Is Pakistan another Weimar Republic?

The present economic, political, and security situation, marred by uncertainty, cannot be addressed within the present political framework. Neo-leftists, representing the armchair liberals, and the religious carpetbaggers are waiting in the wings to exploit the chaos and collapse the already tottering government.

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“The Weimar Republic was Germany’s government from 1919 to 1933, the period after World War I until the rise of Nazi Germany. It was named after the town of Weimar where Germany’s new government was formed by a national assembly after Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated.

From its uncertain beginnings to a brief season of success and then a devastating depression, the Weimar Republic experienced enough chaos to position Germany for the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.” It is remembered as a shaky republic that could not stand up to the challenges Germany was facing during the post-WWI era.

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Is Pakistan another Weimar Republic?

In October 1958, Iskander Mirza, Pakistan’s first civilian president, abrogated the constitution, declared martial law, and appointed Ayub Khan as the Chief Martial Law Administrator and Prime Minister, Some two weeks later, Ayub Khan dismissed Iskander Mirza and became the President. In 1962, Ayub lifted the martial law, gave the country a presidential constitution, and became a civilian president.

During his almost eleven-year rule, Ayub Khan gave political stability to Pakistan, introduced agricultural reforms by reducing the size of landholdings, modernized the family laws, and ushered in an era of industrialization.

 Is democracy a dollhouse?

Democracy is not a dollhouse, festooned to impress the onlookers. It is also not a mechanical toy that has a legislature, an executive branch, and a judiciary performing like mechanical parts. Democracy, on the other hand, is a form of governance that facilitates a better quality of life for its people, a quality of life that incorporates the provision of life’s necessities, safety, and security of all the inhabitants of the country.

Presidential and parliamentary systems are the two forms of democracy. There also is a third form which is an amalgam of both the parliamentary and the presidential systems. The French constitution is an apt example of the third form. The chief executive, i.e. the president or the prime minister, again, can be elected either directly or through an electoral college. A very complex mixture of direct and indirect elections is in vogue in the United States. All the three systems of democracy are functioning well in the countries which have, throughout generations, cultivated democratic cultures.

Why have we seen both the parliamentary system and the presidential system fail in Pakistan? 

Democracy has floundered in countries like Pakistan which are still shackled by tribalism and feudalism. It is because, as I have exemplified above, our state institutions function as the parts of a mechanical toy. Our legislature, executive branch, and judiciary abuse the powers vested in them by the constitution. We come across the manifestation of this abuse in everyday life, so there is no need to go into the details.

Read more: Anatomy of Pakistan’s chronic political instability

Muzzling the press, throttling political dissent, and abusing human rights are again due to a feudal and tribal mindset that permeates the deepest recesses of our society. A few observations about the muzzling of the press- In even the functional democracies like Britain and the United States, newspapers like the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Guardian submit their content to the government pre-censor. The same is true for the BBC. So it is not something free for all in the established democracies also.

After Zia, a crop of politicians emerged who ruled Pakistan like the Asian Weimar Republic. That Bhutto- Zardari and Sharif clans behaved in this manner is beyond doubt. However, after becoming the PM, Imran Khan also failed to rise to the occasion and remained confined to the cocoon of his cricket captaincy. Now, the captain of a cricket team is responsible for leading his team to victory against the rival teams. However, the team selection, training, administration, logistics, etc., is the responsibility of the cricket control board. Imran Khan, after entering the corridors of power, remained in the same Cloud Cuckoo World (pardon me if I have used the wrong expression) in which he lived during his captaincy.

Not that Imran Khan failed altogether

He tried to tackle the hopeless state of the economy that he inherited from the Noon League – a laissez-faire economy where the government resorted to massive foreign borrowing to keep the dollar exchange rate artificially low, where there was no documentation, and money laundering was the order of the day, and where the dirty rich squirreled away their ill-gotten wealth in foreign banks and properties.

I had written earlier:

“All the politicians, starting from ZAB, down to Nawaz and IK, came to power by concluding some sort of understanding or deal with the Army. All of them, backed by the Deep State, performed according to their abilities and were shown the door when they had either outlived their utility or earned enough money to last for a lifetime. This is what happened with the Sharifs and Zardaris.

If history is not to be limited to mere teaching in educational institutions, now is the time to learn from our experience and not repeat our past mistakes. Taking stock of what mistakes we had committed in the past.

The present economic, political, and security situation, marred by uncertainty, cannot be addressed within the present political framework. Neo-leftists, representing the armchair liberals, and the religious carpetbaggers are waiting in the wings to exploit the chaos and collapse the already tottering government. The vacuum, thus created, will be filled by the Fascist forces. Bold decisions will have to be taken. This implies holding the 1973 constitution in abeyance and declaring a state of emergency in the country.

Read more: What’s next after the regime change in Pakistan?

So, look inward. Consolidate the country and concentrate on building up the economy., even as the Japanese did after Commodore Perry blockaded the Tokyo Bay on 8th July 1853. It was only after building up its industrial and military power that Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. Japan was defeated during WW2 because at that time America was the sole nuclear power.

Finally, IK might have been a weak ruler – governance is different from playing cricket. But rest assured that Shehbaz Sharif, despite sending funny Tweets and donning an equally funny hat, will not be the replacement. So is the case with Bilawal – Zardari’s public face.


Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.