Pakistan at 70 - A Personal Perspective.
This 14th of August, Pakistan celebrated the 70th Anniversary of its Independence. Yet the joy of independence this year has been rather sombre and tempered by the first ever application by the judiciary in Pakistan of a law based on Islamic moral values. The fact that the person found guilty was Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the elected head of government. This has set a new precedent for adl (justice) and become cause celebre', hope and optimism for two hundred million Pakistanis who for decades had been seeking equality of justice for all.
This act of the Supreme Court was a much wanted step in the right direction and a unique gift of God as no society can survive without a virtuous and strong justice base. Today most ills in Pakistan exist amongst the majority of the population because of the absence of adl. The prevalent general lack of respect for the law was a proof of the edict "Kharboozeh ko dekh ker kharbooza rang pakarta hei," the top being most visible since its aberrations get more easily copied; a human weakness. Now that the judiciary has taken the first bold step in the most required direction, it needs to be followed up vigorously and strengthened by allowing courts their own investigations in cases where the honourable judges feel available evidence is short of facts, as was clear in some recent cases.
What are the nation's problems?
"Mushkilein mujh par itni parin ke asaan ho gaen." (I faced so many difficulties that everything began to look easy). Currently exists a plethora of un-indexed laws, court rulings, ordinances (some for periods much longer than allowed), SROs and a multitude of other orders by anyone having any authority, designed mostly to suite certain sections of society or individuals, being unknown to all and even less understood by the large confused and uneducated public. As a result, just because there has been no rule of law since 1953 when Ghulam Muhammad and civil servants overthrew the elected government with support of Chief Justice Muneer Ahmed and Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Ayub Khan, all egged on by the arch feudal Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani. It was literally a free-for-all depending upon power, pelf or connections. No wonder, outsiders considered Pakistan to be in a state of anarchy.
After rule of law, the second important building block for a country, nation or society is education. Its importance and its dearth amongst the Muslims was pointed out by Quaid e Azam to me in 1946 at Simla (now Shimla) when with my younger sister boldly walked through the Cecil Hotel to his suite and despite his Secretary Khurshid Ahmed's objections, to our great elation Jinnah postponed the Working Committee Meeting scheduled in the next five minutes for half an hour and took us to tea in the hotel lobby. There, amongst other things, he emphasized the importance of education, saying Pakistan would be formed but that no country could make progress or develop without educated people. He pointed out the dearth of educated Muslims in British India and strongly urged the younger Muslim generation to acquire good education.
But after independence and early death of Quaid, followed by Ghulam Mohammad's coup, education lost its priority and Pakistan gradually slid behind even those countries whose students initially used to come for studies here. The annual financial commitments for education in those years and after was enough proof of that neglect.
The third important building block was good administration. It was ironic that at the time of independence when riots broke out in the whole of Punjab and in Delhi and millions of refugees poured into Pakistan from India, while a similar number migrated from all over Pakistan together with nearly all local government administrators and business community (Hindus and Sikhs). With India withholding transfer of Pakistani share of finances and stores, despite the troubled conditions, absence of administrative staff and lack of resources, there was peace and amity amongst the people with everyone contributing to the best of his/her ability in building a new nation.
How different was this from the present general, administrative and law and order situation, after over sixty years of foreign financial, economic and military assistance plus loans and charges for services rendered by Pakistan. The foreign debt burden now must be around a staggering $60 billion and another $45 billion on the way for CPEC, the anticipated vehicle of future economic development. All Pakistan has to show after 70 years of independence unfortunately is general chaos, lack of respect for the Constitution or Islamic values in every field of administrative and political activity. Incidentally, politics was the art and science of public administration and not what we presently observe in Pakistan, India or, for that matter, even in advanced countries.
And, according to an ex-Inspector General of Forests who together with an ICS stalwart went to congratulate Khawaja Nazimuddin on becoming Prime Minister, Khwaja sahib remarked that politicians had negligible administrative experience and therefore success of democracy would very much depend on quality of the advice the civil servants gave to their ministers. But, as stated earlier, civil servants led by Ghulam Muhammad pressumed they knew better and took over the reins themselves with the results that followed and engulf the nation today.
How all this came about?
The legacy of Pakistan dated back to the downfall of the Muslim Empire in India when English replaced Persian as the official language and the new rulers preferred non-Muslims for official and private jobs. Initial Muslim resistance to learn English did not help either. A bad decision was to avoid participation in politics till about three decades after Municipal Committees were introduced by the English rulers. All this contributed to the increasing Muslim backwardness in a new society. It was not till December 1906 that the All India Muslim League was formed after an extended effort by Nawab Khawaja Salimullah of Dhaka with other Muslim leaders. This delay allowed a free-run socially, economically and politically to the Indian National Congress created by an Englishman but completely dominated by Hindus.
Moreover, the Muslim League became dormant after the death of Nawab Salimullah in 1916 and was revived only in the early nineteen thirties under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah for the first elections to provincial assemblies in 1937. Therein Muslims had been granted separate seats. I was only seven at that time but remember my father saying, "In future we will speak only Urdu or English at home and neither Kashmiri nor Punjabi. Urdu was the language of the Muslims (of India)."
