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The state of the State

WITH efforts to restore the writ of the state on its regions taken control of by the extremist
militant organisations, exercise to bring the tribal areas in the normal administrative and
judicial domain of the country, and an undertaking to count its inhabitants through a census
taking place after19 years, Pakistan has found itself in the 70th year of its existence. The
present tells a lot about the past. That the picking up of the pieces is taking place so
belatedly, speaks loudly about the mistakes and failures compounded right from the
beginning, and accentuated in different phases of the country`s history. From historical and
political perspective, what stands out to be discussed, is the state itself-its emergence, nature
and development.

Pakistan was carved out of the Indian subcontinent as the solution of the communal issue,
which despite Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah`s sincere efforts, could not be resolved
within an Indian context through political means.

On its inception, the new state found itself in a precarious situation. Its territory was not
properly defined, the princely states had yet to accede to it, the flow of migrants continued
for a couple of years, the central government had to establish itself from nothing, and the
country had to demonstrate sovereign existence to the world. In the absence of well-
organised and competent political formation, which the Muslim League was not, it was the
administrative arm of the state that took the initiative in its hand.

The civil servants with their administrative experience mustered during the colonial period,
became the pivotal factor in the statecraft in Pakistan. In the 1950s, the military high
command joined hands and a military-bureaucracy combine became not only the actual
operator of the state but also denned the nature and character of the state itself.

Emerging in an environment, where the real as well as the imaginary fear of a hostile India
provided a pretext to adopt security concerns as the major parameter of the statecraft, the
national security paradigm had its own repercussions. It obscured the public welfare aspect
that had been highlighted as the major objective behind galvanising the Muslim masses
during the freedom movement. It also brought about a highly centralised arrangement
negating the provincial urges that had matured even during the period of the realisation of
independence. The centre-province dichotomy exacerbated due to the disproportionate size
of the provincial populations. In a country which desperately needed concrete settlements
among the provinces,ethnicities,and the national groups on the one hand, and the centre and
the federating units on the other, the national security objective put all this in the
background. Constitution making, political processes, and public welfare agendas, all
succumbed to it.

In the first two and a half decades, the country experimented with three constitutions (1935
Act, Constitutions of 1956 and 1962), a nine-year long viceregal system, a pseudo-
parliamentary phase, and two military rules. This era ended on the break-up of the country.

The causes were all home-grown.

They were made use of by the adversary neighbouring countries.

Since 1971, Pakistan has continued to follow the same philosophy of statecraft. A
constitution, made in 1973, and shorter or longer periods of civilian dispensations, have not
been able to alter the basic nature of the state. A political economy of defence, an overly-
centralised mindset of the ruling elite, and an imbalance between the civil/political and
military institutions, continued to define the state of affairs in the country.

However, over the years the state has come to bear gigantic pressures and had to undergo
difficult circumstances. It is striving to wither these away. The historical unity among the
military and bureaucracy which was so pronounced in the 1950s and 1960s, gradually
weakened with the former emerging as the dominant component in the state structure. The
military rule of General Zia-ul-Haq stamped the ascendancy of it. The subsequent decision
regarding the foreign policy, economy, law and order, etc., were all predominantly taken by
the military establishment with the civilian dispensations playing only a secondary role.

It is this predominance of the extra-political forces that is at the centre of the crises, the
country has been facing particularly in the last three decades. The nature of state craft, the
centralising practices, and neglect of the societal thrusts apart, one major decision that had
had a highly devastating impact on the developments in Pakistan, had been the decision to
indulge in the affairs of Afghanistan after Soviet invasion of it in 1979. Pakistan`s decision
to fight a proxy war on the behest of the Western powers proved fatal for not only the
country and its society, but also for the institutions hitherto in command of the state. As a
result of our acceptance to fight a war against the so-called communist threat, Pakistan made
itself vulnerable to all sorts of dangers. The social fabric of the society was torn away.

The law and order was compromised. Extremism was not only tolerated but was, in fact, in a
way, encouraged. The society was allowed to be weaponised. And apart from all this, and
above all, the state gradually started losing its writ on its territories and on the forces of its
own creation.

As if the Afghan adventure was not enough, another round of mistakes came to the fore
following the 9/11.

The policies pursued following it further exposed the country to the extremist militant
groups. Most of the groups were once created or these were grouped in their creation
through official patronage. With the passage of time, many of these groups became
autonomous to the extent that some of them, after fighting for years for their founders, are
now making themselves available in the international terror market. These mercenaries pose
a major threat today to our sovereign existence.

Much later in the day, it was realised, one believes, that much has happened and that
something has to be done to bring order in a gravely disordered situation and the worsening
writ of the state, lest everything is lost. But correcting the situation seems to be a mammoth
task.

Of course, there can be short-term measures but then there are things which have to be done
on permanent basis keeping in view the long-term future of the country and the generations
to come. The National Action Plan and the subsequent 21st Amendment, a NECTA, the
military courts, etc., can only ensure temporary control.

The last two years brought some order but the root cause of such a malaise has not been
checked. Now an extension in the doctrine of state exceptionalism is on the cards. There will
be more military courts, another set of operations, and severe punishments. But such
arrangements cannot last forever. They are relied upon under conditions beyond the control
of normal institutions of governance and judicature. But their dividends will prove useful, if
during the course of time, the normal institutions are reformed to cope with the challenging
situation. In that respect, the two years following the induction of the 21st Amendment in
the constitution seem to be a lost period. Should one hope that after the extension of the
extraordinary regime of military courts, the civilian administrative and judicial infra-
structure would be improved? There is a big question mark lying there.

Of the major things that need to be addressed, there are: de-weaponisation of the society, a
focus on law and order, and capping of the militant organisations and their sources of
funding. However, these are only the things that need to be done immediately and in the
short-term.

The long-term measures should begin from creating a culture of tolerance in the country.
What has happened over the years is that extremism and jingoism at the sectarian level was
promoted in the name of religion. It is interesting to note that in 1947, there were only six
religio-political parties. However, by 2002, their number had grown to 239.

