To rule successfully is to rule well. To rule well is to give the people what they want. It would be good for Prime Minister Imran Khan to make his own list of what he thinks it is that the people want. I would say that first and foremost, people want to live. They don’t want to live like stray dogs on the street. They want to live in dignity with at least their basic needs met. They want security and reassurance against threats being perpetually meted out by demented neighbours. It goes without saying that they want life, liberty and to use a good phrase from the American constitution– “the pursuit of happiness.” That is their bounden right. And it shouldn’t be difficult to understand. Prime Minister Imran Khan, I feel, has got caught up in the difficulties of implementing his agenda, which raised people’s hopes sky high and which level of expectation he is finding it hard to reach. Needless to say, people also want food, shelter and clothing, the old slogan of the People’s Party, which it didn’t take seriously. They want health facilities; they want education for their children, because in Islam it is the basic fundamental right of every person to be able to develop his or her mind to its fullest potential and it is the duty of the State, if it really is an Islamic state, to provide the wherewithal for that. I will at some point make a list of what are the fundamental Islamic rights of people in an Islamic State, which it is Imran Khan’s duty to implement, not immediately, but at least give it a start.
Most importantly, the people want justice at every level, which is most strikingly absent in today’s Pakistan. There are tens of thousands of people languishing in prison just awaiting trial and our judiciary is overwhelmed by the numbers and unnecessary bureaucratic procedures and many laws that are asses. Many have spent more time in prison awaiting trial then they would if they had been convicted for the crime they have allegedly committed. Take the case of Mir Shakil ur Rehman, owner of the Jang Group. He is languishing in incarceration for over four months now without any formal charges being brought against him. What prize justice? This in itself is an abhorrence to the concept of natural law. That is not all. Many journalists and press mediums are under unnecessary pressures. Channel 24 was closed down for a time and given quite a run around till a court restored its viewership. Imran Khan should realize that he who takes on the media never wins. The media is a ball of fire that you can’t hold. Look at what happened to Richard Nixon. Look at what happened to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who arrested many editors. Chaudhry Shujat Husain gave Imran Khan sterling advice when he told him not to open yet another front with the media unless he has his case watertight and one that is likely to be accepted in an honourable court of law. The media has become the fourth pillar of the state and taking it on is like taking on Parliament, or the judiciary or even elements in the executive, especially the Army, which, Imran should have learnt by now, ends up calling the shots when it wants to.
People also moan about Imran Khan’s team and how wanting it seems to be. A few notable exceptions notwithstanding, the people are not wrong. Why has an intelligent man like Imran Khan made such a stunningly mediocre team? To understand that one has to understand that he is a child of the system and the system is atrocious in the extreme. When a prime minister is forced to choose his team from the small pool of the National Assembly and Senate instead of from amongst all the very able Pakistanis available, it is not surprising that his team is mediocre. The system is a child of the constitution and the constitution is a child of the annihilation of democratic principles, made as it is by a rump assembly after the loss of East Pakistan and the majority party that had been elected. The constitution is a product of our historic misfortunes and mistakes starting from before the Partition of India. Being still mentally colonized by the British, it is a no brainer that, like other colonies, we adopted the British political system which may work for them (although it has stopped working now) but which can never work for a federation like Pakistan. India did the same and where are its people now? As wretched as ever.
It has become conventional wisdom that Imran Khan cannot be replaced because there is no alternative to him anymore. True. Within this system, there really isn’t, which to me more than anything else symbolizes the utter and complete collapse of our system. In fact, electoral democracy, be it parliamentary or presidential, is actually failing all over the world and the method of government making will need to change drastically. Pakistan is not the only country which looks like it has no choices. Does the USA? President Trump was actually no choice. The Democratic Party is unable to come up with a credible presidential nominee and have fallen back on an old and stale man. In Britain, Boris Johnson does not leave much to be desired. There also is no potential prime minister who seems to be knocking on the door of Ten Downing Street. They will also have to rethink their system.
The most glaring dilution of the will of the people comes from having Electoral Colleges to choose a head of government. In the USA you have an electoral college of a few hundred people who elect the president and they often go against the popular vote as they did the last time. In Britain, you have the House of Commons comprising some 600-odd members who act as the electoral college. We have to presume here that the electors in electoral colleges truly represent the will of the people, which they patently do not.
Back to Pakistan. Our first problem was in the Partition formula: that areas with Muslim majorities could go to Pakistan and the princely states would depend on the decision of their ruler. The point is that where Muslims were in a majority in India, they did not feel insecure and thus their demand for Pakistan was weaker than in areas where they were in a minority and felt insecure and threatened. But because we followed the formula of where Muslims were in a majority, we forgot the Muslims who lived in a minority and hankered after Pakistan much more. I think this formula was first suggested by Allama Iqbal in his famous Allahabad address. But if you ask me, I cannot think of an alternate formula.
Pakistan ended up with a Constituent Assembly that had been elected in another country one year before Partition, that other country being United India. Thus many of the MPs in our new Constituent Assembly did not even have constituencies in Pakistan. What should have happened is that the founding fathers, no matter what the difficulties, should have called immediate elections in the new country so that those elected to Parliament could be called true representatives. In the event, we did not do this and ended up taking nine years to make Pakistan’s first constitution in 1956. That was another mistake. Pakistan was divided into two wings separated by 1,000 miles of hostile Indian territory. The politicians of West Pakistan were keen that power should not go to the Bengalis of East Pakistan and that the country should be ruled by West Pakistan, primarily the martial Punjabis and the swarthy Pathans with Sindhis thrown in. Balochistan was not on the scene. In order to prevent the Bengalis of East Pakistan forming a government, we devised a satanic formula which was called the Parity Principle, which assumed that the population of the two wings, east and west, would be deemed to be the same, thus emasculating the six percent majority of East Pakistan. Democracy was entirely absent and the cornerstone of democracy, the will of the people, entirely undermined. To make it look good, the 1956 Constitution forced West Pakistan’s four provinces to amalgamate into what they called the ‘One Unit.’ Thus the smaller provinces like Balochistan and others in the Northern Areas were in a way deprived even of their identity. Mind you, all this came at the hands of the politicians of West Pakistan. The surprising thing is that the Bengali politicians of East Pakistan agreed to it. The apologists insist that the East Pakistanis did so for the sake of unity, which is the most stupid argument borne of hindsight. That was another mistake. People ask why East Pakistan accepted the Parity Principle. The usual answer is that they wanted a constitution and ‘democracy at any price.’ If true, it actually shows an utter misunderstanding of democracy. Not to forget that the 1956 Constituent Assembly was by now very different from the original Constituent Assembly of 1947. This constitution was unworkable and anti-democratic and led to the military coup of 1958, which required the President of Pakistan, a civilian, to declare martial law and ask the Army to take over. Needless to say the Army kicked him out of the country in 21 days and then we had our first military ruler for ten years. That was General Ayub Khan who later made himself into a Field Marshal. Truth to tell, he ruled successfully because he more than any of his predecessors and successors developed the economy and gave the people a lot of what they wanted. But that should not be an indictment against the people’s vote. This was not really the first coup. The first was when the civil bureaucracy took over the office of Governor General and a little later another finance services officer was appointed prime minister.
This is a long subject on which I will have to write more in the coming weeks. We will pick up the thread next time.