DAWN - Opinion; 14 August, 2004

August 14, 2004

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Reflections on August 14

By Anwar Syed

Fifty-seven yeas ago today we became citizens of an independent state. We expected to be happier and more fulfilled than we had been as British subjects.

Our elites thought they were as competent as the foreign rulers and saw no reason why they should not replace the latter. Certain quarters may have figured also that if swindled the people must be, the native exploiters should have the opportunity of doing the job.

When persons of my generation were in middle school, the accounts of good governance in our history books often opened with the observation that "the king was just, peace and order prevailed in the land, and the people prospered."

There can be little doubt that the availability of justice, maintenance of order, security of life and property were more assured during British rule than they are at present.

We have surely gone ahead in commercial and industrial development. But even here we have not done as well as some of the countries to our east (South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia) have in the same, or even a shorter, periods of time.

We have suffered retrogression in the social and political domains. Pakistan spends only about 1.8 per cent of its GDP on education. It is placed 145th (lower than Nepal) on a list of some 170 countries in terms of investment in human resource development. Discovery, invention, creation and dissemination of knowledge have declined to abysmally low levels in our places of higher learning.

Land reforms decreed during Ayub Khan's rule, and during that of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, did little to eradicate feudalism and its pernicious hold on the attitudes of our ruling elites.

Sectarian distinctions were never the casus belli that they are now. A Shia-Sunni clash did happen once in a while, as did a fist fight between the Deobandis and the Barelvis, but mass killings of Muslims by Muslims and bombings of places of worship were unknown. Gun battles between persons of different ethnic origins, living in the same town (Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar), were likewise unknown during the British period.

Elections, when held, were largely free of manipulation by government agencies. Massive rigging became customary after independence. Political corruption, in its larger dimensions, is also essentially a post-independence development.

Members of legislative assemblies did not expect to be rewarded in cash or kind for their support of the government of the day as they appear to do now. Bureaucratic corruption did exist, especially at the lower echelons, even in the old days but its scope and scale have reached stunning proportions only in the last twenty-five years.

The commander-in-chief of the army used to be a member of the Viceroy's executive council and, presumably, exercised some influence in defence-related areas. But, even so, he was clearly subordinate to political authority represented by the Viceroy and Secretary of State for India in the government back home.

In Pakistan, soon after the assassination of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, the military and the bureaucracy, acting in concert, became the dominant forces in the country's governance, often to the exclusion of professional politicians.

There is no need to multiply instances of Pakistan's retrogression. We should instead ask why it has happened. The subject is complex enough to daunt any student of politics.

It would be virtually impossible to offer demonstrably valid cause-effect explanations. Intelligent speculation, based on known facts, is possible, and that is what we will attempt here.

The men who ruled Pakistan after Mr Jinnah's death stayed away from formulating any kind of a vision for the country beyond its continued survival and the preservation of their own hold on power.

In their way of thinking the process of Pakistan's formation was completed as and when the Indian Independence Act, passed by the British parliament in July 1947, went into effect. They did nothing to establish it in the hearts and minds of its people; they did nothing to promote the idea of a Pakistani nationhood.

Consequently, Pakistan remains a collection of individuals and families, a place where people live. It has not become an entity that its people regard as their own, love, and cherish.

It is true that never in our historical experience have we cultivated a sense of community or recognized entities beyond the extended family. A village, let alone big cities, is an entity for the postal department, police, and the revenue officials, but it is not an entity for its own people, claiming their emotional attachment.

The surprising and sad fact is that nothing was done to change this primitive way of focusing loyalty, and to enable the people to rise above their attachments to family and clan.

Little wonder then that we have not internalized the distinction between public and private, and notions of the public domain. Little wonder then also that far too many of our politicians are indifferent to public interest.

