.. by Islamuddin
Seventy six years may be a lifetime for an individual but is a small fraction in a nation’s life. Still it is enough to set direction for the nation to achieve its goal. In the case of Pakistan this goal was spelt out by Jinnah and Iqbal-the founding fathers of the nation- who wanted Pakistan to be a model democratic Muslim wedded to the welfare of its people. Unfortunately since the passing away of the founding fathers, this vision was hijacked by the very forces that had opposed independence that now joined hands with civil-military bureaucracy-the steel frame of the “Raj” to deny the fruits of freedom to the masses. For them freedom meant only change of masters. Today the people find themselves groping in the dark without much hope for the future.
The record breaking number of people seeking passports to go abroad in search of decent living is proof enough of their state of hopelessness and helplessness in the country of their dreams now taken over by the parasitic rent seeking capitalism and self serving power elite. Soon after independence politicians came to depend on the civil-military establishment, because of their inexperience. In the process they were exposed and the establishment branded them unfit to govern thus paving way for the marriage of convenience between civil and military bureaucracy to monopolize power and ward off elected government till it was no more possible to resist elections. By then the more democratically aware Bengalis had lost hope in the ability of the state to deliver on the promises made by the founding fathers. Therefore when opportunity was given to them to elect their own representatives in the elections of 1970 they voted for a party that had promised them independence from the “new colonial rulers of West Pakistan”. With help from India and international actors, apathetic to the land of the pure, Bangladesh was created and with this the binding force of Islamic ideology began to be questioned in the remaining provinces. (An eminent jurist, Aitzaz Ahsan, presented the concept of Indus Saga as a possible binding force for nationalism.)
The tragic fall of Dacca failed to awaken the self centered power elite to arrest the drift and go for course correction. Personal and institutional interests gained upper hand over national interests. The shock therapy offered by the tragedy failed to prod the power elite to do soul searching and change course to address the trust deficit between the people and the establishment created during decades of misrule and the captive system, wedded to protecting vested interests of the ruling class at the cost of the people if necessary.
Instead of evolving consensus to face the emerging challenges there were blame games and the then military regime was held responsible for the fall of Dacca. The military thought it prudent to temporarily abdicate power to elected representatives. Once the wounds were healed and the tragedy forgotten, the military hit back with vengeance. This time there was no marriage of convenience between the civil and military bureaucracy. Civil bureaucracy was made to play second fiddle to the military for perks like lucrative postings and promotions. Constitution was extensively amended to establish military supremacy, which later became bone of contention between politicians and the military resulting in political instability.
The captive judiciary could do nothing to uphold the constitution and rule of law. The situation deteriorated to such an extent that the then Prime Minister decided to gain control over the military by doing away with the 8 th amendment to the constitution that had legitimized military control of key government functions through a hybrid system. The military retaliated by removing the government in a coup that was subsequently validated by the captive judiciary, a throwback to the judicial murder of a popular Prime Minister-the architect of the new Pakistan. Imran Khan was also removed for trying to exercise his discretionary power to appoint security chief. In the aftermath of Russian invasion of Afghanistan the military joined hands with the capitalist world and Muslim clergy to wage holy war against the “Godless “USSR. Jehadi culture was promoted to recruit fanatics for the US led war. Once the war ended promises made to the jihadists were not kept, which triggered a backlash against the US and Pakistan army. US got the backlash in 9/11 but Pakistan continues to get it in the shape of terror attacks, sectarian violence and weakened government writ. As the empowered militants are hell bent on imposing their version of Islam, their patrons in the establishment find themselves in a fix. They may need the “jihadists” in the future as strategic asset to further their domestic and regional agendas but on the other hand they do not know how to control them. A genie out of the bottle now threatens its own creator.
Meanwhile the country continues to pay heavy price in the form of political instability, economic meltdown, social anarchy, terrorism indebtedness and public discontent. The country’s GDP hovers around 300 billion dollars but the wealth stolen by power elite and stashed abroad is said to run in trillions. If these dollars are brought back and invested in Pakistan, the country will become donor, like India. Javed Burki once said in an article in daily Dawn that it is up to the rulers to make Pakistan a Canada or Mexico of the rising India that he predicted to become the third richest nation in the world and Pakistan should share in its prosperity by developing working relationship with India if not a friendly one. But the security state with siege mentality and narrow self interests has failed to rise to the occasion and continues to sit on the ticking time bomb while milking the already impoverished people to the last drop to protect interests of the power elite. The only cementing force (constitution that Zia called a worthless piece of paper) stands shredded by the current hybrid plus regime.
Populist leaders giving vent to public frustration are first co-opted to tame and console the angry public. Once the goal is either achieved or the leader refuses to do the biddings of the establishment he/she is humiliated and sidelined. In the old days media blackout was possible to shape public opinion by dishing out certified truths through the captive media surviving on state doll outs but now with the emergence of Internet and social media, dynamics have changed. No amount of control and surveillance is going to help. Coercive measures are likely to backfire and expose the power elite. Old habits continue to die hard and the establishment still refuses to accept ground realities and by hiding its head in the sand like ostriches.
The outcome of this myopic mindset has further alienated the people from the establishment. Judiciary, as a last hope, for the hopeless has been discredited, divided and effectively silenced. It is time our establishment is re-engineered by decolonizing its consciousness with a view to salvaging its tarnished image to restore public confidence in its ability to protect basic right of the by:
(a) Allowing the people to choose their governments freely, as ordained in the constitution and giving the people power of recall if an elected representative fails to perform and providing for referendum to gauge public opinion on important national issues instead of bulldozing decisions through a captive and self serving Parliament never maintaining its quorum.
(b) Do away with mafia controls in all sectors, ensuring freedom to the people for which the country was created in the first place. Public money is a sacred trust and no one should have the discretion to allow its usurpation as a quid pro quo to bail out the establishment in its self generated difficult times or to maintain its hegemony.
(c) Reorient security establishment as protector of fundamental human rights and agreed national interests (as per constitution) by doing away with strict surveillance and coercive measures (violation of privacy) bordering on fascism.
(d) Ensure meritocracy through strong and independent regulatory institutions, security services and judiciary with secure tenures.
(e) Party funding system susceptible to blackmail to protect vested interests should change and replaced by public contributions to the Election Commission for arranging platforms to parties and candidates for canvassing. Even a one party system like in China should be better than our present rotten system. We follow China in many things why not in this; after all we are also an ideological state like China.
(f) Last but not the least; our establishment must understand that people literally pay through their noses for its upkeep. It is time the establishment came out of the colonial mindset and accepted the democratic rights of the people that it is under oath to protect rather than behaving like a colonial
master at the service of a privileged few who have looted the country to the last drain.
(g) Commission may be set up to identify the causes of our indebtedness and to suggest measures to make Pakistan solvent. People have the right to know the elements responsible for the present untenable situation before they are completely alienated.
We should not forget that we won 1965 war with public support and lost 1971 war when people were alienated. Wars require national effort. Russia disintegrated despite having strong army and nuclear power but was short in public support. This is a lesson our
establishment learnt quickly. Public apology for terming the constitution as a useless piece of paper would be in order for a beginning. .. Islamuddin, Garm Chashma Chitral 19 Aug 2023