In 1947, when Britain was facing political, de-colonization and economic challenges, it decided to divide the South Asian subcontinent into two separate states, India and Pakistan. Since that time, Pakistan’s geography has been confusing and ambiguous; parts of India and Afghanistan along with Bengal were united and an Islamic state of Pakistan was formed.
The division was more strategic than political. The country that was claimed to be the largest fortress of Islam was further divided into two parts, Bangladesh and the Pakistan that exists today.
To understand the causes of the tragic fall of East Pakistan, we need to understand the political philosophy and stance of the chairman of the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PK-MAP), Mahmood Khan Achakzai, who is well known as a “man of principles” in Pakistan.
In the context of regional politics, Achakzai is among those who are realistically forecasting the real political, strategic and economic changes in South-Central Asia that will surely impact Pakistan, India and Afghanistan in near future. The myopia of Pakistani intellectuals and policymakers who fail to understand Achakzai’s futuristic vision and political philosophy of the constitutional supremacy in Pakistan is aberrant and dangerous.
There are two basic principles of Achakzai’s philosophy: non-intervention of states on the regional level and supremacy of the constitution at the national level.
For the past three decades, Achakzai has been insisting that the regional states should follow a non-intervention policy and cooperation with one another on all grounds, political, economic and security. Time has proved that none of the regional states have benefited from intervening in others’ affairs but instead faced more security and economic challenges over the past three decades. Politically influential states including Pakistan and India are also willing to follow the path of what is called “the policy of cooperation” instead of intervention.
The second principle of Achakzai’s philosophy focuses on limiting national institutions to their constitutional boundaries. No national institution is supposed to cross constitutional limits, which is necessary for political stability and national integrity.
In August, on the floor of the National Assembly, Achakzai clearly pointed out that the state of Pakistan was moving toward the center of conflict between two groups struggling for power: democratic and undemocratic forces. In that case, only the constitution can ensure stability; otherwise, Pashtuns have nothing to do with Punjabis, Sindhis and Balochs. Only guaranteeing constitutional supremacy can secure an integrated Pakistan.
Unfortunately, a major contingent of Pakistani intellectuals and politicians considered Achakzai’s speech as null and void, denigrating it as mere anti-state remarks. This is wrong. Pakistan is in a vibrant position of conflict between civil and military leaderships.
A deteriorated economy, political instability and national-security dilemmas are the most serious factors that have brought Pakistan to the brink of controversies and failures
A deteriorated economy, political instability and national-security dilemmas are the most serious factors that have brought Pakistan to the brink of controversies and failures. Any further negligence and stupidity by ignoring what the constitution says will push the country toward a more serious and dreadful situation.
In the current political scenarios, the most common version of Achakzai’s political principle can provide an effective track for political stability. Since 1947, Pakistan has faced major political instabilities, controversies over division of rights among provinces, involvement of its military in politics and aristocracies of religious fanatics.
The dictatorial atrocities of General Ayub Khan, who ruled from 1958 to 1969, against progressive nationalists and socialists put Pakistan on the way to national disintegration and instability, and provided a nexus for the establishment of Bangladesh in 1971. Then came General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamist era of the 1980s and the bewildered political scenarios until 1999, when General Pervez Musharraf divested the elected government of Nawaz Sharif and imposed martial law in the state of Pakistan. Currently, the state of democracy is in embryonic phase, which will be smashed if the situation gets worse.
For Achakzai, the solution of an integrated and politically stabilized Pakistan lies in supporting constitutional supremacy and democratic principles that will keep all ethnic groups on one platform.
As a staunch supporter of constitutional supremacy and opponent of Zia’s dictatorship, Achakzai has been seen favoring the democratization of the Pakistani political structure in the light of the constitution. Unfortunately, Pakistan is badly poisoned with involvement of military-cum-bureaucrats and feudal lords.
For Achakzai, the constitution is the only force that will keep all groups united. Taking into account his political philosophy, it is no exaggeration to say that in the current troubled political and institutional scenarios, only the success of democracy and constitutional supremacy can ensure a politically stable Pakistan.
On the 44th anniversary of the December 2, 1973, assassination of his father Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai, addressing a public gathering, Mahmood Khan Achakzai repeated the popular version of his political philosophy that Pashtuns shall welcome a democratic Pakistan where all ethnic groups will be treated equally and will stand through thick and thin in order to keep opponents from fishing in politically troubled water. Otherwise, we will prefer the philosophy of “might is right.”
Institutional cooperation, smooth democratic processes, mutual understanding on national issues, equal political rights and above all supremacy of the constitution of Pakistan are, undoubtedly, significant for the stability and integration of Pakistan.
Today, Pakistani politics has been hijacked by conspiracies against democracy and constitutional supremacy. All three pillars of the state are involved in a game to undermine one another. The Panama Papers case, judicial activism, two-time disqualification of Nawaz Sharif, tweeting policy of Inter-Services Public Relations, abusive politics of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), pro-establishment policy of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), divisions within the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and vibrant sit-in of Tehreek-e-Labaik ya Rasool Allah (TLY) that seriously challenged the writ of the state are among the factors that can lead to democratic and institutional failures.
There is still time to change the situation. Perplexed political scenarios can be turned with straightforward political stability. Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s political philosophy of working within constitutional limits provides us with lots of solutions to avoid controversy and ambiguity.
None of Pakistan’s political parties should compromise on democratic and political principles and must struggle for the supremacy of the constitution to keep all institutions inside constitutionally defined limits. By doing so, politically troubled times will surely be brought to an end.