GUEST COL­UMN

Why is Pak­istan fac­ing po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity?

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Mahrukh A. Mughal

Aday be­fore Eid-ul-Fitr, a sui­cide bomber blasted into the court­yard of a mosque in Quetta, where sev­eral po­lice of­fi­cers had con­gre­gated to of­fer fu­neral prayers for a slain col­league. At least 35 per­son­nel were killed in the en­su­ing bomb­ing in­ci­dent. This was not some­thing new in Quetta or Balochis­tan or else­where in Pak­istan as sui­cide bomb at­tacks on mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions, se­cu­rity per­son­nel and the gen­eral pub­lic have be­come a daily rou­tine. Tar­get killing on sec­tar­ian grounds is another such men­ace.

There are a num­ber of rea­sons for the sit­u­a­tion which the peo­ple have been fac­ing for some time. The ma­jor cause is po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity which has plunged the coun­try into a deep pit.

The cre­ation of Pak­istan was a great achieve­ment of the Mus­lims. The Quaid-e-Azam had set the tone for gov­er­nance for the coun­try just three days be­fore the of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment of in­de­pen­dence, in his fa­mous speech in the Con­stituent As­sem­bly in Karachi on Au­gust 11, 1947.

Un­for­tu­nately, the founder of Pak­istan sur­vived for only 13 months and died on Sept 11, 1948. His blue­print for Pak­istan hardly saw the light of day. The other im­por­tant found­ing fa­ther Li­aquat Ali Khan was sub­se­quently as­sas­si­nated on Oct. 16, 1951. The death of the Quaid and the killing of Li­aquat Ali Khan were ir­repara­ble losses for the nascent state. The rul­ing elite for­got the sac­ri­fices of these and other great lead­ers. They adopted the path of op­por­tunism and negated all norms of democ­racy, as a re­sult of which, the fed­eral struc­ture on which the state was to be based was re­placed by the is­sues that the peo­ple face today.

With the cel­e­bra­tion of 66 years of in­de­pen­dence, the peo­ple should also have cel­e­brated their free­dom of ex­pres­sion, which should have in­cluded free prac­tice of re­li­gion, faith and speech. But un­for­tu­nately these val­ues were tram­meled through all these years under the stran­gle­hold of the civil and mil­i­tary bu­reau­cracy and the politi­cians proved them­selves to be wholly in­ca­pable and in­ef­fi­cient in this re­spect. Another tragedy that Pak­istan faced was that it could not elim­i­nate feu­dal­ism from its midst. Politi­cians with feu­dal back­grounds be­came strong and took con­trol of power. With four mar­tial laws and an un­end­ing string of weak gov­ern­ments, how could po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity come to a volatile en­vi­ron­ment?

In­dia also achieved in­de­pen­dence at the same time as Pak­istan but it started its jour­ney with great en­thu­si­asm be­cause it had politi­cians of great vi­sion. Though Ma­hatma Gandhi was also as­sas­si­nated in 1948 but lead­ers like Pan­dit Jawa­har­lal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Sardar Val­lab­hai Pa­tel put In­dia on the path to progress and pros­per­ity. Under the ma­ture lead­er­ship of Nehru, In­dia took de­ci­sions which strength­ened demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions and set the di­rec­tion for eco­nomic progress. These de­ci­sions en­com­passed the draft­ing of the con­sti­tu­tion and its im­ple­men­ta­tion, elim­i­na­tion of feu­dal­ism and ini­ti­a­tion of a non­aligned pol­icy in a bi-po­lar world.

The coun­try got a proper con­sti­tu­tion as late as in 1973, which was still a late date as Pak­istan achieved in­de­pen­dence in1947. It is for this rea­son, pri­mar­ily, that po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity could not come to Pak­istan. The coun­try’s first con­sti­tu­tion was ac­tu­ally for­mu­lated and im­ple­mented on March 23, 1956 and Gen­eral Elec­tions were sched­uled in Fe­bru­ary 1959 but Mar­tial Law was im­posed on Oc­to­ber 7, 1958. The cre­ation

of One Unit was also a ne­ga­tion of the con­cept of fed­er­al­ism. It re­duced the vot­ing sta­tus of the peo­ple of East Pak­istan and cre­ated mis­un­der­stand­ings be­tween the two wings of the coun­try.

