Objectives Resolution: Logical Culmination or Building Block?

The creation of Pakistan was a culmination of the ‘Indian Muslim National Project’ that was started by Muslim Elites primarily based in UP. It was bound to be a country where religion took center stage in the political arena. Led by a charismatic, populist British lawyer, All India Muslim League was a hotchpotch of landed gentry and titled aristocracy. The Second World War paved the way for an early exit by the British and handed a historic chance to Indian leaders to decide their destiny. It is difficult to predict if a ‘United India’ would have survived for some time in the absence of British interlocutors since fratricide and ethnic cleansing in Potohar had started much before the actual partition. The Muslim Elite (Ashraf) that founded Pakistan decided that the country would be an ideological state, the ideology was chosen to be Islam. Not because the elite overwhelmingly consisted of Islamists (with a few exceptions) but because religion is an easy way to manipulate people. The Khilafat movement had provided a glimpse of what mixing religion and politics could achieve and Muslim Leaguers were well-aware of its power, which is why they used the ‘Islam in Danger’ card during the 1945 election.

Objectives Resolution was the foundation on which this building was to be erected. It was presented a few months after Mr. Jinnah had passed away so minimal opposition was expected. It was the first effort of its kind among the newly established Muslim-majority nation states. One could argue that even if the Objectives Resolution was not passed when it was, situation in Pakistan would have been similar to what it is today. I completely agree with this sentiment but now that we have a starting point, we should examine what happened there and if it would have been possible somewhere along the line to course-correct. There are more reasons than one to explain Pakistani society’s ‘right-ward’ turn including Islamisation from the top, financial requirements (we always needed Dollars or Riyals in absence of a proper industrial base) and opposition to a ‘Hindu’ India. One factor that is implored much less is what I call ‘de-novo Islamisation’, i.e. Islamisation from below, by Islamic organizations in different guises. Outside of big cities such as Karachi, Pakistanis were always religious and conservative. It didn’t occur with Zia and Objectives Resolution before him. I fail to explain why ‘modernization’ has only been tried under military dictators while most politicians (despite being secular in private) turned religious in public, once they were in power. Anyhow, I wanted to plug a two-part commentary I wrote on the proceedings of Constituent Assembly following the presentation of Objectives Resolution by Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan.

Objectives resolution, Part 1: http://dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/03-Jul-17/objectives-resolution-i

Excerpts in Italics..

In this milieu, Objectives Resolution was a pioneering effort to define and crystallise Muslim Nationalism and an effort to ‘Islamise’ the society. This effort naturally faced opposition from members of the assembly who didn’t belong to the Muslim faith and were not enthused by the wording of this resolution. The debates that took place foreshadowed discussions about the Islamist-secular dichotomy as well as the status of minorities in a Muslim-majority society and role of religion in a society that had barely recovered from the shock of a violent partition based on religious affinity.

Objectives Resolution, Part 2: http://dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/06-Jul-17/objectives-resolution-ii

Following is a concise account of the reaction that the Resolution garnered among members of the Assembly.

Bhupendra Kumar Datta said that if this Resolution is approved, it will open the door to political adventurers such as Yuan Shikai (Chinese General who attempted restoration of monarchy while crowning himself the Emperor) or Bacha Sakka (Habibullah Kalakani, an Afghan warrior who briefly became the King).

He warned against the deification of the state, citing Nazi Germany as an example. He delineated the core problem of mixing religion and politics as: “All our religious scriptures are subject to different interpretations by different theologians and divines. It, therefore, becomes a difficult matter when you speak of those ‘limits’ prescribed by the Almighty.”

Prem Hari Barma said: “The Objectives Resolution is not meant only for Muslims but it is intended for non-Muslims of Pakistan also. If the Honourable Mover has in his mind any limitations stated in the Holy Quran or any other scripture of Islam, then those limitations are known to Muslims only”.

Kamini Kumar Datta said: “Though supreme sovereignty rests in God, God doesn’t rule directly. The people have to exercise the right of sovereignty through its chosen representatives.” He demanded an explanation of the concept of Zimmis and the status of minorities in Pakistan.

Other members of the assembly suggested different amendments to the Resolution. Dr Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Pakistan’s first Education Minister, defended the Resolution. He rejected the theory that faith and politics belong to different spheres of life.

Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani, a cleric with a dubious past, said in his speech: “It should not dismay us if we are branded as conservatives and reactionaries. We should try to unravel the tangled skein in the spirit of a seeker after truth”.

He went on to proclaim that “the Islamic state was the first political institution in the world which abolished imperialism and installed a caliph elected by the people in place of a king”.

He further elaborated upon his idea of an Islamic state as “a state which is run on the exalted and excellent principles of Islam. People who do not subscribe to those ideas may have a place in the administrative machinery of the state but they cannot be entrusted with the responsibility of framing the general policy of the state or dealing with matters vital to its safety and integrity”.

..

The penultimate speech was delivered by leader of the opposition, Sri Chandra Chattopadhyaya, who warned the ruling party in no uncertain terms what the future held for the country if the Resolution was passed without amendments.

His advice fell on deaf ears and all amendments were rejected by the Assembly. Pakistan officially took its first step towards becoming an ‘Islamic state’ on 12th March, 1949. The rest is history.

Thoughts welcome!

(Shall update the post soon!).

One thought on “Objectives Resolution: Logical Culmination or Building Block?”

  1. // It is difficult to predict if a ‘United India’ would have survived for some time in the absence of British interlocutors //

    Actually, it is not that difficult to predict, e.g. see India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha on how realistic the idea of United India was and how it would have been affected if, say, the Cabinet Mission Plan had been approved. Also read Babasaheb BR Ambedkar:
    http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/ambedkar_partition/

    A “United India” was a pipe dream (or a wet dream, depending on who’s the dreamer) in the 1930s. Acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan or some such power-sharing scheme by the Congress would have effectively Balkanized India, leading to a bloody sub-continental civil war that would have put the Balkan/Yugoslav wars to shame.

    With the creation of Pakistan, India solved the problems of Indian territorial coherence and the fate of (largely Muslim) feudals in the Indo-Gangetic heartland in one fell swoop. Pakistan became a convenient dumping ground for the Nawabs of UP and Central Provinces, and later Hyderabad. Obviously the price paid was the Partition of Punjab & Bengal (and the loss of Hindu-dominated cities like Lahore, Rawalpindi, Dhaka and Karachi).

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