The Shakespearean Ides of March is historically related to patrimonial coups and cantankerous deceits. In Pakistan’s short and checkered history, March is perennially of political significance that revitalizes the medieval European drama.
Come 2013; pending general elections, indecisive political establishment and an interim government that has no time to be forewarned, bear semblance to the tradition of overriding self interests at the cost of the state. As Pakistan celebrates its 73 years of Lahore Resolution and 57 years of its first constitution, it is opportune to peep into the past with objectivism and contemplate why the ‘Pakistan that was envisaged’ by its founding fathers is not the ‘Pakistan that is’?
On 23 March 1956, Pakistan adopted its first constitution transforming itself from a Dominion under the British Empire to Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It was a 234 Article compromise document that took shape in fits and starts after the adoption of the Objective Resolution that displaced the League’s Creed of the Lahore Resolution. The document was a still born effort at providing a federal system based on the principals of parity between East and West Pakistan on the model of the British Parliament. In contradiction to federalism, the constitution comprised a single chamber paving way for the center to take unilateral action in emergencies, curtailing provincial autonomy and denying devolution. It also declared that no law could be passed against the spirit of The Holy Quran and Sunnah and alienated Pakistanis on the basis of religion. Both Bengali and Urdu were declared national languages. In commemoration, 23rdMarch was declared a national holiday called the Republic Day. On 7 October 1958, President Mirza staged a coup, abrogated the constitution and imposed martial law. On 27 October, General Ayub Khan deposed Mirza and assumed the Presidency. Though the constitution barely lasted over two years, it opened enough fissures in Pakistan’s politic and federal body that ultimately cost the division of Pakistan in 1971. It also resulted in the rise of sub nationalist movements. The issues of the federation including FATA and Balochistan despite three constitutions and scores of amendments have yet to be resolved.
In sharp contrast to Lahore Resolution passed by All India Muslim League in Lahore from 23-24 March 1940, the 1956 constitution was a conspicuous disconnect that successive governments in Pakistan failed to address. Seen in the context of this argument, what Sheikh Mujeeb had demanded was a logical reiteration of the Lahore Resolution. As history proves, Pakistan had to pay a heavy cost for resigning the Lahore Resolution to history. Had this Muslim League Creed become a preamble to the constitution, Pakistan’s evolution would have taken a different and synergetic course. Distorted attempts by Ayub Khan to revive it in the folds of the Two Nation Theory are seen by critics as at distortion and not correcting history.
In terms of the national holiday, the Republic Day during Ayub Khan’s government was first changed to ‘Pakistan and Republic Day’ to its present name as ‘Pakistan Resolution Day’. In reality, 23rd March is a grim reminder of how a military dictator subverted the dates of a democratic and constitutional process to eclipse his unconstitutional act of abrogating a constitution. Why Ayub Khan resorted to such a measure is also a manifestation of the growing tensions with the East Pakistan led political establishment under prime Minster Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy who favoured relations with China and USSR in contrast to the growing military relations between Pakistan Army and the United States for a bulwark against communism.
Within the above context, it is important that every Pakistani views the abrogation of Pakistan’s first constitution as an attempt by the military to preserve its corporatism and plunge Pakistan into unending constitutional and political crises. Having become interventionist, the proverbial military on a horseback continues to patrol our society. For whatever little it was worth, had the 1956 constitution been given a chance, it could have morphed into an effective document of federalism ensuring integrity of Pakistan and its institutions. Alas for the opportunist! It was prudent to board the containment bandwagon with complete disregard to the fallouts on psycho-social fabric of Pakistani society.
The true historical context of the Lahore Resolution and constitutionalism in Pakistan is hidden from the people of Pakistan due to the deliberate historical distortions introduced by centers of power. Deficient of political logic, these successive regimes resorted to paying lip service to religion as hedge to elitist interests thereby creating fault lines and dissections in the politic body. Consequently, the question to define Lahore Resolution warrants incisive analysis.
