JInnah had a firm belief in the supremacy of parliamentary politics over all other systems of governance.
JInnah had a firm belief in the supremacy of parliamentary politics over all other systems of governance.

SHOULD people be changed to suit the system, or should the system be reformed to suit the people? The debate in academic as well as political circles has remained active and relevant even after 75 years of independence. Shifting blames and avoiding taking responsibility have become the main features of intellectual discussions taking place at various national forums. This irritation caused by hostile attitude towards democracy and dramatic nature of political discourse will continue devouring the hopes of the country’s youth till a true leadership emerges on the scene, taking responsibility, accepting challenges, and, most critically, following the patterns of leadership set by the charismatic Father of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Pakistan’s economic downturn, inept political system, crisis in statehood, external threats to sovereignty, institutional decline, disillusionment of the masses with politics, elite capture, ethnic divide, religious intolerance and leadership crisis are nothing but the outcomes of our failure to adopt the Quaid’s democratic vision and political acumen expressed in his mantra of Unity, Faith and Discipline.

Jinnah strongly believed that these guiding principles would enable us to sink individualism and serve people with sincerity of purpose. Thus, creating unity in diversity, keeping faith in democracy and establishing institutional discipline are the key to solving our political puzzle. With a certain sense of sub-continental history, one can better understand what the Quaid wanted Pakistan to be in the long run.

Unlike the Indian administrative tradition, the British built up in undivided India a new system of administration based on close-knit bureaucracy. The defect in the machine-like character of colonial administration was the lack of sensitivity towards the feelings of the people. They practised conscious aloofness because they were not too keen to understand the locals and their feelings. As a result, political differences estranged the colonial officers from intellectuals and politicians and widened the gulf between the rulers and their subjects. However, the British learnt their lessons from the War of Independence in 1857, and reached the conclusion that the people of India could not be kept away from the political process altogether.

Jinnah took a clear and strong position throughout his political career. His concept of nationhood, as outlined in his speeches, statements and actions, had a secular orientation, and indicated his firm belief in a democratic dispensation.

Thus, colonial rule in India became a little less rigid, and in 1885 the Indian National Congress (INC) became a common platform for the people of British India. There were efforts to introduce the idea of one nation and to introduce democracy in India where culturally and geographically diverse communities coexisted for generations with differing social and political perspective.

In the years ahead, controversies and biases with the INC and its opposition to genuine demands of the Muslim community exposed its policy and attitude towards Muslim interests.

This led to the establishment of the All-India Muslim League (AIML) in 1906 as a Muslim expression of unique identity shaped by history, geography, civilisation and distinctive culture. It subsequently went on to reinforce the idea of two nations and to decouple the Muslim community from INC.

Muslim expression of moral codes and cultural values became indispensable for advancing political rights, promoting social traditions, and pursuing their economic ambitions. The AIML gave the Muslims a new way of codifying their legal and constitutional rights in a colonial society dominated by the Hindu majority. The importance of the League increased as an alternative political forum due to Hindu antagonism displayed in all political activities carried out by the INC.

Consequently, the British concluded that democracy cannot function if any major community is not adequately represented. Thus, the Muslims were encouraged to participate in politics. The struggle gained strength after the status of the Muslim community in undivided India as a separate political identity was recognised by the British.

The Muslims were allowed separate electorate system under the Minto-Morley reforms 1909. This time widespread political awakening among the Muslims was reflected in their active participation through AIML. Jinnah, without abandoning his association with INC, joined the AIML in October 1913 and eventually converted this awakening into political consciousness.

He also tried to reduce polarisation among political forces to seek due share in power for the Indians at large. He propagated Hindu-Muslim unity through the Lucknow Pact in 1916 for the purpose of collaboration between the two major communities. Thus, both Hindus and Muslims cooperated during the the Khilafat movement, which started in 1919 for the protection of Ottoman caliph, and Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement that began in 1920 for the grant of self-government.

