RECORD of the past few decades shows that with the change of the government, the situation in the Islamic Republic also changes remarkably.
It is mostly the PML-N and the PPP that have been alternating each other in power since 1988. In 1999, however, Gen Musharraf took over power, overthrowing Mian Nawaz Sharif’s government. He remained in power for about nine years. The 2018 elections brought the PTI to power, relegating the PML-N to opposition benches and confining the PPP to Sindh, the province the Zardaris and Bhuttos belong to.
Economy has been on a rollercoaster during the said three decades. Whenever there is a crisis-like situation a debate starts about the suitability of the parliamentary system decided through the 1973 Constitution. A section of society starts arguing in support of the presidential system and recounts its blessings during all the years it has been in force. However, in reality, there is very little support for this system.
The question is whether it’s the system that has failed to take the country forward or the responsibility for economic meltdown and other multiple problems rest with the incapable leadership? Also, what system had been suggested by the father of the nation at the time of the creation of Pakistan?
If the system is to be held responsible for the country’s recurring problems then a question arises why it doesn’t happen in other countries where the same system is in place.
History shows that the Quaid had supported the parliamentary system, although he had also been quoted as saying that this system has not succeeded in any country except Britain. A document available on Google says that the father of the nation was of the view that presidential system suited Pakistan.
During the Zia era, Sharifuddin Pirzada had come up with a document that claimed the Quaid was all for the presidential system. K. H. Khursheed, who had worked as private secretary to the Quaid for a long time had expressed surprise over the ‘discovery’. He also remained the AJK President and was known for his integrity.
Whatever system was favoured by the Quaid, the fact is that the country is not being run to his liking.
In his address to the government officers at Peshawar on April 15, 1948, he had said: “You should have no hand in supporting this political party or that political party, this political leader or that political leader — this is not your business…. Your duty is not only to serve the government loyally and faithfully, but, at the same time, fearlessly, maintaining your high reputation, your prestige, your honour and the integrity of your service.”
Quaid-i-Azam, being a constitutionalist, was a firm believer and a staunch supporter of rule of law. According to the A.D.C. of Quaid-i-Azam, Major Gul Hasan, “Around 400 government servants assembled before the gates of Governor General House for a protest; the staff asked for permission to scatter the protestors through ‘lathi charge’, but Quaid-i-Azam, told the staff that peaceful protest is their constitutional right.”
As the situation stands, bureaucrats are no longer impartial and successive governments don’t treat them as such.
Every government has its own favourites in bureaucracy who are patronised without limits. In return, these bureaucrats carry out legal as well as illegal orders of the government, which is against the teachings of the Quaid and the service rules.
The bureaucrats who are not part of the favourite group are sidelined and wait for their turn in power of the party they are liked by. This practice has taken roots during the past few decades.
This is nothing but politicisation of bureaucracy which is not permissible - neither in the parliamentary system nor the presidential.
What is more regrettable is the fact that no voice has been raised against this abhorrent trend.
The Quaid also believed in a foreign policy based on peace, tranquility and cooperation. On the inauguration of Pakistan Broadcasting Service, he said, “Our object should be peace within and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial, friendly relations with our immediate neighbours and with the world at large.”
Whatever the reasons, ties with our neighbours are not in line with the guidelines of the father of the nation.
Relations with India have always been tense and have gone further sour after the unconstitutional Aug 5 Indian move to annex Occupied Kashmir. The situation will remain tense in the foreseeable future as there is no possibility of India reversing its unconstitutional step and Pakistan digesting it.
Islamabad’s ties with Kabul have also been ‘inimical’ for the past couple of decades. The Taliban’s rule – that came to an end in 2001– was the only period when the two countries had good relations. In fact, in the entire world, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE were the only three countries that had recognised the Taliban government.
Ties with Iran have also been witnessing ups and downs during various periods. Relations with Iran have always been under scrutiny because of the Saudi factor. Intimacy between Islamabad and Riyadh widens the gulf between Islamabad and Tehran.
As for governance, speaking in the Legislative Council on an amendment bill, the Quaid said, “Good government does not mean autocratic government; good government does not mean despotic government; good government means a government that is responsible to the representatives of people.”
Speaking at a public meeting in March 1948, he said, “Remember, it is in your hands to put the government in power or remove the government from power; but you must not do it by mob methods. You have the power, you must learn the art to use it; you must try and understand the machinery. Constitutionally, it is in your hands to upset one government and put another government in power if you are dissatisfied to such an extent. Therefore, the whole thing is in your hands.”
Most of the governments in Pakistan were removed before they could complete their mandated five-year terms. It was only the setup crafted by Gen Musharraf after 2003 elections that completed its term, although it was shared by three prime ministers: Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Shaukat Aziz. The other two governments of PPP (of Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf) and the PML-N setup led first by Mian Nawaz Sharif and after his disqualification by court by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi) are the only exceptions.
The earlier governments were sent packing by the powers that be. The Quaid said:
“Do not forget that the armed forces are the servants of the people and you do not make national policy; it is we, the civilians, who decide these issues and it is your duty to carry out these tasks with which you are entrusted.”
The writer is an academician.