This February Alternate Solutions Institute released my first Urdu book, The Rise of State Aristocracy in Pakistan (Pakistan Mein Riyasti Ashrafiya Ka Urooj). Here is a brief statement of what the book tries to discuss and formulate:
Last year, Alternate Solutions Institute wanted to hold a series of seminars on the theme: Ashrafiya Ka Naheen, Sab Ka Paksitan (Not For Ashrafiya, Pakistan For Everyone).
So I thought of writing a 2-3 page explanation of the slogan. But the paper kept on expanding, and I let it, and tried to state the argument with as much detail as I could. In that sense, it’s not a planned book, rather an argument.
Here are some of the important points the book focuses on:
First, the book tries to argue that rule of this or that class, such as rule of the proletariat, puts one class in conflict with the other classes, and does not resolve the problem. Also that it’s not the issue who should rule; rather the issue is: how to rule. So, what is needed are “just rules” (or say “just laws”) which favor none, and are based on inalienable individual rights, and protect these rights. That may bring the whole society to a harmonious state: where there exists no rule of person or persons, or any class.
Second, in addition to rules (laws), the book considers the emergence of the institution of the state as a great step ahead in the progress of humankind, and that the foremost purpose of the state is to protect the individuals’ person and property and his rights or freedoms. This it does by formulating just rules and just laws, and by implementation them indiscriminately. Which is not the case in Pakistan!
Third, I have built my thesis of Riyasti Ashrafiya on the important work of Dr. Ishrat Hussain. His book, Pakistan: the Economy of an Elitist State, first published in 1999, analyzes the workings of Pakistan’s economy and comes out with the thesis: “The capture of the institutions of the state and the market by the elite is complete.” In his subsequent articles, Dr. Ishrat has endorsed this thesis. But as far as his solution or the “reform agenda” is concerned, the book suggests it is Ashrafi (Aristocrtic, elitist), i.e. it does keep the Ashrafi capture of the state intact.
Fourth, that pre-modern Ashrafiya used to derive its power and authority from various distinctions, such as racial superiority, divine sanction; while the Riyasti Ashrafiya or State Aristocracy (or Pakistani Ashrafiya) derives its power and authority from the State. Be it wealth or clout, privileges or subsidies, the Ashrafiya through the State, appropriates everything for itself.
Fifth, thus this book holds Pakistani Ashrafiya as the biggest obstacle in the way of the supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law in Pakistan; and also a hurdle in the creation of wealth in Pakistan since it favors special interests. The book demonstrates that the Pakistani Ashrafiya lives via its capture of the state, state institutions, and the resources of the state. The heart of the Pakistani Ashrafiya, i.e. Politicians, the Establishment, and the Bureaucracy, have made the constitution subservient to their interests; resources of the state and the wealth created by the citizens of Pakistan their relish; whereas security of fundamental rights, i.e. security of person and property and rights to the ordinary citizens is almost an impossibility. What comes to the lot of the ordinary citizens is endless sufferings at the doors of government offices, the courts, and the polling stations.
Sixth, the book also takes notice of the existence of Two Pakistans, a necessary consequence of Ashrafi capture of the state and its resources. In most of the big cities, in terms of social services, such as potable water, sanitation, public transport, paved roads, street lights, library, parks, playing grounds, two cities may be seen existing: one with no services at all, or with very low standard of services; and one with good quality services. The book makes a case for an amendment in the constitution so that these social services with a standard of quality may be guaranteed to all the citizens wherever they live in Pakistan. That does not amount to burdening the public sector, but essentially bringing in the private sector to produce these services with government playing the supervisory and regulatory role.
Seventh, the book puts the blame for this formation of the Riyasti Ashrafiya, and then capture of the state and market by this Ashrafiya, on the shoulders of the politicians and political parties. I have written in detail about this crime of the politicians and the political parties in my Urdu blog as well, and in my forthcoming book, Siyasi Partian Ya Siyasi Bandobast: Pakistani Siyasat Ke Pech-o-Kham Ka Falsafiyana Muhakma (Political Parties or Political Arrangements: A Philosophical Analysis of Politics in Pakistan). But nobody seems to buy the point. The dominant view incriminates the Pakistan Army for all the ills facing Pakistani citizens.
The book dwells on its explanation also: it is politicians and political parties which make constitution and make amendments in the constitution; it is they who contest elections, and come to rule and make economic policies. In short, it is they who are constitutionally responsible to rule. Not the Army. If they submit their political and constitutional will to the Army, it is their fault. When they are pressured, for instance, by the Army, they never resign and come back to the citizens, who empower them to rule. The day they realize the source of their power are the citizens of Pakistan, they will be empowered.
Eighth, the book also shows a way to transform the Ashrafi Pakistan into Everyone's Pakistan by ensuring personal freedom and along with it economic freedom to all the citizens without any discrimination. It invites all the classes and groupings of Pakistan to the cause of rule of the constitution and the law; and exhorts them to stay on a singular achievement of human civilization, i.e. law.
Finally, the author thinks that humanity is entering a new Age of Rules, superseding the Age of Ideologies, and the present book derives its inspiration from the same enlightenment.
Till now, 4 reviews of the book have appeared in various newspapers and magazines, and 2 launches of the book have been held, in Lahore and Islamabad. The Islamabad launch was organized by the Sustainable Policy Development Institute (www.sdpi.org), and it helped promote the book a lot.
In due course, I will share what was said about the book at the 2 launching ceremonies, and of course will try to clarify my position regarding the objections raised there.
Below are given some of the links where reviews and videos of the book launches may be seen.
Business Recorder March 3, 2012
Roznama Express July 31, 2012
Roznama Mashriq Peshawar August 13, 2012
Haft Roza Hum Shehri August 10-16, 2012
Coverage in the Press:
Business Recorder June 8, 2012
The Nation June 9, 2012
Pakistan Observer June 9, 2012
SDPI Press Release July 16, 2012
Pakistan Observer July 17, 2012