Better to start with two clarifications: First, this piece does not raise the question of Pakistani state’s viability in the sense Pakistan’s Leftists and liberals are wont to discuss it. They say something like that: It’s unviable because it was created by the British in line with their policy of Divide and Rule; It’s unviable because it was created by the narrow-mindedness of Hindus or the Congress, or the stubbornness of Muslims or the League. They also hold that: It’s unviable because religion is never the basis of any state. The writer prospectively believes that states are not rational entities; they may come into existence, and disintegrate and disperse into more entities with or without any rational justifications. It’s like individuals or groups of human beings who want to live separately for any concrete or imagined grievances or none at all that states are born and withered. The crux of the argument is that what’s important is not how and why new entities of states emerge, what’s fatally important is how the newly emerged states live, grow and perform on the scale of their citizens’ rights and well-being.
Second clarification tries to address the universally prevailing view of Pakistan as a failed or failing state. This view derives its arguments mostly from political and economic realms. It’s a complex argument comprising many a heterogeneous theses. For instance, it raises such issues: Military’s hegemony vis-à-vis civilian and political affairs; Intelligence agencies’ role in political and state’s affairs; Absence of democratic values and democratic polity; Centre’s hold; Provincial disharmonies; Ethnic resentment; Linguistic discords; Economic subservience of lower classes; Inefficient state machinery; Separation of the East Pakistan as Bangladesh; etc. Various combinations of such politico-economic factors invite the epithet of a failing and disintegrating state for Pakistan. The writer has nothing to do with this view either.
The above-discussed factors do make sense of what has been and is happening right now in Pakistan. One may quip: The political drama being played at the moment in Islamabad proves the unviability of the state of Pakistan! The writer wants to push the argument deeper into the political abyss Pakistan has been thrown into; and, aims at going beyond the constitutional argument for the viability of a state. That no doubt applies to the first two decades or so of Pakistan’s history, when there was a display of various constitutions appearing and disappearing on the political celluloid. Why this was the case then that now a constitution was enforced and now it stood abrogated? It is here that the argument of this writer formulates itself. Certainly it was not mere geographical, political, ethnic, linguistic, or economic differences which were responsible for the lingering constitutional crisis facing early Pakistan. It was something more and other and different than that which caused that constitutional impermanence. In fact, it was that “something” which lied behind and resulted in the formation of Bangladesh.
But what about the four decades (and the fifth lapping to this day) which lived through the company of a constitution promulgated in 1973? Where had gone that “something” during that constitutional intactness? Of course, the devil did not vanish then, but became distributed in details. The constitution was verily there, but seldom enforced and followed in letter and spirit. Up till now, it has been operated upon by three openly declared Martial Laws (1977, 1999, and 2007). As is believed and upheld by many analysts that even when the army is not in the saddle, in certain matters especially and otherwise generally it keeps the reins in its hands. Be that as it may, it is politicians the responsibility lies with whom to run the affairs of the state in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, and it is they who criminally share that with others, whoever they are. Not only politicians collude with the army and intelligence agencies, but they when in power do not bother with the dictates of the constitution. Let it be mentioned here that it completely excludes the spirit of the constitution, more significant than its letter, which never finds any followers in politicians. No denying that both usurpers and lawful rulers treat the constitution in a manner as if it is there for them to manipulate and not to abide by and follow in letter and spirit. Again it is that “something” which may clearly be seen underlying here in this type of anti-constitutional politics.
What’s that “something?” I would call it that minimum consensus which is necessary for any community of people to form into a political entity, i.e. a state. May it be noted here that it touches the boundaries of the notion of a social contract, but in itself it is not a social contract. In fact, when a community of people comes to institute a state, they first need to agree as to this intention that they are to be together in a state where whatever laws are to be made they will abide by them. That is that minimum consensus! It may be termed Writ of Law. Here it is taken for granted that not all the people may be in agreement with this or that law, and that’s natural; and that those who do not agree, even they are bound to follow that law, though they may try to amend, nullify or replace it with one of their choice. So, before a people enter into a social contract, they require a minimum consensus that whatever laws are enacted, regardless of their agreement or difference with them they will follow them.
Contrary to it, now and then this or that group of people, which does not agree with a set of laws, and instead of trying to get them changed in a prescribed manner, comes to violate and challenge that minimum consensus which ensures the intactness of that political union they are part of. That makes that political entity or state unviable. It is in this sense that the state of Pakistan is unviable, and presently it is PTI and PAT which are trampling that minimum consensus in the name of Azadi and Inqilab. Pakistan’s political history of about 7 decades proves that point. Be it prior to the 1973 constitution or after it, that minimum consensus has always been at stake. It is at stake now also!
Note: This article was completed on September 11 and was originally posted in October 2014.