Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pakistan: A Republic without Attributes of Democracy by Shamim-ur-Rahman.

I was six years old when my elders landed in Karachi just after an independent and sovereign Pakistan, under the leadership Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, came into existence. Here everyone was to be free to live according to his faith without fear and discrimination; was to be equal before the law, and the country was to be governed by a constitution through a Federal legislature and hence would be turned into a “bulwark of Islam” free from corruption of all sorts. At that age I hardly understood what my elders use to tell me about the sacrifices they had rendered for this country. But I cannot forget some of the flashes of images that have left lasting imprint on my mind. I use to watch from the window of my hotel room on McLeod Road (now I.I.Chundrigar Road) policemen lining up for someone very important travelling from one direction to the other. Sometimes I use to go down and stand besides the policeman to see who was the person for whom they had lined up was. As the motorcade sped away the policeman told me that the man sitting in the car was Qauid-i-Azam. I could hardly see him but noticed that he was an old man wearing suit. I was told that this man had promised that maintenance of law and order will be his top priority besides dealing with corruption with an iron hand. I hardly understood the importance of all that.

My elders use to tell me that in the formative phase people were so motivated that they use to sit on the ground and work in the government offices to build the nation from scratch. Most of the time they provided the much needed stationery and used thorns in the absence of pins. But soon that euphoria died down and greed and deceit took over. Instead of nation building people got engaged in building up their own bank balance and corruption became rampant. They were not interested in Jinnah’s vision and his guidelines; they were only interested in the currency notes on which his picture is printed. With the early demise of the Quaid and assassination of his comrade Liqaut Ali Khan, those who had opposed the formation of this country, and those who were in fact agents of the colonial power, became dominant force that trampled Jinnah’s vision of a democratic and constitutional governance in Pakistan. Bonapartist elements combined with opportunists in the higher judiciary and bureaucracy and turned it into an entity which was in fact anti-thesis of his vision and sacrifices rendered by millions of Musalmans of the sub-continent. While the nation became dependent on foreign loans on highly deplorable conditions, thanks to the Unionist mind set of Brown sahibs and the military leadership, those responsible for such a situation siphoned out national wealth and built their own assets in foreign countries. Now it has become order of the day and no one who matters can claim he is not involved in such national crime.

What has happened to Quaid’s Pakistan, what have we done to it? I think we as a nation are collectively responsible. Instead of becoming a robust and democratic “bulwark” Pakistan is being treated contemptuously by some world leaders due to our failings and lust for power. For several years friends and foes have been branding Pakistan as a “failed” or “failing state”. But now, because of the failures of our leadership, both civil and military, which is responsible for poor governance, Pakistan has been described as an `international migraine' besides being dubbed as a terrorist state and the most dangerous place on earth. The wave of Talibanization has compounded Pakistan’s woes and the people are unable to comprehend why it happened. Has Jinnah’s Pakistan vanished only because of the failings of the political leadership of the formative phase and fragility of the Muslim League to provide the binding force or is it because of the doings of Ghulam Muhammad, Justice Munir, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, General Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf who patronized radical ethnic and sectarian elements that militarized the whole Pakistani society.

Quaid-i-Azam had visualized "Pakistan to be a democratic state following the parliamentary system, based on Islam and the Holy Prophet's best injunctions, amidst moderate, enlightened progressive conditions, with wisdom and tolerance, not following the theocratic cleric, and mullahs." His emphasis was on enlightenment and tolerance. In Pakistan no special privileges or rights for any one particular individual were visualized by the founding fathers. But today Pakistan has been turned into Spartan society based on privileged and the outcast.

Allama Shabbir Ahmad - Modification in the Objective Resolution was a deviation from Quaid’s vision that "religion has nothing to do with matters of the state." But the divine injunction was exploited by various governments, especially those headed by the Bonapartists for legitimizing their rule. The misrule began soon after emergence of Pakistan and it was manifested by the so-called “Rawalpindi conspiracy” to topple the civilian government due to Kashmir policy. It was also a clear signal of what was the thinking of the military and civilian bureaucracy, and perhaps also encouraged Ghulam Mohammad and Justice Munir to stab in the back of the nation in its formative phase. Democracy and constitutional rule had suffered hemorrhage. Participatory polity and governance became very rare and fragile. And could never stand on its feet.

Even today the so-called democratic dispensation, despite the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, is not in true sense a democratic order. The country is depending on foreign aid for running its day to day affairs and decisions are being made, in the name of reconciliation, by compromising on some of the vital national issues. Army is calling the shots and we have witnessed its meddling in defusing situation between major political rivals. In fact military is the guarantor of the current dispensation ushered in with the blessings of Washington to carry on the War on terror to its logical end. Many Pakistanis differ with the agenda on war on terror.

We have not learnt from history about our mistakes that led to fragmentation of Jinnah’s Pakistan. We did not accept democratic rights of East Pakistanis to govern this country. We pushed them to the wall and suffered humiliating defeat. Many analysts believe that. The 1965 war; and involvement in Afghanistan; and Kargil were the result of this mindset that reversed progress and turned Pakistan into a battlefield for the terrorist outfits of all sorts. A retired Major General in his recent book has claimed that “on the domestic political scene, our abject failure has been in the realm of governance, be it civil or military. Democracy based on Constitutional Parliament, the bedrock of Quaid's Pakistan, which could theoretically and lawfully be our deliverance, has unfortunately become a tool for the whims and wishes of the highly corrupt and inept coterie of the feudal wealthy dynasties of politicians, appropriately described by the Quaid as `dud' coins, whose values and priorities are not related to national aims and progress but rather to their own personal agendas. The ideas of progress and well being of the populace, combined with modernism, are not part of their Lexicon. Their philosophies are restricted to winning elections by fair or foul means and accumulating wealth for themselves”.

Military leaders, who had the biggest share in the plunder of Pakistan, could not remain unaffected. Because of such a situation many Western analysts have termed Pakistan a failing or failed state. There is a systematic campaign to erode trust of the people in their country. But the fact is that military mind set right from the inception of the country resulted in military coups and breakdown of constitutional government and caused irreparable damage and instead of becoming a democratic entity serving the cause its masses. Pakistan was militarized in which military has assumed the role of guardian, and “initiator of national agenda and the chief arbiter of conflict between social and political forces’. Over the years political parties have been generally reduced into Trojan Horses to serve the interests of the military cluster which is embedded with international agenda of the big powers. Militarization of the government apparatus also shaped our progressively anti-India and pro-Western stance and plunged us into three wars with our Eastern neighbours, and has presently dragged us in a war that would have far reaching impact on our relations with Afghanistan and its neighbours. We have seen how Pakistan was asked to accept certain individuals as Prime Ministers and Presidents of the country. The countries which professed participatory democracy actively destroyed it in Pakistan by patronizing the Bonapartists.

So massive has been the military’s intervention in Pakistan that we now talk of civil-military relations and their constitutional role, although under the constitution military had no such role. It has to obey the orders of the elected government. But it is other way round and a façade of parliamentary democracy. But it must be given a chance to save Pakistan further fragmentation. Punjab with 62 percent of the country’s population remains the epicenter of mainstream politics in Pakistan, besides being the bastion of military cluster. It is also the nursery of right wing fundamentalists who were patronized mostly during General Zia’s 11 years of mis-rule. Punjab’s interests prevailed in the creation of One Unit, the Indus Water Treaty, and the in-equitos treatment of the majority living in the former East Pakistan. While the relationship between GHQ and the religious leadership is no secret the role of the ISI became more pronounced from the 1980s as it got involved in formation of government and anti-government alliances

At present there is a dichotomy in the approaches between constitutional politics and military politics. Judiciary too is to be blamed for Pakistan’s plight as it provided legitimacy to a new Shogun. It has involved, beyond mere stretching of interpretation of law, to assumption of powers to change the law itself. The judiciary was subjected to taking a fresh oath after the 1977 and 1999 coups, in violation of the oath it had taken under the 1973 constitution. Both Zia and Musharraf, under their respective Provisional Constitution Order(s) of 1980 and 2000 forced the judges of higher courts to show allegiance to the new ‘constitutional’ reality, instead of the Constitution itself. With the exception of a few Judges, most of them were not ashamed of violating their oath, sanctity of which had been so amply emphasized by Quaid-i-Azam while address military officers at the Staff College in Quetta.

Some scholars believe that the “insecurity” syndrome relating to state building at home, in the context of regional security complex, kept the military establishment from letting the political initiative go out of its hands, even when it was not in the government. Army has increasingly moved into the centre stage of this constellation” and has assumed the function of safeguarding socioeconomic and political order in the background of structural discontinuity that occurred at the time of partition. This is certainly not the kind of Pakistan Jinnah had visualized. We need to work for economic emancipation having control over our resources, and work out out a new social contract accepting each other’s social, political economic and cultural rights and committing ourselves to participatory federal parliamentary democracy in which no one could dare to violate his oath and constitutionally designated role, to save Pakistan from further Balkanization and transforming into a “bulwark” visualized by the Quaid.ENDS

Mr. Shamim-ur-Rahman is a Senior Correspondent with Daily Dawn - Pakistan. This article has been published in Pakistan Day supplement of Daily Dawn, March 23, 2010.

No comments: