WHERE is the state in Pakistan to protect life, property, liberty and honour of citizens? Where is the state to dispense justice to all its citizens?
Where is the polity which all Baloch, Sindhis, Pathans, Punjabis and other nations, nationalities and linguistic groups can take pride in calling their own?
Men and women, rich and poor, landowners and tillers, villages and cities, factories and workshops, banks and business houses, schools and hospitals, and mosques and churches are in a state of insecurity. The security of the police and the army, the ultimate guardians of security of the people and the state, is also endangered, necessitating extraordinary measures.
The rule of law is the foundation for a just state. However, when our police is obliged to keep people in illegal custody for investigation, when it has to kill people in ‘police encounters’ as it does not expect a fair trial in our court rooms, when our security forces have to kidnap citizens for investigation, when the enforcers of law turn into law breakers to maintain law and order, whither the rule of law?
The prevalence of corruption and inordinate delays in dispensing justice in the courts; the recovery of kidnapped citizens on payment of a ransom; the settlement of civil disputes on payment of a fee by private ‘courts’ held by goondas and strongmen make a mockery of our system of justice. Above all, when a state blatantly ignoring constitutional provisions and violating the basic axioms of human values and morality, legislates pardons for criminals under investigation in the name of ‘national reconciliation’, the state loses all legitimacy to be ruling in the name of law.
Acute energy shortage, rising prices, paucity of jobs, shortage of essential commodities, unbearable governmental levies and taxes, precipitous decline in the value of the rupee, endangered bank deposits and flight of capital are definitive indications of complete failure of the economic management and regulation by the state. Endemic poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, disease, absence of health care and sanitation are direct manifestation of the absence of the state of Pakistan for an overwhelming majority of its citizens.
Without the state, Pakistan is left with the apparatuses of a state — groups of self-regulating, self-perpetuating and self-serving officers — operating independently under the laws of the land made to further imperial interests. The sovereignty of the people is all but lost in the extrajudicial, illegitimate, uncoordinated authority exercised by the services. Pakistan has been turned into a non-state: a state merely in name.
Time is opportune to rebuild our state. In a new social contract there must come into being a new state in which the people exercise power over themselves and for themselves. The provinces decide what powers and authority they would like to bestow on the federal government. In order to be truly sovereign Pakistan must be transformed into a state of all the peoples for all the peoples.
Big government should give way to small government. What the people collectively can decide and implement at a smaller level of population should not be decided and implemented by the body of an area of a larger population.
There should be three levels of government — citizens’, provincial and federal — of councils elected by the people at each of these levels to exercise political, social and economic power as prescribed in the constitution.
The citizens’ government at the level of the village or cluster of villages or tribes should have the jurisdiction and authority for the protection of persons and property, the management of local policing and the setting up of citizen courts for enforcing criminal law.
The citizens’ government at the level of tehsils and talukas will have its own administration to maintain land records and will adjudicate on questions such as those presently dealt with by the revenue officials of tehsils and talukas. It will also have its own civil courts. The citizens’ governments at the district and city level shall perform both legislative and executive functions as prescribed in the constitution.
The expenditure of the citizens’ governments should be met from the revenues collected by the provincial tax-collecting apparatus and directly credited to the account of each district, tehsil, taluka, village and cluster of villages. The revenues of the poorest councils may receive a subsidy from the provincial government.
The provinces should exercise power over all matters not specified in the jurisdiction of the citizens’ and federal governments. The government of the province should conduct inter-provincial relations and relations with the federal government.
The guarantee for the emergence of a sovereign Pakistan also lies in erasing the perception of being a client state of foreign powers and in establishing healthy relations with the countries of South and South-West Asia. There exists a massive commonality in the economic and strategic interests of Pakistan and the countries of the region including Turkey which can form the basis of very close cooperation.
It is time that the people of Pakistan, especially the young and educated, conscientious and committed form groups in every province, agree on what needs to be done and come forward to mobilise the people of each province, then of the entire country, to change the shape of things.