Minto’s Brilliant Analysis of “Military-Feudal Complex”

By Dr Lisette Poole and Hazem Kira


L to R : Abid Hassan Minto, Laurence Michalak and Peter Camejo

Freemont, CA: Abid Hassan Minto, an eminent jurist, constitutional expert, professor, author, literary critic, public intellectual and political leader, enthralled his Bay Area audience with a brilliant analysis of Pakistan’s “military-feudal complex” and its devastating impact on common folks, particularly landless peasants and farm workers.
He spoke at a “Roundtable on Poverty, Illiteracy and Dictatorship” organized by the Pakistan American Democratic Forum (PADF), an organization created in 1982 to help achieve constitutional and functional democracy in Pakistan.
The PADF Roundtable comprised of activists, writers, columnists, analysts, scientists, and academicians including, Dr. Haseeb Rizvi, Dr. Ahmed Faruqui, Dr. Waheed Siddiqui, Prof. Laurence Michalak, Mr. Ashraf Chaudhry, Mr. Rafaat Mahmud, Mr. Ras Siddiqui, Ms. Reshma Yunus, Ms. Tajwer Kadri, Ms. Ayesha Mohsin, Mr. Khurshid Khoja, Mr. Sagir Ahmed, Mr. Sean Saigal, and Dr. Agha Saeed.
Introducing Mr. Abid Minto, Dr. Agha Saeed said: “Noted African-American scholar W. E. B. Dubois had advised ‘the talented tenth’, the best and brightest in the African-American community, to accomplish three goals: 1) become ‘teachers of teachers’ and help educate the community, 2) involve themselves with basic philosophical, moral and intellectual issues of their age and not limit themselves to vocational training only; and 3) use public education to elucidate matters of civil and human rights as well.


A section of the audience

“Well, that’s exactly what Mr. C. R. Aslam and Mr. Abid Hassan Minto have done in Pakistan over the span of last fifty years. They have educated several generations of Pakistani intellectuals and activists in critical political thinking and organized civic action. Their greatest collective contribution has been articulation of new forms of political awareness and social consciousness. They have been pioneers in creating public awareness of the need for rational reorganization of the Pakistani society, especially its socio-economic system.
“Domestically, Mr. Minto has consistently opposed militarism, feudalism, corruption, and oppressive social practices; internationally, he has always opposed colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism.
“While he is opposed to obscurantism and religious fanaticism of all brands and variations in the Muslim world and beyond, he is also vigorously opposed to occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by the United States and occupation of Palestine by Israel.


Agha Saeed, Khurshid Khoja, Reshma Yunus

“Since that end of the World War II, there have been two movements for democracy: one for democracy inside each nation, and second for democracy among nations. Mr. Minto supports both these movements. He stands for both vertical and horizontal democratization. For half a century, he has advocated rule of law over individuals and groups and rule of international law over nation states.”
Focusing his speech on the root causes of “poverty, illiteracy and dictatorship” Mr. Minto said that these problems result from a decadent, dysfunctional and exploitative system that can be termed as the “military-feudal complex”, which has resulted from a number of historical factors:
1. At the time of partition, people of Pakistan were disenfranchised and marginalized by transfer of power to elites who were not elected by the people of Pakistan.

2. Quaid’s ideas enshrined in his August 11, 1947 speech before the Constituent Assembly that Pakistan will not become a “theocracy” and all its citizens, whether Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Christian, will have equal rights in Pakistan, was first resisted and later ignored by his close associates.

3. From day one the West Pakistani elites composing of feudal lords came to dominate the political system. Their exploitative policies led to the breakup of Pakistan.

4. Continued conflict with India over Kashmir and ensuing wars resulted in a coalition between the feudals and the army. These wars also led to creation of a mindset that favors maintenance of large and expansive army and its continued domination of the civil society.

