The political instability currently witnessed in Pakistan has a long history dating back to the initial years of the creation of the country that impeded the very growth of the Pakistani nation. The scars of the malgovernance run deep in the cumulative national consciousness and in the absence of any healing plan are exacerbating by the day. Successive generations of decision-makers have simply failed the nation by steadfastly refusing to learn from the past mistakes and following the treacherous path. The situation has come to the pass where hypocrisy has become the essential definition of Pakistani way of life and unfortunately no one is willing to concede this sorry state of affairs.
There is hardly any doubt that the country came into existence amidst very trying circumstances and right from its inception Pakistan was subjected to arbitrary governing practices. The seeds of the unfortunate tendency not to accommodate any opposition of policies of ruling dispensations were sown in the first half decade after Pakistan gained independence. Opposing excessive centralisation the first opposition group, Peoples Party of Pakistan, emerged in May 1948 led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and G M Syed, both stalwarts of independence movement, but within a week its activities were banned by the government.
After passing away of Quaid-e-Azam, in an attempt to pacify East Pakistan Khwaja Nazimuddin was made governor general of Pakistan and was replaced by Nurul Amin as chief minister of East Bengal. Within a month of the demise of Quaid-e-Azam religious opposition raised its head when Jamat-e-Islami launched a campaign for Islamisation of Pakistan that was forcibly put down and Maulana Maudoodi was arrested.
The lack of respect accorded to legislatures also raised its spectre during this time as the Constituent Assembly met only twice since its election in 1946 and for the third time it met ten months after second session and even the second session was convened six months after the first meeting. This casual attitude profoundly impacted upon the constitution making exercise proving harmful for both units of the country. The tradition sadly held ground and Pakistani parliamentary life is badly marred by it.
Another first was the induction of judicial officers in political-executive positions such as in October 1948, after the death of Sindh Governor, Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, a former judge of the Punjab High Court, Shaikh Deen Muhammad, was appointed the governor of Sindh. Quaid-e-Azam trusted the civil-servant British governors and preferred appointment of seasoned politicians to gubernatorial offices.
This period also witnessed the onset of intense political infighting that was a sad reflection on the swift disappearance of fraternal national feelings when the country came into being. The most troubling manifestation of the political feuding was seen in the political tussle in Punjab between Chief Minister Nawab Iftikhar Mamdot, a refugee from eastern Punjab and local Muslim League leader Mian Mumtaz Daultana. The feud reached the high point when Daultana schemed to get himself elected president of provincial Muslim League and this defeat of the chief minister egged on PM Liaquat Ali Khan to dismiss Mamdot under viceregal article 93 A and to impose governor’s rule in Punjab.
The pitiable fact was that just 18 months after independence three provincial governments were dismissed by the central government. The first to go was NWFP government led by Dr. Khan Sahib, older brother of Red Shirts leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. The second one to follow was the ministry of Ayub Khuhro ministry in Sind who refused to let Karachi be declared capital of the country. The most unfortunate aspect of the unraveling situation was that all three dismissals were done without recourse to provincial legislatures initiating a merry-go-round of political jugglery that was to undermine democratic moorings of the country.
The blows failed to abate as PM Liaqat Ali Khan instituted the draconian Public and Representative Offices Disqualification Act (PRODA) enabling the central government to proceed against all central and provincial ministers who could face legal proceedings on charges of corruption. The PRODA was passed in 1949 but was made applicable since 14 August 1947 and could disqualify public office holders for a decade. Its first victim was Ayub Khuhro and it was soon applied to prosecute former CM Punjab Nawab Iftikhar Hussain Mamdot and Bengali stalwart Hussain Shaheed Suhrwardy. In the same vein Chief Minister Sind, Pir Ilahi Bukhsh was disqualified for six years and in his place Yusuf Haroon made CM revealing that in a short span of two years Sind saw four successive chief ministers in and out of office: Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, M Ayub Khuhro, Pir Ilahi Bukhsh and Yousuf Haroon. The game of musical chairs had begun.
In the meantime PM Liaquat Ali Khan consolidated his power by getting himself elected unopposed as president of Muslim League replacing Ch. Khaliquzzaman in order to preclude the possibility of what happened to sitting CM Mamdot when Daultana upstaged him by getting hold of the party. This step created another negative precedent of coupling premiership with party leadership and became an unhealthy tradition causing resentment within the party ranks as it was considered shackled by executive authority.
It was precisely at this time that political leadership started wooing religious elements and tried to co-opt them for confronting political elements. The first step was to constitute a Ruet-e-Hilal committee in June 1948 that ultimately resulted in utter confusion Pakistanis still endure when they are subjected to celebrate multiple Eids. Religious elements made their presence felt when in February 1949 a World Muslim Conference was held in Pakistan presided over by Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani whose aim was to dissociate Pakistan from its South Asian mores and pull it towards Islamic world. To cap the whole maneuver the Constituent Assembly, meeting for the fourth time in two years, passed Objectives Resolution in March 1949. It is pertinent to mention that this step had far-reaching effects on socio-political fabric of Pakistan.
The veteran Bengali leader Hussain Shaheed Suhrwardy founded opposition political party All Pakistan Jinnah Awami Muslim League along with Iftikhar Mamdot. This development followed similar actions in provinces where all disgruntled elements got together against over-centralisation policies of the central government. In March 1951, PM Liaquat Ali Khan unearthed a conspiracy against his government hatched by some military officers in collusion with some civilians. Twelve out of fifteen conspirators were punished by a special tribunal of high court judges.
Unfortunately, PM Liaqat Ali Khan was assassinated in October 1951 in Rawalpindi while addressing a public meeting that brought about a spate of unnatural demises of political leaders that has failed to abate. The fact that all political assassinations remained unsolved speaks volumes about the lack of justice that slowly ate at the very national fabric creating a situation that negatively affected the collective national psyche. The governance process was badly marred by the violence that crept in with many segments of the state employing proxy actors capable of destabilising the national equilibrium. The sad fact is that the first four years of the existence of Pakistan set an extremely unhealthy tradition of political instability and internecine squabbles that the nation still suffers from. TW