Lahore Resolution and the status of constituent units

A distinct negation of the letter and spirit of the 1940 Resolution occurred when, in 1949, the Objectives Resolution was passed, which usurped the sovereignty of the constituent units in the name of God

By Abdul Khalique Junejo, Karachi

Today, March 23, is the most sacred day of Pakistan’s calendar. It owes this position to the 1940 Lahore Resolution, revered as the Pakistan Resolution, and the day is celebrated as Pakistan Day. It follows that the 1940 Resolution should be the guiding force for our state structure, and all subsequent resolutions, agreements, contracts and covenants should be subordinate to it. Owing to its importance, the framing, formulation and subsequent interpretations and explanations of this document attract heated debate. So should it, being the founding charter of the emergent state. As Mr Jinnah, while writing to Gandhi, said, “The word Pakistan has now become synonymous with the Lahore Resolution.” However, the question of the status and role of the constituent units has found very little attention in this discourse despite the fact that decentralisation and autonomy were the basic points of the Muslim League constitutional package before partition. The most important part of the Resolution says, “The areas in which Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the north-western and eastern zones of India, should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.”

Historical facts demonstrate that since its creation the state of Pakistan has traversed a direction opposite to the one envisaged by the Lahore Resolution. On the very day Mr Jinnah made that historic speech in the constituent assembly, i.e. August 11, 1947, the Balochistan (read Kalat) Assembly, alleging its sovereignty, declared Balochistan an independent state, but after seven months Balochistan was annexed to Pakistan. Similarly, against the unanimous resolution of the Sindh Assembly, its capital Karachi, which Sindh happily agreed should be Pakistan’s capital, was arbitrarily snatched from the province. A distinct negation of the letter and spirit of the 1940 Resolution occurred when, in 1949, the Objectives Resolution was passed, which usurped the sovereignty of the constituent units in the name of God. The Objectives Resolution says: “Sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to God Almighty and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan, through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him, is a sacred trust.” In reality this was a ploy on the part of our politicians to seize state power, and proved to be a ready recipe for dictators (including Ayub Khan, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf) who used it to claim that, ‘since sovereignty lies with God and since He has chosen me so I have a divine right to rule over you’. General Zia used it for Islamisation, while General Pervez Mushraf used it for ‘de-Islamisation’.

The most important step taken in this direction was the reorganisation of the western part of the federation into ‘One Unit’, whereby the very names of the sovereign constituent units were erased from the map. It was a perfect case of ‘the creation killing the creator’. Supporters of the process of centralisation and Islamisation of the state argue that the 1940 Pakistan Resolution was later changed and therefore is no longer valid. Let us analyse the worth of their argument, which is mainly that the 1940 Resolution was superseded by the Delhi Resolution of 1946. This is contrary to historical facts. This was a separate Resolution passed by a different forum. The 1946 Resolution was adopted by the Muslim League Legislators Convention while the 1940 Resolution was passed by the General Council of the All India Muslim League. By any principle the Legislators Convention was subservient to the General Council and could not supersede it. Also it is a fundamental rule that in order to amend a resolution, reference is made to the same in succeeding documents. But there is no mention of the 1940 Resolution in the document of 1946. There is also debate about the letter “s” used to refer to “Independent state(s)” in the original settlement. Some say it was a typo while others claim that it was added inadvertently. Yet others call it an ambiguity. There is no ambiguity. The Lahore Resolution very clearly asked for creation of two independent states in the west and east. It is laughable to think that such a momentous document would be drafted so carelessly under the watchful eyes of Jinnah, Fazalul Haq, Hussain Suharwardy, Abdul Majeed Sindhi, and G M Sayed.
A book entitled Pakistan Resolution to Pakistan, with documents related to the Pakistan movement, carries a correction that, “The ambiguity created by the use of the word ‘states’ was clarified by M A Jinnah in his letter dated 17 September, 1944 to Gandhi.,” and concerns the status of constituent units, not the two independent states. In his letter dated September 15, 1944, Gandhi asked Jinnah, “Are the constituents in the two zones to constitute independent states of undefined number in each zone?” To this Jinnah replied, “No. They will form units of Pakistan.” With the separation of Bangladesh the question of one or two independent states has lost its relevance. Current Pakistan is the north-western zone of the original plan. Now the question, as far as the 1940 Resolution and related agreements are concerned, is of the status and authority of the constituent units. The position of units (later provinces) as categorised in the Lahore Resolution remains unchanged by any succeeding accord. Even the 1946 Delhi Resolution does not change the status of the constituent units. However, there is another very important document related to the structure of the emerging state and the status of units therein, which is not often mentioned; the “terms offered by the Muslim League as a basis of agreement” presented one month after the Delhi Resolution, on May 12, 1946. It is quite self-explanatory.
Paragraph two of this compact says, “There shall be a separate constitution making body…which will frame [the] constitution for the [Pakistan] Group and the Provinces in the Group and will determine the list of subjects, that shall be provincial and central [Pakistan Federation] with residual sovereign powers vested in the Provinces.”
Paragraph four states that, “After the constitutions of the Pakistan Federal Government and the Provinces are finally framed by the constitution-making body, it will be open to any Province of the Group to decide to opt out of its Group, provided the wishes of the people of that Province are ascertained by a referendum to opt out or not.”
There are only two possible scenarios. Either the Pakistan Resolution has been changed or it has not. If changed, it means the foundations of Pakistan have been altered. Why then is March 23 celebrated as Pakistan’s most sacred day? Alteration means we have reneged on the solemn pledge that our constituent states, with different cultures and long histories, share their sovereignty and join hands to make common cause in Pakistan. Sindh, particularly, opted for Pakistan through the Sindh Assembly resolution of 1943 on the basis of the 1940 Resolution. But if the Resolution remains in force and is still the supreme guiding force of Pakistan, then 68 years are testament to the fact that successive leaders have consistently violated that basic charter. To arrest this process it is imperative to return to the basic settlement of the 1940 Resolution recognising the autonomous and sovereign status of the constituent units.

Courtesy: Daily Times
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