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The constitution-making in Pakistan was marked by various challenges and delays, significantly impacting the country’s political and social development. These delays can be attributed to several key issues:
Pakistan was created as a union of two geographically and culturally distinct regions, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan). The issue of federalism became a major obstacle in constitution-making. East Pakistan sought greater autonomy and provincial rights, leading to tensions with West Pakistan. The demand for a fair distribution of resources and power-sharing arrangements created significant delays in drafting a constitution that could satisfy both regions.
Ensuring equitable representation for both East and West Pakistan was a contentious issue. East Pakistan had a larger population, but West Pakistan held more political power. The struggle to balance population-based representation and safeguard the interests of smaller provinces contributed to delays in constitution-making.
separate vs Joint Electorate
The debate over whether to have separate or joint electorates further exacerbated tensions between East and West Pakistan. East Pakistan favoured separate electorates, while West Pakistan and religious minorities preferred a joint electorate system. This disagreement led to prolonged negotiations and political deadlock.
Islamic or Secular System
Another major point of contention revolved around the nature of the state. While Pakistan’s founding fathers had envisioned a state that would safeguard the rights of religious minorities and allow freedom of religion, there were disagreements about the extent to which Islamic principles should be incorporated into the constitution. This debate resulted in delays as different factions argued over the role of religion in the state.
National Language Issue
The question of the national language also played a role in the delays. Initially, Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared Urdu as the national language. However, this decision faced strong opposition in East Pakistan, where Bengali was the majority language. The “Two Language Formula” was eventually adopted, with both Urdu and Bengali as national languages, but this issue further strained relations between the two wings of the country.
Pakistan experienced frequent changes in government and political instability in its early years. The lack of a stable government made building consensus and drafting a constitution difficult. Leaders were often preoccupied with political crises and power struggles, diverting attention from the constitutional process.
The Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union also influenced Pakistan’s politics and constitution-making. External pressures and alliances with superpowers added complexity to the internal debates, sometimes delaying the constitutional process.
the causes of the delay in constitution-making in Pakistan were deeply rooted in the country’s diverse demographics, competing interests, and the complex interplay of religion, culture, and politics. These issues led to protracted negotiations, political gridlock, and, at times, violent conflict. Ultimately, Pakistan adopted its first constitution in 1956, but it was short-lived, and subsequent constitutions continued to reflect the challenges and compromises of the early years of the nation’s existence.
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