we discuss the military?
of the people
Day every year is a time when TNS, for once, stops complaining. We start
looking around for things, people, acts that are worth celebrating. And one
must confess that in all previous years we had to look hard to find those
things, people, acts. But find them, we did.
it was people, individuals, doing their own thing, trying to make a
difference and rather successfully that made it to our Special Reports. Such
examples lifted the spirits - of the readers
and the writers alike. Yes, and that was the idea.
time too, as Pakistan turns 60, we wanted to celebrate. So we tried to move
beyond individuals... to institutions.
have a look at the institutions we made in these 60 years. Some of us
immediately retorted: 'What? Did we make institutions or unmake them?'
Others: 'Institutions we made or what we made of institutions?'
both the points were well-taken. We decided to look at the significance of
institutions. We decided that military in our peculiar case was an
institution that needed a careful analysis...Because all other institutions
owe their strength or weakness to this one. Media, that's us and those close
to us, has attained an influence that's not too easy to ignore. Judiciary, in
its moment of glory, poses some serious questions regarding its future role.
Legislature, the first one in the last twenty years to complete its tenure,
and yet looking so feeble. And lastly, executive that in our case is hardly
distinguishable from military appearing under real threat.
balance of power offered in the shape of media and judiciary is indeed a
cause to celebrate. But we still have a long way to go. Here is a modest
attempt to find that way.
defence forces are the most vital of all Pakistan Services and
correspondingly a very heavy responsibility and burden lies on your
shoulders." -- Quaid-i-Azam to Staff College Officers, June 1948
Ziaul Haq did a great disservice to Pakistan's armed forces when he tabooed
any public discussion on how they fulfilled their heavy responsibility and
added a provision to the constitution
under which criticism of the armed forces (and the judiciary) could
disqualify a person from being or becoming a member of parliament.
result the space for intelligent and constructive discourse has been taken up
by rumour and whispered calumny. No sane citizen can like some of the snide
remarks one hears these days nor can the dangers in running down the armed
forces be ignored. Every country needs armed forces. Pakistan cannot be an
exception. A time has come that the prestige and the image of the armed
forces must be saved through an unbiased discussion of their heavy
responsibility and how best it can be discharged.
standards for Pakistan's armed forces were, to some extent, set by the
founder of the state himself. The Quaid-i-Azam was quite an authority on the
armed forces and was foremost among those who advocated the indigenisation of
the British Indian Army officer corps and the opening of Sandhurst-like
military academies in the subcontinent in the nineteen twenties. In 1925 he
was made a member of the Sandhurst Committee, later known as the Skeen
Committee, after its chairman's name, and he was also a member of its
sub-committee that had been created to study military training facilities in
Europe and North America. When the Round Table Conference (1930-31) set up a
sub-committee on defence problems, the Quaid was on it and took keen interest
in its work.
Quaid was a strict disciplinarian. He emphasised discipline both within the
armed forces and their disciplined allegiance to constitutional authority. He
opposed the British plan to try the military officers who had joined Subhash
Bose's INA and blamed the government for its failure to inspire the troops
with the ideal of discipline under a lawful regime. In Pakistan (he was
speaking on the subject in 1946, when Pakistan was clearly visible on the
horizon) the military would be totally loyal to the basic law of the state,
he declared and concluded: "When the time comes, my Army in Pakistan
shall without doubt maintain all loyalty, whatever be the liability, and if
any did not do so, be he a soldier or be he an officer or a civilian, he will
go the same way as William Joyce or John Amery." (Both of them were
condemned as traitors.)
after independence the Quaid visited the Staff College, Quetta, he was
apparently disturbed by signs of some military officers' lack of
understanding of their constitutional obligations. He read out the oath,
asked the audience to mark the words 'Constitution and the government of the
Dominion of Pakistan', and advised the officers to study the constitution and
understand the implications of the pledge to be faithful to it. In conclusion
he said: "... the executive authority flows from the head of the
government of Pakistan, who is the Governor-General, and therefore any
command or orders that may come to you cannot come without the sanction of
the executive head. This is the legal position."
the armed forces have suffered enormously by getting involved with civilian
works for long periods. There is need for an objective analysis of the damage
caused to the military by its opting for martial law, something more than
politicians' and journalists' aimless targeting of the military. The founders
of the subcontinent's armed forces were very clear about protecting them
against corruption that was unavoidable if they joined civilians in
day-to-day administration. Ayub Khan, for all his faults, was the last
Pakistani commander to remember this lesson.
