NationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 04

The fundamental political problem of Pakistan

Of late, the opposition parties of Pakistan have declared the long military rule of the past and a “parallel” government as the root-cause of all problems faced by the country. On the other hand, the ruling party has been calling “pervasive corruption” and “injustice” as the fundamental causes of multidimensional issues challenging the state. Whether it is the direct military rule, a parallel government, financial corruption or injustice, all of these are contributing to a chaotic state of affairs in the country and society. The root-cause of the multifaceted issues of the state and society in Pakistan lies somewhere else.

The military has ruled the country for decades in the past but primarily the people did not have much issue with it. Only there was commotion and resultant low-level agitation from the people in Pakistan during the military rules (importantly not against the military rule), when there was a price hike of staple commodities. There was hardly any worthwhile protest by a significant number of people in Pakistan against the military rule in the country. There have been many reasons for the disinterest on part of the people for the restoration of democracy. The foremost has been the widespread illiteracy, low standards of education and almost non-existent political education of a majority of people. This, in turn, has been because of the prevalent social system in the country. The fundamental features of our social system have been ultra-conservativeness, authoritarian social attitudes, profound ignorance of the civilized structures of power and a self-centred and extremely narrow worldview of everything, including politics. People respect the traditional system of authority. They have least understanding of self-rule or democracy and thus a democratic culture cannot flourish in society, having large-scale pervasive consequences for the political arena. So if the military has ruled directly in Pakistan or has been calling the shots behind the scenes is something that has roots in the social structure and its dynamics. In a rigidly competitive struggle for power in such a social set-up, only the physically powerful could have their way and it has been more than obvious in Pakistan.

Insofar as corruption as the root-cause of most of the problems faced by the state and society is concerned, as mentioned above, it may be true to a certain extent. However, it is to be seen why corruption in the first instance takes place and why it becomes so widespread. We have to search for the answer in the key characteristics of society of Pakistan. In an ultraconservative society, which is based on the patronage of kith and kin or in other words nepotism and cronyism, meritocracy cannot take root what to talk of its flourishing. Thus, financial and administrative corruption becomes prevalent and it is what Pakistani society has experienced over decades. We have institutionalized corruption because the practice is socially acceptable.

Injustice as the root-cause of all issues facing the state and society is quite important and it is a direct consequence of the lack of meritocracy. Again, injustice is not limited to the institutions of the state or the government but it is pervasive and ubiquitous in entire society. Look at the fundamental institution of society, family. Within the family, with no direct role of the state or government, there is profound and institutionalized injustice. An undeclared system of primogeniture is still very much extant in entire Pakistan. Whereas, females and in cases even males are discriminated against and are not equally treated by parents. So if parents cannot treat their children equally or let say equitably how come a state, which is the manifestation and reflection of social realities, could be expected to treat its citizens equally and equitably. Ideally, the state ought to treat its citizens at least equitably. However, a state that is controlled and dominated mostly by people, who have been dominant in their immediate and extensive families, could be expected to do it is like crying for the moon. Thus, it is proven without doubt that whether it is the direct or indirect military rule, widespread financial corruption or injustice, these are not in isolation the root-causes of multidimensional issues of the state and society. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the interactive effect of all social variables has given birth to many crises and conflicts in the state and society of Pakistan.

Here, the role of the political leadership becomes very important. By sensing and analysing the issues of the state and society, the political leadership comes up with solutions. However, it could only be expected from a conscientious, visionary and unselfish political leadership. The vision transforms into a political system which is considered a mechanism to address the multidimensional issues of the state and society by establishing an arrangement for regulating every aspect of social life. The political system manifests itself in the shape of a constitution, which ideally must be a contract between and among different classes, professions, genders and every social group. We in Pakistan got the 1973 Constitution, which is claimed to be a unanimous constitution. However, one of the surviving members of the parliament, which passed the 1973 Constitution, Dr. Abdul Hayee Baloch, personally told this writer that he did not sign it whereas another member, Sardar Ghous Bakhsh Bezenjo, also did not sign it. So, it is not a unanimous document.

Moreover, the competence of the legislative assembly to frame a constitution, which is far bigger a mandate to make laws, is very much questionable. If the leadership is visionary, conscientious and unselfish, it comes up with a political system that overcomes crisis and conflicts of the state and society by addressing their basic causes. Unfortunately, the parliamentary political system, based on constituency politics, has not addressed the issues and problems of the state and society, rather it has exacerbated them. Many divisions, enmities and conflicts, preventing development in each and every sector of society, have much to do with our political system. The fundamental weakness of the political system has incapacitated it from providing the always-needed political stability in the country and the consequential social order. The reason was that the then political leadership of the early 1970s considered their petty political interests paramount, rather than addressing the main problems of the people of Pakistan. The parliamentary political system has given nothing to the country, except crisis after crisis and, therefore, it is high-time that the intelligentsia of Pakistan seriously considered replacing it. No amount of an opposition MPC, the PTI or PM Khan’s claims could provide relief to the people but only a change of the parliamentary political system, no matter who is in the saddle on who is in the opposition.