The Undefined Equilibrium between Pakistan and Islam. Part 3: Objectives Resolution and subsequent yielding to the religious right

By Adnan Syed
Right after the birth of Pakistan, we witness the religious right starting to move en-masse to the new state. Simultaneously, a street pressure started being applied on the rulers to bring the new state under the umbrella of an entity called an Islamic state.
Religious right was clear where Muslim League was vague. The religious parties had started making it known that a democratic Muslim National State influenced just by Islamic ideals was not an acceptable substitute for a fully Islamic state governed under Sharia.
In February 1948, Maulana Moudoudi, while addressing the Law College, Lahore, demanded that the Constitutional Assembly should unequivocally declare:
1. That the sovereignty of the state of Pakistan vests in God Almighty and that the government of Pakistan shall be only an agent to execute the Sovereign’s Will
2. That the Islamic Sharia shall form the inviolable basic code for all legislation in Pakistan.
3. That all existing or future legislation which may contravene, whether in letter or in spirit, the Islamic Sharia shall be null and void and be considered ultravires of the constitution; and
4. That the powers of the government of Pakistan shall be derived from, circumscribed by and exercised within the limits of the Islamic Sharia alone.
At the same time, Jamiat-Ulema-Islam, led by Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, passed a resolution in Karachi. They wanted the government to appoint a leading Alim to the office of Shaikh-ul-Islam, with executive powers over the qazis all over the country. They also called for the Constituent Assembly to set up a committee consisting of eminent ulema and thinkers… to prepare a draft … and present it to the Assembly”[1]
By all means, the government of Liaqat Ali Khan was in a tough spot; the first Kashmir war with India was raging, and Pakistan had barely got enough funds for the government to keep operating. Quaid’s sudden death left a vast leadership vacuum. And now the right wing parties were swooping in to Islamize the same country that they either opposed, or had stood pat while Muslim League won the vote under the banner of Pakistan.
Under this immense pressure, we see the introduction of the Objectives Resolution taking place. There were two most important clauses of the resolution that caused considerable alarm:
1) 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
2) The principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed
Right away, we see every single non Muslim member of the Constituent Assembly opposing the resolution.  Birat Chandra Mandal said: “Jinnah had unequivocally said that Pakistan will be a secular state.” Bhupendra Kumar Datta went a step further: “…was this resolution to come before this house within the life-time of the Great Creator of Pakistan, the Quaid-i-Azam, it would not have come in its present shape”” [2]
The ensuing heated discussion brought to light the thinking that was employed by the ruling party. It gives a fascinating insight into the mind of Khan Liaqat Ali Khan and his important government ministers. We find it quite interesting that though LAK kept invoking his distaste for complete Islamization of Pakistan, his idea of the democratic Muslim state for Pakistan never dealt with any specifics.
Khan Liaqat Ali Khan said: “I would like to remind the house that the Father of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam, gave expression of his feelings on this matter on many an occasion, and his views were endorsed by the nation in unmistakable terms, Pakistan was founded because the Muslims of this sub-continent wanted to build up their lives in accordance with the teachings and traditions of Islam, because they wanted to demonstrate to the world that Islam provides a panacea to the many diseases which have crept into the life of humanity today”
Dr. Omar Hayat Malik gave his view on the idea of an Islamic democracy: “The principles of Islam and the laws of Islam as laid down in the Quran are binding on the State. The people or the state cannot change these principles or these laws…but there is a vast field besides these principles and laws in which people will have free play…it might be called by the name of ‘theo-cracy’, that is democracy limited by word of God, but as the word ‘theo’ is not in vogue so we call it by the name of Islamic democracy”
The two statements by the ruling party members give us an indication that the confusion about the exact role of Islam in Pakistan was raging just 18 months after the birth of Pakistan. Omar Hayat Malik’s comments imply that Islamic Democracy was equivalent to a milder theocracy. Non Muslim members pointed out that Quaid’s version of liberal democratic Muslim state was more akin to a secular state than anything else.
If the confusion about Quaid’s vision of Pakistan was not enough, we see PM Khan Liaqat Ali Khan further stating in a heated Objectives Resolution debate that “the Muslim League has only fulfilled half of its mission (and that) the other half of its mission is to convert Pakistan into a laboratory where we could experiment upon the principles of Islam to enable us to make a contribution to the peace and progress of mankind”.
“Liaqat Ali Khan was hopeful that even if the body of the constitution had to be mounted in the chassis of Islam, the vehicle would go in the direction he had already chosen. Thus he seemed quite sure that Islam was on the side of democracy. He further said “As a matter of fact it has been recognized by non-Muslims throughout the world that Islam is the only society where there is real democracy”[3]