moment we have the views of former Gen Attiqur Rahman, one of the most
upright and capable army officers we have had. Says he: "No soldier
worth his salt likes administering with the backing of martial law. Civil
problems are immense and few outside the civil administration can even start
to understand the difficulties involved. A little bit of netting over the
sweetmeats is one thing, but to deal with the large fundamental problems,
with little or no understanding or training, is another matter." (From
'Back to the Pavilion', OUP, pp 147-48)
Attiqur Rehman had opposed Martial Law as a long-term answer to the crisis of
1968-69 and had told Yahya Khan when the company was debating the imposition
of martial law that was eventually proclaimed in March 1969: "Any
attempt to embark upon the resolution of the wider national problems under
the cover of martial law was, in my view, fraught with dangers. I explained
that martial law for any length of time becomes counter-productive and hatred
to it is the outcome. I may have imagined it, but there appeared to be a sigh
of relief. Yahya turned round to Peerzada and said, 'We were thinking of two
months, weren't we?' Peerzada agreed. That is the problem. You want power for
a short time -- to do good -- but then you fall in love with it and a divorce
should be worthwhile for a team of economists, sociologists and psychologists
to probe the phenomenon of what is described as the military's attraction to
power. Did the problem start with the military's financial autonomy? General
A.O. Mitha ('Unlikely Beginnings A soldier's Life'; OUP) has discussed this
matter. Recalling the days when military projects were subject to the Finance
Ministry's approval, he says: "it was only after the Finance Ministry
had agreed to it that the project could be initiated. If a project which had
been budgeted for could not be started or completed, the money could not be
used for other purposes without the agreement of the Finance Ministry. I
understand that this system has been changed; the army is now given a lump
sum as a budget and thereafter it is up to the COAS to decide how the money
is to be spent. From what I have seen, it has very often been misspent. In my
opinion, the old system was better because it enabled the government to
manage the overall national budget, to ensure that it was effectively
utilized" (p. 159).
decline of the civilian authority persuades Mitha to check himself. While
firmly maintaining that the "government should be more concerned with
how the defence forces are organised and with the control of the defence
budget," he is not sure how this can be done and suggests "a
National Security Council is the answer." He discusses some consequences
of GHQ's financial autonomy in a chapter with the tell-tale heading
"Land Mafia in Lahore Cantts."
Attiqur Rahman is concerned with another aspect. As an old-time warrior he
put a premium on austerity and wanted a field-oriented Corps HQ and
"that 'plushy' furniture, etc., was not required." Came the Chief,
General Yahya, and noting the barrenness of his office, offered Gen. Attiq
"a large sum of money to refurnish it." "I was too weak to
resist," he says, "so we later had sofa sets, tables and the rest.
I am quite sure that I did not work any better, but my office was nothing
compared to the military offices nowadays which are almost better than most
five-star hotels. Of course, the junior formations and units take the cue. I
think it softens the officers concerned in mind and body." ('Back to
Pavilion', p 133) Gen Mitha also wondered "how and why this desire for
luxurious working conditions has crept in. It seems to have reached its peak
in Gen Ziaul Haq's time and there seems to have been no effort to curtail
expenses since." (Mitha, p 113. Mitha completed the book shortly before
his death in December 1999.)
Attiq recalls a British army officer's warning that "your officer corps
will soon lapse into parochialism and bhai-bandi." Attiq's reaction:
"of course, once the British 'umpire' had left, this problem would be
felt. The problem is there but not to the extent prophesied by Milman -- not
yet." (Attiq, p 70) Emphasis added). A relevant incident of some
historical importance involved Gen. Zia. Maj-Gen. Nawazish had asked that
Brigadier Zia "be court-martialled for disobeying GHQ orders", by
"commanding the Jordanian Armed Div in an operation against the
Palestinian refugees, which resulted in the slaughter of thousands of
Palestinians." Zia sought Mitha's help and the latter referred him to
General Gul Hasan who did save Zia. "I was most surprised," says
Mitha, "that Zia had been let off because Yahya had seemed quite
determined that he must be punished." (Mitha, p 321)
financial autonomy came other powers. Attiq mentions the case of a Brigadier
who was not made a General by Ayub Khan because he "found him out in
time," and adds: "The power of the C-in-C, and now the Chief of the
Army Staff, is tremendous, and at some point in time it will have to be
tempered by an Appeal Board of civilians at the highest level". (Attiq,
is merely a sample of what needs to be discussed in the interest of
Pakistan's valiant soldiers themselves. The armed forces may be answerable
for quite a lot but they have also done much to win a prominent niche in the
hearts of the people. An important part of the heavy responsibility, in the
Quaid's words, the armed forces bear is not to let their image in the eyes of
the people change, because that would be unmitigated disaster.
