Dr Mubashir Hasan

(Dawn, Jan 15, 2008)


Pakistan is not ruled by presidents, prime ministers and chief ministers but by a combine of civil and military services which are self-governing, self-perpetuating and independent institutions with the support of the USA.


Over the last sixty years the people of Pakistan have blamed and condemned their presidents, prime ministers and chief ministers for all the ills that plague our country.  They believe that the holders of high offices in Islamabad and the capitals of the provinces have all the power to set things right.  In reality it is not so.


Our rulers are rulers only in name.  They rein in a titular capacity and can be brought in and kicked out of the structure of governance like total non-entities.  This can happen only to the powerless.  I asked the former Prime Minister Feroze Khan Noon if he knew that Ayub Khan and Iskander Mirza were planning a coup against him and that Ayub Khan had moved a brigade from Hyderabad to Karachi in early October 1958.  His answer was in the negative.  When asked what would he have done if he had known.  He answered “Nothing”. 


When I told Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in November 1974 that he had only two years to build his people’s power before he is “nudged overboard” by the establishment, he answered: “I do not have the power to do what you want me to do”.   Then, who has the power in Pakistan?


Pakistan is ruled by a combine of civil and military services which are self-governing, self-perpetuating and independent institutions. They rule in tandem and they have a powerful foreign patron, the United States. 


The common wisdom that the military rules over Pakistan is only partly correct.  The military does not become the ruler of Pakistan by dismissing, arresting and deporting prime ministers and presidents and locking up the parliament or by having a large say in the making of the defense and foreign policies.


Except in the brief period of martial law, when the military courts are operating and the chief martial law administrator has not assumed the title of the president, the civil services of Pakistan are the real rulers.  They rule through a vast network of police stations, lockups, magistrates, jails and revenue collecting network, the basic state apparatus of governance. 


They exercise their power under the law which also authorizes them to call the military out of its barracks for assistance.  The military is the last resort for the civil services and it is the military which serves the civil and not vice-versa.   


No officer, civil or military, howsoever superior in rank, or an elected member of the government such as a minister, prime minister or president, has the authority to order a district officer in performance of his executive duties. 


Policy may come from above but its implementation is in the hands of local officers at the district level.  No disciplinary action can be taken against a non-complying officer.  He can only be transferred from one station to another.    


In 1942, as the Japanese forces entered India in the Northeast, the All India Congress launched the Quit India Movement.  The British faced their most critical moment after 1857.  The government arrested the top leaders of the Congress and New Delhi issued orders to districts all over India to arrest congress leaders as they come out to protest publicly. 


The Superintendent of Police Dera Ismail Khan, Sardar Abdul Rashid, on receiving the orders from his Deputy Commissioner, asked him under what Section of the law should he arrest Mr Bhanju Ram who was due to lead a procession to the District Courts the next morning. 


They searched the law books in vain.  At midnight the Deputy Commissioner phoned the Chief Secretary NWFP to secure guidance.  “The matter is left to the discretion of the local officers,” said the Chief Secretary after a discussion with the governor.  Abdur Rashid arrested no one as the procession came out the next morning.  He completed his service as one of the most distinguished police officers of Pakistan.


In the 1930’s of the last century a superintending engineer from the PWD extracted an order from the Viceroy of India, Lord Willingdon, that the unauthorized bath room installed in the Viceregal Lodge in New Delhi under the orders of Lady Willingdon should be demolished. 


Also in the 1930s the audit department of the government of India made the Viceroy pay out of his own pocket Rs 56,000 which he had irregularly ordered to be transferred from one Sub-head of his travel budget to another in order to meet the costs of a particular tour. 


In 1968, the District Magistrate, Lahore, F.M.K. Bandial refused to obey the orders of the Punjab Government, direct orders from the governor of Punjab and ignored the advice of the military contingent on duty and allowed lawyers to take out a procession on the Mall, Lahore.  Everyday scores of district officers tell ministers, MNAs and MPAs that the things they want to be done cannot be done under the prevailing rules and regulations. 


And yet when they want to, they do under their signatures and taking the responsibility what their superior officers or politicians want them to do by bending, twisting or violating the rules and regulations. In our system of governance the civil officer is supreme.


Pakistan has gravely erred in not changing the imperial system of governance which was specially designed to deny democratic power to the people of India.  Pakistanis also failed to mobilize the power of the people for transferring the basic elements of the state power – of maintaining peace and dispensation of justice – from the salaried officers of the civil services to the elected bodies of the citizens, as practiced in the US, Canada, Australia and the Scandinavian countries.


Free and fair elections for legislative assemblies does not usher democracy in Pakistan.  We never achieve a government of the people, by the people and for the people. 


What we get is a ‘democracy’ where people are replaced by civil and military officers and their rich industrialists, traders and land owning supporters.  It is their government, by them and for them. 


It is a great pity that to protect their vested interests, no mainstream political party, civil society activists or Harvard and Oxford educated intellectuals have advocated that the police administration at the level of city, town and Union Council should be put under their respective elected bodies.  None advocates that all criminal cases should come up before a panel of citizens agreed to by the accused as well as prosecution for the determination of guilt or otherwise.  [The exception of the PPP(SB) proving the rule.]


Mobilising people’s political power seems to be the only way to take Pakistan out of the 60 year old morass.

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