General Zia was enamored of the presidential system. He claimed that the Quaid-i-Azam had opted for this system in a note in his diary. What was the Quaid’s note? The handwritten note dated July 10, 1947 states: “Dangers of Parliamentary Form of Government: 1) Parliamentary form of government – it has worked satisfactorily so far in England nowhere else; 2) Presidential form of government (more suited to Pakistan)”. In reality, the Quaid did not expect elected governments could be dismissed under a presidential system. While speaking in the Indian Central Assembly on the colonial government’s decision to punish the officers of the Indian National Army, the Quaid said: “…when the time comes, my army in Pakistan shall, without doubt, maintain all loyalty, whatever the liability, and if anyone did not do so, be he a soldier or be he an officer or civilian, he will go the same way as William Joyce and John Amery.” (The two members of the English elite, the latter a son of the secretary of state for India, were executed for supporting Hitler during the Second World War).
The Quaid may have the subconscious worry that feudal landlords in a parliamentary system would not allow democracy to function. The landlords in Punjab and Sindh always supported the Unionist party. They switched over to Muslim League as Congress had vowed to follow socialist secular policies.
In India, feudal fiefs were abolished in 1948. But, they have a heyday in Pakistan even today because of a decision of Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Qazalbash Waqf versus Chief Land Commissioner, Punjab case on August 10, 1989 (made effective from March 23, 1990). The Court, by a 3-2 vote declared land reforms un-Islamic and repugnant to injunctions of Islam.
Jamsheed Marker, in his book Cover Point, observes ` Liaquat … moved the Objectives Resolution, which declared Pakistan to be an ‘Islamic State’ (Cover Point, p. 33)”. Liaquat Ali Khan could not foresee, Objectives Resolution (Allah’s sovereignty) would be warped to justify perpetuation of feudal aristocracy and persecution of minorities.
Under Article 38 (f) and Senate’s resolution No. 393 (July 9, 2018), Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan enforced Shariah Governance Regulations 2018 for abolition of riba.
Gnawing reality of complex interest-based economic forced the government to continue paying interest on loans and international transactions notwithstanding..
No social justice
Article 38 is titled `Promotion of social and economic well-being of the people’. And abolition of riba is just a sub-paragraph. While we re-christened riba as PLS, partnership as modarba / mosharika, so on, we did nothing to provide social justice to the people. We tax people without taxpayers’ welfare. Locke and others say government can’t tax without taxpayer’s consent.
Quest for stability
Neither the presidential nor the parliamentary form of government is a bulwark against instability. We have witnessed budgetary shutdowns and lock-horns even in US presidential system.
Pakistan’s demokratia practitioners are subconsciously contemptuous of separation of powers. The stakeholders appear to suffer from ‘I’m the constitution’ narcissism. They `glistened’ our constitution with `golden’ interpolation of a president in uniform, and another a life-long president. We had a civilian martial-law administrator also. Former secretary finance, Saeed Ahmed Qureshi in his book Governance Deficit: A Case Study of Pakistani (p.56) recounts `Eight blows to the Constitutional System’ including dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, dismissal of elected prime ministers, induction of General Ayub Khan as defence minister on October24, 1954, and imposition of martial or quasi-martial law `for 33 out of Pakistan’s 68 years of history’.
Our constitutional history is caricatured by egoistic clash between power claimants. Even judicial judgments swung in direction of wind vanes of the time. Shortly before pronouncing his verdict on Dosso case, Justice Muneer declared that ‘when politics enters the portals of the palace of Justice, democracy, its cherished inmate, walks out by the backdoor’ (Roedad Khan, Pakistan: A Dream gone Sour, p. 175).