5. This large army has been expanding its institutional power at every turn of events. We can see a radical difference between Gen. Ayub Khan’s coup in 1958 and Gen. Musharraf’s coup in 1999. While Ayub Khan sought to “civilianize” his military rule, Zia and Musharraf successfully militarized the civilian structures. The armed forces are no longer an institution relatable to the defense of Pakistan only. Now the army is directly involved with the economic governance and commercial processes of the country.

6. The Pakistan Army, involving both active duty and retired officers, has emerged as the largest consortium of corporations, banks, farms, transportation companies, and other revenue-generating units. But these military control commercial enterprises are not subject to normal rules and regulations.

7. High-ranking members of Pakistan army have been entering the circle of feudals by acquiring land through army. Today, who are the peasants and farm workers in Okara and Khanewal struggling against? Not individual landlords, but the Pakistan army that has institutionalized itself feudalism.

8. The right-wing parties have been only too eager to bless these nefarious relations between the army and the feudals.

9. Cooperation between the US and the Pakistan army during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan brought about the radicalization and militarization of religious institutions, and, in turn afflicted Pakistan with gun and drug culture.

10. Both Zia and Musharraf have succeeded in achieving a constitutional quietism in the country. Courts have been silenced through various stratagems, including the oath of office under the Provisional Constitution Order of 1999, which stipulated that “the Supreme Court or High Courts and any other court shall not have the powers to make order against the Chief Executive or any person exercising powers or jurisdiction under his authority”. [Mr. Minto’s sharp criticism of this issue was published in Pakistani newspaper Dawn on 28th of January 2000 under the title “Minto terms new oath an ‘act of highhandedness’.”]

11. Recent improvement in macroeconomic categories have not helped average person; if anything it has hurt the working and lower middle classes due to increased inflation.

12. Oppression of women, minorities and working classes is rooted in the class structure of Pakistan and cannot be ended without ending militarism and feudalism. Pakistani feudals are the main reason that 54 percent of Pakistanis, roughly 80 million people have been or will be denied access to basic education.

Going from diagnosis, what is wrong and why, to prognosis, what should be done to rectify this situation, Mr. Minto who had teamed up with South African President Nelson Mandela, when they were respectively elected vice president and president of the International Lawyers’ Association (1990-1995) said people everywhere must rise against corporate globalization that fosters more wealth for the already rich and leaves developing countries in sheer poverty.


A section of the audience at the PADF meeting

“Recent Anglo- American efforts to use the rest of the world as a colony are being met by a resistance. While some people can accept globalization they do not want corporate takeover,” he said.
Commenting on Mr. Minto’s speech in the context of his political career, Prof. Laurence Michalak, former vice chairman of Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley, said: “Mr. Abid Hassan Minto is a man of law, justice, conscience, and peace, with the courage of his convictions.
“I find great similarities between his political career and that of Abdul Ghaffar Khan.
“Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as Badshah Khan, was the leader of a nonviolent Muslim movement for the independence of India, which at that time of course meant the whole Indian subcontinent, before partition. Today the popular press tends to associate Islam with violence—which is not correct, because Islam is a religion of peace. In his nonviolence, Badshah Khan was a true Muslim.
“Badshah Khan spent many years in prison for his principles. His 33 years in prison amount to even more than Nelson Mandela, who spent 28.5 years in prison. I would only like to say that Mr. Abid Hassan Minto is like Badshah Khan in several respects. Both have been committed to the rule of law and to justice achieved through peaceful means, and both were committed enough in their beliefs that they were willing to go to prison. Mr. Minto was imprisoned under General Zia. Like Badshah Khan and Nelson Mandela, Mr. Minto was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.”
“Mr. Minto is an intellectual giant – a gentle giant,” another participant commented. Jo Cazenave, who works as the district director in Congressman Pete Stark’s Freemont office, effectively summed up the feelings of many in the audience. “This speech,” she said, “should have been heard by thousands of Americans”.
(Lisette B. Poole and Hazem Kira are freelance journalists based in the San Francisco Bay Area; Lisette Poole also lecturers at CSUH)


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