The constitution of Gen Ayub Khan came into effect in early 1962. It had a preamble wherein it was stated that sovereignty over the entire universe belonged to Almighty. The territories included in Pakistan formed a Federation, in which the provinces enjoyed as much autonomy as was insisted with the unity and interest of Pakistan as a whole. In the constitution an attempt was made to reconcile the regional demands of the people of East Pakistan who resented their domination by West Pakistan. The constitution provided for the establishment of the seat of the National Assembly at Dacca and the Headquarters of the Government of Pakistan at Islamabad in West Pakistan. Dacca was made the second capital of Pakistan. Both Urdu and Bengali were made the national languages of Pakistan in order to give satisfaction to the people of East Paksitan. Apart from this the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, were to be fully observed in Pakistan.
But the most important aspect of the Constitution were the powers of the President. Under Ayub Khan’s Constitution the President was the sole repository of all executive powers. The President ruled the centre through a Council of Ministers and the Provinces through two Governors who were selected by him. The National and Provincial legislatures had no power; they could not even vote on the budget; all public expenditures were the responsibility of the President and the Governors. Article 8 of the Constitution had given “the responsibility of deciding whether any action of an organ or authority of the state, or of a person performing functions on behalf of an organ or authority of the State was in accordance with the principles of policy was that of the organ or authority of the State, or of the person concerned.” The Government of Pakistan, as one author put it, has emerged as a result of the Ayub constitution as ‘a government of the President, for the President and by the President.
Though a constitutional parity between the two wings of Pakistan was provided in the new structure and attempts were made to fulfil the demands of East Pakistan, the latter claimed more grievances. In West Pakistan, the Karachi-based newspapers, Dawn, Jang and Anjam, generally supported the document in a tone which lacked enthusiasm, others launched a campaign through editorials requesting the President not to establish such unhealthy democratic conventions using, at all, such a vast power. The newspapers of the Eastern wing expressed a critical tone and commented on the changeover in other countries, not naming Pakistan directly. Several public figures. including Jamaat-e-Islami founder Maulana Maududi, described the Constitution as disappointing from the democratic point of view and unsatisfactory from the standpoint of Islam. But after all the new set-up gained the impression that with all its shortcomings, it had opened the only avenue for an ultimate return to democracy and should therefore be worked. They were well aware of the fate of 1956 constitution, which was wrecked, despite all its liberal provisions.
The constitution of 1956 was better in the sense that it established the principle of equality of opportunity for all Pakistanis by prohibiting discrimination on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence, or place of birth, to the service of Pakistan. Though like the earlier one, the 1962 Constitution accepted the principle of parity between the two wings, its operative side had been watered down by saying that Parity should as nearly as practicable be achieved.
The Constitution was put into operation and in its pursuance elections were held in March 1962. The result reflected the fact that the bulk of the government supporters in the National Assembly came from the West Wing while the majority of opposition members belonged to East Pakistan. However, Sardar Bahadur Khan was two-in-one, leader of the opposition and brother of President Ayub Khan.
General Ayub’s hope that the electoral college of 80,000 basic democrats would supplant the old political leadership was belied in this election, which was fought largely on party-basis affiliations. Almost all the elected candidates had previous party affiliations and were either inspired or sponsored by the old politicians who were disqualified from taking an active part in politics. In the changed circumstances, political parties became an integral part of the politics of Pakistan.
Ayub Khan himself realised it impossible to keep party politics out of the National Assembly and began to think of cultivating a section of politicians and evolving a new kind of party system. He gave his pains a voice in course of addressing the first session of the National Assembly on 8 June 1962, when he said the new system did not mean that he did not require in the legislature a group of determined patriotic men, inspired by his aims and ideas and willing to help him. He cleverly exploited the division in the opposition ranks and struck a bargain with those elements who were prepared to work with some changes in the system. As a result of this compromise the political parties were legalised through the Political Parties Act of 1962. Ultimately he reconciled himself to the party system and on 22 May 1963 formally announced his decision to join the Party, though he was less than happy and said that unfortunately his system has broken down at the pyramid level.
In answer to the question why he has joined the Party, he responded quickly, ‘I have failed to play this game in accordance with my rules and I have to play it in accordance with their rules and the rules demand that I belong to somebody.’ The experiment of limited democracy as implemented by General Ayub was condemned on the ground that the Electoral College was no substitute for adult franchise. It was no guarantee that the members of the Electoral College would always make sober and independent decisions. There was always a possibility of influencing them or buying them.
As to the social conditions and changes, Ayub’s regime had widened the gap between East Bengal and West Pakistan. Two Five-Year Plans for economic development were implemented but the eastern part gained little from these. Seventy percent of the nation’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of about 20 capitalist families of West Pakistan. During the period East Bengal lagged behind in comparison to West Pakistan in almost all walks of life. The constitution of 1956 was better in the sense that it established the principle of equality of opportunity for all Pakistanis by prohibiting discrimination on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence, or place of birth, to the service of Pakistan. Though like the earlier one, the 1962 Constitution accepted the principle of parity between the two wings, its operative side had been watered down by saying that Parity should as nearly as practicable be achieved. East Bengal was far behind and remained so, during General Ayub’s period, especially in the import-export balance, industrialisation, banking system, employment, education, proportion in defence and civil services, etc. According to the Economic Survey of Asia and the Far East prepared by the ECAFE in 1966, the East Pakistan Farmers, beleaguered as they are by the uncertainty of farming operations, could not derive adequate incomes from farming and the majority of them were forced to borrow at exorbitant rates of interest from money lenders and traders’. Ayub himself realised the enormity of the problem of poverty in the Eastern Wing and allotted Rs. 5,760 million for the economic development of the province during the Second Plan period. Some progress in industrialisation was also achieved but it failed to make any significant impact as a whole. Thus, while West Pakistan’s economy reached the take-off stage in the late 1960s, the Eastern Wing remained poor and under-developed.