Athar Osama June 25th, 2007
By: Athar Osama
On Monday (June 25th, 2007), we began our investigtion of Liaquat Ali Khan tenure as the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. We looked Liaquat’s credentials for the responsibility that was put on his shoulders, the early difficulties he faced in bringing the nation together and healing its wounds in the immediate aftermath of Jinnah’s death, and his attempts to find a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir crisis. We also looked at the immediate political challenges faced by Liaquat’s Ministry.
In this piece, we look at two other important aspects of Liaquat’s Premiership, namely, progress in constitution-making (most specifically the objectives resolution) and his foreign policy posture (i.e. Pakistan’s pro-Western foreign policy stance). Both these issues have defined Pakistan’s history over several decades that followed and remain, to this day, unresolved. Yet, it was during Liaquat’s momentous premiership that Pakistan first attempted to address these…
Pakistan’s Constitutional Problems
While the Center-Province relations in this early phase of Pakistan’s history were far from ideal, the inter-provincial relations also presented a sorry picture. Until Quaid-e-Azam’s death in fall of 1948, the Constituent Assembly whose primary purpose was to create the first constitution for Pakistan had made little progress in actually doing so. Much of its legislative energy had thus far been spent in emergency legislation that was necessary in day-to-day operation of the country. Two issues represent the significant challenges it faced in making worthwhile progress on the constitutional question.
The negotiation on center-province (i.e. relative distribution of power between federal and provincial governments) inter-provincial relations (i.e. the make up of the legislative organs in the new constitution) was in a state of a deadlock with East Pakistani Province of East Bengal that commanded a sizeable majority in the Constituent Assembly seeking representation based on population while Punjab (and, to a lesser extent, the other provinces of West Pakistan) seeking to deny the same.
The second issue that presented a major hurdle in Constituent Assembly’s progress toward the constitutional question was a lack of census on the Islamic character of Pakistan. This was especially a precarious issue because of the need to preserve the rights and liberties of a significant minority of Hindus that had remained in Pakistan since Independence. Hindus made up not so insignificant populations in all West Pakistani provinces—most notably Sindh—and a fairly significant one in East Pakistan from where they also held several seats in the Constituent Assembly.