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Healing, not dealing, for civilian supremacy

In his very first speech after taking over the mantle in 1971 of what remained of Jinnah’s Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto used healing words; “I have come over to pick up the pieces “. First it was the interim 1972 constitution followed by the 1973 consensual document. The republic remained on track till the empire struck back in 1975 when the majority governments of NAP/JUI were dismissed followed by Military Action and arrests of elected leadership of KP (NWFP) and Baluchistan. The Hyderabad Tribunal was set up where sedation trials were started. To prolong his rule and grip over power, Bhutto struck a deal with the establishment, healing was replaced with bleeding. Democratic order went astray. The trap had been laid. As soon as the assemblies were dissolved an opposition alliance of nine political parties (PNA) was waiting in the wings to take on the first elected Prime Minister (PM). Civilian supremacy was the target. The republic till today continues to suffer from the Zia dark era and his leftovers.

Parliament is the mecca of democracy. It has the prime responsibility of defending the democratic order. There should be no deal to over-run civilian supremacy as enshrined under the constitution. Bleeding wounds of the past must be healed. There must be unconditional laying of arms with general amnesty for all political players for healing to start. The spirit of the house of the seventies that gave us the constitution must be restored if the consensual document must be restored and then applied in letter and spirit. Supra-constitutional hybrid systems have been disastrous. It is time to go back to the drawing board to restore and revive the democratic order blatantly derailed in July 1977 in violation of Article 6 of the constitution.

In the recent Senate session hard-hitting speeches were delivered highlighting the need for a dialogue. Democracy was born during the noise of the bazaars of Athens around 520 BC. It was full participative activity where everyone was heard before the count of votes. No voice was muffled. Usually there was a one-point agenda where will of the majority was determined. Till today the dividing line exists on the Acropolis Hill outside Athens where individuals for and against the motion had to take positions before the counting started. It was High City where higher order decisions were made by the people, which were then carried out. When the numbers swelled, and full participation became difficult representative democracy was introduced which has continued. Over the years there has been a continuous decline in the democratic order which has to be reversed for the framework to survive. Only Switzerland has succeeded in participative democracy through their system of ‘Cantons’ in which everyone takes part. They proudly call themself the ‘House of Cantons’ (CH). There is a concept of ‘Citizen’s Army’ every Swiss is trained to defend there is no standing Armed Force. It has one of the strongest economies of the world.

Currently, there is also a talk for a ‘Grand Dialogue’ amongst all political parties. For a meaningful meeting there must be an agreed agenda. Even a national event like the recent elections constituted a common platform where all the political forces contested. Unfortunately, that opportunity has been lost due to complaints of fraudulent tabulation of results. Now the assembly sessions are being called. Without complete participation of all members, the mecca of democracy cannot function. Deals with outside forces weaken the fortress of the democratic order. In 1973 Bhutto was able to obtain consensus on the constitution, now it is time for the 2024 house to restore the document in its original form. The agenda for the ‘Grand Dialogues’ should be ‘Restoration of the Constitution’ leading all the way to civilian supremacy and rule of law as envisioned by its architects. All political prisoners should be released before the start of the dialogue. In 1969 when the first usurper wanted to call a round-table conference to amicably settle the political uprising against his dictatorial regime, he was forced to release all political prisoners, including Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman, who was under trial for the famous Agartala Conspiracy. Before the ‘Dialogue’ could reach consensus the second usurper took control of the country.

Through the ballot the people of Pakistan have spoken. A massive turn-out of voters says it all. It should be taken as a final wake-up call for those who have operated outside the constitutional boundaries. Civilian supremacy is the magic balm that can soothe pain and stop the bleeding. Since 1985 there have been several deals, which were short-lived and counter-productive. Healing was tried in 1973 which worked well in producing a living document that has withstood the test of times. In the 1970 electoral contest all parties were allowed to freely campaign. The Awami League under Mujib in East Pakistan and People’s Party led by Bhutto in the West had a level playing field which unfortunately was not the case in 2024. Winning a mandate with hands tied cannot be overlooked or ignored. Both leaders even had parleys in Dhaka (Dacca) to move forward. When the assembly session was called off, the situation spun out of control. Dialogue is the way forward but with a clear agenda to restore the agreement between the rulers and the ruled, the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that ensures civilian supremacy and rule of law must prevail. Supra-constitutional approach has been rejected together with the failed hybrid model of governance. Restoration of the 1956 constitution could have saved Jinnah’s Pakistan in 1971. Nations must learn from their follies; in the year 2024, the 1973 constitution is the way forward to heal the wounds and fill the fissures for unifying the nation.

Dr Farid A Malik, "Healing, not dealing, for civilian supremacy," Business recorder. 2024-02-28.
Keywords: Political science , Political parties , Civilian supremacy , Zulfikar Ali Bhutto , Mujib-ur-Rehman , Pakistan , Dhaka , PNA , 1973 , 2024

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