The Muslim League whose campaign led to the birth of Pakistan could hardly be called a grass roots party until after 1940 when the Pakistan Resolution was adopted. The League might have operated at the national level before 1940 but its mass base developed only in the 1940s when several Muslim politicians from the Muslim majority provinces also joined its ranks. In the short period available to them before Pakistan became a reality, they had neither been able to create a party structure going down to the people of all regions nor create a vision of Pakistan in terms of a socio-politico economic entity. In a sense they were not ready for Pakistan when it came and had no framework drawn out to deal with the popular aspirations that surfaced.
The ill health and death in September 1948, of founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, prevented Pakistan from benefiting by the constitutional and western liberal values, which he had cherished. The assassination in October 1951 of Liaqat Ali Khan, his second in command who also had a national stature, amounted to the removal of a benign presence that would have worked for establishing durable representative and participatory institutions and processes in the new country. The lesser leaders who succeeded them and who were mostly drawn from the feudal classes in Punjab were not wedded to such ideals.
In the short period available to them before Pakistan became a reality, they had neither been able to create a party structure going down to the people of all regions nor create a vision of Pakistan in terms of a socio-politico economic entity.
This environment suited the bureaucratic military complex which was the inheritor of the British legacy of colonial culture and which had remained intact in the post independence milieu. It constituted the steel framework on which rested the real responsibilities of governance while the political class feuded in the Constituent Assembly, on such questions as the form of government, role of Islam, parity between the two wings of Pakistan, issues relating to federalism, etc. The more the politicians from various regions quarrelled among themselves, the more grew the strength of this group. Over time, the feudal aristocracy of Punjab and the commercial and industrial elite also allied with them to safeguard their own economic and other interests.
None of the Muslim intellectuals or political stalwarts who had contributed to the build up of the Pakistan idea before partition had examined the question whether the existence of a common identity as Muslims would prove sufficient to obliterate separate cultural consciousness of the same Muslim masses and help evolve a sense of political brotherhood, weeding out parochial considerations, Even a cursory look at the history of Islamic people will show that religion was never an adequate vehicle to bridge the gaps dividing people on the basis of their historical experiences, traditions, languages and culture.
The Islamic concept of one Ummah had ceased to be a practical reality after the Ummaids in AD 650 splintered into different political units. Fundamentalists like the Ikhwanul Mussalmeen had been dreaming about uniting the Muslim world again by rejecting class differences, different political structures and separate cultural awareness but the modern Muslim is unwilling to accept that the state and religion are one. After the adoption of the Objectives Resolution by the Constituent Assembly in 1949, conferring on Islam the role of an anchor, the Ullema class had hoped that in due course they would be ‘able to establish their hegemony over the state on the strength of their Islamic credentials.
The available political leaders seemed to display little respect for parliamentary values”¦ Inevitably, the bureaucracy acquired an ascending role in policy and decision-making, supported from the sidelines by the military.
The bureaucratic military complex, with their values inherited from the British, in their early phase, would only accept that the prevailing social environment called for an interface between politics and religion but they could in no way be considered synonymous with each other. Thus evolved a role for them, to keep the conservatives of religion at bay while ensuring that the absence of a sense of Pakistani nationalism did not lead to the ruin of the state.
Military Becomes the Key Factor
The first decade of Pakistan’s existence was marked by great political confusion and turmoil. The Muslim League, which became the ruling party after independence had leaders in the government who hailed by and large from provinces left (behind in India. They failed to strike roots in the new state of Pakistan. No viable alternative political leadership evolved. The available political leaders seemed to display little respect for parliamentary values and were disinclined to close their differences to speedily work out an agreed constitution for Pakistan. Inevitably, the bureaucracy acquired an ascending role in policy and decision-making, supported from the sidelines by the military. In 1954 the Constituent Assembly was dissolved by Governor General Ghulam Mohammed, a former civil servant, when the draft constitution proposed that the governor general should only be a figurative Head of State, as in India.
A second Constituent Assembly was called into session, which gave Pakistan its first Constitution in 1956. Political management in the period till then had increasingly come into the hands of the bureaucratic military establishment that functioned more or less in an authoritarian manner with no respect for democratic norms.
Till the seizure of power by Ayub Khan, the larger corps of officers and men of the Pakistan Armed Forces had maintained a non-political but disciplined and professional image.
The period 1947-58 saw a change of seven Prime Ministers and eight Cabinets. But between January 1951 and 1961 there had been only one Commander-in-Chief Mohammed Ayub Khan, who in 1958 displaced Iskander Mirza as the President and abolished the 1956 Constitution. He was also the Defence Minister from October 1954 to August 1955. Till the seizure of power by Ayub Khan, the larger corps of officers and men of the Pakistan Armed Forces had maintained a non-political but disciplined and professional image. The military was also by and large a cohesive force, with its personnel hailing mainly from Punjab and to a lesser extent from the Pakhtoons.
The mindless political squabbling of the groups jockeying for power had corrupted the political processes and created an impression in the people’s mind that their welfare and survival of the state could only be guaranteed by the Armed Forces. The Press, independent politicians and even some army circles’ had started whispering for the Army to take over directly the governance of the country. In the popular view, the Armed Forces thus, had already become the main pillar of strength of the state. Moreover, the Armed Forces constituted the best-organised institution in the country. With Kashmir having become a live issue between India and Pakistan in September 1947, the ruling elite had allocated large funds to the Armed Forces each year to maintain a strong defence profile.