In the 14th century, Ibn Khaldun — in his three-volume book The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History — made a poignant observation that “when we discuss royal and government positions it will be as something required by the nature of civilisation and human existence.” This underscores the necessity of a scientific investigation of civilisation itself, in conjunction with the culture of a society.
Having held key positions in the corridors of power — first in the Punjab Provincial Service for a few years and later in the Police Service of Pakistan — and having suffered in service at the hands of rulers for upholding the rules of business and law, Tariq Khosa is well placed to do just that. In his book Inconvenient Truths: Pakistan’s Governance Challenges, Khosa investigates and analyses the weaknesses in the structure and culture of our society that have held up its development.
The author very rightly attributes these issues to the elite capture of the state. He declares that “today’s Pakistan is of the elite, by the elite, for the elite. Laws are often made and implemented selectively to benefit the elite. They also control and curtail wealth redistribution.” Thus, society is divided into two sets of people: one comprising its elite members and the other made up of the mass of deprived and marginalised citizens. The state exists for the elite — politicians, military rulers, the judiciary and the police — whom Khosa calls “sacred cows.”
A respected police officer boils down Pakistan’s various governance challenges to an elite capture of the state and sheer incompetence
Building his argument on this divide by citing examples of the elites’ misdeeds and corruption, Khosa identifies four major governance challenges that Pakistan faces. These include a) the self-serving, incompetent and corrupt political leadership; b) the patronage of extremism by the leadership; c) the civil-military tussle; and d) the breakdown of the criminal justice system.
As regards the first challenge, amongst several instances, Khosa cites the example of a 21-point action plan, envisaging the prime minister to lead the war against terrorists. However, this provision was dropped and a 20-point action plan was adopted on Dec 27 by the civil-military leadership to stem terrorism following a terrorist attack on the Army Public School, Peshawar, on Dec 16, 2014. The author laments the shirking of their responsibility by the civilian leadership, stating that “the political and civilian leadership allowed their authority to be eroded. They chose to aid the work of the military authorities rather than the other way around.”
With regard to the corruption of politicians, a letter that the author wrote to then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in July 2016 is worth quoting: “Mr Prime Minister, during the time of convalescence, kindly take a moment to think about some key governance issues. First is the matter of corruption in our polity. Do you agree with the Army Chief when he states that crime and corruption are a nexus and pose a serious national security threat? Are the Panama Papers a non-issue for the ruling elite, something to be brushed under the carpet? You have addressed the nation twice and presented your family’s case before the Pakistan National Assembly. You are obviously concerned that your family not be tarnished. But isn’t the nation justified in seeking probes into matters of alleged tax evasion and avoidance, laundering, kickbacks and corruption? If so, should you not ask for an independent commission of inquiry — starting with your family? As a public office holder, are you not morally bound to demonstrate that you and your kin are the first to be held accountable? If the family’s accounts and investments are clean and transparent, there is nothing to fear. It takes courage to lead by example.”
The second governance challenge — that of patronage of extremist elements by the rulers — came to Khosa’s notice early in service when he was posted as a sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) in Jhang in 1982. He arrested the Deobandi cleric Haq Nawaz Jhangvi on Muharram 7 from the mosque when Jhangvi was delivering a hate-speech while the procession of the Shia community — duly licensed — was passing. The deputy commissioner communicated the orders of then president Gen Ziaul Haq to the young SDPO to release the cleric. Standing by the law and anticipating a possible clash between the two communities, the young officer did not release the cleric till the end of the procession in the evening. Having witnessed the outright patronage of such extremist and non-state jihadi groups, Khosa succinctly observes in his book that “terrorism, organised crime, vigilante groups and hired assassins, in addition to covert intelligence operations — all assisted by technology and social media — have disrupted and dominated the national scene, creating a mafia-like governance paradigm. To top it all, religious extremism has added to the witch’s brew of social and economic discontent.”
Khosa ascribes the third challenge — that of a civil-military tussle in the governance of the state — to two factors. The first is the relinquishment of responsibilities by the civilian government to the military instead of leading the country from the front. In this connection, he cites examples of Nawaz Sharif’s failure to appoint a full time foreign minister, thereby providing an opportunity to the army to formulate responses to regional and global challenges; the assignment of the portfolio of defence as an additional charge to the minister for power, rendering him an ineffective participant in defence-related matters; the refusal of the then prime minister to command implementation of the National Action Plan; and the prime minister’s failure to convene and preside over meetings of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority for three years since its inception. The second factor, Khosa writes, is military coups, which systematically weakened civil institutions. This opened the gate for the military’s ascendancy in key areas of governance, including the criminal justice system.
With respect to the fourth challenge, ie the breakdown of the justice system, the author vehemently argues that, in the long run, the induction of the army in the criminal justice system through military courts could neither be a panacea to fight violence, terrorism, extremism and militancy, nor administer justice. This underscores the necessity to make investment in these two areas. He points out that “one of the key points of the National Action Plan was to reform the criminal justice system, including policing, prosecution services, judiciary and prisons.”
Turning to reforms in the police, which is the main focus of his book, Khosa ruefully recalls that it “took 25 police commissions and committees to finally arrive at the realisation that politically neutral, operationally autonomous, highly accountable and professionally sound police services are vital for democracy and [the] rule of law. That resulted in the promulgation of the Police Order 2002. But the forces of status quo and vested interests never allowed the implementation of that progressive law.”
Falling in line with the Police Order 2002, the author suggests de-politicisation through institutional safeguards in the form of public safety commissions; granting operational, administrative and financial autonomy; creating specialised investigative cadres and substituting the structure of the police station with a division headed by a superintendent of police. He also calls for standardising the policing legal framework, extending police jurisdiction to ‘B’ areas of Balochistan — constituting 95 per cent of the province that is currently monitored by the paramilitary gendarmerie Balochistan Levies — and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and accepting the recommendations contained in the final report of the Police Reforms Committee that was submitted to the chief justice of Pakistan in August and September 2018.
In his analysis of the structure of our society, Khosa puts the blame of patronage of extremism on the rulers, but this may not be entirely true if it is viewed in the larger perspective of the polity that we inherited at the time of our independence. The traditional and customary local power centres, such as those of chieftains, landlords, pirs and clerics, enjoyed and exercised authority under the colonial law of the land. Unfortunately, the very same coterie of these power centres turned out to be rulers who continue to patronise what Lawrence Ziring, in his book Pakistan at the Crosscurrent of History, calls “medieval rule, patriarchy and monarchy.” The present governance problems emanate mainly from these forces struggling to maintain the status quo.
Khosa places the major blame on the establishment for lack of reforms in the police. As a consultant at the National Reconstruction Bureau, I am a witness to the personal support given by the then chairman, Lt Gen Syed Tanvir H. Naqvi, to the think-tank comprising three inspector generals of the police, namely Dr Shoab Suddle, Afzal Ali Shigri and Zulfiqar A. Qureshi, to formulate the Police Order 2002 which the author vociferously supports in his book. Its non-implementation lay entirely on civil governments that happen to be champions of the status quo. With Imran Khan in saddle as the prime minister, committed to reducing corruption in the society at any cost, and the ‘Bajwa Doctrine’ in the background, committing full support to the continuance of democratic dispensation in the country, let us wait to see if the people of Pakistan will sight the light at the end of tunnel.
The reviewer is a former government servant and author of several monographs and books including Pakistan Under Siege
Inconvenient Truths: Pakistan’s
By Tariq Khosa
Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, May 19th, 2019