On August 14, 1947, a new nation was born with Quaid-e-Azam as its Governor General and Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan as the Prime Minister (PM). With almost nothing to start with the ‘Pundits’ had predicted a collapse after six months, but they were proven wrong. With Karachi as its capital a government started to operate from the barracks. Instead of furniture, wooden cartoons were used, officers arranged their own stationary. Pakistan was launched with honesty, dedication and hard work. Quaid was consumed by the struggle, he passed away in Sept 1947, to be replaced by another stalwart of the movement Khawaja Nizam-ud-Din of Dacca. The PM continued to hold the fort.

When Pakistan was out of the woods, the ‘Angels’ decided to strike. The first PM was assassinated on October 16, 1951 while addressing a public gathering at Rawalpindi. Like Bhutto’s appointment of Zia-ul-Haq proved deadly for the country, the promotion of an ambitious General like Ayub Khan to head the Army by Liaquat Ali was a blunder. Ayub’s brother Bahadur Khan was then the Police Chief. Till today the murder remains unresolved but Ayub Khan was the major beneficiary as he was able to destabilize the entire democratic order. First as Defence Minister, in uniform then PM and finally Chief Martial law Administer/President. It did not stop here. He then abrogated the 1956 constitution and imposed his own version in 1962. The capital was moved to Islamabad close to his place of work and home. It was Ayub’s Pakistan,

Quaid and his vision were left behind in his place of birth and burial. The Bengalis protested, they were shown the door. In principle Ayub Khan wanted to let East Pakistan go as they were too problematic for him to handle but he lacked the courage to come in the open to declare his intent.

All the federating units (East Pakistan, Sindh, Balochistan, Frontier) except Punjab were unhappy with Khan’s GHQ dominated ‘Mazboot Markaz’ (Strong Centre). To counter the hegemony of Islamabad, provincial autonomy because a rallying point. Mujib-ur-Rehman’s six points which ultimately led to the separation of the Eastern Wing were:

1              The constitution should provide for a Federation of Pakistan based on the Lahore Resolution. Supremacy of the legislature directly elected on the basis of universal adult franchise to be ensured.

2              Federal government should deal with only two subjects: Defence and Foreign affairs.

3              Two separate but freely convertible currencies. Flight of capital to be stopped from East to West Pakistan.

4              The power of taxation should be vested in federating units.

5              Two separate accounts for foreign exchange earnings.

6              East Pakistan should have a separate Military or paramilitary force, Naval headquarters should be in East Pakistan.

Clearly East Pakistan had lost faith in Islamabad and its style of government. Mujib was willing to negotiate but the hard core militants within the Awami League were not. As leader of West Pakistan, Bhutto tried to soften Mujib’s stance but was unsuccessful. Rest is history.

Provincial autonomy was ingrained in the 1973 constitution. As the provinces lacked capacity, a concurrent list of departments was agreed to. Devolution of power all the way to the Tehsils was envisioned. State took responsibility for the welfare of the people. Literacy was declared a fundamental right to be provided in ten years. While Ayub Khan hijacked the 1956 constitution, Zia defaced the 1973 version. Finally, the 18th amendment cut Islamabad to size resulting in chaos of another kind. Islamabad is unwilling to let go while the provinces remain unprepared to take an additional responsibilities. Now there is a talk to reverse the amendment as the country is becoming ungovernable resulting in one step forward and two backwards.

Pakistan performed well in the barracks of Karachi but has badly failed to deliver behind the barricades of Islamabad. Though I have served in the capital, it is a fun city but getting the job done is not easy. The facilities and beauty of the city is so intoxicating that no one wants to leave. Survival instincts take over for which compromises kick in.

Kaptaan has promised to build ‘Naya Pakistan’ which in reality is the original Quaid’s Pakistan that performed well from the barracks of Karachi. On a recent trip to Thar I stopped in Karachi and called on the Thar Coal and Energy Board (TCEB) head office. As I am an early bird, I decided to call at 9am. I was surprised to find the officer at work that early. It was a different experience as most government offices in Punjab / Islamabad remain deserted till 10 am and then the ‘Namaz’ break starts around 12N. The work ethics are totally different. In the barracks the bureaucrats worked as ‘Khadims’ while behind the barricades they turned into ‘Baboos’. The grandeur of Islamabad has hurt us bad. Today we don’t know how to deal with the monstrosities that we have created ourselves and those left behind by the ‘Colonial’ masters. Khadims’ neither live nor operate from air conditioned mansions that have restricted entry. In a country where there is illiteracy and shortages of clean drinking water the very basics of survival cannot be governed by individuals who operate behind barricades. It is back to the barracks leaving a few departments like Defence, Currency, Foreign Exchange and Science & Technology behind in the foothills of Islamabad for safe keeping. Pakistan needs groundwork not the palatial viewing towers of the elite of the capital.


The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation.