.”
However, Mehboob feels “the most prominent example of fulfilling one of their promises is to provide for four minority seats in the Senate.”
Agreeably, this is one step in the right direction. A lot more needs to be done. To start with, says Mehboob, “I would like to see mainstream parties fielding more candidates from minority communities to the general seats. I would like to see candidates from minority community winning on general seats. At the same time, I want to see the narrative of minority community politicians to focus on issues which all Pakistanis face and not just the minority community. This is how we will ensure mainstreaming of the minorities who take as much pride in being a Pakistani as anyone else.”
The draft of the 18th amendment in the Constitution of Pakistan has been approved by both the houses. The whole process was completed within days and without any major deadlocks over any of the 102 clauses discussed there. It seemed there would be dissenting voices during the discussions but what followed was otherwise.
One of the major changes has been the one that closes way for a non-Muslim to become prime minister of the country. Article 91(3) of the amended text states: "After the election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, the National Assembly shall, to the exclusion of any other business, proceed to elect without debate one of its Muslim members to be the Prime Minister."
The inclusion of the word "Muslim" in the draft was supported by all the committee members unanimously, claimed the committee members contacted by TNS. Their response was that the clause about the prime minister being a Muslim was originally there in the 1973 Constitution.
"We are just reverting to that and cleansing it of all the unwanted changes made over time," says Senator Professor Khursheed Ahmed, Jamaat i Islami's representative in the committee. He says there was no extra effort made by any single party as all of them were committed to revive the Constitution of 1973.
Khursheed says the oath of the Prime Minister has always been the same with clear connotation that it's meant only for Muslims.
A look at the original 1973 Constitution shows this eligibility clause was there, and removed under the 8th amendment in the constitution. Article 91 as amended under the 8th amendment says: "President shall in his discretion appoint from amongst the members of the National Assembly a Prime Minister who, in his opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly."
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Director I A Rehman tells TNS that there was no need to change the clause about the election of the prime minister in the constitution. It is discriminatory and unnecessary as the election of non-Muslim prime minister is hardly possible in Pakistan, he says. He is also against the condition that the president be a Muslim.
Rehman says there were many dissenting notes but nobody objected to this clause. "I believe this issue was by no means on the priority list," he adds. The political parties, he elaborates, focused on the matters of prime interest to them -- "Besides people refrain from touching issues pertaining to religion, out of the fear of repercussions that follow. So, they keep quite even if they have objections against any such issue."
Khursheed's contention that the oath of the prime minister is meant for a Muslim is questioned by a lawyer who doesn't want to be named. "It's the substantive part of the constitution that has to be followed and not the related material. The oath of PM is part of the third schedule of the constitution." He adds that similar oaths have to be taken by other office-bearers like attorney general etc.
There is hardly anything exciting about national anthems. Yet nations find it necessary to have one to satisfy the imagined part of their existence. The recently 'rediscovered' fact that the existing national anthem (qaumi tarana) of Pakistan is actually not the first one the country has had, and that the first national anthem was written by a Lahore-based Urdu poet Jagan Nath Azad (1918-2004) who happened to be a "Hindu" has generated some interest.
Following are the first few lines from Pakistan's first national anthem commissioned and approved by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on the eve of independence and the partition of Hindustan in 1947. It was aired on Radio Pakistan as the newly created state came into being:
Aye sar zameen-i-paak
Zarre Tere hain aaj sitaron se tabnaak
Roshan hai kehkashan se kahin aaj teri khaak
Tundi-e-Hasdan pe hai ghalib tera swaak
Daman wo sil gaya hai jo tha mudaton se chaak
Aye sar zameen-i-paak
About a year and half after the partition, and soon after Mr Jinnah's death in September, 1948, the government of Pakistan, headed by its first Muslim Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, decided to discard the anthem. National Anthem Committee was formed in December, 1948 to recommend new anthem. But our history books are silent on this important fact. Why?
Agreed that the nation is not supposed to remain captive to everything the founding father did and said. In fact, sound and valid arguments can be made against Mr Jinnah's political decisions. But what prompted the government to discard Azad's Aye sar zameen-i-paak? The question sounds even more valid because some readers may find Aye sar zameen-i-paak easier to understand and more agreeable than Hafeez Jallandhari's Paak sar zamin shaad baad (the present national anthem).
The fact that a "Hindu" poet wrote Pakistan's national anthem in Urdu was the negation of a state ideology which propagated, among other things, that Urdu was the language of the Muslims of Hindustan. It can better be understood in view of the simultaneous developments which took place soon after Pakistan came into being. Also, the possibility of failure of the new state and its return to the fold of Hindustan loomed large, a scenario which must have caused insecurity among the old and the new ruling classes who had a vested interest in the new state. This insecurity made them propagate and perpetuate an engineered identity based on imagined Muslim nationhood and the two-nation theory which formed the basis of the partition.
This new identity unless ruthlessly imposed would not serve the purpose of the rulers. Non-Muslims had to be relegated to the secondary status, notwithstanding Mr Jinnah's address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947: "You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State."
The Assembly passed the Objectives Resolution in March, 1949, despite opposition from the leadership of non-Muslims members. Pakistan's drift into the abyss of discrimination against its own non-Muslim citizens has not stopped.
Jagan Nath Azad, a Punjabi by birth who learnt to compose Urdu poetry, was born in Isa Khel (Mianwali) and educated and lived in Rawalpindi and Lahore. Soon after the partititon, he had to migrate to Hindustan with tears in his eyes, much like millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who had to migrate to their new "homelands". But Azad did not quit Urdu. In Hindustan, Azad served as professor and head of the Urdu Department in University of Jammu (1977-1980) and wrote several books in Urdu. He also wrote a poem against the destruction of Babri Masjid.
Why did Mr Jinnah commission a non-Muslim to write Pakistan's national anthem? When asked by a journalist Azad has been quoted as saying: "I asked my friends why Jinnah Sahab wanted me to write the anthem. They said the Quaid wanted the anthem to be written by an Urdu-knowing Hindu. Through this, I believe Jinnah Sahab wanted to sow the roots of secularism in Pakistan."
If secular Pakistan was Jinnah's vision, then it lies somewhere buried deep down. Our constitution and laws, politics and social attitudes provide ample evidence.
religious minorities have struggled since the inception of the country to
swim against a current that has continuously gained momentum and fury
The notion of a Christian, Hindu, Sikh or Parsi holding the office of Prime Minister of Pakistan has, for decades, remained in practical terms a virtual impossibility.
The rise in intolerance that we saw, beginning in the 1950s and gaining pace in the following decades, has ensured this. Laws added to the statute books have driven forward the process. But the fact that, till the latest changes made through the 18th Amendment, reverting to the original 1973 constitution, it had been possible for any citizen to move into the country's highest political office at least in terms of the law, was an important one. It offered a semblance of equality in a land where less and less is available. It is true the PM's oath of office was a distinctly Muslim one, but this hurdle could have been crossed had the occasion ever arisen. The change made now means such an occasion can in fact never arise. The difference is an important one.
The process that has led to this has evolved gradually, over years and decades. It has sometimes been blatant, sometimes barely discernible. Certainly, in the months that immediately followed the painful birth of the new country -- in some part at least as a consequence of the intolerance suffered by the Muslims of the sub-continent -- the vision of its political leaders had been a quite different one. In a speech, most often used now to draw attention to the contortions that have turned Pakistan into a place where hatred and bigotry thrive, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had said: "We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State."
So, how did this fundamental principle that Jinnah so eloquently spoke of change quite so drastically? How did we reach the point we stand at today? The descent came early, with the Objectives Resolution of March, 1949, that laid down the following principles:
Sovereignty belongs to Allah alone but He has delegated it to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him as a sacred trust.
The State shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people.
The principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed.
Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings of Islam as set out in the Qur'an and Sunnah.
Adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures.
Pakistan shall be a federation.
Fundamental rights shall be guaranteed.
The judiciary shall be independent.
The compass had been turned towards a path that over the years grew narrower and narrower. The Objectives Resolution was included as the preamble to the country's first Constitution passed by the Constituent Assembly in 1956. The country was declared an Islamic Republic; the provision that its' President be a Muslim justified on the grounds that this was an entirely ceremonial position. Since the Resolution that changed the direction in which Pakistan moved as a State has remained in place in successive constitutions. In 1985 it was made a substantive part of the document.
The sidelining of minorities continued in other ways, too. In 1953, riots centred in Lahore attacked the Ahmadi community. In 1974, an agitation led to a constitutional amendment that declared them to be non-Muslims. An Ordinance issued in 1984 prevented them from preaching or professing their beliefs. A host of other 'Islamisation' measures through the same period under General Ziaul Haq added to a growing climate of intolerance and bigotry -- while driving home, with far more brutal force than had been used before, the idea that Pakistan was a State intended for Muslims alone. Changes in school curriculums, propaganda through the media and the arrival of dozens of seminaries that preached a particular brand of obscurantist Islam added social weight to these political measures. The combined impact of the two was devastating.
