WASHINGTON DC, Aug 17, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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The Quaid's Mazar and military boots

The Shattered Pakistani Dream and Role of the Military

By Ahsan Iqbal

ISLAMABAD, August 17: "We have an image problem". This has been repeatedly said by both General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz suggesting that everything is OK except that we are just lacking in our public relations effort.

A cursory review of only previous month’s news headlines presents a totally different picture. Some of these headlines: "Pakistan implicated in London bombings", "Worst train crash in Ghotki kills over 200", "Breakdown of submarine cable disrupts country's internet and telecommunication link with outside world", "India moves with Baglihar dam threatening water supply to Pakistan", "Hundreds die in the four provinces due to outbreak of gastroenteritis", "Blasts in Quetta, killings of ulema in Karachi, violence in Gilgit with shoot at sight orders", "Army under attack in tribal areas with joint FBI and army operations in progress", "Joint tribal jirga of elders and ulema boycotting army uplift schemes", "NWFP Assembly passes Hisba bill and the Federation files an appeal in Supreme Court", "GHQ and Fauji Foundation refuse to appear before Senate standing committee", "Nationwide crackdown on madrassas starts with over 300 arrests", "Opposition parties express no-confidence in fair and free conduct of local bodies elections", "India and US sign a nuclear cooperation pact and Pakistani PM's US visit is postponed", "Indian PM targets Pakistan's nuclear program and infiltration in Kashmir", "Pakistani PM dashes to Kabul to pacify angry Karzai", " Musharraf government downplaying its failure over Siachen", "Mukhtaran Mai and some government Ministers placed on ECL", "Mr. Nawaz Sharif denied Pakistani passport."

These headlines are symptoms of a much deeper and growing crisis of meaning and governance in Pakistani society on account of our unstable political history. Long military tenures built and glorified an individual at the cost of building institutions and rule of law causing irreparable damage to our political and social structures.

The democratic set ups during brief tenures were mostly left to fight survival battles. Resultantly these more serious and long term issues of the state and society have grown in complexity over time thereby taking form of a national malaise, which creates tension along five fault lines in our society.

The first is about our national identity and meaning between Islamic and secular interpretations of Pakistan; the second relates to the model of governance and institutions for our state between forces of democracy and military; the third is between the ordinary people demanding rights and services and the ruling elite protecting privileges and patronage; the fourth is about distribution of resources and autonomy between federation and provinces; and the fifth pertains to globalization thus bringing global imperatives and forces in conflict with national interests, culture, and sovereignty.

Our future depends on our response to resolve these contradictions. Otherwise the Pakistani society will continue its flip flop as it is said in a Chinese saying that when fish is out of water it continuously flips and flops sensing that its present position is unbearable without knowing where next flip will take it.

The first tension relates to meaning and spirit of Pakistani society. Pakistan was created out of a political struggle waged by Muslims of South Asia, inspired by the thoughts of Iqbal and the vision of Jinnah that Muslims were a separate nation rather a minority which will not be safe within a united India.

Jinnah's fears of a Hindu dominated state were confirmed by the actions of many of the Congress provincial governments of 1937-39 contributing to formal demand for independence by Muslim League at Lahore in 1940. Despite the fact that Jinnah was spokesman for Muslims in South Asia, his vision articulated an inclusive and a positive conception of the meaning of an Islamic state, which didn't preclude minority representation.

It is interesting to note that at that time there were more credible religious leaders present to claim representation of Muslims in South Asia. Yet, Jinnah succeeded in winning vote of confidence from the Muslims due to the broad appeal of his message. It would not be fair to say that Jinnah espoused a pure secular Pakistan because in that case there can't be a compelling justification for Muslims to reject the competing secular message of the Congress Party.

Knowing Jinnah, nobody can expect that he used the banner of Islam just to get the votes from Muslims and after securing independence he turned secular. Therefore, if one looks at his speeches in the context of his vision one finds that there isn't any contradiction. Jinnah's vision for Pakistan certainly carried Islamic underpinning but was different from the traditional religious leaders in its inclusiveness, meaning and appeal.

He offered a package in shape of Pakistan which while providing freedom to live according to Islam offered self governance, justice, dignity, security, and opportunities of economic emancipation to all citizens without any prejudice of religion. He modeled his vision on Charter of Medina, signed by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), in which there is no distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims as citizens of state so that all are equal in the eyes of state and can identify with the state. He was able to appeal to secular and religious, traditional and modern, and old and youth alike.

Unfortunately, we inherited a civil and military bureaucracy strongly embedded in western secular tradition on account of its British training, which continued to serve the Royal Crown very loyally till midnight of 13th August, 1947. With the creation of Pakistan, its loyalties were transferred to Pakistan however its attitude towards public still remained rooted in the British colonial tradition. A proof of which is General Gracey's disobedience of Quaid-i-Azam and Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar's letter to Quaid-i-Azam about conduct of Brigadier Ayub Khan, who was deployed to work with him on rehabilitation of refugees, but was found to be more interested in mess and other undesirable activities.

To his good luck, Quaid-i-Azam died shortly after writing adverse comments, approving his transfer to East Pakistan, and disallowing him to wear ranks as punishment. Soon after Quaid-i-Azam death and Liaquat Ali's assassination, this civil-military bureaucracy hijacked the state and started molding it in its own western secular outlook different from the vision shared by the nation. This created a tension as pointed out by Prof Steve Cohen in the newly established nation-state.