judiciary cannot fight dictators. We require strong political institutions
which are lacking in the country."
(Retired) Qazi Muhammad Jamil
the three pillars of the state, judiciary has a particularly difficult and,
according to many, an unenviable task to perform: it is part of the state,
yet it is expected to watch and guard against
the excesses of the other two -- the executive and the legislature.
Independent and assertive judiciary, experience shows, works as a bulwark
against violation of citizen's rights by state institutions.
discussion on the performance of courts in Pakistan inevitably and
justifiably leads to references to the political and constitutional issues
decided by the superior judiciary. Though the July 20 decision by the Supreme
Court, and the events leading to it, has given a new colour and vigour to the
debate, the past needs to be reassessed and not to be forgotten.
at the past sixty years shows that it is not only the constitutional
challenges posed by military dictators where the judiciary failed to be an
effective bulwark for the protection of constitutional rights of the people,
the sovereign, but also in simple and plain cases of fundamental freedoms and
civil rights. Exceptions apart, it is only recently that one has seen the
apex court taking notices of violations of the rights of the citizen, and
that too because of the selective activism shown by the top judge. Otherwise,
even in this age of glory, one is at a loss to understand the four-year-long
incarceration of a member of National Assembly Javed Hashmi, under an
obsolete law and on baseless charges which could not be proved in any court
of law. In this case, even the Supreme Court as late as in October 2006
presided by the now restored Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry refused
to grant relief despite blatant executive oppression in a case of no
evidence. This was not a mere travesty of justice, this was blatant judicial
oppression which cannot be ignored by merely declaring it to be a result of
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's execution, Justice Nasim Hasan Shah, one of the judges
who decided in favour of death penalty, has lately admitted in an interview
with an unacceptable hint of regret that they had to oblige the dictator 'as
their jobs were under threat'. These and many other such cases will haunt the
Pakistani judiciary for a long time to come, including the ones which do not
have the news value to become the main stories in the national media.
everywhere in the world work in a delicate balance between upholding and
challenging the distribution of power. Consider the much reported recent
exchange of remarks between the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India
on a common platform. Manmohan Singh, in his speech, suggested the judiciary
should not cross the thin line dividing the two wings, the Chief Justice Mr
Balakrishnan asserted that the perceived tension between courts, legislature,
and the executive was a natural and inevitable corollary of a healthy
Indian prime minister's remarks came in the backdrop of a number of
legislations being struck down by the apex court; the ensuing debate,
however, only reflects the degree of maturity at the highest levels of state.
While a democratic dispensation may tolerate its courts to work in an
independent manner depending on the strength of its civil society and the
nature and maturity of its polity, autocratic and dictatorial regimes are
averse to such freedom and that is where the judiciary faces the real test of
courts face testing times when they are faced with an executive whose
democratic credentials become questionable and the judiciary is pressed into
service for the oppressive acts of the state. In such situations the
judiciary offers the sole safeguard. Such was the situation when the Indian
Supreme Court upheld the proclamation of Emergency (1975) by Indira Gandhi
whose legitimacy as a member of parliament and democratic credentials had
become doubtful after she had brazenly adopted autocratic means of rule. On
June 12, 1975, her election as a member of parliament had been declared null
and void. Sensing the impending danger, after managing to get a stay in the
Supreme Court, Indira Gandhi proclaimed emergency on June 26. What followed
the proclamation is described as the darkest hour in the history of
independent India and its judiciary, aftershocks of which are felt even to
past is anything to go by, it would not be wrong to say that the Indian
courts have relatively acted far more independently than ours. The reason
could be found in the fact that ours is an executive-dominated state, whose
contours of power are mostly defined by the armed forces of Pakistan which do
not figure anywhere in the scheme of state in the constitution, the grund
the perceived status and prescribed constitutional role of the judiciary,
almost all the important politico-constitutional questions have
understandably and justifiably found their way to the superior courts.
Evidence suggests that the stature of the courts has risen during short
interregnums of democracy and declined under total dictatorship or where the
army was behind the scenes playing questionable extra-constitutional role.
Consider the facts. Decisions in Asma Jilani case (1972) which overruled the
doctrine of necessity, restoration of the Nawaz Sharif government (1993),
Judges' case (1996), were all rendered while elected dispensations were on
the scene. On the other hand, cases such as Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan's (1954),
Dosso (1958), Nusrat Bhutto (1977), and Zafar Ali Shah's case (2000) were all
decided under army rule, support this assertion. The non-restoration of
Benazir Bhutto's two governments may be put in the category where the army
stayed behind the scenes.
Patel case (1955), the Federal Court ruled that the head of the state could
not make constitution by ordinance. In other instances, however, such as the
Mehmood Khan Achakzai's case (1997), the apex court disappointed by declaring
that the presidential powers to dismiss the government and dissolve the
Parliament under the eighth amendment introduced by late dictator Gen. Zia as
a bargain with the 1985 parliament struck a balance between the powers of the
prime minister and the president in a parliamentary form of government.
time will tell if the decision in the Chief Justice case (2007) is an
aberration or a trend setting example. Many cases of constitutional import
are pending before the superior courts and many more are expected to come up
in coming months. In the past, judges have been reported to have taken shield
against criticism with the argument that a few judges should not be expected
to fight dictatorships when the political foundations of the country are
weak. The judges of the present Supreme Court must have felt the heat out in
the streets during the hearing of the case. Though the support provided to
the court by the sustained agitation of the lawyers for four months cannot be
over-emphasised, it would be unjust for the courts to expect the same kind of
reaction every time an issue comes up.
first major constitutional challenge to the Pakistan judiciary came in 1954
in Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan's case where it upheld the executive's decision of
dissolution of the constituent assembly. It set the trend of preserving the
state rather than putting it on the track where it had strayed from the
constitution course. In the Dosso case, while following the trend the apex
court sunk to new lows by inventing the doctrine of revolutionary legality
and state necessity. In Nusrat Bhutto and Zafar Ali Shah cases, while denying
relief to the petitioner, it gave to the respondents what they had not even
asked for, going beyond its lawful mandate, when the Supreme Court allowed
the usurpers of constitution the power to amend it. There has been no going
back, the rest is, as they say, history.
Dred Scott decision (1857) by the US Supreme Court upheld slavery, our apex
court was in soulful company when it upheld the imposition of martial law
under the doctrine of revolutionary legality and state necessity thus placing
the nation slavery of another kind. It took the people of US another hundred
years to break the shackles; the people of Pakistan continue to suffer in its
sixtieth year of existence.
expectations from Pakistan's judiciary are unusually high because, firstly,
it is one of the most influential institutions and, secondly, because of the
renewed vigour it seems to enjoy after the restoration of the Chief Justice
of Pakistan. But, will the judiciary help realise the dreams of the
citizenry? To know the answer we have to wait and stay ready to come out in
the streets if need be.
writer is a Lahore based lawyer)
In the 'YouTube'
world we live in, where political events unfold in real time, a single video
clip can swing an election or provoke a revolution. In the US, it unseated
Senator George Allen for name-calling a citizen of Indian origin, giving
Democrats a one-vote majority in the Senate. In Tbilisi,
Georgia, television coverage of the government's attempt to shut down a
popular TV station brought tens of thousands of people into the streets,
playing a major role in the 'Rose Revolution'. Pakistan is the latest country
to teeter on the edge of a television revolution.
civilised world, media is considered as the unofficial (hence) 'fourth'
pillar of the state. No less a person than Federal Law Minister of the
Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Wasi Zafar, may think otherwise (hence
reflecting the state of the 'state' and the state of state's denial) but it
is in the changing nature, size and immediacy of impact that media in
Pakistan, particularly real-time information provider -- private television
-- is having on the national body politic that provides evidence in the
been the demonstrative power of media in influencing both the course and
outcome of events in Pakistan lately that it is trumping two (legislative and
executive) of the three traditional pillars of state (the other being
judiciary). The gung-ho ascendancy of the media started with the eruption of
the most serious crisis facing Pakistan's hitherto powerful General Pervez
Musharraf. The political crisis was precipitated by his attempt to sack Chief
Justice of Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Musharraf's 1999 coup and the military takeovers that preceded it in 1958 and
1977, the current crisis played out on live television, with independent
satellite and cable television stations covering and broadcasting political
unrest in the aftermath of the chief justice's attempted removal and in the
face of a virulent government campaign of intimidation and police violence.
The relentless TV coverage of the riots and the police repression escalated
the crisis well beyond its original scope.
started with a video clip on the state-owned Pakistan television that showed
the uniformed Musharraf in a tasteless taunting of the chief justice and
thereafter on private television of the rough public manhandling of the top
judge by the police and intelligence officials. When independent TV stations
broadcast the videos over and over again, thousands of lawyers joined in a
spontaneous and unprecedented protest. The most dramatic incident came when
police tried to close down Geo TV, one of the most popular news sources in
the country. A posse of police ransacked the Geo TV offices in Islamabad,
located just a few dozen yards from where most of the news media were
encamped at the Supreme Court. Police lobbed tear gas into the building in an
attempt to force everyone to leave, but outraged television journalists
turned their cameras on the police and broadcast the melee live for tens of
millions of people to watch. This was the first time in Pakistan's history
that its citizens were able to witness political protest unfold in real time.
unprovoked government attack on Geo TV and banning programmes and disturbing
transmissions of other private TV channels escalated the protests against the
firing of the chief justice and detonated a debate over freedom of expression
and association, and broader civil rights. Such was the negative fallout of
the government's intimidatory tactics that General Musharraf had to
personally apologise on national television for the attack on Geo -- a first
in his eight-year rule -- in an attempt to quell unrest. This, too, was
replayed endlessly, dramatically acknowledging the emergence of independent
media as a new and powerful force in Pakistan's political life. With the
political parties largely emasculated by forced exiles and intimidation of
their political leaders, Pakistan's young television broadcasters have taken
over their role in mobilising the masses.
it was Musharraf who allowed the reforms that opened up the airwaves for
private ownership, back in 2002. A civil society and media movement had been
fighting for media reform for years -- part of Pakistan's enduring political
movements that support democratic rule. The liberalisation of the media,
however, only came after the executive and military realised that millions of
Pakistanis were watching Indian television by satellite instead of the
martial programming on state television. Musharraf's 1999 Kargil fiasco --
mounting a military conflict in Indian-administered Kashmir -- was a turning
point. With state-owned TV and radio telling them virtually nothing of the
military's Kargil setbacks, Pakistanis instead got their news on satellite
dishes from Indian TV channels, which beamed the military conflict live -- in
a language (Hindi) that many Pakistanis understand.
Primal With Media
media's expert articulation of popular sentiment on the chief justice issue
showing no signs of abating, the executive and the military struck back by
banning live coverage after the chief justice's epochal 25-hour march to
Lahore and then the dramatic carnage of Karachi and a new ordinance was
issued empowering Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to exercise
draconian measures to seal broadcast stations, seize equipment, arrest
journalists, and to even notify further coercive regulations if necessary to
shut up the media. This was the traditional pillar of the State -- the
executive -- and the non-traditional pillar -- the military -- rolling back
their own 'achievements' to open up the media.
the media had passed with flying colours the first litmus test on the chief
justice's issues -- defiance, independence and objectivity and laying bare
official fiction characterising its role in informing the people -- it failed
the second test, which came almost soon thereafter: the controversial and
bloody Lal Masjid saga. True, the media's hands were tied as live coverage
was banned but almost the entire articulation of the seminal event of the
country's history -- the military gunning down women and men in the heart of
capital Islamabad in its successful attempt to reclaim control of state-land
on which stood the controversial mosque and madrasa -- was bereft of real
information and balance. Only information that the executive and military
provided was -- mostly uncontested -- broadcast onwards for consumption by a
hungry citizenry as they sat glued to their television sets.
