Article 2-A of the Constitution and Minorities Rights
27 March, 2012
By Muqtedir Akhtar Shabir
On the other day I saw scrolling a statement of some politician on TV channel, he said that we need to amend Article 2- A of the Constitution to give rights to the minority of this country. This was not for the first time I hear this kind of remarks regarding Article 2- A of the Constitution with reference to minority's rights. I have also come across a canvassing of this kind on internet or face book massaging, criticizing Article 2- A as hindrance to minorities rights.
I strongly refute this kind of impression that is being spread regarding Article 2-A with reference to the minorities rights in the country. Let us discuss the subject and I will make an effort to illustrate that Article 2- A , in facts not only protects the minorities in Pakistan but in many ways gives double rights to the minorities of Pakistan.
Article 2- A is a very short article of the constitution. In fact it only makes the objective resolution of 1949 as the substantive part of the constitution.
Objective Resolution is reproduced below:
"Whereas sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty alone and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan, through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust;
This Constituent Assembly representing the people of Pakistan resolves to frame a Constitution for the sovereign independent State of Pakistan;
Wherein the State shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people;
Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed;
Wherein the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah;
Wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures;
Wherein the territories now included in or in accession with Pakistan and such other territories as may hereafter be included in or accede to Pakistan shall form a
Federation wherein the units will be autonomous with such boundaries and limitations on their powers and authority as may be prescribed;
Wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality;
Wherein adequate provisions shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes;
Wherein the independence of the Judiciary shall be fully secured;
Wherein the integrity of the territories of the Federation, its independence and all its rights including its sovereign rights on land, sea and air shall be safeguarded;
So that the people of Pakistan may prosper and attain their rightful and honored place amongst the nations of the World and make their full contribution towards international peace and progress and happiness of humanity."
Now let us see how minorities enjoy double rights than Muslims under Objective Resolution. First of all the minorities who are citizens of Pakistan enjoy protection of the Constitution and laws of the country and are as such entitle to democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, fundamental rights including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality;
Secondly the double rights to the minorities are that minorities being citizen of Pakistan not only enjoy the rights guaranteed to all citizens of Pakistan under the constitution but special provisions have been incorporated for the benefit of the minorities. The minorities are allowed to contest the elections on the general seats and in addition special seats are also reserved for them under the Constitution of Pakistan. Plus the Objective Resolution resolves that adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures; The people (including minorities) shall be guaranteed fundamental rights including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality; It also ensures that adequate provisions shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes;
Now let us see other beneficial provisions for the safe guards and protection of minorities in our constitution.
"Article 20. Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions.
Subject to law, public order and morality:-
(a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion; and
(b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.
Article 21. Safeguard against taxation for purposes of any particular religion.
No person shall be compelled to pay any special tax the proceeds of which are to be spent on the propagation or maintenance of any religion other than his own.
Article 22. Safeguards as to educational institutions in respect of religion, etc.
(1) No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own.
(2) In respect of any religious institution, there shall be no discrimination against any community in the granting of exemption or concession in relation to taxation.
(3) Subject to law:
(a) no religious community or denomination shall be prevented from providing religious instruction for pupils of that community or denomination in any educational institution maintained wholly by that community or denomination; and (b) no citizen shall be denied admission to any educational institution receiving aid from public revenues on the ground only of race, religion, caste or place of birth.
(4) Nothing in this Article shall prevent any public authority from making provision for the advancement of any socially or educationally backward class of citizens.
Article 28. Preservation of language, script and culture.
Subject to Article 251 any section of citizens having a distinct language, script or culture shall have the right to preserve and promote the same and subject to law, establish institutions for that purpose.
Article 36. Protection of minorities.
The State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the Federal and Provincial services."
We must understand while interpreting the provisions of the constitution that the constitution of Pakistan is made for all the citizen of Pakistan and to protect their rights and by no means it is limited to Muslims of Pakistan. It is also true that certain resolve has been laid down in the constitution to ensure the rights of the Muslim to lead their lives according to teaching of Islam but it does not mean that it takes away rights of other people belonging to other religion.
We shall understand that by incorporating these provisions the minorities of Pakistan are not only protected as citizens of Pakistan but their rights as minorities have been many a times secured through incorporating Article 2- A in the constitution. Thus the impression that Article 2 A of the constitution works against the rights of the minorities is totally wrong and based on either mis-understanding or lack of knowledge of the legal provisions.
Muqtedir Akhtar Shabir, Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan.