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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Changing the colonial mindset in Pakistan

The current generation of anti-colonial activists is still sufficiently disadvantaged to find it necessary to give reminders of what colonialism was like. They know that many in the West still don’t fully appreciate what colonialism entailed from the point of view of the colonized.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah the father of the nation warned against the Colonial Mindset that persisted in most institutions that we inherited at the time of partition in August 1947. While addressing the officers at the Staff College at Quetta in the year 1948 he said; “Do not forget that the armed forces are the servants of the people. You do not make national policy; it is, we civilians, who decide these issues and it is your duty to carry out these tasks with which you are entrusted”.

To the Gazetted officers, he said; “You do not belong to the ruling class; you belong to the servants. Make the people feel that you are their servants and friends maintain the highest standards of honor, integrity, justice and fair play”. About the oath taken by the officers he said; “I should like you to study the Constitution, which is in force in Pakistan, at present and understand its true constitutional and legal implications when you say that you will be faithful to the Constitution”.

Read more: Revamping of Pakistan’s political system

Faithful to the Constitution is the key word together with being a Servant

I have interviewed several of my friends both serving and retired bureaucrats and armed forces personnel about these two aspects emphasized by the father of the nation, while they agreed with the concept they had no knowledge of the constitution nor considered themselves to be the servants of the people. Perhaps the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the only country in the world that had to formulate four constitutions (1956, 1962, 1972, 1973) yet the debate about a new document is ongoing.

After 75 years of independence, the republic faces an unending ‘Constitutional Crisis’ mainly because no one in authority wants to follow it and live within its formulated boundaries. It was Ayub Khan the first ‘Desi Sipah-e-Salar’ who crossed the line.  Iskander Mirza as Secretary of Defense helped his friend to become the C-N-C (Commander in Chief) despite several adverse performance evaluations. Both Khan and Mirza were graduates of the famous Sandhurst Military Academy in the UK. While Khan stayed in uniform with a very mediocre record of service, Mirza opted for Civil Service.

As a Political Agent during the times of ‘Raj’, he played a key role in retrieving his captured friend from the ‘Tribal Warriors’. Together they started to encroach on power in order to strengthen the ‘Colonial Mindset’. After derailing the democratic order, it was Mirza who abrogated the 1956 constitution in October 1958 by imposing Martial Law thus initiating the process of the break-up of Jinnah’s Pakistan. With all powers in his hands, Khan got rid of his friend and declared himself President, sending Mirza into exile where he perished as an ordinary person to be buried in Tehran because of his matrimonial links.

It was during the rule of the first usurper (October 1958 to March 1969) that terms like ‘Bloody Civilians’ were heard for the first time. All attempts at reforms were thwarted by the colonial institutions (Army, Bureaucracy, and Judiciary). The nation was divided into having and have-nots. Corruption and concentration of wealth into a few hands took place. The first free and fair elections in 1970 proved to be disastrous. Bangladesh emerged on the world map, remained of Pakistan was handed over to the most popular leader of the Western Wing. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) took charge as Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA).

Read more: The quest for independence in Pakistan

With the help of his able team, ZAB first enacted the 1972 Constitution followed by the permanent 1973 version which has proven to be the savior and protector of the democratic order. A constitution is an agreement between the rulers and the ruled which must be followed in letter and spirit as envisioned by the father of the nation but unfortunately it is largely ignored by the elite and the powerful. The Colonial Acts prevail (1923 Official Secrets, 1935 Government of India). In modern management, there is a concept of Job Description (JD) which outlines tasks to be performed with limitations of authority.

Performance evaluations are carried out against the completion of assigned tasks. The constitution provides a similar road map to be followed. In the year 2017, the 1923 Official Secrets Act was replaced with ‘The right to Information Act. Now the bureaucracy cannot hide behind files and paperwork that they control.

Transparency prevails over secrecy and mischief

Despite the fact that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been a constitutional democracy since August 14, 1973, the ground realities remain grim for the masses. The ‘Servants’ and the ‘Constitution’ are nowhere to be found. There is rampant bureaucratic abuse and gross violation of the constitutional provisions that apply to the fundamental rights of the citizen. Despite the fact that the judiciary has a huge backlog of cases the superior courts are shut down for months for summer break enabling the lordships to enjoy their time off. In the days of ‘Raj’ they visited their homes in the Kingdom, now they leave home for the ‘Kingdom’. At least till the entire pending cases are settled the vacations should be withheld, after all, Justice delayed is justice denied.

Read more: Good news: UK allows Pakistani travellers with Chinese vaccines

With a non-functional state apparatus, a choked legal system and disregard for the constitution combined with the ‘Colonial Mindset’ no country can survive or move forward. Jinnah also said; “That no force on earth can undo Pakistan”. Yes, no external force but the enemy is within, perhaps he was convinced that the people of Pakistan will rise to the occasion and protect their freedom but he too underestimated the negative forces within the system which over time have become even more vicious and colonial. Imran Khan calls them the ‘Mafia’ that now controls most institutions. The words of Jinnah echo in my mind; “We civilians who decide these issues”. Where are the decision-makers today? Jinnah must be turning in his grave.


The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at  fmaliks@hotmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.