OPINION

 

Playing clever with God

Contributing Editor Vice Admiral (Retd) Iqbal F Quadir says that India has no hesitation in deceiving the world community. 

It was never popular at Command and Staff Meetings (equivalent to the Army’s Corps Commanders Meetings) to draw attention to “dichotomy of thought and action” observed during our discussions. Not that such a state of affairs,  i.e. this dichotomy was peculiar to some of those present at the meetings,  on the contrary this trait was generally observable throughout Pakistan  neigh all over South Asia. The classical example being the yatra led by Mr.  Advani in India, which culminated with the destruction of the historical  Babri Mosque in Ayodhia. Advani claimed full credit for the success of that  yatra but refused any responsibility for the destruction of the mosque that  followed. This anomaly could best be described as a state of mind or  thinking wherein opposites of thinking and action could not be called  hypocrisy as the need of the hour was considered sufficient justification in  itself for carrying out the opposite. It certainly left no feeling of any  wrong or guilt in the minds of persons concerned. This fixation also  clarifies how the famous Law of Necessity must have been borne in Pakistan  and which law so far has enjoyed greater permanence than any of Pakistan’s  Constitutions. However, a dilemma remains as to why this Law of Necessity  was available only for the benefit of the holder of the danda (stick) and  not for the poor owners of the bhains (buffalo/cattle), the people of  Pakistan.

NRB has now come out with its own ideas on improving the working of the  (suspended?) 1973 Constitution. But, the paper released so far does not in  any way concern itself with improving the working of that Constitution.  Rather, the paper shows a greater involvement in performing a major surgery  on the “United Will of the People” as represented in the 73 Constitution and  expressed by their elected representatives in the National Assembly. What a  clear dichotomy between the expressed intentions of improving the working of  the system of administration laid down in the 1973 Constitution and the  proposed execution, which amounts to nothing less than slaughter of that  Constitution. It is not intended to discuss further the NRB Papers because  firstly, it is a general practice in Pakistan, as also in the rest of the  civilized world, that only the authority, which in the first instance  formulated any set of rules or orders could amend or alter them, unless  within that formulation any other procedure had been prescribed for the  purpose. To my knowledge the 1973 Constitution does not allow or delegate  this power to any other body or person and, therefore, neither NRB nor any  other authority or body has the right to formulate or authorize changes to  that Constitution, however, good the intention might be. Under these  circumstances a discussion of NRB’s proposals would amount to granting them  a measure of constitutional legality. Abrogation would have been another  case and it would then have been a case of “We are the law,” and that was  it.

In addition, and more importantly, any democratic system was based on three  pillars supporting the structure of the state i.e. Legislature, Judiciary  and the Executive. Each pillar had its own responsibility and laid down  duties to perform. None of the pillars was permitted to interfere in the  working of others. Thus only the Legislature had the right to legislate i.e.  make laws or bring changes in the rules etc, if need be to the Constitution  itself. The Executive was required to execute the will of the Legislature  and the Judiciary was to see to it that all actions of the Legislature and  the Executive remained within bounds of the Constitution and laws of the  state. Any act beyond those limits could not be termed constitutional and to  my mind remained beyond the pail of any validation later, even by an elected  body. Abrogation and suspension thus amounted to extra-constitutional  issues. Finally, in a parliamentary system on which Pakistan’s Constitution  was based, it was the Legislature through the Prime Minister and his Cabinet  that exercised executive control over all institutions and organs  of the state. Thus it was that in this very journal during Benazir’s time I  had stated that it was her prerogative as Prime Minister to select the heads  of armed forces and not the President’s, though the appointments were made  in his name. The question of awarding greater powers to the President was  the responsibility of the people and people alone, and not for the paid  employees of the state. People held sovereignty under God and they acted  through their elected representatives.

