In one major way, the most pernicious legacy of the Ziaul Haq 8th amendment to the 1973 Constitution, which still litters that document, is the Objectives Resolution. Zia made this the annex and thus a substantive part of the mangled and mashed constitution which oversees our lives. It was originally put in as a preamble by constitution-maker Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and thus figures twice.
The Objectives Resolution is legislation, which, it is safe to say, would never have been permitted by the country’s founder-maker Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It came into being in March 1949, a mere six months after his death, when his loyal lieutenants succumbed to the pressures of the religious right in its bid to impose its will on a country, the formation of which it had either opposed or stood by silently and watched, while the Muslim League struggled. If we are to take as our guideline Jinnah’s famed address of August 11, 1947 to the constituent assembly, when he declared that faith, caste or creed were to be put aside and all were to be equal citizens of one country, and, most importantly, that religion was not the business of the state, the Resolution negated all that he had
The most ominous words spoken that bleak March day when the Resolution was passed by the same constituent assembly that had heard Jinnah, were spoken by a Hindu citizen of Pakistan, Sri Chattopadhyay, who represented 25 per cent of the-then population of East Pakistan: “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-i-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 is not the voice of the great creator of Pakistan – the Quaid-i-Azam, 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 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 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?”
The waves indeed swept through the country, with the first manifestations of intolerance, bigotry and their accompanying violence coming in 1953, with the anti-Ahmadi riots in Punjab. The rot grew like the proverbial dragon seeds and was given full impetus in 1977 when socialist democrat Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (who throughout his life showed few signs of fanatic zealotry) miserably surrendered to the mullah fraternity in the hope that he could cling on to a fast disappearing power seat. From then on, with the advent of General Ziaul Haq and his noxious brand of religion, the descent has been swift.
Those who followed were hand in glove with the forces of darkness, the enemies of tolerance. Jinnah’s Pakistan has virtually ceased to exist, but a few still hope it has not yet been interred forever. What does need to be interred forever is the Objectives Resolution.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2010.