The separate electorate, introduced in 1979, further pushed minorities out of the mainstream of political life, denying them the principle of universal adult franchise and permitting them to cast votes only for representatives from their respective communities. The joint electorate, restored in 2002, exists to some degree on paper alone. Separate lists are retained in practice for Muslims and non-Muslims, with Ahmadis, placed on the 'non-Muslim' list, refusing to participate to protest this discrimination. Effectively, they have been denied the vote.
But there are other factors that have acted to push non-Muslims out of the political playing field. Social discrimination means it is today hard to see a representative from a minority community contest on even terms. Increased representation on seats reserved for them in the National Assembly continues to be demanded by non-Muslims. There are different estimates too as to their precise numbers. But the fact is their political fate is tied in to the wider growth of intolerance and orthodoxy in society. Its presence means that, as has been the case in so many other spheres of life, there is less and less space for non-Muslims in politics. The fact after all is that they are barely tolerated even in sport. The story of Muhammad Yusuf, once a Christian now a member of the Tableeghi Jamaat, bears testimony to this reality.
Social happenings are in many ways created by the State. The discriminatory laws that have cropped up since the 1950s have shaped perceptions. It is sad that today, an alliance of parties that state they stand against extremism is involved in drafting an amendment that acts to further politically dis-empower the minorities. Leaving the office of Prime Minister open to only one group sends out a strong message to citizens, and makes it clear that in the Pakistan of today some are far more equal than others. Jinnah's vision for the State he founded remains then an increasingly distant dream.
Photos by Rahat Dar
Cecil Chaudhry: Overall we are not satisfied with the status. If we go by the basic concept of democracy, which was given to the nation by Jinnah in his address to the constituent assembly on August 11, 1947, he promised equal rights for everybody. And the minorities of Pakistan are not even constitutionally enjoying equal rights.
TNS: How did this situation evolve, especially after the promulgation of the Objectives Resolution in 1949?
CC: Objectives Resolution was the worst legislation that ever took place in this country. In fact, it was a piece of document that totally countermanded Jinnah's thoughts for Pakistan. It brings forth a close relationship between state and religion. Jinnah clearly said that religion had nothing to do with the business of the state. There should have been a clear-cut separation of state and religion.
TNS: Do you feel it has gone from bad to worse?
CC: There was a time when discrimination against the minorities didn't exist, though a bias against the Hindu community was always there and they weren't allowed into the armed forces. The Christians were serving in the forces. It is of interest to know that when Pakistan came into being, 15 percent of the officers in Pakistan Air Force were Christians. They made a tremendous contribution in setting up the Air Force. So, earlier, there was no discrimination except for high positions. For instance, nobody in the army went beyond the rank of a brigadier. That started at the time of Ayub Khan, and probably the reason was that if you have a Christian head of the army and he declares martial law he becomes the head of the state. The worst discrimination in the services, civil included, was seen in Ziaul Haq's regime when minorities were denied appointments.
TNS: How will you compare the situation in Pakistan with that in India?
CC: Religious discrimination has seen a rise in India in recent years. There have been tremendous atrocities against minorities, too. But as a nation they do not discriminate against the minorities. Their first president -- Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad -- was a Muslim; their services chiefs have belonged to all religions and so have their prime ministers. Even their senior ministers have belonged to different religions. For instance, Fernandes was the minister of defence which is a vital post in any government. Their only field marshal, Manak Shaw is a Parsi. Constitutionally, it is a secular country. At government level there is no discrimination. But there is an anti-minority feeling which the extremists have perpetuated.
TNS: What is your take on the 18th amendment wherein the prime minister can only be a Muslim?
CC: It is blatantly discriminatory, against the non-Muslim citizens of the country. You cannot have democracy until you separate state from religion.
Let us not forget that two leading minorities -- Hindus and Christians -- stood side by side with the Indian Muslim League in the creation of Pakistan. Punjab's resolution was primarily a Christian move. Similarly, the resolution of Sindh to become a part of Pakistan was spearheaded by Jugarnath Mandal, a provincial minister at the time, and the same person who Jinnah asked to chair the first session of the National Assembly. He was also responsible for getting non-Muslims reserved seats in the Senate.
