WASHINGTON DIARY: Unavoidable changes
by: Dr Manzur Ejaz, USA
Courtesy: Daily Times Aug: 5, 2009 & Wichaar.com, Aug: 4th, 2009
Ayub Khan’s military rule, under which the Jama’at-e Islami was almost outlawed and development was the top priority, was very different from the ideological dictatorship and Islamisation of Zia-ul Haq. Similarly, Pervez Musharraf’s era was different from previous military governments in many ways.
Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus described the non-reversible flow of time and history in his most quoted line: “You can never step into the same river twice.” The media reaction to and evaluations of the Supreme Court decision on the November 3 actions of General Pervez Musharraf indicate that this landmark event is being considered the random work of a few good judges that can be undone by forces which had been repeatedly undermining the independent judiciary.
The echo of old ghosts will keep lingering fears alive, as if we will keep stepping into the same river. Most of us are addicted to interpreting every new happening through past experiences without realising that everything is in the process of change. As Allama Iqbal said: “keh aa rahi hey dma dum sadaa-e kun fayakoon” (Every moment, the sound of creation of the world is being repeated).
The Supreme Court’s decision may appear drastic but it should not be surprising in the historical context and changing geopolitical environment. After all, a nation of peasants, artisans and workers in 1947 had to go through a process of maturing over the last 62 years. Like the South American countries that had suffered from dictatorial rule under American shadows and have changed course over the last two decades, the unparalleled decision of the Supreme Court is opening up a new era where Pakistan will not be subject to the cycle of dictatorial rule with patches of democracy.
Some have painted dictatorial and democratic spells in Pakistan with a broad brush as repetitions of each other; they were not. Ayub Khan’s military rule, under which the Jama’at-e Islami was almost outlawed and development was the top priority, was very different from the ideological dictatorship and Islamisation of Zia-ul Haq. Similarly, Pervez Musharraf’s era was different from previous military governments in many ways.
Elected governments were also very different from each other. The first ten anarchic years of so-called democratic administrations had no commonality with the post-Ayub Khan government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s PPP. Similarly, the Junejo, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif periods had their distinct characteristics. Each government addressed unique situations born out of the interaction of different socio-economic forces, because irrespective of the state, society was constantly changing and evolving.
The earliest governments, from 1947 to 1957, were engaged in institutional conspiracies and resolving the contradictions with East Pakistan. However, by 1968, the population in West Pakistan was much more educated and had gained a level of political consciousness absent in pre-Ayub era. According to the law of dialectics, quantitative changes had gathered enough momentum to bring about qualitative change in institutions. General Yahya Khan’s martial law was designed to suppress the emerging such modern, secular and democratic trends in West Pakistan and the separatist slogans in East Pakistan.
The dismemberment of Pakistan, along with Zulfikar Bhutto’s perceived (if not real) pro-poor modern policies had a profound impact on the socio-political matrix of Pakistan. A large part of the conservative ruling classes, the religious parties and the army forged an anti-Bhutto alliance that remained operative for the remainder of the last quarter of the 20th century. Zia-ul Haq’s rule was very different from the Ayub Khan era as far as the priorities and objectives were concerned; it was a response to a different set of challenges than the ones Ayub Khan faced during the 50s and the 60s.
Despite Zia-ul Haq’s theocratic edicts, the proliferation of jihadi forces with the army’s active participation, urbanisation, commercialism, mechanisation of agriculture and interaction with the rest of the world through an unprecedented number of migrant workers were unstoppable forces. The entire society had been reconfigured with the emergence of new classes and social forces. However, state institutions remained stuck in the past. Again, quantitative changes had gathered force, requiring a qualitative change of state institutions. Yet state and society remained disconnected from each other for a long time.
The situation could not linger on forever; either the state was going to collapse or it was going to make necessary corrections. The movement for an independent judiciary was a successful struggle to modernise the state. The Supreme Court’s seemingly drastic decision is just a step in the right direction, to fill the gap between a redundant state and a modern, vibrant society. If some forces try to roll back the SC’s decision, a more violent revolution will explode in the country.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org