Should Pakistan be ruled by NSC followed by a Presidential system?

Editor’s Note: The following article by Mr. Tariq Khan discusses structural and institutional problems which in his view are facing Pakistan and suggests possible solutions.

Governance, Political Order and National Survival 

Introduction: Pakistan is a relatively new country. Surprisingly, the Country lost its true direction and purpose very soon after its inception. It is now commonly misbelieved that it was conceived because of ideology, but in fact, it was conceived to escape ideology. Two factors point in this direction: first, that the majority of the Muslims were actually abandoned in India at the altar of the Lahore Resolution on 24th March 1940, in favor of Muslim majority areas – there is a difference. Second, the current status of Muslims in India and the treatment they are receiving in a Hindu Dominant ideology where Muslims are generally treated as a lesser society. This can be further questioned in the wake of the Two Nation Theory and the East Pakistan break up. Two conclusions stand out as a fact: Bangladesh never joined India and partition of India was not constructed on any Islamic fundamentals. Yet, it is this very ideological thinking that dominates our external and internal policies and as such the country has morphed into something that it was never been designed to be. Thus, over the years the country refused to become a nation and forced its people to look toward a larger objective – Islamic Ummah, instead of looking inward, the country insisted in looking outward – for assistance, for resource, for employment, for support and for recognition. This determined its outlook and profile, an alignment with ideologically compatible elements versus globally acceptable governance principles –and it led to two different opposing perceptions in perpetual conflict with one another: A Government trying to find its place among the comity of nations as an international entity based on universally accepted social order and a public at large held hostage to an extreme position based on ideological thinking for which nothing short of death would do to defend. Somewhere between these two positions lies the State of Pakistan – a country without a nation in search of an identity.

Major Factors Affecting Governance. So, if National Security for Pakistan has to be discussed, the parameters not only need to be defined but clearly understood. After all, before any collective wisdom leads to commitment whereby red lines are established and limits recognized, let us first examine what is it that we want to lay down our lives for but more importantly what is it that we wish to live for: 

a. State and Government. These are two different things. The former is permanent and comprises people, land, sovereignty and government. The latter is intangible and is temporary, it is a component of State; it may be a democracy, an aristocracy, a dictatorship or even a monarchy. In a democracy the government usually represents the majority of the people but not all the people whereas the State includes all people in it. In the case of Pakistan, the purpose of State was never documented but in keeping with the Quaid’s vision, it was amply expressed in his ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline’ statement. The unity is a quest for being one nation, faith was to have confidence in a new and fledgling State and its people, while discipline was a reference to the rule of law and regulation. The future profile of the State was defined by the Quaid’s address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11 August 1947, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” Muhammad Ali Jinnah. 

b. Objectives Resolution. Here alone lies the immediate contradiction between State and Government which is so blatantly displayed in the constitution by the ‘Objectives Resolution’. This was first only a preamble to the Constitution and later became part of the Constitution on the orders of a Dictator. The very notion of structuring a separate State unbound by religion or ideology was challenged by people who were thrust into the corridors of power –pygmies and men of straw. The mullahs who rejected the Quaid and had declared him a Kafir and labeled Pakistan as Kafiristan slowly acquired control of the government. This led to serious social polarization impacting upon the first principle that the Quaid laid out for the State, ‘Unity’. 

The Constitution: Then there is the issue of the Constitution, a document that is a codified law which only deals with the limits of the Government’s power. Though the objectives of the Constitution are many, yet first and foremost, is to define the components of Government itself but more importantly it is in fact a set of regulations designed to protect the people from their own Government. It embodies laws and regulations that guarantee human rights, equality, freedom of speech and access to information amongst many other matters. 

However, in Pakistan’s Constitution, it is clearly stated that a non-Muslim cannot be the head of the State or the Prime Minister, making some people more equal than others. It also sets the flavor and precedence for selecting people to high office. Thus, an exclusivity is inserted and inclusivity is ignored with minorities seriously discriminated against. The question is when and who comprises the minority which is now fluid and any group, community or social order can be proceeded against and declared as a Non-Muslim. In other words, there are two types of nationalities, Pakistanis that are acceptable and Pakistanis that are not. This is the second contradiction that all governments have with the Founding Principles of the State as defined by the Quaid in his first speech to the Constituent Assembly. This has led to divides that have taken on a violent turn as was the case of the riots that prompted Justice Munir to state, “As the commission noted, no two religious divines could agree on the definition of a Muslim. If the members of the commission tried imposing a definition of their own, the ulema would unanimously declare them to have gone outside the pale of Islam. 

