The direction of modern Pakistan - Pakistan Today

The direction of modern Pakistan

  • How conservative elements took over

By: Dr Rajkumar Singh

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the chief mentor of Pakistan, and other Western-oriented professionals, envisioned a multi-ethnic, pluralistic and indubitably democratic country. He reminded the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan ‘if we want to make this great state of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor.’ However it was too good to last. The death of Jinnah within a year of Independence and the sudden demise of his true successor, Liaquat Ali Khan, in 1951, had created a void in the field of leadership which could not be filled until the first martial-law period began in 1958. There was a keen contest for political dominance between the fundamentalists with the archconservative orthodox outlook, and the secular, democratic, enlightened and liberal section of society with the modernist view of man and society.

From the start, in the background of this weak social and political atmosphere, the nexus between the bureaucrats and the Army began to take definite shape. The first Constitution, which was promulgated on 23 March 1956, was abrogated in October 1958 and during this short period of time no elections took place.  The second constitution was promulgated on 8 June 1962 and abrogated by Gen Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan on 29 March 1969. In this constitution only Basic Democrats were given the franchise. Another constitutional document, the Legal Framework Order of 1969, was issued by General Yahya. It abolished the One-Unit Plan and provided the framework for the development of a new constitution. The Legal Framework Order set the stage for the 1970 elections, the first direct elections based on universal suffrage in Pakistan’s history. It was a free election but the result– an overwhelming victory in the east for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman– resulted in the imposition of martial law followed by the brutal military crackdown, that culminated in the 1971 war with India and the independence of Bangladesh.

As an after-effect of Kargil, the government of Nawaz Sharif was overthrown in a military coup on 12 October 1999.  General Musharraf took over and again a new chapter of military rule was opened in Pakistan.  The new ruler, in a televised announcement on 17 October 1999, as a gesture of goodwill towards India, declared a unilateral military de-escalation along the border.  His address also included an offer to resume “result-oriented” talks with India on “all issues” but said, “Pakistan would continue its support to the Kashmiri people for their right to self determination” and added that India must honour all UN resolutions on Kashmir

The constitution of 1973 proved to be the most durable. Though the country again witnessed a military coup by General Zia in 1977, the constitution was kept suspended. On 18 March 1985, President Zia promulgated the Revival of the Constitution Order of 1985 that added new amendments to it. With the new provisions Pakistan experimented with a policy approach that promised Islamisation. His was a government dominated by the military and run by civilian bureaucrats. The governance of Zia seemed at times to be two steps backward, one step forward. At the political level, Zia’s supporters included fundamentalist and reactionary parties of Islamic attitude. A large section of people especially in Punjab felt more comfortable and preferred Zia’s Islamic status quo orientation as opposed to Bhutto’s socialist rhetoric. His attempt to Islamise and legitimize the rule for a new lease of life had further polarized the country’s social segments.

Once again the social composition and power structure in Pakistani society witnessed a sea change, when at the close of 1979 the USSR intervened in Afghanistan and installed a puppet government of its own. The event paved the way for the intermingling of Pakistani and Afghan society at more than one level. It affected Pakistani society qualitatively and quantitatively because there was a massive influx of arms, especially submachine guns and automatic rifles as weapons meant for Afghan guerillas, which proliferated on the illegal arms market. Linkages between Mujahideen groups and rightwing, religious parties of Pakistan began to spread Islamic calls and fervour. The then ruler of Pakistan failed to estimate the far-reaching damaging consequences and allowed everything to happen contrary to social progress and harmony. Later on the over-mixing of Pakistani and Afghan societies at various levels led to the formation of the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan, a home-grown Pakistani militia that admired thr Afghan Taliban. The nexus formed in the period of Zia also disturbed the democratic regimes of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif and ultimately opened the route for the latter’s replacement by Chief of Army Staff Gen Pervez Musharraf in October 1999 after the Kargil debacle.

As an after-effect of Kargil, the government of Nawaz Sharif was overthrown in a military coup on 12 October 1999.  General Musharraf took over and again a new chapter of military rule was opened in Pakistan.  The new ruler, in a televised announcement on 17 October 1999, as a gesture of goodwill towards India, declared a unilateral military de-escalation along the border.  His address also included an offer to resume “result-oriented” talks with India on “all issues” but said, “Pakistan would continue its support to the Kashmiri people for their right to self determination” and added that India must honour all UN resolutions on Kashmir. At a later stage in July 2000 when Bharat Bhushan, a correspondent of The Hindustan Times, asked General Musharraf about different aspects of terrorism, the latter had replied that as far as the hardware and the weapons of terror were concerned, “We certainly want to curb the uncontrolled display and holding of weapons and we are taking action in this direction.  But this is easier said than done. To disarm and de-weaponise a region completely is next to impossible”.  On the ideological front he presented his own definition of jehad and distinguished it from terrorism. He refused to equate these two perhaps in reference to Kashmir and said, “jehad means struggle in the path of God, opposing victimisation against Muslims wherever it exists.

 The writer is head of the political science department of the B.N.Mandal University, Madhepura, Bihar, India, and can be reached at [email protected]ail.com



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