Essay on Bureaucracy-Army Coalition in Pakistan



By the turn of the decade, the Muslim League had lost all credibility in East Pakistan because of its language policy.

There the mainstream Muslim League broke away and formed the Awami League in 1949. In West Pakistan, the Muslim League split into two informal groups-one consisting of old Leaguers who were mostly migrants from India and the other comprising the new entrants, mostly Punjabis and a few Sindhis and Pathans.

While the former were mostly urban people imbibed with liberal democratic values, the latter were mostly rural based feudal landlords with a streak of Islamic fundamentalism. They had no idealism born out of the struggle for a cause.

Traditionally, the British had recruited its army and officers from rural areas and conservative feudal landlord families. Naturally, the Army in Pakistan had close links with the new entrants of the League. Following the assassination of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in October 1951, Khwaja Nazimuddin became the Prime Minister and the president of the Muslim League.

The Finance Minister Ghulam Mohammad was named the new Governor General. Ghulam Mohammad was not a politician. He revived the Jinnah's style of functioning and operated through the civil servants. He brought Maj. Gen. lskander Mirza into the government as the Defence Secretary. Mirza was not a fighting General. He belonged to the British Political Service and had spent most of his career in the Frontier quelling Pathan insurgency.

It was also the time when General Ayub Khan became the first Pakistani Chief of the Army Staff. These three men were responsible for the destruction of democracy, and ushering in the first military coup in October 1958. Once the armed forces came to power, they ensured that military would have a permanent place in the politics of the country. After Liaquat, most of the heads of the Muslim League were from the feudal families.

With bureaucracy already enjoying an important place in the power structure, the alliance of the army, landlords and bureaucracy came into being. It was this oligarchy or alliance which survived through all the ups and downs of Pakistan's history that pushed Pakistan into the neo-colonialist trap of the United States.

The three leaders Ghulam Mohammad, Mirza and Ayub entered into an alliance with the United States which at that time was looking for military allies in its efforts to contain the Soviet Union. Such an alliance was mooted even when Liaquat Ali Khan was the Prime Minister, but he along with Nazimuddin had resisted it.

The Constituent Assembly endorsed the various decisions of the Governor General Ghulam Mohamd for dismissals and appointments. When Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra proposed to the Assembly to curtail the powers of the Governor General, Ghulam Mohammad hit back by dissolving the Constituent Assembly in 1954. Thus, the first Constituent Assembly ended its career without performing its task of framing the Constitution.

The dissolution of the Assembly created a serious constitutional crisis as there was no provision for the dissolution and reelection of a new Constituent Assembly.

The Governor General had no authority to dissolve the Assembly. In the legal and constitutional wrangling at the Sind High Court and the Supreme Court, Justice Mohammad Munir propounded the 'doctrine of necessity' and legalised the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. The doctrine of necessity was in fact a unique form of authoritarian law which was presented as not inconsistent with principles of democracy.

The effect of the Munir's doctrine was that those in command of the coercive power of the state had the right to suspend constitutional government whenever and however long they thought necessary. Later military takeovers by General Ayub Processes in Pakistan in 1958, by General Zia ul Haq in 1977 and General Pervez Musharraf in 1999 were legalised by this doctrine.

Fresh elections to the Constituent Assembly were held in 1955. In that election, the Muslim League lost its majority. But no other party- the Awami League, the United Front (non-Awami League East Pakistani parties), and the Republican Party- secured a majority.

The major contribution of the new Constituent Assembly was that it passed a new Constitution (1956) based on the system of One Unit' under which the four provinces of West Pakistan i.e., Punjab, Sind, Baluchistan, and the Northwest Frontier Province were amalgamated into one unit, that is, West Pakistan and East Bengal and the Sylhet districts into another unit.

Pakistan, in effect, was divided into two units East and West Pakistan. Politically, it meant that the Bengali people were deprived of the political advantage of their being the majority of the population of the country. The 1956 Constitution, whatever it merits or demerits, introduced the parliamentary system of democratic government.

As per the provision of the Constitution, elections to the House of Representatives were to be held in 1959. By this time the pro-American group of Ayub, Mirza and Ghulam Mohammad was well entrenched in the power structure. Washington was convinced that Ayub and Iskander Mirza would support the US plans in the region and would cement U.S-Pak military alliance as represented by the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) and later Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO).

Election at this juncture would have strengthened the political parties and augmented political consciousness among the people. The oligarchy which would have lost its influence therefore acted fast. In September 1958, the Army seized power by staging a coup.

The Constitution of 1956 was abrogated, political parties and activities were slandered and banned and the entire country was placed under Martial Law.