Dealing with the establishment

All countries as establishments

In our time, representative democracy is seriously threatened by the establishment. Today it is a worldwide phenomenon. In the 21st century, the common good has become uncommon. Political parties make tall claims to win elections but then sheepishly surrender to the established order and the individuals who are in control of the levers of power. The recent fall of President Donald Trump in the first constitutional democracy of the world should be an eye opener. He came from nowhere to hold the most powerful position in the world. Then he ran the Presidency with his own style. He did not start any new conflict, withdrew from Afghanistan and created jobs for his electorate. He probably could have won another term had the Coronavirus pandemic not hit the lone superpower so hard. It was a close contest but in the end the establishment prevailed, even the mob attack on the Congress by his supporters could not save his Presidency.

As we are in the midst of building ‘Naya Pakistan’ on the lines of ‘Riasat-e-Medina’ it is important to understand the impediments created by the forces of the status quo. Entrenched establishments do not accept change easily unless taken on board. In the decade of the 1970s the democratic forces were on the winning side while the established order was bruised and beaten. Ayub Khan’s establishment rule with the support of ‘ Dummy Democrats ‘ was in total disarray. His replacement, the second dictator, was unable to find a political solution which resulted in the dismemberment of the country. Dictators usually isolate themselves from ground realities and start ignoring the principle of peaceful coexistence with various segments of the society. The bubble burst when Ayub started to celebrate his so-called ‘ Decade of Progress’, for some it was the best of the times while for a vast majority it was the worst.

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As a seasoned soldier of change, having survived several law enforcement onslaughts, I have finally realized that the establishment is a reality to be understood and dealt with. In Pakistan we inherited a colonial establishment, while in the USA they built one afresh from scratch. In our case the masses are considered beneficiaries of the state or subjects to be treated as deemed appropriate by the ‘Brown Sahib’, in other words they do not matter; while in the USA they are treated as customers or citizens to be served, and the rights of the citizens are clearly defined and have to be delivered. Despite these checks and balances, the US establishment has become very overbearing. In our brief periods of real democracy (1947 to 1958, 1971 to 1977 ) there were some gains for the public but after that the colonists took control. Zia reintroduced the phenomena of ‘Dummy Democrats’ started by the first dictator. While Ayub Khan availed the services of Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi of Gujrat, a dismissed Police sub-inspector, Zia approached a very compromising/complaint businessman of Lahore by the name of Mian Muhammad Sharif who launched his eldest son Nawaz Sharif in politics. The Sharif’s brought the concept of muk muka (Give and take ) into the state apparatus. Under their leadership the civilian institutions stopped serving the people, which eventually caused their collapse. Somehow the Armed Forces were able to protect themselves but Nawaz succeeded in making major inroads into the bureaucracy and the judiciary. He then decided to take on the only surviving institution that refused to come under his total command, since then the tussle continues between the creator (Establishment) and the created(the Sharifs).

Let us work in unison for the common good in the land of the pure. The needs of the masses must be realized. Nations rise and sink together, and the divides have to be bridged, for which togetherness is the only way forward.

As a nation we have experienced extreme swings in the balance of power. After the assassination of the first Prime Minster in 1951, the colonial establishment started to flex its power. Ghulam Muahmmad (Gamma), an able financial guru, managed to become the Governor General with the connivance of DEfence Secretary Iskander Mirza and Army Chief Ayub Khan. Together they decided to push out the elected political leadership from the arena. This unipolar power approach has never worked in the past nor will it in the future. Good governance calls for co-operation and participation, not isolation and conflict, as has been the norm in the land of the pure. By the time the chants of the disenchanted against the mighty Ayub Khan could no longer be muffled, it was too late. He could not survive. Democracy is mostly noisy as the people can feel the decline when they are hurt by it, while the establishment is only concerned about the prevalent order which is always misleading.

Though elections are held regularly in the Western democracies, the establishments have become very powerful and mostly detached from the ground realities. The single-party Chinese model has been very successful in bridging this gap between the rulers and the ruled.

The Chinese Communist Party sets the agenda which the establishment has to follow. Policies are formulated by the party Think Tanks, consisting of highly qualified experts, and are then passed over to the Central Committee which deliberates on its application mechanism. After approval, the party workers get involved to oversee its implementation. The entire system is focused on the common good, and the establishment cannot come in the way. In Pakistan, it was expected that a balance would be achieved after the enactment of the 1973 Constitution, formulated by the genuinely elected representatives, but the establishment onslaught in July 1977 with the help of its ‘ Dummy Democrats ‘ created an imbalance which has continued to haunt the nation.

Today, holding another free and fair election seems to be a big challenge. Only a credible ballot, contested by credible candidates, can produce credible leadership which can then negotiate with the establishment on the mode of operation of the state under the Constitution. The current push and pull will get us nowhere. Tagore was very fond of Baba Guru Nanak’s Arthi in which he prays to the Almighty for rain and ample food (Rab barish dey danay dey). Let us work in unison for the common good in the land of the pure. The needs of the masses must be realized. Nations rise and sink together, and the divides have to be bridged, for which togetherness is the only way forward.

Dr Farid A Malik
Dr Farid A Malik
The writer is ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be contacted at: [email protected].

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