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69 Years of Pakistan

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The state is a historical institution; it emerged in the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe as a system of consolidated rule that dwelled in subordinating all other institutions and groups, temporal and spiritual. However, state in the 21st century is more convoluted a nation, since statehood now appears to be more popular and sought-after than even before. Today’s state has a dualistic structure, in which it has two faces; one looking outwards and other looking inwards. The inward-looking face of the state deals with the state’s relations with the individuals and groups that live in within its borders and its ability to maintain domestic order.

Hence, in today’s date, the state has a number of institutions which facilitate the state’s relations with the individuals. These institutions fill in the administrative capacities of the central government i.e. the bureaucracy, the judiciary and the executive, which help augment the power of a state, simplifying its governance. However, for any political system to thrive, a state adopts a political structure that identifies with its individuals. For example, in a democratic state, the ruling body assures a liberal political structure, where all the institutions intermingle, and henceforth, fusion of power takes place, so as to maintain a strong political edifice with checks and balances.
However, this is just the inward-looking face of the state, but not to disremember, the ‘outward-looking’ face of the state, which deals with the state’s relations with other states and its ability to provide protection against external attack. Thus, the outward-looking face of the state reiterates the notion of sovereignty, which is rightly justified in Hobbes’ Social Contract theory as he says that the need for sovereignty arose from the self-seeking and power interested nature of humans, which meant that in the absence of a sovereign ruler life would diminish into a war of all against all. He therefore defined sovereignty as a domination of coercive power and advocated that it be vested in the hands of a single ruler, whether it was a monarch or a democratic assembly. In this view of state’s dual structure, what can be called ‘sovereignty’ can be seen as a measurement to both, protect against external attack and maintain domestic order, and to do them simultaneously.

Initially, the edifice to Pakistan’s creation maybe an ideological one; dwelling in religion to be the national narrative. Nevertheless, the aforementioned criterion depicting the evolution of state, tends to then bring forth the basis upon which Pakistan was to be determined as a ‘nation state’.However, over the eons, Pakistan still struggles to prove itself as a fully evolved state. The odd and even decades that Pakistan has lived so far tend to be a vicious cycle of incomplete national participation or failed political systems, and thus Pakistan, as it enters its 70th year, has not been able to embody the true characteristics needed for a fully evolved state.

However, the fact which remains imperative, and yet overlooked, is that over these decades, Pakistan has gone through multiple transitions which have been a cornerstone to its progressive nature as a state. The odd decades, that is, the 50’s, 70’s and 90’s, mark an era of absolute economic disintegration, but suffice to have the much-needed political stability, which any country would desire in its initial years.  It was in the 1950’s that Pakistan’s first set of leaders led by Jinnah had the tough task of framing a concept of the Pakistani nationhood that would shun ethnic, sectarian and sub-sectarian differences. Thus, the new country’s early politicians, religious figures, intellectuals, and society as a whole, spent most of their time and energies examining and contending with various conflicting ideas about the Pakistani nationhood. And even though, the political system in the 1950’s was turbulent since it was largely dominated by a highly lobbied bureaucracy and political conspiracies, even yet the political milieu in the country remained pluralistic, which became the basis of the populist 1970’s.

70’s was a decade in which a wave of populist nationalism and socialist sentiment swept the country as the Bhutto regime began to initiate land reforms and widespread reformations in the country’s bureaucracy, military and economics.

The Bhutto regime’s policies in this regard, triggered, as well as absorbed the time’s populist zeitgeist. Large industries were nationalized, labor unions were co-opted, the working and peasant classes were given a larger platform to present their views, and narratives of ethnic nationalism were weaved into the government’s otherwise federalist outlook and appeal.

At the same time, the regime also began an in depth intellectual and political project to clearly outline the idea of the Pakistani nationhood that explained Pakistan to be a distinctive Muslim nationalist state that was trying to achieve a balance between liberal democracy, Marxist economics and Islam. It was theoretically this balance that became the central trust behind the 1973 Constitution, which in today’s date is perhaps one of the greatest milestones Pakistan has been able to achieve.