The king-pins in various institutions tend to forget French jurist Jean Bodin’s dictum `majesta est summa in civas ac subditoes legibusque salute potestas, that is ‘highest power over citizens and subjects, unrestrained by law’ (p. 179 ibid.). Bodin explained power resides with whosoever has ‘power to coerce’. It does not reside with electorate, parliament, judiciary or even constitution. In the past, our bureaucrats, judges, politicos, and even praetorian rulers fought tooth and nail to prove `I’m the locus in quo of ultimate power. Take gen Zia. He had nothing but contempt for the Constitution and democratic norms (p.87. ibid.). While addressing a press conference in Teheran, he said, “What is the Constitution?” “It is a booklet with ten or twelve pages. I can tear them up and say that from tomorrow we shall live under a different system. Is there anybody to stop me? Today the people will follow wherever I lead them. All the politicians including the once mighty Mr. Bhutto will follow me with their tail wagging (ibid. pp. 87-88). Dicey said, “No Constitution can be absolutely safe from a Revolution or a coup detat”.
Julius Caesar and Napoleon also harboured extra-constitutional hallucinations. Napoleon told Moreau de Lyonne, “The constitution, what is it but a heap of ruins. Has it not been successively the sport of every party?” “Has not every kind of tyranny been committed in its name since the day of its establishment?” During his self-crowning in 1804, Napoleon said, “What is the throne, a bit of wood gilded and covered with velvet. I am the state. I alone am here, the representative of the people”. Alas! All emblems (now albums) of le pouvoir, in uniform or civvies, were mortal.
India’s fundamental-lawmaker Ambedkar prophetically remarked, `However good a Constitution may be, if those who are implementing it are not good, it will prove to be bad. However bad a Constitution may be, if those implementing it are good, it will prove to be good’. Ambedkar’s atman (spirit) must be swirling in pain to see conduct of practitioners of democracy _ saffronisation, bigotry, war cries, exploitation, and what not. But a plus point for Indian democrats. The Indian Constitution allows the President to dissolve the elected parliament. But, he never did so.
In Pakistan, it is the vested interests, not demo (people) of demo-kratia, who rule. There is no social democracy. To quote BR Ambedkar, `Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy. What does social democracy mean? It means a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life’. The fault lies with democrats, not the democracy, whether presidential or parliamentary.
With change of Pakistan’s State Bank’s governor and transfer of Federal-Bureau-of-Revenue chief a surreptitious technocratic coup d’état appears to be underway. Democracy is synonymous with `participation’ of the common man in governing process. But, it has never been so. Noam Chomsky points out that even the American masses are like a “bewildered herd” that has stopped thinking (Noam Chomsky, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, p.16). He asserts that, in a “properly functioning democracy”, there are a “small percentage of the people”, a “specialised class of citizens” who … analyse, execute, make decisions and run things in the political, economic, and ideological systems”.
Inherent flaws of democracy leads to rise of technocratic elites. Technocrats did successfully help Ayub in the country’s rapid industrialization. But, they uncannily accentuated concentration of wealth and economic power. Disparities in incomes and assets between poor and rich households led to rise of 22 industrial robber barons. Ayub’s economic wizard, Dr. Mahbubul Haq later published `Seven sins of economic planners in Pakistan’ to identify his planning mistakes. Thank god! Paikstan now has no plan, at all. It is on auto pilot.
In a sharp contrast to Ayub, Gen Ziaul Haq annulled the second phase of “feudal” Bhutto’s land reforms to gain political support of big landowners against the country’s elected and deposed populist prime minister.
Iron law of technocratic oligarchy
A German sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties postulated Iron Law of Oligarchy. Michels stated that the raison detre of representative democracy is eliminating elite rule. It is an impossible goal. The representative democracy is a façade legitimizing the rule of particular elite, and that elite rule, which he refers to as oligarchy, is inevitable.
According to the “iron law,” democracy and large-scale organization are incompatible. The `rule by an elite, or oligarchy, is inevitable upshot of “tactical and technical necessities” of democratic organisations. All organisations eventually come to be run by a “leadership class”, who often function as paid administrators, executives, spokespersons or political strategists for the organization. Far from being “servants of the masses”, the “leadership class,” rather than the organization’s membership, will inevitably dominate the organization’s power structures. They control access to information, with little accountability. They manage to centralise their power , as masses (rank-and-file members) are apathetic, and indifferent to their organization’s decision-making processes.
