The real rulers of Pakistan | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 16, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 16, 2007

As I See It

The real rulers of Pakistan

Sixty years into our independence, the canard is that military rule alone destroyed democracy, no one speaks about the bureaucracy's role in initially bringing democracy to its knees, and then benefiting hugely by the facade of successive military rule.
The irony is that some bureaucrats, extremely close to all the military and bureaucrat rulers, have now become born-again democrats, and are leading the holier-than-thou charge against the military.
From Aug 1947 to Sep 1948, the Quaid was governor general (GG) of Pakistan and Liaquat Ali Khan was the prime minister (PM). The reins of power were firmly in the hands of those committed to democracy, and even after the Quaid's death on Sep 11, 1948, when Khawaja Nazimuddin became GG, the dominance of democrats was maintained till Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated on Oct 16, 1951.
Senior bureaucrats persuaded Khawaja Nazimuddin that in order "to sustain the democratic traditions" he was required to be a powerful PM on the lines of Liaquat Shaheed, the GG's post to remain largely ceremonial as it had become after the Quaid's death.
This manipulation was engineered by another bureaucrat, Iskander Mirza, to make Ghulam Mohammad, a member of the Accounts Service, who had become finance minister in the first Cabinet, the GG. The first Indian graduate from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in 1920, Mirza belonged to the hated Mir Jafar family of Bengal, and was born and brought up in Bombay.
He served in the army for six years as a cavalry officer (Captain) before joining the Indian Political Service (IPS), becoming the defence secretary to the first cabinet in 1947.
After Liaquat's death, democracy was in a twilight zone. Khawaja Nazimuddin fought a series of losing battles against the all-powerful bureaucracy, being finally removed as PM by Ghulam Mohammad. Democracy in Pakistan was actually murdered on April 17, 1953, but, unfortunately, the then chief justice, the Honourable Mohammad Munir, let the killers go free. Mohammad Ali Bogra was handpicked to replace him. Iskandar Mirza went to serve as "Pro-Consul" in a faraway Satrapy as Governor East Pakistan.
With his close friend Gen Mohammad Ayub Khan (while remaining C-in-C) he joined the Bogra cabinet as interior minister and defence minister respectively. Challenging the GG's despotic authority, Bogra was replaced by Ch Mohammad Ali. Making Ghulam Mohammad a mental case, Mirza became acting GG and removed him to become GG, promoting himself from Maj to the rank of Maj Gen.
In 1956, Pakistan became a republic, and Iskandar Mirza its first president. By 1958, he had installed and removed four PMs, Choudhry Mohd Ali, Husain Shahed Suhrawardy, II Chundrigar and Feroz Khan Noon. Since there was no way he was ever going to be elected in his own right, in the face of the deteriorating political and economic conditions, he declared martial law on Oct 7, 1958 and made the C-in-C Pakistan Army, Gen Ayub, the martial law Administrator (and the PM).
Democracy's corpse, kept in an open casket for over 5 years, was finally buried. Conspiring to oust the very armed forces officers who had supported him, he was himself removed by the army on Oct 27, 1958.
In 1958 and 1959 there was martial law in Pakistan, thereafter Gen Ayub Khan ruled through a civilian cabinet with a few retired army generals. Bureaucracy again became all-powerful, a mixture of politicians and technocrats becoming part of the troika. Only East Pakistan continued to feel the domination of the army, the GOC 14 Division having far more authority in influencing civil affairs ther.
Between 1960 and 1968, bureaucracy was the dominant partner of the technocrats and politicians. A popular democratic movement, initially led by Air Marshal Asghar Khan and taken over by politicians in both East and West Pakistan, brought Ayub down in 1968. He handed over power to Gen Yahya Khan, the C-in-C Pakistan Army; the ranking bureaucrat, post-haste, issued a notification that "the CMLA would report to him," Fida Hussain. This was short lived!
The tragedy is that having presided over the freest and fairest elections in Pakistan's history, Yahya Khan was persuaded by the losing politicians and a coterie of bureaucrats not to hand over power. Gen Yahya Khan's military rule ended three and a half years later, on Dec 20, 1971, after a violent civil war and the loss of the war with India, which divided Pakistan into two parts, West Pakistan keeping the name Pakistan and East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became Pakistan's president and civilian Chief martial law Administrator (CMLA) on Dec 20, 1971. He remained president till Aug 14, 1973, and later, under the 1973 Constitution, he assumed the office of a powerful PM and Fazal Elahi Chaudhry became president. Bhutto must be given great credit for exhuming democracy from its grave and resuscitating it after 20 years.
Democracy's downfall was nationalisation on Jan 1, 1974. This made bureaucrats all-powerful again, by proxy, heading most of the state-owned enterprises and the nationalised ones. On July 5, 1977, Gen Ziaul Haq seized power and became CMLA, relieving Fazal Elahi Chaudhry as president on September 16, 1978, and remaining so till his death in an aircraft crash on August 17, 1988.
An appointed Majlis in 1982 gave way to partyless elections in 1985; with Mohammad Ali Khan Junejo becoming PM. Zia removed Junejo in May 1988 and assumed day-to-day control. During the Zia period, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, a member of the NWFP civil service before it was merged into the civil services, became an absolute ruler. His source of strength was the nearly 100 or so state-run enterprises headed by bureaucrats, and only a handful of army officers were in civilian posts.
On Zia's death, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who was made chairman of the Senate by Zia, became acting president, being elected president by the assemblies on Dec 13, 1988. From Dec 2, 1988, the born-again democracy was kept "under control" by the bureaucracy with active help from the army. As president till July 18, 1993, this bureaucrat sent two elected PMs home on flimsy grounds.
If the army had any illusions that they were the masters, Ishaq Khan dispelled them by retiring his active collaborator in keeping democracy in a straitjacket, COAS Pakistan army, Gen Aslam Beg. Ghulam Farooq Leghari, another bureaucrat-turned-politician, was elected president on Nov 14, 1993. Before being made to resign on Dec 2, 1997, he ousted his own party PM Ms Benazir, and was planning to send home another PM, Mian Nawaz Sharif who had become all-powerful.
Mohammad Rafiq Tarar was elected president on Jan 01, 1998, remaining so till Jan 20, 2002. Instead of making democracy work, Mian Nawaz Sharif went off on a binge byff sacking all those he did not like, or making life so miserable for them that they had no option but to quit. When he tried this with the COAS, Musharraf and his close aides were waiting for him, they threw him out.
The first real involvement of the army in the governance of the country for an extended period of time came during Musharraf's rule. Technically, there was no Martial Law, after 2002 an elected government took office.The glaring difference with previous military rules was the influx (a la bureaucracy) of nearly 700-800 armed forces officers into civilian posts.
Except for brief periods of Martial Law the army was always used as the facade behind which an unholy troika of bureaucrats, politicians and technocrats has been the real ruler of the country.
Can anyone explain why the nationalised industries, profitable when taken over in 1974, were almost all bankrupt (or nearly so even after being subsidised many times) when de-nationalised, and why there was (and is) no accountability thereof? Those who count still remain behind the scenes, very much in power!

Ikram Sehgal is an eminent Pakistani political analyst and columnist.

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