At the same time LAK vowed to make Pakistan a truly liberal government where greatest amount of freedom will be given to its members and everyone will be equal before the law.
A theme that LAK consistently invoked was that the concept of priesthood is not present in Islam. Professor Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi explained the concept of Islamic democracy as the closest substitute to secularism since the “priest-craft was not present in Islam”.
The Muslim League leaders were invoking a Catholic Church styled central religious institution that controlled or influenced the governments or kingdoms during the Middle Ages. Islam has a different decentralized structure than Catholic Christianity that the leaders were looking at. They failed to acknowledge a substantial body of Muslim personal and civil code called Sharia that the Islamic leaders were already calling to be enforced across Pakistan.
Even then, we see that there are serious problems with the concepts of Muslim Socialism or Liberal Muslim democracy that the Muslim League speakers invoked time and again. These terms are highly nebulous, allow for no core conceptualization around which the nation can be effectively rallied. The absence of a concrete vision of the social/liberal Muslim fabric is the reason why the religious right kept incessant pressure on the main political parties in Pakistan to turn towards a seemingly better defined version of an Islamic rule based on Sharia.
LAK however took frequent pains to assure the Assembly that this resolution did not mean to convert Pakistan into a theocratic state. In his subsequent tour of the United States, he explained many times that Pakistan was not meant to become a theocracy.
Let us now admit that Khan Liaqat Ali Khan’s assertions seem quite well intentioned, but they also seem mutually contradictory. The assertion that real democracy and Islam have been one and the same is not supported by history. His assertion that there was no danger of theocracy, since people are recipients of power vested to them by the Almighty, seems dangerously naïve.
We see yet again the undefined concept of Muslim democracy around which Khan Liaqat Ali Khan was trying to base his argument. This concept was, and still is extremely vague about the central question that plagues Pakistan to this day: How much Islam, what part of Islam, what version of Islam?
One of the non-Muslim Constituent Assembly members, Sri Chandra Chattopadhyay then finished his heartfelt speech with the following solemn words that ring true still 60 years later. We must remember that Sri Chattopadhyay was representing the Hindus that represented 25% of the then East Pakistan population.
“I do not consider myself as a member of the minority community. I consider myself as one of seven crores of Pakistanis. Let me retain that privilege.
I sadly remind myself of the great words of the Quaid-e-Azam that in state affairs the Hindu 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 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-e-Azam (may his soul rest in peace), nor even that of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Honourable Mr Liaqat Ali Khan but of the Ulemas of the land.
This Resolution in its present form epitomizes 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 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?
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 honourable life. After this what advice shall I tender? What heart can I have to persuade the people to maintain a stout heart?
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.
I am an old man not very far from my eternal rest. I am capable of forgetting all injuries. I bear you no ill will. I wish you saw reason. Even as it is, may no evil come your way. May you prosper, may the newly-born State of Pakistan be great and get its proper place in the comity of nations”.
A stinging critique of Objectives Resolution was penned by Justice Munir and Justice Kiyani in the aftermath of 1953 riots. Justice Munir has earned his notoriety due to his infamous “Doctrine of Necessity” approval. However, this document was co-penned by the brilliant Justice M.R. Kiyani, and the document has the distinction of one of the first official studies that looked at the insidious effects of religiosity permeating the young Pakistani nation.
The Munir-Kiyani report analyzed the chaos that had ensued as religious parties resorted to mass violence to get Qadianis kicked officially out of the fold of Islam. The report runs to more than 350 pages and gives us the very first ideas of how the religious right protesting for Islam in Pakistan was itself unsure of the exact concept of an Islamic state. The two justices asked renowned Muslim religious leaders to gauge the ideas of an Islamic ideal state that “everyone talks about but nobody thinks”. The religious leaders invoked the time of prophet, four Caliphs, occasional dynastic rulers from select Ummiyaads to Salahuddin Ayubi to Aurangzeb Alamgir. They even talked about an untested and undetermined form of government that would be formulated at a later date. We do have a famous exchange with Master Taj-uddin Ansari which went something like this:
“Q. Was Khilafat with you a matter of religious conviction or just a political movement?
A. It was purely a religious movement.
Q. Did the Khilafat movement have the support of Mr. Gandhi?
A. Yes.
Q. What was the object of the Khilafat movement?
A. British were injuring the Khilafat institution in Turkey and the Musalman was aggrieved by this attitude of the British.
Q. Was not the object of the movement to resuscitate the Khilafat among the Musalmans?
A. No.
Q. Is Khilafat with you a necessary part of Muslim form of Government?
A. Yes.
Q. Are you, therefore, in favour of having a Khilafat in Pakistan?
A. Yes.
Q. Can there be more than one Khalifa of the Muslims?
A. No.
Q. Will the Khalifa of Pakistan be the Khalifa of all the Muslims of the world?
A. He should be but cannot be.”[4]
The Report goes into a fascinating detail on the ideals that underpin the concept of Islamic state (pages 200-230 are an excellent read). Right away the authors were able to get religious leader to agree and establish that:
1) An Islamic state that has to comply with the Islamic ideals, will not be democratic at all
2) “An Islamic State cannot in this sense be sovereign, because it will not be competent to abrogate, repeal or do away with any law in the Qur’an or the Sunnah[5]
3) All Muslim ulema agreed that the position of non-Muslims in an Islamic Pakistan would be that of either dhimmis, mo’ahids, or non-citizens and they would not have equal rights compared to their Muslim counterparts
4) The panel asked more than a dozen leading religious leaders on a simple definition of “What defines a Muslim?” After writing down the disjointed replies from all respondents, the authors wryly commented on the results: “Keeping in view the several definitions given by the ulema, need we make any comment except that no two learned divines are agreed on this fundamental. If we attempt our own definition as each learned divine has done and that definition differs from that given by all others, we unanimously go out of the fold of Islam. And if we adopt the definition given by any one of the ulema, we remain Muslims according to the view of that alim but kafirs according to the definition of everyone else”.
5) One of the most illuminating parts of the inquiry was the discussion of the concept of Jihad. Several ulema chimed in with their ideas about the House of Peace (Islamic Nation) vs. House of War/infidels. The ideas of Jihad and how an Islamic state may be in a perpetual state of war against the infidels is the first chilling glimpse into the events that may unfold under an Islamic Republic. Those answers in 1954 gives us the first preview as well as understanding of the instability that a religiously mandated Jihad invokes and how Pakistan has been at the center of the conflict that has been fought in the name of Jihad.
The Munir-Kiyani report further established that Objectives Resolution was nothing but a feeble attempt by our leaders to appease the religious right. It also established that the religious leaders themselves had no clear idea of what system it wanted to introduce to replace the progressive Pakistan that Quaid had dreamed of. The religious right scoffed at the idea of simple sovereignty being accorded to God, and treated Objectives Resolution as “hoax”; in their minds it was a token gesture by the center leaning government to relieve the pressure being applied on them.
We see this pattern repeated again and again as popular leaders yield to the religious right demands. The religious parties that have been active in the political arena in Pakistan have never gained more than single digit percentage votes. Yet their street pressure has never failed to exert itself in every single decade in Pakistani history.
Unsurprisingly, during the next six decades, the opaqueness regarding the role of religions stayed uncomfortably in the midst of Pakistani consciousness. Islam was made state religion, and then removed, then made the state religion again. Politicians kept invoking Islam either to stay in power, or to bring others down. Pakistan tried to use Islam as a cohesive force, only to see that East Pakistan broke away within the first 24 years of our existence with Islam barely making even a feeble impact. Bhutto tried to appease the religious right by officially declaring Ahmedis non-Muslims, a truly shameful machination on his part to appease religious vote. He quickly found the same religious right looking to get rid of Bhutto in the name of “Nizam-e-Mustafa (Order of the Prophet)”.
And then we got probably the worst of our leaders when General Zia-ul-Haq vowed to enforce Nizam-e-Islam, created Sharia Benches, ran his religious inspired government with the full backing of the main religious parties as he altered the penal code to introduce blasphemy, apostasy, and adultery punishments. General Zia-ul-Haq not only Islamized the country, he was the first to start the process of armed Jihad by Pakistan in the name of Islam. Since Islam and Pakistan were the same, the Jihad and Pakistan were the same. As Afghan Jihad finished, the previous Communist opponent retreated, Afghanistan turned into a living nightmare, and the Jihad slowly turned towards the West. And now Pakistan is facing the same nihilistic Jihadis who want Pakistan to either join their ranks, or turn her back and keep mum about the Jihad.
We did not lose our way in the 1990s, or after September 11, 2001, or when General Zia-ul-Haq started Islamizing the country, or when East Pakistan broke away from us. We probably started losing our way on March 7, 1949 when we first went against the ideals of progressive democratic Pakistan espoused by Quaid. When we first yielded to the Islamic parties who had been agitating on the streets of Lahore and Karachi, Pakistan took the fateful step into the dangerous waters that the Quaid had warned Raja Mahmudabad in early 1940s: “Did you know there are over seventy sects and differences of opinion regarding the Islamic faith, and if what the Raja was suggesting (Islamic state with Sunnah and Sharia as its bedrock) was to be followed, the consequences would be a struggle of religious opinion from the very inception of the State leading to its very dissolution”.
Tomorrow: The Unsustainable Equilibrium


