The Objectives Resolution and the Misunderstood Role of Sir Ch. Muhammad Zafarulla Khan By Dr Mirza Sultan Ahmad

The resolution, ‘Aims and Objectives of the Constitution’, was presented in the Legislative Assembly of Pakistan on 7th March, 1949, and was approved after just a few days ‘discussion. All members of the Muslim League who were Muslims cast their vote in favor of the resolution. The respected members of the Assembly who belonged to the Hindu faith suggested a few amendments in the resolution which were rejected by a majority vote. Regardless, the Hindu members of the Assembly voted against the resolution. The resolution is known as, ‘The Objectives Resolution’ and now serves as the preamble of the Pakistan Constitution.

A lot has been said and written about the Objectives Resolution during the last decade. Much has been said about the speeches delivered on that occasion. Extracts from the debate that took place at that time have been quoted in numerous books and articles. However, as the reader did not find the full text of these speeches available to him in those books and articles, this lead to many wrong conclusions. Consequently, facts that were so important to know remained hidden from the sight of the people.
There is no doubt that any important treatise on law, constitution, or history is bound to be a topic of discussion. However, the tragedy is that at times factual misunderstandings begin to develop around an historical incident. This gradually results in the intelligentsia quoting that misinformation in their books, thus making that misinformation credible in the sight of the general public and forcing the masses to become oblivious to the actual facts.
Just a few months ago, a leading university in Pakistan held a seminar, which, like many others, I too had the honour to attend. Right in front of me in the next row was seated a famous Pakistani writer. Towards the end of the seminar, he too expressed his opinion on the subject. Among the things he said one was that Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafarullah Khan did not offer the funeral of Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah behind Maulana Shabbir Usmani, because he had issued a fatwa against the Ahmadiyya Jama’at. However, when the Objectives Resolution was presented, Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan referred to Maulana Shabbir Usmani as a great scholar of Islam, who had given his word that Pakistan would be a state whose foundations will be based on the principle of religious tolerance. How was it possible for Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan to acknowledge the authority of Maulana Shabbir Usmani on this occasion, whereas he refused to stand behind him to offer the funeral prayer of Qaid-e-Azam?
The writer raised other objections as well; however a suitable answer was given to him during discussion. However, as the actual text of the speech delivered by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan on that occasion was not available, I declined to comment on his words said during the seminar on this issue.
Another pertinent issue is that certain people have been claiming that the Objectives Resolution was presented in the Legislature Assembly of Pakistan by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, and that he was the brain behind this resolution. A debate has also ensued regarding what the members of the assembly said on the occasion about the liberty and freedom of expression in the new state.
Since those who make such claims regarding this historical issue also include people from the intelligentsia and other renowned writers, efforts were made to acquire the original draft of the sppech made by Chaudry Zafrullah Khan during this debat. Accordingly, National Archives Department was contacted and an authentic copy of the speech delivered by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan on 12th March, 1949, was duly obtained. The full draft of the speech can be seen on pages 65 – 72 of Volume 5, Number 5 of Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates.

To begin with, there are two things that must be explained:

  1. The Resolution was NOT presented by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, but rather it was presented by Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan, then Prime Minister of Pakistan. (Constitutional Assembly of Pakistan Debates, 7th March, 1949, Volume 5, Number 1, Page 1)
  2. Nowhere in his speech did Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan say that the audience had among them a great scholar of Islam, namely, Shabbir Usmani. Nor did he mention him as an authority on the teachings of Islam. His name was mentioned only once during the speech. The exact wording of the speech recorded in Volume 5, Number 5, Page 70 is given hereunder:


‘I have no doubt, however, the constructive and statesman like pronouncement with which honorable mover introduced the resolution served to allay apprehensions on that score. Since then several speeches made in support of resolution, notable those of Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, Dr Ishtiaq Hussain Qureishi, and my honorable colleague the minister of communication should have removed any lingering suspicion to which the minds of some of the honorable members may still have clung’.

Nowhere in this paragraph is any mention of any ‘great scholar of Islam’ or ‘an authority on the teachings of Islam’.
Some honorable Hindu members of the assembly had expressed their reservations about the resolution stating that it could be interpreted in the future in a manner as would harm the religious, social and political freedom of the minorities in Pakistan, and that such a situation may arise where they are not considered to be equal in status to the Muslim citizens of Pakistan. A number of Muslim League leaders including Liaqat Ali Khan then tried to allay the fears of the said Hindu members.
Quite a few speeches had already been made prior to the speech of Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, to which he had referred in the above-quoted paragraph. It is a parliamentary tradition that when a speaker speaks, he refers to the speeches made earlier.


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