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Pakistan at 75: A sordid story

Huzaima Bukhari & Abdul Rauf Shakoori

Resolved that it is the considered view of this session of the All-India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principle, namely, that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority, as in the North-Western and Eastern Zones of India, should be grouped to constitute ‘Independent States’ in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.

That adequate, effective, and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in these units and these regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative, and other rights and interests in consultation with them; and in other parts of India where Mussalmans are in a minority, adequate, effective and mandatory safeguard shall be specially provided in the constitution for them and other minorities for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them—Lahore Resolution of 23rd March 1940

Each year Pakistan Day offers us an opportunity to introspect and critically evaluate the painful journey as a nation. We should examine the prevailing critical situation in the backdrop of ideals of our founding fathers. The spirit of Lahore Resolution required Pakistan to be a country where all citizens could freely observe their faiths. Our forefathers dreamt of a democratic state committed to equitable distribution of resources for all, especially the less-privileged. They resolved to secular democratic dispensation providing basic facilities e.g. education, health, food, shelter, and justice to all. However, the militro-judicial-civil-complex frustrated all this in the Land of Pure with judiciary becoming an approving arm. Men in khaki, indomitable bureaucracyand businessmen-cum-politicians have pushed the country to the present day crisis.

Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world. Nearing its diamond jubilee, it has the highest population growth rate in South Asia, with nearly 80 million people living in abject poverty in sub-human conditions. Courtesy anti-people policies of the ruling elites, the country has been pushed to perpetual political instability, coupled with economic crises, hunger, malnutrition, unprecedented inflation, rising unemployment, and social unrest—just to mention a few.

Still confused with genesis of independence, coupled with inept leadership, the country is witnessing yet another dreadful political crisis—in fact it has been struggling, since inception on various fronts and foremost is the failure of state institutions to ensure protection of life and property of the citizens—non-fulfilment of a basic right even after a lapse of 75 years.

As a result of dictatorial rules—military and civil alike—the country still lacks bona fide freedom of press and expression—dissenting voices are still dealt with an iron hand. Successive military and civilian rulers have indulged in the policies of appeasement towards forces of obscurantism giving rise to religiosity as a tool of control and who have tremendous street power though they never get overwhelming majority either in the centre or provinces. Consequently, the state has suffered a lot and unable to muster up the strength to handle these forces effectively.

One of the major factors behind the current political impasse rests with flagrant and perpetual violations of the supreme law of the land—Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan (“the Constitution) by military and civilian rulers alike. The interpretation of Article 63A in the light of reference filed by the President of Pakistan under Article 184(3) has once again proved that forces that matter in the Land of Pure have failed in their experiment of a hybrid regime. The hand-picked politicians from all parties are still toeing their line and judiciary has now a historic challenge to completely depart from its legacy.          

Our history is marred by frequent political upheavals with judiciary acting as approver to unconstitutional acts. Due to untimely death of Quaid-i-Azam, the first Constituent Assembly could not give a constitution till March 1956. Soon after the assassination of Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan, Khawaja Nazimuddin usurped the office and became Governor General. The assembly headed by Muhammad Ali Bogra was unlawfully dissolved by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad which was rightfully restored by the Sindh High Court. Unfortunately, the Federal Court reversed this judgement based on infamous doctrine of necessity, a sin committed by the bench led by Chief Justice Munir. After formation of the Second Constituent Assembly in 1955, draft of the first Constitution was introduced in the Assembly on 9 January 1956 that was passed on 29 February 1956. After the Governor-General’s assent on 2 March 1956, the Constitution was enforced with effect from 23 March 1956—making Pakistan a Republic on the historic day when in 1940 resolution was adopted at then Minto Park, Lahore.

The first constitution could not stop clashes among powerful elites and the same dilemma continues till today. In 1956, the powerful men in uniform exploited the situation, due to the ensuing political vacuum and General Muhammad Ayub Khan, who later became Field Marshal, imposed the first martial law abrogating the very first constitution. Deviation from the constitution and desire to grab power unconstitutionally eventually led to Pakistan losing East Pakistan—now the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. This great tragedy could not change the mindset of men in khaki—General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq through coup d’état of 5 July 1977 ended the elected government of late Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Once again judiciary helped Zia in sending Bhutto to the gallows in a dubious murder case. This mockery of justice is still termed as the most lamentable scar on the face of judiciary. The worst 11-year-long military rule of General Zia eroded Pakistan’s base promoting religious extremism that still poses a daunting challenge for the country.

The latest military intervention by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999 with average-minded, short-term approach was one of the reasons behind losing respect as a nation on the international level. He did not even hesitate in selling Pakistanis to the United States of America in exchange for a few dollars. During his over nine years tenure, Pakistan became the main battlefield of terrorism suffering a huge financial losses and lives of more than 80,000 people. Musharraf’s ill-directed policies brought the battle to be fought on Afghanistan’s soil to the streets and markets of Pakistan..

Desire to hold absolute power by successive rulers in Pakistan has destroyed institutions that are meant to facilitate common people. The institutions are working for the benefit of powerful elites—miltro-judicial civil complex. The state structure has evolved in a way that it only favours the rich and the influential—they alone can make it to corridors of power. Plight of the common people remains unknown to them. Secondly, in breach of its constitutional mandate, the establishment has always been interfering in political matters through backdoor maneuverings. Their extraconstitutional acts have always been supported by unholy alliance of elites—incompetent politicians and compromised judiciary.

After all these years, the dreams of citizens remain unfulfilled. The most unfortunate part is that there is no hope for betterment in the near future. Poverty level is increasing, and people are finding it difficult to live a decent life with access to basic amenities. On the other hand, the institutions are busy indulging in issues not falling in their constitutional domain. The justice system is being run in a discretionary manner having lost its respect and dignity, at both domestic and international fronts.  The only way forward to streamline the affairs of Pakistan rests with upholding Lahore Resolution of 1940.


Huzaima Bukhari, Advocate High Court & Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), is a member Advisory Board and Visiting Senior Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). Abdul Rauf Shakoori is a corporate lawyer based in the USA and an expert in ‘White Collar Crimes and Sanctions Compliance’. They have recently co-authored a book, Pakistan Tackling FATF: Challenges and Solutions, with Dr. Ikramul Haq

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