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Shifting Contours Of Pakistan’s Political Landscape

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S. B Mirza looks back at historical developments in search for a sustainable solution to Pakistan’s seemingly intractable political problems.

The history of the state of Pakistan can be divided into two distinct periods: the first period is 1947 to 1999, and the second from 1999 to present day.

The First Period – 1947 to 1999 – The Cyclical Scheme:

From its Independence in 1947 to 1999, the Pakistani state has had a very linear evolution based on two driving principles. First, the state existed to serve (in addition to itself) only the feudal and capitalist elite, with all important decisions taken by the Punjabi civil-military bureaucracy, including the judiciary. Second, whenever the ordinary people asked for their rights and welfare, they were given the opiate of religion, primarily through Islamist teachings of figures such as Maudoodi’s Jamat-e-Islami.

This basic framework has had its genesis in the millennia old feudal traditions of India but it also suitably adjusted itself to the 20th century calls for democracy by the international community. The state had to maintain the façade of democracy but it knew that the longer the democracy continues, the more powerful ordinary people become. So it came up with a unique solution: let’s have democracy but just as it is about to start empowering ordinary people, let’s impose martial law “to get rid of corrupt politicians” and reset and restart Pakistan’s democratic journey, and then repeat the process.

Most mainstream politicians have known this scheme and have therefore worked to take full personal advantage of their turn in power before being kicked out. Hence, the three bizarre cycles of democracy and dictatorship that Pakistan has already seen without any significant social or political change. Thus, in effect, politicians and bureaucrats played ping pong with the destiny of people of Pakistan.

It was because of this scheme that martial laws were not dependent on the performance of politicians during a democratic period. The very structure and design of the Pakistani state demanded that a martial law was imposed within 10 years or so of a democratic period. The generals had to come for democracy no matter how honest and compliant a civilian dispensation was.

However, the above noted scheme was undone in 1999 when the state realized that it had exhausted its stock of religion to give to people. The process of Islamization was started with the Objectives Resolution in 1949 and was fully constitutionalized in Bhutto’s 1973 Constitution under the intellectual inspiration of Maulana Muadoodi’s idea of an ‘Islamic state’. Bhutto then declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims and banned alcohol. This was followed by Ziaul Haq promulgating hudood laws and establishing Federal Shariat Court to give teeth to the requirement of Bhutto’s 1973 constitution that all existing laws shall be brought into conformity with Islam. The Federal Shariat Court did its job remarkably well: it reviewed practically all existing laws of the land and ‘Islamized’ many of them. The FSC changed much of the Pakistan Penal Code in light of Islamic criminal law in 1990, declared Bhutto’s “pro-people” land reforms unconstitutional in 1992, and even declared interest charged by banks as usury prohibited by Islam in 1999. At the same time, Nawaz Sharif, in his second tenure as Prime Minister of Pakistan, kept up the tradition of fooling and........

© Naya Daur