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August 13, 2016

Pakistan after 69 years

National

August 13, 2016

After 69 years of Independence, we are still not convinced that a true democratic system is in place in accordance with the political vision of the Founder of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Is it merely because of the long military regimes or undemocratic behaviour of our politicians as well? The biggest challenge today is to set our direction right and seek clarity in our political narrative.

It is an irony that the challenges which the Founder of Pakistan had pointed out in his very first address like constitutional rule, law and order and corruption, still are unmet.

Jinnah, in his address as the first President of the Constituent Assembly, said, "The Constituent Assembly has two main functions to perform. First, the very onerous and responsible task of framing future the Constitution of Pakistan, and second the functioning as a full and complete sovereign body as the Federal Legislature of Pakistan."

We mostly discuss only part of his historic speech, which relates to respect for religious belief and State functions, but, often ignored his guiding principles. He said, "The first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected."

He knows the challenges ahead so he had even termed 'bribery and corruption’, biggest curses.

It is our dilemma that soon after his death, we did contrary to what he wanted us to do. Within six years, the very Constituent Assembly was dissolved in 1954, by the governor general, Ghulam Mohammad. Instead of calling for elections of the National Assembly, the provincial assemblies picked the National Assembly. It was the beginning of political discomforts between West and East Pakistan.

Had elections for the National Assembly held after 1954, the then Awami League (AL) had the better chance to win. Some 25 years later, when for the first time elections were held on the basis of one man, one vote, AL swept the polls in 1970. This time the majority party was deprived and as a consequence we lost half of Pakistan.

But, perhaps we have not learnt any lessons and despite historic verdict against martial law in Hinna Jillani case, martial law was imposed after four years of civilian rule in 1977.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's era remained controversial but within two years of his rule, the political leadership gave a unanimous Constitution, 1973 and thus fulfilled Jinnah's vision of framing the Constitution. It took 25 years, during which we saw two military rules in 1958 and 1968 as well political uncertainty from 1947 to 1956.

Politician gave the Constitution, but could not establish the true democratic rule of tolerance and good governance.

Yet, when politicians tried to sit together to find a solution and solved their difference in the backdrop of allegations of rigging in the elections, the military intervention resulted in the third martial law, despite political accord between the PPP and the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA).

Late, General Ziaul Haq's martial law brought an end to 'Politics of ideology’. 1970 and 1977 elections were contested on ideology like Islamic socialism or roti, kapra aur makan of the PPP and Bengali nationalism of Awami League. Even parties like National Awami Party (NAP), which represented left wing and nationalist parties on the one hand and religious parties like Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Jamaat-e-Islami.

Zia's 11 years corrupted Pakistani politics and encouraged family legacies, promoted ethnic and separatist groups. All this started with the execution of an elected prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Not many people know that when Bhutto was deposed and detained, he had made PPP's senior vice-chairman, Sheikh Rasheed (Baba-e-Socialism) as the acting chairman. However, Sheikh Sahib himself advised him to name Begum Nusrat Bhutto as the acting chairperson. It was a political mistake as family emotions replaced politics. In 1985, political parties based politics received a setback when general elections were held on non-party basis and as a result families, biradris, caste, ethnic and sectarians politics emerged.

In order to counter PPP's popular appeal despite Bhutto's hanging forced Zia and his cronies to produce a leader from Punjab, after another Sindhi leader, despite being hand-picked, refused to run the affairs of the state on the whims of non-civilians. He was Mohammad Khan Junejo. 

He was replaced by little known business family of Sharifs, who had suffered due to Bhutto's policy of nationalisation. Thus, a family was brought up in politics to counter another family, Bhuttos.

The political parties, instead of challenging this mindset, became part of the system. Today, these families have brought their third generation in politics like Bilawal Bhutto, Maryam Nawaz or Hamza Shahbaz and many others.

A power tussle between Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, fully ignited by non-civilian forces through the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) or the Mehran Bank scandal, further polluted our politics. On October 12, 1999, General Pervez Musharraf seized power through another coup after he was sacked by PM Sharif.

Like his predecessors, Musharraf too prolonged his rule and in a bid to get legitimacy, divided mainstream parties and allegedly made parties like Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and PPP-Patriot during 2002 elections. For the first time, Imran Khan also surfaced as a politician after winning his National Assembly seat, after he support Musharraf from 1999 to 2002.

Rise of Imran was a positive sign as he had the reputation of ‘Mr Clean’. But, it took him sometime before his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerged as a political force. After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, it was Imran Khan who emerged as a real challenger to Sharifs. His entry into politics also brought a new generation of youth into mainstream politics.

Imran Khan, who has initially challenged the politics of status quo and got massive support made a political blunder by accepting tested politicians of status quo into its ranks. But, with the Bhutto dynasty struggling and Bilawal still having to cover a long distance, Imran Khan still has an opportunity to challenge the Sharifs.

It also goes to the credit of politicians that after a tug-of-war for power between the late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif for 10 years, both these leaders publicly accepted their mistakes that they conspired each other and signed historic Charter of Democracy (CoD) in 2006. Another landmark decision of the politicians was 18th Amendment, which nearly settled the issue of provincial autonomy.

It would have been better had former military ruler General (retd) Pervez Musharraf "fallen" as a result of democratic struggle rather than his exit through the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) or any compromise.

Credit must also be given to former army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, for upholding democratic order and democracy was restored in 2008, though after Benazir Bhutto's assassination, sadly. After Kayani, the incumbent army chief General Raheel Sharif not only backed democracy but played a historic role through operation Zarb-e-Azb.

Thus, it is important that we must bury politics of blame-game, and there should have more transparency in our counter-terror policies as terrorism and extremism, along with corruption, are some of major challenges.

There is always a sign of hope and though slow, there has been progress and change in the mindset of civil and military leadership to make Pakistan a true democratic state, say in the next 30 years when we will celebrate our first centenary.

As Quaid-e-Azam, in his speech before the Constituent Assembly, said: "My guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality, and I am sure that with your support and cooperation, I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest nations of the world."

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.