pakistan: problems and prospects of democratisation

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  • 8/9/2019 Pakistan: Problems and Prospects of Democratisation


  • 8/9/2019 Pakistan: Problems and Prospects of Democratisation


  • 8/9/2019 Pakistan: Problems and Prospects of Democratisation


    Problems and prospects of Democratisation in PakistanParminder S. Bhogal*

    Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, while reflecting upon the further political

    outlook of the proposed Pakistan state should be, remarked very enthusiastically, Democracy

    was in our blood, Democracy was in our marrow.1 Thatwas in 1943. With a shot span in fouryears thereafter, the state of Pakistan made its hurried entry into the comity of the free countries

    of the world. Jinnah disapprovingly had called his Pakistan a moth eaten. And the politicalevents that soon followed in Pakistan do show that probability the moth had also eaten into the

    democracy of Pakistan. Jinnah who himself became the first Governor General of Pakistan,

    introduced a highly centralized executive to run the newly founded county. Though structures of

    the new Government had an outward appearance of a parliamentary democracy, however theunderlying power structure was made increasingly centralized.

    There were multifarious factors which led to the emergence of such a situation in Pakistan.

    The foremost among them was the flawed legacy of the Muslim League. The League emerged as

    a small group of persons who were antagonised to, and so continuously opposed, the congress,

    never adopting any positive programme and venturing out to build a mass base among theMuslim populace of India. Another factor was the premature birth of Pakistan. The ideological

    formation of Pakistan had not yet taken place in the minds of people, who were to become its

    major populace. Then there was the oligarchic nature of Leagues leadership. Decision making in

    Muslim League always revolved around Jinnah and to an extent Liaquat Ali Khan. Thus soon

    after there passing away, the league virtually became leaderless after 1951. The communalfoundation of Pakistan, as, the mobilisation of Muslims was carried out under the slogan of

    Muslim Nationalism and the primacy of Islam, also had its role to play, as soon the

    communalists and liberalists were crossing the swords in a battle of supremacy in an independent

    Pakistan. The ethnic dominance of League leadership further created problems. The leagueleadership was heavily Mohajir dominated, and in an independent Pakistan, they were not sure of

    wider public support.Hence, they attempted to survive through a centralized military-bureaucratic set up.

    However, the local regional elites contested this, and this led to strains, which ultimately derailed

    the political process in Pakistan.

    The oligarchic league leadership delayed the formation of the constitution, and remained

    over dependent upon the colonial set up, which again had it ethnic outlook with Mohajirs andPunjabis having an upper hand. This Punjabi-Mohajir combined further did not like the idea of

    Bengali dominated Pakistan, as there were structural imbalances between, and the west

    Pakistanis as the Bengalis were the single largest, culturally stronger community in Pakistan,comprising around 56 percent of the total population. Another significant factor was emerging

    international environment, especially the strong cold war pulls. The US in their attempts to rein

    in Pakistan into their security alliances targeted at the containment policy, soon startedhobnobbing with the military- bureaucratic elites of Pakistan, such an arrangement had its ownimmediate reasons in Pakistan s well because it was to be extended both financial and military

    aid. However, such development proved detrimental in the long run to emergence of any

    representative democratic system in Pakistan; as such an alliance strengthened the position ofmilitary- bureaucratic nexus, which was the arch enemy of liberal democracy.


    In this way, Pakistan began with strongly centralized policy making apparatus

    *UGC teacher fellow, Department of Gandhian & Peace studies, Punjab University Chandigarh

  • 8/9/2019 Pakistan: Problems and Prospects of Democratisation


    In a country full of ethnic diversities, this soon began to show strains on the nascent politicalsystem. Centrifugal tendencies soon began to emerge and challenged the centralized system.Firstly, during the constitution making process, the central and provincial leadership could not

    build a consensus as to how the power was to be shared at both levels. Another strain was

    authored by the clergy emboldened by the strong communal card played by Leaguites leading to

    the partition of India and the mobilization of Muslim masses thereof. They opposed the liberal

    westernized attitude of the Leagues central Mohajir leadership, and instead pressed hard forconstitutional Islamisation in the in the new state. They rejected outright any special provisions

    for the minorities contained in the report pf the Basic Principles Committee submitted to theconstituent assembly on March 7, 1949. This report promised democracy and spoke provision

    and safe guard for minorities so that they could practice their religion and develop their cultures.

    However, by November 1950 this report had to be withdrawn, because the radical Islamists didnot allow it. [2] All these factors resulted in the breaking upon of the fragile unity created over

    Muslim nationalism and badly fractured newly founded policy of Pakistan. The greatest

    advantage of such chaotic situation accrued to the army-- bureaucracy combine, who being

    comparatively better organized were able to dominance and displacing the nascent politicalstarted by Muslim League leadership.

    After the assassination of the Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951[3]

    the military-bureaucratic combine almost got a free hand as they encouraged factionalism among alreadyloosely held into league cadres and it soon withered away into many groups. The combine

    changed governor generals and prime ministers at will, did not enforce the constitution of 1956,

    as the predominant position of the prime minister vis--vis the President in that constitution

    would not suit this nexus, and finally imposed martial law on October 7, 1958, making it easy forGen. Ayub Khan the C-in-C Pakistan Armed Forces to finally dismantle whatever was left of the

    civilian Government., and instead install himself as head of the first praetorian regime in

    Pakistan.Thus we see that there were half- hearted attempts by the Muslims League leadership to

    institutionalize democracy in Pakistan. However due to their weak position they failed to involve

    any viable political system and institutions. Pakistan, thus to quote Phillipe Schmitter, presented

    a classic case of the wide spread desire of fledgeling neo-democracies, to imitate the basicnorms and institutions of established liberal democracies, which is by no means a guarantee of

    successespecially when the (democratic) transition is initiated and imposed from above, the

    previous rulers attempt to protect their interest by embedding authoritarian practices within the

    emergent regime. [4]


    It will be quite paradoxical to note that the first significant movement for

    democracy in Pakistan germinated and surged ahead under the praetorian regime of Gen. Ayub

    Khan who took over on October 27, 1958. The seeds of this democratic movement are to befound in the fall-out of the legitimacy facade adopted by Ayub regime, which he called BasicDemocracy. The basic democracy was a scheme containing the establishment of institutions

    whereby Ayub had planned to involve the vast rural elites along with the strong beauracratic set -

    up with the twin purpose of initiating reforms and development in the countryside and ofdeveloping some kind of civilian constituency for his regime. Apart from the rural landlord

    elites, Ayub was also supported by the minuscule industrial bourgeoisie of Pakistan, who were

    keen to derive economic benefits by being the part of the regime. Both the categories of eliteswere powerful and well organized people from Punjab and Eastern N.W.F.P and some areas of

    rural Sind. They had not been properly accommodated in the pre-p1958 period as they had

    remained alienated from the then Muslim League leadership before and after the partition. [5]

  • 8/9/2019 Pakistan: Problems and Prospects of Democratisation


    The Basic Democracy system primarily involved the election of 80,000 basic democratson the adult suffrage at the rate of 1 basic democrat per village/ward or in other wordsapproximately 1000 voters were to elect 1 basic democrat. These 80,000 basic democrats were to

    become the base of four-staged pyramid, at apex of which Gen. Ayub himself as the president

    was to be elected by them, the undoubtedly voted for the constitution of Ayub with more than 95

    percent yes vote. They were also to elect the National Assembly and the state assemblies and

    the local unions. They were to work in close association with the bureaucracy and were to beguided by them. Outwardly the system appeared attractive to them. However its implementation

    and working was altogether illusive. To begin with, the candidates for election were chosen bydistrict bureaucracy and it was made sure that only influential persons and industrialists, who

    properly disposed to towards the Ayub regime contested the elections. The political parties had

    already been banned by them. And the operational field they became a link between local peopleand bureaucracy.