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The Government: Jinnah versus the rest

To expect Pakistan to have good governance as it is perceived in the developed world is asking for too much.
Updated Aug 14, 2017 10:25am

To expect Pakistan to have good governance as it is perceived in the developed world is asking for too much. This, however, cannot be an excuse of poor governance since the founding fathers left the scene.

TO understand why during the last 70 years there has been poor governance, one must go back to the pre- and post-partition era to review what we inherited and consequences of the short time at our disposal to establish a skeleton government without any back-up of the kind India had in the shape of an established system, bureaucracy, police, local administration and abundance of funds which the British left behind. This statement is by no means an attempt to condone the poor governance and chaos which followed between 1948 and 1957.

The decision by the British government to accelerate its exit from India resulted in a shock. The plan was announced on June 3, 1947, and that left only 73 days for the Congress and the Muslim League to set up their respective governments-in-waiting.

The lineup with which the Congress had to take over the reins of the government in India, comprised experienced political leaders, while Pakistan had Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, and a few others. It was obvious that the Indians, having worked with the British, had the resources, while Pakistan was starting with no existing setup. Governance was an issue in 1947 and continued to be an issue thereafter as Jinnah passed away in 1948 and Jawaharlal Nehru ruled as the Indian prime minister until 1962.

In 1938, Jinnah declared that: “The Muslim League has freed the Muslims from the clutches of the British government, but there is another power which claims to be the successor of the British government … call it by whatever name you like, but it is Hindus and Hindu government who are not prepared to share power with the Muslims in India.”

Benazir Bhutto with Farooq Leghari while the two were still on talking terms.─ Dawn/White Star Archives
Benazir Bhutto with Farooq Leghari while the two were still on talking terms.─ Dawn/White Star Archives

Presiding on the historic occasion of the Lahore session of the Muslim League on March 23, 1940, Jinnah declared: “Mussalmans are a nation according to any definition of a nation, and they must have their homelands, their territory and their state. We wish to live in peace and harmony with our neighbours as a free and independent people. We wish our people to develop to the fullest our spiritual, cultural, economic, social and political life in a way that we think best and in consonance with our own ideals and according to the genius of our people.”

In 1944, the famous Gandhi-Jinnah talks were held at the Jinnah House in Bombay. Around that time Jinnah had once again referred to the Muslims of India as constituting a nation. Gandhi retorted back stating: “I find no parallel in the history of a minority claiming to be a nation apart from its parent stock and there is no parallel in history where a body of converts could be construed as a nation.”

Jinnah in his usual style declared: “We maintain and hold that Muslims and Hindus are two major nations by any definition or test of a nation. We are a nation of a hundred million people, and, what is more, we are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilisation, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of value and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitudes and ambitions – in short, we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of international law, we are a nation.”

Declaring the Muslims to be a nation galvanised and motivated the Muslims of India to the focal point which was the demand for a separate nation where the Muslims of India could achieve political and economic independence and freely practice their religious faith and beliefs and above all to come out of the domination and serfdom of the English and Hindus.

The response to Jinnah’s call was overwhelming, but as Pakistan moved forwards towards August, 1947, the shock of being given only 73 days to set up a skeleton government-in-waiting and take on the burden of administering a nation was unimaginable.

The British had only to unwind their involvement in India by dividing the country into two parts and providing for the division of assets. There were chaos and frenzy all around and a communal fire was raising its ugly head.

India, in comparison, was in a more comfortable position because the British Indian civil service was in a position to provide governance as power was concentrated in major cities like Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Madras and a few others, whereas Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi did not have a similar advantage and, therefore, Jinnah and the Muslim League had to commence their uphill task from the scratch.

To make matters worse, difficulties were created in the division of assets, money was scarce and it was a new start for the Pakistan civil service to begin and plan administration and governance of a country which was to come into being within the next few months. This daunting task was taken on by Jinnah and Liaquat.

Governance has always been an issue for Pakistan since its birth and while I was making endeavours to commence writing this piece, I came across an introduction to the book Jinnah Reinterpreted by Saad R. Khairi who analysed Jinnah in the most glorious terms and dealt with the issue of governance.

Khairi states: “Jinnah was one of the greatest national leaders that ever lived. He created history, and, one is tempted to say, altered geography. But neither the dimensions of that victory nor the extent of his greatness are generally realised. One reason for this ignorance is the mess that the corrupt and the self-seeking leaders of Pakistan made of the country he fathered. This raised doubts about the soundness of his political vision and the secession of East Pakistan not only confirmed this image of Pakistan in their mind, but also that of a medieval and reactionary State of robber barons, military juntas and religious fanatics."

