The Objectives Resolution of 1949 bade farewell to the Quaid-e-Azam’s ideals of equality for all citizens and his principles of fair governance.
This was stated by IA Rehman while addressing the members of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and the media in his talk, “Politics of dissent in Pakistan” as part of the series of the Rana Fatehyab Ali Khan Memorial Lectures on Saturday evening.
He said all governments had slowly capitulated to the dictates of the religious parties. “Today, even the Shariat Court has pronounced a verdict against land reforms terming them against the spirit of religion,” he said.
As for dissent, he defined it as presentation of an alternative to the ruling government. However, in our case it was construed as rebellion or treason.
According to Rehman, there has been a lack of clarity about Pakistan’s ideals.
For instance, in the beginning, there was a view in Pakistan according to which, Islamic principles would govern the country it would not be a theocratic state. It was stipulated that Islamic principles were compatible with democracy.
He said Mr Jinnah’s position that Pakistan would follow a neutral foreign policy with friendship for all and malice towards none was violated by successive rulers.
Dissent, said Rehman, made an appearance in 1954 with the US-USSR Cold War having taken birth only a few years earlier.
“Pakistan started going straight into the lap of the US through the US-sponsored anti-communist military pacts which brought about lots of dissent not only between the government and the political parties but also within the ruling circles,” he said.
Citing the election of communists to the then NWFP, now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which motivated the government of the day to ban the Pakistan Communist Party.
The dominant voice of dissent, he said, came in 1957 with demands from all leftist parties and others to walk out of the US-sponsored military pacts. According to him, the situation was compounded when Ayub Khan grabbed power in 1958 and started off his rule of party-less politics.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Awami League (AL) emerged as forces of dissent but the PPP also generated into intolerance.
“During the Zia Years, the role of dissenters suffered most, especially those who spoke up against Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan Jihad,” he said. “The politics of dissent has not just been the domain of political parties.”
In this context, Rehman cited the valiant role of the student organisations, Fehmida Riaz, Shaikh Ayaz, Habib Jalib, and last but not least, women’s organisations like the Women’s Action Forum (WAF). He also showered accolades on journalists and lawyers for their resistance to dictatorial and oppressive regimes.
He termed the late Rana Fatehyab Ali Khan the brightest star in the galaxy of progressive politicians and student leaders, struggling to bring about democracy and socio-economic justice.