& Daughter: A Political Autobiography
Ara Shahnawaz (1896-1979) was one of the earliest female parliamentarians
of South Asia. She participated in the Round Table Conferences held
in London in the early 1930's for the formulation of a constitution
for India, participated in the Pakistan Movement from the platform
of the All India Muslim League, and was appointed to the first Constituent
Assembly of Pakistan after the creation of the new country.
The following extract is from her autobiography
Father & Daughter is an insider's account of the steering of
the Objectives Resolution (adopted by the Constituent Assembly on
March 12). The account is a little confusing because Jahanara fails
to mention that the Basic Principles Committee for formulating outlines
of the new constitution came into being on the same day when the
Resolution was passed by the Constituent Assembly. Hence, the discussions
in the Committee, mentioned in the following passage, must have
been in connection with the adoption of the Resolution by the Committee
while the Assembly had already adopted the Resolution.
From Chapter 4, 'The Constituent Assembly and
Father & Daughter
-- a political autobiography
Jahan Ara Shahnawaz
Oxford University Press,
We were in Karachi for meetings when I learnt that
a Board of Ulema had been set up for consultation about an Islamic
constitution and suddenly, as members of the Basic Principles Committee,
we received a so-called Objectives Resolution which was to be proposed
in the Committee
While I had the Objectives Resolution in my hand,
I thought of my long talk with Mr Jinnah about the new constitution.
Constitutional lawyers in the Cabinet had advised Prime Minister
Liaquat Ali Khan to have preambles of this type, with constitutional
guarantees for every word, something sacred and precious, and one
had to think twice before putting down such things in black and
white. Did not the phrase 'an Islamic State' include all this and
much more? I was perturbed and upset and went to see the Prime Minister.
I told him of my talk with Mr Jinnah about the constitution and
asked him whether he had any access to the papers left behind by
Mr. Jinnah or not. If so, it would be the greatest national service
to have a copy of the constitution on which, Jinnah told me, he
had been working for fifteen months. He replied: 'Begum Shah Nawaz,
you know that I have never had any access to Quaid's [Jinnah] papers.'
I saw Miss Fatima Jinnah the very next day, told her of my whole
talk with her brother and requested her to let the nation have a
copy of the constitution framed by him, if such a document existed
in his papers I appealed to her that mistakes were bound to be committed
in the new constitution if Jinnah's ideas were not placed before
the Constituent Assembly, but she did not reply. She was a reserved
person, but under the cold exterior there was plenty of warmth.
I used to open my heart to her many times after Jinnah's demise
and she was always kind and ready to listen to what I had to tell
her. But she was not prepared to face the Government or take up
cudgels on any important issue, until towards the end of her life.
A Board of Ulema was appointed to advise the Constituent
Assembly. This, when Jinnah had said that there was no room for
the maulvis in the Muslim League, a saying repeated by Fatima Jinnah
in her talks. A board of the best constitutional lawyers of the
country, yes, but not of the ulema. People said that Liaquat had
no base, therefore he was trying to ally himself with the orthodox
section and with the vested interests in the country.
We received the Objectives Resolution and I was very
upset. How could the Court interpret and adjudicate a resolution
of this type, was something beyond one's comprehension. Who had
advised Prime Minister Liaquat Ali to have a preamble of this type?
I could not understand how constitutional lawyers like Zafrullah
and Nishtar had agreed to it or helped to frame it.
To base a constitution on such a resolution when every word would
have to be legislated was something unthinkable.
Ghulam Muhammad, the Finance Minister, convened a
meeting of the members of the Basic Principles Committee and seventeen
of us, including Firoz Khan Noon and Mumtaz Daultana, met and discussed
the question at length. It was unanimously decided to oppose it.
The next morning Chaudhri Nazir Ahmad and Dr Malik, members of the
Assembly, came to see me and advised me not to oppose the Resolution.
I said that I had to do it, as I believed conscientiously that it
should not be passed and it was also going against Jinnah's ideas.
They told me that Liaquat wanted it to be passed, but I refused.
When the meeting was held, imagine my surprise that I was the only
one opposing it, while all the others just kept quiet. I looked
at Firoz and Mumtaz, who had been so strongly against it. I had
to face Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani alone. I pointed out that such
objectives were our ideals and would remain so, but these should
not and could not form a preamble to the Constitution. When legislation
was framed, how would the courts interpret the working and act upon
it? I threw light on every aspect of the question, and fought tooth
and nail against it. What made me most depressed was that those
who were the loudest in opposing it in the private meeting called
by Ghulam Muhammad should keep dumb. If this was going to be the
case in framing the constitution, God help our nation. I was fighting
a battle in the interests of my nation and mine was the only dissenting
voice recorded. Some of the leaders, while noisily voicing their
sentiments at dinner parties, social gatherings, and private meetings,
did not have the courage to say anything about them in the meetings
of the Basic Principles Committee; their lips were sealed. I returned
from one of the meetings in sheer disgust. Where were the leaders
that I had worked with, personalities who knew how to give the lead
in the interests of the nation, even if they did have to stand alone?
Did leadership mean only to be the yes-men and henchmen of those
in power? I was happy to find that Bengal had greater political
consciousness and courage than the majority of members from the
Source: Father & Daughter -- a political
By Jahan Ara Shahnawaz (1971/2002). Oxford University Press,
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