A tale of two constitutions – India and Pakistan

A tale of two constitutions – India and Pakistan



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Although India was partitioned on religious lines, the Constituent Assembly of India chose to get over that bitterness. In 1949, the predominantly Hindu assembly adopted a constitution which defined Hindu-majority India as a “SOVEREIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC” (Preamble) instead of wording it as a “SOVEREIGN HINDU DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC.”

Nevertheless, the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan chose not to forget the religious reality of Partition. In 1956, the predominantly Muslim assembly adopted a constitution which declared Muslim-majority Pakistan as an “Islamic Republic” (Article 1, Clause 1). Though the Constitution of India was adopted seven years earlier than that of Pakistan, the former’s religion-neutrality had little effect on the latter’s Islam-centrality.

The Indian Constitution does not mention any ‘state religion’ whereas the Pakistani one specifies, “Islam shall be the State religion” (Article 2). As any country which does not have a state religion is bound to treat all religions equally, it need not have the concept of religious minorities. Despite this, the Indian Constitution uses the term “minorities” fifteen times. On the other hand, any country which does have a state religion is bound to treat that religion as superior to  others, and it must be asked about its religious minorities. Although Pakistan has a state religion, the Pakistani Constitution uses the term “minorities” only seven times.

The Indian Constitution states, “No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State” (Article 16, Clause 2). Thus, three Muslims have been among those who were elected to the apex post of President However, the Pakistani Constitution mandates, “A person shall not be qualified for election as President unless he is a Muslim” (Article 41, Clause 2). Accordingly, no non-Muslim has been President

The Indian President’s oath of office reads, “I will faith-fully execute the office of President (or discharge the functions of the President) of India and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of India” (Article 60). While it clearly has no religious content, the Pakistani President’s oath reads, “I am a Muslim and believe in the Unity and Oneness of Almighty Allah, the Books of Allah, the Holy Quran being the last of them, the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the last of the Prophets and that there can be no Prophet after him, the Day of Judgement, and all the requirements and teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah. . . . I will strive to preserve the Islamic Ideology which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan” (Third Schedule). It is evident that the Pakistani President’s oath is an affirmation of Muslim-hood and also a commitment towards Islam.

In 1976, the word “SECULAR” was added to the Indian Constitution (Forty-second Amendment). Thus, from being essentially secular, the Constitution became explicitly so. Even after such overt secularisation in India, Pakistan became more Islamic than how it started out. In 1985, the Pakistani President’s oath was supplemented with the sentence, “May Allah Almighty help and guide me (A’meen)” (President’s Order No. 14).

Not only the Indian President’s oath, even the Indian Prime Minister’s affirmation has no religious content (Third Schedule). The Indian Constitution is consistent but so is the Pakistani one, the only difference being that one is steadfastly secular while the other is unwaveringly Islamic.

Like the Pakistani President’s oath, the Pakistani Prime Minister’s oath too is an affirmation of Muslim-hood coupled with a commitment towards Islam and followed by a prayer to Allah (Third Schedule). No wonder that no non-Muslim has served as Prime Minister of Pakistan

Freedom of expression is restricted in India “in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence” (Article 19, Clause 2). Though none of these grounds is for the purpose of glorifying the majority faith in India, the first ground for restricting freedom of expression in Pakistan is “in the interest of the glory of Islam” (Article 19).

The Indian Constitution states, “No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds” (Article 28, Clause 1). Once again, such non-religiosity of India is in direct contrast with the Islamism of Pakistan whose Constitution directs that state “to enable the Muslims of Pakistan, individually and collectively, to order their lives in accordance with the fundamental principles and basic concepts of Islam and to provide facilities whereby they may be enabled to understand the meaning of life according to the Holy Quran and Sunnah” (Article 31, Clause 1).

As if its Clause 1 was not specific enough, Article 31’s Clause 2 elaborates, “The State shall endeavour, as respects the Muslims of Pakistan, – (a) to make the teaching of the Holy Quran and Islamiat compulsory, to encourage and facilitate the learning of Arabic language and to secure correct and exact printing and publishing of the Holy Quran; (b) to promote unity and the observance of the Islamic moral standards; and (c) to secure the proper organisation of zakat [ushr,] auqaf and mosques.”

The Indian Constitution does not mandate that laws be aligned with any religion but the Pakistani Constitution states, “All existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, in this part referred to as the Injunctions of Islam, and no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such Injunctions” (Article 227, Clause 1).

In order to ensure that ‘conformity with the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah’, the Pakistani Constitution mandates the establishment of a Council of Islamic Ideology whose members shall include those who have “knowledge of the principles and philosophy of Islam as enunciated in the Holy Quran and Sunnah” (Article 228, Clause 2). It also stipulates that at least one third of the Council’s members be “persons each of whom has been engaged, for a period of not less than fifteen years, in Islamic research or instruction” (Article 228, Clause 3, Sub-Clause c).

Leaving no stone unturned on its path of Islamizing the laws, the Pakistani Constitution states, “The President or the Governor of a Province may, or if two-fifths of its total membership so requires, a House or a Provincial Assembly shall, refer to the Islamic Council for advice any question as to whether a proposed law is or is not repugnant to the Injunctions of Islam” (Article 229).

That the ‘advice’ given by the Islamic Council is binding on the legislature is also clarified by the Pakistani Constitution which states, “where a law is referred for advice to the Islamic Council and the Council advises that the law is repugnant to the Injunctions of Islam, the House or, as the case may be, the Provincial Assembly, the President or the Governor shall reconsider the law so made” (Article 230, Clause 3).

The Constitution of India has 466 printed pages while that of Pakistan is not half as long at 225 such pages. A count of some religion-specific words is indicative of which is fundamentally secular and which is irredeemably Islamic.

Constitution of India Constitution of Pakistan
Religion-specific words &the number of times each appears ‘Hinduism’ 0 times ‘Islam’ / ‘Islamic’ 134 times
‘Hindu’ / ‘Hindus’ 8 times ‘Muslim’ / ‘Muslims’ 38 times
‘God’ 13 times ‘Allah’ 42 times




IndiaFacts Staff

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