General Musharraf, when soon after the Kargil affair I had the opportunity  to have five minutes alone with him at a Navy function, did not seem to be a  run of the mill four star general. He appeared neither to have the  missionary zeal of the past Pakistani

C-in-Cs/Chiefs of the Army Staff nor the  penchant for stand-offish-ness of the Indian Generals in the borrowed style  of South Asia’s past masters. General Musharraf, I congratulated him for the  victory at Kargil and for putting the Indian High Command at their whit’s  end but for President Clinton and found him refreshingly human, responsive  and willing to satisfy others’ curiosity. But circumstances do leave their  own imprint on every human being. The most pertinent example to my mind of  this human failing, if that were the right description, would be from the  period of Ayub Khan. Soon after his take-over in 1958, Admiral Choudhri took  him and Air Marshal Asghar Khan with their ladies on a fishing trip at sea.  On the way to the barge I had observed that the Presidential Standard was  missing over the President House, now reverted to Governor House. This was  unusual and while the Chiefs were busy fishing I was talking over this point  of missing Standard with my counter part Captain Gauhar Ayub the President’s  ADC, who told me that a new flag was being designed. General Ayub, fishing a  good forty feet away suddenly called me and enquired as to what the two of  us were discussing. I tried to parry but Ayub smiled and calling me son, his  eyes twinkled the question again. I explained and stated that in the  Protocol Section of the Pakistan Navy Regulations, the Presidential Standard  was described in details and all Presidents of Pakistan were required to fly  the same flag. I pointed to his Standard being flown on the Navy Commander  in Chief’s Barge to denote his presence onboard, adding that the Pakistan  Army Regulations must be having the same provision. He questioned whether I  was certain and on receiving my confirmation called Gauhar and told him to  have the laid down Presidential Standard hoisted at the President House as  soon as they reached port.

However, soon after this event Ayub Khan started to civilianize his advisers  and sophisticated courtiers with great ideas immediately surrounded him. The  scale of their skill could be judged from an anecdote related to me by one  of his staff who had the good luck to be able to talk frankly with Ayub Khan  in private. Towards the end of his reign Ayub Khan once displayed much anger  at this person’s dogged insistence that certain actions of the President  were not correct or in his interest. At one stage during their discussion  Ayub pointed to an article in an important daily of Pakistan, which had  turned anti-Ayub, supporting some action of his, which this person was  criticizing. At that, this person withdrew and having obtained the day’s  edition of the same paper from town, placed the President’s and the bazaar  edition of the daily before Ayub Khan to see the difference in the same  article in the two editions. It would seem that such an action was a  relatively simple form of sophistication that authorities at the top had to  contend with and counter in their own interest. However, in a closed society  like the one that exists in Pakistan, by the time such sophistication  amongst the trusted was discovered by authorities that be, it usually had  become too late to put the situation right. Thus, there were far too many  serious and adverse implications to what was being proposed by NRB. In the  long run that organization’s good intentions could prove an insufficient  safeguard against the adverse possibilities that are certain to be generated  by NRB’s released proposals. It appears that further papers are to follow  that could contain even greater adverse implications. These could even be  such that the country and its people might not be able to carry their weight  for long.

In an Islamic state that Pakistan claims to be, we should hold our heads and  our aims high because the epitome of real democracy that had ever been  practiced in this world lay in the system of administration that was  followed by the first four Caliphs. Unlike the Western Greek origin  democracy that was based on privileges of birth, money, loyalty or  education; the system of Khulafa-e-Rashdeen was based on the Arab tribal  system wherein a tribal chief was the people’s choice and he was changed at  their will. There was no life long or hereditary leadership. The first four  Caliphs obtained bait (affirmatory vote) of tribal leaders before assuming  the mantle of leadership. This was the fairest form of democracy that was  possible with the means of communications available in those times. A much  more important item to remember for all those who carry the mantle of power  for the moment, including those not only in the Army, that at some stage or  another they must have taken an oath to God or an affirmation to protect the  1973 Constitution. If they themselves did not honour their oath/affirmation,  how could they ever expect others to honour what they were intending to  enforce now? In conclusion, let us never forget what fate had awaited  General Zia ul Haq. What happened to him must remain a permanent reminder to  those who intend to play clever with God.

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