The nation and the state took opposite directions. The nation subscribed to Jinnah's interpretation of Pakistan movement and while the state controlled by secular civil-military elite, which co-opted British patronized feudal class, espoused a European secular tradition. This disconnect between the nation and state, relegated the role of Islam to hands of the religious parties, who changed Jinnah's vision of a modern inclusive Muslim state into a theocratic and exclusive model.

The second tension is a by-product of this dysfunctional arrangement. Military assumed a dominant role in the affairs of the state after Ayub Khan was able to offer his services to US for acting as a foot soldier in fight against communism. That was the time when it was more fashionable than today to bolster a dictator if he was your own. Resultantly, democratic forces were crushed and weakened in the country. Military destroyed judiciary through manipulation and coercion to get decisions for providing legal cover for its unconstitutional acts, corrupted political culture by engaging in horse trading to create a political base, and devastated civil services and institutions by inducting military personnel.

But, because Pakistan being a product of a democratic process inherited strong democratic traditions, no military dictator succeeded in becoming Saddam, Qaddafi or Castro. Each dictator was challenged by democratic forces and had to bend by restoring some form of democracy. Unfortunately, military dictators repeatedly mutilated Jinnah's vision of constitutionalism and democracy as a result our democratic, judicial and public institutions could neither grow nor develop. Unless constitutional supremacy is restored as envisioned by Jinnah, Pakistan will continue to flip and flop.

The third tension draws from the civil-military bureaucracy-feudal alliance, which has evolved over 32 years of military rule in the country. Initially, Pakistan missed the opportunity of eliminating feudalism as it faced immediate problem of resources and rehabilitation of millions of refugees after independence. The other option to get rid of feudal system was through continuity of democratic system, which could have eventually led to emergence of a new middle class leadership.

But, every Martial Law disempowered the new emerging breed of poor and middle class based political workers and leaders by removing their democratic ladder. On the other hand, feudal class remained untouched because they didn't derive their strength from the democratic process. Feudal power base, lands and holdings no Martial Law ever touched. In fact, it always co-opted them because they are pliable to control and suppress the people.

The elite, comprising civil-military bureaucracy and feudals, has prospered and thrived at the cost of the people, who are marginalized from any benefits of growth. This elitist model of governance has turned the vision of Jinnah sour for millions of Pakistanis still living under poverty line, drinking contaminated water, getting sub standard education and living without justice, quality education, healthcare and protection.

The fourth tension destabilizing Pakistan is due to the misunderstandings arising among federating units. Military is a security apparatus, which doesn't reflect regional shares in command structure. But when it becomes the dominant political apparatus of the state, regions under-represented in its higher echelons develop a sense of deprivation. This caused East Pakistanis to part ways with us and is now sowing the seeds of discontent in Sindh and Balochistan.

The 1973 constitution was agreed between all political forces, national and regional. Its repeated sabotage is fueling regional and ethnic forces in the country. Under military governments distribution of resources award between provinces always becomes a discord and provinces become apprehensive of a strong central government. This conflict can only be resolved in a democratic system through dialogue and understanding.

The fifth tension is due to a universal phenomenon of information revolution and globalization. New global governance structures are emerging such as WTO, national boundaries are getting blurred due to new communication technologies and cheaper logistics, trade barriers are falling and global threats such as terrorism, HIV, and environment are emerging.

The role of nation states is undergoing a transformation as new global arrangements are negotiated by the international community. Such choices and decisions can be made prudently and implemented successfully only if people are involved in the governance. Therefore, we find an upsurge of democracy globally barring Pakistan. A General makes all the vital decisions leaving people guessing about merits of those decisions. Resultantly, national self esteem is low, apathy is growing and international players like to play tough with one person rather negotiate with representative leadership. Who wins?

It is quite obviously a lot more than an image problem rather an imagination problem. We must tackle these issues before they become too complex to handle. Despite these challenges and tensions there is hope. We still have a two party structure intact, global information revolution has given immense power to our media, our civil service despite its drawbacks is still one of the best in developing countries, our judiciary is weak but legal community has grown in power, our basic economic endowments are strong, and our youth is promising.

We need to go back to the original vision of Jinnah and rediscover “The Pakistani Dream”, which inspired our founding fathers to secure Pakistan. Without clear vision nations and individuals drift. A powerful vision fueled with strong passion and effort can do wonders.

In today’s context, Jinnah's Pakistani dream demands from us firstly, defending our national ideology, freedom, and self respect; secondly, upholding principles of democracy based on merit, accountability, human rights, and respect for all citizens; thirdly, establishing supremacy of the Constitution and Rule of Law and delivering justice and good governance to all through independent judiciary and effective public institutions; fourthly, creating equal economic opportunities of prosperity and well being for all through promotion of human development driven by enterprise, excellence, collaboration, innovation, and ethics; fifthly, building a happy and harmonious society for all, which is confident, free from all prejudices, provides security, and fosters understanding, care, trust, accountability and social justice, based upon the principles of Islam.

Our future depends on one question, can our military leadership learn from history to prove its critics wrong by submitting itself to Jinnah's vision and help the people of Pakistan realize “The Pakistani dream” through a genuine democratic process?

The writer is a former Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission of Pakistan under the Nawaz Sharif Government. Email: betterpakistan@gmail.com

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