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My late mother used to talk about ‘Ungrez Ki Hukamat’ (Rule of the Colonists or Raj). Although she was an activist during her student days in Srinagar and Aligarh chanting against the Dogra and British Raj, yet she was all praise for the efficient running of the system.

One of my walk buddies who retired as the ‘Baboo-e-Azam’ (Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister) raised an interesting point about the prevailing lawlessness and mismanagement in the land of the pure. According to him, it was mainly lack of elected oversight.

It was the British Parliament that ensured that laws were followed in the entire British Commonwealth of Nations. There was ruthless adherence, the MPs (Members of the Parliament) legislated which had to be carried out in letter and spirit.

It was the Government of India Act 1935 which led to the partition of the Indian Subcontinent into two Dominions. Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the undisputed elected leader and President of the All-India Muslim League (AIML) was administered oath of office as the first Governor General (GG) of Pakistan by the last Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten.

As GG, Jinnah then administered oath to the constituent assembly and the first Prime Minister (PM) Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan. There was an interesting episode; when Jinnah came for the oath-taking ceremony, he occupied the seat of the GG which was unlawful.

The then Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Sir Abdur Rashid asked the GG in-waiting to vacate the seat as he had not taken the oath of office. Jinnah promptly complied and later appreciated the gesture of the CJP not by sending him home but with a pat on the back for the job well done.

During the demonstrations against the first usurper a tear gas shell fired at the protesting lawyers landed in the premises of the Lahore High Court (LHC). The Chief Justice Muhammad Rustam Kayani promptly issued notice of contempt against the Inspector General of Police (IGP).

It was considered an attack on the independence of judiciary. Only after a written apology was he let go. It was a perfect legal oversight of executive abuse which has now become a norm in the republic. About 80% of the civil litigation emanates from this high handedness of the administrative set-up which remains un-accountable.

In the interim constitution of 1972, ‘Administrative Accountability Courts’ were mandated, a toned-down version was included in the original 1973 document under Article 212 that was later removed by the third usurper in July 1979 through an ordinance.

In October 1958 when the first dictator took control of the republic, there was a massive crackdown against political leadership. An Ordinance was also issued titled EBDO (Elected Bodies Disqualification Ordinance). Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan, the most popular leader of his times and a prospective PM was leading a ‘Long March’ which was massive.

On entering Lahore, he was arrested at the Ravi bridge and taken to the torture cells of the Lahore Fort where he was kept for a few days till he announced his retirement from politics. With my father Nazir Ahmed Malik (late) who was a Muslim Leaguer we went to see Khan Sahib.

I was barely five years old at that time but I still remember the words of this great soldier of the freedom movement. My old man wanted him to fight back for the constitution and rule of law by saying; “Khan Sahib you led the freedom movement against the colonists, went to jail several times, single handedly you won the referendum for Pakistan in NWFP (now KPK) yet you could not endure a few days under detention “.

We were both stunned by his reply; “Malik Sahib wo Goray Ki Jail Thí, there were rules, jail manuals were followed, Yeh Desi Jail hay, Izzat Bhi Mahfouz Nahin Hay”. In other words, it was law of jungle where no one was answerable. A ‘Madar Pidar Azad’, executive branch that is accountable and answerable to no one.

In the year 1960 Hassan Nasir, an activist, was tortured to death in the same cell where Qayyum Khan was kept earlier. When his mother came from Hyderabad Deccan to collect the body of her son, it was mutilated beyond recognition.

No inquiry was conducted into the cause of his death nor was anyone charged with murder in captivity. To curb the movement launched against the third dictator (Movement for Restoration of Democracy) in the mid-eighties, several progressive activists were kept in these dungeons of the Lahore Fort.

Finally, it was the government of Muhammad Khan Junejo that shut down these Mughal era torture chambers where people were unlawfully kept and tortured till they surrendered.

Lahore was run by an elected Mayor who operated from the historic Town Hall located at the lower end of the Mall. Every city department worked under his oversight. The Lahore Omni Bus (LOS) was also launched from there which provided public transport facilities.

Buses and double-decker buses covered the entire length and breadth of the city. As a student growing up on the Mall, every morning we walked to school. The roads were sprinkled and wiped clean, garbage was removed. As the drains were open they seldom choked.

After every downpour we went looking for accumulated rain water which could only be found in the low lying areas of Sanda and Shadbagh. The city remained functional till it was run under elected oversight. Today, there is a big mess all around.

In the name of development, Lahore has lost its functions. Recently, the Walton Road that connects Chungi Ammar Sadhu with the Cavalry Ground has been dug at both ends causing serious traffic flow problems. How can one survive when both inlet and outlet points have been choked?

For decades I have been highlighting the importance of complete restoration of Article 212 of the 1973 original constitution. Without elected oversight the disorder cannot be corrected as it is free for all. The Right to Information Act 2017 has provided transparency but without executive authority it remains toothless. The Ombudsman is also ineffective as bureaucrats cover up the follies of their peers.

The ‘Muzalam Courts’ were first set-up in Madina under Hazrat Ali (RA) where the Khalifa heard public complaints as Chief Executive and issued orders to contain abuse. Napoleon carried the idea of such courts which were then established in France and later in Sweden as well.

The Mughal Kings in India also had ‘Open Diwans’ where public grievances were redressed. The majestic Diwan Hall in the Governor’s House Lahore was used for this purpose in the decade of the seventies by the elected government.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan functioned well only during the periods of elected oversight which were quite brief (1947 to 1958 & 1971 to 1977). It is back to the drawing board again from the Government of India Act 1935 to the Constitution of 1973, which was enacted by the elected representatives of the people no detour will work if disorder has to be replaced with order. The ‘Madar Pidar Azad’ have now turned into ‘Badmash’ or ‘Mafia’.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Dr Farid A Malik

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation; email:[email protected]


Comments are closed.

KU Dec 28, 2023 02:34pm
Interesting narrative. You are right, it's a continuation of the Raj, but a very cheap version of it. Most of the citizens, who can afford it, are moving abroad, even if it means a setback to their finances. Rule of law is no more to protect people, while newly rich goons now rule the roost. The way our Raj is handling a consistently falling economy, is a stark reminder of how it will end.
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