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Chaudhri Muhammad Ali speaks on the Constitution

PM addresses the AssemblyThe First Constituent Assembly of Pakistan presented three draft constitutions before it was dissolved by the Governor-General Ghulam Mohammad in 1954. The Second Constituent Assembly was inaugurated in July 1955. and presented the Fourth Draft Constitution on 8 January 1956. With some modifications, the draft was adopted on 29 February and came in force from 23 March 1956 as the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (it is now usually called The Constitution of 1956 to distinguish it from the two others that followed its subsequent abrogation). The following is the speech of Prime Minister Chaudhri Muhammad Ali in favor of the fourth draft constitution.


Speech by Mr. Muhammad Ali, Prime Minister

On the Fourth Draft Constitution

January 1956

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: Sir, Pakistan came into existence as the result of a struggle by the Muslims of the subcontinent to win a homeland for themselves in which they would be free to live their own way of life and develop their own culture.

Mr. H. S. Suhrawardy: Hear, hear. We agree.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: That struggle culminated in an agreement between the main political parties of the subcontinent: to partition the subcontinent so that the majority Muslim-areas of the North-East and the North-West would form the State of Pakistan. This is how Pakistan came into existence and on its establishment, the object of the Pakistan movement was not completely fulfilled. If I might quote the Quid-e-Azam:

"The establishment of Pakistan for which we had been striving for the last ten years is by the grace of God an accomplished fact today," (This was in October, 1947.) "For the creation of a State of our own was a means to an end and not an end in itself. The idea was that we should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own way of life and culture and wherein the principles of Islamic social could find free-play."

Mr. H. S. Suhrawardy: Quite right. I entirely agree.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: That was the reason for the establishment of Pakistan. And the urge to develop our culture, to realize our potentialities to the utmost, to find an atmosphere in which the spirit of Islam can flourish, that urge is there in the nation today. It has been the reason for its existence and it remains the driving force of the people of Pakistan. That freedom and that urge we mist safeguard; we can ignore it only at our peril. No man of honour repudiates his parentage. Every tree springs from its seed; it grows and it flowers. It may stay as a small seed but, over a period of years, it shoots out branches, it bears fruit and people recognize its worth. We, Sir, shall be in that process for many years before the true spirit of Islamic culture finds fruition here. The freedom which the Muslims of Pakistan wanted for themselves, they do not want to deny to other communities living in Pakistan. It is an essential part of our faith that the non-Muslims living here should be equally free to develop their culture; to practise and propagate their religion; should be equal and honoured citizens of Pakistan. It is on these basic concepts that the whole structure of Pakistan should be built.

And how did we, the people of Northwest and the people of North-East come together even though separated by a distance of 1,500 miles, how did we overcome the handicaps of geography? It is partly a tribute to the spirit of Islam which rises above geography and partly a recognition of the fact that we need each other; that it is only living and working together that we can survive. The remarks which the Honourable Leader of the opposition made on that subject, I can endorse whole-heartedly. There can never be any question of secession. No such thought must ever be entertained. Mr. Suhrawardy excused the people who talked about it as indulging "in intellectual exercise". I do hope that these intellectual gymnasts will not go through their contortions in public but that they would devote their surplus intellectual energies to innocent pursuits such as solving cross-word puzzles, certainly not doing things which injure the very foundations of our State. And those of my friends who use phrases carelessly, who talk of "nationalities" in a loose way which can lead to misunderstandings, I would earnestly request them to desist. We are yet in a formative stage and even though the idea of Pakistan Nationalism, the idea of our common culture of one country and one people, shines bright, yet there are spots here and there, dark spots, where germs of disruption can thrive. Let no patriotic man do anything which would help these germs to survive. Let him not, by inadvertence, or in any other manner, lend support to any such tendency in our body politic. Let us, once and for all, make up our mind and be absolutely clear that East and West Pakistan are one; they must be welded into an indivisible whole. That way lies our survival. The freedom for which our people struggled is our most precious possession. I maintained that our people have made tremendous sacrifices for winning freedom and that they are continuing to those sacrifices. (I shall turn to this matter later.) Any attempt to cause misunderstanding, between East Pakistan and West Pakistan, anything that creates a gulf between the two, endangers that freedom, because it endangers the integrity of the State. It would mean in other words that the freedom to develop our culture, to have an environment in which the Islamic spirit could flourish, would be dead and gone, we have therefore, continually to remind ourselves of this. We cannot live one without the other. It may be remembered by many that at the time of partition a large number of experts thought that even the combined resources of East Pakistan and West Pakistan would not be enough to make a stable state with a viable economy. These prophets of gloom claimed and prophesied that Pakistan would disintegrate and come to an end within a period of months. This prophesy included both East and West Pakistan. They thought Pakistan would not be able to provide for its defence and that if, at all, it made some half-hearted attempt towards that end it would have no resources left for development. That was the forecast by some eminent experts at that time. This forecast has been belied and Pakistan is here-strong and flourishing. But that is so because the resources of East Pakistan and West Pakistan together are available to it in every way. Alone neither East nor West Pakistan can hope to survive. We have, in safeguarding our freedom together, made extreme sacrifices. Let me give an illustration. The bulk of our revenue goes towards the maintenance of our defence forces because it is essential to maintain our freedom and to preserve our independence. The security of the State occupies the foremost place in our polity. Defence expenditure is unproductive expenditure; it takes away a lot from the resources of the country but it does not give anything back to it. And precious resources, which could have been used for the development of the country and for raising the standards of living, have been year after year allocated for defence, so that our independence and our freedom might be preserved. I remember the late Honourable Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan saying that he would rather see the people of this country go naked and hungry than jeopardize its security. That is the spirit of the people of the country and let us not tamper with that spirit. Let us not weaken it in any way. Let us not in any way undermine our will and survive and to grow strong and prosperous in unison together.