The mushrooming of these parties and groups certainly was the result of the official
patronage they received. To what extent they served the cause of religion must be known to
them, but what one has seen is the growing intolerance in the society.

It is high time that the state policies regarding the religious outfits should be totally changed.
Religion is certainly the personal matter of the individual and our constitution allows total
religious freedom in that respect. However, no religious group should be allowed to force its
views on others. This was what the founder of the nation had envisioned and had tried to
bear upon the people and the rulers in the very beginning.

In order to retreat from the state`s policy regarding the use of religion for its purposes, it is
necessary to ensure the state`s neutrality. This would make it compulsory to evolve an
alternative national narrative, which itself should have clear imprints of the people and their
elected representatives, rather than of those individuals and institutions whose handiwork
was the narrative that had brought us to this state of chaos.

Keeping in view the long-term perspective of the reforms, one needs to realise that our
actual stakeholders are the people,the federating units,and the nationalities that constitute our
country. Unless permanent settlements are made among them through constitutional means,
and the issues of political participation and representation, resource-sharing, and cooperative
functioning of the federal institutions, one may not hope the reversal of the situation. The
country also needs substantial affirmative actions as far as the marginalised and
subordinated segments of the society are concerned.

A fair representation and a visible uplift of the workers, women, minorities, and the less
developed regions in the body politic and the political economy of the country would be the
minimum in the direction of development and creation of a socially just environment.

Last but not the least, there is the most difficult question: how to change the nature of the
state, for within the framework in which it has worked till now may not ensure the integrity
and prosperity of the country. The diversities within the country can be harmonised, the
differences can be bridged, permanent political settlements can be reached, and social
contracts can be worked out among the people, the nationalities and the federating units, on
one hand, and the state and the society on the other, only as part of a political and
democratic process.
For this to happen, it is inevitable that the political class, political organisations and the civil
society, all come in a position to assert themselves. And for this assertion, it would be
necessary that they overcome their weaknesses.

As the political parties are found at present with quite noticeable democratic deficit, they
may not be able to correct the imbalance between the political class and the extra-political
institutions. Democratic functioning within the parties, their adherence to their own
constitutions, their being able to have well-researched policy options and a clear vision
about where they would like the country to be led, are the essential ingredients of what may
bring them in a position to have a claim on the state power. Certainly, Pakistan`s fate as an
advanced and modern state lies in its emerging as a state with social welfare as its prime
objective, but for this to happen it would have to have a total shift in its paradigm of state.
The writer is a professor at Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi.
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Evolving a democratic nation-state


THE Lahore Resolution portrays a vision formulated through a consultative, democratic
process. The creation of the original State of Pakistan in 1947 and its post-1971 renewal
represent a continuation with periodic suspensions of participative methods to achieve state
stability and national cohesion.

Whether through non-official mechanisms such as political parties (most of which are
internally non-democratic!) or through official elective institutions such as Parliament, the
democratic principle, often elusive, remains a fundamental ideal. This dimension was
distorted by four military interventions. Yet ironically, even in the military-led phases, the
democratic facet was strengthened by the promotion of elected, truly empowered Local
Governments (2001-2008) and the introduction, irreversibly, of private electronic media
(2002 on wards).

But just as the uniquely created national concept and the equally uniquely created State of
Pakistan continue to evolve from the `baby` age of 70 years, so too should democratic
systems be always improved and enhanced. Like the on-going evolution of Pakistani
national identity which can be termed `Pakistaniat`, democracy in Pakistan is a dynamic
work-in-progress.

During the past 70 years, procedures, categories and compositions of our electoral system
and elected institutions were sometimes advanced. For instance, seats in legislatures were
increased to reflect growth of population. There were also substantive improvements. For
example: reserved seats for technocrats in the Senate (1985); power to the indirectly elected
Senate to initiate Bills to amend the Constitution (1985): 17 per cent reserved seats for
women in the Senate, National Assembly and the four Provincial Assemblies, along with 33
per cent reserved seats for women in Local Bodies (2002) all the above four changes
occurring during military-led governments.

The 18th Constitutional Amendment of 2010 is an excellent example of how civil, political,
elected governments can forge a progressive consensus to decentralise power. Yet the same
18th Amendment regrettably added exclusion of non-Muslims from being eligible for
election by the National Assembly as Prime Minister. This came on top of the prior
exclusion of non-Muslims from eligibility for the Presidency. Why are some of us in the 97
per cent so afraid of the only three per cent?! To address new challenges and complexities
that arise in times of rapid change and to deal effectively with issues specific to Pakistan`s
needs we should debate and eventually adopt entirely new features, such as the ten listed
below. These features could strengthen, deepen and reinforce democratic values and
practices. The ten proposed reforms will seem a wish list. So be it. Like long journeys that
begin with small steps, practical changes can begin with impractical-looking dreams.

Substantive changes in electoral and democratic systems and structures require


overwhelming consensus between members who are already part of existing systems. Any
reform that potentially disrupts familiar privileges and predictable continuity is likely to be
strongly resisted. Yet as in some other countries and, on occasions, in Pakistan too, our
legislator shave transcended personal interests. We can begin by debating certain proposals
so as to benefit from open, sustained public discourse and eventually shape constitutional
and legal instruments for reform.

The quorum quandary The first step should be to decisively reduce, if not eliminate
altogether, the quorum problem. This is a virus which infects virtually all legislatures. Even
when there is substantive business to consider, majority ruling parties or coalitions are
frequently unable to ensure the minimum required attendance. All legislators, especially
directly-elected representatives, face enormous pressures on their time to address voters` and
constituencies` problems, myrlad issues which require personal involvement.

However, there is absolutely no justification for the recurring tendency of the vast majority
of legislators to remain absent from forums in most sittings. Being elected to a legislature is
one of the highest honours that can be bestowed.

Persistent absenteeism insults those very citizens who have granted this distinction to their
representatives.

To deal with extreme apathy, extreme disincentives would be fully justified. These can be
heavy fines, loss of voting privileges, and expulsion for an x number of future sittings.

Different options can be candidly debated before adoption.

