By Dr. Khalil Ahmad
Set aside justice, then, and what are kingdoms but great bands of brigands? For what are brigands' bands but little kingdoms? For in brigandage the hands of the underlings are directed by the commander, the confederacy of them is sworn together, and the pillage is shared by law among them. And if those ragamuffins grow up to be able enough to keep forts, build habitations, possess cities, and conquer adjoining nations, then their government is no longer called brigandage, but graced with the eminent name of a kingdom, given and gotten not because they have left their practices but because they use them without danger of law. Elegant and excellent was that pirate's answer to the great Macedonian Alexander, who had taken him; the king asking him how he durst molest the seas so, he replied with a free spirit: “How darest thou molest the whole earth? But because I do it only with a little ship, I am called brigand: thou doing it with a great navy art called emperor.
[St. Augustine, City of God, Book IV]
It is the rule of law alone which hinders the rulers from turning themselves into the worst gangsters.
[Ludwig von Mises, Austrian Economist, 1881-1973]
Much of the serious debate about Pakistan concerns what type of state it has come to be: a failed state, as most of the foreign commentators argue, or a national security state, as local intelligentsia holds. Or a welfare, a theocratic, or a collectivist state, as various intellectual and political groups and parties are intent upon converting Pakistan into. Whether and how far all these succeeded in achieving their goals may be a controversial issue, but what is certain and what the force of circumstances tends to demonstrate is that instead Pakistan has turned out to be a criminal state.
At first this proposition may seem outrageous, especially to the idealist patriots and nationalists. However, when bits of various “clichés” so common both in commoners and the intellectual elite are put into an organized form, the emerging picture justifies it. One of the important clichés is about the all-pervasive corruptibility (particularly financial misappropriation and abuse of office and authority) - flesh and blood of the state of Pakistan. Second one is about the deliberate manipulation of constitutional provisions and the laws of the land by the state functionaries elected or employed both. These two factors in combination with many others which we will elaborate in the following paragraphs lend sufficient support to the writer’s contention.
As this short piece cannot afford detailing all the arguments and evidence available, just allusions to them will suffice to demonstrate the point: that the state and governments of Pakistan have committed two great crimes against the people and society of Pakistan – first, they misused and abused the authority that was delegated to them by the people of Pakistan, and second, they misappropriated ever larger chunks of tax-money of the people of Pakistan to their personal coffers. All the other crimes committed by the state and governments and individuals associated with them basically fall under these two categories.
In effect, when a country is ruled not by law, i.e. without a constitution which ensures its citizens protection of their person and property and security of their fundamental rights (Isn’t complete neglect in the performance of this protective function a great crime for any state?), or in case there exists such a constitution, but is not adhered to in ruling the people, it is a crime of the highest order against the people of that country who as a result are reduced to the status of chattel. The first half age of Pakistan saw a number of constitutions coming into force and going into abeyance; and the second half fortunately possessed a constitution, but the elites of Pakistan, notably the military and politicians, disobeyed and abused it to their interests. For instance, as the constitution that Field Marshall Muhammad Ayub Khan preferred to use did mention fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan but they were not to be secured by the courts.
The story of the constitution of 1973, the only constitution somehow still in force after the thick and thin of about 37 years, is a story of ever greater crimes committed against that constitution and in fact against the people of Pakistan. In sum, the only thing, i.e. the constitution (ensuring the citizens protection of person and property, and security of their fundamental rights), that could hinder the elites of Pakistan from turning into the worst gangsters was made to fail and languish into the pages of the book, named the constitution of Pakistan.
Thus, as a result what we had and have is the sheer breach of trust. If ever such a history of Pakistan, from 1947 to the present or maybe beyond 2010, were to be written, it will be full to the brim with the stories of this breach of trust; though most of the episodes of this history are scattered over the pages of daily newspapers of Pakistan. How the trust of the people of Pakistan had been and is being breached by the elites, military, and politicians, is symptomatic of a chronic moral cancer, and inherent hatred for law!
