This entry is about the reasons which were responsible for the long delay in the constitution-making of Pakistan.
British partitioned India into two independent states of Pakistan and India on 14-15th August 1947 in light of the Indian Independence Act 1947. The act provided the new states would adopt the Government of India Act, 1935 as an interim constitution until they framed their own.
India managed to frame and promulgate its own constitution in 1950, within three years of the independence. On the contrary, it took nine long years for Pakistan to adopt and enforce its constitution.
The main factors responsible for this long delay in the constitution-making of Pakistan were as follows:
With its establishment, Pakistan had to face more pressing issues that required immediate redressal. The immediate problems included an influx of refugees, canal water dispute, Kashmir war, India’s denial in giving Pakistan’s share of financial and military assets, etc.
1. Refugee problem
With Partition, millions of Muslim refugees flooded into Pakistan to escape the ruthless persecution and massacre in different parts of India. Their accommodation, shelter, clothing, food, medication had to be ensured before long-term measures were taken for their permanent settlement.
2. Canal water dispute
On April 1, 1948, India blocked river water coming from Kashmir through Indian territory. This act of India put the very survival of Pakistan in Jeopardy as it would damage the agriculture of Pakistan.
3. India’s denial to give Pakistan’s share of financial and military assets.
When Pakistan came into being, it had a crippled economy and vulnerable security. To make things even worse, India did not give an agreed share of Pakistan’s military and financial assets. These and similar other immediate problems left little time and energy to work on framing a new constitution for Pakistan.
Issues other than Immediate problems
Death of Quaid e Azam
The death of Quaid –i-Azam was one of the reasons for the delay in the constitution-making. Quaid had given an outline for the country’s future constitution while addressing the first constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947. But he died on September 11, 1948, before he could give a constitution to his people.
Had he lived longer, he would have resolved the constitutional dilemma by using his leadership and non-controversial status.
Disagreement over Parity of Representation
The first move towards the constitution-making of Pakistan was the passage of the Objectives Resolution by the Constituent Assembly on 12 March 1949. After it passed the resolution, the assembly delegated the task of drawing basic principles to a committee called the Basic Principles Committee, in light of the set objectives for future constitution-making.
The Basic Principles Committee presented its first Report on September 28, 1950, which recommended parity of representation in the central Assembly. The proposal of this principle of parity at the center created controversy as the assembly members from East Pakistan opposed it. They were of the view that their representation should be more as they were a majority (56% of the total population) in the new state.
In contrast to what East Pakistan representatives felt, the West Pakistani politicians did not want a dominant East Pakistan in the central Assembly. Consequently, no agreement was reached and the constitution-making process was delayed.
Another proposal the Basic Principles Committee had incorporated in its report was to declare Urdu the national language of Pakistan. Urdu as the national language was also opposed by East Pakistani members of the assembly. They demanded to make Bengali the national language since it was the language of the majority of people. Thus, language controversy along with the issue of representation at the center caused a type of deadlock in constitution-making in the country.
Political Rivalry and Corruption
After the sad demise of the Quaid, Muslim League fell victim to intrigue and disunity. Intense internal strife and selfishness brought about disintegration in the party. Party fell into the hands of opportunists who resorted to undemocratic ways and means, indulging in political mischief and intrigue. Consequently, little attention was paid to constitution-making.
Increasing Influence of West Pakistan dominated Bureaucracy and military
With the death of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, bureaucrats made inroads to the power corridors. A bureaucrat, Ghulam Muhammad was made the Governor-General who did not hesitate to dismiss elected prime ministers, the constituent assembly thus also paving the path for retired and in-service military personnel in the politics. He made Sikandar Mirza, a retired General as Governor-General, appointed Ayub Khan, the Commandant in Chief of the Armed forces as defense minister.
West Pakistani politicians, bureaucrats, and generals did not want to give East Pakistan their due political and democratic rights. Hence, any proposals made concerning the constitution seemed to go against the wishes and expectations of East Pakistan creating a tussle in the constituent assembly.