Adopting the definition of any one religious scholar entailed becoming an infidel in the eyes of all the others.” 

Thus, in the year preceding 9/11, Pakistan witnessed two thousand sectarian killings. Religion became a part of the politics. The sitting Government of the time could not find it within itself to say a few words of prayer for the departed soul of their own Governor, Salman Taseer, when he was killed by his own guard. Governments were forced to review foreign policy as well as administrative policies in keeping with the Maulvis’ views. This resulted in the ridiculous spectacle of a Mullah Aziz of the Burqa fame to openly challenge the writ of the government in the heart of the capital and even today, or the disgusting sight of a crippled Mullah Rizvi sitting in his wheel chair, abusing everyone in the Government publicly. There is this comic illustration of the Maulvis’ hold on the public that is regularly displayed from some roof-top when a band of these lame and blind bearded rascals try to find the moon through a telescope on every Eid. 

Sovereignty: Questions are asked about sovereignty and how it must be defended. Yet how does one view sovereignty? Is it merely a wish – a distant intangible phenomenon or does it have real implications in real terms? When a country owes so much to international financial institutions and when it depends upon alliances for its existence then sovereignty can never be total but always proportional to the power potential that a country has. Today, Pakistan is not in a position to formulate an independent foreign policy and has to acquiesce to regional and global demands. More so, Pakistan is not even in a position to construct its own annual budget without an IMF approval. Thus sovereignty is relative and Pakistan has very little control over its own matters. In other words, what are those National Objectives that Pakistan needs to promote through a foreign policy. The first and foremost would be to convince the world that it is in compliance with the international norms and values. Yet, Pakistan is often on the backfoot defending non-state actors, extremists and known wanted militants. 

Is this Government policy or is the Government coerced into it? An external threat to Muridke would put Pakistan in a situation where it would have to fight to defend an extremist institution put up by Maulvis. So, does National Security call for cleaning up these areas or defending them? This ambiguity needs to be addressed and the confusion has to be dispelled. Then there is the account of the drone attacks during the War on Terror which FATA was subjected to; of the 48,000 square kilometers, 35,000 square kilometers had been cleared of the militants, leaving only 13,000 square kilometers that generally included North Waziristan. This was where the drone campaign focused. It was mainly because Pakistan actually had no real control of their own area and their sovereignty was being continually violated by foreign fighters. Was it right for the State to abdicate its responsibility and not remove the foreign fighters thereby subjecting its own citizens to a bombing campaign? Violation of sovereignty was the first argument that the State offered the world but refused to take measures to establish that sovereignty even at the cost of its own people. National Security therefore has to take on a more deliberate note and a defined direction. 

War: National Security must always be seen in the context of ‘threat’ and vulnerabilities. After all security against what and who? People tend to confuse military conflict with war. War is a term derived from werre (a Greek term) that means chaos. It is an all-encompassing term and military conflict is the last and smallest component of it. War includes, economy, food security, liberty, infrastructure, communication systems, industry etc. etc. Thus military conflict has very little role in National Security and usually when it comes to the necessity of a military application, the war has already been lost. East Pakistan is a very good example where no military action could have kept Pakistan united – the war was already lost. First and foremost, the threats to Pakistan and the vulnerabilities it is exposed to must be identified. In this case, where the economy is being devastated by governments themselves, where industry cannot grow, when GDP is negative, to identify the threat is not at all difficult. When the provinces do not see eye to eye and there are provincial issues, when people are divided by ideology and sects, then this polarization has serious impact on the very foundation of the State. Yet when one sees that all Governments have remained in conflict with the State, then what can any National Security Plan do for the country. A country disunited, without a nation, living on borrowed resources and borrowed time, looking around to defend itself against a threat when its own governments have been the biggest threat, while the people of this country follow at a close second place, needs a serious and detailed retrospection. 

The People: If democracy is to be the corner stone of Pakistani politics, then “of the people, by the people, for the people”, makes the people central to any political order. 