The two sides of this trust, one the invested authority, and the second the public money, have seen such merciless misuse at the hands of people’s trustees, and which entrapped the country in such a vicious cycle of civilian and military dictatorships, that the people have lost all trust in democracy, democratic representation and democratic institutions. These two crimes of the elites of Pakistan are written in bold on their faces!
Who is to deny that from day first most of the individuals, from top to bottom, associated with the state of Pakistan and its institutions and the government were somehow having criminal record, or they were patronizers of criminals, or they directly or indirectly help promote crimes and criminals, or they let crimes and criminals flourish by not letting law take its course. In the first half, not by giving the nation a constitution under which they were to be ruled, and in the second, not by adhering, in letter and spirit, to the dictates of the constitution, the said elites committed crimes of the highest order.
More than that, they used public money as if it was booty looted from an enemy in time of war. It seems these elites, who behave quite like merciless parasites, in the form of public exchequer found a gold mine to fulfill from their minor needs to their choicest luxuries. Throughout they proved to be the worst thieves and merciless robbers, if not to dub them as the worst marauders.
Isn’t this what has been in various degrees the case with politics in Pakistan? Didn’t the two great elite sections of Pakistan, i.e. a perennially interventionist and politicized army and a chronically dishonest and corrupt polity, which forfeited the state of Pakistan into their hands, completely destroy Pakistani society? They destroyed its value system, its social and moral values, its humanitarian traditions. Could there be any greater indictment than this: that the state and politics in Pakistan have destroyed the society of Pakistan!
No doubt, all that “show” continued uninterrupted through the last six decades. Now, finally, it has culminated in a government which exists only for itself, a state which has submitted itself to various armed and semi-armed, and influential mafia groups warring each other and against the state as well, and a society which is to its very core bereft of all values and codes of conduct. The only symbol which speaks and reminds of an existing federal country, Pakistan, is the constitution, and its custodian, the highest court of Pakistan which is day by day getting weaker and weaker in the face of multi-pronged onslaughts from this or that elite quarter.
The only non-state entities which are putting a check on the unlawful and unconstitutional actions of the state and government of Pakistan are private media and civil society organizations. The former is quite stronger and by its economic logic is no more loyal to the state or government, but basically to its market from where it earns its profits. The later have found a role model (They learned this role from the Lawyers Movement.) for them to build and maintain pressure on the state and government to remain loyal to and act within the limits of laws and constitutional provisions.
Unfortunate enough, the elites are more powerful and it seems they will subdue both the independent Supreme Court, and free media. This fear strengthens itself in the face of present Machiavellian government. More to it, this government’s populism works like a two-edged sword that cuts both ways. It is hacking at the root of everything moral, lawful and constitutional. Rather, with this government all morality and moral principles have gone down the drain. There is no trace of anything moral or ethical in its utterances and actions. Having done away with the moral pillar of human society, now with full steam it is after the law of the land.
Also, with this government, the criminality of the state and government of Pakistan has reached its highest point. (May we not see another government more criminal than this!) In case it succeeds substantially in destroying the law of the land, the state of Pakistan will turn into a purely criminal state. Note that how in the form of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) such an attempt has already been made by the military and political elites, but fizzled out thanks to the same independent Supreme Court, free media and the civil society. Moreover, the issue of peoples’ representatives’ fake educational degrees, its vociferous defense by the government, and its resolve to do legislation with retrospective effect to spare these legislators from the crime of forgery (at least) is another compelling evidence to prove its enmity to the constitution and laws of the land.
In view of the above analysis, it is obvious that at least and at best what we must aim at is trying to save the law of the land, i.e. basically the Constitution. No doubt, we should not raise moral questions, because raising moral questions before a government which is thoroughly Machiavellian in its intent is just useless. It is only on the ground of laws that this government may be confronted with, perhaps convinced, or in case it cannot be convinced which has been the case till now, then we must put as much pressure as may force it to be acting within the confines of laws and the constitutional provisions. That minimum achievement will be the maximum gain for this nation and the country upon which we may be able to build a decriminalized state. If we fail to halt the further criminalization of the state of Pakistan, we the people should be ready to be ruled not by laws, but by criminals instead of persons!
The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute.