Pakistan at 75

The only way forward to streamline the affairs of Pakistan rests with upholding the Lahore Resolution of 1940

Pakistan at 75

Resolved that it is the considered view of this session of the All-India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principle, namely, that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority, as in the North-Western and Eastern Zones of India, should be grouped to constitute Independent States in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.

That adequate, effective, and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in these units and these regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative, and other rights and interests in consultation with them; and in other parts of India where Mussalmans are in a minority, adequate, effective and mandatory safeguard shall be specially provided in the constitution for them and other minorities for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them.Lahore Resolution of March 23, 1940

Each year Pakistan Day offers us an opportunity to introspect and critically evaluate our painful journey as a nation. We should examine the prevailing situation in the backdrop of ideals of our founding fathers. The spirit of Lahore Resolution required Pakistan to be a country where all citizens could freely observe their faiths. Our forefathers dreamt of a democratic state committed to equitable distribution of resources for all, especially the less-privileged. They resolved to a secular democratic dispensation providing basic facilities, e.g., education, health, food, shelter and justice to all. However, a military-judicial-civil complex frustrated these ideas. The judiciary becoming an approving arm as men in khaki, an indomitable bureaucracy and businessmen-cum-politicians pushed the country from crisis to crisis.

Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world. Nearing its diamond jubilee, it has the highest population growth rate in South Asia, with nearly 80 million people living in abject poverty in sub-human conditions. Courtesy anti-people policies of the ruling elites, the country has been pushed to perpetual political instability, coupled with economic crises, hunger, malnutrition, unprecedented inflation, rising unemployment, and social unrest — just to mention a few.

Still confused about the genesis of independence, the country is witnessing yet another dreadful political crisis. It has been struggling, since its inception on various fronts. The foremost is the failure of state institutions to ensure protection of life and property of the citizens — non-fulfilment of a basic right even after a lapse of 75 years.

As a result of dictatorial rule for decades the country still lacks bona fide freedom of press and expression and dissenting voices are still dealt with an iron hand. Successive military and civilian rulers have indulged in appeasement of the forces of obscurantism giving rise to religiosity as a tool of control. The obscurantists have tremendous street power though they never get overwhelming majorities in the elections. Consequently, the state has suffered a lot. It is unable to muster up the strength to handle these forces effectively.

One of the major factors behind the current political impasse is flagrant and perpetual violations of the supreme law of the land — the constitution. The interpretation of Article 63A in the light of the reference filed by the president of Pakistan under Article 184(3) has once again proved that the forces that matter in the country have failed in their experiment of a hybrid regime. The politicians handpicked from various parties are still toeing their line. The judiciary now faces a historic challenge to abandon its legacy.

The establishment has always been interfering in political matters through backdoor maneuvering. Their extra-constitutional acts have been supported by an unholy alliance of the elites — incompetent politicians and compromised judiciary.

Our history is marred by frequent political upheavals and the judiciary acting as an approver of unconstitutional acts. Due to the untimely death of Quaid-i-Azam, the first Constituent Assembly could not produce a constitution till March 1956.

The assembly headed by Muhammad Ali Bogra was unlawfully dissolved by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad and rightfully restored by the Sindh High Court. Unfortunately, the Federal Court reversed this judgment based on the infamous doctrine of necessity. After the formation of the Second Constituent Assembly in 1955, draft of the first Constitution was introduced in the Assembly on January 9, 1956. It was passed on February 29, 1956.

After the governor-general’s assent on March 2, 1956, the constitution was enforced with effect from March 23, 1956 — making Pakistan a republic on the historic day when in 1940 the resolution was adopted at then Minto Park, Lahore.

The constitution could not stop clashes among the powerful elites. Powerful men in uniform exploited the situation and Gen Muhammad Ayub Khan, who later became field marshal, imposed a martial law and abrogated the constitution. The deviation from the constitution and the desire to grab power unconstitutionally eventually led to loss of East Pakistan — now the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

This great tragedy did not change the mindset of the men in khaki. Through his coup d’état of July 5, 1977, Gen Muhammad Ziaul Haq ended the elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The judiciary helped Zia in sending Bhutto to the gallows in a dubious murder case. This mockery of justice is one of the most lamentable scars on the face of the judiciary. Zia’s rule promoted religious extremism that still poses a daunting challenge for the country.

The intervention in 1999 by Gen Pervez Musharraf, who had an average-minded, short-term approach to governance, was one of the reasons behind our loss of respect as a nation on the international level. During his term, Pakistan became the main battlefield for terrorism, suffering huge financial losses and lives of more than 80,000 people.

The desire for absolute power has destroyed the institutions meant to facilitate the citizens. The institutions are currently working for the benefit of the powerful elites. The state structure has evolved in a way that it favours the rich and the influential. They alone can make it to the corridors of power. The plight of the common people remains unknown to them. In breach of its constitutional mandate, the establishment has been interfering in political matters through backdoor maneuvering. Its extra-constitutional acts have been supported by an unholy alliance of the elites — incompetent politicians and compromised judiciary.

After all these years, the dreams of citizens remain unfulfilled. The most unfortunate part is that there is no hope for radical improvement in the near future. The poverty level is increasing and people are finding it difficult to live a decent life with access to basic amenities. The only way to streamline the affairs of Pakistan is to uphold the Lahore Resolution of 1940.

Abdul Rauf Shakoori is a corporate lawyer based in the USA

Huzaima Bukhari is an advocate of High Court and adjunct faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

Pakistan at 75