Yet what kind of people is the country blessed with? There is nothing common between KP, Punjab, Baluchistan, Sindh, AK or GB. Thus a cohesive nation is nowhere to be found and tribes, castes, ethnicity are the leading component of Pakistani politics and not democracy. The matter is further aggravated by the ideological divides and the country is plagued by a polarized population where languages differ, history, tradition and custom are very different. This polarization has led to dynastic politics where each province is more a monarchy than a democracy with known and established families who wield what goes for political power. Thus, the people are irrelevant and are only a means toward an end in the race for acquisition of power through parochial agendas and exploitation of ideological positions. To expect that Pakistan will get a true democratic order through the people is wishful and unless a change of some sort is introduced nothing will go forward. 

The Search for Reforms. So if National Security must address these internal and external issues, it must first examine the very ethos of the State and bring back those values that the Quaid had stipulated in his first speech as well as his vision of Unity, Faith and Discipline. We need to determine the basic founding principles of the State as a sacrosanct Document that would govern the Constitution, all acts, laws and rules. No political agenda should ever be allowed to change these principles, and it must be mandatory for a political manifesto to define how best it can enhance, support and develop those defined principles first and foremost. No other course can ever serve this country better, and if we follow this path, reforms are recommended, which need to be put in place with the highest priority: 

a. Judicial Reforms. To provide a homegrown judicial system compatible with international law. To ensure equality for all and no one to be treated as a lesser human being by profession, belief, caste, creed or birthright. Judges have to come through a selective system of international norms and qualifications. A lawyer simply being elevated to a judge will not do. 

b. Depoliticization of Police. To make this institution independent of politicians. Ensure good recruitment amongst the leadership and provide international level training. This would bring an end to the bullying of society by the politician in chair. It would also address the VIP syndrome and unnecessary protocol demands. The Department may be constructed on the GHQ style. 

c. Rewriting the Constitution. To modify or rewrite the constitution. It must be remembered that this is a document provided by the ‘people’ to the legislators to ensure that they understand the limits of their power and remain confined within stipulated parameters. Human rights and individual freedom, liberty and security to life and property must be the basis of the constitution. In Pakistan, democracy has quickly become the tyranny of the majority, and the constitution must address this matter. Proportional representation must be included based on ethnicity, profession and social order. 

d. Ideology. Religion must be separated from State business. It should be an individual choice and not a communal business. Maulvis have to be put out of business of politics. They should be allowed to function only after being licensed and with strict code of conduct and stipulated regulations.

e. Provinces. Pakistan must either consider the United States of Pakistan with total autonomy to the Provinces or then the Provinces be further divided to create about twenty or twenty-five provinces. Provincial separatist movements that keep threatening national cohesion can be addressed by creating more provinces.

f. Merit and Education. Government must re-introduce merit in the bureaucracy. Education must be given very special attention. Only the best to be selected for Government. Education must have another field promoting skilled manpower and labor that must be affiliated with international guilds. This would establish standards in workmanship and also provide better jobs the world over. 

g. Accountability. People who have robbed this country must be held accountable. No plea bargains to be allowed. Closure must be brought to these matters as quickly as possible. 

h. Governance.The government has no business participating in the corporate sector and must divest all its businesses. The Government must make policy and not run businesses. The power distribution system is a good illustration, the government cannot control theft, corruption and mismanagement. If handed over to the private sector and competition is encouraged, the matter of power distribution would easily be resolved. On the other hand, the amount of misappropriation and mismanagement that one witnesses on a day to day basis negates the need for the government regulation as it stands. Free market economy should decide how businesses develop. Most importantly development funds must never be placed at the disposal of the legislators; it is unconstitutional, an indirect bribe and a basis of corruption. 

