clever with God
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.