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An ungovernable society and an irresponsible ruling class

This ruling class includes not only politicians wielding the levers of power but also some superior court judges who are reluctant to exercise judicial review powers against public functionaries and seem to compromise on enforcement of rule of law by accommodating their conscience



Sheraz Zaka

DECEMBER 7, 2017

The so-called liberals and people belonging to the aristocracy feel dissatisfied about Pakistan being declared a failed state, despite knowing that mullahs or religious parties have never ruled this country. In my view, it is the liberals and parties promoting progressive ideals which have governed this country over the past seventy years. The responsibility for the failure of the state therefore falls upon this ruling elite class which has made this country ungovernable.

The recent spate of violence witnessed in Islamabad where Tehreek-e-Labbaik was holding arms against the government was illustrative of this. The entire city had been brought to standstill. It would be wrong to assume that the religious fervour that has gripped the entire country is the cause of our downfall. The founder of the country Muhammad Ali Jinnah has categorically stated in his speech on 11 August 1947 in the constituent assembly that Pakistan would be a state free from religious bigotry and its policies would be embedded in pluralistic beliefs. Later in 1949, the conception of a state envisaged by the founder based on secular and pluralistic beliefs was further distorted by the passage of the objectives resolution where the state was defined in religious terms. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was present in the session. In that session, foreign minister Zafarullah Khan gave a very inspiring speech but the majority of the members who supported the objectives resolution belonged to the liberal and aristocratic class.

In the initial years after independence, it was the same ruling class which supported the policy of joining SEATO and CENTO in the 1950s. This resulted in making the state a puppet of the capitalist alliance of countries led by US. It was not any religious party nor any organisation belonging to a religious denomination which destroyed democratic ideals in our country. Rather it was an aristocrat and ambitious governor general Ghulam Muhammad who dissolved the first constituent assembly and shockingly this decision has provided legal cover by the then so-called progressive and learned chief justice Muhammad Munir. It was the same elite ruling class who were wielding the power and made a big blunder by making field Marshall General Ayub Khan a cabinet member and handing him the control of the defence ministry. Similarly, Sikander Mirza imposed martial law which had no support provided by religious parties. Instead, it was the same bourgeois class which supported the martial law regime either of Sikander Mirza or of General Ayub Khan.

In the 1960s, the country was making great strides in economic development but again in 1965 the well-trained general from the elite-Sandhurst royal military academy, General Ayub Khan, made a flawed strategy of waging the 1965 war. As a result, the state had to suffer huge loss. It was due to the suggestion of the foreign minister of that time Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, an ambitious Oxford graduate, that Pakistan landed itself in trouble despite the fact our soldiers fought valiantly and sacrificed their lives. It was not until the conclusion of the Tashkent agreement between Lal Bahadur Shastri (Indian Prime minister) and Ayub Khan that the ceasefire was declared, and war ended between the two countries. Furthermore, in 1971 it was during the short-stint rule of a liberal general and determined drunkard, Yahya Khan that Pakistan disintegrated in 1971.

If the so-called liberalists have failed to put the country on the path of development and also failed to inspire people, then ultimately this void will be filled

Then came Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. No doubt he was a visionary, intellectual and an extremely capable man. If one wants to know about his capability regarding foreign affairs then a book known as ‘Myth of Independence’, written by him should be read by every student of law and politics. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto could have taken progressive steps to make Pakistan tread on the path of progress and prosperity, although he took few steps in this regard. With the passage of time, he become a victim of self-obsession and narcissism and could not tolerate opposition. Through dictatorial steps he encountered Wali Khan, belonging to the National Awami Party and Mufti Mehmood of Jamiat-e-ulma Islam party. He also dissolved the Balochistan assembly and the government of Sardar Attaullah Mengal.

In the 1980s, Pakistan supported Taliban in the Afghan proxy war against the Soviet Union which resulted in the promotion of illegal narcotics and weapon culture. Who made this decision? This decision was not made by any religious party nor any extremist organisation but made by armed forces led by General Zia-ul-Haq whose training and imagination of a military institution was like that of a well-groomed Englishman although he ruled the country for eleven years under the garb of religion.

Mostly the properties or off shore assets made by the politicians of major political parties belong to the elite ruling class who seem to be obsessed about democratic values at present. This is surely hypocritic and a demonstration of double standards. On the other hand, this ruling class has stashed away wealth in foreign countries, either its’ the mystery of the Surrey palaces or Mayfair flats in London. At present, the state is in a mess and we as a society have become ungovernable due to the callous and irresponsible demeanour of the ruling class — not any religious party or an organisation.

The ruling class is solely concerned about its own vested interests and has ditched the common man into this abyss and chaotic-like situation akin to a Hobbesian philosophy: ‘Life is nasty, brutish and short’. This ruling class includes not only politicians wielding the levers of power but also some superior court judges who are reluctant to exercise judicial review powers against the public functionaries and seem to compromise on enforcement of rule of law by accommodating their conscience. Nevertheless, exceptions are always there as in the present scenario a few judges like Mr justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Mr Justice Asif Saeed Khosa are fighting against all the odds and taking wrong-doers to the task to dispense justice to a common man.

If the so-called liberalists have failed to put the country on the path of development and also failed to inspire people, then ultimately this void will be filled. Karl Marx was right when he said that the only conflict in this world is that of a class-conflict and Pakistan at present is enmeshed in a similar conflict where the real battle is between the have and have-nots. For some time, people can be deceived by the ruling class in the name of democracy but not for long. When the public welfare policies and economic betterment of the common man does not transpire in a state then eventually a space is filled by groups which in the name of religious-rhetoric, inspires people and becomes a pressure-force to reckon.


The writer is a human rights and constitutional lawyer

Published in Daily Times, December 7th 2017.


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