Pakistan and Democracy
By Dr S.Ehtisham
Lamenting the absence of democracy in Pakistan, without discussing the underlying causes thereof, has attained the rank of a favorite pastime of the so-called liberal-progressives. Some Indians and people of the west of the same persuasion, pitch in too. Some of the latter have their own, not always sympathetic, motives or agenda.
Democracy has taken root, flourished and civilian authority has reigned supreme, in India. Both the countries attained independence at the same time. Leaders of both countries professed faith in democratic dispensation. Jinnah the supreme leader of Pakistan even declared his intention to separate religion from the state.
Let us go back in history and see if we can glean any insight into the widely divergent paths that India and Pakistan took post-independence,
Muslims ruled India for a thousand years. They co-opted the amenable section of the erstwhile Hindu rulers. Hindu trading class constituted the bulk of the administrative and financial services. Always conscious of their comparatively precarious status, they endeavored to excel in liberal education.
Muslims largely kept to the martial arts. Later on, once they had stabilized their rule, they indulged in poetry, philosophy, and architecture. They built palaces, mausoleums, gardens and roads. But the artisans and engineers were mostly Hindu. They, of course, never stooped to financial management.
It was all form, with little substance. The super structure came tumbling down, at the first whiff of the adverse wind. A handful of Europeans were easily able to overcome the Empire that had lasted for centuries.
Muslims descended into national depression, and forsook the exhortations of their religion to seek knowledge, branding the enlightened reformers as heretics - much like they do now.
Hindus had simply exchanged one class of overlords with another. The latter, having wrested power from the hands of Muslims, favored the former.
Aspirations to self-government held sway over the hearts and minds of the educated class. Nationalism had been born. In literacy, Hindus outnumbered their Muslim peers by roughly a proportion of twenty to one, though in population the ratio was four to one.
The Indian Capital was, inevitably, overwhelmingly Hindu. Led by the elite newly educated in western mores, they started clamoring for a level playing field in matters of markets for their products. This naturally led to the demand of control over their own affairs, culminating in the demand for independence. Indian National Congress, curiously enough, was formed by an Indophile Englishman. The idea was to produce only a comprador class, and certainly not to promote the cause of independence.
The British had to find an alternative to the restive Hindus. The remnants of the Muslim feudal class of Moghal times, and the progeny of the new feudal class they had created post-1857, were at their beck and call in the region that was destined to emerge as Pakistan.
There is adequate documented evidence that the British actively encouraged the Muslim landowners to launch the Muslim League. At the helm was the wholly owned British creation, the Agha Khan.
The Muslim professionals, with Jinnah who was to emerge as the leading light of Hindu-Muslim unity, kept away from the League.
Jinnah was probably the first to realize the precarious state of the Muslims. In 1916 he engineered an equitable deal between the Hindus and Muslims.
Gandhi descended on the scene and by mobilizing the disempowered through a heady mix of populism, mysticism and religion soon manages to loom large over the political horizon and manages to curb all the radical elements in the congress. The party remained a tool of the Indian Capital.
Muslim League did not have an effective leader of an all-India level. The Agha Khan and Liaquat Ali Khan went with a beggar’s bowl in hand to beseech Jinnah to return to India to be the helmsman of Muslims.
One must not lose sight of the fact that for several years the Muslim feudals, especially in what is Pakistan now, did not accept his leadership. It was only after they realized that Pakistan was certain to emerge in the near future that they climbed on the bandwagon.
The Hindu Capital sabotaged the last attempt at keeping India united by repudiating the Cabinet Mission Plan, through no other than Jawaharlal Nehru, a flag carrying liberal.
Now let us look at Pakistan in 1947. Jinnah was the monarch of all he surveyed. He could tell the constituent assembly of a nation, ostensibly created in the name of religion, that religion will have no role to play in the affairs of the State.
But his most audacious and ultimately disastrous pronouncement was to tell a public meeting in East Bengal (East Pakistan then) that Urdu and only Urdu will be the official/national language of Pakistan.
Jinnah was coldly logical. Logic was, I think, with him on the issue.
After his death Liaquat, nowhere near Jinnah’s stature, was left in charge, and could not control the disparate elements. That was indubitably the critical institutional weakness in the early days of Pakistan.
But what led to its eventual demise of the country was the fact that the two wings of the country were divided - the ruling feudal class in the west and the combine of working class, left, nationalist and professional coalition on the East side. Landowners in Bengal had been mostly Hindus and had migrated to India.
The national assembly could not pass a constitution, essentially because the west would not agree to concede to Bengalis the number of seats in the national assembly proportionate to their population.
The intra-Government struggle went on. A constitution could be passed only when East Pakistan politicians had been beaten into submission and had accepted parity with West Pakistan in the number of seats in the national assembly.
But the Quad could not take the risk of the progressive elements of West Pakistan joining hands with the ones in East and forming a Government. A few weeks before general elections the President imposed martial law, and a few weeks later the Chief Martial law administrator, Ayub Khan, sent the President packing into exile.
Under Ayub, the IMF-World Bank policies were followed faithfully and wealth accumulated in a few hands.
Ayub was forced to flout his own tailor-made constitution and handed over power not to the speaker of the national assembly, but to his army chief, who awed by the display of strength by the public, ordained an election based on universal franchise.
The election results stunned the establishment. Mujeeb of East Pakistan won an overall majority, and was pledged support by the progressive parties from the western wing.
Now the fat was in the fire. The ruling class struck back with brute force, reinforced in this instance by a shrewd and populist feudal-Bhutto.
They had gone too far. International outrage erupted. The Indian Capital came to the aid of East Pakistan. After a bloody civil war, the Eastern wing seceded.
On the western side Bhutto, the arch feudal, hoodwinked the radical left and everybody else too, and effectively demolished the nascent Pakistani Capital in the name of nationalization. The feudal system was rejuvenated. Suffering from a delusion of grandeur, he made the fatal error of taking on the International Capital and was eliminated.
In an astounding display of hypocrisy international capital turned its back on Zia who took over and introduced laws patently discriminatory to the women, the poor, and all the disenfranchised. They are still on the books.
His rule spawned ethno-centric political groups. To save his skin more than to serve Islam, he finally led the country into the “Jihad” in Afghanistan, which was in fact a proxy war between the USSR and the USA, and down the precipice of drugs and armaments. Ethnic mafias, financed by drug and arms, assisted by security agencies, reduced the province of Sindh to a state of virtual civil war.
Zia was saved by the bell as it were. The Soviet Union decided to prop up its satrap in Afghanistan. When he tried to obstruct the deal the USA and the USSR made, he was prematurely sent on a fiery chariot to meet the Houris presumably assigned to him.
Benazir and Nawaz followed Zia in a ten-year long game of musical chairs. Both were beholden to the Quad. They were tolerated till Nawaz grew too big for his britches and was sent packing by the Ghazi of Kargill.
Let us briefly analyze the extant political/economic systems.
Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are controlled and in a large measure owned by a numerically small group of people - the capitalist class. They also dominate the government, the mainstream political parties, media and academia.
Socialism is an economic system in which an ideology-driven party controls the means of production, state, media, labor unions, academia and professions etc.
Fascism is a system in which an ideology-driven party exercises the same degree of control over levers of authority as the socialists do but makes little effort to provide for the public. Subtypes of Fascism are: 1). Theocracy, 2).Military Dictatorship in which the army functions on behalf of the ruling class.
Democracy is a system of government in which people are “supposed” to be governed by their representatives with their consent, obtained through an election held on a regular basis. The ruling class is an integral part of the Capitalist class, but in times before the Industrial Revolution comprised of landed gentry.
Imperial system in which all power is vested in the king who delegates some authority to his family, friends, and henchmen. Feudals/tribal heads are given limited governance in the their area of influence. Muslim kingdoms and emirates are prime examples.
Feudal System in which an imperial/colonial power has left the feudal landowners in charge of levers of power. Prime example is Pakistan.
Sociological development does not proceed with mathematical precision. In any society segments at various stages of evolution may co-exist, for example, there are a number of capitalists in Pakistan and there are feudal landowners in England.
Study of Japan and Korea is very instructive. Under pressure of industrialization and being deficient in raw materials, Japan evolved from imperial/feudal to fascist to pseudo imperial system in a short span of time. South Korea metamorphosed from feudal to fascist and with the advent of vigorous capitalism, into a stable democratic system within a few decades. I must add that the system is still having teething problems.
The United States of America started off with a feudal dominated representative Government, and with the development of a Capitalist class, the feudal element surrendered power to the latter.
For Pakistan to attain true bourgeoisie democracy the industrial era will have to be inducted, and the feudal system will have to be eradicated as a first step.
The first Agha Khan was brought over from Iranian Baluchistan to India by a British colonial officer. Nehru was able to impose Hindi, which was understood though it was not the mother tongue of the majority of Indians, as the official language of the country. Harvard trained economist Mahbubulhaque made the famous statement that 22 families owned most of the wealth of the country. That was made much of by ZAB.