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Paradise Lost: Whatever Happened To Jinnah’s Republic?

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Ahmad Faruqui argues that all Pakistani rulers, whether in or out of uniform, have stood under Jinnah’s portrait and evoked his name to legitimize their position. But none of them worked hard on creating the Republic that he had envisioned.

The Quaid-e-Azam lived for just a year after the nation’s founding. Much of his time was consumed by the war in Kashmir.  His successors failed to deliver the Republic he had envisaged, even though he had left behind a clear blueprint.

Jinnah called the Partition of India ‘a titanic event’. He declared that the government was duty-bound to maintain law and order and said it would have to rid the nation of “bribery and corruption, black-marketing and nepotism and jobbery.” He called upon the people to bury the hatchet that had divided them in the freedom struggle and to live by three watchwords: “Unity, Faith and Discipline.”

Every Pakistani was “First, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations.”  Even among Muslims there were “Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on,” and among the Hindus there were “Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris and so on.” These distinctions had to vanish in the political sphere if progress was going to be achieved.

Then came the immortal lines: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

In a passage that is often overlooked, Jinnah recalled a time when England was riven with differences between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, differences much worse than those that prevailed in India at the time of Partition. He exclaimed, “Thank God, we are not starting [our journey toward nationhood] in those days.”

In today’s England, he said one could say that “Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the Nation.”

He closed by saying that if Pakistanis made such a non-discriminatory state their ideal, they would find that “In course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

The Constituent Assembly that was asked to frame the constitution took nine years to do it. Tragically, two years later, the Supreme Law was dissolved at the stroke of a pen by General Ayub. The “man on horseback,” trained at Sandhurst, seized the reins of power in October 1958 and charged the elected government with “bribery and corruption, black marketing, and nepotism.” 

Ironically, Ayub used Jinnah’s words to undo his legacy. He would subsequently elevate himself to the rank of a Field Marshal, rule for a decade, and set an unfortunate example that would be emulated by three other army chiefs. Even the astute Jinnah had failed to anticipate that just a decade after his demise, a Khaki Curtain would descend upon the Republic.

Because of all the troubles that have afflicted Pakistan ever since, Jinnah’s critics have argued that his vision was Utopian. To buttress their case, they argue that Partition unleashed bloodshed on an unprecedented scale. It was not the peaceful conclusion of a long protracted court case but a titanic tragedy. More bloodshed would follow in the decades to come from the conflict over Kashmir and when East Pakistan seceded.

Jinnah’s supporters argue that the problem was not in his vision but in how it was implemented.  Failure on a scale so grand that it befitted a Shakespeare stage was not predestined. Sincere and competent leaders could have averted the blunders in political integration and developed a sense of national identity that did not derive from a fear of being pulled back into India.

They could have pursued Jinnah’s constitutional platform as far as it could be taken, not necessarily all the way to the heights it had attained in the West.

Nowhere did Jinnah say that the military would need to run the state. He never imagined that the army chiefs would invoke the “law of necessity” to justify their unconstitutional acts.

Jinnah never thought that his fellow citizens were an ill disciplined, tribal and feuding lot who could only be governed by oligarchs. He did not argue that the politicians were corrupt or that the judges were politicized. Nor did he assert that the media wanted to undermine Pakistan as the generals who govern the country are fond of saying.

The irony is that all Pakistani rulers, whether in or out of uniform, have stood under Jinnah’s portrait and evoked his name to legitimize their position. If they had been sincere, they would have worked hard on creating the Republic that he had envisioned, one that he had hoped would be “one of the greatest nations of the world.”

Saying once again that the country is in a state of war, the generals want their chief to be given a second term. If one were to believe them, Pakistan has been in a state of war since its inception. But the tenure of the army chief of the country which is our presumptive enemy is also coming to end. It’s unlikely to be extended. The Indian army follows the rules.

Since independence, Pakistan has had 16 army chiefs, as opposed to the 24 it would have had if each had completed a single term. The primary losers have been the 8 other generals who lost their chance to be promoted. The secondary losers have been the service chiefs of the air force and the navy who have never exercised much influence on the national security policies. The ultimate losers have been the people of Pakistan.

After the army’s debacle of 1971, the position of a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff position was created by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto partly to correct the imbalance and partly to improve inter-service coordination. It was to be filled by the most senior four-star flag officer from among the three services. But the position never acquired executive authority.

Once General Ayub was appointed as the first army chief in 1951, the dominance of the army in running the affairs of the country became inevitable. He visited the US and negotiated the Military Assistance Program through which the armed forces were modernized.

When Ayub seized power in 1958 and declared martial law, the army’s dominance was institutionalized.

The tenure of the army chiefs beginning with Ayub is shown below. Seven were given extensions.

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