Strong­men and Weak Peo­ple

The peo­ple of South Asia re­main wed­ded to heroes and hero-wor­ship. Per­sonal charisma, more than in­sti­tu­tional le­git­i­macy, serve as ma­jor tools of the power of the in­di­vid­ual whether in or out of gov­ern­ment.

Southasia - - Cover story - By Bri­gadier A.R. Sid­diqi

Asians, by and large, have a fas­ci­na­tion for strong­men. Demo­cratic In­dia is no ex­cep­tion to the rule ex­cept in de­tail. The names of Gandhi and Nehru re­main po­lit­i­cal cur­rency strong in In­dia as ever. Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh stays as a sort of pro­tected in­di­vid­ual if not ex­actly a pro­tégé of So­nia Gandhi. Rahul, Ra­jiv-So­nia Gandhi’s son, is flex­ing mus­cles to join the po­lit­i­cal arena.

This is not to ques­tion the re­al­ity of In­dian democ­racy. To all out­ward ap­pear­ances, it has come to stay. Just the same, there is no deny­ing the steady growth of Bal Thack­eray’s and Narindar Modi’s Hin­dutva and Ad­vani’s ekat mata ya­tra of the 80s in the pro­tec­tive shadow of democ­racy. Any num­ber of Bol­ly­wood movies and pri­vate/of­fi­cial TV chan­nels reg­u­larly pro­ject glo­ri­fied im­ages of the Hindu Pari­var and pri­vate/col­lec­tive idol wor­ship. The re­vival­ist mo­tif, deeply-em­bed­ded in this sort of im­age-mak­ing, could be hardly missed.

There is al­most a ‘gen­tri­fi­ca­tion’ of God’: re­li­gious idols pro­moted as prof­itable com­modi­ties. The sus­tained growth of Hindu re­vival­ism and its im­pact on the minds of an av­er­age mid­dle class Hindu fam­ily can be hardly ex­ag­ger­ated.

Back to Parachin (an­cient) In­dian of Chan­dra Gupta and Asoka (prior to turn­ing a Bud­dhist monk) has as­sumed the force of an ag­gres­sive atavism. To Ram-Ram and Na­maste, as the stan­dard form of salu­ta­tion, has been added ‘Jai-Radha-Kr­is­han’. Trash? Maybe. But it’s here just the same.

Back home, Pak­istan and democ­racy re­main an un­happy cou­ple, one find­ing lit­tle joy in the arms of the other. What worth is democ­racy in a state where the ver­dict of the apex court is over­turned by the ex­ec­u­tive?

It’s time to raise hard ques­tions evaded for ever so long.

Was the mak­ing of Pak­istan a tri­umph of democ­racy ‘with­out shed­ding a sin­gle drop of blood’? Was the founder of Pak­istan a demo­crat in spirit and ac­tion? Could a state or a coun­try be Is­lamic and demo­cratic at the same time?

How could


of strong­men like Ayub and Bhutto (even Mushar­raf for good mea­sure) co­ex­ist with demo­cratic norms?

On June, 14 1948, the Quaid vis­ited the Com­mand and Staff Col­lege in Quetta. In his ad­dress he ad­vised the of­fi­cers to care­fully study the con­sti­tu­tion in force in Pak­istan and un­der­stand its true con­sti­tu­tional and legal im­pli­ca­tions.

The sub­stan­tive part of the speech is pro­duced be­low:

‘The De­fense forces are the most vi­tal of all Pak­istan Ser­vices and cor­re­spond­ingly a very heavy re­spon­si­bil­ity and bur­den lies on your shoul­ders.

‘I have no doubt in my mind, from what I have seen and from what I have gath­ered, that the spirit of the Army is splen­did, the morale is very high, and what is very en­cour­ag­ing is that ev­ery of­fi­cer and sol­dier , no mat­ter what race or com­mu­nity to which he be­longs, is work­ing as a true Pak­istani.

‘If you all con­tinue in that spirit and work as com­rades, as true Pak­ista­nis self­lessly, Pak­istan has noth­ing to fear.

‘One thing more. I am per­suaded to say this be­cause dur­ing my talks with one or two very high-rank­ing of­fi­cers I dis­cov­ered that they did not know the im­pli­ca­tions of the Oath taken by the troops of Pak­istan. Of course an oath is only a mat­ter of form; what is more im­por­tant is the true spirit and the heart.

‘But it is an im­por­tant form and I would like to take the op­por­tu­nity of re­fresh­ing your mem­ory by read­ing the pre­scribed oath to you.

“I solemnly af­firm, in the pres­ence of Almighty God, that I owe al­le­giance to the Con­sti­tu­tion and the Do­min­ion of Pak­istan (mark the words Con­sti­tu­tion in the Gov­ern­ment of the Do­min­ion of Pak­istan) and that I will be duty bound hon­estly and faith­fully to serve in the Do­min­ion of Pak­istan Forces and go within the terms of my en­rol­ment wher­ever I may be or­dered by air, land or sea and that I will ob­serve and obey all com­mands of any of­fi­cer set over me.”

“As I have said just now, the spirit is what re­ally mat­ters. I should like you to study the Con­sti­tu­tion which is in force in Pak­istan at present and un­der­stand its true con­sti­tu­tional and legal im­pli­ca­tions when you say that you will be faith­ful to the Con­sti­tu­tion of Do­min­ion.”

‘I want you to re­mem­ber and if you have time enough you should study the gov­ern­ment of In­dia Act 1935, as adapted for use in Pak­istan, which is our present con­sti­tu­tion, that the ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity flows from the head of the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan, who is the gov­er­nor-gen­eral and there­fore, any com­mand or or­ders that may come to you can­not come with­out the sanc­tion of the Ex­ec­u­tive Head. This is the legal po­si­tion.

‘If you have time enough you should study the gov­ern­ment of In­dia Act, as adapted for use in Pak­istan which is our present con­sti­tu­tion.’

What then was the Quaid re­ally? Head of the State or Head of the Gov­ern­ment, or both?

Where then would the Prime Min­is­ter go?

Would the sta­tus of the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral (to­day’s Pres­i­dent) as the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive be con­sis­tent at all with the ba­sic norms of prime min­is­te­rial democ­racy we have in force to­day in Pak­istan?

Who would re­solve the prob­lem, how and when?

It is amaz­ing that the Quaid’s own and for­mal elu­ci­da­tion of the role of the Gov­er­nor-Gen­eral (Pres­i­dent) and the Prime Min­is­ter as the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive should have es­caped the due at­ten­tion of our con­sti­tu­tional ex­perts and of the mass me­dia. Hence the con­fu­sion (con­flict?) con­tin­ues to per­sist in re­spect of the con­sti­tu­tional power and au­thor­ity of the head of the state and head of the gov­ern­ment.

As a peo­ple we re­main wed­ded to heroes and hero wor­ship. Per­sonal charisma, more than in­sti­tu­tional le­git­i­macy, serve as ma­jor tools of the power of the in­di­vid­ual in and out of the gov­ern­ment.

Gandhi and Jin­nah may well serve as the best pro­to­types –al­ways in au­thor­ity – in and out of of­fi­cial power.

Ma­hatma to his peo­ple, Mo­han Das Karam Chand Gandhi was not so kind a fa­ther and hus­band. He ru­ined the life of his el­dest son Hari Lal who turned into an al­co­holic, a com­pul­sive gam­bler and briefly a con­vert to Is­lam.

Jin­nah could shut up his prime min­is­ter when he pleased. On one oc­ca­sion, ac­cord­ing to his ADC, Flt. Lieut. Ata Rab­bani, Li­aquat had hardly ut­tered, ‘Sir, I think…’, when Quaida-Azam snapped ‘Keep quiet Li­aquat, you can­not think of any­thing’. (I was Quaid’s ADC, Ata Rab­bani, Ox­ford, 1996 p/132)

As for Un­cle Nehru, he’d be all milk and honey one mo­ment and all fire and brim­stone the next. The writer is an em­i­nent re­gional se­cu­rity ex­pert, a de­fense an­a­lyst and for­mer ISPR spokesman. He writes for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions and of­ten speaks on na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues on TV.

Pak­istan has been ruled by mil­i­tary men for the most part.

Democ­racy has of­ten been de­scribed as per­son­al­ity-ori­ented pol­i­tics in In­dia.

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