For a Different Democracy (Part 13)


Prof Atta-ur-Rahman,

IN A VISIONARY hand written note in his diary, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah stated that the British Parliamentary system of democracy had not worked well in any country in the world except in the United Kingdom, and that the Presidential system of democracy was more suited for Pakistan. I have had the authenticity of the hand writing verified through the National Defense University. Why was our Quaid so concerned about the Parliamentary system? On many occasions he had expressed his deep anguish at the feudal system that posed a threat to our country. The Quaid had an uncanny foreboding of how the history of Pakistan may play out and he warned the nation about the corrupt landlords who today have a feudal strangle hold in governance. In one of his speeches he issued the following warning to the nation: “I should like to give a warning to the landlords and capitalists who have flourished at our expense by a system which is so vicious, which is so wicked and which makes them so selfish that it is difficult to reason with them. The exploitation of the masses has gone into their blood. They have forgotten the lessons of Islam.(Address, All India Muslim League Session, Delhi, 24 April 1943). He was also concerned about the evil of provincialism at the cost of nationalism. For instance in one of his speeches he stated that: “It naturally pains me to find the curse of provincialism holding sway over any section of Pakistan. Pakistan must be rid of this evil. We are now all Pakistanis–not Baluchis, Pathans, Sindhis, Bengalis, Punjabis and so on–and as Pakistanis we must feet behave and act, and we should be proud to be known as Pakistanis and nothing else (reply to the Civic Address presented by the Quetta Municipality on 15th June, 1948.)
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah realized that democracy can only work in Pakistan if the masses are educated and had the ability to recognize true self-less leaders from corrupt politicians. He therefore repeatedly emphasized the importance of education as the single most important factor for the success of Pakistan. He stated: “Without education it is complete darkness and with education it is light. Education is a matter of life and death to our nation. The world is moving so fast that if you do not educate yourselves you will be not only completely left behind, but will be finished up. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) had enjoined his followers to go even to China in the pursuit of knowledge. If that was the commandment in those days when communications were difficult, then, truly, Muslims as the true followers of the glorious heritage of Islam, should surely utilize all available opportunities. No sacrifice of time or personal comfort should be regarded too great for the advancement of the cause of education.” In another speech he stated: “If we are to make any real, speedy and substantial progress, we must…bring our educational policy and programme on the lines suited to the genius of our people, consonant with our history and culture, and having regard to the modern conditions and vast development that have taken place all over the world” (Message to All Pakistan Education Conference, Karachi, 27 November 1947). Unfortunately under feudal domination, education became the most neglected sector of our development plans, and today Pakistan is ranked among the bottom 10 countries of the world in terms of expenditure on education as a percentage of our GDP.
Quaid-i-Azam was also deeply worried about corruption and, as it turned out, corrupt leaders in successive governments sabotaged the judicial system including NAB, FIA police and other agencies to protect themselves and then looted and plundered at will, drowning the country in an ocean of debt. The Quaid had warned: “Corruption is a curse in India and amongst Muslims, especially the so-called educated and intelligentsia. Unfortunately, it is this class that it selfish and morally and intellectually corrupt. No doubt this disease is common, but amongst this particular class of Muslims it is rampant.(M.A. Jinnah to Ispahani, 6 May 1945)”. According to independent estimates over $ 500 Billion have been looted by our rulers and stashed abroad in the names of various “front men”. According to our former Finance Minister FBR alone is responsible for about Rs. 500 billion of corruption every year. The land scams in Karachi carried out by a political party have led to some 30,000 city amenity and other plots being illegally sold amounting to Rs.60,000 crores (Rs. 600 billion). The mega scams in energy projects have devastated our industry due to corrupt Prime Ministers who installed obsolete power plants and raised the prices of electricity to a level so that our exports became uneconomical, resulting in massive poverty and millions became jobless.
In my earlier articles I have supported the Presidential system of democracy, as recommended by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, for a number of reasons. Firstly it results in a much better separation of the three major arms of governance, the Legislative arm (Parliament), the Executive (Ministries and other bodies) and the Judiciary. This separation, vital for a dynamic democracy, is not easily possible under the Parliamentary system as it is the Prime Minister (the head of the major political party that “controls” the Parliament) who is also the head of the Executive and he/she appoints the heads of key institutions such as police, FBR, FIA, SECP. This results in cronies being appointed who then protect the Prime Minister and his other Cabinet colleagues from being caught for mega corruption.
A second advantage of the Presidential system of government is that the President can directly appoint the top experts in different fields as Federal Ministers since Ministers are not chosen from the Parliament. Such eminent persons would otherwise not be interested in fighting elections. It also means that corrupt politicians who contest in elections to become Members of Parliament, and spend hundreds of millions of rupees to get elected so that they can plunder billions once in power, are no longer interested as the role of Parliament is limited to law making.
It is vitally important to have technocrat Ministers as, in this day and age, the secret of socio-economic development lies in establishing a strong knowledge economy. This requires creating a strong industrial base for the manufacture and export of high technology goods, ranging from automobiles to aircraft, from biotech products to pharmaceuticals, from electronics to computers and from alloys to rare earths. The establishment of top class research and development centres in such fields as nanotechnology, regenerative medicine, biotechnology, genetics, artificial intelligence, new materials, energy storage systems, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and in other important areas is therefore an important prerequisite. Most politicians that get elected have little or no understanding of what needs to be done to establish a strong knowledge economy. This has resulted in Pakistan remaining in a poverty trap for seven decades.
It is only through massive investments in Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (ESTI) that we can progress as Pakistan’s real wealth is the 100 million youth below the age of 20. This is how much smaller countries have progressed. Singapore with a population of about 5.5 million (about one-fourth of Karachi) has exports of US $ 330 billion. A small European country, Austria, with a population of only about 8 million, about a third of that of Karachi, has exports of US $ 142 billion. Pakistan, in spite of its huge population of almost 220 million, has exports stagnating at a shameful $ 21 billion. An honest, visionary technologically competent technocrat government under a Presidential system of democracy is therefore the need of the hour, and this is where the Supreme Court should focus its attention.
—The author is former Federal Minister of Science & Technology, former Chairman Higher Education Commission and Chairman of UN Committee for Science, Technology and Innovation for UNESCAP

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