Document Type : Research Paper
Assistant Prof. of Political Geography, Faculty of Geography, University of Tehran
Ph.D. Candidate in Political Geography, University of Tehran
One of the issues considered by political geographers is the concept of citizenship. Citizenship
refers to the relationship between people and government and shows the mutual commitments
of both parties. At national level, the constitution of every country can be considered as the
main written and theoretical document for defining “citizen rights and responsibilities”.
Constitution determines the limits of personal freedom against the function of power in one
hand, and specifies the scope of the responsibilities of the governing system in relation to
individual rights on the other. The members of society need to observe the rules of constitution.
At the same time, citizens of a country are not always similar in terms of ethnicity, language,
religion, etc. Hence, the conceptual and functional scope of constitutional laws can play a part in
continuity, stability, and survival of a political society, as well as establishing national unity.
The present paper investigates how rules of citizenship rights in the constitutions of Iran and
Pakistan affect their national unity. To this aim, the citizen rights in the constitutional rules of
the two countries are compared, and then, their roles in the national unity of each country are
addressed. The reason of selecting Iran and Pakistan for the investigation is similarities of these
countries with respect to geographical, political, religious, cultural, and ethnic issues.
The present study is an applied research using comparative descriptive-analytical methodology.
The data are collected using library and computer searching.
Results and Discussion
In this study, the basics of citizen rights in the constitution of Iran and Pakistan are investigated
according to Marshal’s classification. Comparison of social citizen rights in the two countries
reveals that Iranian constitution tries to create and preserve national unity via “cultural” means
in three ways: 1. Promoting official language and writing system (Farsi); 2. Providing free
education; and 3. Raising the level of public awareness in all areas. In this way, various groups
and classes of people are exposed to consistent information, education, values, and norms to
realize national unity. However, regarding religious teachings some exceptions are witnesses
which might be due to the Muslim and Shiite majority of the population of this country. These
rights in Pakistan are almost similar to Iran; for by emphasizing preservation of writing system,
language, culture, and obligatory secondary education, this country tries to keep national unity
through cultural means, especially by putting stress on language. Pakistan, regardless of gender,
class, religious, and ethnic differences, emphasizes social citizen rights based on meeting the
primary needs of life. Nonetheless, in social citizen right of Iran, non-Muslim minorities who
are not men of faith are deprived from cultural rights, that is, the variable of “religion” plays a
significant role in providing or not providing cultural rights, while in the constitution of
Pakistan this issue has been stated regardless of gender, class, ethnicity, and religion. The
interesting point is that in social citizen rights of Iran it has been tried to realize national unity
by establishing economic justice through mentioning issues like housing right, lack of economic
discrimination, and equal distribution of national resources and incomes according to Islamic
rules. But these rights are presented as the expansion of social justice, eradication of corruption,
and promotion of economic and social welfare in Pakistani constitution.
Comparison of civil citizen right in two countries indicates that religion plays a
determinative role in these rights in Iran. Like Pakistan, Iran considers Islam as the official
religion and the laws follow Islamic rules and regulation. Therefore, in such condition, the
freedom of thought and speech is regarded “constitutional”. For instance, non-Muslims who are
not men of faith have human rights but not cultural rights. However, the civil citizen rights of
Pakistan offering the freedom in performing religious ceremonies provides every citizen with
the right of promoting their religion and having religious ceremonies. Thus, freedom of speech
is not “constitutional” in this country. At the same time, it is emphasized in Pakistan
constitutions that all laws must be Islamic. On the other hand, the constitution of this country
“disapproves” but not “legally denies” local, state, tribal, ethnic, and sectarian prejudices among
citizens. It appears that issues like religious and sectarian mass murders are the outcomes of
such paradoxes. That is to say, freedom of thought and speech together with freedom of
prejudices has the potential of threatening national unity. Therefore, it can be argued that the
constitution of this country affects exacerbation of religious and sectarian conflicts, and is itself
the cause of sectarianism and endangering national unity in this country.
Finally, comparing political citizen rights in these two countries shows the influence of
Islamic rules and regulations on political citizen rights in Iran. For example, the right of
gatherings, demonstrations, protests, and establishing Islamic societies and parties provided that
they are not against Islamic rules, and do not deny national freedom and unity as well as Islamic
rules and the bases of Islamic republic of Iran; and the membership right of non-Muslims who
are not men of faith in societies and parties provided that they are not allowed to establish
religious association because it might be against Islamic rules and official religion of the
country. It seems that all these considerations about the role of religion in the constitution of
Iran are intended for preserving religious unity of the country and preventing the sectarianism
and religious conflicts. But in Pakistan, the political citizen rights disregard Islamic rules and
regulations, for the right of establishing societies and parties is declared as “unconditional” and
“free”. Also, in assigning individuals to governmental systems, no discrimination is made in
terms of ethnicity, religion, social class, gender, and place of birth.
Considering the above-mentioned points, it can be argued that although in the constitution of
both countries it has been tried to consider issues preserving national unity, there are
disagreements among them. According to the comparisons, the Iranian constitution, more than
the constitution of Pakistan has been developed based on the realities of the society and
functions more for preserving national unity. In summary, variables such as geographical
position, historical experiences, and religion play an important role in developing laws and
regulations related to citizen rights in the countries. Efforts are made to prevent any kind of gap
in the national unity of the countries.