TNS: Isn't the proposed amendment then contradictory to the fundamental rights as envisaged in the constitution?
CC: Interestingly, whereas earlier only be a Muslim could be the president, now the prime minister has to be a Muslim. This is against the Fundamental Rights as envisaged in article 25 of the constitution. Let me reiterate that democracy has no religion.
TNS: What reforms do you propose in the constitutional and political system of the country?
CC: At the time when the constitution was made, Objectives Resolution was only a preamble to it. Ziaul Haq made it an integral part of the constitution under article 2 which, interestingly, talks about the minorities to freely profess their religion. The word "freely" was removed, whereas it is still there in the preamble. In my opinion, Objectives Resolution should be thrown out of the constitution and the preamble to the constitution should be Jinnah's August 11 address. He was very clear when he said, "You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan… We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State." The entire constitution should be based on his speech.
TNS: Every time we have a Gojra or a Shantinagar we wake up to the fact of discrimination and insecurity of the minorities. How do these constitutional changes impact the minorities in general?
CC: The minorities are perpetually in a state of fear. Let's not forget that Shantinagar happened two days after the general elections, and the reason was Zia's separate electorate system; it was nobody's constituency. Had it been a joint electorate, it would have been a different story altogether. Similarly, when Gojra happened, every Tom Dick and Harry ran there to muster future votes from the area. We saw the same pattern in Toba Tek Singh, Sialkot and Kasur.
Take another example. Arabic has been made a compulsory subject in public educational institutions. My question is, why impose the language on non-Muslim students? If you take a look at a class 8 Arabic book, more than about language, it is a book of religion. I feel we are getting deeper and deeper into the mess.
An excerpt from a speech of Sris Chandra Chattopadhya, a Hindu Congress member of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan from East Bengal, in opposition to Objectives Resolution, on March 12, 1949
"…I have heard Dr. Malik and appreciate his standpoint. He says that "we got Pakistan for establishing a Muslim State, and the Muslims suffered for it and therefore it was not desirable that anybody should speak against it". I quite agree with him. He said; "If we establish a Muslim State and even if we become reactionaries, who are you to say anything against it?" That is a standpoint which I understand, but here there is some difficulty. We also, on this side, fought for the independence of the country. We worked for the independence of the entire country. When our erstwhile masters, Britishers, were practically in the mood of going away, the country was divided - one part became Pakistan and the other remained India. If in the Pakistan State there would have been only Muslims, the question would have been different. But there are some non-muslims also in Pakistan. When they wanted a division there was no talk of an exchange of population. If there was an exchange of population, there would have been an end of the matter, and Dr. Malik could establish his Pakistan in his own way and frame constitution accordingly. It is also true that the part of Pakistan in which Dr. Malik lives is denuded of non-Muslims. That is clear. …
But we belong to East Bengal. One-fourth of the population is still non-Muslim. Therefore, what constitution is to be framed, it is our duty, it is in our interest to look to. …Therefore, I am anxious to see that its constitution is framed in such a way which may suit the Muslims as well as the non-Muslims. …But after reading the Resolution carefully and reading the statement, …I cannot persuade myself to accept this Resolution and my instruction to my party would be to oppose this Resolution.
Now as for the first paragraph:
"Whereas sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to God Almighty alone and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust".
This part of the Resolution, I think, ought to be deleted. All powers, in my opinion, rest with the people and they exercise their power through the agency of the State. State is merely their spokesman. The Resolution makes the State the sole authority received from God Almighty through the instrumentality of people - Nemittamatrona, "Merely instruments of the State". People have no power or authority, they are merely post boxes according to this Resolution. The State will exercise authority within the limits prescribed by Him (God). What are those limits, who will interpret them? Dr. Qureshi or my respected Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Osmani? In case of difference, who will interpret? Surely they are not the people. One day a Louis XIV may come and say "I am the State, anointed by the Almighty" thus paving the way for advent Divine Right of Kings of afresh. Instead of State being the voice of the people, it has been made an adjunct of religion. To me voice of people is the voice of God, "Jatra jiba tatra shiva." The people are the manifestation of God.
In my conception of State where people of different religion live there is no place for religion in the State. Its position must be neutral: no bias for any religion. If necessary, it should help all the religions equally. No question of concession or tolerance to any religion. …The state religion is a dangerous principle. Previous instances are sufficient to warn us not to repeat the blunder. We know people were burnt alive in the name of religion. Therefore, my conception is that the sovereignty must rest with the people and not with any body else. …
We are now divided into Congress Party and Muslim League Party here for farming constitution and suppose after framing of this constitution we face election, and parties are formed on different alignment, there may not be Congress, there may not be Muslim League, because the Congress has fulfilled its mission of attaining independence and Muslim League has also got Pakistan. There may be parties of haves and have-nots - and they are bound to be - and have-nots party may have a leader coming from non-Muslims. Will he be allowed to be the head of the administration of a Muslim State? It is not a fact that a non-Muslim cannot be head of the administration in a Muslim State. I discussed this question and I was told that he could not be allowed to be the head of the administration of a Muslim State. Then what is the use of all this. …
So, if any law is to be changed, it is to be changed by the vote of the Muslims only. Where are we then? We are not Muslims. There are, I find, many safeguards in the Resolution. I do not attach much importance to them. Words are there but there is no law which will allow them to be put into practice. That is the limitation. If the non-Muslims cannot vote, then what is the good of our coming here for farming the constitution? Even if we have the right to vote for a legislation but if some non-Muslim wants to be the President of the State, he will not be able to do so. If we want to elect somebody who is a non-Muslim, he cannot be elected by us to be a member of the legislature. We may vote, but we can vote for Mr Nishtar only and not for Mr Chandra Chattopadhya, who is a non-Muslim. I know you can pass this Resolution because you are in the majority and I know the tyranny of the majority. But we cannot be a consenting party to it; we must oppose it in order to safeguard our interests and not to commit suicide by accepting this Resolution. If that is so, what is the position of non-Muslims in a Muslim State? They will play the part of the second fiddle - the drawers of water and hewers of wood. Can you expect any self-respecting man will accept that position and remain contented? …
That much about this Resolution. Now, Dr Qureshi has attributed fear complex to the non-Muslims and has found a new dictum of behaviour for the minority. He has given a warning to the non-Muslims and has asked them to discard fear and behave well. …We are telling our brothers not to leave Eastern Pakistan and not to give up one inch of land. The position in the Western Pakistan is different. There the non-Muslims have left. But we are determined to stay on. As for behaviour it depends upon the majority community by their behaviour to get the confidence of the minority people. The minority people cannot create by their conduct confidence in the majority. They majority people should behave in such a way that the minority people may not be afraid of them and may not suspect them. …
The accepted principle is that the majority, by their fair treatment, must create confidence in the minority. …The demand is that the Opposition should remain submissive. That is Dr Qureshi's way of thinking. The minorities must be grateful for all the benevolence they get and must never complain for the malevolence that may also be dealt out to them. That is his solution of the minority problem. …
Let us treat citizens of Pakistan as members of one family and frame such a constitution as may not break this tie so that all communities may stand shoulder to shoulder on equal footing in time of need and danger. I do not consider myself as a member of the minority community. I consider myself as one of seven crores of Pakistanis. Let me have to retain that privilege…
I sadly remind myself of the great words of the Quaid-i-Azam that in state affairs the Hindus will cease to be a Hindu; the Muslim shall cease to be a Muslim. But alas, so soon after his demise what you do is that you virtually declare a State religion! You are determined to create a Herrenvolk. It was perhaps bound to be so, when unlike the Quaid-i-Azam - with whom I was privileged to be associated for a great many years in the Indian National Congress - 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 not the voice of the great creator of Pakistan - the Quaid-i-Azam (may his soul rest in peace), nor even that of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Honourable Mr Liaquat Ali Khan but of the Ulemas of the land. …
This Resolution in its present form epitomises that spirit of reaction. That spirit will not remain confined to the precincts of this House. It will send its waves to the countryside as well. I am quite upset. I have been passing sleepless nights pondering what shall I now tell my people whom I have so long been advising to stick to the land of their birth? They are passing a state of uncertainty which is better seen and left than imagined from this House. The officers have opted out, the influential people have left, the economic conditions are appalling, starvation is widespread, women are going naked, people are sinking without trade, without occupation. The administration is ruthlessly reactionary, a steam-roller has been set in motion against the culture, language and script of the people. And on the top of this all, by this Resolution you condemn them to a perpetual state of inferiority. A thick curtain is drawn against all rays of hope, all prospects of an honorable life. …
But I feel it is useless
bewailing before you, it is useless reasoning with you. You show yourselves
incapable of humility that either victory or religion ought to generate. You
then go your way, I have best wishes for you..."