National institutions are non-existent in the country. While the nation sinks, the party goes on in Islamabad. On August 14, 1947 a new nation was born. Priorities of the nascent democratic state were clear with nation building being the top priority followed by institutional strengthening and individual growth. Unfortunately, the transformation of colonial institutions (Khakis, Baboos, Qazis etc.) did not take place. With the early demise of the Quaid and the murder of the first Prime Minister, nation building was stalled.

First it was Baboo Ghulam Muhammad who managed to become the Governor General with the support of the Khakis and Qazis. Institutions started looking inwards and priorities changed with institutional strengthening on top, followed by individual growth. As a result of the approach, some institutions and individuals grew while the nation declined. Khakis watch khaki interests, Baboos watch Baboo interest and Qazis watch their own. Interestingly, when any of these institutions fall on a hard time they invariably seek the support of the nation.

When the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) was deposed by a President in uniform, he sought public support. Despite a very dismal track record of service to the nation, the people responded. CJP was restored and the president was first forced to take off his uniform and then made to resign. It was with the support of the people that the CJP was able to regain his position. But instead of delivering much needed justice to the common man, a clash of institutions was started mainly for self projection.

The track record of the Baboos has always been dismal. Instead of service to the nation, they act as masters or Brown sahibs relying on ‘Yerkalogy’ and ‘Turkalogy’ with no delivery. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) took them on by his command of language and paper work. Through lateral entry, he inducted technocrats into important ministries in senior positions who were able to deliver. Baboos were kept on their toes. Every ministry had a night section officer to deliver files and record to the PM in the late hours. Baboos could not hide behind documents as answers were sought on an expeditious basis and their domain of secrecy and cover ups was seriously challenged.

From a public service point of view, the track record of the Khakis has also been poor. Four martial laws followed by brutal crack downs on political dissent have been deadly. The 1965 war was ill-conceived and ill-planned, yet the people of Pakistan stood behind the men in uniform. War in 1971 was another disaster; yet there were no street protests in West Pakistan to stop the madness. Zarb-e-Azab has complete support of the people despite the information cover up about ground realities. Air power is repeatedly used while in India, despite several freedom movements, it has never been employed.

Almost everyone agrees except the voters in the South of Punjab, that Zia’s martial law destroyed Pakistan. Even cleansing the 1973 Constitution of his amendments has been an uphill task. His so called Islamic clauses still continue to haunt us. During his term in office, civilian institutions were surgically targeted and destroyed (Pakistan Railways, Mechanized Constitution of Pakistan, National Shipping Corporation, WAPDA to name a few). Talibanization and the Afghan war was disastrous for a country with limited capacity to take on a super power.

Lt Gen Ghulam Jilani Khan was governor Punjab. According to him, several of his proposals for reform in the province were rejected by Zia as he believed in preserving the status-quo. Do nothing, exercise control, was his mantra. On hearing this, I asked Jilani Sahib why Zia was not captured and shot in the interest of the nation. He had no answer. It was obvious that the institutional loyalties were over riding.

Article 25-A of the Constitution declared literacy as a right of the citizen to be provided in ten years i.e. by 1985. Zia removed the time deadline and no voices were raised either by the Khakis, Baboos or Qazis. No institution or individual was there to stand up for the nation and its vital interests. In the judicial murder of ZAB, only three judges dissented (Safdar Shah, Abdul Haleem, Dorab Patel) while all four from the Punjab upheld the death penalty awarded by the Lahore High Court (LHC).

No country can progress without national institutions. Pakistan was the first Islamic democracy while Iran was the second. Both failed mainly because of weak institutional support. In Pakistan, the first PM was murdered while in Iran he was deposed and imprisoned. After the Iranian revolution in 1979 when the Shah was toppled, Imam Khomeni decided on a major overhaul of the royal military, administrative and legal set up that was clearly working against national interests.

Generals, senior officials and judges were tried by special tribunals and then punished for crimes against the nation. In the words of the Imam, ‘Nation comes first’. Today Iran is the only Muslim country that can stand up against the hegemony of both Jewish and Christian states mainly because of its national institutions.

Failure of institutions in Pakistan calls for a major review of our national priorities. Our journey as a new nation has not been supported by our own institutions. The status-quo is in firm control while we sink as a nation. A crusade for change is currently on. This is a defining moment for the country. The Khakis, Baboos and Qazis and the institutions they represent have a lot of soul searching to do. Quaid’s Pakistan was dismembered in 1971. Together we must save and strengthen what is left of it.

n    The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation.