THE pandemic is an opportunity to identify fault lines and alternatives in order to forge a cohesive contract between state and citizens. Pakistan today needs effective measures to make the nation more egalitarian, less authoritarian, more just, less oppressive, more free and less fragile. Jinnah wanted a separate homeland for Muslims because he feared they would become a political underclass in a unified India dominated by Hindus. His vision was not to create a theocracy but a pluralistic, democratic polity based on social justice. For him, religion had nothing to do with the business of the state. He addressed the Constituent Assembly on Aug 11, 1947, thus: “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of State.”
Barely seven months after Independence, Bengali leader Suhrawardy warned that the new state might destroy itself by adopting a version of Islam that is not based “on toleration, equality, brotherhood” and by “establishing in effect a communal state within…” In such a state, he said, “there will be no commerce, no business and no trade. There will be lawlessness”. His words proved correct, leading to the break-up of the country.
The Pakistan that we need must be more egalitarian and less authoritarian.
After Jinnah, the mullah, initially opposed to the creation of Pakistan, tried to hijack the political narrative of our creation through the Objectives Resolution of 1949. According to human rights activist I.A. Rehman, many people thought the religious and political definition of the two-nation theory to be the same. In fact, the political definition was used first and later clerics used its religious definition to impose their version of faith.
Historian Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed rightly said that people, and not the state, had a religion because if the state adopted one it became partisan. He lamented that religiosity often took precedence over democracy in Pakistan. After the country became an Islamic republic in 1973 and the Objectives Resolution was included as a substantive part of the Constitution, clerics started asserting themselves to make the polity conform fully to their interpretations of religion. So, the first issue we must grapple with is the role of the state as an enforcer or enabler of faith.
Jinnah was a firm believer in civilian supremacy over military matters. The first senior army officer against whom he ordered a probe as governor general was none other than Ayub Khan who was in charge of repatriation and settlement of refugees from eastern Punjab. The mismanagement of refugee settlement led to an inquiry against Ayub who was sent to East Pakistan. Before leaving, he wrote to his friend Sher Ali, later major general, to put in a word with army chief Gen Messervy. According to Maj Gen Sher Ali, the army chief, after listening to him, said that Ayub was more of a politician than a soldier. Interestingly, the inquiry officer was Musa Khan, later appointed army chief by Ayub Khan. After the death in an air crash of a general tipped as the next chief, Ayub Khan became the first native army chief.
Ayub, violating the Constitution of 1956, became a party to the imposition of the first martial law in 1958, presiding over the destiny of a nation that the founding father had conceived of as a democratic, pluralist polity. The next chief Gen Yahya presided over the breakup of Jinnah’s Pakistan. During the 1980s, army chief Gen Zia injected fundamentalism into the army. Then it was Gen Musharraf’s turn to dupe the nation on the slogan of ‘enlightened moderation’ while retaining the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. It is hoped that his conviction will deter any future martial law. However, more important is a change of mindset; every soldier must adhere to the oath administered on joining a noble profession that entails the supreme sacrifice of life in defence of the motherland.
But civilian supremacy over military matters will remain elusive unless the political leadership provides good governance and upholds the rule of law. Successive civilian governments have failed to uphold merit and transparency in policymaking and appointments to crucial public offices, eg the appointment of bureaucrats after retirement as members of the federal and provincial public service commissions. Negating a merit-based, transparent process of selection, prime ministers and chief ministers promote patronage and nepotism by arbitrarily picking up some of the retired officers, mostly from one service group, when each service group in FPSC should have one member. Selection should be merit-based and open to all segments.
In addition, wilful ignorance prevails in the policymaking corridors. Advisers and special assistants to the prime minister should include a small group of technical experts; instead, we see a platoon of special assistants enjoying perks and facilities of state ministers. This is a waste of taxpayers’ money. These ‘technocrats’ are mostly affluent; their expertise should be available free of cost.
Jinnah in his Aug 11 address warned against the curse of corruption and nepotism. He stressed the role of the state in maintaining law and order. Recently, our aviation minister reported that a third of the national carrier’s pilots had fake qualifications and some had cleared their exams through proxies. This scam is just the tip of iceberg in an ocean of corrupt practices in every sphere. Accountability, with no exceptions, is what we need.
Rule of law and maintenance of order require fearless judges with integrity. Our criminal justice system is broken. There is no political will to reform the police. The latest Police Reforms Committee report prepared in January 2019 is gathering dust. Police in Pakistan must be depoliticised through democratic institutional oversight. For both internal and external accountability of police, independent police complaints authorities should be established in Islamabad and the provincial capitals. Operational and administrative autonomy of police command must be ensured. Functional specialisation in investigation and CT branches will enhance professionalism. The role of police as service provider and an institution that protects citizens must be consciously pursued to change the present militarisation of internal security.
It is hoped the virus will not prove fatal to our parliamentary democracy as during the pandemic, the politics of crisis can lead to far greater authoritarian tendencies by a state facing the test of public dissatisfaction. Pakistan needs to be a progressive, peaceful and prosperous nation.
The writer is former IG Police and author of The Faltering State and Inconvenient Truths.
Note: A couple of corrections have been made in the original article published in the newspaper.
Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2020