Make voting compulsory A second critical need is to make representation in legislatures


authentically participative, and representative of the electorate. The country`s entire electoral
system is an unthinking imitation of the first-past-the-post system used by Westminster and
widely practised, as in the USA, India and elsewhere. But merely because the system is
practised elsewhere does not oblige us to follow suit. Our conditions require innovation or
adaptation. To illustrate the virtual absurdity of this system, let us assume there are five
candidates in a given constituency. Four candidates get more votes on a combined basis than
the fifth candidate who leads the rest simply because of obtaining say, just one vote more
than the second highest competitor. Yet the fifth candidate goes on to represent all those
who voted against him and who are larger in number than those who voted for her or him.
To cap it all, only about 50 per cent of the registered voters bother to vote.

Which means the winner also represents those who did not vote at all. To make the first-
past-the-post system both non-participative and un-representative of public opinion.

Two reforms can redress this anomaly. One: to make voting compulsory for all citizens aged
18 and above, as is done in over 20 countries of the world, including Australia, Argentina,
Bolivia, Belgium, Egypt, Greece, Singapore. In such a system, there are penalties in case of
failure to fulfil an essential duty in a democratic state i.e. to vote, to elect representatives and
thus take individual self-responsibility for the composition and performance of legislators.
Two: it is equally necessary to allow for a second round of voting in situations when the
candidate with the highest number of votes has secured less than 50 per cent of the total
registered votes. In a second round, of, say, the top two vote-getters, only the candidate
securing a minimum of 51 per cent of the total registered votes should be eligible to
represent a constituency.

A directly-elected Senate The third reform is required to address the fact that Pakistan is
possibly the world`s most asymmetrical federation. Punjab contains more people than all the
other three provinces combined. Another province Balochistan comprises an area almost as
large as the other three provinces.But it has the smallest population. A directly-elected
Senate with financial powers would alone be able to ensure equity and equanimity between
all constituent units of the Federation. In the existing directly-elected National Assembly
with sole final financial powers, the large numbers from Punjab give an unfair advantage to
one province alone over the other three less populated provinces. With a directly-elected
Senate comprising equal numbers from each province, the two principles of population, and
of Federalism, would be evenly balanced with both Federal Legislatures representing direct-
voting choices.

A directly-elected President A fourth reform worth consideration is to enable the President


to be directly-elected. At one stroke, this would promote inter-provincial convergence and
national cohesion. When a Presidential candidate would need to secure significant numbers
of votes in, say, Gwadar, Balochistan as well as, say, in Gawal mandi, Lahore, we would
move faster and closer towards national integration. Currently, as per the Parliamentary
system, a Prime Minister, theoretically, needs not win a single vote from any of the smaller
provinces such as Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As long as she or he wins
from a single constituency from Punjab and as long as his party wins a majority of seats, the
individual has a good chance to become Prime Minister of a State comprising four
provinces, without voters in three provinces placing their confidence in him. To date, the
country has had only indirectly-elected Presidents e.g. President Ayub Khan via the basic
democrats process or Presidents Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf through
referendums. When residents of all provinces become directly connected to the election of
the Head of State who would also be the Chief Executive, the federated state would be
enormously strengthened. To allow for the virtues of a Parliamentary system to co-exist with
a directly-elected President, adaptation could be attempted from the French model.

A shared Presidency The fifth suggestion arises as an alternative to a directly-elected


Presidency and is associated with twin considerations. Firstly, to give each constituent unit
of the Federation a continuous involvement at the highest level of the State. Secondly, to
reduce the role of superficial charisma. This could be achieved by adapting the Swiss model
whereby members of a Council of Ministers that represents the constituent units of the Swiss
State share the term of office with each member becoming Head of State fora given period
e.g. 12 months.

Directly-elected women legislators Sixth: while the reserved seats for women in all three
tiers of the legislative sectors have made a distinct difference in giving women a new
political profile, there is a need to consider options by which, on a rotational basis, a certain
percentage of seats could be contested only by women candidates.

This would endow far greater legitimacy, authority and credibility to women`s participation
in political affairs than does their participation through reserved seats.

The seats earmarked for women-only candidates could be shifted across provinces over
several elections spread over a15 to 20-year period so that all constituencies are able to
provide opportunities to capable women leaders.

Local is focal Instead of describing Local Government bodies as the `lowest tier`, the
seventh reform should reverse the whole sequence by placing the grassroots level,
community-based tier at the apex of democratic structures.

And, by holding their polls before the Federal and Provincial polls. It is only when these
institutions in which citizens and their representatives are able to frequently interact with
each other at a neighbourhood level, become truly empowered and entrenched will we be
able to build purposeful structures at the Provincial and Federal levels.

Health and Education national, not provincial alone Though the 18th Amendment
substantively devolved power from the Federal level to the Provincial, there appears to have
been a dangerous abdication by the Federal Government of responsibility for the social
sector, including the vital subjects of education, health and population growth. The eighth
measure would require the Centre to retain a holistic, harmonious, unifying national vision
for the qualitative nurturing and well-being of citizens, without interfering in, or curbing the
authority of the Provincial Governments.

Political parties reforms The ninth and tenth reforms should deal with political parties. One
possible measure is a formula by which political parties that fulfil criteria of genuine
representation and enjoy a given number of certified members, receive funding from the
public exchequer. As practised in several countries, state funding of political parties, in
whole or in part, could eliminate the scope for corruption and under-hand practices by which
illicit money and political parties are synonymous.

Candidates routinely grossly under-report actual expenditures on election campaigns.

Creation of a Political Parties Commission The tenth measure should be the creation of a
Political Parties Commission. While the Election Commission does presently register and
validate political parties, it already has a vast, multi-layered responsibility to conduct
elections and deal with the numerous pre-poll, poll and post poll issues.

Whereas, a Commission exclusively tasked with the monitoring of parties would make a
notable contribution to the evolution of stable democratic organisations. This body would
exclusively regulate the functioning of political parties, conduct internal party elections to
prevent manipulation, discourage perpetuation of family dynasties and cliques, demand
complete transparency and accountability, and encourage equity and fairness in the award of
party tickets and in the formulation of party policies. To guarantee that such a Commission
acts impartially, political parties could be represented in the Membership of the Commission
which could also include independent eminent citizens, serving or former judges, and
administrators.

