Farid A Malik |
Pakistan started off well; common good was on everyone’s agenda. However, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the first governor-general, died on September 11, 1948, and the first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated on October 16, 1951. Khwaja Nazimuddin, a prominent politician from the eastern wing replaced Jinnah, and served as governor-general until 1951, and as prime minister until 1953. He was a graduate of the Cambridge University and an honest and able politician. Common good was high on his agenda. He played an important role in framing of the 1956 Constitution in which the principle of parity was accepted by East Pakistan despite a larger population.
Ghulam Muhammad succeeded Khwaja Nazimuddin as the third governor-general. Despite his failing health he refused to step down until his hand was forced. After the promulgation of the 1956 Constitution, his successor became the first president of the republic. Elections were scheduled for 1958, to be held on the basis of one man, one vote (adult franchise). To prolong his presidency, he imposed martial Law on October 8, 1958. Two weeks later on October 27, 1958, the army chief decided to take control of the country. The rest, as they say, is history.
A direct comparison between the first PM and the first president is revealing. Despite being the scion of a nawab family, the PM had no house to live in. After his assassination in 1951, the family fell on hard times; their property claims have not been settled to date. The unelected president was allotted 40 kanals of prime land in the new capital where a mansion was built for him. His son, Gohar Ayub, an army captain, and the heir apparent, had received a scooter loan when his father became the president. Within a few years, he had entered the ranks of the privileged. His father-in-law, Lt Gen Habibullah Khan Khattak, launched the Gandhara Motors, which started local assembly of automobiles.
Politics is about common good. In order to survive, a politician has to serve his voters. Bureaucrats, technocrats, generals, and judges rely on organisational support to perform and move up the ladder. Service to the people is not part of their routine. Air Marshal Nur Khan was perhaps the ablest soldier of the country. He served in several capacities. He is often credited with building the Pakistan Air Force. Air Marshal Asghar Khan was his senior. After retirement, they would both enter politics. Nur Khan’s political innings was short. He soon realised that he was not fit for it. Asghar Khan kept the struggle, the highlight of which has been the famous case against the Establishment’s interference in the political process, through facilitating alliances like the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, through which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif rose to prominence.
Pakistan has talented people who remain cornered and frustrated. The Establishment, assisted by its handpicked corrupt politicians, rules the country, motivated only by self-interest. Over the years, several brands of the Muslim League have been launched as-neededs. The All India Muslim League was formed in 1906. Since then only two political parties have been launched for the common good. In 1967, Bhutto, after leaving the Ayub cabinet, launched the Pakistan Peoples Party to achieve an equitable distribution of wealth. Imran Khan after retiring from cricket formed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in 1996 for social justice. There is a long list of parties that were formed to deny the common good in connivance with the colonial state apparatus. Currently, former president Asif Ali Zardari, and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif are both in jail. Former prime minister Shaukat Aziz and former president Pervez Musharraf are absconding.
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Activism, not pacifism, is the way forward. When the common good becomes uncommon it is the beginning of the end for a nation. Today, Pakistan is a constitutional democracy headed by an elected PM who went through a political struggle spread over two decades. He was not discovered by generals or launched to stall the common good.
Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. The article was first published in Daily Times and has been republished here with the author’s permission.