No large and complex organization can function purely as a direct democracy. Power within an organization will always get delegated to individuals within that group, elected or otherwise.
Democratic attempts to hold leadership positions accountable are bound to fail. The oligarchy has power to reward loyalty, gag dissent and influence members (masses).
William A. Welsh says, `The rise of democracy has signaled the decline of elites (Leaders and Elites, p.1). Not true of Pakistan? Here talent rusts and mafias prevail. We see mafias all around, in media, politics, justice, education and health-care.
The Iron Law of Oligarchy smacks of ideas in The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, a fictional book in the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) by George Orwell. Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. The examples of Lee Kwan Yew in Singapore, Mahathir Mohammed in Malaysia, Deng Xiaoping and Xi Jinping in China, Park Chung-hee in Korea illustrate how `high’ visionary leaders backed by a strong central government can rapidly transform nations.
Why are technocrats necessary?
Because politicians lack `foresight’ of scientific advances in agriculture, engineering, artificial intelligence, automated industrial manufacturing, medical biotechnology. Only technocrats could correct socio-economic injustice through accelerated economic development.
Aristotelian democracy and Pakistan
In his study of political systems (oligarchy, monarchy, etc), Aristotle concluded demokratia was probably the best system. The problem that bothered him was that the majority of free people (excluding women and slaves) would use their brute voting power to introduce pro-poor legislation like taking away property from the rich.
Aristotle suggested that we reduce income inequalities so that have-not representatives of the poor people were not tempted to prowl upon haves’ property. James Maddison (USA) harboured similar concerns. He feared `if freemen had democracy, then the poor farmers would insist on taking property from the rich’ via land reforms (Noam Chomsky, Power Systems, p 84). The fear was addressed by creating a senate (US) or a house of lords (Britain) to forestall legislative vulgarities of house of representative or a house of commons.
Aristotle would rejoice in the grave to see both, Pakistan’s National Assembly and the Senate, being populated by the rich. One member, three-time prime minister, defiantly wears Louis Moinet `Meteoris’ wrist-watch, worth about Rs460million. Another, a vocal proponent of Medina State, lives in a 300-kanal-and-10- marla house. The gentleman prime ministers never took any legislative steps to equalise citizens in access to education, medi-care, housing and jobs; in short, in all realms of life. No government looked into the origin of landed aristocracy, chiefs and chieftains in the subcontinent during the Mughal and British periods. Doubtless, our democracy is Aristotle’s dream as it is stable, rich and pro-rich.
Aristotelian remedy: Golden Mean
In his foundational work on human ethics `Nicomachean ethics’, Aristotle postulates: (a) justice exists only between men whose relations are regulated by law, and (b) law exists for men whose relation is defined by injustice. So, law was bludgeon to correct injustice. Aristotle admitted that societies are flawed as the relation between individuals is based on caprice, avarice, and injustice. He was optimistic that societies would balance personal desires (gain-loss, cost-benefit) by evolving a `Golden Mean’, a set of rules treating all individuals equally before law. The maxim was `treat others as you would like to treat yourself’. If we perceive the `Golden Mean ‘ as a weighted average, then masses in Pakistan carry the least weight vis-à-vis classes (elites, mafias).
In Pakistan, democracy has failed to deliver goods. Technocracy has become synonymous with subjugation to accommodation of IMF and World-Bank’s throwaways. The society remains unruffled when a Moeen, Shaukat Aziz et. al. drop from heavens to become a prime minister. Why not lease out the country to IMF? Or, still better, to the highest bidder. To correct multifaceted social injustice, all stakeholders, in khaki and mufti, should try to evolve Aristotelian `Golden Mean’. Or else, continue on auto-pilot until divine retribution strikes.