The Objectives Resolution of Pakistan: Islam, Minorities, and the Making of a Democracy–Discussion with Dr. Neeti Nair

Tuesday, February 20, 2018
12:00 PM – 2:00 PM
The Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E Street, NW, Lindner Family Commons, Room 602
Washington, DC 20052

The creation of the state of Pakistan in 1947 was sudden and unexpected. Several details including the new international boundary lines, the accession of princely states, the division of the British Indian army, the choice of a national flag and appropriate national anthem, had to be worked out. The framing of a Constitution was among the foremost challenges facing the new state. In less than three decades, Pakistan would have as many Constitutions; common to all of these was the Objectives Resolution.

Passed in March 1949 by the first Constituent Assembly, which was also Pakistan’s first legislature, the Objectives Resolution is generally understood as marking the beginning of the Islamization of laws and society. Yet, the Resolution was embraced by non-Muslims, especially Christians, for safeguarding their right to preach and practice as Christians. A close examination of contemporary debates in the Constituent Assembly, the writings of religious scholars, law-makers and educationists throws new light on what it meant to be Muslim in Pakistan’s early decades, and for Pakistan to aspire to be an Islamic state. For both Muslims and non-Muslims, the Objectives Resolution was a challenge and a promise – a challenge to balance the contradictions and expectations inherent in the many clauses comprising the Resolution, and a promise to aspire to an equal and tolerant society “as enunciated by Islam.”

The lecture is part of my larger book project ‘Through Minority Eyes: Blasphemy Laws in South Asia.’


12:00 PM 

12:30 PM – 2:00 PM 
Discussion with Dr. Neeti Nair – Asia Program Fellow at the Wilson Center, and Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia

About the speaker:

Neeti Nair: Educated in India and the United States, Neeti Nair is an associate professor at the University of Virginia, where she teaches courses on modern South Asian history and politics. She is the author of Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India (Harvard University Press and Permanent Black, 2011). Her articles have appeared in leading scholarly journals, including Modern Asian Studies, Indian Economic and Social History Review, and the Economic and Political Weekly, as well as the Indian Express and India Today. Nair has held fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Institute of Indian Studies, and the Mellon Foundation. She will be spending 2017-18 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars working on her next book project, Blasphemy: A South Asian History, which is to be published with Harvard University Press.

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