On August 14, 1947, a new nation was born. In order to govern and serve this entity, national institutions were required. Pakistan was created as the first Islamic Democracy of the world. In the words of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) the ‘workability of Islam was to be ‘experimented’ on here. Priorities were very clear. Nation building followed by institutional transformation and then leading to individual growth.

Unfortunately, the colonial institutions that we inherited resisted the transformation. Baboo Ghulam Muhuammad crossed the line with support of General Ayub Khan and Justice Muhammad Munir. They teamed up to knock out the entire political leadership of the country. Instead of serving the nation they came up on top followed by individual growth through clandestine links with the establishment. It was the best and worst of times. For those within the system, the party never ended. Loans, permits, plots and industry were doled out. The entire population was divided between have and have nots, and the plunder continued for over a decade (Oct 1958 to Oct 1968). Finally, the first generation of the country revolted. Ayub Khan was toppled in March 1969 and the first free and fair elections were held in 1970.

Despite the break up and Khaki surrender, there were solid democratic gains between 1971 to 1975, with the 1973 Constitution being the biggest gain of the era. Despite the onslaught of two Khaki usurpers, the Constitution survived. However, the role of the judiciary and bureaucracy was against the nation’s interests which is why democratic gains and institutional transformations were neutralized. According to Ayesha Siddiqa, the armed forces were transformed into Army Incorporated. The Khaki Empire stretches across the length and breadth of the country with business interests worth billions of rupees, and include plazas, properties, banks, industry, civil works contracting, and transportation; almost everything under the sun.

From 1958 to 2014, a lot of water has flown under the bridge. There are no national institutions left. The struggle of the founding fathers and the few democratic gains made between 1971 and 1977, together with their institutional imprints have been neutralized. Now, there has to be a major overhaul of important organs of the state.

Pakistan has well trained and reasonably equipped professional armed forces. With around 700,000 men in uniform, it is the 5th or 6th largest army in the world. Over $20 billion have been invested in the defense production and nuclear establishment around Rawalpindi/ Islamabad. The nation has been supporting this force much beyond its capacity. Despite martial laws and Khaki atrocities, the nation has always stood behind its armed forces in times of need.

The judges owe their reinstatement to the masses. People went out of their way for a very compliant judiciary that has supported dictators and usurpers. Justice has either been delayed or denied for the masses. After the restoration of judges, expectations were high but no relief was given to the common man. The judicial process has ceased to function at all levels, and even the police has been subjected to manhandling within court premises.

As a child growing up on the Mall, I was a regular visitor to the Lahore High Court (LHC) which also housed the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) at that time. Judges wore funny grey wigs of the colonial era and were ushered into courts. The decorum of the court was strictly observed and judges were addressed as Lordships. Finally in the 70s, after the promulgation of the 1973 Constitution in Pakistan, some rituals were done away with including the funny wigs of the Lordships.

The colonial bureaucracy fared no better with some dissent which was dealt with an iron hand. At the time of partition, Pakistan inherited a few scores of ICS (Indian Civil Service) officers which were then renamed CSP (Civil Service of Pakistan).

Aftab Ahmed Khan, an ICS officer had served in East Pakistan as Chief Secretary and was also Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy. He urged Ayub Khan to go back to the barracks to save Quaid’s Pakistan from breaking up. Despite their majority, the Eastern wing had accepted the principal of population parity with the West to facilitate the framing of the 1956 Constitution. Martial law in 1958 was the beginning of the end and that was highlighted by Aftab Ahmed Khan in a letter to Ayub Khan. Instead of a logical review of the request, he was arrested and tried for sedition against the state.

The Aitchison College Lahore which was also called Chief’s College, was created as a feudal colonial nursery with its own traditions of grandeur. I had a chance to talk to the principal who was an Aitchisonian himself, to review some colonial legacies like turbans etc. and replace them with the Jinnah cap as a new nation was born on August 14, 1947. His reply was curt. “I have nothing to do with your traditions,” he said.

This continuity of colonial ways has to be addressed. The founding fathers had a vision, that they would create a new nation which was thwarted by the colonial institutions left behind. After the creation of Pakistan, the father of the nation wore his national dress (Sherwani and Jinnah Cap). Most leaguers including the first PM Liaquat Ali Khan wore the same cap.

And now, Pakistan, the first Islamic democracy, is struggling for a credible ballot to elect its political leaders. Where do these colonial institutions stand in this struggle? Will they side with the forces of the status-quo and finally face public reprisals? Or will they perform in the public interest by shunning traditions set by their predecessors: Baboo Ghulam Muhamad, Khaki Ayub Khan, Qazi Muhuammad Munir and their tail coats.

 The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be contacted at fmaliks@hotmail.com