[3] ibid
[4] Report of the Court of Inquiry constituted under Punjab Act II of 1954 to enquire into the Punjab disturbances of 1953
[5] ibid


Filed under Islam, Jinnah's Pakistan, Pakistan

16 responses to “The Undefined Equilibrium between Pakistan and Islam. Part 3: Objectives Resolution and subsequent yielding to the religious right

  1. YLH

    Brilliant…. it is PTH’s great honor and privilege that this series is being published here first.

    I am sure this series will become iconic one day in terms of authors who have written on this topic.

    Well done sir.

  2. Gorki

    I have never read anything in a long time that I found as fascinating as the above series.

    Like others have pointed out earlier, I don’t want to say much till the last part is posted so as not to break the spell.

    The only thing I must say though is that among all the things associated with the partition that are considered tragedies, none comes close to even match one major tragedy that I think towers above all:
    To have lost the human capital that is men like Adnan, BC and YLH.

    With apologies to PMA Sahib, let me unabashedly acknowledge this fact at least this one time; that my heart swells with pride to think that all of the above named gentlemen, (and hopefully many more like them) are a product of a syncretic civilization that evolved over the last 1000 years in the land that I and my ancestors proudly call home.

    You all make me feel good about who I am.


  3. YLH

    Gorki sb,

    The prototype of the products of this syncretic civilization- one barrister who was nothing he was not an Indian- was first rejected by India (1929, 1937, 1946) and then by Pakistan (1949, 1956, 1958, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1984, 1991 and 1999). Today we are trying to revive Pakistan’s true heritage in Pakistan… we hope that you will do the same in India.

  4. YLH

    One query… was Liaqat Ali Khan … “Khan Liaqat Ali Khan”… I thought he was Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan.

  5. Majumdar

    Brilliant trilogy!!!


  6. AZW

    @ Gorki Sahib:

    May we have healthy rivalries in cricket, hockey, other sports, and more importantly in human and economic progress for many many decades to come. May both India and Pakistan shine as nations that have not only shared several millenia long history, but will also share a long and peaceful future together as progressive neighbour nations. Your gracious words are more than we deserve, but are humbly appreciated.

    @ Yasser:

    I have heard the name Khan Liaqat Ali Khan, along with Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan quite often. Can’t find a documented source right now for the first one, will get back to you when I do.

  7. bonobashi

    There are some works that are so self-evident that they burst on our consciousness with some force. This account, with its clarity and truthfulness so apparent, so palpable as almost to hurt, is one such.

    I can only await the fourth instalment with some fear; is it possible to keep to these standards for yet a fourth piece? No, it is not; and yet, how I hope it will be.

    And notwithstanding YLH’s just indignation at lost opportunities and at the slights of the past, I endorse Gorki’s comments entirely. As far as the rest is concerned, we shall keep the faith, Yasser.

  8. PMA

    Gorki (October 18, 2009 at 9:33 am):

    In response to your unfortunate comment, I will repeat the words of AZW:

    “May we have healthy rivalries in cricket, hockey, other sports, and more importantly in human and economic progress for many many decades to come. May both India and Pakistan shine as nations that have not only shared several millennia long history, but will also share a long and peaceful future together as progressive neighbour nations.”

    You, sir have not lost the human capital that is men like Adnan, BC and YLH. Your presence here at PTH and healthy participation validates that. These worthy men are not just product of a one “syncretic civilization that evolved over the last 1000 years in the land that [you] and [your]ancestors proudly call home.” These gentlemen, like yourself, reflect the best humanity and human evolution has to offer. We Pakistanis are lucky in the sense that we benefit from more than one civilization. We benefit from what lies to our east, north and west simultaneously; a fact often missed by our eastern neighbors. But let us not side track from what Adnan Syed has to say.

  9. PMA

    Dear Adnan Syed: I was one of the few who requested you to compose your thoughts here at PTH in to a comprehensive narrative. I am so glad that you have done so. With regards. PMA.

  10. Junaid

    Those who liked the series should also read the book

    Pakistans Drift into Extremism by Hassan Abbas. A very well researched book written in a very impartial and unbiased way.

  11. Hayyer

    It is like reading a thriller. What happens next? I fear the crime will never be solved. Rather, as in post modern novels we may be asked to choose between alternative endings.
    I reserve further comment till it is all in.

  12. Bloody Civilian

    PMA sb

    many thankx for your humbling comments as far as i’m concerned. i’d consider it an honour to follow where you and others like you here will lead. indeed, that’s what i’ve been trying to do.

    and many thanks for asking and encouraging adnan to write this. we expected it to be really good and fill a gap that desperately needed to be filled. but we didn’t know how he would exceed all our expectations.

  13. Bloody Civilian

    LAK claimed there was no clergy in islam. of course, by that he meant that such was the theoretical position. in the real world, every village had at least one cleric. who were the muslims who bitterly opposed the pakistan movement and the muslim league if not the clergy! who was he trying to appease and hoping to undercut, if not the same ‘ulema’!

    but this stupidity (ie appeasement) never undercuts the mullah. it always strengthens them. the mullahs went ahead and used the anti-qadiani agitation to regain political ground that they had lost as a result of the success of the pakistan movement…. using the OR – which only had political and no legal effect – as a platform.

    bhutto tried to steal the maulvis’ thunder. he ended up complaining to his ministers, in frustration, about how the malvis and not the ppp was getting the credit for the 2nd amendment. kausar niazi and a couple of others were given the task to go around and have the credit returned to its rightful owner – the ppp. needless to say they failed miserably.

    again, instead of stealing their thunder or upstaging them, bhutto further emboldened and strengthened the mullahs. they used the strength against him. they did the same to zia, in fact. they had abandoned him after the first few years, and supported little other than his afghan jihad.

    maulvis’ first and foremost loyalty is to maulviyat. islam and pakistan are secondary to that primary interest. LAK would have been much better off in accepting and confronting front on the reality that such a vested interest and class existed in islam like it does in all organised religions.

  14. Gorki

    PMA Sahib:

    First all thank you for inspiring Adnann and others to write this article series. As I have mentioned before, the PTH has a great lineup of young lions and with a coach and guide like you it can only get even better.

    Secondly, thank you for your earlier post.
    The fact that you (and others like you on the PTH) overlook the fact that often other Indians show up from time to time on the PTH only to gloat or hurl abuse; yet still acknowledge and welcome us is very appreciated.

    I am looking forwards to your and other comments once the fourth article in the series is posted.


  15. Majumdar

    Re: Breakup of a civilisation etc.

    There is no denying the fact that the whole region from Hindu Kush to Arakan Yoma and from Himalayas to Indian Ocean is a single geographical entity, that there are huge cultural linkages between the people who stay here, strong historical bonds and historically strong trade links. Surely much can be said about the advantages of uniting the whole region under a single political entity.

    Unfortunately, the time for such a union or even confederation was not ready in 1935 or 1947 and is even less so now. The main reason being the strong Hindoo-Moslem angularities. Until all the SAARC nations evolve towards a common level of prosperity, democratic governance and separation of state from religion and where the bulk of the citizenry consign their faith to a personal creed, such a union is impossible- the best we can hope is to have an ASEAN like forum and free trade area.

    At the risk of sounding too filmy, I have to repeat a popular saying- “If you love someone set her free, if she comes back to you she was always yours, if not she was never yours” That shud have happened in 1947 with an open, ungrudging acceptance of Pakistan by Hindoos particularly.

    In my opinion, the 1947 style partition with some modifications which I have suggested in an earlier thread which wud have ensured the greatest possible separation of the Hindoo and Moslem communities- with the consolidation of all Hindoos under one state and consolidation of almost 75% of subcontinental Moslems into two sovereign states and complete absence of any territorial issues would have been the best solution for the region’s political problems. The three states wud initially stayed aloof as distant neighbours each focussed with its own huge problems with little motivation or need to interfere with the neighbour. Eventually all the states and their citizens wud have woken up to the advantages of closer co-operation and cultural linkages and aloofness wud have been replaced with something warmer.

    If the subcontinent was destined to have been united a fair amount of unity wud already have been achieved. If not the three nations wud have been living as aloof but not hostile neigbours by now.

    and then by Pakistan (1949, 1956, 1958, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1984, 1991 and 1999).

    Whew!!! On almost every possible ocassion.

    A question to all AIML supporters then. Can we seriously blame INC for rejecting a vision which the AIML/Muslims themselves did not believe in?

    Btw, I notice that 1970-71 has been missed out as a rejection of Jinnah (pbuh). But didnt Jinnah sahib’s vision incorporate regional autonomy as much as secularism?


  16. absolutely brilliant write up.