instance, all channels were guilty of failing to ask hard and obvious
questions and provide self-generated news features and human interest
stories. Apart from umpteen talk shows, there was little offering available
from the channels exclusive to their own efforts. No channel bothered to
interview friends and class fellows of the central protagonist of the event
-- Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi -- from his Quaid-e-Azam University days to try
and chart how until few years ago a staunchly secular Ghazi turned religious
and a militant, encouraging willful rebellion of the law by himself and his
channel investigated the exact numbers of students of Jamia Hafsa madrasa --
invariably peddled between 1,000 and 4,500 -- when instead of peddling the
government-provided figures the number could have been verified from the
Wafaqul Madaris whose member Jamia Hafsa until a few months ago. The
executive may have banned media from hospitals but in this age and time how
difficult was it to smuggle oneself in as a patient or visitor armed with not
a TV camera but a mobile phone which now ubiquitously come with built-in
cameras to record and show not dead bodies and the injured but testimony that
could helped give an idea of the numbers caught in a fight involving the
executive and their former proteges.
were no investigative features on the genesis of Jamia Hafsa to come up with
answers to the as-yet unresolved conundrum that why would thousands of
conservative parents from tribal areas, Northern Areas and North West
Frontier Province -- regions themselves dotted by hundreds if not thousands
of madrasas -- send their daughters to faraway Islamabad to a madrasa that
would be promoted to test the waters of perhaps a new kind of conflict.
short, whereas the case of the chief justice was one of the media
spectacularly coming good on its expectations and influencing the formal
pillars of the state as well as the unofficial -- the military -- in the case
of the Lal Masjid episode, it was picture of conformity, seemingly allowing
itself to the pressure of the state's might so soon after dramatically
defying it. Indeed at one stage it seemed that the media was becoming part of
the story (rather than reporting it) when one of the channels offered and
maneuvered to become a platform for live negotiation between Maulana Ghazi
and the state minister for information and broadcasting!
the rise of the influence of the media on Pakistan's polity and as a
formidable pillar of the State -- the apparent southward dive for the moment
notwithstanding -- is hardly over. There is another multi-phased opportunity
on the immediate horizon when media will get the chance to prove once and for
all if the confidence in its massive potential to play its role of informing
the citizenry -- as well as all other stakeholders -- is justifiably placed
or it will be subsumed by the other pillars: elections, both General and
just the Pakistanis themselves but the international community balance their
need for political stability in the strategically important country with the
general desire for it to democratise, local and foreign policymakers must
remain attuned to the independent media emerging as a powerful new player in
Pakistan and support the nascent sector. Western foreign policy too often
emphasises elections over other civil society institutions, especially open
media, which are crucial to building stable democracies.
emergence of independent media marks a turning point in the political
evolution of Pakistan. Western news media have focused extensively on the
question of whether Musharraf's undoing would result in religious fanatics
seizing control of the state and its nuclear arsenal. The current political
crisis demonstrates something far more important than the fate of a single
individual. The assertiveness of Pakistan's newly independent media signals
the return of a popular movement for democratic rights. Citizens are
demanding respect for the rule of law, access to information and freedom of
expression. The news from Pakistan is loud and clear: the media have emerged
as the voice of the people.
all-powerful executive is under strain. It is losing authority to Islamic
militants gathering force in northwestern areas bordering Afghanistan. An
assertive and active higher judiciary is putting limits to the executive's
authority and impinging on its hitherto unchallenged territory. An aggressive
and fast expanding electronic media is bringing it under increasing scrutiny
and public debate. Civil
society organisations, largely supported by the western countries, have grown
into a large pressure group making the executive answerable to its actions
and getting its demands met through social action. A new system of governance
is taking shape in the country with stresses and strains of formative years.
independence, Pakistan has been an executive-dominated state. It inherited a
vice-regal system of governance inherited from the colonial British rulers
which was retained with a few alterations. After the death of the Quaid in
1948 and soon after, in October 1951, the assassination of first prime
minister Liaqat Ali Khan, the civil-military bureaucracy or the executive
organ of the newly born state assumed all powers.
the then Governor General Ghulam Muhammad, a 'kakezai' and accountant from
Lahore, dismissed the first constituent assembly in collaboration with the
military chief General Ayub Khan. The higher judiciary put its weight behind
the establishment and under the doctrine of necessity a nexus was established
between civil-military bureaucracy and higher judiciary.
highly centralised executive-led state accepted the break-up of the country
into two halves -- with the secession of East Pakistan as a new nation state
-- but it did not compromise on its powers. The 1973 Constitution tried to
bring in some power sharing between the executive and the elected members,
but only in a few years' time this arrangement was wrapped up -- first with
the suspension and later through alterations in the basic law on the whims of
the civil-military bureaucracy. The Eighth Amendment and Seventeenth
Amendment are two main symbols of the executive's assertion of its authority.