“The tragedy of Pakistan is that while surviving all those problems of Himalayan dimensions that Bharat and Britain had created for it from its very birth, it was then hijacked by a gang which neither represented the people nor shared the spirit of the Pakistan Movement. Ghulam Mohammad, Iskandar Mirza, Choudhri Mohammad Ali and Ayub Khan (or Ghulam Ishaq Khan for that matter), who would have normally retired as government pensioners of the British, captured power and ruled the country the way the British did (with lower standards of efficiency and integrity). They had never fought even a single municipal election and lived in their own world, totally cut off from the common man. They neither understood nor cared for popular sentiments. They had no idea of, and had no sympathy with, the factor that had made the Pakistan demand a mass movement. And they mentioned Jinnah’s name merely as a cover for their destructive policies, to trample under foot every principle he held so dear”.

Ghulam Ishaq Khan talking to General Asif Nawaz Janjua as Mian Nawaz Sharif looked on.─Dawn/White Star archives
Ghulam Ishaq Khan talking to General Asif Nawaz Janjua as Mian Nawaz Sharif looked on.─Dawn/White Star archives

Professor Akbar Ahmad in his article published in the first Edition of The Jinnah Anthology states: “Jinnah’s ideas about Pakistan remained vague. This resulted in both strength and weakness to the Pakistan Movement. It became all things to all men, drawing in a variety of people for different reasons. During (the) last few years of his life, Jinnah began to sharpen his concept of Pakistan. His speeches emphasised the unequivocal Islamic nature of Pakistan, drawing its inspiration from the Quran and the Holy Prophet (PBUH). His vision of an Islamic society was one which would be equitable, compassionate and tolerant and from which the poison of corruption, nepotism, mismanagement, and inefficiency would be eradicated and Pakistan would be based on the high principles of Islam. He preached tolerance to and protection of minorities. He opposed Provincialism. He reminded his audiences that Pakistan was the largest Muslim nation in the world and it had a special destiny. Even today, the idea of Pakistan is greater than the reality of the country.”

The Quaid-e-Azam passed away in 1948, just one year after the birth of Pakistan, without leaving a Constitution and his model of Pakistan. He left behind his speeches and interviews, his ideas, principles and vision which we still endeavour to propagate and practice but without success. He was a parliamentarian and a constitutionalist, and confusion arose which led to a split between conservatives, Islamists and modernists, but there was no one to mediate and reconcile between different views and aspirations.

The sudden shift between Jinnah’s speeches of August 11 and August 14, 1947, created some degree of confusion and the new government and bureaucracy reportedly made endeavours to suppress, monitor and even change the former of the two speeches.

Jinnah led all his life in British India and only 13 months in Pakistan, and even during this period Jinnah made every endeavour to outline the duties of a government, freedom of its citizens, duty of the state, safeguarding of the rights of minorities and women, spelt out relations with India, categorically stated that the Constitution of Pakistan would be of a democratic type embodying the essential principles of Islam.

He emphasised that Islam and its idealism had taught us democracy, equality of man, justice, tolerance and fair play and these glorious traditions which we had inherited would be recognised as responsibilities and obligations to the framers of the future Constitution.

In any case, Jinnah stated that Pakistan was not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with divine mission. All Pakistanis would enjoy the same rights and privileges and play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.

He warned us against the dangers of extremism and provincialism and even in his frail health undertook visits to Quetta and Peshawar where he lectured the armed forces of Pakistan on the issue of their duties and loyalties to the state, and obedience to a government established by law. He spoke of corruption and black marketing as a cancer which must be eradicated. Nepotism was unacceptable in a government and society.

Jinnah declared that Pakistan was a moral and intellectual achievement created by moral and intellectual forces and with the power of the pen which could never be undone, and finally he declared that he had no doubt in his mind that it was in the paramount interest that Pakistan and India should continue to play their part in international affairs and developments and should collaborate in a friendly way to defend their frontiers, resolve their differences and put their respective houses in order internally so that both countries may play a great part in all international affairs.

He concluded by saying that the Indian government should shed it superiority complex and deal with Pakistan on an equal footing by appreciating the realities.

What transpired after Jinnah’s demise is on record and all that followed are factors which can be treated as those which affected the system of governance. Abul Kalam Azad, the veteran Congress leader, had advised Jinnah to accept the Cabinet Mission Plan as by doing so he could have had Pakistan without the burdens of Pakistan, while Seervai, the famous advocate-general of Bombay, has referred to Raj Mohan Gandhi as stating that Jinnah had Liaquat at his side, but sadly Liaquat did not have another Liaquat to support him. Lack of leadership of the highest integrity and moral character of Jinnah’s type could not be easily found in political leaders.

The merry-go-round of governments after the demise of Liaquat up to the takeover by Iskandar Mirza in 1957–58 are recorded events. The so-called decade of development from 1958 to 1968 did bring in some stability and progress, but Ayub Khan gave way to Yahya Khan who held control in Pakistan until the unfortunate events in East Pakistan which led to the country’s breakup.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was handed over the reins of power in West Pakistan as his party, the PPP, had won the elections. Bhutto delivered the 1973 Constitution with the consensus of all four provinces, and ushered in an elected civilian government, but went on to introduce revolutionary socialistic changes in Pakistan, including nationalisation of Banking, Oil, Steel, Shipping and other industries.

Bhutto was overthrown in a military coup by Zia who introduced Islamisation. Zia died in a plane crash and then followed the two governments each led by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif until their tenures were abruptly ended.

Pervez Musharaff entered via a quiet military coup. He had influenced Pakistan initially as head of the ISI, COAS, Chief Executive and President of Pakistan. His influence and governance was the longest by an un-elected leader. He was sent packing by the movement launched by the lawyers for the restoration of chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the Superior Judiciary which had been sacked by Musharaff.

Elections were held and the PPP, headed by Asif Ali Zardari as president and Yousuf Raza Gillani as the prime minister, came to power and ruled until PML-N won the elections and the its government continues in power. The tenure, however, has seen unrest and disruption in the process on account of allegations of corruption, sit-ins, strikes, protests and serious efforts to dislodge the prime minister.

Just like Bhutto had created political awareness among the labourers and workers, Imran Khan has created awareness among the middle class of what he believed to be nepotism and corruption in the course of governance.

In conditions and circumstances briefly enumerated above which existed from 1951 onwards in Pakistan, governance was bound to suffer and did suffer, but the country as a whole has remained intact and has in fact made progress in various fields in spite of the adverse effects of terrorism to which Pakistan was subjected since the invasion of Afghanistan by Russia and later the resistance put up by Pakistan and Mujahideen against the Russian occupation. This was followed by the United States landing troops to overthrow the Taliban and this war continues even today.

For anyone to expect Pakistan to have good governance as is generally understood in the West and developed countries seems like asking for too much, but this cannot be a reason for, or excuse of, poor governance.

There is no doubt that Pakistan needs to strictly establish and follow policies, principles, rules through members of the government so that the administrative machinery is run smoothly to address public affairs. The institutions of the state should work for public good.

The culture of good governance has been lacking in Pakistan which is a general view among the people of the country, but with the Pakistan starting with major disadvantages in 1947 and a chequered history of continuous upheavals and crisis, a better environment of governance could not be developed. However, this does not mean that elected governments with sufficiently long tenures can be forgiven for the existing sad state of affairs.

Jinnah passed away approximately one year after Pakistan achieved independence. His chosen lieutenant was assassinated in 1951 and there were no other credible political leaders of Jinnah’s calibre in Pakistan.

During his one-year stint as governor-general, Jinnah remained quite ill, but did dash out to Quetta and Peshawar to lecture to military officers on the chain of command and loyalty to the state and Constitution.

Civil servants were told of their duty to serve the people as their servants and not as masters. Corruption and black marketing were evils which had to be put down. The civilian government was advised on its duties and obligations, but circumstances unfortunately did not permit Jinnah to dedicate himself to the most important task of framing the Constitution although he did refer to the Constituent Assembly as the sovereign Federal Legislature.

While India framed its Constitution in 1950, Pakistan took until 1956 and then came in the period of military rules and abrogation or suspension of Constitution under the ‘Doctrine of Necessity’. I have always maintained that if Jinnah had ensured the framing of the Constitution during his lifetime, the history of this country would have been different.

Jinnah left us with his principles, ideals and vision, but all that was trampled upon with the result that we still aspire and struggle for Jinnah’s Pakistan 70 years later.


Header photo: Dictatorial dispensation: From Governor General Ghulam Mohammad (seen above chatting with Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah) to Field Marshal Ayub Khan (top right, in discussion with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) and down to General Ziaul Haq (bottom right, addressing the nation), dictators came in many shapes to deshape the pattern of governance.─Dawn/White Star archives.


The writer is the grandnephew of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, President of The Jinnah Society, Founder and Chairman of The Jinnah Foundation, Executive Trustee of Quaid-i-Azam Aligarh Education (Scholarship) Trust, Administrator of the Estate of Quaid-i-Azam and former Deputy Attorney-General of Pakistan.