Under pressure, which they knew not how to resist, our rulers placed the country's official seal of approval on a vision that the ulema had produced. Neither the ruling elites nor the great majority of our people understood what the vision specifically meant, and those who did understand it to any extent were sceptical of its efficacy and viability. As a result, it has accomplished nothing other than accentuating the elements of hypocrisy and deception in our politics.

Politicians who held high public offices in the early years of Pakistan had not had much of previous experience of governance. Note also that their commitment to the idea of democratic politics was feeble. Some of the more notable among them were sons of feudal lords.

Nowhere are the landed aristocrats known for friendly feeling towards democracy. There were, and still are, large landowners in America but the landed aristocracy as a class has not arisen there.

The rise of democracy in France is linked with the eradication of feudalism. In England it is owed to the alliance between the king and the rising commercial classes against the great feudal lords (the nobility).

The want of enthusiasm for democracy in our case goes beyond the ruling elites. For many centuries, and perhaps until recently, small farmers and peasants in the areas that now compose Pakistan were accustomed to a hierarchical socio-economic order and they were at peace with it.

They did not covet equality of status or rights with the higher orders. Muslims who were not engaged in farming served in the army, while others in the non-agricultural lower classes became artisans (iron smiths, carpenters, potters, shoemakers, barbers, cooks, etc.).

The better-educated Muslims went into public service, teaching, law and arts and letters. Most of these occupations did not call for equality of status between the practitioners and their patrons, customers or clients.

Barring two or three merchant castes, the generality of Muslims stayed away from commerce and banking. The vast majority of shopkeepers and moneylenders in towns and villages were Hindu.

The culture of commerce underscores negotiation, bargaining and compromise, all of which are helpful ingredients of democratic practice. Shopkeepers and moneylenders in Pakistan have been Muslims since independence, but this may have been too short a period of time for the bargaining culture to have influenced our outlook on affairs.

Even though our ruling elites have no intention of actually becoming Islamic, they never tire of insisting that ours is an ideological state. Some ideologies are comprehensive in scope (Islam and communism), including all aspects of our individual and collective experience, explaining the past, remodelling the present, and prescribing the future.

Such ideologies deal in absolutes. They do not admit of negotiation, bargaining, compromise and deals. The standard operating procedure of their proponents is to say: "You are either with us, or you are against us; if you are with us do as you are told; if you are against us, you deserve to perish." This frame of mind does not value democracy.

It does not follow that democrats must be entirely "pragmatic," and that in their house there is no room for "principles." But it does follow that they are circumspect or, let us say, economical in designating issues as matters of principle.

A possible explanation of the enormous increase in corruption since independence comes to mind. Pakistani Muslims have become much more materialistic and money-minded than they were before.

Many of them came into possession of a great deal of unearned wealth as a result of the partition. Coming into Pakistan as refugees, they received "evacuee" property (left here by the fleeing Hindus and Sikhs) far in excess of the property they had been forced to abandon in India.

With the departure of Hindus, who had owned most of the business establishments in places that became Pakistan, Muslims stepped into the void thus created. Many of them became businessmen almost overnight. They inherited wealth, but they also began to create wealth.

Their inexperience in commerce did not matter, for they were free to pursue profit unhindered by competitors who might have known better. State protection and encouragement further increased their appetite for unearned gain.

These are some of the more serious hurdles in the way of our progress to higher levels of social and political effectiveness. Left to themselves, the generals, higher civil servants and politicians will not exert themselves to bring about the needed change. We will have to look for change-makers in other places.

But it would be wrong to close this interpretation without a word of caution. It is an error to take the continued existence of Pakistan for granted. It has broken up once; it can break up again.

Moreover, this is the only country in the world whose people, 57 years after independence, still debate why it was created. Voices of separatism in the smaller provinces are becoming louder again. The remedy does not lie in suppressing them but in showing the dissidents that Pakistan can be an advantageous enterprise for them as much as it is for others.

The writer is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, US.

E-mail: anwarsyed@cox.net.

Pakistan & Indian Muslims

By Kuldip Nayar

In his introduction to a book on partition, leading historian Dr V.N. Datta has recalled how "the fundamental question was of the status of Muslims in India." Undoubtedly, that was in the mind of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah when he realized that the British rule would not last long. The two-nation theory and the demand for Pakistan were the necessary corollary.

The partition is 57 years old now. What the rulers of Pakistan and the breakaway Bangladesh have to ask themselves is how far their policies have contributed to the betterment of the "status" of Muslims in India. The main sacrifice was theirs and they suffered the most.

Any land when divided on the basis of religion has to face the fallout like estrangement between communities. The creators of Pakistan would have known this because it was they who initiated the appeal in the name of religion. But what did they do to attend to the "status" of Muslims in India is the question. It was in the scheme of partition that the number of minorities in both countries would be large.

Some excesses against them were expected. But none anticipated the ethnic cleansing which took place in both Punjabs. Nor did anyone expect that the administration in both the countries would be mixed up in the killing and looting. For Indian Muslims, the nightmare is not over.

Jinnah probably realized what they would go through. He tried to retrieve the situation by announcing after the demand for Pakistan was conceded that the people on both sides were Pakistanis or Indians, not Muslims and Hindus in the eye of the state. Politics would not be mixed with religion. He even promised more.

But the so-called custodians of Pakistan did not allow his words to be broadcast over the radio lest what they had in mind should get jeopardized. They wanted to play the role of an adversary to India and create further cleavage between Muslims and Hindus to justify the creation of Pakistan.

Jinnah had overestimated the power of his words. Fanatics did not want to give up religion as the basis of nationhood. In that they found their entity and the basis for propaganda. To them, progressive Islam was an anathema. The founder of Pakistan was thus reduced to an instrument - just a means to an end, not the end itself.

In any case, the hatred in the name of religion had seeped so deep that both Hindus and Muslims in many parts of India and Pakistan jumped at one another's throat as soon as the British left. More than one million were killed and 20 million were uprooted from their hearths and homes.

Muslims living in India, although assured of a secular polity, went through innumerable sufferings. They would have been still worse off but for the intervention of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the top Congress leaders. They tried to keep Hindu communal elements at bay. Gandhi even sacrificed his life while doing so.

The Pakistan rulers should not have at least sabotaged the efforts to establish a secular polity in India. It guaranteed the future of Muslims. Pakistan had, in fact, an obligation that the beleaguered Indian Muslims would not be harassed by its action.

But what did the policies of their rulers sum up? Treating India as an enemy and trying to disintegrate it has made little sense. Whatever the Pakistan rulers did to hurt India affected nearly 120 million Muslims living in the country. They were doubly punished, both by the policies of Pakistan and by the distrust of most Hindus.

Once I told a Pakistani ruler that the more intractable attitude Islamabad adopted, the most pernicious effect was on the Indian Muslims. He shrugged his shoulders and said: "This was the price the Indian Muslims would have to pay for the integrity of Pakistan."

It is a strange argument but the Pakistan's rulers still believe that in the heart of heart the Indian Muslims supported Pakistan. Muslims in India, on the other hand, are stepping out into light after decades of darkness.

Gujarat halted the process but the manner in which the secular elements, the media and the judiciary tore the state machinery and its politics into pieces has encouraged them.

The fact that even after losing power at the centre, the BJP has not gone back to Hindutva indicates that communal parties also have developed vested interest in the joint electorate.

With the Congress in power and the left watching it, there is every possibility that the status of Muslims in India would improve. The community may begin to play as important a role in the polity as, for example, the Sikhs do. Again, much will depend on Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The atmosphere of goodwill that has come to prevail in the region has helped Muslims assert their entity in India. One, the contemptuous remark that they are "Pakistanis" has more or less gone. Two, there is a growing realization in India that it can make economic gains only as a homogeneous society, without division on a communal basis.

India's vision of economic union with Pakistan and Bangladesh as its members can come true only when there is an equal participation of people - Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians - in the region. Recent signals from Islamabad are, however, not encouraging.

