Can our colonial institutions deliver freedom? I am afraid the answer is a resounding ‘no’. The unanimous 1973 constitution keeps us together while defining the boundaries of vital state organs. Despite repeated incursions the sacred document has survived, only a few unholy amendments remain. It is time to revisit the institutional frameworks, service to the people of Pakistan is still not a part of their colonial portfolio, while the ‘Goras’ left seven decades ago the Brown Sahib’ has tried to fit into their shoes. The struggle for freedom continues unabated.
The first constituent assembly comprised of elected members of the 1946 general elections who opted for Pakistan. Quaid-e-Azam then appointed the Prime Minister (PM), Chief Minister (CM) and Cabinet Members. The slide started first with assassination of the elected PM Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951. In 1954 the elected assembly was dismissed which was a big setback for our democratic struggle. Next day Ayub Khan joined the cabinet in uniform as Defence Minister, the encroachment had started which has continued since then.
After 1946, the elections in 1970 were a major milestone in our democratic struggle. The ballot was free and fair but the establishment was cornered. Quaid’s Pakistan was dismembered. Instead of one, two democracies emerged from the debris of dictatorship. Bangladesh under the leadership of Sheikh Muji-ur-Rehman and what remained under the stewardship of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB). The truly elected assembly then framed the unanimous 1973 constitution.
In seventy years Pakistan has experienced only two genuinely elected houses, one elected in 1946 while the other in 1970. Dismissal of the first in 1954 by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad (Gamma) was engineered. I am not sure who convinced ZAB to voluntarily dissolve the parliament one year ahead of schedule in 1977. Perhaps he was over confidant and fell for his insatiable desire to have absolute or 2/3 majority to amend the constitution at will. A nine party opposition alliance was waiting in the wings to take him on. Since then neither Pakistan nor its fledgling democracy has recovered. There has been a big ‘political circus’ for the last forty years (1977 to 2017) with ten manipulated electoral misadventures which has produced third rate leadership that we have to endure today.
In order to move forward the country needs an organisational overhaul, in other words the organics have to be corrected. New SOP’s are required (Standard Operating Procedures) to serve not to rule the people. Colonial ways cannot deliver change. In America all institutions were dismantled and rebuilt after the war of independence, China did the same in 1949. Recently when Hong Kong was handed over by the British a fresh start was made. On July 01, 1997 the last Governor Chris Patten was driven to the airport the facility was turned into a Colonial Museum. No Chinese administrator every lived in the Governor’s House as it was not available and considered forbidden. Except for its sovereign status for trade, today the Island is totally Chinese. The British influence has been contained; all institutions have been rebuilt to suit the local population.
Since independence in 1947, a number of commissions, committees and experts have been appointed to study India’s administrative system and to recommend necessary changes. There has been internal resistance to reform civil bureaucracies in the colonies. Members of the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP, CSS) have effectively blocked reforms. Cornelius Commission (1956 – 1962) made several important recommendations which were not acceptable to the privileged Civil Service Cadres. Two members of the commission belonging to the CSP disagreed with the majority opinion and submitted a dissenting note justifying maintenance of status-quo. The lawyers’ movement in 2007 has reformed the judiciary to a great extent. Media has also been relatively free. The Khakis have rendered sacrifices in the war on terror. Once the menace of terrorism is uprooted they can gracefully return to the barracks.
Today Pakistan suffers most from political incompetence. Performance of the elected bodies is dismal. The reformers need major reforms to drive change. There was a time when the leadership was able and honest led by stalwarts of the freedom struggle (Liaquat Ali, Khawaja Nazimuddin, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, Abdul Qayyum Khan, Feroz Khan Noon etc). The elected political leadership was able in the brief democratic period (1971 – 1977) that followed the first martial law in 1958. ZAB was the last PM who could do paperwork and wrote on the files, the ones that came after him lacked that capability. As a nation we have regressed not progressed mainly due to corrupt and incompetent leadership.
In 1947 the colonial institutions that we inherited were at least functional today they are overwhelmed and dysfunctional. The task to reform them is even more difficult but a start has to be made. The unanimous 1973 constitution stands as a beacon of hope for the nation. The trial of the last Khaki dictator under Article 6 has blocked that route to power. Article 62, 63 has resulted in political cleansing. Another credible ballot will have a major impact to break the political stagnation of status quo where state apparatus is used to manipulate the electoral process. Parliament is the Mecca of democracy as such it must be operated by individuals of strength and character not criminals, tax and loan defaulters. Colonial institutions were not designed to serve free people, they have proven to be impediments in our quest for freedom, and as such their reformation is imminent to move forward.
The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation.