Pakistan’s emergence on the map of the world as an independent state on August 14, 1947 was, no doubt, the finest hour of our history. Our people saw in it the promise of long-cherished freedom, democracy and prosperity. It was with a sense of supreme satisfaction at the fulfilment of his mission that Quaid-e-Azam told the nation in his last message on August 14, 1948: “The foundations of your State have been laid and it is now for you to build and build as quickly and as well as you can.”
The Quaid did not live long to personally steer Pakistan to be what he thought and aspired will be “one of the greatest nations of the world.” Had he lived longer, he would have only been embarrassed to see how miserably we as a nation and our successive leaders, both civilian and non-civilian, have failed to live up to his vision of Pakistan, and to protect and preserve our national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. On our part, we are not even ashamed of what we have done to his Quaid-e-Azam . On this independence anniversary, we surely need to look back and do some soul-searching.
Those of us who belong to the first generation that saw and experienced the formative phase of Pakistan and its creation as a dream of its founding fathers are indeed discomfited at the thought of what Quaid-e-Azam had envisioned this country to be and where we actually stand today as a nation and as a state. The story of Quaid’s Pakistan is the story of a society that has been going round and round in aimless circles for the last 68 years. Absence of genuine democracy, rule of law and good governance is its continuing hallmark. Within the first year of our independence, which woefully happened to be the last of his life, Quaid-e-Azam had presciently foreseen the coming events.
He was disillusioned with the scarcity of calibre and character in the country’s political hierarchy which was no more than a bunch of self-serving, feudalist and opportunistic elitist politicians who were to manage the newly independent Pakistan. Political ineptitude was writ large on the country’s horizon. Quaid’s worries were not unwarranted. In his address to Pakistan’s first Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, the Quaid reminded the legislators of their “onerous responsibility” of framing the future constitution of Pakistan and functioning as a full and complete sovereign body. It took our politicians nine years and several governments to frame our first Constitution in 1956 which was abrogated in less than three years.
Since then, we have had two constitutions, one promulgated by a field marshal president in 1962, and the other adopted by an “elected” group of people who had no constitution-making mandate and were in fact responsible for creating a parliamentary gridlock leading to the breakup of the country in 1971. The flawed 1973 constitution they authored has since been amended umpteen times, leaving very little of the original text in its essence. It is a different constitution altogether. Instead of removing our systemic weaknesses and reinforcing the unifying elements of our nationhood, politicians have always succumbed to narrowly-based self-serving temptations. They rejected the popular will freely expressed in the December 1970 elections, and instead of exploring political remedies to the resultant crisis, went along with a military solution.
The real Pakistan disappeared with its tragic dismemberment. And yet, we learnt no lesson from our mistakes. Our problem is that the overbearing feudal, tribal and now industrialist elitist power structure in Pakistan has been too deeply entrenched to let any systemic change take place. It doesn’t suit the politicians. They make amendments in the Constitution for self-serving reasons only. The main casualties have been the state institutions and the process of national integration. The country has still not been able to evolve a political system that responds to the needs of an ethnically and linguistically diverse population.
Our problem is that the overbearing feudal, tribal and now industrialist elitist power structure in Pakistan has been too deeply entrenched to let any systemic change take place.
Unsure of our future, we are still groping in the dark with one crisis after another and have yet to figure out a sense of common purpose for ourselves as a nation. Our leaders never inspired hope for a democratic state that could provide socio-economic justice and fair administration to all Pakistani citizens. They just could not cope with the challenges of freedom inherent in our geopolitical and structural fault lines. What an irony that a country which on its birth was considered a “20th century miracle” and which was created entirely through a democratic and constitutional struggle, should still be struggling for genuine democracy, social justice and equal rights for all.
The country still remains engaged in a precarious struggle to define a cohesive national identity and evolve a sound and stable political system for its ethnically and linguistically diverse population. Pakistan is known to have over twenty languages and nearly 300 distinct dialects. This diversity contributed to chronic regional tensions and provincial disharmony. There is a strong underlying resentment in the smaller provinces against what is seen as continued ‘Punjabi dominance’ and inequitable distribution of power and resources. Our Constitution does not provide solutions to the genuine concerns on the inequality of the size of provinces and lopsided sharing of political and economic power.
Looking at the systems of other developed and developing countries, we find ourselves a unique example of a federation with almost no parallel anywhere in the world. Our present provincial set-up has long been the cause of political instability. It has not only been fuelling misrule and corruption in the country, but also aggravating the sense of inequality and deprivation that exists among the federating units. In any unequal set-up, no method of governance will work. It is a system designed for paralysis, which we are already experiencing. The solution lies in separating governance from ethnic-linguistic considerations by creating as many new administratively-determined provinces as necessary, with some balance in their geographical and population size.
The need for drastic change in our present anachronistic set-up is urgent to get rid of the same old usurpers of the country’s politics, outmoded social and political structures and elitist-led status quo in our country. Also, given our pathetic performance in our political conduct and discipline since our independence, we, like most developing countries, are perhaps not yet fit for the parliamentary system. Britain struggled for centuries to reach its current parliamentary status. For us, it would be too long and too arduous a journey to be indefinitely chasing illusory goals. Temperamentally, we are a ‘presidential’ nation. It is time we abandoned the system that we have never been able to practice, and explored an adult franchise-based ‘presidential system’ suitably designed for and tailored to Pakistan’s needs.
What, in fact, we need is the remaking of Pakistan as envisioned by the Quaid-e-Azam, free of ethnic and linguistic labels and sectarian, communal and regional disharmony. We need domestic consolidation, politically, economically and socially to change world’s perception of our country, which surely has many reasons and assets other than terrorism and violence to be recognized as a responsible member of the international community.