Doubts probably already exist for each of the above ten proposals. Just as the likelihood that
for every possible solution, there is a new problem. The critical task is to dispassionately
examine each option to refine and enhance democracy, to move from 1940 to 2040 and
beyond with processes and systems that cope with new realities and challenges. The writer, a
former Senator & Federal Minister, is a Member of the Senate Forum for Policy Research.
State and national interest
NATIONAL interest is the most misunderstood and controversial term in Pakistan. As the
country is commemorating 77th anniversary of the proclamation of Lahore Resolution, it is
time to ponder on why state version of national interest tends to be parochial and how the
pursuance of non-traditional approach on national interest is imperative to effectively deal
with issues which divide and polarise the country.

Like many post-colonial states, Pakistan is faced with the predicament of state`s assertion of
national interest and the crisis which is created by identifying vital and supreme interests of
the country in contradiction with the interests of majority of people. What is national interest
and how is it perceived by the state actors in Pakistan since its inception as an independent
state? Why state is unable to redefine national interest in consonance with the interests of
people rather than the interests of the elites? How national interest, if redefined, can promote
social and human development and transform Pakistan from a security to a welfare state?
These are the questions which are raised by those who consider state`s interpretation of
national interest devoid of reason and prudence.

Hans J. Morgenthau, a noted political scientist in his essay, `The Primacy of National
Interest` argues that, `It is not only a political necessity, but also a moral duty for a nation to
always follow in its dealings with other nations but one guiding star, one standard of
thought, one rule for action the national interest.` According to Merriam Webster dictionary,
`national interest is the interest of a nation as a whole held to be an independent entity
separate from the interests of subordinate areas or groups and also of other nations or
supranational groups.` As mentioned by Martin Griffiths and Terry O`Callaghan,in Key
concepts in International Relations, `The concept is usually used in two related ways. On
one hand, the word interest implies a need that has, by some standard of jurisdiction,
attained the status of an acceptable claim on behalf of the state.

On the other hand, the national interest is also used to describe and support particular
policies. The problem is how to determine the criteria that can establish a correspondence
between the national interests expressed as a principle and the sorts of policies by which it is
advanced.` According to Mark R. Amstutzin his book International Conflict and
Cooperation, `National Interest, a concept is rooted in a country`s dominant values and
orientations and, in particular, in the nature and character of nationalism and ideology of the
state. Because national interests define the fundamental wants of states, they provide not
only a broad vision and direction to society but a foundation for identifying the more
specific and concrete national goals.

Furthermore, according to Graham Evans and Jeffrey Newnhaum in The Penguin Dictionary
of International Relations, `National Interest is an analytical tool identifying the goals or
objectives of foreign policy and as an all-embracing concept of political discourse and
specifically to justify particular policy preferences. In both senses it refers to the basic
determinants that guide state policy in relation to the external environment. It applies only to
sovereign states and relates specifically to foreign policy: the internal variety usually being
characterised as the public interest.

The debate on national interest centres around four major dimensions. First, the traditional
notion of national interest refers to state security paradigm in which the emphasis and focus
is on protecting the country`s territorial borders, integrity and sovereignty. In order to ensure
state-centric national interest, the priority is given to substantial military buildup and the
diversion of resources from development to defence.

State-centric national interest to a large extent tends to shape Pakistan`s foreign and
domestic policies while neglecting social and human development. The placement of Islamic
ideology as a pillar in national interest is also a source of controversy. Should Pakistan
continue to assert itself as an ideological state while disregarding sectarian schism and the
role of religious minorities? Owen Bennett Jones in his book Pakistan: Eye of the Storm
(Yale University Press, 2002) rightly argues that, `Many of the men who led the Muslim
League, Muhammad Ali Jinnah included, never envisaged the creation of a state in which
Islam would provide the framework for all political activity. Like most of his followers,
Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a modernist. His educational background owed more to
Oxbridge than Deoband. Jinnah, meanwhile, viewed most of the Ulema as ignorant, power
hungry, and often corrupt, theocrats`.

How far state-centric national interest is logical depends on the nature of state. In an
authoritarian state, parochial and inward notion of national interest shapes the perceptions of
people because the lack of democracy provides no room for dissent.

But, if the state is enlightened and democratic, state narrative of national interest is
challenged by a counter narrative. Those not subscribing to state centric ideology based
primarily on religion and security, thought process and policies are termed as non-
conformists and against the interests of the country. The amalgamation of state-centric threat
perception and the security concerns of those at the helm of affairs created a dichotomy in
Pakistan`s strategic and security policies, thus, causing a lot of confusion about the very
concept of national interest.

Second, various regimes coming to power in the last 70 years failed to innovate and redefine
national interests on pragmatic grounds.

For instance, it was never the priority of Pakistan`s security establishment to think in terms
of focussing on eradicating major security threats faced by the country ranging from social
and economic backwardness to bad governance, corruption, nepotism and the fragility of
rule of law. The level of insecurity is deepened among the majority of the people of Pakistan
because of poverty, low quality of life, illiteracy, marginalisation of vulnerable segments of
society like women, minorities and children.

Some of the issues, which although highly contested by those opposing state-centric
narrative of national interest, relate to the launching of military operation in the then East
Pakistan, the use of military to quell insurgency in Balochistan and violence in Sindh;
grievances of smaller provinces vis-vis injustices caused by the Punjab dominated military
and civil bureaucracy. State narrative shaping national interest about foreign policy issues
like relations with India, Afghanistan and the United States were equated with patriotism
and loyalty with the country. Third, most of the civilian, military and quasi-military regimes
of Pakistan seldom encouraged debate to redefine national interest according to the changed
national, regional and international situations. Opaque nature of national interests generated
more and more confusion among people and relevant stakeholders. Lack of proper
awareness and knowledge about formulating national interest on pragmatic lines further
compounded crisis in Pakistan`s national security narrative because with meagre thought
process on first understanding and then analysing different dimensions of national interest
accentuated the level of confusion. Crisis in civil-military relations also raised questions and
doubts about national interest narrative because on some matters, the lack of equation
between the two may lead to contradicting narratives. Seldom, there is any effort made by
the civilian regimes to challenge the state-centric national interests because of their
weaknesses and fragility.
Finally, the gap in state and societal version of national interest is a major predicament for
Pakistan because the issues faced by the majority of the people of the country are seldom
categorised as national interests. For the 200 million people of Pakistan, national interest
should centre around social, economic and human development; ensuring human security
and rights; the rule of law and a viable justice system; dealing with environmental issues
which cause deforestation; spread of diseases and scarcity of water and energy.