 The Resistance to Reforms: A Country in a conventional democratic order is governed by the three pillars of State: The Legislators, Executive and Judicial bodies; the fourth pillar was added by the United States after the Civil War, that was journalism and reporting, commonly now recognized as the Media. This was a process of checks and balances not one of disputes as we have. However, in Pakistan, in very real terms, the shots are called by the clergy who determine what is kosher for the foreign policy as well as administrative functioning; without their nod nothing of substance can move forward. The mafias who dabble in crime and thievery are proving to be another force to reckon with and who manipulate judicial decisions and legislation to their own convenience. These mafias include land-grabbers, Drug Lords, Gangsters, Cartels and Criminals – should they be added to the pillars of the State as viewed in Pakistani Democracy? If this be the case any hope of reforms or an improvement in governance is a wishful thought. As long as ‘Volume 10’ remains secret, Model Town killings see no closure, all inquiries die without conclusion, where mosques are filled up but no child is safe on the streets, reforms will never be an agenda pursued or implemented by any known political party today in Pakistan. For every crisis where the Government fails its people, the Army is always asked to assist. Thus it is not surprising that the Army has a role in governance. If the government needs the Army to clean drains and desilt canals, collect electricity bills, manage disasters and contain pandemics, then the Army is there to stay. With such contradictions in place and with the common knowledge that the provinces are held together by the military and not through any political cohesion or through any constitutional convention, maybe the armed forces too should have some sort of defined role in State affairs. 

 Implementation: The question that now comes up as how can these reforms should be done. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and so intent will never be enough. The current leadership, even by any conservative measure, fall under one of the three categories: corrupt, obligated or compromised and having secured their position by deceiving the people, now are free to pursue their individual agendas. Thus there is no hope that any political party can bring about these reforms no matter what good intentions they may have. Any attempt by the Army or the judiciary or a combination of both would be perceived as interference in the political order and a disruption of this so called democracy. The theme would be exploited by the international community to impose sanctions and embargoes so as to force Pakistan into some sort of pliant posture within the frame of international political order. Taking a political initiative to right the wrong in governance as it stands today by any leader who maybe in a position to deliver and has the capacity or capability to do so is a very difficult decision. Yet it is like stating the obvious; the writing is on the wall and everyone knows what this country needs. It needs someone with a stout heart, who is determined to put the country on the right track. The reluctance by the individual leader always stems from a lack of confidence in one’s own capabilities and lack of clarity related to the end state. The individual feels he is alone and is frightened of the consequences if matters go wrong. These fears are easily addressed by not going out of the ambit of the current constitution and putting together a good team – an honest team of brave people, not pliant yes men. So to conclude, In Pakistan, the immediate need is the dissolution of the parliaments at the request of the Prime Minister while the National Security Council (NSC) takes on a supra-constitutional role. The Chief Justice and the leader of the opposition must be made part of it while the service chiefs are already members of the council. The NSC should then dispense governance, do the reforms through a presidential form of government with the current PM as the President. There can be no serious objection to this process and the country would benefit in leaps and bounds by circumventing the spoilers. Somewhere, along the line, at an appropriate time in a transparent manner, a referendum should be held to secure the people’s decision to switch to a presidential system with qualified technical expertise in the cabinet to assist the President to govern the country through selected Governors. 

Conclusion:  The time has arrived for Pakistan to take its place in the globe as one nation. An entity that cannot be manipulated, coerced, bought and pressured. Never before has this need been felt as it has now within the ambit of a new and evolving global order. With China emerging as a new financial leader, Russia as a military challenge to the west and United States finding itself contained liberty of action, Pakistan has to assert itself in the right way at the right time. If the National Security must define how to secure the interests of the country, it must first establish the country’s relevance in the world. Here it appears that Pakistan is going down the CPEC route and that is not a bad thing. The connectivity of the sea to the land and Asia to Europe has huge potential. Pakistan is central to this activity and if it engages in this activity in earnest it will establish itself as a Global Trade Corridor. This allows for many stakeholders and partners the world over to benefit and participate in an economic synergy never been seen before. That would bring Pakistan international relevance and with it the clout and the voice at various forums. However, the internal vulnerabilities remain and are huge. To weave this country into a nation, to unify it, to bring faith in its own capacity, to ensure discipline amongst communities, a lot would have to be done. The constitution needs to be revisited, the social contract reexamined. The contradictions between the State and the Government must be removed and political manifestos must define only how they could enhance State objectives, principles and vision, or at the least, how best they could serve them. In this vein, distortion of history must stop and real issues with a factual record must be encouraged. Culture, tradition, history make a nation – lies never do. 

The opinion piece by Lt Gen. (r) Tariq Khan, is the man who fought the war against militancy in most critical time of Pakistan’s history. He led active military operations as Brigadier, IGFC and as Lt Gen. of Pakistan Army. As Commander Central Command and Corps Commander, Mr. Tariq Khan was part of important decision making relating to Pakistan’s security.