Origins of the deep state
The origin of Pakistan’s civil-military quagmire traces back to late nineteenth-century pluralist India when anti-colonial awareness started transforming into organized political structures.
The Indian National Congress (INC) consummated its operation in 1885,aimed to be a broad-based, anti-colonial conference representing a pluralist Indian nationalism.
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, head of the modernist section of Aligarh, while focusing on social and educational change in Muslim society, cautiously looked at the formation of INC whereas the Radical section welcomed it.
Mulana Qasim, the spearhead of Deoband School issued a Fatwa asserting Muslims to join INC. Likewise, the retired judge of Bombay Court Badruddin Tyab jee joined INC along with 300 Muslim delegates in its Mumbai session.
At once, the Indian Muslim polity was facing unique challenges: 1) the divided intelligentsia between radicals (Deoband School) and modernists (Aligarh School); 2) cultural resistance against modern technology and concepts; 3) historical narcissism now facing the fear of future political alienation; 2) the lack of conceptual clarity over the democratic ingredients of a modern political struggle originated from the European Renaissance.
The convolution of these challenges with external factors together impacted the evolution and organizational psychology of the Muslim political thought process, and its capacity to strategize civil supremacy through strong political institutionalism.
The all-India Muslim League (AIML), Pakistan’s founding political party, started its political journey in 1906 as an elitist offshoot from the modernist section of the Indian Muslim polity with a notion to protect Muslims’ rights within the larger Indian nationalism.
AIML’s first session was presided over by HE Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah (Sir Agha Khan 3), attended by Nawab Waqar-ul-Muluk, Nawab Salimulla Khan, Syed Amir Ali, and many others.
Interestingly, a large number of religious leaders with considerable following did not choose to align with AIML’s political journey throughout. Moreover, many of them like Abul Kalam Azad, Hasrat Mohani, Hussain Ahmed Madani, and Mehmoodul Hassan actively participated in INC and viewed AIML as a part of the subversion plan by British colonials to damage the unity of the Indian polity.
Until the mid-30s, AIML was not a party with refined political roots in the masses. It was more popular among the elite landed gentry, professionals, and lawyers. AIML opened its first office in Lahore in 1938.
Dr. Allamah Muhammad Iqbal presided over the 30th session of AIML held on December 29, 1930. During his speech, while referring to Renan’s definition of nationalism as a “collective moral consciousness”, he philosophically expounded on the egoistic communal frictions consistently present in both Hindu and Muslim communities against the united Indian nationalism, and pragmatically proposed a mutually respected, organically cooperative, development-oriented, and harmonious clustering of Muslim and Hindu communities in line with their cultural and ethical ideals.
Contrary to Iqbal’s thesis, Molana Hussain Ahmed Madani (Composite Nationalism and Islam, 1938), a celebrated graduate of Deoband School, and an active member of INC with others like MolanaAbulKalam Azad (the youngest president of INC), criticized organizing a polity on religious grounds and insisted that a modern territorial nation-state was the primary institution of political dispensation based on individual civil rights and religious pluralism. He considered a multicultural, multireligious, and multiracial outlook of Indian nationalism not in conflict with the history of political tradition in Islam.
Soon after, The Government of India Act 1935 provided representative government at the provincial level. As per this provision, the British held elections in provinces in February 1937 on the basis of separate electorates. Muslims participated in these elections with two opposite concepts of nationalism.
There were 482 seats allocated for Muslims at the provincial level. The All-India Muslim League (AIML) won only 109 Muslim seats out of 482. Indian National Congress won almost the majority of seats of both Hindus and Muslims and formed its government in the provinces.
The election results damaged the AIML’s claim of Muslim representation causing a reactionary intensification in its narrative of Muslim communalism (Jinnah’s Foundational Speech, 22 March 1940), which later on, turned into Islamic populism with more dogmatic and fundamentalist tones.
The first Simla Conference had broken down on 14 July 1945 on the controversial issue of the AIML’s representative character. “Jinnah’s strategist with an acute sense of timing, seized the moment to call for general elections to establish the political authority of AIML”.
The 1945-46 elections were important. “Not inexplicably though, the two critical issues at stake were: (i) whether the AIML was Muslim India’s sole authoritative spokesman, and (ii) whether Muslims favored Pakistan or not”.
Despite anti-Pakistan campaigns launched by Congress and other Muslim political factions like Unionists, Khaksaars, and Ahraars, Jinnah’s extensive political campaign supported by the Brelvi Section of Islamic scholars, youth, and professionals, prevailed, and AIML won all the thirty Muslim seats in the Central Legislative Assembly.
In provincial elections, Feb 1946, AIML bagged113 Muslim seats out of 119 in Bengal, 79 out of 88 in Punjab, 34 out of 40 in Bihar, 54 out of 66 in U.P, 17 out of 38 in NWFP, and 28 out of 35 in Sindh. Baluchistan was a princely state.
AIML lost elections in NWFP and Sindh. No elections were held in the princely states of Baluchistan and Kashmir. AIML emerged as the largest representational symbol of Indian Muslims in the 1945-46 election.
However, electorally it could not substantiate its version of nationalism in the constituent units of present Pakistan in its entirety except Punjab.
In the meantime, in 1945, the second world war was about to conclude with unprecedented effects on the world’s geography and politics. It had become nearly impossible for the British crown to retain its dominions in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.
Therefore, shortly after the 1945 elections, a division plan got implemented expeditiously without sorting out some critical geographical complications (Gurdaspur, Punjab, Kashmir).
This course of events nurtured seven factors that played a key role in shaping Pakistan’s future dynamics of Civil-Military discourse.
First is the lack of political institutionalism due to a history of incoherence between the ideological and organizational components of the Muslim political thought process and the divided strength of Muslim intelligentsia/polity with different epistemologies of nationalism.
Second, the lack of organizational preparedness in the civil structure with insufficient logistic backup to govern the newborn state machine.
Third, a constellation of political frictions in Sindh and NWFP due to radical and nationalist groups and the absence of democratic processes in Baluchistan and Kashmir.
Fourth, the death of Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah immediately after the state’s inception. Mr. Jinnah’s grandeur, integrity, and public acceptance converged different streaks of aspirations throughout the AIML’s political struggle.
Fifth, delay in the constitution-making process mainly due to the debate over the scope of religion in state affairs, the leadership vacuum (after Liaqat Ali Khan’s assassination in 1951), and power politics.
Sixth, Pakistan received an adversarial welcome from its parent region (South Asia) due to inherited critical border disputes with two major neighbors—India and Afghanistan.
Seventh, the dangerously insufficient economic resources, the refugee crisis, and the 1948 Kashmir War —led to Path Dependency—an unprepared jump into global power politics in favor of the USA’s anti-communist designs—the defined role of the military in Pakistan’s Foreign Policy. It started with the first armament consignment in 1951 followed by formal military alliances in 1954 and 1959.
These seven factors engineered the contextual importance of the military over the civil setup. However, the first two British army chiefs of Pakistan’s army (General Sir Frank Walter Messervy, and General Douglas David Gracey) maintained a professional balance.
—To be continued.
—The writer is an academic, columnist and public policy researcher.