From Nation to Empire Building | Dr Farid A Malik

The founding fathers of Pakistan were able and honest. They had a vision to build the nation. Corruption was well contained as national institutions were being built. The first democracy of the Islamic world had serious teething problems, but the focus was never lost. Political leadership developed a culture of giving, not taking.

Perhaps the transition of the colonial mindset within the baboos, qazis and khakis was the most difficult task faced by the founding political leadership. Baboos were the first to cross the line, followed by the khakis. Maulvi Tamizuddin, the Speaker, approached the qazis who sided with the usurpers. The law of necessity was introduced, which has been repeatedly invoked and subsequently misused since then.

The 1956 constitution was a major milestone in our democratic journey. Pakistan became a republic with baboo and honorary Major General Iskander Mirza as the last viceroy and first president. Elections were scheduled for October 1958, with a clear winner-takes-it-all understanding. But instead of the ballot, the bullet was imposed on the nation in the name of socio-economic development. The constitution was abrogated and the country came under the boots of a very ordinary soldier who was superceded by the father of the nation himself. The empire building that started on October 27, 1958 has continued unabated, with brief, minor breaks in between.

Retired Captain Gohar Ayub Khan had a scooter loan when his father became President; by the time the president was made to resign, Khan junior was a leading industrialist. The first mansion on the hill in Islamabad belonged to Ayub Khan; it was sold after his death and now belongs to the Hashwanis. Empire building on borrowed money was the hallmark of the Ayub regime.

The 1965 war proved to be pointless and exposed the limitations of our armed forces. Skirmishes in Kashmir led to an all-out conflict for which the khaki leadership was not prepared. It was the gallantry of the junior officers that saved the day. The 1971 war was another disaster that resulted in the breakup of Quaid’s Pakistan. Instead of a political solution, a military one was opted for by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), who came to power in what was left of the country and subsequently decided to build a nuclear bomb as a means of deterrence.

A team of engineers and scientists was assembled to first design, and then build the atomic bomb. Dr Riazuddin, who was professor of physics as Islamabad University, designed the device which was then built under the leadership of Engineer Munir Ahmed Khan, who remained chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) for eighteen years. He was succeeded by Dr Ashfaq Ahmed, who led the team for eight years. A free hand was given to the group, with no financial audits. Now that ZAB’s mission has long since been accomplished, it is time to review the ad-hoc arrangements that were made to ensure security and the territorial integrity of the nation.

It is indeed interesting though that while its territories have been secured, the nation has continued to decline. Basic requirements of the masses, such as food, education, health, employment and clean drinking water have been ignored. Pakistan is under Mafia rule, with only a few functional institutions which operate freely but without any verifiable financial audits. The intelligent allocation of resources is critical for a poor, developing country; it is high time we re-prioritize and re-allocate our finances.

Nation-building needs resources that have either been squandered into empire building or misspent on misguided priorities. After the first and only free and fair elections of 1970, the focus was shifted to nation building, but the period was short-lived. In the sixty-nine years of our existence, nation-building only happened between 1947 to 1958 and then 1971-77: a total of seventeen years, which is grossly inadequate for a nation that wants to ever stand on its own feed.

The miracle of China and other Asian Tigers was largely due to their attention to human development, which has been sorely missing in our approach. Till 1958 the political leadership was honest and able; today our leadership is the result of ten manipulated ballots between 1977 to 2013. The starting point has to be a credible and indisputable ballot followed by an across-the-board audit and accountability. Only when the resources of the nation will be spent judiciously on the individuals who generate them will our true growth begin. We, the people of Pakistan, demand a verifiable financial audit of every penny of our wealth being spent so that we can ensure its proper utilization, with focus on nation, not empire building. By some reports, Pakistan has the richest politicians, generals, scientists and bureaucrats of the world, and one of the poorest populations. This has got to change.

The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation.


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