This powerful executive has dismissed six assemblies starting from the
constituent assembly, abrogated and suspended the Constitution on four
occasions, hanged one prime minister and dismissed seven elected prime
one official party runs and monopolises the state of Pakistan -- the official
party or the executive. It consists of senior civil bureaucracy,
bureaucracy-controlled magistracy, police establishment, intelligence
agencies and, on top of all military high command in GHQ. The sovereignty de
facto lies with the military high command or corps commanders and not with
the parliament as the Constitution reads on paper. This is the core executive
that selects its collaborators among the civilians.
executive appoints president, prime minister, governors, chief justice, chief
election commissioner, and auditor general. At the lower level the core
executive appoints chief ministers of the provinces, ministers, nazims
(mayors) of the districts and tehsils or taluqas. Elections are rigged,
results doctored, and loyalties of the elected members are made to change
through incentives or coercion to keep the system going.
passed, the military created more and more space for its domination by
reducing the share of civil bureaucracy. In the name of devolution the
provincial executive's powers were dispersed and some authority was delegated
to district bureaucracy. District bureaucracy has been put under the control
military-dominated system, civil services and civil administration have been
weakened and their powers assumed by the military high command, its
institutions like intelligence agencies and its nominated puppet civilians
like nazims and civilian institutions like NRB. Civil bureaucracy is no more
the thinktank of the government as it used to be in the past nor is it an
effective organ to implement government's policies and enforce law and order.
Rangers keep law and order in Karachi, lead operation against Baloch
militants in Balochistan and the rebellious Lal Masjid militants in
Islamabad. Thus, two major functions of the civil administration -- to work
as a thinktank of the government and to implement its policies -- have
largely been taken away from it and put in the hands of the military or
people working under its supervision.
objective of the so-called executive is not effective service delivery as is
touted in the official propaganda. The military-dominated executive has
created a district bureaucracy to perpetuate its rule and increase its
wealth. The nominated (apparently elected in rigged and manipulated
elections) district nazims and the officials working under his authority
helps to provide some sort of political support to the establishment in
Islamabad down to district and village levels. In return, the district
officials are allowed to loot and plunder the public money at their disposal
and extort public at large and interpret the laws and policies of the
government according to their whims. They face no accountability for their
illegal acts and no effective checks and balances is in place to check their
highhandedness against the public.
tribal region bordering Afghanistan -- FATA -- the military took charge
during the Afghan war and strengthened religious elements to fight against
the Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s. These religious elements got
so powerful that the authority of the traditional tribal leaders weakened.
With this, the system of political agents that used to work in collaboration
with the tribal elders stopped delivering and became ineffective. The
intelligence agencies and the military directly intervened in the tribal
region where now more than 80,000 troops are stationed to fight militancy
where none used to be deployed. The state lost its control in the region and
has lost its authority in the settled areas of the Frontier province
bordering the tribal region.
second big setback to the core executive's powers has come from the higher
judiciary that -- with the backing of the legal community and the burgeoning
civil society in the country -- asserted its independence by restoring its
suspended chief justice. Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's restoration by the apex
court is a milestone in the sense that it has thrown a challenge to the
all-powerful military-dominated establishment. The higher judiciary that used
to legitimise the monopolisation of power by the establishment has now
started to put limits on it. This has created a strain that is defining the
course of the country's political and administrative history. It is to be
seen whether the establishment accepts the new reality and adjusts itself by
creating room for judiciary's activism or it takes the confrontational path
with the imposing of emergency and the suspension of fundamental rights. It
is hard to imagine an assertive and active judiciary in an authoritarian
framework of governance as is the case in Pakistan.
independent and rapidly growing electronic media, thanks to the communication
revolution and globalisation, is yet another challenge to the establishment.
The television channels and satellite technology have promoted political
discourse and created an environment that is not conducive for military's
domination or exclusion of elected representatives or marginalisation of the
civil society. The core executive or establishment -- as it is called -- is
facing a tough challenge and may have to retreat to accommodate the new
get General Musharraf elected as president in uniform a hundred times,"
is a statement that we have often heard, coming from ruling party
parliamentarians many a time. This shows how independent and wary of
constitutional responsibilities these legislators are. It's an open secret
that the prime objective of legislators in our country has been to prove
their allegiance to respective party leaders, even if it comes at the cost of
their own self-respect and common man's interest.
