Undoubtedly, martial laws are not only illegitimate but also result in numerous distortions that extend beyond politics and permeate into the economy and society.
These distortions gradually infiltrate every section and layer of the political, economic, and social fabric of the country, making it extremely challenging to counter their negative effects. In such circumstances, establishing a healthy political, economic, and social environment becomes doubly difficult.
Martial law, by its very nature, undermines democratic principles and rule of law. It creates a fertile ground for dishonest opportunists, intellectually corrupt individuals, and anti-people elements to thrive. These individuals find a supportive base within the framework of martial law, enabling them to expand their influence economically and politically to the detriment of society as a whole.
The bureaucratic rule that preceded martial law in our country can be traced back to 1947. The All-India Muslim League gained popularity among people after 1939, but due to limited communication infrastructure at the time and the dominance of upper-class echelons within the party, its composition remained largely unchanged.
This bureaucratic structure originated during the era of colonialism and thrived under colonial rule. It learned to function with unwavering obedience and servitude, serving the interests of colonial masters in governing the colonized people.
During the British Raj, not only the armed forces but also the civil bureaucracy remained largely detached from political struggle in the subcontinent. They perceived the people merely as subjects and held a sense of superiority as employees of the Raj. This mindset and training led to a significant disconnect between the ruling elite and ordinary people.
Despite the creation of a new country through a political struggle, the colonial bureaucratic machinery remained largely intact, preserving the existing administrative structure. Consequently, the bureaucracy continued to exert its influence over the country, hindering significant transformations in its culture and necessary reforms to adapt to the needs of the newly independent nation.
The legacy of the colonial bureaucracy had a profound impact on the country’s governance and administrative functioning. It perpetuated a top-down approach, bureaucratic red tape, and disconnect between the ruling elite and the general population.
When Pakistan was established, there was no substantial transformation witnessed in society, the economy, or politics. The mindset, behaviour, and methods of the bureaucratic system remained unchanged. People continued to be spiritual slaves of the state – the riyasat. The state continued to act as the ultimate authority, while the people remained subjects referred to as ‘riayaa’.
They continued to be spiritual slaves not only to the state but also to figures such as Chaudhrys, Khans, feudals, ‘pirs’, DCs, ‘patwaris’, SHOs, and other remnants of colonial rule.
In line with their ingrained training, both civilian and military bureaucrats, instead of uniting the diverse people who came together under the umbrella of Pakistan, ended up dividing them along lines of nationality, language, culture, and even religion, similar to the practices of colonial rulers.
It is not surprising that these bureaucrats, both civil and military, betrayed their country by aligning themselves with new colonial masters and joining their military blocs, all while claiming to serve them with honour.
Those, like myself, who have been part of this bureaucratic system are well aware of its lack of innovation and resistance to change. Ministers often find themselves compelled to follow bureaucratic advice unless they can outmanoeuvre them. This arrangement suits the ministers as well because, in a corrupt governance system, they can only profit by involving the bureaucrats as accomplices in their illicit activities.
Any party leader or minister — no matter how committed they may be to establishing transparency, accountability, increasing efficiency, and reducing corruption — will find themselves powerless in the face of a deeply entrenched corrupt bureaucratic system. The solution lies in abandoning the traditional approach and embracing more unconventional paths.
The civilian government system, both historically and presently, is not just an outcome of the collaboration between civil and military bureaucracies but also operates under their influence.
Despite their shortcomings and weaknesses, these elected governments function within the boundaries of the constitution. They remain the sole viable option for the country and its people to progress. However, it is crucial to acknowledge and address their negative aspects and weaknesses promptly, as they can no longer be overlooked. This correction is imperative for the nation’s forward movement without any further delay.
To address the deep-rooted issues that have developed over the past 76 years, traditional piecemeal methods will prove insufficient. These policies and strategies only scratch the surface by focusing on day-to-day problems and short- to medium-term projects, such as expanding the tax base, increasing the number of taxpayers, reducing the current account deficit, addressing unemployment, combating inflation, and resolving energy issues. These methods are highly inefficient and can only make a modest impact, around 20 to 30 per cent, on the underlying problems.
However, there is hope. We can move ahead by signifying science, technology, globalization, and brain power development. These emerged as a result of the globalization of information, knowledge, research, innovation, and development (IKRID) after the commercialization of the internet around the year 2000.
For the first time in history, science and technology have become true allies of people, making their advancements accessible across the globe. Simultaneously, people have reciprocated by contributing to the progress of science, technology, and globalization. This mutual exchange has propelled the progress of science, technology, and the development of human intellect to new heights as they co-evolve and mutually enrich one another.
To overcome the crisis in governance and economic malaise, we must adopt a twin transformative strategy: First, digitize and digitalize all government offices and economic processes comprehensively, addressing every aspect of administration and the economy.
Second, enforce proactive disclosure provisions in the federal and provincial Information Acts to proactively disclose and disseminate information, including concrete expenditure details related to governance and economic decisions.
The writer is an advocate of the high court and a former civil servant.