Volume #21 - 291.|
PAKISTAN: POSITION WITHIN THE COMMONWEALTH
Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to High Commissioner in Pakistan
LETTER NO. K-65|
January 28th, 1955|
COMMONWEALTH PRIME MINISTERS' MEETING-1955|
Reference: Your Telegram No. 24 of Jan. 26, 1955.? Position of Pakistan within the Commonwealth.
I attach for your own information only, a copy of the brief prepared for the Prime Minister on Pakistan's request to be accepted and recognized as a continuing member of the Commonwealth after it becomes a republic.
2. After this brief was prepared and approved, a message was received from the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations recounting a conversation he had with Mr. Mohammed Ali on January 21, in which he explained his intentions in respect of the Pakistan constitutional issue.57 During a press conference in Ottawa on January 24, Mr. Mohammed Ali made these intentions public. A copy of Lord Swinton's message, and a covering memorandum to the Minister are appended to the brief.?
3. It is evident that Mr. Mohammed Ali is now in a position to give a firm timetable for the steps to be taken to introduce a republican form of government in Pakistan. The principal points are:
(a) A brief draft constitution containing only a minimum of provisions and providing for the appointment of a President is under preparation and will soon be ready.
(b) The Government of Pakistan will proceed with the establishment of a unitary government in West Pakistan within a few weeks.
(c) A Constituent Assembly composed of representatives of East and West Pakistan will meet this spring, possibly in April or May, to adopt the constitution.
(d) The constitution will provide for an interim period during which a President will function and a later period commencing in early 1956 when elections will be held for a central parliament in East and West Pakistan. The elections to the central parliament will either confirm the existing President or elect a new one.
(e) The constitution will contain definite dates for its coming into force, the appointment of the President, the duration of the interim period, and the date of the elections to the central parliament.
4. Mr. Mohammed Ali apparently intends to raise the whole issue at the Prime Ministers' Meeting and to obtain approval of Pakistan becoming a republic within the Commonwealth. He will make it clear that Pakistan repudiates any idea of neutrality and will be an active partner in defence. According to the Prime Minister, the great majority of the people of Pakistan want a republic and only a small minority want to leave the Commonwealth. Acceptance of a republican Pakistan as a continuing Commonwealth member now would strengthen public feeling in Pakistan for the Commonwealth.
for Under-Secretary of State
Bref pour le premier ministre
Brief for Prime Minister
This paper reviews developments in connection with Pakistan's request to be accepted and recognized as a continuing member of the Commonwealth after it becomes a republic.
It proposes that if Pakistan seeks a decision from the meeting, Canada might take the following position:
(a) Canada regards it as important, particularly at this period of international stress, that Pakistan should remain in close and friendly relations within the free countries of the West as well as the East; the Commonwealth connection is an important element in these relations; it is therefore desirable that Pakistan should remain formally a member of the Commonwealth.
(b) Canada is fully satisfied with the existing basis of Commonwealth relations both as regards our link with the Crown and our relationship with other Commonwealth members.
(c) If Pakistan does not find it possible to accept a continued link with the Crown, Canada is prepared to accept and recognize Pakistan as a continuing member of the Commonwealth on the same basis as agreed at the Prime Ministers' Meeting in April, 1949, in respect of India. Canada is of this opinion for the reasons stated in (a) above, because any less favourable consideration than that accorded India is incompatible with the principles governing the relations between members of the Commonwealth, and because of the conclusion recorded at the 1949 Meeting.58
If the Prime Minister of Pakistan makes merely a declaration of intention, it suggests that the Prime Minister may wish to make a sympathetic statement along the above lines and suggest to the meeting that Mr. Mohammed Ali be given an assurance that a favourable response to his formal request could be recorded in a public declaration at the appropriate time following consultation through ordinary channels.
On October 8, 1954, Canada was informed that the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan had adopted the Basic Principles of a new Constitution including one stating that Pakistan should be a sovereign independent Republic. The principles were to be incorporated into a draft Constitution Bill which it was intended to place before the Constituent Assembly at the end of November in the expectation that the Constitution would be approved by December 25 and brought into force at a date to be determined by the Assembly.
2. The Prime Minister of Pakistan informed the Prime Ministers of Canada and the United Kingdom that the Government of Pakistan had decided that even after becoming a republic, Pakistan should continue a full, free, and equal member of the Commonwealth and expressed the hope that Canada would choose "to accept and recognize Pakistan's continuing membership of the Commonwealth in accordance with the terms of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Declaration of April 28, 1949 in regard to a similar decision by India."
