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April 12, 2019

Ayub Khan’s authoritarian ‘development’ model

Opinion

April 12, 2019

To the embarrassment of the nation’s intelligence, we see that Prime Minister Imran Khan, Finance Minister Asad Umar and batteries of trolls on social media greatly admire Field Marshal President Ayub Khan’s authoritarian and presidential model of inverse ‘development’ – half a century after his demise at the hands of a popular mass movement. What is this fascination for?

While abrogating the 1956 constitution, to pre-empt the possible victory of a Bengali or Bengali-led coalition in the upcoming general elections, the then president Iskander Mirza imposed martial law and appointed General Ayub Khan as chief martial law administrator – only to be disposed of in a double-barrelled coup few days later.

Ayub Khan set a praetorian trajectory from martial law to ‘controlled democracy’, something his successors would more or less follow (Christophe Jaffrelot). He initiated his authoritarian political project with banning ban on all political parties, indictment of over 750 politicians on corruption charges, including Suharwardy, a ban on leading politicians from public life under the RBDO, dismissal of 1662 civil servants, curtailment of judicial powers, suppression of free press, abrogation of provincial autonomy and introduction of the system of Basic Democracies.

This hybrid BD system consisted of an electoral college of 80,000 members, who were to elect national and provincial assemblies and the president as well; 4000 elected officials from each wing with half nominated by the government were to run local governments under the tutelage of deputy commissioners. Ayub was elected unopposed on February 15, 1960 and he lifted the martial law two years later in 1962. Under his presidential constitution, he had all the powers to appoint and dismiss governors, ministers, assemblies and even veto any legislation passed by the assemblies. He followed the Republican Party model, bureaucratically manufactured by the former governor generals, to assemble the elite in the Convention Muslim League to create a social base for political legitimacy.

Interestingly, generals Zia and Musharraf followed exactly what General Ayub Khan had evolved. This model crumbled with the exit of every military dictator, under pressure from public protests and democratic struggle. And this praetorian model of an authoritarian presidency, which miserably failed and corrupted the political ethos, is now again being peddled on social media, via those who seem to have a great distaste for democratic values.

What is more important is to discuss the ‘development’ model of Ayub Khan, which was perceived by the Harvard school of economists led by Gustav F Papanek. The theory was based on the principles of “social utility of greed”, “functional inequality” and it was to be implemented from “above (state patronage) and outside (foreign aid/debt)”. By accumulating wealth in a few hands and creating social stratification to be compensated by the ‘trickle-down effect’, this model was to flourish on the basis of concentration of wealth in two cores of development – Karachi and central Punjab – at the cost of the marginalization of the periphery: East Pakistan, southern Punjab, interior Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Thus, arose the monopolies of a few rich families, not under laissez-faire but with state patronage: 76 percent of industry was in the hands of 43 families; seven families controlled 91.6 percent of all bank deposits and 84.4 percent of income from banks; the insurance business was run by 43 families and they controlled all public-sector enterprises, such as PICIC. The whole industrial development strategy was based on import substitution supported by high import tariffs, tax exemptions, a bonus voucher scheme for free foreign exchange, over-valued exchange rate, import licenses, subsidies, etc.

The other leg of this model was a pro-rich farmer ‘green revolution’ strategy, which was based on high yield variety seeds, excessive use of fertilizer, higher supply of water and mechanization of agriculture while uprooting the mass of peasantry. It resulted in, according to the Farm Mechanization Survey (1968), large landowners who held 52.3 percent of the cultivated area and 80 percent of mechanized farms were run by landowners above 100 acres as opposed to small farmers and peasants who immensely suffered at the hands of this rich-farmer strategy. Ayub Khan created a comprador class of bourgeoisie and large capitalist farmers who were dependent on state patronage and could not become agent of an industrial revolution.

After Pakistan became the ‘most allied ally’ of the US and Western military blocks, this dependent development model relied too much on foreign aid and debt, which resulted in a debt-trap that continues to haunt our economy to this day. The debt rose from $373 million in 1950-55 to $2701 million in 1965-70. Debt servicing jumped from 4.2 percent in 1960-62 to 34.5 percent in 1971-72, pushing Pakistan in a permanent debt-trap to borrow debt to service debt. Similarly, the US-Pak strategic partnership was cemented with military aid/debt which jumped to $1.5 billion in 1965 with military spending rising to 9.6 percent of GDP in 1965-66. Military spending ranged from 46.13 percent to 63.47 percent of the budgets during 1958-69. The assumption that Pakistan would not be dependent on debt by the end of the 20-year Perspective Plan (1965-85) came to naught, and the country became permanently dependent on foreign and domestic debt.

What is quite misleading is the illusion created about the so-called Ayub’s ‘decade of progress’. Indeed, this dependent model boomed during the second five-year plan (1960-65) and started to crash down during the third five-year plan (1965-70). Challenged by Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah in the presidential election and to cover up the embarrassment of massive rigging, he undertook Operation Gibraltar which escalated into the full-scale war of 1965. His military adventurism further accentuated the crisis of a client national security state.

Ayub’s model was unsustainable since it was dependent on foreign aid and debt, and driven from above with the patronage of the state. It resulted in a greater gulf between the rich and the poor and created an unbridgeable gulf between the two wings of the country. Extreme social stratification and regional inequality gave birth to mass unrest across the country and the people forced the dictator to concede to demands for adult franchise, introduction of a federal parliamentary system, ending One Unit and restoration of four provinces. Instead of resigning and holding elections, as demanded by the people, he abrogated his own constitution and declared martial law – only to be replaced by General Yahya Khan.

The crises of Ayub Khan’s authoritarian model of dependent and unsustainable development created deep social and regional inequalities which then created the necessary conditions for the break-up of the country. His successor, General Yahya Khan, refusing to accept the mandate of the people and stepping down, took yet another military adventure – this time against the people of East Pakistan. With that, the ‘decade of progress’ come to its bloody end with the dismemberment of Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the right lessons have not been drawn by the powers that be from the repeated failures of a neo-Bonapartist model of unsustainable development under the huge burden of a national security state. And now again the tested – and rejected – notions of a centralized authoritarian state are being touted by a few insane quarters.

What one can’t understand is why PTI activists are enamoured by a presidential model in a fragile federation dominated by a majority-province? And why Imran Khan, despite running his electoral campaign against the Pakistan of the rich (and for an egalitarian state of Madina), is so impressed with an unsustainable development model that was essentially based on extreme inequality and was doomed in the end?

The writer is a senior journalist.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @ImtiazAlamSAFMA

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