Governance crisis and Pakistan

The crisis of governance in Pakistan is extensive and it is almost in a state of collapse. It is imperative to appoint people of integrity to head all government institutions to run the state affairs in a transparent manner.

Since the emergence of Pakistan, the issue of good governance is the main cause of concern. Before the creation of Pakistan, British policies caused a split between the Hindus and the Muslims. The Hindus were quicker to side with the ways of the Britishers. On the other hand, Muslims did not take any interest in the national affairs. This situation continued in the sense that the Muslims kept themselves aloof from the government affairs. This attitude of the nation continued in the manner that no effort had been made towards good governance after the emergence of Pakistan.

Rule of law is the first prerequisite of the good governance in any country. For this purpose a constitution is framed for running the government affairs. In the beginning of our independence, provincialism, parochialism and sectarianism were hovering throughout the newly formed state. Since 1947 to 1950 no effort had been made to frame constitution. The inaugural session of the Legislative Assembly was held on August 14, 1947, in Karachi. For the interim period Government of India Act, 1935, was adopted with a few amendments according to the needs of the country. However, the first phase of the Constitution making was the approval of the Objectives Resolution which Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister of Pakistan got passed by the Legislative Assembly on March 12, 1949, after the demise of the Quaid-e-Azam. It can be called a milestone in the constitution making history of Pakistan.

A country without Constitution Later on the recommendation of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, Governor General Khawaja Nazimudin set up a committee known as Basic Principles Committee. Its function was to determine the basic principles for the future constitution. This committee was headed by Moulvi Tamizuddin Khan with Liaquat Ali Khan as its Vice-President. However, with the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan, the working of the committee was adversely affected. This Committee presented an interim report to the Legislative Assembly and it resembled with the Government of India Act, 1935. According to this report, Urdu was declared to be the only national language. Secondly, East Pakistan was allocated lesser number of seats in the Legislative assembly despite having larger population. This mistrust sowed the seed of bad governance in the country as the eastern wing was not satisfied with the outcome of the Committee report.
After nine years of efforts, Pakistan succeeded in framing a Constitution which became effective on March 23, 1956, declaring the country as an Islamic Republic. General Ayub ruled the country for 10 years with poor record of governance and was elected president through indirect election. This centralization of power ignited public anger against him and he had to step down by a people’s movement.

This Constitution laid great emphasis on the fundamental rights and the judiciary was given the power to enforce fundamental rights and the courts were to decide if a law was repugnant to any provisions of fundamental rights. The Bill of Rights was absent from the Interim Constitution. It is, therefore, necessary that the nature and content of fundamental rights should have engaged the attention of the framers of the Constitution. A committee on the fundamental rights of the citizens and on matters relating to minorities was set up at the inaugural session of the first Constituent Assembly in August 1947. Since Pakistan has religious minorities, it is necessary to protect the rights of all individuals, irrespective of caste, creed or religion.

Start of martial laws

Unfortunately, the 1956 Constitution did not last longer than two-and-a-half years and no general elections were held under it. Major-General Iskandar Mirza took over as Acting Governor General in August 1955 and later he was confirmed as president. In the meantime a number of governments were formed with quick succession which resulted in the failure of democratic system. General Ayub Khan saw this as an opportunity to fulfill his political ambitions and encouraged army generals to demand imposition of martial law in the country. On October 8, 1958, all assemblies were dissolved and the first martial law was imposed in the country. In fact, this was a beginning of recurring periods of martial law.

The second attempt to frame a constitution was made with the presentation of a report to General Ayub by the Constitution Commission on May 6, 1961. General Ayub rejected this report and suggested a presidential form of government. Later in 1962, Ayub introduced a constitution, under which the president was the repository of all powers, like the clock-tower of Faisalabad, where all the roads converged.

General Ayub ruled the country for 10 years with poor record of governance and was elected president through indirect election. This centralization of power ignited public anger against him and he had to step down by a people’s movement. As per law, he has to hand over the government to the Speaker of the assembly, he deliberately gave the reins of powers to Army chief, General Yayha on March 25, 1969, who imposed martial law in the country. This too off tracked the country from its real path of democracy and the concept of good governance was again violated. The biggest tragedy the country faced during this period was the secession of East Pakistan with the open intervention of India. General Yahya proved to be a total failure and another example of bad governance.

In a nationwide broadcast on November 28, 1969, Yahya Khan announced far-reaching constitutional measures, including restoration of a federal parliamentary system, holding of general elections on October 5, 1970, the task of framing constitution for the newly elected government within 120 days, the conferment of maximum autonomy to provinces, the dissolution of the One Unit, etc. No doubt all these measures were taken in the right direction, but at the later stage they were proved to be a total disaster.

Fall of Dhaka

On December 7, 1970, general elections were held on the basis of ‘one man, one vote’ and resulted in the overwhelming victory for Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League in East Pakistan and a large majority for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party in West Pakistan. After the election, Mujib grew more and more adamant over his Six Points. On the other hand, Bhutto refused to go to Dhaka to attend the National Assembly session. This is another example of not accepting the mandate of the winning party. After the breakdown of political talks between both the parties, Yahya Khan ordered military action to suppress the revolt of the Awami League. Having realised that the Mukti Bahani could not achieve the objective, India launched attack on East Pakistan and full-scale war started on November 22, 1971. On December 16, 1971, Yahya admitted defeat in East Pakistan.
Meanwhile, violent protests started on December 18, 1971, against the military regime in West Pakistan. It was followed by a vocal revolt by army officers in GHQ, Rawalpindi, on December 19, 1971, which led to Yahya resignation. Bhutto was subsequently sworn in as Pakistan’s new President on December 20, 1971. After the completion of one term of office and running for the second, he allegedly indulged in rigging as a result of which the country witnessed a large scale public protest throughout the country. This movement led by ulema resulted in the removal of Bhutto’s government in 1977 and again the country witnessed another martial law imposed by General Zia-ul-Haq. This period was worst of its kind as for as governance was concerned and the country facing the consequences of his blunders in the form of bomb blasts and the wave of terrorism.

Horse trading

The good governance was seriously affected by various regimes to win over support of those members of the National and provincial assemblies, belonging to other parties. This culture created a new trend in the country and game of votes started. All the major parties indulged in this illegal practice and the Changa Manga politics was introduced. All the sitting governments in order to control their MNAs and MPAs have to form big cabinets, thus putting heavy burden on the national exchequer. In addition to this, they have to spend heavy amount to bribe their legislators.
The recent example of horse trading is witnessed in the Punjab assembly in which a Unification Group was formed among the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid members. This created extreme uproar in the Punjab Assembly and the PPP and PML-Q members raised voice against those members who violated their party discipline and joined the Unification Bloc.

Minorities’ status

Quaid-e-Azam in his two press conferences in New Delhi on July 14, 1947, announced that all minorities would be treated as equal citizens in the newly formed country. According to him, ‘Minorities to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion of faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life, and their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caster or creed.
In the second press conference, the Quaid said, ‘They will have their rights and privileges and no doubt, along with it goes the obligation of citizenship. Therefore, the minorities have their responsibility also and they will play their part in the affairs of this state. As long as the minorities are loyal to the State and owe true allegiance’ they need have no apprehension of any kind.
However, after the creation of Pakistan, the successive government failed to fulfill the commitment made by the founder of the country. Even the sane and moderate voice of minorities was not tolerated by the extremist elements. The murder of federal minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, in Islamabad in March, can be given as an example of intolerance towards minorities in the country. He had been threatened by extremist groups because he had spoken out against the blasphemy law. This Law has been in the spotlight since November when a court sentenced Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of four, to death. On January 4, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, who had strongly opposed the law and sought presidential pardon for Bibi, was gunned down by one of his bodyguards. There are big question marks over security of minorities of Pakistan. The time has come for our government to take a strong stand against extremists to create good govern- menace in the country.


Good Governance is a must to run the state affairs in a transparent manner. For the achievement of this objective, it is imperative to appoint people of integrity to head all government institutions. The crisis of governance in Pakistan is extensive and it is almost in a state of collapse. All discretionary power at all government levels should be withdrawn and all decisions should be regulated by law and merit. All government jobs should be filled through merit to end the culture of approach and bribery. Kalashinkov culture, drug trafficking and smuggling should be eliminated through a systematic and effective reform programme. Good governance also means less expenditure on the government machinery, including a small cabinet and the government should follow the constitution in letter and spirit. The key to good governance lies in the fact that all state institutions should work within their limits. For example the legislature should legislate, the executive should execute laws and policies and the judiciary should interpret the constitution and laws.


1-A Concise History of Indo-Pakistan by S. F. Mahmud

2-A Short History of Pakistan by M. D. Zafar

3-Constitutional and Political History of Pakistan by Hamid Khan

4-Quotes from the Quaid edited by Sharif Al Mujahid and Liaquat Merchant

By: Waseem-ur-Rehman Khan

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