By Misbah U. Azam, Ph.D.
The common question in Pakistan is, “which system of governance Pakistan should adopt which will deliver to people’s demands”? Should it be the democracy, and if democracy should it be parliamentary or presidential. Should there be a military dictator who rules with iron fist with the help of political dynasties and family oligarchs. Should there be a system where the governments are nominated by the powerful military and Judiciary, which governs the country with the help of high power bureaucrats and people’s elected Local Bodies. Now-a-days, some pipe dreamers, especially the religious right, came up with an idea of having all the “Muslims Ummah” to become a Caliphate and ruled by a Caliph. Already, so far, there are two self-proclaimed Caliphs emerged — with not very significant support but with a lethal narrative and destructive power — on the horizon, one from the Middle East and one from Afghanistan. Senior political analysts claim that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto wanted to bring a constitutional amendment to change the parliamentary system to presidential system. Nadeem F. Paracha, a left-liberal, Pakistani journalist, cultural critic, satirist, and short story writer, in his recent article – Rusting Anchor: The Creation and Mutation of a National Ideology — in Daily Dawn, wrote, “The truth was that the [Bhutto] regime had rigged [1977 elections] only a handful of seats (in the Punjab) and would have won the election anyway. But Bhutto wanted to change the country’s parliamentary system into a presidential one and for that he needed a big majority in the National Assembly”. Even transforming a country to a Kingdom under the monarch option was also considered and weighed in Pakistan. Z. A. Bhutto recalled in his book, “If I am Assassinated (1979)”, that “During the “golden era” of Ayub Khan an earnest proposal was made to him by an eminent personality to declare a hereditary monarchy in Pakistan and to make himself the first monarch. Ayub Khan took the proposal seriously. He formed a two-man Supreme Council of Nawab of Kalabagh and myself to examine it. We returned the proposal together with its blue-print to Ayub Khan within a week with the recommendation that he should forget it altogether”.
In general, Pakistani people are still not sure how they want their country to be governed. When the military dictator takes over the governance, people long for a democratic system. When democracy comes, people start craving for the “good old days of Generals’ rule” and talk about the technocrat system. This is an undeniable fact that neither the military/bureaucratic rule nor the political governments deliver to the people’s expectations but the tug of war between two powerful institutions are also responsible for creating such confusion. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the democracy is defined as: “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.” Technically, Pakistan is governed by the democratic system where the political parties are free to operate, private media is free, where the provinces and lower house are elected every 5 year by one-man-one-vote rule and upper house is elected after every 6 years by the elected members of provinces, where Judiciary is free to make judgments etc. However, there still is a large section of people belong to civil society, political class and the media who – with the support of establishment — are building the pro-military rule narrative.
Lot has been written and discussed about the system of governance in Pakistan. Predominantly, there are two extreme views regarding the governance
1) First one supports the vision that there should be a military or military led coup which would result in some “technocrat” government of “capable” personalities who will take the country out from all the troubles once for all.
2) Other view – which is a contrast of the first – is that as long as this system is moving ahead, and country will keep on going through the election process, governance will be better and statesmen will be at the helm of affairs over a period of time.
The proponents of first hypothesis is based on the tunnel vision of some who either have vested interests in the dictatorship or due to their abhor for the democracy they conveniently forget the issues during the military regimes. Some of them believe that the dictator will be a “benign” dictator of their choice and he will fix all the problems of Pakistan. To strengthen their views, they argue about the short term economic gains during the dictators and cover up all the long term ills brought to the social structure of the nation by the so called “unity of command”. Pakistan’s history is full of military dictators and the National Governments of “patriotic” technocrats. To strengthen the grip on the power even the so called “benign” dictators (like Ayub and Musharraf) rely on the corrupt and opportunist characters from the political class and in the bureaucracy and buy people’s loyalties by injecting long term corruption in the system. Pakistan history tells that all the time, dictators agreed to become the part of International conflicts to acquire some short term economic gains. They get support as long as the conflict is going on but once this conflict was over, so was the love affair of the Super Power with the dictator. Ayub Khan was the “most allied ally” of US but it rebuffed Pakistan time and again to not to annoy India with which it was looking forward to make good relations. During the Sino-India war of 1962, when President Kennedy was engaged in the Cuba Missile Crisis, he offered help to India even after a known Indian tilt towards Soviet Union. General Zia was a pariah until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Once the Soviet Army was pulled back so was the American support. President Bill Clinton refused to have his picture taken while he was shaking his hands with General Musharraf but Musharraf became the “personal friend” of US President after he decided to join the War on Terror and became the US’s “front-line ally”. As it is mentioned before that according to Z. A. Bhutto, Ayub Khan tried to become a Pakistani monarch, but due to his ten years regime, East Pakistan became Bangladesh. General Zia gave himself a role of a modern-day Islamic reformer and imposed strict laws – of course selectively – to convert everyone to be a “good Muslim”. That policy brought the culture of religious intolerance and the culture of Kalashnikov in the country. Musharraf’s nine year in power created another generation of incompetent politicians and heated up Baluchistan which is still blistering. Martial Law proponents also argue that the Taliban were created by Benazir Bhutto not by the Generals. This is true that empowering Afghan Taliban was decided during Benazir Bhutto’s office, but anyone who knows about Pakistan’s political dynamics, would not use this argument to support military rule. Pakistan is a country, where the governments are removed if they try to “intervene” in the security establishment’s affairs, so believing that civilian ruler can really create or abandon any group without the military’s consent and approval is rather naïve or the simple case of intellectual dishonesty. The media must educate the people with the narrative that the military rule is not an option to govern the countries, in reality Martial Law is an illegal system which is imposed on the people instead of raising question if Pakistan should be a dictatorship or democracy. Military – as per their training – try to resolve the strategic problems using tactical means as we saw in 1965 war with India, 1971 military operation in East Pakistan – although it was supported by some opportunist politicians and some elements in the politics and bureaucracy who have their vested interests –, 1980’s military operation in Sind, 1990’s operation in Kargil and the more recent 2005-6 military operation against Akbar Bugti. Well known political analyst, TV talk show guest host and Pakistan’s top of the line journalist Mr. Mujeebur Rehman Shami said that anyone who tells the military to take over the power is not only against the Zarb-i-Azb but trying to weaken the Army in general by asking it to involve in governance issues instead of doing their job.
Read the second Part here: Is it the Machiavellian “Incentive Structure”? – Part 2