Daily: Pakistan Observer
Lawyers are commonly considered always engrossed in the law books and busy in
contesting cases to run their law practice. But this is not always the case. Ahmed Awais
Advocate, the ex-President Lahore High Court Bar, broke that myth on October 25 when he
spoke eloquently on a topic encompassing history of Pakistan and gave an intellectual flare
to his talk. Awais was speaking at the platform of Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust, Lahore. The
points Awais elaborated hold merit to be included in today’s column.
The bane of Pakistan is its Jagirdari system, which is still lingering on around. If there were
people who could not aptly appreciate the concept of ideology of Pakistan, they were the
Jagirdars, the people belonging to the land owning class in Punjab. There are several
connotations of the word Jagirdar in other provinces. Just before partition of the Sub-
continent, the land owning class of the area today comprising Pakistan joined the All India
Muslim League (AIML), as these Jagirdars knew that the common people were disposed to
voting for the AIML in the 1945/46 elections. It was sheer opportunism on the part of the
Jagirdars to join the AIML to keep enjoying the crumbs of power and advance their personal
agenda by becoming politicians. In a way, the Jagirdars poised themselves at the plinth by
virtue of which they could exploit the democratic aspirations of the people to watch their
Even after the partition, the same Jagirdars maintained their positions as politicians, as they
could afford the expenditures of the election campaigns. The expenditure factor kept a
common man out of the electoral race. The Jagirdars kept on posing as if they were looking
after the interests of the people but in fact the Jagirdars were there to safeguard their own
agricultural and industrial interests. That is why, the constitution enactment process
delayed for years and botched up every time it was attempted unless the Jagirdars realized
that the military was emerging as another player in politics and counterbalancing their
interests. Consequently, the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan was constituted. But by then the
military was case-hardened to cede its privilege to rule the country.
In the person of late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, there was hope that the military would be made
subservient to the Parliament. But with departure of Bhutto it was established that the
military was a power to be reckoned with. The era of late General Zia ul Haq was an era
essentially of military assertiveness. Nevertheless, the departure of Zia compelled the
military realize that it had to give way to the politicians to perform. Hence, in 1988, it was
established that neither the politicians alone nor the military commanders unaccompanied
could overwhelm the political horizon of the country. Consequently, a compromise on the
respective position came about from both sides – to accept presence of the other whether
liked or not in order to share the political space. In this equation, however, the minus factor
was the people of Pakistan.
Subsequently, the military remained focused on playing a role from behind the scene either
by manipulating elections or by performing a role in make-and-break of the political
alliances to bring forward a creed of politicians of its own choice. Even in 1999, General
Pervaiz Musharraf could not dare declare the post-coup phase a martial law. Musharraf had
to seek partnership of the politicians to give a democratic façade to his presence. Here,
again the opportunistic abilities of the Jagirdars surfaced to shake hands with the coup-
maker by forming the King’s party, the remnants of which are still around.
Another trait of the Jagirdars that has hurt Pakistan deeply is their consideration for
themselves being above the law and deeming the law meant for their subjects to abide by.
This approach also remained a cause of many constitutional violations happened in the
history of Pakistan. Not only were the coup-makers absolved of but also their political
accomplices were pardoned. The phenomenon is still continued unabated.
There is an allegory that Pakistan has always experienced economic prosperity and
infrastructural development during the rule of a military dictator. The oft-quoted example in
this regard is that of performance of General Ayub Khan. Perhaps, no one has thought that
if such were the case then immediately after departure of General Ayub why did the East
Pakistan revolt to get separation? The point is that economic prosperity is one thing but
national integration (nation building) is a different thing. General Ayub failed on the account
of national integration. Rather, during his tenure, the factors leading to national
disintegration spawned which bore fruit in 1971. So, in the policy of a military dictator,
national integration lacks. The same is the case with the era of General Pervaiz Musharraf.
Under the tutelage of Musharraf as the President, an imported banker-turned-Prime
Minister, Shaukat Aziz, claimed high economic growth rate for nine years. At the end of
Musharraf’s tenure, the situation of law and order has worsened to the extent that the west
of Pakistan is on fire and virtually on revolt to the centre. The economic gains of nine years
have dwindled quickly to the extent that Pakistan today is on the verge of being declared
default. History is again repeating itself and beseeching the Pakistanis to learn otherwise
the state of affairs is not less than the circumstances which were in 1971.
Today, Pakistan is entangled in a kind of war which belongs to others but being fought on
the land of Pakistan. There are several powers which are watching their interests in this war
ravaging the tribal belt of Pakistan but creating a counter-strategic depth inside Pakistan.
But where are the interests of Pakistan is the bigger question haunting the minds of the
Pakistanis? No one seems cognizant of the fact that not the Pakistan Army but the tribal
people liberated the part of Kashmir called Azad Kashmir. What in turn these people of the
tribal belt are receiving: bombs and explosions. Secondly, has Pakistan devised the
strategy how to pull out if tomorrow the war on terror is declared over? Of course, one day
all the stake holders from across the world would go back leaving only Pakistan behind to
tackle the backlash of the war.
Pakistan has still been waiting for the time when aspirations of the people and objectives of
the government are in harmony to each other.
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