In World War I (1914-1918), major communities of British India, including Muslims, made huge contributions to the British war effort. However, the British missed the opportunity of celebrating the success and appreciating the sacrifices of about 1.5 million Indian volunteers. After the War was over, the British government went back to the practice of curbing anti-colonial resistance and political violence as a way to clear the way for parliamentary democracy under the Montague Chelmsford reforms. The Government of India Act1919 was passed by the House of Commons to expand the participation of the Indians and enable them to develop abilities of governing themselves under British supervision.

However, this Act, burdened with diarchy, was reviewed by the Simon Commission in 1927 and the chairman of the seven-member commission, Sir John Simon, crafted some proposals regarding a future constitutional framework. The commission, however, failed to achieve support from major political parties.

An all-India conference was organised by political parties in 1928 to discuss the British challenge that the Indian political leadership was incapable of making constitution of their own. In response to the challenge, the Nehru Report sketched the future Indian constitution, and recommended a unitary form of government with parliamentary system. It also recommended the reservation of seats for Muslims in constituencies where they were in a minority. Nevertheless, it did not accept separate electorate system for giving Muslims adequate representation that had been agreed to by Congress in the Lucknow Pact.

Thus, as a constitutionalist of rare skill and vision, Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah put forwarded his own14 Points in 1929 as a comprehensive plan that outlined the legal edifice of a true democracy and federal structure with provincial autonomy and provision of adequate Muslim representation in all legislatures.

These points guaranteed a democratic culture by providing full religious liberty. The 12th point of the charter provided for the protection of Muslim education, culture and identity. Further, Jinnah’s 14 Points was aimed at safeguarding Muslim interests through constitutional mechanisms. Under these points, no change could be made in the constitution by the central legislature except with the concurrence of the states constituting the Indian Federation.

Also, these points demanded Sindh’s separation from Bombay and reforms in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan. It can be argued that Jinnah’s 14 Points served as a template for future constitution.

Finally, after a series of constitutional and political developments, major points raised by Jinnah, including provincial autonomy, were ensured under the Government of India Act of 1935 which led people to the path of democratisation. The Muslims were able to participate in the 1937 elections, and learnt a great deal of experience in electoral politics.

In the wake of the League’s unsatisfactory electoral performance, Jinnah, as a wise politician, used a new strategy based on a clear vision based on Muslim identity and a new style of leadership for exhorting factions and groups of AIML to overcome their conflicts.

The Quaid engaged and motivated the Muslims who were ready to be part of what the leader was doing to build a sense of common purpose and to gain commitment of his followers through constant mentoring and communicating his vision.

According to Lawrence Ziring, “To many Muslims, Jinnah was the model of deportment, an articulator of dreams, and the promise of a better future.” He believed that legal and constitutional struggle was a powerful way of achieving the goal of securing Muslims’ rightful place in society.

Jinnah was able to convert Muslim League into a mass movement, and the popularity of AIML further increased after the passing of the Lahore Resolution to orchestrate a demand for a separate homeland based on historical, geographical, demographic and legal grounds. This was eventually achieved in 1947 with the mass political support people gave him in abundance.

The Quaid took a clear and strong position and based his concept of nationhood on secular orientation, and his firm belief in democracy is clearly indicated by his speeches and statements. At the time of independence in 1947, he said: “Islam and its idealism has taught us democracy. It has taught us equality of men, justice and fair play to everybody. In any case, Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state.” He reiterated that Muslims and non-Muslims will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizen, and will play a vital role in the affairs of the new country. Jinnah firmly believed that equal citizenship and protection of minority rights would provide a strong foundation for Pakistan.

Jinnah further made it clear in his address to the gazetted officers at Chittagong on March 25, 1948: “Those days have gone when the country was ruled by the bureaucracy. It is people’s government responsible to the people on democratic lines and parliamentary practices.” Jinnah firmly believed in the rule of the people, and not of the bureaucracy. He envisioned the country’s future constitution and administrative structure as well.

