Historical reasons of Political Instability in Pakistan

Political instability in any country or state occurs due to the discord between different institutions; lack of pluralistic norms and resentments among different apparatus of the society.

Pakistan, since its inception, has been consistently remained the pivot of political crisis. This political ordeal could be traced back in history when the embryonic state was disheveled in the issue of forming a constitution and language controversies.

Pakistan which attained its independence in 1947 was confronted with the task of framing a constitution. According to renowned historian G.W.Chaudhary, framing constitution of Pakistan was a highly multifarious matter; delay in making it had endangered national unity and erupted a discord between the federation and federating units. Certain features of the country’s geography, population-distance of 1000 miles between West and East Pakistan and ethnicity respectively, which have no parallel in any country, had made the task even more difficult. A final draft was accepted in September 1945, at which the head of the state, Governor General Ghulam Muhammad dissolved the constitutional assembly on the ground that it had lost the confidence of the people.

The question of the character of the state had made this task even more problematic. The vast majority of the people of Pakistan were Muslims. Their aspirations to preserve the values of Islam were the main reason behind the partition of India. It may be said that implicit in the demand of an independent state was the demand for an Islamic state. Some speeches of important leaders who were striving for Pakistan lend themselves to this interpretation. The first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, while introducing the objective resolution in the constituent assembly stated:

“Pakistan was founded because Muslims of this sub-continent wanted to build up their lives in accordance with the teachings and traditions of Islam because they wanted to demonstrate to the world that Islam provides a panacea to the many diseases which have crept into the life of humanity”.

It was generally agreed that the aim should be an Islamic state; there was no agreement as to the meaning of the term “Islamic State”. Soon conflict arose between the two factions: Ulema that wanted the country to become a complete Islamic state. Ulema’s were against the non-Muslims minorities. They had a perception that there should be no citizenship, no right to raise voice on making laws and no right to hold public offices for minorities.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s intelligentsias were in favor of a pluralistic state fostered on the norms of democracy wherein the citizens irrespective of their religion or dogma would enjoy equal rights. This scrimmage had remained with both factions which delayed a production of legal document on which the future of Pakistan was based.

Moreover, the issue of representation between Eastern and Western wings in the federal legislature played havoc with the dream of unity. That was the problem more than any other which delayed the framing of a constitution of newly born state.

East Pakistan was one-seventh of the whole in area but its population exceeded the total population of all the provinces and state in the West Pakistan. Both wings were different in the term of economy, culture and language. West Pakistan was predominately Muslim; East Pakistan had non-Muslim minority. To find a common parliament for a state whose territory and population were so uniquely distributed proved to be a complex task.

The constituent assembly made a number of proposals to solve the problem of representation but none of proposals could satisfy the demands of East and West Pakistan. Such as Basic Principles Committee which was set up by the constituent assembly to frame the federal structure of the government, released reports in 1950 and 1952 which increased tension between both wings.

Furthermore, one unit formula had lead towards serious conflict on both sides.Another issue was the distribution of powers between the federal and the provincial governments. Since 1935, the provinces which constitute Pakistan had enjoyed autonomy under the 1935 Government of India Act. So due to this practice, provincial spirit became deep rooted. But there was an agreement over federal form of government; it was need of that time because of the geographical differences between both wings.

A strong central government was an important feature to unite both wings at that time. But conflicts developed between central and provincial governments caused delay in framing a single constitution.

Language became another major hurdle in the formation of constitution. Pakistan was a multi-lingual state. The East spoke Bengali and in the West there were number of different languages such as Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto and Balochi. Urdu however regarded as a common tongue of the region. Urdu was declared as a national language but East wing started agitations on that. They argued that Bengali should be the national language; thus proved to be a hurdle in framing constitution.

These historical reasons become the major cause of political instability in the form of praetorian’s intervention, political deinstitutionalization, displaced leadership, dynastical politics; crisis of identity, culture of militancy, secessionist hues, sectarian cleavages and many more.


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  1. Ghulam Sarwar says

    Congress, mostly Hindu party was pressing the British rulers to quit and leave India. Muslims were afraid that they will suffer due to democratic system in India after the British went away. So the Muslims demanded a home land for the Muslim nation in India.
    There was great struggle and contest. During that time some Muslim groups (The Ahrar of Deobandis) vehemently opposed the creation of Pakistan. Jama’at Islami (JI) under Maudoodi sahib also opposed the creation of Pakistan.

    Pakistan was supposed to be an independent state, home land for the Muslims. It did not mean it would be a religious (Theocratic) state. Maudoodi sahib came from Indian Punjab to Pakistan. In 1948 He said, “A country has been achieved. Now it is our duty to make that country a Muslim.” Pakistan leaders failed, they did not recognize the anti Pakistan people in the country, roaming freely.
    Indian leaders were careful in all matters, very careful and did very well for their country.
    As described by Iqra Riaz sahibah, Pakistan leaders lost their way when they delayed in framing a constitution and making a wrong (Theocratic) constitution for a multifaceted society. It was another big mistake. Making all non-Muslims in the country a third grade citizen was a great nail in the coffin.

  2. Yousaf Hammad says

    Great analysis.

  3. Shumail says

    A final draft was accepted in September 1945, at which the head of the state, Governor General Ghulam Muhammad dissolved the constitutional assembly on the ground that it had lost the confidence of the people.
    What’s with the date here? Probably a typo. Please correct it for record.

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