|IN mourning the absence of democracy and fundamental rights, or the severe limitations imposed on both, we tend to forget that the foundation of it all was laid in the very initial years of independence when Pakistan was declared an ideological state and India considered its arch enemy.
That declaration placed the destiny of the country in the hands of the clerics and soldiers, though neither the army nor the clergy was involved in the struggle for the creation of Pakistan. The army was professional and loyal to the British to the end; and a vast majority of the ulema and their institutions, again right to the end, opposed the partition of the subcontinent.
In retrospect, neither the ulema can be criticized for opposing the partition nor the army for staying aloof. Both had their own reasons and commitments. The ulema-led parties thought the rights and future of the Muslims as a community would be safeguarded better in a united rather than in a divided India. The army was bound by its command and oath of loyalty to the crown.
The Objectives Resolution passed by the Constituent Assembly at a time when it should have been making a constitution enabled the dejected religious elements to find a foothold in the politics of Pakistan. The war with India on Kashmir did the same for the army. Both have since then progressively overshadowed the political leadership which represented Jinnah?s ideas of statecraft.
The sectarian agitation in Lahore in 1953 and the martial law imposed to suppress it marked the beginning of the ascendancy of both the religious and military forces in Pakistan?s public life which remains unabated since then. Though the clerics and soldiers were at times in conflict with each other and sometimes seen as collaborators, the political and civil institutions, in the course of time, all but succumbed to the power and influence of both. Whether opposing each other or joining hands in the background or in the forefront, they have ruled Pakistan since the years of the Objectives Resolution and the first martial law ? 1949 and 1953.
There is more to the separation of East Pakistan than the role of the army and the armed religious outfits assisting it in that crisis, but it is certain that East Pakistan wouldn?t have gone the way it did had Jinnah?s ideas and institutions not been superseded by bigotry and martial law. It also cannot be denied that discontent in East Pakistan would not have been as widespread as it was at the time of the 1970 elections but for the huge expense (at that time said to be one-third of the budget) on the armed forces which the people of that wing perceived as leaving little money for their flood protection works. But the defence expenditure had to be large because Pakistan and India had fought a war in 1965and since then had been confronting each other.
Z.A. Bhutto, who headed the first elected and full-blooded political government after the separation, amended the Constitution to make the legislature an arbiter of the people?s faith, which Jinnah told the legislators of his time had ?nothing to do with the business of the state,? only to placate the agitating clerics (Bhutto himself subscribed to Jinnah?s view).
With Bhutto executed and martial law proclaimed for the third time, the armed forces and religious rabble rousers agreed to act in unison under Ziaul Haq?s command to extend, and then jointly defend, the country?s national and ideological frontiers. In the glow of that exalted mission, the mundane issues like democracy, civil rights and freedom of conscience faded away and remain clouded till today. That frightful era ended almost two decades ago but its legacy of extremist violence persists and is aggravating.
After a bumbling and burdensome decade of democracy shared by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif (which hardly anyone but their cronies cherish) commanders and clerics once again strut the national stage. Whether they work in unison or at variance with one another is decided only between them. The mainstream political forces, liberal or secular if you like, have neither the organization nor the popular support to dislodge or divide them. Nawaz Sharif tried it on the army when he was in power and is still paying the price for his antics. Benazir in her turn pampered the priests without avail but lost the goodwill of the progressive elements in the process.
There have been no military coups in India because the prime minister there has never interfered with the military command. Here, Nawaz Sharif dismissed an army chief and in his place appointed a general who headed the ISI and whom the superior army command didn?t approve. Nawaz Sharif would have been wiser had he known what Gen Maneckshaw had told Indira Gandhi when in the wake of widespread bloody riots she feared he would take over power. ?You don?t poke your nose in my affairs and I wouldn?t mine in yours,? Maneckshaw told Indira, and went on to convey a serious message in jest: