The ‘Objectives Resolution’ presented in Constituent Assembly of Pakistan during its fifth session in March 1949 has cast a long shadow over Pakistan’s constitutional and political history. The resolution has been made part of Pakistan’s constitutions on three different occasions. The official website of National Assembly of Pakistan refers to the resolution as the ‘grund norm [sic] of Pakistan.’ Lately, it has become a punching bag for people belonging to the progressive sections of our society, while the resolution is championed by the religious right-wing. Lost in this hullabaloo is the debate that surrounded the resolution when it was initially presented and the context in which the resolution was conceived. Fortunately, the debates held in Constituent Assembly are now public, and they offer us a window into the minds of principle actors involved in conceiving, defending and opposing the resolution. The debates present a snapshot of different political and social groups that were vying for a share of power in the aftermath of India’s partition. Following is a discussion on the debates and the various actors involved in this episode of Pakistan’s history.Christophe Jaffrelot, in his excellent book, The Pakistan Paradox has highlighted the journey of Muslim League from an exclusive Elites-only club to the party that claimed to represent the whole Muslim community in India. Following its inception in 1906, All India Muslim League strived to position itself as a representative of Muslim nationalism in India, with a curious mixture of elitism, religiosity, and pan-Islamism. Until the Second World War, the political fortunes of the party were dwindling, even in its supposed stronghold of UP and the party had acquired an underdog mentality. The party had struck a Faustian bargain with religious parties in UP after a disastrous showing in the 1937 elections which had done little to improve its political position. In the 1940s, Muslim League focused mostly on acquiring a separate state based on a ‘Two-Nation theory.’ This theory postulated that Muslims and Hindus had completely different cultural practices and could not coexist in the same country. By 1947, this dream was realised, but the party had not thought ahead and was ill prepared to deal with governing as opposed to agitating.During the first half of the twentieth century, two great wars took place, leading to loss of millions of lives. In the political arena, Soviet-style communism vied for space with Anglo-American democracy and Italian Fascism. It was a time of great upheaval and the partition of India in August 1947 resulted in mass-scale bloodshed on both sides of the border. It was also a time of decolonisation, and many new Muslim-majority states were grappling with the idea of a new social contract for their citizens. In this milieu, Objectives Resolution was a pioneering effort to define and crystallise Muslim Nationalism and an effort to ‘Islamise’ the society. This effort naturally faced opposition from members of the assembly who didn’t belong to the Muslim faith and were not enthused by the wording of this resolution. The debates that took place foreshadowed discussions about the Islamist-secular dichotomy as well as the status of minorities in a Muslim-majority society and role of religion in a society that had barely recovered from the shock of a violent partition based on religious affinity.Objectives Resolution was a pioneering effort to define and crystallise Muslim Nationalism and to ‘Islamise’ the society Liaquat Ali Khan, in his opening gambit, said: “It is God-consciousness alone which can save humanity, which means that all power humanity possesses must be used by ethical standards which have been laid down by… great Prophets of different religions.” He went on to say that the idea of a theocracy is ‘absolutely foreign to Islam’ and therefore ‘the question of a theocracy simply doesn’t arise in Islam.’ The Objectives Resolution referred to the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice ‘as they have been enunciated by Islam’. Furthermore, his speech contained words that clearly forecasted the role of the state in a citizen’s life. ‘The State’, he said, ‘is not to play the part of a neutral observer, wherein the Muslims may be merely free to profess and practice their religion, because such an attitude on the part of the State would be the very negation of the ideals which prompted the demand of Pakistan, and it is these ideals which should be the cornerstone of the State which we want to build’.Expectedly, non-Muslim members of the house (including Prem Hari Barma and Sri Chandra Chattopadhyaya) wanted enough time to consider the resolution and expressed the need to amend the portions of the text which were most problematic. Mr Bhupendra Kumar Datta tried to explain the relationship between citizens and a modern state as: “The relations between a state and its citizens may be, and have been throughout the ages, of diverse forms, but whatever the forms, they are subjects properly of politics. On the other hand, the relation between man and God comes within the sphere of religion”. He went on to say that such a resolution wouldn’t have come to the Assembly floor within the lifetime of Mr Jinnah. The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore. He writes on History, International Relations and Culture Published in Daily Times, July 3rd, 2017.