Nevertheless, while the uplifting political fervor was one of the dogged achievements of the early odd decades Pakistan lived, but what is imperative to know is that they came along with an unrelenting economic disintegration. The economy began to suffer due to nationalization of industries.One of the most significant step taken by the PPP government was the nationalization in 1972 of 43 large industries in the capital goods sector such as cement, fertilizers, oil refining, engineering and chemicals. Almost three years later the government nationalized the oil industry and then flour refining, cotton and rice husking mills. While the first set of nationalizations compressed the “monopoly capitalists”, the second set of nationalizations in 1976, ironically, hit the average and small sized entrepreneurs. Therefore nationalization in this era cannot be seen in terms of state interference for greater equity. But, the steady increase in the size of the public sector served to broaden the resource base of the regime for the practice of the conventional form of power through state sponsorship. All in all, this led to a decline in total investment of the private sector due to which urban and semi-urban groups began to express their discontent through right-wing student organizations and the press.

In contrast, the even decades of the 60’s, 80’s and the 2000’s portray a politically deteriorated but economically resilient image of Pakistan. The decade of the 1960s serves  as the ‘golden age’ in terms of the high growth rates achieved through the endowment of subsidies and tariff protection to industry and an elite farmer strategy in agriculture. The magnitude of protection provided by the government to private sector industry was such that it enabled domestic producers to earn large rupee profits on the production of goods that were not internationally competitive. Thus this resulted in an augmentation of Pakistan’s domestic markets, leading to higher GDP.

However, the reason these even decades have been politically dismantling are because of the militia rule that perpetuated in these years. Although, as mentioned above, Ayub’s regime did usher economic stabilization, but after the 1965 war that Pakistan fought with India, political dilapidation seemed almost inevitable. Paradoxically, unprecedented economic growth under Ayub also triggered unprecedented inflation, which consequently gave power to labor unions. So by 1968, a concentrated movement was initiated by left-wing student groups that were soon joined by labor and trade unions and opposition political parties.

Following the even decade of 60’s came a well-known decade in the history of Pakistan, the 10 years of scary legacy aka the decade of the 80’s in which General Zia UlHaq toppled Bhutto’s regime, and declared his rule. Zia ulHaq’s authoritarian ways without any incertitude largely dismantled the existing populist political aura created during Bhutto’s rule, and thus from a socialist liberal approach that Pakistan seemed to propagate initially, it dwelled to a rightest wing approach.

However, what is important to know is that it was not just the political or economic collapse taking place alternatively within these decades, but the power shifts that took place, from a democratic political party ruling to a military dictatorship taking over in the alternative decade, was actually a more grave and crucial issue for Pakistan. Since this vicious cycle of changing political system seemed to be unending, what it sowed were seeds of a stunted national practice. From 2006 onward to this date, after the Musharaf regime, we are in the 8th year of a democratic transition, but even yet, we as a nation have not managed to achieve a nation state which is progressive and evolved in its true spirit.

The good news however is that Pakistan finally has managed to derive a political system which is acceptable to all, and which over 8years has not been intruded by any other actor or institution of the state. Nevertheless, Pakistan in these 69 years has not been able to achieve something out largely substantial and progressive. The reason being simple: we still have issues of good governance, accountability, terrorism and socio-economic issues hindering Pakistan’s way to absolute success. Thus as the citizen of a nation state, existing for over more than 6 decades, it is our primary duty to invest ourselves in making it a state which Quaid dreamed it to be. The civil society, along with other various pressure groups has emerged in the last few years as strong variants, which have managed to be the stimulating forces in capacitating democracy in Pakistan in a wholly manner. However, it is our duty to do our bit in order to have a country which lives its next 69 years in salvation and deliverance.

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