For nearly a cen­tury be­fore in­de­pen­dence, dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ships had de­vel­oped a po­lit­i­cal con­scious­ness among the peo­ple of In­dia, which had driven them to fight for their in­de­pen­dence. Pak­istan could not develop such demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions and went under the hold of the mil­i­tary which de­stroyed what­ever po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity the coun­try mov­ing to­wards. The first mar­tial law came in 1958 and mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tions con­tin­ued till 1999. The mil­i­tary al­ways seemed to be hun­gry for power and crossed its ju­ris­dic­tion in tak­ing over the demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal process.

The feu­dal sys­tem has also been a ma­jor prob­lem. The coun­try’s feu­dal elite moved into pol­i­tics much ear­lier in the day. The dis­as­trous sys­tem has come to im­mensely af­fect na­tional progress and there is no means in sight as to its elim­i­na­tion. The coun­try has also failed to re­move the dif­fer­ences be­tween the rich and the poor. Pak­istan’s weak elec­toral sys­tem is a fur­ther de­bil­i­tat­ing fac­tor. Re­peated rigged elec­tions have eroded pub­lic con­fi­dence in the elec­toral in­sti­tu­tions and have fu­elled alien­ation and vi­o­lence at the pub­lic level.

The Pak­istani lead­er­ship has also been spoilt through the strong in­flu­ence of the armed forces. In­ter­na­tional con­spir­a­cies have al­ways been a part of any change in Pak­istan as ev­ery leader comes through in­ter­na­tional in­ter­fer­ence and in­flu­ence. In such cir­cum­stances, how would it be pos­si­ble for such in­di­vid­u­als to work in­de­pen­dently and in the in­ter­est of the peo­ple of Pak­istan?

If a proper lo­cal gov­ern­ment sys­tem could be im­ple­mented, it would ini­ti­ate de­cen­tral­iza­tion of power, which could fa­cil­i­tate and stim­u­late sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in all parts of the coun­try. Lo­cal ar­eas could be re­built and pub­lic is­sues could be solved though pub­lic fund­ing and the de­cen­tral­iza­tion would sub­se­quently fa­cil­i­tate the tai­lor­ing of so­lu­tions to lo­cal prob­lems and lo­cal con­di­tions.

Po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity could come to Pak­istan through "revo­lu­tion­ary forces" and the youth could be this ‘force’. It is in­ter­est­ing that whereas youth are the back­bone of ev­ery coun­try, Pak­istan is for­tu­nate to have a de­mo­graphic makeup of 54 per­cent young peo­ple, which can be turned into quite an as­set pro­vided the politi­cians un­der­stand the sig­nif­i­cance of this statis­tic.

A mirac­u­lous change is re­quired to bring the coun­try out of its crises, whether fi­nan­cial, eco­nomic or en­ergy-re­lated. If the cor­rupt po­lit­i­cal elite are al­lowed to con­tinue in their ways, and there is no end to the feu­dal sys­tem as well as the no-holds-barred ac­cep­tance of the cor­rupt, in­ca­pable and in­com­pe­tent lead­er­ship and Army in­ter­fer­ence, then no change can be ex­pected.

In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, it must be said that the Pak­istani so­ci­ety needs to be de­moc­ra­tized. This would only be pos­si­ble if the po­lit­i­cal process were to be lib­er­ated from the clutches of the rul­ing elite and the feu­dal aris­toc­racy. For a gen­uine fed­eral sys­tem to take root, power must be de­volved to the grass-root level. All de­ci­sions must be made on merit and trans­parency and in­volve­ment of the peo­ple must be in­creased.

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