Back to the 'stone age': By Shamshad Ahmed

Back to the 'stone age'
Shamshad Ahmad: The Nation, November 24, 2007

Mr. Shamshad Ahmed is a former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan

Whether or not Richard Armitage said it, we have already gone back to the 'stone age'. The US did not have to bomb us to make Tora Bora out of Pakistan. We have done it ourselves.

Like the ape-men of the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods of the 'stone age', we are also fighting among ourselves as enemies of each other, and our sole 'equipment' for solving our problems now is our 'instinct' devoid of any tolerance and rationality. Like the early primates, we are no longer living in an organised or civilised state, and have no taste for the 'rule of law' or good governance.
We have really gone back to the 'preliterate' culture. We are good only at the 'use of fire, rocks, batons, clubs, tear gas and all sorts of other weapons' in running our day-to-day affairs, and our talent for learning is limited only to trial-and-error 'monkeying' or fumbling with dangerous situations which in modern vocabulary would be called 'crises'.

A country without constitution or the rule of law and where there is no independent judiciary and no fundamental freedoms and rights is no better than the 'stone age' cultures, and has no place in the contemporary comity of civilised nations. Government and politics, as the world knows them, are alien to Pakistan. Our scene pathetically bears resemblance to Thomas Hobbes's concept of primitive anarchy marked by a 'war of one against all' and to Rousseau's idealisation of the 'noble savage'.

Perhaps, Hegel spoke for us when he said that man can never learn anything from history. We have never been prone to learning any lessons from history. For us, history is nothing more than a 'tableau of crimes, follies and misfortunes of our ancestors'. Woefully, our history as a nation is replete with a series of crises and tragedies which has left us politically and economically unstable, socially fragmented and physically disintegrated. And yet, we are bent upon living through our history without any remorse or respite.

With Quaid-e-Azam's early demise, Pakistan was orphaned in its very infancy and lost the promise of a healthy youth with acute systemic deficiencies and normative perversities restricting its orderly natural growth. After the Quaid, its political bankruptcy and moral aridity left it without any sense of direction. There was no one there who could stabilise its 'adolescence' and take it out of its 'identity' crisis, and like a neglected spoilt child, Pakistan became a nuisance for its neighbours as well as for itself.

It started cutting itself into pieces, losing within less than quarter of a century not only its own half but also its very rationale that had inspired its founding fathers to struggle for a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent. The real Pakistan disappeared with its tragic dismemberment, and whatever was left has been the pillage ground with 'spoils of power' for its military-controlled feudal custodians.

World's history is replete with tales of 'self-centred' rulers who forgot that power never endures and considered their reign as a mere extension of their egos and idiosyncrasies. The seventeenth century French monarch, Louis XIV, was one classic example of this mentality. His famous dictum: "L'etat, c'est moi" ("I am the state") was an expression of arrogance and an affront to democratic norms, including the principle of 'separation of powers' and independence of judiciary.
The finality of those words enunciated with a note of casual self-assurance did speak of the king's determination to have his way but also showed his contempt for the sovereign will of the people. It is the same contempt that is being shown today to the sovereign will of the people of Pakistan. We are now learning what a 'dual-office' ruler in Pakistan considers to be the limits of his power - nothing. He owns the country and runs it with the law of 'tooth and claw'.

For any state in the contemporary world, its constitution is its solemn and inviolable 'social contract' which guarantees fundamental freedoms and basic rights of its citizens, including their inalienable right to choose or change their government through freely cast ballot, and which establishes the power and duties of the government and provides the legal basis for its institutional structure.
But in Pakistan, gross abuse of power, frequent assaults on constitutional supremacy and independence of judiciary, protracted spells of military rule and poor and corrupt governance have not only cost us our entire independent statehood, but also left us without any 'social contract'. Ours is a dismal record of constitutional and political delinquency and unrelenting 'omissions and commissions' with total insensitivity to what the contemporary world thinks of us.

We don't care if the Commonwealth has again expelled us for violating its fundamental values. Like an 'enfant terrible' we feel proud in being censured in global forums. We don't care for any value system. We have no convictions. Even our sins lack conviction. We don't take any thing to heart. Look, how gracefully we digested the tragedy of 1971, the worst that could happen to any country or a nation. We did not make it an 'issue of our core' for we had other 'core issues'.
We are not afraid of repeating the same blunders, and are ready for more of similar tragedies and debacles. Unsure of our future, we are still struggling through an identity crisis and personality 'schizophrenia' tearing the nation apart with no common sense of purpose or unity. We take pride in topping the lists of world's most corrupt, most autocratic, most violent, most unsafe and most dangerous countries on earth. We are beholden to Machiavelli who believed in what men do, and not what they ought to do. We deviated from our ideals. Machiavelli's political philosophy based on his infamous 'doctrine of necessity' became an integral part of our body politic. In fact, we allowed this doctrine to circumscribe the supremacy of our constitution, the rule of law and independence of judiciary, and have again opted for pre-historic 'one-man rule'.

Pakistan has seen a constant struggle between power and polity since the very beginning of its independence. Might always and everywhere considered wrong has never been claimed so 'right' as in Pakistan. The tragedy of our nation is that democracy was never allowed to flourish in our country. We have lost half the country and also our 'raison d'etre'. We have been living with extra-constitutional measures and systemic aberrations with no parallel in political philosophy or contemporary history.

The closest we could trace something alike is perhaps the Cromwellian era of the seventeenth century known for its assorted political experiments. These included the establishment and dissolution of several parliaments, military rule, rule of the saints, establishment and collapse of the 'lord protectorate' and finally an unsuccessful attempt by Cromwell in the form of 'humble petition and advice' to legalise his power through parliamentary authority.

Cromwell was however conscientious enough to realise that the source of his authority was force, not law. And he died a frustrated man within seven months after he dissolved the last parliament in disgust, having utterly failed in securing any popular basis for his power.

In Pakistan, as in England of the Cromwellian era, fundamental values of freedom, democracy and human dignity have been breached with impunity. Constitutions have been violated in letter and spirit with 'custom-made' judiciary always available to sanctify military coups. Institutional paralysis has kept the whole nation disenfranchised. Our feudal power structure has been exploited by successive military regimes to unleash a culture of political opportunism, corruption and ineptitude.

Unfortunately, our recognition in the comity of nations today is only as a 'breeding ground' for religious extremism and militancy and as a country afflicted with a culture of violence and sectarianism. Every act of violence anywhere in the world is traced back to our country in one way or the other. The US, in particular, sees Pakistan as the 'ground zero' and a pivotal lynchpin in its fight against terrorism, and for all purposes, now brackets Pakistan with already 'stone-aged' Afghanistan.
We have brought the anti-Taliban war into Pakistan which puts our armed forces on the wrong side of the people. Ours is the only country in the world today with an ongoing military operation against its own people. Our sovereignty is being violated with impunity. Our freedom of action in our own interest is being questioned and undermined. We are accepting the responsibility for crimes we have not committed.
As if this was not enough, according to latest reports, plans modelled on the American strategy in Anbar Province of Iraq are afoot to pour more money and arms (and perhaps more American soldiers too) into our tribal areas, thus making Pakistan another Iraq. This is an alarming signal.

It is time we woke up to the ominous reality. Pakistan is being weakened methodically by keeping it engaged on multiple external as well as domestic fronts. We are being ingeniously torn apart brick by brick with the ultimate goal of taking out, in a worst case scenario, our nuclear capability.

Our foremost challenge in this situation is not what we are required to do for others' interests; it is what we can do to serve our own national interests and to safeguard our national assets, including our sovereign independence and national dignity. This we can do under a new genuinely elected civilian government rooted in the will of the people and based on constitutional supremacy, rule of law and independence of judiciary.


saeed Ahmad said…
Hat's off to Shamshad Ahmed who has summarised Pakistan's troubles in a very comprehensive manner. It couldn't be written any better

More please......

Saeed Ahmad, Lahore

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