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KARACHI: “On the subject of martial law, democracy and Pakistan, I don’t know where to begin. We have been having regular interventions in our Constitution every 10 years where it is either amended or suspended,” said Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani during his talk on ‘Democracy and martial law. The Pakistan case’ organised by the English Speaking Union of Pakistan at a hotel here on Monday.

“Martial laws have come and martial laws have gone but the truth is that the civil-military bureaucracy has been in complete command from the very beginning. That is why Quaid-i-Azam’s vision for Pakistan as a welfare, tolerant and secular state could not materialise,” he said.

He said military dictator Ziaul Haq even managed to distort Quaid-i-Azam’s slogan ‘Unity, faith and discipline’. “Entering Islamabad, you must have noticed what’s etched on the hillock. It puts ‘faith’ before unity and discipline,” he said.

“The extreme religious right was used by the civil-military bureaucracy for power,” he said.

‘Textbooks mention eight advantages of democracy, 11 of dictatorship’

“Pakistan was a land of Sufis. It was a land of peace. But for power the civil-military bureaucracy changed it to a garrison state, which changed the dynamics of the state,” he said, adding that if one studied the constitution of 1962, the interim constitution of 1972 and the 1973 Constitution, it has always been basically federal in character. “But martial law wants the opposite of that,” he said.

“There is a need for the education syllabuses and curricula to be developed at the federal level so that everyone receives the same standard of education. But education was devolved to the provinces,” he pointed out.

“If you look at the Matric civics textbook, you will be shocked that the textbooks in Sindh and Punjab carry a chapter about the advantages of democracy and advantages of dictatorship,” he said. “There are eight advantages of democracy mentioned while 11 advantages of dictatorship. Studying our textbooks, it seems like they are missing pages, though they are not. But there are portions of our people’s struggles which fail to find any space in our textbooks,” he said. “Even the separation of East Pakistan has been dealt [with] in just two paragraphs,” he added.

“From as far back as 1947, the state wanted a particular mindset for the citizens of Pakistan. But the British imperialists were replaced by military bureaucracy that continued with the divide and rule policy of the British. Hence we have citizens who would not let Pakistan be a liberal and secular state. They form a state within a state,” the Senate chairman explained.

He also pointed out the building up of the economic empire of the military. He regretted that there was also not across-the-board accountability here. “After Article 209, the judges will be tried by their peers, the military will be tried by their peers and the civilians will be tried in special courts. I am all for accountability, but let there be one law. Let all be equal before the law,” he said.

Senator Rabbani also said that one of the biggest reasons for “the mess we find ourselves in today is that even after a passage of 70 years we can’t establish what our culture is”. He said: “Actually, it is the cultures of Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that synthesise into Pakistan’s culture. No, our culture is not Arab culture.”

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2017