This blog has been created long after these essays were written. Most of them were written as assignments for an Oxford University tutorial under Professor Indrajit Roy completed in the Michaelmas term in 2011 and as such have not been completely edited for the purpose of a blog posting. My primary interest is in the field of economics but the Indian political scene has always fascinated me and it was a worthwhile experience to research and understand the context in which the Indian socio-economic development has taken place. While a majority of the papers are specifically on India, there will be some on Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The papers are mostly based on second hand research and have been cited to provide necessary reference to readers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why democracy has continued to be weak in Pakistan

The British Raj in India was the first time a colonial invader had successfully managed to conform India’s political identity to its geographical one for an extended period. The British style of ruling India through bureaucratic institutions that were to follow the Western principles and provide impersonal services was in direct contrast with the personalized patronage provided by the kings and emperors before. Whatever the intention might have been, since only a small Western educated elite class could run these institutions, they used the colonial state institutions to benefit themselves. The local Indian bureaucrats often “disbursed a personalized form of patronage”, though within the framework of the law, which was quite similar to our existing administrative structure.  The Indian independence leaders were so influenced by Western governance that they were willing to collapse the geographic and political unity that had been forged and establish either whole or part sovereignties that were centrally run in a manner of the centralized and institutionalized structures which for so long had troubled the independence movement.
Often the laws that were instituted, though in conformity with the rationalistic principles of British ideology, conflicted with the social and religious mores of the Indian society. This dichotomy between the colonial principles and its implementation led to society that was getting divided, more and more, in communitarian terms (Jalal). The nationalist leaders fought against the British central institutions, only to want to control these institutions to command the fragmented nation (Jalal). Both Congress and Muslim League leaders were looking to form independent sovereignties out of the unified and centralized administrative structure only to run them on the basis of an impersonal and institutionalized bureaucracy. And it is exactly what they got.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Though India and Pakistan set out in the same vein, with the aim of a unitary state in a federal form with the center keeping the important controlling powers, Pakistan lost its way for the simple reason that it could not maintain the central political authority, given the lack of a political party that had support in most provinces. There are several reasons for why Pakistan’s center was weak. Firstly, the sole nationalist party in Pakistan remained the Muslim League which had only shallow presence in many Muslim majority provinces and only got the support of large Muslim landlords towards the very end of the independence struggle (Cohen). Since a greater part of politics in many of the areas was played at the provincial level, the Muslim League had to first compromise with the lower level bureaucracy still existing at the provincial level. While struggling to come to terms with the aim of central authority, it had to deal with enormous defense expenditure on the various borders. While the Indian government managed to coax, compromise and come to various revenue and administrative arrangements with the various princely states and provinces, their Pakistani counterparts coerced the provinces, by passing authoritarian government ordnances to direct funds to support the burdensome military apparatus.
General Iskander Mirza
 Unlike India, Pakistan did not inherit a strong central state bureaucracy which made them unable to deal with the provincial bureaucrats (Jalal). The political center had to rely heavily on the administrative arms in its initial years to come to grips with even forming the Constituent Assembly. The weakness in the center could also be attributed to the lack of able successor to Mr. Jinnah in the Muslim League. Through the Government of India Act 1935 and the working constitution, the governor-general had a variety of powers that included, but are not limited to, dismissing a Constituent Assembly, passing statutes and replacing provincial governments. Jinnah, through his powers as governor general created the position of Secretary General who would oversee the secretaries of the various ministers (Talbot). Mr. Jinnah believed this would speed up decision making. What it did instead was offer the Punjab dominated bureaucracy to become one giant state run apparatus under one man. This was the first instance of the bureaucracy gaining a grip on the politics. Chaudhry Muhammad Ali became the first and only Secretary General as this position was scrapped as the bureaucracy strengthened with General Iskander Mirza becoming Governor General.
Secondly, the two Muslim majority areas that were declared to be East and West Pakistan respectively were separated by over a thousand miles and had been previously ruled from New Delhi. Though political and bureaucratic power remained in the hands of leaders in West Pakistan, a majority of the population was Bengalis living in the eastern part. Already lacking the central administrative machinery that the British had established, the landlord politicians of provinces in the western wing had to forge a partnership with the non-elected institutions such as the military and civil services to prevent Bengali domination in Pakistan, which they believed would lead to stringent land reforms.
The meager resources that Pakistan had got after partition, were being employed to benefit the non-elected institutions rather than for social welfare. In her book Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia, Ayesha Jalal points out that increasing power of the non-elected institutions sought to undermine the power of both the parliament and the judiciary. It allowed the process of strengthening central authority without democratic checks and balances. The political party system decayed and a combination of bureaucratic and military officers held power in the center, delaying the framing of the constitution. Ghulam Muhammed, the third governor-general of Pakistan dismissed the Bengali Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin even though Nazimuddin held a clear majority in the parliament. Following the ousting of Liaquat Ali Khan and his successor Khwaja Nazimuddin, Ghulam Muhammed installed a relatively unknown Muhammed Ali Bogra as Prime Minister. He further dismissed the Constituent Assembly when Bogra and others in it, tried curbing the powers of the Governor General. Now one might wonder why the judiciary never intervened. The president of the constituent assembly did take the case to the Sind High courts where it was ruled in his favor; however with the backing of the Supreme Court, Ghulam Muhammed got his actions ratified as “constitutional” The Supreme Court invoked the debatable and dubious principle of necessity. This overturning of the high court judgment set a precedent and was used to provide cover to the military bureaucratic interventions in Pakistan later.  This principle has ironically been absent in the Supreme Court judgments subsequently, rather against the democratic governments when the Prime Ministers sought to change the constitution after the dismantling of an authoritarian regime.
Now it would be rather convenient to attribute Pakistan’s lack of democracy to the initial political instability but the issue goes far deeper than that. The reasons mentioned above may have been more supporting than being the central reasons for bureaucratic and military dominance in Pakistan during the early years. Ms. Jalal points out it was in fact a combination of domestic, regional and more importantly international factors that sought to reduce and diminish the power of parties and politics in Pakistan. The non-elected institutions used their connections in Washington and London to portray Pakistan’s geo-strategic importance and forged a relationship with USA that allowed them to get military aid. The event that reduced Pakistan’s international isolation in its early years was the nationalization of the Iranian oil. The US then recognized Pakistan’s importance as an important ally strategically in the Persian Gulf. The military aid allowed the Pakistani army to inflate and become more powerful. Almost abruptly the military aid stopped due to a policy of non alignment between the Indo-Pak conflicts in 1965. Yet the increase in size of the military set up has increased its dominance. Pakistan forges ties with China and France for its military supplies. US Aid started again once President Reagan came to the conclusion that Pakistan was of geo-strategic importance to combat the Soviet Union who had made a move towards Afghanistan. Pakistan was a medium to channel military aid to the Afghan mujahideen and during the ten years of Soviet occupation, the Afghan mujahideen received more than half a billion dollars of funding and more importantly military aid from Inter-Services Intelligence Agency of Pakistan. (Cohen)
Initial military-bureaucratic control was not an equal partnership between the civil authorities and military ones. In fact the military was almost a junior partner in the alliance till General Zia ul Haq. General Iskander Mirza, the fourth governor general, though holding a military title was a hardened bureaucrat from the Indian Political Service as well. He succeeded Ghulam Muhammed after the latter fell sick and fully assumed the title very soon. One of his first moves was to install General Ayub Khan as the Commander in Chief of the Pakistani Army, a move many consider to be an “error of judgment” that ultimately led to his downfall. In 1958, during military rule imposed by Mirza where he appointed General Ayub the chief martial law administrator, Ayub turned against him and overtook the reigns of the government. The balance of power in the civil military relations changed with the civil authorities taking more of a backseat in the following regimes.