Honourable Deputy Speaker: The House stands adjourned for Half an Hour for Asr Prayers.

[House meets again after ASR Prayers]

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: Sir, I beg your permission and crave the indulgence of the House for a little digression. I know it is not strictly relevant to the discussion of Constitutional issues but so many references have been made in the House as to what has happened during the last 8 years in East Pakistan, the steps that have been or have not been taken to develop it that I feel should be permitted to make some observations as to the state of affairs at the time of partition and at present. This would help to put in proper perspective the proposals that we have to consider.

At the time of Partition Pakistan was a poor country, producing raw materials, having very little industry, and not much control over commerce and not fully developed administratively or economically. It still is a poor, under-developed country with one of the lowest national incomes in the world. And this is true of both East Pakistan and West Pakistan. We have to go a very very long way, indeed, before we can raise the standard of living or our people to what may be regarded as an adequate level in the modern world. One of the impulses that led to the creation of Pakistan arose out of the feeling that the Muslim majority areas both in the North-East and Northwest i.e., both East Pakistan and West Pakistan were more underdeveloped than the rest of India. There had been very little industrialization in these areas, very little economic development. And if I may be permitted a comparison as between East and West Pakistan, East Pakistan was still more underdeveloped Compared with the advanced countries, we might say that both East Pakistan and West Pakistan are somewhere in the Kindergarten class, but as being in Kindergarten class II, West Pakistan stands a bit higher than East Pakistan. That was the position at the time of Partition. In East Pakistan all the means of communication converged on Calcutta. Centres of culture, commerce, industry everything was concentrated in Calcutta. East Pakistan was nothing but the producer of raw materials, of jute in the main for which it had no baling presses; it simply passed the jute on the Calcutta. There had been 200 years of neglect. For one hundred years a trading company exploited the resources of East Bengal for commercial profit. Later, I need not go into details, but anyone who has read Hunter’s Book "The Mussalmans of India", knows well that the plight of the Muslims of East Bengal. Culturally, economically and in every way they were very very underdeveloped With Partition, Calcutta going to India, this situation came to the fore and the first task that confronted the Pakistan Government was to win economic independence for East Bengal whose economy was totally dependent upon Calcutta. The Port of Chittagong had to be developed; communications had to be re-organised; inland river transport had to be planned and developed; jute bailing presses had to be set up and hundreds of things, big and small, had to be done just to win economic independence. There were no banking facilities, no commerce and industry, all had been concentrated in Calcutta. All had to be built anew. A new Capital had to be built in Dacca. In the matter of administration, the Muslims of East Bengal had been very poorly represented in the Services. I have always regarded it as one of the great misfortunes of Pakistan that at the time of Partition, there were not a large number of trained administrators from the Muslims of East Pakistan.

Malik Muhammad Firoz Khan (West Pakistan, Muslim): One I.C.S. Officer only.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: Just one ICS Officer – I am talking only of the Muslims of East Pakistan because most of the Hindus had opted for India. Had they remained in East Pakistan, the position would have been different. That was the condition. The food economy was in a very precarious condition and, as I said, there was no industry and very little of commerce. It was these deficiencies that had to be made up. They were of the first importance because without basic services relating to communications, port, banking, commerce, administration, it is impossible to develop. They are the essential preliminary conditions, the substructure on which you can raise an economy. West Pakistan, as it happened, was more developed in these respects, true, it had the impact of those large disturbances which led to the migration of millions and for some months, the economy of West Pakistan was disrupted, but the gap that was left by the migration of Hindus was very soon filled by the refugees coming from various parts of India bringing with them knowledge, skill, trade connections and capital. West Pakistan did not suffer the loss of any capital city. The canal water dispute with India did create problems for West Pakistan and very large expenditure has had to be incurred – not for development as is mistakenly said but merely to preserve the status quo as it was at the time of partition. In the administrative services, among engineers, technicians and others there were a fairly large number of Muslims in West Pakistan and many of those who came from the minority Provinces of India were perhaps, if I may say so, more easily assimilated here. Therefore, the economy of West Pakistan – though in an undeveloped state and though disrupted by the conditions I have described – was in a stronger position. Also a number of schemes like Malakand Hydro-electric Project, the Lower Sind Barrage Project, the Rasool Hydroelectric Project had already reached a very advanced stage of planning and were even in the process of execution. Banking, commerce, industry also were at the time of partition in a more advanced state in West Pakistan. Higher taxation in West Pakistan at the time of partition is also indicative, to some extent, of the difference in the level of the two economies – taxation both Central and Provincial was about three times as high in West Pakistan as it was in East Pakistan. The disparity is still large enough though not so great now as it was then.

These were the conditions in which the Central Government had to operate. It necessarily had to go by priorities and the first priority, as I have said, was to win economic independence for East Pakistan. The development of the Chittagong Port, the development of jute bailing and manufacturing capacity, the organization of the E.B.R. all uses tasks were taken in hand first of all. The re-organisation of the Armed Forces could only be accomplished where there were Cantonments, Ordnance and supply depots, etc. and the re-organisation of the Armed Forces was a matter of the highest importance for the State. Let us remember what we got bits and pieces of Units. True, most of the pre-partition army was stationed in what is now known as West Pakistan. That had been happening over a whole century as a result of strategic requirements. There were no Cantonments and no facilities for the re-organisation of the Armed Forces in East Pakistan. One must view all these factors objectively. Objectivity is essential for only then can one get a true understanding of the actual state of affairs existing at the time. It is true that development in West Pakistan has been more rapid than in East Pakistan. But it is completely untrue to say that East Pakistan has been impoverished and that it is in a poorer state then it was at the time of partition.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (East Bengal, Muslim): The facts are there.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali : It has developed not at the same rate as West Pakistan but it has made, in my humble opinion, very considerable progress.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: No progress.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: A great deal more needs to be done and we are determined to do it. We are determined to raise the rate of development in East Pakistan so as to bring it to parity with West Pakistan. It is essential that every part of the country be developed uniformly.

An Honourable Member: Have it in the Constitution.

Honourable Deputy Speaker : Please be quiet.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: As I said the allegation that East Pakistan has been impoverished is completely wrong. Figures have been cited to show that the contribution of East Pakistan to the Central revenues has been progressively coming down in terms of percentage. Now that is not quite so. It started going up and why did it come down? Because during the Korean boom when jute prices went up, jute duty was increased and the revenue resources of the Central Government were thereby enhanced. When these prices came down, the jute duty was brought down very considerably. That has in the main accounted for this decrease. Another factor was that the duty on betel-nuts which are grown in East Pakistan was removed. Looking at these statistics, one must carefully examine the underlying factors. A great many figures have been quoted in this House. I regret to say that most of them are incorrect not by a small margin but by a wide margin.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: We can prove that it is correct.

Honourable Deputy Speaker: You can prove it later on. But in the meantime you hear what the Prime Minister has to say.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: We are patiently hearing. We know the Prime Minister is speaking.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: May I say one thing? I never interrupt any member of the House, however great the provocation might be. There have been the occasions when statements have been attributed to me which were completely false. Nevertheless, I never stood up to intervene. I request that the same courtesy be extended to me.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: Sir, we always extend that courtesy.

Mr. Fazlur Rahman: Sir, the word ‘false’ is unparliamentary.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: All right, I say incorrect. Now, Sir, what is the policy that one has to follow? First of all economic independence for the country which is a matter of the highest importance. That means, in effect, that whatever we can produce from our own resources, for the basic necessities of life, food, cloth, shelter, etc. we must produce ourselves. And we must do so treating the economy of the country as a single economy wherever with the presence of raw materials or other advantages we can most advantageously and most economically develop it, we develop it their in the interest of the whole country. We must ensure that there is uniform development all over the country. There may be some raw materials available here, some raw material available there but we must try so to develop them that we are able to make the fullest use of the potential which is available both in East Pakistan and in West Pakistan. This policy will be seen reflected in the plans that the Planning Board is preparing and which will be placed before the country very soon. It is not a matter in which I am holding out some personal assurance to be fulfilled or not to be fulfilled at some future indefinite date. Fir the last two years the Planning Board, with the assistance of eminent experts from outside as well as from inside the country, has been engaged in preparing a plan for the whole of the country. I have insisted that these plans should ensure uniform development all over the country, that they should be prepared in consultation with the Provincial Government of East Pakistan and West Pakistan and to their satisfaction and should ensure that there is maximum utilization of the resources of the country in the shortest possible time. These plans will be placed before the National Economic Council. I maintain that in that body we have the means of bringing unity and harmony in this very important and vital field. In this Council will be associated Ministers of the Central Government and Ministers of the Provincial Government and they will work together. It may be said they may disagree; possibly they might, but I have no doubt that reasonable men sitting round the table objectively examining the facts and figures before them and determined to do the best that is possible for the country, will reach an agreement. That has been my own experience, today we sit in the Cabinet Ministers from East Pakistan and Ministers from West Pakistan we examine each proposal on merits in the interest of the whole country, East Pakistan as well as West Pakistan. I have no doubt that if one works in that spirit, one can achieve most valuable results.

There are one or two figures of a general kind, which I would like to mention although I had no intention of entering into this area of controversy. It was been said that the wealth of East Pakistan is being drained away. This is incorrect. What does the Centre get from East Pakistan – the contribution from East Pakistan to Central revenues plus the part of the Central loans which comes out of East Pakistan. What is put into East Bengal by the Central Government is through the disbursements of the Central Government on revenue account and capital account plus the loans advanced by the Central Government to the Provincial Government. The outgoings from the Centre are in excess of the Centre’s receipts.

Mr. Abul Mansur Ahmed: Question.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: By many crores. This is the first thing. Secondly about Foreign Exchange. In thinking of Foreign Exchange one has to look not merely at the balance of trade or the balance of merchandise with the rest of the world, but also with the rest of Pakistan. It makes no difference from that point of view whether the goods come from West Pakistan or from any outside sources. From 1949 – 50 to 1954 – 55, East Pakistan has had a trade surplus of 136 crores and West Pakistan had a deficit of 40 crores.

Mr. Abul Mansur Ahmad: Incorrect.

The Honourable Muhammad Ali: That is the trade deficit taking into account the trade with foreign countries as well as inter-zonal trade. But the balance of trade, as every one knows, is a very different thing from what is known as balance of payments. The Balance of Payment takes into account many other items, shipping, insurance, movement of capital, movement of gold and so on. Within a country there are not exact statistics for these movements. It is because of this that no one is in a position to prepare the balance of payments for separate parts of the same country having the same currency system and belonging to a single economy. Remittances and transfers are continually being made and there is no statistical record of this. In the one field in which for some time statistics have been kept namely, gold, the movement has been continually from West Pakistan to East Pakistan. Further, one has to consider the payments made outside the country for stores, defence equipment; and they come to a very very considerable amount. Then there is the expenditure on Foreign Missions. The import of defence stores into West Pakistan confers no benefits on the economy of West Pakistan. The fact that guns, fire ammunition for training, or vehicles move on the roads of West Pakistan confers no benefit of any kind.

Mr. Abul Mansur Ahmad: Question.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: Unproductive defence expenditure which takes away from the resources of the country is not an economic benefit.

The fact of the matter is this, taking a broad view, the bulk of the revenues of the Central Government is raised from West Pakistan and is spent on unproductive defence services. That is the real position. Why does one spend it in a particular place? Not to confer economic benefits. It is spent where forces are located on strategic considerations. There is another class of unproductive expenditure on the Civil Armed Forces in the Frontier. That again is considerable – and again is unproductive. Now it is maintained that salaries paid to armed forces confer a benefit on West Pakistan. For the last hundred years or so, salaries have been paid to the men drawn from certain districts in West Pakistan and these districts remain the poorest districts in West Pakistan, to this day. In fact, before partition, one used to hear complaints – very frequent complaints – that the British Government deliberately refrained from developing these districts economically, kept them poor, in order to be able to recruit men from there. Money which goes into productive activity is fruitful. The payment of salaries merely in certain poor districts without adding to the productive development in those places confers no benefit and, this can be seen by making a comparison between the districts from which most recruitment is made and the districts, like Lyallpur, Multan, and others, where practically no recruitment takes place and which are the richest districts in West Pakistan. Now this is not to say that recruitment should continue to be confined to those areas. I agree wholly with those who maintain that citizens all over the country have a right to take part in the defence of the country. (Hear, hear)

His Excellency Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani: Duty.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: I agree wholly with that, efforts are being made, and I have intensified those efforts, to make up deficiencies in that respect. When some years ago, a Committee was appointed to go into the question of accelerating recruitment in East Pakistan, the most important recommendation it made was that a Military Academy should be set up in East Pakistan for the training of young men there. Unfortunately, no action had been taken on that, or rather a halfhearted attempt had been made at one time and then not pursued. I have now sanctioned Rs. 40 lakhs for the construction of the Military Academy and work is being taken in hand immediately.

Honourable Deputy Speaker [to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman]: Why can you not follow the example set by your leader and keep silence?

His Excellency Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani: They do not follow the good example of their leader.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: You ask your followers to be quiet.

Honourable Deputy Speaker: Please ask me to maintain order.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: I want to tell you that when our leader was delivering his speech, members like Mr. Fazlul Huq, Mr. I. I. Chundrigar, Mr. Yusuf Haroon and others were trying to intervene and disturb him. We are giving a patient hearing. We know how to respect the Leader of the House.

The Honourable Mr. I. I. Chundrigar: I stood up and put the question.

Mr. Zahiruddin: It is the gentlemen, who is sitting behind him, who is always guilty of that that.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: We have never disturbed him.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: Can I resume my speech?

Honourable Deputy Speaker: Yes.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: The Honourable Leader of the Opposition asked why a Naval Base was not set up in East Pakistan? He perhaps was not aware that I had already passed orders for the establishment of a Naval Base at Chittagong.

Mr. Zahiruddin: Abul Mansur’s speech is bearing fruit.

Mr. Abul Mansur Ahmad: After my speech?

Some Honourable Members: No, no. (Laughter)

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: Much earlier.

Mr. Zahiruddin: It is after that speech that we have heard about this Rs. 40 lakhs.

His Excellency Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani: This is unearned credit.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: It was over a month ago or so that I had passed orders about Rs. 40 lakhs.

Honourable Deputy Speaker: He was drafting his speech at the time; (Laughter).

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: Sir, I have given an indication of the firm determination of this Government to do everything possible to develop East Pakistan economically and to do everything that lies in our power, so that East Pakistan may play its due part in the Defence Services.

One incidental advantage I might mention of the unification of West Pakistan is that it has reduced five Provinces to two. Previously, East Pakistan was one of five Provinces and therefore was competing in demands with the five Provincial Governments. Today, with only two Provincial Governments, inevitably the demands of East Pakistan and West Pakistan must receive equal consideration. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. Abul Mansur Ahmad: With Capital in one.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: This aspect of the matter may not be present to the minds of the members but it is an inevitable consequence and I think it is a good consequence of the unification of West Pakistan.

Mr. Zahiruddin: Just put down party in the Constitution – honestly.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: Now about Services. I have referred already to the fact that at the time of Partition, there were very few officers from Bengal. The policy followed since then has been to recruit on the basis of 20 per cent – I am talking of the Central Services – 20 per cent, on merit; 40 per cent from East Pakistan; 40 per cent from West Pakistan, and the results are that in most of the Superior services today where the ratio was somewhere near zero at the time of Partition, it ranges from 20 to 25 per cent now.

In the Central Secretariat itself, taking Under Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries, East Pakistan officers form about 25 per cent of the total and I am taking special steps to increase the representation of East Pakistan officers in the Central Secretariat. I have no doubt in my mind that within, say, seven years or so, this problem will be forgotten.

Mr. Zahiruddin: We hope you will be there.

The Honourable Mr. Muhammad Ali: That is to say, there will be an adequate number of officers from East Pakistan and from West Pakistan in all the Services and, therefore, any uneasiness or heart-burning that might arise from this disparity which was infinitely more marked at the time of Partition, will disappear. It is the earnest desire of all of us that it should go. It is only when East Pakistan feels that it is adequately represented in the Administration that it will feel that it is receiving fair treatment. Otherwise, even if there is fair treatment, there is always the suspicion that it is not so. In this matter I recognize that the situation of the Capital in West Pakistan does make a difference and it does lead to difficulties for the people of East Pakistan. We must therefore take steps, by decentralizing Administration, to remove or reduce those difficulties as much as possible. (interruptions).

The Honourable Pir Ali Muhammad Rashidi: The running commentary has become a great nuisance.

Honourable Deputy Speaker: Order, please.

His Excellency Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani: Pakistan Radio should take advantage of it. This is a useful source.

The Honourable Pir Ali Muhammad Rashidi: No doubt, we shall take advantage of it. (Interruptions).

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: One inevitable consequence is that because of the distance, the feeling of isolation and neglect grows sharp. Exactly the same conditions may prevail in West Pakistan as in East Pakistan and yet the feeling will be greater neglect there. As I have said before, both East Pakistan and West Pakistan are poor. You go inside the country here. Do not look at Karachi. You go inside the country into the villages and you will find that people are living in as great poverty, misery and squalor as anywhere in Pakistan. Karachi gives a misleading picture and those people who merely look at the buildings and mills here are likely to be led away by the impression that West Pakistan is prospering mightily. But we have, as I said, to develop and to raise the standard of living not merely in the big cities, but in the remotest villages both in East Pakistan and West Pakistan. Our people have to learn Sciences and new techniques and methods of production. They have to receive education. 90 per cent of our people are illiterate. Health services have to be improved. A thousand and one things have to be done. And that is one reason amongst others, why I am very impatient that we should pass the Constitution as early as possible. Let the country concentrate on the real social and economic problems that confront us. Undoubtedly we must provide the basic constitutional framework for the country, but the real problems are those concerned with the welfare of the masses, whether in East Pakistan or in West Pakistan, and it is to these problems that all of us have to apply our minds.

If I might, Sir, now turn to some aspects of the Constitution, the dictates of geography make it inevitable that we should have a federal constitution. There is the disability in the situation of the capital. A unitary form of Government would multiply the disabilities a thousand fold. Therefore, a federal constitution, where the spheres of activity of the Provincial Government and the Central Government are earmarked, is essential. Even now with the clear ear-marking of these responsibilities in the Government of India Act, 1935, there is a good deal of confusion. The Honourable Leader of the Opposition referred yesterday to projects for improving inland waterways, and for the setting up of canning factories and charged the Central Government with neglect. In fact, they all fall within the provincial sphere. Unfortunately the federal system is not a very easy system of government for people to understand. A unitary government makes it much easier for people to place responsibility. However, our geographical situation is such that a federal constitution is inevitable for us, and in that federal constitution for reasons of geography there must be the maximum of provincial autonomy. But provincial autonomy has meaning and significance only within the framework of a country. Provinces are parts of a country and, therefore, provincial autonomy has to be consistent with the integrity and security and stability of the country. On that matter I am in full agreement with the Leader of the Opposition. I could not improve upon the remarks he made on this subject, and I think anybody looking at the problems of this country in a rational manner would come to the same conclusion.

His Excellency Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani: This brings out the essential unity of all regions.

Mr. Zahiruddin: Exploitation is the only religion that you follow, I am very sorry to say.

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: Secondly, our Constitution must be democratic and it has been modeled on the British Parliamentary System. Objection has been raised that extraordinary powers have been given to the President or the Governors, in particular the power of dissolving Parliament. The Honourable Law Minister, has already explained that, that power will not be exercised by the President or the Governor in his discretion, but on advice, and an amendment to that effect is being moved, Once more, in order to put the matter beyond any doubt that the President or the Governor is to act on the advice of the Minister or Ministers concerned, an amendment is being moved to that effect. The terms of the amendment are:

"In exercise of his functions under the Constitution, the President or a Governor shall act in accordance with the advice of the appropriate Minister or Ministers, except when he is required under the Constitution to act or exercise his functions in his discretion."

And these latter functions have been specified and they are only two or three such as the appointment of the Election Commissioner or the Public Service Commissioners.

Mr. Fazlur Rahman: We are glad that our suggestions have been accepted.

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: Then there is the matter of the choosing of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister must be some one who, in the judgment of the President is most likely to command the confidence of the majority of the House. So except for these matters, the President shall act on the advice – and similarly the Governors – or the Ministers or the Minister concerned. In fact, every amendment which has been suggested from any quarter whatsoever and certainly from the members of this House is receiving the most careful consideration. We do not claim to have all the wisdom is the world and this constitution making is certainly a matter for this whole House and, therefore, all suggestions must receive most careful consideration.

The Honourable Leader of the Opposition referred to the language question and asked why we did not make it clear that Urdu and Bengali shall be State languages. That will be done and an amendment to that effect has been moved.

(Thumping of tables from the Coalition Party).

Honourable Deputy Speaker: (Addressing the Opposition). Why do you not say: ‘Hear; hear’. (Laughter)

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: We have no desire to have any ambiguity in this or any other matter.

Mr. Zahiruddin: This constitution was hailed as a perfect Constitution. Unfortunately some defects have been pointed out in the House.

The Honourable Pir Ali Mohammad Rashidi: Let them take the credit.

Mr. Zahiruddin: What about those sycophantic praises?

The Honourable Pir Ali Mohammad Rashidi: We give you all the credit that you want. We will bring forward a motion passing all the credit to them.

His Excellency Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani: We will move an amendment.

Honourable Deputy Speaker: Order, order.

Mr. Yusuf A. Haroon: They want to have some publicity so let them have it.

Mr. Zahiruddin: We do not need it. We have the people behind us.

The Honourable Pir Mohammad Rashidi: They are too few: they need it.

Mr. Yusuf A. Haroon: Sir, the…..

Honourable Deputy Speaker : Why are you adding to the confusion?

Mr. Abul Mansur Ahmad: There are still some mistakes.

His Excellency Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani: Mistakes must be corrected.

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: No Constitution in the world is perfect. It is always capable of improvement and that is the reason why every modern constitution provides a procedure for amending it.

Mr. Fazlur Rahman: Make it easy.

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: We have tried to make the procedure for amendment of the constitution simple and easy so that our constitution is flexible. A great many provisions will be regulated by Acts or Parliament. That is one way of making the constitution flexible. The procedure for amending the constitution itself is a fairly simple one.

We do not claim, as I have said, all the wisdom in the world. This probably applies to all sections whether it is the Opposition or this side, or even taking the whole House together. We do not know what the requirements of the future generations will be and, therefore, we must approach this task in all humility and not in a spirit of arrogance or pride. I have heard many homilies yesterday and today – "I must not be this and I must not be that"; with an assumption of superior virtue. I am a very humble man and I take those homilies in a spirit of humility; whatever the spirit in which they might have been delivered, for I know that we all are fallible and weak men.

Mr. Abul Mansur Ahmad: Not Mr. Hamidul Huq Choudhury.

Mr. Abul Aleem: Except Mr. Suhrawardy.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: Do not go to that extent, Mr. Aleem:

Mr. Abdul Aleem: Why do you attack others like that?

Honourable Deputy Speaker: Order, order, please.

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: All that we can attempt in all sincerity and exercising the highest judgment of which we are capable, is to render the best service that we can to this country. I trust that these constitutional problems will be approached in that spirit. I can certainly say that I have throughout tried, subject to one overriding consideration which is present to my mind all the time and that is, to maintain, the integrity of this country.

Mr. Abul Mansur Ahmad: No one will be.

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: Subject to that overriding consideration, I have tried.

Mr. Fazlur Rahman: I think this is a very bad spirit to say that the entire House goes against the integrity and I will not go. This is a very wrong way. (Interruptions.)

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: I cast no reflection upon any members of this House.

Honourable Deputy Speaker: The House stands adjourned for half an hour for Maghrib Prayers.

[The Assembly then adjourned for Maghrib Prayers. The Assembly re-assembled after Maghrib Prayers at Forty-Five Minutes Past Seven of the clock, in the evening, Honourable Deputy Speaker (the Honourable Mr. C. Gibbon) in the Chair.]

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: Sir, I was submitting that subject to the overriding consideration of maintaining the integrity of the country what I attempted to do was to bring about the maximum measure of agreement between representatives of East and West Pakistan. In my view the constitution for this country should be framed with the consent of the majority of the representatives of East Pakistan and the majority of the representatives of the West Pakistan. Therefore, I was concerned with obtaining the maximum measure of agreement. I did not allow my own personal views to intrude so much upon these decisions because in a democratic set up the view of the majority must prevail. I do not claim that degree of wisdom for myself, whatever my views on a particular question, that they must necessarily be right. It is in that spirit that I have worked and I think it is in that spirit that the members of the Coalition Party have worked together. I have desired always that the constitution should be treated on a national basis and that all parties should be associated with the work of framing it. It was for this reason that I requested the Leader of the Opposition that we might all sit together and frame the Constitution. As he has said he could not see his way to agreeing with that suggestion and asked instead that the Coalition Party which is responsible for running the Government should take the responsibility of framing the constitution.

Mr. Zahiruddin: First settle and then discuss.

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: I kept him in touch with the progress we made from time to time and I say, Sir, at every stage I have been willing, and am willing today to sit with the Opposition and discuss all points of difference so that they might be resolved amicably. The Opposition is as much concerned in the framing of a sound constitution as the members of the coalition. It is the desire of every one in the country that the constitution should be framed as early as possible and that thereafter there should be general elections at the earliest possible date. In a democracy the opposition of today may be the Government of tomorrow and, therefore, everyone is vitally concerned with seeing that a sound constitution is framed for the country. That is the spirit and the manner in which I have approached the problem. I, therefore, Sir, welcome the idea that we should sit together and resolve these points of difference. My suggestion would be that those matters and those clauses, and they form the bulk, on which there is no difference of opinion should be proceeded within the House and in the morning we should sit together and hammer out those matters on which there is difference of opinion. In that way I have no doubt we can make quick progress. The number of clauses and matters on which there is difference is not very large and if we work together in the spirit of good will with the desire to give the country as good and sound a constitution as possible, I think we can arrive at an agreement very soon, within a few days.

Mr. Zahiruddin: Adjourn the House.

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: Therefore, Sir, my suggestion would be that I am prepared to sit every morning with the Opposition and discuss the points at issue. It is for that reason that I am refraining at this stage from making any comments on matters on which differences of view have been expressed. I want that these matters should be discuss amicable. And if we can possibly reach agreement let us reach agreement. I shall, at this time, refer to only one thing, the Islamic character of the constitution, and that again not in a spirit of controversy. Sir, as I stated in the beginning of my speech when I quoted the Quaid-i-Azam to show that our object is the development of Islamic culture and to let the Islamic spirit operate on our society, our politics, our laws and, in fact, on the entire sphere of human relationships. Islam, we are all well aware, is not merely a matter of the individual’s relation with the Almighty; it concerns itself with all the spheres of life. Its spirit permeates them all and although we are yet far from it and are very imperfect Muslims indeed, I perhaps most of all, yet, in our striving for the spirit of Islam, we regard ourselves as ennobled and elevated above the ordinary mundane affairs of life. All of us, I am sure, in varying degrees, with greater or less intensity, work for it. We may have differences, all of us may not agree with the manner in which one section interprets the injunctions of Islam or the legal system of Islam, yet, Islam enjoins upon us, not compulsion but discussion and consultation together and if, therefore, we discuss these matters together in our National Parliament and arrive at conclusions, may be after heated discussions, may be after a certain measure of disagreement, I see nothing wrong in that process. I feel, Sir, that our people are sufficiently imbued with tolerant spirit of Islam to understand this process. May be, some people try to fan fanaticism and intolerance. Well, it is the duty of all right-minded citizens to resist them and to secure agreement on how the essential principles of Islam should work in our society, in our body politic, in our laws and in all that concerns society. If we approach our work in that spirit, we must succeed. Submission to the will of Almighty, peace and toleration and goodwill and justice and brotherhood are the cardinal principles of Islam. If we enter upon our task in that faith, however imperfectly and haltingly, we shall nevertheless be marching towards the goal of a better-ordered society than our own. Our society is full of all sorts of injustices, social and economic. It is shot through and through with undue privileges and if we are to fulfill the demand of Islam for social justice, we shall have to undertake measures which will not have the ready consent of everyone. Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved except in the face of opposition. We should not be deterred by that, we should hope and believe that in a democracy where men can freely express their views, in a society however imperfectly Islamic, yet Islamic, we shall gradually transform ourselves into a better and nobler people. It is in that belief, Sir, that we have embarked upon this venture, in an effort to realize and fulfill the high purpose for which Pakistan was established. The Honourable Leader of the Opposition himself gave eloquent expression to those high ideals and added that we were far from a truly Islamic society. There was, surprisingly enough for one of his clear and vigorous mind, some contradiction in his thinking; on the one hand he maintained that we are unworthy and unfit to be called Islamic in any sense.

Mr. Zahiruddin: With this Constitution.

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: On the other hand, he painted a dark picture of an Islamic society practicing injustice towards minorities, allowing slavery, mutilation and what not? I have said before, Sir, that the spirit of Islam preaches tolerance and that the right of freely developing our culture which we as Muslims claim for ourselves must be conceded to non-Muslims. We must move in the true spirit of Islam, we may be unworthy of it today, but we have a right to express an aspiration for it and I know we shall achieve our goal. If any one of us were asked whether he is a Muslim or not, he would say that he is a Muslim, knowing all the time that he is far from being a perfect Muslim, knowing his limitations, imperfections, yet he would readily say that he is a Muslim.

Chun mi goyam Musalmanam bilarzam,
Kih danam mushkilat-e-la ilah ra.

"When I say I am Muslim, I tremble, for I know the difficulties of a La Ilaha Illal Lah,…. There is no God but one God."

I know the difficulties of living the life of a true Muslim. To every true believer his conscience may say that is his claim to be a Muslim is a greatly exaggerated one, it may be that when some one is asked whether he is a Muslim, he may feel ashamed in his heart and feel that he is far from the true path and that his life is a very different one from that of a true Muslim. It is the same about our society. It is far from an Islamic society and yet I said to strive for it, to endeavour, to achieve it, to aspire towards it is the very reason of our whole life.

I hope, Sir, that I have said nothing which would cause annoyance to anyone or give anyone a feeling that I was assuming for myself any special kind of virtue. If I have done so inadvertently, I beg forgiveness. We are, Sir, traveling on a difficult road. The hazards are great enough without our adding to them through our own vanity and, therefore, in all humility, in charity and submission, let us walk this road together towards a better and more justly ordered society.

Mr. H. S. Suhrawardy: Sir, the Honourable Prime Minister has been good enough to make a suggestion as to how we can sit together and consider the various clauses of the Constitution. I regret, Sir, that he has not followed the reason for my offer to him. I cannot conceive how, while we are discussing the matters in the morning we shall oppose each other across the Floor of this House in the evening. The Honourable Prime Minister has stated that only non-controversial matters will be taken up and disposed off. If these matters are non-controversial and can be disposed off at once, there is hardly any point in wasting our time on it because when the matters will come up in the ordinary course for discussion, they will be disposed off in a matter of seconds. There are many amendments, almost in every Chapter, that our party has suggested which need discussion and there are many amendments which are cognate to each other. I do not think, Sir, that the suggestion which has been made by the Honourable Prime Minister is at all practical and I would request him if he can possibly revise the opinion to and consent to the adjournment of the Assembly for a few days within which we can, morning, noon and night, sit down together for the purpose of arriving at an agreement.

The Honourable Mr. Mohammad Ali: Sir, when I made my suggestion, I had in mind the fact that a great many of the clauses are really of a non-controversial character with hardly any real difference of opinion about them. There may be slight improvements which can be suggested as we proceed and can readily be settled in the course of discussion in the House itself. The mere process of going through a large number of sections takes time. There is a certain procedure which has to be followed about them and now and then there may be some explanations to give. All that, however, does not take away from the non-controversial character of these clauses. It was for that reason, Sir, that I suggested that we should go on with our work here in the afternoons and in the mornings take up these matters on which a very real difference of opinion has been expressed. It was for that reason and in that spirit that I made this suggestion. I have already submitted, my reasons why we should make every endeavour to pass the Constitution during the month of February. Provincial Assemblies and the Central Assembly will meet in March for their Budget Sessions. There are a number of persons who are Members both of the Provincial as well as the Central Assemblies. Their presence for Constitution making which is of overriding importance is essential. Therefore, all we have with us is the month of February. If we do not pass the Constitution during this month, we have to adjourn the Constituent Assembly for the Budget Sessions of Provincial Assemblies and the Central Assembly, and that will take the whole of March and may be a greater part of April. Constitution-making would, therefore, be deferred till May and, as I have submitted before, all over the country, people are anxious that the Constitution should be passed at the earliest possible date. It is with the desire to utilize every moment of our time that I have suggested this procedure.


Source: Documents and Speeches on the Constitution of Pakistan
By G. W. Choudhury (1967). Green Book House, Dacca (East Pakistan)


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