The 1937 provincial elections proved to be a watershed of Hindu-Muslim and British India's unity. Addressing a public meeting of a lakh of people (including myself) in New Delhi in 1941, Jinnah narrated reasons for the newly passed resolution in 1940 at Lahore demanding Pakistan. Amongst others he highlighted that the Congress reneged on a pre-election agreement to form a coalition government in the United Provinces after elections, creating doubts about the Indian Congress' sincerity towards Muslims after independence and, secondly, after winning elections in almost all provinces, the Hindu dominated Congress Party abolished zamindari (large landholdings) in the United Provinces only where Muslim landholdings dominated but not in other provinces where Hindus and Sikhs had larger landholdings.
These two actions of the Indian National Congress forced the Muslims to consider safeguards for themselves by demanding two Muslim majority areas of their own in a confederation, each having the right to opt out after ten years. But Congress policies forced the division of India at independence in 1947.
Another important issue, which together with the language dispute, led to the breakup of Pakistan in 1971. Earlier, it had been the Muslim League high command's decision under Quaid e Azam to abolish zamindari. Being a provincial subject, chief minister Khawaja Nazimuddin immediately went ahead in East Pakistan while other provinces delayed it till the Quaid died and then announced their inability. As early as in 1955, the US diplomatic mission wrote home expressing doubts as to whether unity of the two wings could last for long, one feudal and the other led by the middle class? In 1968, an East Pakistani elder who was well familiar with national politics, remarked that two powerful federal secretaries would break up Pakistan to save West Pakistan's feudal order. The power of the feudal group had been so strong that even Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as Prime Minister failed to enforce his Land Reforms which amounted to abolishing zamindari.
Incidentally, like Quaid e Azam, he (Bhutto) too wanted friendship towards all as a bulwark of Pakistan's foreign policy. If only our zamindars had learnt how agro-based Taiwan and South Korea converted themselves into industrial giants!
As can be inferred from the genesis of the current state of affairs, it all started with Ghulam Mohammad's coup in 1953. He threw the Quaid's vision of "Friendship towards all and enmity towards none" into the trash bin and signed the Baghdad Pact (later CENTO) with the USA and other countries against the Soviet Union. Pakistan already had defence pacts with the USA and Britain but these were for acquiring weapons for its defence and for training of its men in those countries and not against any third country. The USA already had a defence arrangement with India for its military aircraft to transit India through two bases and another two for use by US aircraft spying over China. The USA also operated some electronic warfare units from bases along India's frontier with China.
Yet, despite Ghulam Muhammad's overtures to the USA for military and economic assistance almost since independence, Washington responded only in 1953 after the Soviet Union turned hostile and became a threat to U.S. interests worldwide. The USA needed similar facilities in Pakistan against the Soviet Union as it had in India against China after the1949 Communist takeover.
After joining the Baghdad Pact, a quick American survey of the situation in Pakistan brought out that though an elected Parliament existed till 1953, there were only two well organized institutions, the Civil Service and the Armed Forces where the Army was dominant. It was therefore decided that all military assistance from the USA would be handled directly between the Pentagon and GHQ while for civil aid a body called ECNEC, composed of civil servants, would be created. With these agreements in force, in 1954 all powers practically passed into the hands of civil servants with the Army in the background. However, by October 1958 the Parliament (more about it later) led by Speaker Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan, despite all efforts of the Establishment, managed to complete the famous 1956 Constitution that, after legal vetting, came up for authentication by President Iskander Mirza.
Fearing ceding the Establishment's power to the Parliament simultaneously as the law and order and economic situation in the country began to deteriorate, he ordered Martial Law with himself as President and Army Chief General Ayub Khan as Chief Martial Law Administrator.
However, Ayub Khan soon realized the total dependence of his civilian masters on the army and decided to take over as President and Chief Martial Law Administrator. Thereafter the reins of the country and of the Establishment passed into the GHQ's lap. There were three other important outfalls of Pakistan's defence pacts (Baghdad Pact, CENTO and SEATO) on the country. First, foreign policy became simple -"Keep the USA Happy." Second, to satisfy the American people a faade of democracy had to be maintained in the form of a parliamentary government, the peoples' representatives who were mostly feudal were more easily manageable. Afterwards, consequent to US economic aid, as business tycoons and industrialists emerged, those interested got herded into politics too.
Third, after the 1954 survey of the situation in Pakistan, the USA feared the country was ready for communism and to avert that possibility it was decided to allot residential plots to defence service officers as a means of motivation to defend the nation's interests against communism.
This political situation has persisted ever since except for the short period when ZA Bhutto was the prime minister. After the Quaid, he was the only true leader of the country and of the people but for his wadera culture and haste to bring changes in domestic and international politics leading to differences with the Establishment as well as the superpower, the consequence was his fall. To make the domestic system people friendly and to achieve parliamentary supremacy, patience was required so that a greater understanding, trust and unity amongst various building blocks could be achieved. Only this could also stop the game of chess which some outsiders were playing in Pakistan with their direct contacts with each building block in the country. Also, since justice needed to be done, education was the prime objective if Pakistan was to develop and make progress as a country of substance.
Its leaders of all hue and colours also needed to realize that phenomena, such as that of Imran Khan was like the Bhutto phenomenon under Ayub Khan and a people's cry for association with the running of the country and their local affairs. It was similar to what East Pakistanis had felt that led to 1971. Finally what the country needed most was more positive action towards Adl and economic development than words by the political leaders.