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The rising tide of bigotry — of orthodoxy in the context of traditionalist Islam — and religious militancy are closely related, and they owe their origin directly to the policies which have been pursued by the so-called westernised Muslims in Pakistan. Madressah of course is where orthodoxy begins. And the sectarian propaganda has been spread through the pulpit and by pamphleteering in the country. The religious leaders by themselves however could not have created the present state of affairs in Pakistan.

It is a sequence of historical events which cannot be neatly established in a chain of cause and effect but nevertheless has created a cumulative impact of such a force as to have threatened the very raison d'etre of the country. Significant turning points are the Objectives Resolution, the campaign of militant religious leaders against Ayub Khan regime, and massive compromises made by Z.A. Bhutto with the religious leaders. Then of course the country went through eleven years of rule by General Ziaul Haq, and post-Ziaul Haq period is still alive and well, including the 18th Amendment. Many parts of this story are familiar to the informed reader, but it needs to be re-told to refresh our perspective. In this article, I propose to confine my discussion to the Objectives Resolution leaving the other subjects for a later opportunity.

On the eve of the establishment of Pakistan, the founder of Pakistan and President of the new Constituent Assembly, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, offered his vision for the new country where the citizens might belong to any caste, creed or religion, but it would have nothing to do with the business of the state....because that was the personal faith of each individual... The question whether it was a clear call for the establishment of a secular state is difficult to answer (he had tolerated Islamic slogans during the Pakistan movement). But putting together several speeches and statements he made in the course of the next few months, it seems that he anticipated Pakistan to be a Muslim state based on principles of Islamic justice, a state that could not commit itself to the mode of any major sect. Raja of Mahmudabad, who was a member of the Muslim League working committee and a long-time family friend, in his autobiography, also suggests that Jinnah's concept for Pakistan was of a Muslim state where no sectarian group was dominant over others.

Within six months after Jinnah's death, Liaquat Ali Khan who had been a loyal lieutenant in his high command introduced the Objectives Resolution to lay the foundation for a constitution for the country. The opening sentence of the Resolution confirms the limits for the state as prescribed by God who has sovereignty over the entire universe. It declares that by His authority delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in accordance with Islam, and that adequate provisions shall be made for the minorities to profess and practise their religion freely. It also affirms the principles of democracy, freedom, equality and social justice.

Obviously the thrust of the Objectives Resolution contradicts the vision of Jinnah as mentioned above. The question is whether it was Jinnah's vision or Liaquat Ali Khan's image about future Pakistan which represented the true aspirations of Pakistanis of that generation. The developments that followed the Resolution would be important to establish the context in this regard. For this purpose, we can focus on the main highlights of the period from 1950 when Basic Principles Committee (BPC) started the task of constitution-making to 1956 when the first constitution was enforced.

A part of the answer is easily available. If Pakistan according to the Resolution was a religious expression (to borrow the phrase from Lawrence Ziring), then the members of the Constituent Assembly should have started to ponder over the process by which this expression was to be actually realised. The main business which occupied the attention of the members, however, was on issues such as joint versus separate electoral system, or how to establish weight system in voting to correct the demographic imbalance between East and West Pakistan. A political impasse had completely engulfed the Assembly and the crisis of constitution-making came to an end mercifully with the dissolution of the Assembly in October 1954 albeit by a different power play by the top leadership.

But another development took place in the meantime that cast a deep shadow on the matter, known as the anti-Ahmaddiya riots which took place in Lahore in 1953. The Ahmadis also referred to as Qadianis and Mirzais are followers of what all mainstream Muslims consider as an apostate. A political group from the pre-partition times, Majlis-i-Ahrar was openly suggesting that the Ahmadis should be declared as kafirs, a view widely shared by all religious leaders. A shooting of an Ahmadi in Quetta triggered disturbances across the country and turned into serious riots in Lahore. A court of inquiry was established with Justices Muhammad Munir and M.R. Kayani to enquire into these Punjab disturbances. The Munir Report as it is known is a sobering document, and is quite relevant in the context of the present culture of intolerance prevailing in Pakistan.

The Munir Report clearly underlines the fact that it was Liaquat Ali Khan's image that prevailed. On the question of Islamic state, for example, the court read out excerpts from Jinnah's vision about Pakistan and asked the religious leaders attending the enquiry about their views about it. They unanimously said that first, they did not agree with this vision and secondly, that it had been made obsolete by the Objectives Resolution. But the Report also publicised further that the religious leaders were not only unfit to run a modern state but 'the world was presented with a sorry spectacle of Muslim divines no two of whom agreed on the definition of a Muslim, and yet were practically unanimous that all who disagreed should be put to death' (W.C. Smith, Islam in Modern History).

Dr. I.H. Qureshi, who was the chief author of the Objectives Resolution was a well known academic historian. On the question of place of non-Muslims in an Islamic state there was a growing literature available which must have been familiar to him. For example, Professor Hamidullah of Osmania University, Hyderabad, Deccan, had written a comprehensive article on the Charter of Madina (“Dunya ka sub say pahla tahriri dastoor — world's first written code) in which a code of equal rights of citizenship between Muslims and Jews had been prepared by the Holy Prophet. It is safe to assume that this document was familiar to I.H. Qureshi. It is a puzzle that the top leadership of the Muslim League consisted of men who were familiar with Jinnah's position about equality of citizenship and they ignored it. As Dr. Qureshi himself observed, there was no pressure for this action; the Resolution was quickly prepared and passed 'in a snap' at a meeting of the Muslim League Party.

In any case, the Basic Principles Committee of the Constituent Assembly produced three draft constitutions, first in 1950 under Liaquat Ali Khan as the prime minister, and the other two in 1953 and 1954. The first draft suggested inclusion of Objectives Resolution as a Directive Principle of State Policy, subject to the provision that this would not prejudice the incorporation of fundamental rights in the constitution at the proper place. In the second draft, under Khawaja Nazimuddin as prime minister the Resolution became a preamble to the constitution, and was kept in that place for third draft as well. Also a procedure was incorporated emphasising the “repugnancy” clause (i.e. all laws should be in line with teachings of Islam) and declaring Pakistan as an Islamic Republic, not an Islamic state. The business of the second Constituent Assembly came to an end with 1956 constitution, which kept a balance between the secular and the religious.

When the Objectives Resolution was introduced, the country was known as Pakistan, not Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Its structure was republican and in line with the Indian Independence Act 1947. This structure is still western and democratic, and distinction between Muslims and minorities is out of tune with it. Pakistan has not succeeded in reconciling these two conflicting objectives. In this sense, the religious leaders have a consistent position. Their concept of Islamic state leaves the decision-making to a few 'pious' citizens — to rule by 'consensus' according to Abul A'la Maudoodi. And for the rest, Khuda knows best. Or, is it Allah, for orthodox Sunnis!