Pakistan, the role of assemblies has been reduced to bare minimum by design.
Critics believe that the
business of the house, both in the assembly and the senate, is held for the
minimum possible days just to avert criticism against the state. The fact
that Presidential Ordinances outnumber acts of the parliament by a vast
margin also exposes the limitations of legislature in our country.
interestingly, there is a full-fledged Parliamentary Affairs Division with a
mandate to ensure smooth, effective and meaningful interaction between the
government and the legislature. But, on ground, the division is as
ineffective as one can think of. The division was first established in early
1950s during the premiership of late Khawaja Nazim-ud-Din. It ceased to exist
during the years following the imposition of the 1958 Martial Law. It was
re-established in July, 1962.
Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs remained dormant during the period from
October 12, 1999, to November 10, 2002. When elections were announced, the
ministry started working in top gear in collaboration with the law division.
to a report issued by the Islamabad based Centre for Peace and Development
Initiatives (CDPI), Pakistan, during the Parliamentary Year 2005-06, the
National Assembly of Pakistan had a total of 132 working days, which is
barely 2 days more than the minimum constitutional requirement. In 2002-03
and 2003-04, the total number of working days was 131 days and 130 days
respectively. Actual days of National Assembly sitting, however, were far
less, as the working days are defined in a way to include any period, not
exceeding 2 days, for which the National Assembly is adjourned.
report adds that average actual working time of the National Assembly for
each working day was about 2 hours per day. House was often adjourned without
completing the daily business or after rushing through the assigned business
without providing adequate time for consideration, discussion and debate.
report says that a large number of questions from members are killed by the
secretariat while complaints about long delays in providing answers or about
sketchy/wrong answers abound. It reflects the attitude whereby private member
bills, especially the ones introduced by the members from the opposition
parties, are generally not taken seriously by the government/treasury
Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director, Pakistan Institute of Legislative
Development and Transparency (PILDAT), tells TNS that he believes the
legislature in Pakistan is totally independent and free. Being non-productive
is a totally different thing, he adds.
says that many parliamentarians are not yet fully sensitised and equipped to
perform their function properly. He says that contrary to expectations, the
graduate assembly is not as productive as the previous ones were. The reason,
he says, is that most of the veterans are out and many non-interested people
are in just to retain their family seats.
to Bilal, a discouraging fact is that the sitting assembly -- the 12th
National Assembly of Pakistan -- could pass only 41 laws in its first four
years as compared to 73 ordinances passed by one person -- the president. He
says this is in great contrast to India where the Lok Sabha has passed 216
laws during the same period compared to the 28 ordinances passed by their
Ahmed Ali, Executive Director CPDI, tells TNS that it's a pity that very
little business is carried out in the house. Though the assemblies and senate
meet the minimum requirement of holding sessions for at least 130 days in a
year, the average time spent in the house is between two to three hours.
Barring the budget session, the parliaments hardly spend more than 5 hours a
day in the house.
says his observation is that many parliamentarians themselves want to avoid
longer sessions. They fear their weaknesses will be exposed in case they have
to speak on any issue(s), he says. Such members who have never uttered a
single word in the assembly are in majority, Mukhtar says.
not ready to believe that the legislature in our country is independent. If
it were, the private members' bills and questions posed by legislators would
never have met a sorry fate. He says only those laws are taken up for
discussions that are purely in the interest of the government or the
parliamentarians themselves. Those laws that are in greater public interest
are never discussed, he says.
his point, he says a law as important as Human Tissues and Organs Transplant
Ordinance, 2007 was promulgated only after the Supreme Court of Pakistan
intervened. The court made an observation that state-friendly ordinances
could be passed on a half hour's notice whereas those in public interest
would take ages to take shape.
On the other hand, laws related to perks and privileges of the legislators are discussed every now and then. He says the amended Police Order 2002 was promulgated in November 2004 but has not yet been presented for debate in the parliament. The ordinance is re-promulgated after the expiry of every four months, whereas the proper way would have been to get it passed under an act of the parliament. Similarly, the Official Secrets Act of 1923, passed by the British after World War II has never been taken up for discussion by the parliament.