3. Sir Winston Churchill sent a message to Commonwealth Prime Ministers on October 14 which, after stating that the United Kingdom Government considered that a republican Pakistan should be accepted as remaining a full member of the Commonwealth, proposed that the views of member governments should be obtained before formal replies were made to Pakistan and suggested that the decision should be placed on record by means of a public declaration. Mr. St. Laurent stated that Canada also favoured Pakistan's remaining in the Commonwealth after becoming a republic, and indicated Canada's agreement with the suggested procedure and the terms of the proposed declaration. The Canadian Prime Minister also sent an interim reply to Mr. Mohammed Ali on October 18 stating that while he would not be in a position to send a formal reply until the completion of consultations with other Commonwealth Governments, he hoped that there would be unanimous agreement to accept and recognize Pakistan's continuing membership of the Commonwealth in accordance with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Declaration of April 28, 1949 in respect of India.
4. The Prime Ministers of India and Ceylon have indicated their agreement with the procedure suggested by the United Kingdom Government and the terms of the proposed declaration. Dr. Malan of South Africa, while agreeing in principle to Pakistan remaining within the Commonwealth and a declaration in the terms proposed, has advanced the view that changes in the constitutional status of a member or the admission of a new member to the Commonwealth should be discussed at a meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers and any declaration should follow that meeting. Australia has taken a similar line; after stating Australia's willingness to accede to the substance of Pakistan's request, Mr. Menzies suggested that a decision be taken at the forthcoming Prime Ministers' Conference which would enable an event of historic interest and importance to be dealt with in a more suitable form and atmosphere than by cabled communications between governments.
5. We have received no official indication of the views of the New Zealand Government. We understand, however, that Mr. Holland is not enthusiastic about a republican Pakistan continuing as a "full, free and equal member of the Commonwealth" and is not entirely convinced that a republic ought to be equal with a non-republican member of the Commonwealth.
6. On October 24, before the draft constitution bill had been introduced into the legislature, the Governor-General of Pakistan declared a state of emergency and in effect suspended the Constituent Assembly. At a meeting of High Commissioners in Karachi summoned by the Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth Relations on October 29, Mr. Mohammed Ali said inter alia that the question of Pakistan remaining in the Commonwealth as a republic would be placed in cold storage for the time being.
7. The United Kingdom Government suggested on November 3 that in view of the interval to be expected before a new constitution emerged and a republic could be declared, Commonwealth Governments should regard Mr. Mohammed Ali's earlier message and the United Kingdom proposals for responding to it as in abeyance. Canada said it agreed with this but observed that if sufficient progress were made, no doubt Mr. Mohammed Ali would wish to raise the matter at the forthcoming Prime Ministers' Meeting.
8. Early in December, the United Kingdom approached Pakistan in an effort to ascertain whether Mr. Mohammed Ali wished to have the question of Pakistan's constitutional status raised at the Prime Ministers' Meeting in London. In doing so, the United Kingdom High Commissioner pointed out that it would be inappropriate to ask the conference to record a decision on so important a question except on the basis of a formal request made in the light of a decision already taken or immediately imminent in favour of an early change of status. In drawing Mr. Mohammed Ali's attention to the difficulty of getting a decision in a hypothetical situation, the United Kingdom pointed out what seemed to them the wisdom of resting on the record of the April 1949 Prime Ministers' Meeting rather than seeking to obtain a decision in the absence of a factual situation.
9. We understand that Mr. Mohammed Ali is not sympathetic to this suggestion and has stated that he wishes to have the constitutional item on the agenda. Mr. Mohammed Ali observed that in April 1949, Mr. Nehru obtained a declaration by Commonwealth Prime Ministers on the basis of a draft constitution which had been approved only by the Congress Party caucus, and a time-table calling for the consideration of the constitution by Parliament during the summer with a tentative date for entry into force of August 15. This contention is open to question since a memorandum given by Mr. Nehru to Mr. Pearson on April 21, 1949 stated that the draft constitution was then before the Constituent Assembly of India.59 According to our present information Mr. Mohammed Ali does not at the moment have agreement even by a party caucus. He has said, however, that he will want to make at least a declaration of Pakistan's intention to adopt a republican form of constitution and would hope to have a provisional time-table to present to his Commonwealth colleagues. The decision whether or not to seek a declaration at the London meeting will to some extent depend on the progress made before the meeting begins and the reception accorded his explanatory statement of intention at the meeting itself.
