“At one stage it was being said that the Assembly had taken too long a time to finish its work, that it was going on leisurely and wasting public money. It was said to be a case of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. Is there any justification for this complaint?
Let us note the time consumed by Constituent Assemblies in other countries appointed for framing their Constitutions. To take a few illustrations, the American Convention met on May 25th, 1787 and completed its work on September 17, 1787 i.e., within four months. The Constitutional Convention of Canada met on the 10th October 1864 and the Constitution was passed into law in March 1867 involving a period of two years and five months. The Australian Constitutional Convention assembled in March 1891 and the Constitution became law on the 9th July 1900, consuming a period of nine years. The South African Convention met in October, 1908 and the Constitution became law on the 20th September 1909 involving one year’s labour.
It is true that we have taken more time than what the American or South African Conventions did. But we have not taken more time than the Canadian Convention and much less than the Australian Convention.”
In 1946 elections were held in provinces of British India. A person could vote only if he/she had certain qualifications and property. For poor country like India it meant that very few could vote. Two parties whose performance everyone was watched with interest were Muslim League under leadership of Jinnah and Congress under Maulana Azad. Congress won 925 general seats and Muslim League won 425 seats reserved for Muslims. Communist Party of India also contested elections and ended up with just 8 seats.
Picture was now clear, Congress was strong in areas with Hindu majority ( though it won seats in Muslim majority NWFP – where Congress won 30 seats, while Muslim League won 17 seats), Muslim League won most of the seats reserved for Muslims, so now Jinnah would claim that League represented Muslims of India. Defeat of Communist Party proved that, in spite of tall claims by leftist historians, was insignificant party, plus their support to British during Second World War went against party.
Elections made it clear that Muslims wanted a separate home land – Pakistan. The elected members of provincial assembly were to elect members for Central Assembly, which in turn was to design Constitution of India.
Provinces were Muslim League won more seats than Congress decided to form Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. Later India was partitioned into Hindu majority India and Muslim majority Pakistan.
Both nations began task of designing constitution for their respective nations.
In India this task was given to Dr. B.R Ambedkar. The drafting committee consisted of Dr. Ambedkar as Chairman, six members and an advisor- Sir Benegal Narsing Rau. On 26th January 1950, the constitution was finally adopted.
First general elections were held in 1952, elections were fought for 489 seats, Congress won 364 seats with 45% of total votes polled. Both leftists and rightists did poorly, rightist won 10 seats with 6% share of votes and Communist party which fought elections under leadership of S.A.Dange won 16 seats with 3.29% vote share. Ironically designer of constitution Dr. Ambedkar lost election. He stood from constituency reserved for scheduled castes in Bombay, but lost to Narayan Kajrolkar of Congress.
“We are all citizens and equal citizens of one state….Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”
– Muhammad Ali Jinnah
In case of Pakistan the journey of constitution took a long route. It took nine years (India took 2 ½ years) for members to come up with constitution, in 1956, constitution was adopted making Pakistan an Islamic Republic. But in 1958 martial law was declared and constitution was of no use. Later Pakistan came up with another version of constitution in 1973, but General Zia declared martial law and constitution was not in operation. The see saw of democracy and martial law continues in Pakistan.