According to K K Aziz, there were 88 variations of the partition of India before Dr. Muhammad Iqbal gave an idea of a Muslim State at his Allahabad address of 1930. Most historians and events thereof indicate that Allama Iqbal and other leaders of All India Muslim League envisioned a Muslim Province within the British Empire and therefore within the Indian Union. In 1933, Qaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah dismissed Chaudary Rehmat Ali’s idea of ‘Pakistan: Our Fatherland’. After the elections of 1937, faced with Nehru’s intransience and mocking, Qaid e Azam realized the inevitability of diverting his movement to the Muslim majority areas and with it, the importance of regional politicians.
The original draft of the Lahore Resolution was prepared by Punjab’s Unionist Chief Minister Sikandar Hayat, who later withdrew on the pretext that he did not wish Punjab to be divided. After a series of modifications under Shaheed Liaqat Ali Khan, the final draft was presented before the League convention by Bengali Leaguers, A K Fazlul Huq seconded by Choudhury Khaliquzzaman. It is important to note that the resolution made no mention of religion, had a vague demand of state(s) and talked of Muslim majority areas. This meant that the League’s real constituents, the Muslims in Hindu Majority areas were being ignored in favour of Muslim majority areas. It appears that the League at that point was envisioning autonomy and not partition. On 24th March 1940 the Resolution was adopted. The Hindu press cynically called it the Pakistan Resolution. The Sindh Assembly was the first British Indian legislature to pass the resolution in favour of Pakistan. G M Syed, an influential Sindhi activist, revolutionary and Sufi presented it. On 15 April 1941 the Lahore Resolution was incorporated as a creed in the constitution of the All-India Muslim League. Post 1946, the movement for Pakistan intensified resulting in its creation in 1947.
Post 1947, a cardinal piece of Muslim League’s legal and constitutional history was resigned to history. Had the politicians of Pakistan continued to adhere to this creed after the death of Qaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s history could have been different.
Once we as Pakistanis pledge ourselves to the vision of Jinnah’s Pakistan, we are bound by our integrity to revisit the Lahore Resolution as the first step to reclaiming it.
Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.
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On Fri, Mar 15, 2013 at 5:21 PM, Samson Simon Sharaf <email@example.com> wrote:
Dear Amrah.Submitted for publication.RegardsBrigadier (R) Samson Simon Sharaf
THE COMMUNAL INFERNO
It happened umpteenth times in the past five years in Punjab. The forces of communal hate, intolerance, greed, qabza and extortion in the name of religious honour were unleashed on a Christian community of Badami Bagh in Lahore. The script of Shanti Nagar, Gojra, Kurrian, Kasur and Sangla Hill was superimposed with a familiar narrative. The initial brawl between two drunkards, 295C, police investigation, rising tensions, helplessness of police/local administration and finally the communal inferno are charades all too familiar. Bad luck for the poor Christians, the fury this time far outweighed the intensity, complicity and destruction in the past. A Holy Cross strung with shoes was thrown in the inferno with a bold banner advocating beheadings over blasphemy prominently displayed across the street. The target chosen was in the heart of the provincial metropolis and ironically an area where all roads lead to the booming steel business. Chickens had come home to roost.
As observed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, this gory incident was avoidable; but deplorably not contained by any desire, urgency or affirmative action of the local administration. There was no curfew imposed, no activation of Section 144, and as the fury reached its nadir, no warning shots or tear gas fired. The tragedy built up over a course of three days. No lessons from the incidents in the past were taken into account. Confronted with hapless and poor people, the inferno operation was methodical and executed in phases. First, the arrest followed by FIR, secondly evacuation of the families under a shadow of threat, thirdly, looting of the houses and finally the use of incendiaries and burning at large. Though conspicuously ineffective before the inferno at Saint Joseph’s Colony, the civilian munitions of maintaining law and order were in full display at Youhannabad, where local Christians in peaceful protest blocked Ferozepur Road.
The live telecasting of the scene sent shockwaves world over. The media had predicted such an imminent tragedy and was therefore ready when the first flames of fire leaped to the skies. Such is the retardant potential of the Punjab government that it continued to give simplifications over the tragedy through its spokespersons and zombie minority representatives.