10. The United Kingdom think it unlikely that a final decision on the constitutional issue will be sought in London since time will be required for implementation of the constitutional changes already launched or under consideration in Pakistan. A recent report from the United Kingdom High Commissioner mentions the winter of 1955-56 as a more realistic date for the fruition of the plans under consideration. The United Kingdom are not adverse to delay for the following reasons:
(a) there is some possibility that the drive for status for a republic might lose its impetus if the matter were let rest for a period. The United Kingdom officials are of this view because they consider some of the stronger members of the new Pakistan Cabinet less republican-minded than Mr. Mohammed Ali.
(b) an attempt to obtain a decision at this stage might be unwelcomed by South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and
(c) it is wise to make haste slowly in constitutional matters.
Additional significant factors are that present constitutional changes in Pakistan are not sufficiently advanced to enable their nature or acceptability to be assessed; as far as we are aware, they have not been formulated or approved by a party caucus on which the government can depend for support as was the case in India, and the method of their enactment into law, now that the Constituent Assembly is no longer sitting, has yet to be clarified.
11. While the Canadian Government would probably not wish to oppose an attempt to obtain a decision from the meetings it need not encourage Pakistan to make the attempt. The right of each member to modify its constitution in the way it thinks best derives from the sovereign status of members of the Commonwealth and any infringement of this right by attempting to bring pressure on members is contrary to the basic principles underlying the Commonwealth relationship. Since the 1949 decision that a republican India would continue as a full, free and independent member of the Commonwealth, the possibility of other members becoming republics has been recognized and accepted. Any departure from this stand would call into question India's position as a full member equal in status with the other members and might create doubts and difficulties in the minds of the Asian members. In 1949, Commonwealth members went a long way to meet India's position; to raise again the issues which were decided over five years ago is unnecessary and would be manifestly unfair to Pakistan. Moreover, the minutes of the 1949 meeting (P.M.M. (49) 4th meeting page 1) contain the following paragraph inserted at the request of Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan;
"In answer to the question whether another member of the Commonwealth could continue membership of the Commonwealth under conditions identical with those which have been accepted in respect of India, it was finally agreed that it should be put on record as the opinion of the meeting that, while it was not possible to bind future meetings of governments, it could be logically assumed that a future meeting would accord the same treatment to any other member as had been accorded to India by this meeting."
Although this minute contains loopholes, nevertheless it may be said to impose some obligation on members to give sympathetic consideration to requests from members similar to that made by India in April 1949.
12. The only significant constitutional change since India became a republic has been the adoption of the individual forms of the Royal Style and Titles in 1953.60 Since the accession of Queen Elizabeth II, Pakistan has been careful to avoid giving positive form to the status of the Crown. On the Queen's accession, the proclamation issued in Pakistan merely stated that "Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is now become Queen of Her Realms and Territories and Head of the Commonwealth." The new form of Royal Style and Titles for Pakistan reads: "Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and of her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth". These formulae are consistent with the minute recorded at the 1949 Meeting at Pakistan's request. It is clear that for almost six years, successive governments of Pakistan have been careful to adopt a position which would facilitate the transition to republican status within the Commonwealth at the appropriate time.
13. If Pakistan seeks a decision from the meeting along the lines of Mohammed Ali's message of October 8 we might take the following position:
(a) Canada regards it as important, particularly at this period of international stress, that Pakistan should remain in close and friendly relations with the free countries of the West as well as the East; the Commonwealth connection is an important element in these relations; it is therefore desirable that Pakistan should remain formally a member of the Commonwealth.
(b) Canada is fully satisfied with the existing basis of Commonwealth relations both as regards our link with the Crown and our relationship with other Commonwealth members.
(c) If Pakistan does not find it possible to accept a continued link with the Crown, Canada is prepared to accept and recognize Pakistan as a continuing member of the Commonwealth on the same basis as agreed at the Prime Ministers' Meeting in April, 1949, in respect of India. Canada is of this opinion for the reasons stated in (a) above, because any less favourable consideration than that accorded India is incompatible with the principles governing the relations between members of the Commonwealth, and because of the conclusion recorded at the 1949 Meeting.
14. If Mr. Mohammed Ali makes merely a declaration of intention in London, the Prime Minister may wish to make a sympathetic statement along the lines of paragraph 13. He may wish to suggest to his colleagues that in view of the remarks of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and the discussion to follow, the meeting should consider whether it would be possible to give the Prime Minister of Pakistan an assurance that at the appropriate time his Commonwealth colleagues would consult together by ordinary channels of communication and, having reached agreement, place their decision on record in a suitable public declaration. The declaration might make reference to the consideration given to this question at the present meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. The assurance to be given could only apply as long as the change contemplated did not involve departure from positions earlier agreed or introduce new elements bearing on the constitutional position of other members of the Commonwealth.61