From any standpoint, national interest means interests of nation as a whole and not interests
of the privileged classes. The interpretation of national interest in case of Pakistan has much
to do with the nature of state. Over developed state and under-developed society provides
space to thoughts and ideas which reflect a mindset of state actors who are unresponsive and
unreceptive to the reality of unresolved issues which cause crisis, chaos, conflict and
violence in society. The age old nexus between feudal-military-bureaucratic elite has
managed to sustain the dominant narrative about national interests which serve their
privileged status and benefits.

Unfortunately, political parties and civil society groups, which were to provide a counter
narrative of national interests, are either divided or weak. In their rank and file also, there is
no dearth of people who support the state narrative of national interest. If the national
interest shaped by state actors representing military and bureaucratic establishment mindset
doesn`t match with the ground realities and only serve a handful of people having control
over the reins of power the responsibility for not providing a counter narrative of national
interests also rests with political parties and civil society groups. Furthermore, even in case
of political parties, there is lack of democratic process and tolerance in their rank and file
which provides an opportunity to non-political forces to weaken political process and
impose their own brand of national interests on people.

How national interest can be redefined and what are the impediments in this regard? Ground
realities depicting the state and society of Pakistan provides marginal hope for redefining
national interests because of two main reasons. First, as long as the culture of patronisation,
dearth of intellectual discourse at the state level to logically understand issues plaguing the
country remains, age old narrative of national interest would continue to dominate the
national scene and deny any scope for challenging policies which undermine socio,
economic and political predicament of people.

Second,as long as there is the tendency and practice to depict interests of elite as national
interest, one cannot expect any transformation in the mindset of those who consider any
deviation from a set pattern relating to national discourse a threat to their interests. Is it wise
on the state of Pakistan to adhere to its national interest referring to strategic ties with Saudi
Arabia,denying India space in Afghanistan, depending on foreign aid, relying on China-
Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for country`s economic development and prosperity?
Redefining national interest would require giving weight age to matters and issues directly
concerned with the survival of the people of Pakistan. Protecting environment, preventing
deforestation, conserving energy, water and food resources, eradicating corruption,
nepotism, adhering to proper work ethics, ensuring the rule of law, efficient and affordable
justice system and guaranteeing access to good quality education can surely be termed as
interests vital for the majority of the people of the country.

National security, territorial integrity, sovereignty, protecting national assets from external
attack and aggression are undoubtedly crucial but such vital interests of Pakistan would
remain fragile and vulnerable unless the domestic fault lines dealing with political chaos,
economic and social backwardness, extremism, violence and terrorism are also addressed.
It should be Pakistan`s national interest to empower the vulnerable segments of society,
particularly women, youths and children. Furthermore, Pakistan will be better off if its
national interest also focusses on transforming the country as a welfare, egalitarian,
enlightened and tolerant state instead of being viewed in the world as a dangerous and an
insecure place riddled with extremism, violence, radicalisation of youth, intolerance and
terrorism. It should be the vital interest on the part of state to pursue a policy of self-reliance
instead of being dependent on foreign aid and adding to the country`s national debt. Till the
time mindset of those who play a leading role in shaping Pakistan`s national interest
changes, there is little hope of following a non-traditional approach on providing a counter
narrative on matters of national security and interest. And, national interest must not be only
limited to the domain of foreign policy but critical and crucial issues of human survival
mentioned above must become a core of Pakistan`s national interest. The writer is a
Meritorious Professor of International Relations at the University of Karachi.
Setting the record straight
MARCH 23 is celebrated as a national holiday across the country without any
discrimination of area, language or culture. But a calculated assumption reveals that not
many are actually aware of reasons behind this countrywide celebration or at least are pretty
much divided over its origin.

The first disagreement occurs over the name of the day, most of the people celebrate it as
Pakistan Day since they have gained senses but there are some who call it the Republic Day.

Before plunging into the debate of whether March 23 is Pakistan Day or Republic Day, let
us spend a few minutes trying to understand the difference between the two. As legend has
it, the Lahore Resolution was tabled on March 23, 1940 at the Muslim League Convention
in Lahore and passed the following day, on March 24, 1940.

On February 22, 1941, the Muslim League Working Committee had reportedly decided that
March23 would be celebrated in order to publicise the Pakistan Resolution (which was
initially passed as Lahore Resolution).

But this was before independence. Once our country came into existence on August
14,1947, we started celebrating that day as the Pakistan Day and quite rightly so as it was
our day of independence, our national day.

Despite the fact that Pakistan had come into being, we were still not completely
independent. After independence, Pakistan had the status of a `dominion` one of the self-
governing territories of the British Commonwealth.

To explain this further, if Pakistan government had to take an important appointment or


decision, it would require an approval from the Queen of the United Kingdom.

For example, if there was an appointment to be made on the post of Governor-General or


Prime Minister, our cabinet would send the nominations for the Queen`s approval.

It was then in 1956, when on March 23, Pakistan promulgated its first Constitution and
formally became a `Republic` severing the formal link with Britain.

As the norm is in developed world, the day was celebrated as the Republic Day to mark the
promulgation of Pakistan`s first Constitution.

March 23 was celebrated as Pakistan Day till 1958, when in an unfortunate turn of events on
October 7, 1958, the then president Iskandar Mirza revoked the Constitution and appointed
General Ayub Khan as the Chief Martial Law Administrator. So, now in the absence of a
Constitution, it would have been pretty incongruous to celebrate a day which marked the
promulgation of the said Constitution.

In an apparent attempt to save face, the martial law authorities changed the name of day to
`Pakistan Day` from `Republic Day` but kept celebrating it on the same date March 23.

Now, after many decades have passed since then, one would say that it was a smart move by
the martial law authorities. They, quite technically, twisted a very important chapter of our
country`s history, and managed to do so with so much success that now most of the people
have no clue whatsoever what Republic Day is? Or for that matter, did Pakistan ever have a
Republic Day? We asked these basic questions from the young members of the society,
those who have now entered the professional world but are not much old to have totally
forgotten what they learned in educational institutions -or at least that`s the general
assumption.

Omer Ali Siddiqui, a civil engineer by profession, said that March 23 was the Pakistan
Resolution Day, the day when Muslims leaders of the sub-continent passed a resolution to
form a separate country where their fellow brethren could live peacefully and according to
their beliefs. When asked whether he celebrates it or not, Siddiqui said the practice has
varied over the years.

`A few times I have woken up to watch the special television broadcast, while sometimes I
have volunteered to work on that day,` he said.

Narjis Fatema, a public relations officer at a semi-government institution, had probably


forgotten the significance of the day. She was asked twice, but both the times she ended up
replying something else.When asked what day we celebrate on March 23, her first reply was
`Defence Day` which she later changed to the day when Allama Iqbal had first conceived the
idea of a separate nation at the annual gathering of All India Muslim League in 1930.
Fatema later admitted that she was taught the significance of March 23 at school and
university level but she had conveniently forgotten it.

Af ter this, there was no point asking whether she celebrated it or not.

Nousheen Ashraf, a federal government employee, said March 23 was one of the national
holidays in the country and it was celebrated to mark the passing of Lahore Resolution
which later led to the making of Pakistan.

She celebrated the day by watching Pakistan Day parade, a parade where military displays
its might. When asked whether she was ever told about March 23 being a Republic Day too,
her reply was a resounding NO.

`We were never taught this at our school and neither did I get to know this later,` she
explained.Aamna Saiyid, a journalist by profession, said the practice to celebrate Pakistan
Day started in 1956 to mark the promulgation of the country first Constitution.

`But after the said Constitution was abrogated in 1958, March 23 ceased to be the `Republic
Day`, since then it is observed as `Pakistan Resolution Day` to mark the day when All India
Muslim League moved a resolution for the formation of a separate homeland,` said Saiyid.

When asked how she celebrated the day, Saiyid said she spent most of the time reading
editorials, articles and blogs published to commemorate the day.

Madiha Khalil, a visual artist and designer by profession, was of the opinion that March 23
marks the day when the first building block for the formation of Pakistan was laid.

`I have always celebrated this day in my school, college and then university, and most likely
this year I will have to celebrate it at home since it`s a holiday from work that day,` said
Khalil.

Mona Batool, a recent graduate and now a public relations practitioner, said the day was
celebrated because Lahore Resolution was passed on that day.

But when asked further, she said she knew it was the Republic Day too and that our country
first constitution was also passed on the same date.

`It`s the day when Pakistan became an Islamic Republic, in fact the first Islamic Republic in
the world,` said Batool, adding that she had been taught this at school and university level.

If asked to draw a conclusion from the above mentioned survey data, one can safely assume
that there is not much awareness about March 23 being a Republic Day too.

And even in educational institutions the significance of the day is not taught in its complete
form, or perhaps, we find it too convenient to forget.
Teaching what actually matters
AFTER concluding the debate of whether March 23 should actually be called Pakistan Day
or Republic Day, one might not get a definite answer but one thing surfaces predominantly
and that is the absolute absence of awareness regarding the matter.

The debate will always hold its charm whether March 23 should be celebrated as Pakistan
Day or Republic Day, but one fears that there will not be many people left to hold this
debate in near future. The teaching or rather preaching of history has always been a
questionable element, not only in this part of the world but across the globe. But what is
alarming here is the absence of the urge to reject state propaganda or agenda and make some
effort to do justice with the actual events.

The base of this starts at school, where we are not encouraged to dig new things, and the list
goes long till the university. The problem with education in Pakistan is that it is happy being
monotonous and everyone is okay with it. Let us take up the issue at hand, and analyse how
much our educational institutions have been able to educate our students about the difference
between Pakistan Day and Republic Day, and how much they themselves are aware about it.

Fatima Raza, a Mass Communication graduate who now teaches at a leading school in
Karachi, said her knowledge about the day was same as what was being available on the
internet, implying that when or if asked about anything, she uses internet search to educate
herself and subsequently teach her students about it. The views of Asma Ishaq, who teaches
at a reputed primary school, were a bit different. She was all motivated and pumped up
about the `generally known` history regarding the celebrations of the day.

`It`s the day when Muslims of the subcontinent showed their unanimous power and resolve.
This event is still considered themost vital factor in the history of creation of Pakistan,` she
said when asked about what she teaches her students about the significance of the day.

Ishaq went all philosophical when asked about how she thinks this day should be celebrated.
`As an individual, I think celebration is not about having a holiday or a day off. First we
should question ourselves, like the people back in those times, if are we actually capable of
bringing such resolutions that could change the course of this country towards betterment,`
she said.

`Today my celebration goes in the manner of realisation that how far I am from that goal,
and how resolute I am towards it. I try to implement this every day when I stand to teach.

Tooba Masood, a journalist who also teaches at a private university, said the students were
not much concerned about the events that led to the creation of Pakistan. `They are more
interested to know about the bloodshed that followed the creation.

She said that regarding March 23, she teaches her students about the importance of Lahore
Resolution adopted at the site where Minar-i-Pakistan has now been built to mark that
gathering.

`That day was a big step towards creation of Pakistan as only seven years after this
resolution was passed Pakistan came into being,` Masood said, as she talked about March
23.

Khushboo Rafiq, who teaches at a government university, said generally she tells her
students the same that has been mostly propagated about the observance of March 23.

`But when it`s an academic debate in the classroom then I explain all the historical
happenings,` she maintained.

