One of the unfortunate problems we are facing in Pakistan is the struggle that is going on between the only disciplined institution of the country, i.e. military and the most disgruntled, corrupt, money makers and power hungry politicians, the so-called champions of ‘democracy’. When Pakistan came into existence Quaid-e-Azam being a Constitutional lawyer himself who had studied law in Great Britain and practiced there, did not envision any other political system for the newly founded state than the one that the former colonial rulers were running at home in Great Britain. But as a matter of fact Pakistani society and Pakistani ruling class consisting mainly of feudal land owners, tribal leaders and religious persons like Pirs and Mullahs did not understand this type of political set-up that required them to respect the rule of law and develop a democratic mind set based on the equality of men in front of the law.
The lacuna that the political class of West Pakistan left in the political system while they were fighting for power and trying to get the better of East Pakistan was soon filled by the Pakistan military that was the only functioning institution and that was securing the very survival of Pakistan in the face of a hostile neighbour India and Afghanistan. It is no wonder that every time when the situation got really bad the military stepped in trying to make up for the void that was left by the civilian side.
It was soon visible to all who wanted to see it that the political system – representative democracy – that Pakistan was trying to run did not work because it was not representative in the first place leaving the deeming millions of poor unrepresented and it was not democratic because feudal lords did not, and even today, don’t believe in democracy and the democratic norms. All India Muslim League, the party that snatched freedom for Indian Muslims, was left in lurch when an independent Pakistan mostly comprised of areas where there were already Muslim majority governments and when majority of those who struggled to achieve Pakistan were left behind in UP & CP their feudal lords in All India Muslim League opted to emigrate to the newly formed Muslim country and that strengthened feudal hold on the government in Pakistan. The tragedy of Pakistan started when our founding father died within a year and his right hand man was assassinated in next two years. An era of conspiracy and struggle for power started with this feudal coterie overnight changing colours and the flag of the Unionist and Muslim Leaguers to Republicans and other parties, and we saw more than ten Prime Ministers in next six years, one of them remained in office for only six days.
The draft of 1954 constitution was ready when the autocratic Governor General dislodged the Legislative Assembly because he considered Molvi Tameezuddin a potential threat and in order to weaken East Pakistan’s strength in politics, the four Provinces of West Pakistan were merged into One-Unit to create parity between East and West Pakistan. The first 12 years of our history was full of shameful intrigues in which behind the scene the then C-in-C was playing an active role in spite of Pakistan becoming a republic under the 1956 Constitution, which was abrogated in October 1958.That was why General Ayub Khan after taking over tried to mend the system by creating basic democracies – not a very good alternative, agreed – but he had hit the nail on the head when he said that democracy doesn’t suit Pakistan. Next came General Yahya Khan though for a short while and he tried for the first time to find a balance between the military and the civilian government obviously keeping in mind the fact that if not democracy but definitely good governance and rule of law was a factor that impacted national security. He tried to induct the Turkish formula of power sharing and Turkish constitutional law wizard Dr. Vakur Versan was invited to work out a new draft Constitution with former Chief Justice of Pakistan Mr. Justice A. R.Cornelius, but as the saying goes that “Man proposes and God disposes” this day-dream of General Yahya Khan remained a dream. In this experimentation of autocratic rulers, the country suffered and the debacle of East Pakistan came about without any accountability of those responsible for this tragedy. Bhutto was eager to grab power despite the fact that his party did not have the majority of seats, which violated the rule of law and thus manipulated the brake-up of the country. Ziaul Haq came next and it looks he started working on a foreign agenda in the Afghan war and tried to convert Pakistan into what he thought would be an Islamic state. Well, that was a catastrophic initiative, the results of which are facing our country until today.
The next ten years of ‘democracy’ – called by economists also ‘the lost decade’ eroded whatsoever was left of institutions and brought a new height of corruption and mismanagement. When General Musharraf took over, he again tried to improve on the political system by trying to introduce a third tier of government at the local level and renewed the idea of a National Security Council that would coordinate the civilian and military parts of national security. By then the situation in Pakistan and the region had deteriorated so much that the parts of the country, namely the FATA and PATA, had become ungovernable and the military had to re-establish the writ of the government. An institution to coordinate the two parts of the set-up was thus needed badly. Actually we are still in the same position as then.
Despite ‘democracy’ back in seat the PPP rule had seen an unprecedented looting of the national wealth and a rise not only in corruption but in bad governance, lawlessness and militancy. The result is that again parts of the country have become ungovernable like FATA, Balochistan and Karachi. That is why the military had again come to the rescue of the civilian establishment with operations going on in FATA and Karachi. The institution of National Security Council, demoted under PPP rule, has been partly revived in form an apex committee in Karachi where the rangers and military are coordinating with the civilian government. And, given the reluctance and incompetence of the sitting PPP government of Sindh, the military has to exert quite some pressure to get things done. That is why a good part of the PPP leadership has left the country afraid of action against them with regard to their corrupt practices. The Army has been providing security during the third phase of the Local Bodies’ election, otherwise it would not have been able to take place.
Now the excellent Mr. Raza Rabbani is coming forward and is telling us that the National Security Councils have failed and he wants no more experiments but only the supremacy of Parliament. Well, probably he wants that kind of Parliament that his party PPP was having in the past and so un-disturbing the looters was a precondition for extension of Rangers’ stay inKarachi. Though Local Bodies election have been completed under orders of Supreme Court to enable the participation of the people at the grass root level as envisaged in the devolution plan under General Musharraf’s rule, but only the deployment of the Army and Rangers could make this part of democracy possible. Raza Rabbani is also considered the author of 18th Amendment that has sabotaged the very idea and concept of devolution plan authored by General Tanveer Naqvi; the newly elected Local Bodies will soon be demanding restoration of original idea of devolution.
He is quoted as visualizing a new establishment that would emerge as a result of public struggle but added that this establishment would comprise of middle-class and intellectuals. Well, that is a far cry. PPP had all opportunity to finish off feudalism by introducing land reforms but of course they didn’t do it because the very leadership of PPP are feudals. And given the security situation inside and outside the country is what it is for the years to come, an institution whatever the name but with the task of coordinating the efforts of the military and the parts of the political set-up is needed. God bless Pakistan.
—The writer is a senior columnist based in Karachi.