Any noticeable leader entering Joseph’s Colony was greeted by a group of zombies perched on a rooftop shouting Nawaz Sharif Zindabad. During Imran Khan’s visit to the area, there was a deliberate attempt to stop him from visiting the charred streets. The local police deployed in the area made no attempts to clear these rowdy zombies; the lowest levels one can stoop to in politics Gawalmandi-Badami Bagh style.
After I had finished talking on a TV show, an elderly Muslim from the area took me to a side and said that the looting and burning scenes had reminded him of the partition in 1947. The old man had the bull by the horns; a nation bent on self destruction, a crescendo creating divides amongst divides. The flames of communalism, sectarianism and religiously inspired violence continue to rise even after 65 years of independence. The issue is no more the Hindu-Muslim divide but rather the identity of a Muslim. Yet the repeated violence against Christians cannot be explained in the simplification of the violence by militant groups. In these cases, these are the neighbours who turn on their neighbours, having lived in the same localities for generations.
As a Pakistani I have a number of questions that beg answers and explanations.
Barring a few who are successful and wealthy, why has the Pakistani society not been able to assimilate non Muslims as mainstream citizens? After all, their leaders supported Qaid e Azam in Pakistan Movement, got All India Muslim League the majority in the Punjab Assembly and did outstanding social work. Perhaps the answer can be found in the political evolution of the state sans Jinnah’s script. The Objective Resolution raised issues of Muslimhood while the military alliances were built around a paradigm of godless communism and infidel Hindu versus jihad. Successive military dictatorships and democracies formed their scripts around religious legitimacy alienating not only communities within Muslims but also the non Muslims. Constitutionalism had been opportunist and divisive.
Pakistan’s political parties have also failed to play their roles in assimilating diversity. Built around hallow religious slogans, preservation of elitist interests and personalities, they view participation of minorities amongst them an affront and resign them to non-descript minority roles and exclusive wings. The fervor of one ethnic political party from Sindh in favour of the victims of Joseph Colony is incomprehensible from the fact that Issa Naghri in Karachi is under siege of target killings and extortion for over a year. Unless political parties do not open their ranks to non Muslims and give them opportunities in mainstream politics, the syndrome of ghettos cannot be challenged.
Pakistan’s civil society has also failed to play its role in integrating communities. Had such civic organizations been effectives, neighbourhoods would have never become a potential threat to minority enclaves close to it. They have always tried to keep such colonies at a distance. Cognisant that their presence is not welcome, minorities too have chosen to stay away and live in their own slums and ghettos in relative safety but for the unplanned creeping urbanization. Pakistan’s educated elite, though a product of missionary institutions failed to pay back in absorbing these communities. This has led to a social inbreeding both in the haves and have nots.
Pakistan’s education system also promotes divisions and divides. Abundance of hate literature in the curriculum, blasphemous comments against other religions and failure to recognize the contribution of others to Pakistan inculcate an exclusive notion amongst Muslim children. The concept of us and them ingrained in the formative years take its toll on diversity as strength when it matters most.
Having been in the middle for two days, I drove back to Islamabad with a tempest howling within me. As the nature in fury of fierce rain and hailstones hit the windscreen, I noticed a rainbow in the distant sky across the Kallar Kahar Range. It reminded me of the faith and hope in Noah after the great flood. Amidst the sadness, a ray of hope began to grow. I began to see a playback of positive images dancing before my eyes. Those young educated Muslim girls hugging kids, distributing copies and pencils and consoling the broken ladies. I could see Ulema one after another condemning the incident as un-Islamic. I began to feel proud of the media for its unbiased narration of events and the many calls and tweets of Muslim friends who condemned the tragedy and offered help. I could see Imran Khan standing amidst the ruins with pain and anger writ on his face telling the people and media that we shall make a new Pakistan.
As I cleared the meandering range, the rainbow in the distant kept reminding me that thesis would soon overtake the anti thesis. Passing through a river of fire, the forces of love, moderation and Jinnahists would finally prevail over all exploitative agendas. Gold only glitters after passing through fire and a diamond only takes shape after grinding, scrubbing and rubbing.