Concluding this debate one would realise that no matter what process should be adopted but
actual historical happenings must find their way to the students so that they are aware of
their true history and don`t end up living in a myth bubble.
A holiday all want to enjoy but not to celebrate
MARCH 23 will not be celebrated in any of the schools in Sindh! Surprisingly, as it may
sound, almost all primary and secondary schools will be hosting exams. And this year is no
exception since every year, Secondary School Certificate exams in Sindh are held during
this time. My only reservation to this scheme of things is the fact that Pakistan Day has now
become a mere day off to the nation. We might as well put an end to this and announce a full
working day if the purpose of this day has become to enjoy a paid holiday.

The Independence Day meets the same fate in most schools as the day is celebrated on
August 13, to avail a holiday on the designated date. Otherwise, if God forbid, the
Independence Day is celebrated on its actual day, a holiday has to be given in lieu of the
gazetted holiday.

As an academician with over four decades of experience, it usually pains me to write about
days like these since I usually end up ranting about the degeneration and moral depravity of
the society in general. I admit that this article will not be different. It is filled with remorse,
angst, furore-cum-frustration over the current state of affairs. Although, hopeless and
dejected, I, in my individual capacity, make a concerted effort to keep the spirit of the
national days alive and intact through seminars, quiz and debate competitions et al. (not to
mention at the cost of announcing holiday the next day).

As a first generation Pakistani, born soon after independence, this day holds a different
meaning and concept to that of the new generation. Why? It is probably due to the fresh
memory of our parents` and their parents` immigration communicated through anecdotes
and in some cases through manifestation of life-long scars that fuelled in us the collective
sacrifice and nationalistic fervour; something which the new generation seems oblivious
about at best.

So the only way left to make the kids understand the meaning of this piece of land is through
literary efforts like this supplement, re-enactment through plays and dramas on TV screens
and in educational institutes. Hoisting a flag and parading soldiers will remain only symbolic
endeavours and means to inflate our egos unless it is fortified by making these feeble minds
understand the reason of this country`s establishment and the cost our ancestors had to
bearto acquire independence.

March 23 marks the celebration of a resolve! A resolve that was made, adhered to and
executed to a tangible and palpable outcome. The resolve was to build a new sovereign state.
The fruits of the resolve came about 77 years ago for a people that today cannot even stick to
a banal new year`s resolution! The day that marks the tradition of commitment to a cause
comes and goes by as a ceremonial national holiday.

Soon after the creation of the homeland, spirit of this resolve had lost its very meaning. The
end of colonial rule and the emergence of new state brought, in its wake, the untold miseries.
Millions of people were maimed, gagged, brutalised, tortured, killed and uprooted.The
nascent state apparatus and resources were insufficient to take control of the upheaval of an
unprecedented scale. In this milieu, the new state failed to fulfil its responsibility to provide
a safe and better life. In newly formed state, after the colonisers departed, the vacuum was
filled by a coterie of selfish and opportunist politicians; thus, a continuation of old order.
Soon after Jinnah`s Pakistan was hijacked and those who were at the helm of affairs rather
than providing sound footings to thenewly created state focussed their energies in selfish
motives and acquiring power and pelf for their own selves. The seeds of corruption, sown
after the creation of Pakistan, have now become a full grown tree.

Political stability in this unfortunate land has become a farfetched dream. We have
continued to oscillate between quasi-civilian and quasi-military rule, thereby giving way to
centralised structure in which the welfare of masses has never been a top priority. No serious
effort has ever been made to produce a generation imbibed with quality education and high
ideals. The result is obvious; with a volatile way of life where people show no morality.

Instead of producing civilised and cultured youth, our dysfunctional education system has
produced unprincipled, uncouth and wild youth who do not know the meaning of civility.

The semi-literate teachers, who themselves are the product of the corrupt education system,
cannot provide guidance andinculcatein your youth the sense of right and wrong. National
days are considered to be an addition of plethora of holidays on different pretexts.
Imagine when millions of students who are enrolled in public sector educationalinstitutions
do not attend classes regularly andteachers only attend to affix their signatures on attendance
registers. A typical day in public-sector organisations functions only for five hours without
any strict regimen. Those, who are enrolled, do not put hard work and discipline. Therefore,
it is nave to think that we will ever be a hard working nation. Until and unless we ensure
transparency and accountability, our archaic and rotten system cannot be set right.

Teachers who perceive themselves as paragon of wisdom are the leasteducated lot.

Since independence, our state has assumed the role of `Oppressor` and the wretched masses
are oppressed.Soitis obviousthat all those who are in authority exhibit oppressor like
mentality and behaviour. Similarly, in our education system it is the `pedagogy of the
oppressed` which has been practised for the last 70 years. Teachers consider themselves
knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Paulo Freire, a Brazilian
Marxist educationist in his masterpiece, `Pedagogy of the Oppressed`, writes that projecting
an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology
ofoppressionnegateseducation and knowledge as process of inquiry. It is this way that
students are unable to develop criticalcon-sciousness and it minimises their creative powers.
Year after year, our educational institutes are churning graduates whose world views are
limited and possess no visionary approach. For them, the importance of national days is
negligible as they are accustomed to having a day off on those particular dates. Unless the
whole educational system is revamped, we cannot expect any significant change in our
youth.

Every year, we celebrate our national days with false sense of pride, and all the pomp and
show in the glare of TV lights is mere eyewash. My generation has been witnessing the
same for the last 50 or so years; same special newspaper editions with same messages from
the powers (messages with no value and meaning to us, only the faces change). This is an
un-ending way of life for us which leaves us depressed and pessimistic with little faith in
real progress.

Upholding a commitment and standing by a resolution need a committed and honest


leadership and reinforced by education and upbringing. With a dearth of these essential
components, commitment to a cause has become a thing of the past. E The writer is a senior
teaching professional.
Challenging times
SIR Zafarullah Khan, a well-known figure from Pakistan`s political history, is credited to
have drafted the Lahore Resolution, popularly termed as Pakistan Resolution, adopted in
March 1940. The text highlights the constitution of Muslim states that shall be independent
and `sovereign`. Political scientists inform that the term refers to a self-governing state, a
dimension that was always held in high significance by the makers of Pakistan. We
remember that Mr Jinnah left the matter of framing the constitution of the country entirely at
the disposal of constituent assembly, in order to make the free will of the people prevail.