General Ayub Khan
Though General Ayub Khan’s government is considered, by far, the most stable government in the history of Pakistan, it only sought to enhance the death grip of non-elected institutions on the political process in Pakistan. With the help of the civil services, he instituted an electoral college which was heavily tilted towards the rural areas. The Electoral College consisting of 120,000 members would elect members to the higher level local bodies and were also responsible for election of the president, national and provincial assemblies. The nominations of these members would be under the indirect control of the bureaucracy as they controlled more than half the nominations to the district and divisional councils. The regime was also a time that effectively took “the sting out of the political process” by denying basic political rights in practice, while at the same time fostering economic growth by issuing policies that concentrated the wealth amongst the landlords and merchants. The land reform and fiscal policies are special examples of this agenda. In what was supposed to have improved land distribution and introduced agriculture income tax, the Pakistani government ended up concentrating the access to land amongst the largest landlords in the provinces. It also gave senior military and civilian officer access to buying large tracts of agricultural land.
Corruption, nepotism and general discontent in the east wing led to the downfall of General Ayub Khan, Pressured from all sides, he stepped aside to give way to General Yahya Khan. The new general conducted elections the following year in 1970 (Taylor). The Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto administration that came to power on principle of populism and support of the middle sized land lords in Punjab and general majority in Sindh, was quite limited in terms of political maneuver as the differences between the East and the West wings of Pakistan continued to grow (Alavi). It allowed General Yahya Khan to delay the transfer of power and provincial autonomy in East Pakistan to the massively popular Awami League. With the support from India however, East Pakistan managed to secede from Pakistan and form the present day Bangladesh. The division certainly had far reaching implications in terms of politics in Pakistan. The social base for party politics changed as it did not have the heavily populous Bengali region in the electorate (Taylor). The main achievement of the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto government was the introduction of the 1973 constitution which is still in place albeit various amendments throughout the years. In practice however, he was almost as autocratic as any military dictator before. The growing discontent amongst the opposition party, allowed for the formation of the Pakistan National Alliance. In the elections that followed in 1977, PNA still lost but boycotted the provincial elections and declared the Bhutto government illegitimate (Cohen). In an almost opportune moment, General Zia ul Haq assumed the role of Chief Martial Law Administrator as Bhutto imposed the martial law and had Bhutto and his close associates arrested when Bhutto’s loyal military officers were attending a command course. (Alavi) The Supreme Court again defended the military coup d’état by invoking the Doctrine of Necessity in times of political instability and martial law. Thus began, the rule of Pakistan’s third military regime.
General Zia-Ul-Haq
General Zia was the first military dictator in Pakistan who was bent on pressing with the Islamisation of the Constitution by introducing for the first time in Pakistan a Sharia benches based on Hudood ordnances that worked simultaneously with the Pakistan penal code which is based on the British legal code. His commitment to Islamisation pleased many religious leaders in Pakistan and garnered wide spread support to his policies against Ahmediyas in Pakistan (Alavi). Some of oppression resulting from constitutional amendments decreed by the Zia regime immediately after taking over can be seen in the following recount:
On Sept. 27 1982, by Martial Law Regulation 53, General Zia decreed, the death sentence as the prescribed punishment for "any offense liable to cause insecurity, fear or despondency amongst the public." Crimes punishable under this measure, which superseded civil law, included "any act with intent to impair the efficiency or impede the working" of, or cause damage to, public property or the smooth functioning of government. Another was abetting "in any manner whatsoever" the commission of such an offense, or failure to inform the police or army of the "whereabouts or any other information about such a person." Thus one was liable not merely for what one said or did but also for what one did not do. As if this were not enough jeopardy for citizens, Martial Law Order 53 reversed the most fundamental principle of justice - in Pakistan you were guilty until proven innocent. The law provided that "a military court on the basis of police or any other investigation alone may, unless the contrary is proved, presume that this accused has committed the offense charged." (ZIA UL-HAQ AND MILITARY DOMINATION, 1977-88)
Till date the sect of Islam is prosecuted and harassed in Pakistan. As President he passed many constitutional amendments that increased his powers. He was the benefactor of much of the aid that America sent to Pakistan to fight a proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. He reduced the already meager spending on social welfare. The constitutional amendments made under the Zia rule were in place until very recently. His tenure as President and Commander and chief was the icing on the cake to celebrate the control of the military and civil bureaucracy on Pakistan’s democracy. Under international and domestic pressure, notably from the Movement for Restoration of Democracy to hold elections, he organized non party elections and got Muhammad Khan Junejo appointed as Prime Minister. Seen from the outset as a puppet for the Zia regime, Junejo was eventually removed from the position by the usage of Presidential powers because he made foreign policy decisions against the wishes of the military regime.
Benazir Bhutto
His death paved the way for a period which analyst’s like to call “Pakistan’s 10 year experiment with democracy”. However democratic the process of elections might have been, the fact that a military dictator ousted the Prime Ministers twice in five years speaks volumes about the death grip the military had on the country’s political process. The Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) saw the demand for elections complied with and the Pakistan People’s Party resurged with Zulfiqar’s daughter Benazir at the helm of the matters. She offered hope to millions of women and advocates of progress, in providing a safer and more stable government. She was a disappointment for the most part, as she and her government failed to pass any notable legislation. Her failure especially to work against the Hudood Ordnances was a letdown for many of her women supporters. Also the military-bureaucratic oligarchy, though not directly involved, supported all anti-PPP elements so as to disallow PPP from getting a grip on the politics. She was ousted from her position when her assembly tried to change the eighth amendment challenging the powers of the President General Ghulam Ishaq Khan (Alavi).
The newly appointed Nawaz Sharif government of the Pakistan Muslim League was in a better position to tilt the balance of power from non-elected institutions to elected institutions. Not only did Sharif enjoy a stronger base of power in Punjab (a huge majority of officers of non-elected institutions come from this area), but he was more acceptable to the Islamic parties who were against the western policies of Benazir Bhutto. However he was removed as well, without completing his term by General Ghulam Ishaq Khan. He was eventually reinstated by the order of the Supreme Court (the first such instance of the Supreme Court supporting politicians against the military bureaucratic establishment). However he had to later resign amidst immense pressure from the military, but not without getting Ghulam Ishaq Khan removed as well (Alavi). Both Bhutto and Sharif enjoyed two incomplete terms in office at the end of which both left the country. Bhutto left due to charges of corruption against her and her husband Asif Ali Zardari. Nawaz Sharif was also in a similar position at the end of his tenure, when he was exiled to Saudi Arabia after a military coup by General Pervez Musharraf.
Since its inception, Pakistan has battled hard for democracy but never been able to come to grips with effective military bureaucratic stranglehold on politics in the country. The Muslim League, without the essential support amongst bureaucrats and provinces, remained weak from the outset. The initial financial pressures due to conflicts with India imposed severe financial restrictions on the government. The military, predominantly composed of Punjabis received a majority of the benefits of public funds. From the start, the civil bureaucrats exercised domination in a decisive manner and never relinquished control to the legislature. The position of Secretary General allowed bringing all the segmented ministries and their bureaucracies under one single authority. Non elected institutions systematically chipped away at the tenets of democracy by never allowing a political party to settle. The military regime of General Ayub Khan fattened themselves on foreign military aid and made Pakistan extremely dependant of American assistance. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, though elected democratically was corrupt and almost dictatorial. Islamisation followed with installation of General Zia Ul Haq as president and his orders and amendments to the 1973 constitution gave him ultimate authority over Pakistani politics. The Bhutto and Sharif governments were the hotbed of rampant corruption whereby the families of those in power got wealthier. The experiment with democracy, though improving Pakistan’s economic state in some ways, has only shown the power of the military and civil authorities in Pakistan a new way to regain control. The military coup of 1999 reaffirmed the status of the importance of military in political process. Recently Pervez Musharraf was ousted, after an eight year Presidency, and replaced with the late Benazir Bhutto’s husband Asif Ali Zardari. The hope is that it ushers in a new era where fair elections and fairer democracy is carried out. The fleeting moments of shackled democracies have dotted Pakistan’s sixty four year old history but have not been able to tilt the balance towards legislature.

Works Cited

Alavi, Hamza. "Pakistan." Mitra, Subrata K. The Post Colonial State in Asia:Dialectics of Politics and Culture. 1990. 19-67.
Cohen, Stephen Philip. The Idea of Pakistan. 2005.
Jalal, Ayesha. Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Talbot, Ian. Pakistan:A Modern History. 2005.
Taylor, David. "Parties, elections and democracy in Pakistan." Journal of Commonwealth and Comparitive Politics March 1992.

No comments:

Post a Comment