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Friday, February 23, 2024

Shaping Governance: Constitution Crafters and Disruptors

In the land of the pure, the breakers have repeatedly prevailed with dire consequences for the nation. Rampant disrespect for the Constitution must be stopped, and some lessons must be learned from the cheating of the agreement between the rulers and the ruled.

“The Constitution of the United States of America was formulated during the convention held in Philadelphia from May to September 1787 and has been hailed as a ‘miracle’. On April 10, 1973, a similar event took place in Islamabad, and the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was approved by consensus to be enacted on August 14, 1973, the day of independence. While the agreement between rulers and the ruled is considered sacred in the USA, it is often disregarded and cheated in Pakistan. The irony is that the constitution breakers have now started to respect the makers while defying the document they are required to follow.”

A 364-page book titled ‘Miracle at Philadelphia’ has been published that narrates the story of the Constitutional Convention. A similar publication is needed to shed light on the efforts of the ‘Constitution Makers’ in Pakistan and expose the ‘Breakers’ who continue to derail the democratic order even after 50 years of the enactment of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Not much has been written about the 1970 elected legislators, who were perhaps the ablest house ever genuinely elected through a free and fair electoral contest. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) led the house, while the legendary Abdul Wali Khan led the opposition.

Read more: Is Sharif family the biggest enemy of Pakistan?

Constitutional Debates and Deadlock

The debates were exceptional from both sides. Having studied in the USA, ZAB desired a Presidential form of government, while the opposition wanted a UK model of Parliamentary democracy. Under the interim 1972 constitution, ZAB enjoyed the powers of the President while Fazal Elahi Chaudhry was the Speaker of the National Assembly. The constitutional building team of experts, under eminent legal minds like Muhammad Ali Qasuri and Abdul Hafiz Pirzada, had worked hard to prepare the document, which could not be approved as there was a serious deadlock. Leading from the front, ZAB decided to seek the help of Abul Ala Maududi, the Amir of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). He arranged a secret meeting at his residence located at Zaildar Park, Ichara.

By the time the news of his arrival leaked out and the students of Islami Jamait-e-Tulba could reach the venue, he had already left after getting the blessings of the Amir. Within a few days after the meeting, the constitution was approved unanimously on April 10, 1973. Maududi Sahib lived in Zaildar Park, where the headquarters of JI was also located, and he was later moved to Mansura after his death. Punjab University (PU) was the major battleground of the politics of the retrogressive right and progressive left, and after every political contest in the university, the victorious side always headed to Zaildar Park to inform the Amir about the victory or loss of his student wing. Slogans were raised there either praising or condemning the Amir, and ZAB’s visit was not taken lightly by either side. However, before they could reach there, the agreement had already been reached.

Read more: Cheating the Constitution after 50 years

A 364-page book titled ‘Miracle at Philadelphia,’ written by Catherine Drinker Bowen, narrates the story of the Constitutional Convention. Similarly, a publication is required to expose the ‘Breakers’ who continue to derail the democratic order in Pakistan, 50 years after the enactment of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Not much has been written about the 1970 elected legislators, who were perhaps the ablest house ever genuinely elected through a free and fair electoral contest.

The leader of the house was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), while the legendary Abdul Wali Khan led the opposition. The level of the debates was exceptional from both sides. ZAB desired a Presidential form of government, as prevalent in the USA, while the opposition wanted a UK model of Parliamentary democracy. Under the interim 1972 constitution, ZAB was enjoying the powers of the President, while Fazal Elahi Chaudhry was the Speaker of the National Assembly. The constitutional building team of experts, under eminent legal minds like Muhammad Ali Qasuri and Abdul Hafiz Pirzada, had worked hard to prepare the document, which could not be approved as there was a serious deadlock. Leading from the front, ZAB decided to seek the help of Abul Ala Maudodi, the Amir of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).

After its enactment on August 14, 1973, ZAB took the oath of office as the first elected Prime Minister (PM) under the constitution. Fazal Elahi Sahib was elevated as the President. The Senate was also formed as the Upper House, and now for the first time, Pakistan had a bi-cameral legislature with two houses, one on the basis of the population while the other had equal representation of all four provinces. Till 1975, the democratic order remained on track. Finally, ZAB fell into the establishment trap. He dismissed the elected governments of Wali Khan’s party in KP (NWFP then) and Balochistan, followed by Military Action in Balochistan. The constitution breakers finally succeeded in attacking the democratic order from within.

The Derailment of Political Dispensation

It did not end there. Riding on the crest of his popularity, ZAB decided to hold elections ahead of time to surprise the fragmented opposition. The day the assemblies were dissolved, an alliance of nine political parties was waiting in the wings. PNA (Pakistan National Alliance) with the support of the constitution breakers succeeded in derailing the political dispensation. On July 05, 1977, Zia took control of the country by suspending the constitution. He promised to hold elections within ninety days, but his misrule continued for over eleven years. He not only disfigured the unanimously agreed document but also built alliances and parties of constitution breakers that continue to haunt the nation today. It was code-named ‘Mission 1985’ under which the ‘Constitution Breakers’ were entrusted with civilian authority.

After over two centuries of its enactment, the US Constitution is respected as a sacred document today, with only a few amendments. No one has ever dared to defy or criticize the ‘Miracle of Philadelphia’ while the ‘Miracle of Islamabad’ has been kicked around by the breakers, both in uniform and their civilian leftovers. In the decade of the seventies during the Watergate Crisis, General Alexander Haig, the Chief of Staff of the Nixon White House, suggested to the President to take control as Commander-in-Chief and sack the Congress, but the President refused. Instead, he resigned and went home, becoming the first President ever to resign.

In the land of the pure, the breakers have repeatedly prevailed with dire consequences for the nation. Rampant disrespect for the Constitution must be stopped, and some lessons must be learned from the cheating of the agreement between the rulers and the ruled. Former military dictator Pervez Musharraf was tried under Article 6 for treason but was allowed to escape, and even in his final moments, he could not return to his homeland. Currently, three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif continues to live in self-exile, and the constitution remains threatened as long as the “Band of Breakers” continues to operate in the political arena. The infamous “Mission 1985” must be shelved for all times to come. It is crucial to brand and pushes out the constitution breakers to ensure a strong and stable democratic system in Pakistan.

 

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 the editorial policy of Global Village Space.