Promises kept and broken — III

Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed

In this concluding article in the series on the Objectives Resolution I shall examine the extent to which promises made to the Muslims and minorities of Pakistan have been kept and broken. Let me underscore with great emphasis that I consider the Objectives Resolution the correct and authentic representation of the idea of Pakistan. The 11 August 1947 speech can be considered a variant of the same or a deviation and aberration which Jinnah himself took care of by having it removed from public discussion. He reverted to the modernist understanding of the relationship between Islam and Pakistan in his later pronouncements on this subject.

The pledge given to Pakistani Muslims to make Pakistan a Muslim state has been kept because the republic is named as the Islamic republic; the president is to be a Muslim; and all laws are to be brought into conformity with Quran and Sunna. On the interpretation of these pledges there is of course a difference of opinion between the modernists and the Islamists.

In the Objectives resolution Liaquat Ali Khan in response to a clarification demanded from the Hindu members of the Constituent Assembly said that a non-Muslim can be the prime minister of Pakistan. The National Assembly of Pakistan in 1973 adopted a constitution requiring both the president and prime minister to be Muslims. They were to take an oath confirming the doctrine of Khatam-e-Nabuwat (finality of the prophet hood of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

That not only disqualified conventional non-Muslims from holding that office but also Ahmadis. In 1974 the Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims by the elected members of the Pakistan National Assembly in which all the parties represented in the National Assembly voted for it.

Before they arrived at that conclusion the Ahmadi leader Mirza Nasir Ahmad reportedly confirmed when interrogated in Parliament that his community considered Muslims who did not accept Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet outside their idea of Islam.

Considering that the support and vote of the Ahmadis were sought to win the 1945-46 election, Sir Zafarulla was chosen to present the Muslim League claim to territory before the Punjab Boundary Commission; was made foreign minister and took part in the debate on the Objectives Resolution, while Nobel Prize winner Dr Abdus Salam was a prominent member of the science and nuclear policy of Pakistan Parliament and the Apex Court need to discuss if the declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslims in 1974 is consistent with the Objectives Resolution.

One way to bring the situation under control is to bring all mosques under state control. If Pakistan as an Islamic republic how come mosques function independently from the state? Iran and Saudi Arabia exercise strict control of mosques

The background to this problem is well-known. in the late 19th century in the Punjab Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed he was a prophet who received revelation, albeit without a new Sharia. That was unacceptable to the Sunnis and even Shias. After Pakistan came into being it was unavoidable and inevitable that if the constitution were to be based on Quran and Sunna the sectarian underpinnings of interpreting the sacred sources would need to be made explicit.

The Munir Report (page 196-197) noted that while the Ahrar and Jamaat-e-Islami spearheaded the anti-Ahmadi agitation of 1953 demanding that since the Ahmadis did not believe in Khatam-e-Nabuwat (finality of the Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) they should not hold key posts in Pakistan which was created for Muslims.

The Report also noted that the Barelvi Ulema and pirs, Deobandis, Ahle Hadith and Shia clerics too considered Mirza’s claims as heretical. It was also established that the Muslim League Government in Punjab led by Mumtaz Daultana was involved in that movement.

Equally, it mentioned that Ahmadi publications spoke of their conviction that the British would transfer power in Pakistan to them; that Ahmadi officers were abusing their official position to convert non-Ahmadis to their faith; and that Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad instructed his followers to use Balochistan as the base for spreading their faith. Such assertive and provocative behaviour provided their opponents an opportunity to demand them being declared non-Muslims.

In 1953 the central government under Khawaja Nazimuddin crushed the anti-Ahmadi movement with the help of the Pakistan Army. Ahmadi presence in the officer class was quite substantial. Since then the balance of power has shifted into the hands of Sunnis.

It is imperative that all mosques — Sunni, Shia or any other kind are brought directly under the jurisdiction of the state; the clerics should become paid state functionaries; their function should be to lead prayers according to their respective rites and rituals, but they should be barred from making political statements. The Friday Khutba (address to the worshippers) should be issued by the ministry of religious affairs. That will greatly help in making clear what is the policy of the state on the rights of Muslims and minorities

However, even if now Ahmadis have been placed among religious minorities they as well as Christians, Hindus and even Shias have been facing threats and attacks which can only be described as a breach of the promises of security and freedom given to them in the Objectives Resolution. The attacks on them are carried out by Muslim zealots belonging to so-called non-state actors.

One way to bring the situation under control is to bring all mosques under state control. If Pakistan as an Islamic republic how come mosques function independently of the state? Iran and Saudi Arabia exercise strict control of mosques, so does secular Turkey though secularism is now under threat in that country.

It is imperative that all mosques — Sunni, Shia or any other kind are brought directly under the jurisdiction of the state; the clerics should become paid state functionaries; their function should be to lead prayers according to their respective rites and rituals, but they should be barred from making political statements. The Friday khutba (address to the worshippers) should be issued by the ministry of religious affairs. That will greatly help in making clear what is the policy of the state on the rights of Muslims and minorities.

For years I have battled with myself to convince me that Pakistan can be a secular state with equal rights for all Pakistanis. I must now climb down from Platonic idealism and instead seek help in Aristotelian realism. I don’t think Pakistan can for the foreseeable future be a secular state. However, in the light of the Objectives Resolution we can demand that progressive and tolerant policies are adopted on the rights of Muslims and minorities.

In my opinion the achievements of a civilisation can be evaluated with the help of three criteria: how it treats women, how it treats minorities and it treats the poor. There is nothing to be proud of regarding the treatment of minorities and women. Mian Iftikharuddin deplore that the Objectives Resolution had made no concrete commitments to eliminating poverty. He was right. That omission has meant that the propertied classes have been the real beneficiaries of the creation of Pakistan.

Published in Daily Times, January 10, 2018.


About the Author:

Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University; Visiting Professor Government College University and Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He can be reached at billumian@gmail.com

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