But importance of sovereignty did not remain a constant factor in our political life. After
Pakistan came into being, many incidents and steps informed that the people`s will was not
held as supreme power and that many external and internal influences eroded the status of
sovereignty. Recent episodes also point in this direction.

The founders of Pakistan were very categorical about the theory and practice of sovereignty.
Even during the transitional phase of acquiring independence, Mr Jinnah did not
compromise on any minute matter that may have cast a shadow on the working
independence of Pakistan. History is replete with evidences where he set aside otherwise
attractive offers whenever an eclipse was found approaching towards the independence of
policy and action of the state.

Refusal to accept Lord Mountbatten as the joint GovernorGeneral of the neo-independent


dominions is an example in point. Also, despite the fact that Pakistan faced real threats to its
security and existence, Mr Jinnah refused to accept any direct interference from any power
including the United States. Once this balance glided below equilibrium, the sovereignty
was directly affected. Thirty-two years of military rule, in various ebbs and flows,
transformed the issue of defence purchases and cooperation into the policy of compromise.
Whether it was the grant of Badaber post (near Peshawar) to the USA for U2 Spy plane
flights in 1950s or the fighting of proxy battles and wars, the sovereignty was the most
visible casualty. It is ironic to note that during the rule of Z.A. Bhutto, the aftermath of 1977
election could not be settled without the involvement of the ambassador of a `brotherly`
country. The same brotherly country hosted in exile another former Prime Minister and his
clan . Similarly the appointment of services chiefs is a routine matter in statecraft. When
military chiefs are appointed, our concerned political leaders are believed to balance the
possible responses from `friendly` foreign countries and `not-sofriendly` super powers.
Besides, during and after general elections, diplomatic staff of a few countries becomes very
active. When a divided verdict is given by people leading to coalition governments, political
parleys are often facilitated by ambassadors of super powers, leading to the formation of
government. Even the earlier arrival of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and promulgation of NRO
were alleged to have been facilitated by our `friends` in war on terror.

On the security front, the people of tribal belt braved the drone assaults for many years.
Questions about the status of our sovereignty were also raised. Upon questioning, the top
security apparatus summarily dismissed contentions about loss of territorial sovereignty on
this count. The sad part of these chain developments is the shameless adoption of these
desperate policies by regimes that belong to opposite political camps and ideologies. One of
the stern challenges that needed at least a circumspect assessment is the recognition of loss
of sovereignty and measures to re-gain it to the tangible limits. Weakened, politically
bankrupt and strategically retreating regimes in our history used to gamble the last traces of
working factors of sovereignty in bargains to stay on the pedestal of power. Ironically,such
meddling has been spearheaded by more than one external power groups in an overt manner.

The sovereignty of the country has faced blows due to the compromised legitimacy of
regimes. It has parallels in the national history in the former regimes of Ayub, Yahya and
Zia eras. The gross violation of territorial frontiers by unwanted elements from across the
border, weakened grips on crucial foreign policy matters, incapability to streamline the
unregulated links between various countries and local groups, inability to generate a national
agenda of governance and economic priorities and even increasing influence of super
powers on most sensitive issues such as nuclear assets are few indications in this respect.
Nationhood cannot be effectively practised without the freedom of policy formulation and
practice by any country. In our case, the central fibre of our nation has been threatened due
to the rising interference of powers in the east as well as the west. State relations have been
reduced to contractual arrangements for fulfilling the various spelled out and even
clandestine terms of reference.

If one glances through the newspapers and media reports about development and business,
the `Chinese factor` pops out as a very visible entity. The Sindh Solid Waste Management
Board awarded a contract to Chinese firm to manage municipal waste in two districts in
Karachi. A Chinese firm is awardedtwo contracts to carry out civil works at the Dasu Dam
at a cost of Rs. 180 billion. Not too long ago, the KPK government signed a railways project
with a Chinese concern interlinking several cities at the cost of 1.6 billion dollars. The
defence cooperation and other forms of strategic cooperation of high monetary value also
extend into billions of dollars, perhaps more! While no one denies the importance and
worthiness of the ties between the two countries, one also needs to view the fact whether our
independence in decision-making shall remain intact in the wake of exponentially rising
strategic and business clout of one country. In terms of strategic advantages and comparative
merits, one must also compare whether the rise and promotion of such enterprises with the
support of a single country is desirable or should one also diversify our canvass of
cooperation. Impacts on our business, engineering and commercial sector, effects on the
livelihoods and employment of our youth and future status of our sovereignty become key
points of a debate that must be generated without delay. The retrospect informs us that our
rulers and many stakeholder groups connived to make the country a state which was seldom
shy of begging from external agencies, donor institutions and foreign governments.
Successes in such pursuits were touted as a sound achievement! The outcome of direct
foreign influence has spread out impacts. From foreign policy to social welfare and from
education to scientific developments, the implications can be felt.

US prying towards changing the curricula of secondary, higher secondary and higher
education for secularisation some years ago; limited progress to evolve technologies
fornuclear power generation despite being a nuclear weapon state; unabated privatisation of
enterprises and assets, including profit making concerns; forced promotion of pseudo liberal
values in the cultural domain and gradual maiming of civil society movements to pave the
way for elements compliant to dictatorship are some noted outcomes. The issue has been
dealt with so craftily that even the manifestoes of leading political parties during the
previous elections have not included restoration of sovereignty as a major factor. Myths
have been created that without direct support of foreign powers, the survival of the nation
may be jeopardised. And the foreign powers have used this handicap to their full advantage
by making the most of changing situations for their respective agendas.

The near future may not see a drastic change in the scenario. However the encouraging rise
in the political consciousness and struggle to restore civil liberties is likely to pave the way
for a positive change. If the political process continues and mass awareness of the society is
able to assert itself upon the legislators, administrators and decision makers, tenets of
sovereignty may be restored. Besides, a balanced and responsible media can help monitor
the interferences by external actors and support in shaping a rational public opinion. While
Pakistan must keep cordial relations with all nations and peoples, it must gain complete
control on deciding about her own affairs.