The Indian delegation and the media parties have returned with the impression that the Pakistan government is beginning to drag its feet on improving relations with India. A timeframe for composite dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad has been suggested.

Kashmir is brought in directly or indirectly at every forum. No doubt, President General Pervez Musharraf has said that he would wait for a "reasonable time" to see some "concrete outcome on Kashmir" to emerge. But he continues to hold the gun.

The problem, which has eluded solution for the last 50 years, cannot have a timetable. It would very much depend on how soon people on both sides build trust in one another and how soon the Kashmiris accept a status short of independence.

Strangely, Islamabad has not yet demolished the terrorists' training centres. Even America said the other day that the network of terrorists is more or less intact in Pakistan.

Terrorists in Kashmir have still their supply line - and the guidance structure - in Pakistan. Even the resolution on terrorism passed at the Saarc foreign ministers' conference was at the behest of Washington. Musharraf had no choice.

In Bangladesh, where there are many more Hindus than in Pakistan, fundamentalism is increasing day by day. It is taking the shape of terrorism which is as much terrifying the Bangladeshi Muslims as the Hindus. Being a weak government, Dhaka can neither handle its own terrorists nor the ones who have made it a place for their operation against India.

Dhaka has reportedly promised to turn a new leaf in its relations with New Delhi. The Khaleda Zia government is reaching out to Hindus as well. If Islamabad also continues to push the confidence- building measures, a new era of understanding may usher in the region.

This will, ultimately, help the minorities. Economic ties know no differences. Nor can bias stay when there is an easy access of people to one another's country. Both things when implemented may provide answer to the question that bothered Jinnah: the future of Muslims in India.

The writer is a leading columnist based in New Delhi.

Deeper into political contradictions

By Aqil Shah

The anointment of Shaukat Aziz as prime minister will mark the formal consummation of the technocratic-authoritarian order in place since the October 1999 coup. If nothing else, it is likely to drag Pakistan deeper into the realm of political contradictions.

The move should not have come as a surprise though. The antecedents of techno-authoritarianism in Pakistan dates as far back as the mid-1950s. With a helping hand from the United States, the country's civil-military-bureaucratic elites have typically favoured authoritarian route to development on the grounds that democracy is antithetical to economic reform. Depending on the perception of international aid circles, we have heard them talk about replicating a Chile, a Singapore, a South Korea or even a Malaysia.

While the ostensible goal of each successive authoritarian dispensation has been the promotion of economic development, the real rationale has been to subvert popular demands for representation and to consolidate military control over the state.

It is therefore crucial that we systematically examine the intellectual assumptions that inform the basic authoritarian development model, and explore its validity in Pakistan.

Re-popularized by Farid Zakaria's "Illiberal Democracy," thesis, its blueprint goes something like this. An authoritarian-led government, insulated from populist pressures, seeks to stabilize, privatize and liberalize the economy.

This results in economic growth which trickle down to produce an educated and politically articulate middle class. In turn, the middle class invariably demands political participation and democratization.

At this critical juncture, the authoritarian regime can either introduce democracy or apply repression. Repression is counterproductive as it can derail economic gains.

Thus authoritarian rulers yield to the pressures exerted by a pro-democratic society. In sum, get the economics right first and the politics will take care of itself.

This thesis is flawed on multiple counts. First of all, the "democracy after development" sequence is not borne out by history. Contrary to popular belief, political democratization preceded broad-based socio-economic development in the West where democracy first took root.

Right up to the end of the 19th century, the democratic constitutional state was essentially a political arrangement. It did not concern itself with providing economic welfare, nor was its existence contingent on economic growth.

To the extent that democracy was possible without economic preconditions at the start, it is possible in poorer countries, including Pakistan. Second, there is no reason to believe that any two countries should follow identical political and economic paths.