Firstly, he stressed the need to establish neutral administration and apolitical structure of administration accountable only to the people. Perhaps, Jinnah had Weberian model of bureaucracy in mind and thus believed that bureaucrats can only perform their responsibilities efficiently if they grow impersonal and, in the words of Marx Weber, ‘de-humanized’, unbiased and accountable to the people.

Jinnah found the bureaucracy saddled with old legacy and colonial mentality. Thus, he advised the civil servants to discharge their duties honestly without succumbing to political pressure. However, Jinnah’s advice was not followed in letter and in spirit. Pakistan’s bureaucratic system owed its structure to the Indian Civil Service (ICS), and continued administrative legacies, traditions and values of its predecessor.

Political instability, leadership crisis, and delay in constitution-making created an opportunity for the bureaucracy to step in to fill the power vacuum in the 1950s. In the 1960s, it monopolised state power, dominated government institutions and held key positions in central and local administration to maintain the status quo for several decades. Bureaucracy remained loyal to the political elite rather than to the state and the constitution. Efforts to reform bureaucracy remained unsuccessful and thus it was unable to provide creative solutions to society’s complex administrative issues. It promoted routine work, inaction, red-tapism, and created public perception of indecisiveness and reluctance to take responsibility. Further, frequent transfers and tenure-insecurity of the bureaucrats hampered the performance of the entire structure.

Secondly, Jinnah focussed on the importance of improving the work culture. He advised the civil servants to behave as servants, and not as masters. While addressing the civil servants, Jinnah said: “You do not belong to the ruling class … Make the people feel that you are their servants and friends.” He also advised the bureaucrats to maintain the highest standards of honour, integrity, justice and fair play. These qualities are rarely found in our bureaucratic leadership and the bureaucrats are working as slaves of the system which treats people in a way similar to the steel frame of colonial bureaucracy.

The situation confronting our bureaucrats is also similar to the dilemma that the British administration had faced in India. They were afraid of losing power and prestige if they were to succeed in developing institutions and bringing change in society.

Thirdly, Jinnah, the great leader, taught us the virtues of patience. Jinnah’s advice for individuals and institutions was based on his clear understanding and deep insight of the bureaucratic culture. This principle has also been largely ignored by Pakistan’s elite civil services. Thus, grievances of people have multiplied due to the rude behaviour and attitude of local-level bureaucracy.

The central idea of Jinnah’s speech was to increase the understanding of the bureaucrats about the expectations of the people. Through his speech, he clearly established the idea of parliamentary supremacy by recognising people’s right to rule. According to Jinnah’s thoughts, it is democracy, and not bureaucracy, that is to take decisions about the country. Bureaucrats must be loyal to the democratic government, and implement the democratic vision and execute the policies of the government of the day effectively, economically and efficiently.

Further, the Quaid considered democracy as the best system because it does not discriminate on account of religion, gender, race, caste and creed. All citizens of state under a democratic dispensation are considered equal and equally patriotic. Thus, they must be treated equal before the law of the land. Attempts to regularize the beliefs and values has played havoc with the social fabric, giving rise to sectarian violence and radicalisation at the cost of tolerance and social harmony.

Thus, for ensuring peace, security and unity in society, there is no way for our leadership but to follow the Quaid’s vision, and become democrats to the core of their existence.

It can be argued that we may not need any other form of democracy except the kind that the Quaid outlined so frequently and with such force. The sovereignty of the people has to be accepted, granted and digested. It must be based on respecting the supremacy of the country’s constitution, justice, and the rule of law. At the social level, we have to ensure equality and tolerance.

Our practice of democracy must decolonise the existing laws, start democratising the decision-making process, and create a democratic culture across all political forums. People must get the opportunity to learn about developing democratic attitudes through educational socialisation.

Only a democratic culture in political system can guarantee sustainability of the system, which is linked inextricably with economic progress.

Moreover, the recent shift in global power structures and economic transformation of the world require Pakistan to demonstrate its democratic resilience to benefit from its geo-economic location.

The writer is Director, Pakistan Study Centre, University of Sindh, Jamshoro.

Published in the Quaid’s Day supplement, Dawn, December 25, 2022.

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