Even if we assume that a few authoritarian regimes leap-frogged to development, many more failed miserably to do so. Even the authoritarian success stories especially those involving military regimes are not very pleasant when looked at closely.

Take the example of the Chilean economic miracle under General Pinochet (1973-1990). At the onset of the debt crisis in 1982, Chile experienced one of the largest per capita GDP declines (14.5 per cent) in Latin America.

According to the Inter-American Development Bank, per capita income (in 1998 dollars) grew at an average annual rate of one per cent between 1981 and 1990. Then there is General Suharto's Indonesia (1966-1998).

While the 1997 financial crisis exposed a myriad political and social problems, it also showed conclusively that his economic juggernaut masked a cesspool of cronyism and corruption, not to mention the brutal political repression unleashed on civil societies (in both Chile and Indonesia).

Third, the "trickle down" effect is little more than a neo-liberal myth. Periods of rapid economic growth are known to have coincided with persistently high levels of inequality in many South American and Asian economies (including Pakistan in the 1960s).

Even if growth were to percolate, it does not automatically result in a democratically-oriented middle class. Because of state cooptation and/or coercion, the middle classes have often supported authoritarian regimes in South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Lastly, sustained transitions from authoritarianism to democracy in many Asian and Latin American cases have been the result of the military's self-executed withdrawal from power.

Musharraf's cop-out on the uniform, the military's continuing manipulation of the political system and the creation of the NSC are clear indications that the Pakistani military is in the political arena for good.

There is more. The authoritarian model has no solutions for complex political problems like ethnic nationalism. Unlike ethnically homogeneous Chile or South Korea (or even bi-ethnic Malaysia), Pakistan is home to several politically 'awakened' ethnic nationalities.

In this multi-ethnic context, military rule strains the uneasy balance between the competing demands of federalism and centralism. In the past, festering grievances against the central government have resulted in the violent secession of Bangladesh and in unrest in Balochistan and Sindh.

The new wave of attacks on government officials and installations in Balochistan is only the most recent response to the growing marginalization of that province under what is widely perceived as Punjabi-dominated military rule.

It goes without saying that if Pakistan is to manage its internal conflicts peacefully, it needs a consensual democratic political system (predicated on meaningful provincial autonomy) rather than a centralized, military-led hybrid.

That brings us to the Musharraf regime. Like other authoritarian rulers who supplanted democratically elected governments, the general's claim to legitimacy is largely based on better macroeconomic performance than his civilian predecessors.

While no one anywhere denies his regime's efficient implementation of IMF-dictated "reforms," its overall record is hardly a testament to economic growth and development. It is easy for his economic advisers to dismiss the triple scourge of inflation, poverty and unemployment as necessary adjustment pains because they don't have to bear any political or personal consequences for their policies.

But the fallout (social unrest, crime and violence) of deteriorating economic conditions is clearly detrimental to societal cohesion, and as a consequence, to sustainable economic progress.

Ultimately, economic development rests on political stability and democratic legitimacy. Even if they get the economic "fundamentals" right, authoritarian regimes are by definition doomed because they lack mass democratic consent.

The centralized models of authoritarian governance espoused by our two previous US-supported military dictators, Ayub and Zia, floundered mainly because they lacked a base of popular support. The Musharraf regime sustained by US backing and the military's coercive power too stands on shaky ground because it lacks domestic legitimacy.

A legitimate, representative government may not instantly redress economic inequalities or guarantee a high quality of life for everyone, but it can better sustain difficult institutional reforms through consultation and consensus-building as opposed to an authoritarian regime devoid of access to broad social bases of support.

In addition, economic actors hedge their bets on the continuity of economic policies not on the personal goodwill of an authoritarian ruler. Thus, as it can technically create lasting legislative and constitutional guarantees for reforms, a democratically constituted government also provides a far more reliable way of satisfying the "rational expectations" of economic actors than its authoritarian counterparts. In other words, authoritarianism is not just bad politics; it is also bad economics.