Dr A Q Khan
The duty of a government is to protect the lives and belongings of the public. It is duty-bound to provide justice without discrimination and to ensure the basic necessities of life.
Mahmood of Ghazni was a great king and his empire stretched across a vast area. One day a caravan was looted by dacoits within his kingdom and some travellers, including a young man, were killed. The old mother of that young man went to the court of the king and complained bitterly about it. When Mahmood made the lame excuse that it was a far off place, she became infuriated and reprimanded him for conquering such far off places even though he could not ensure the security of his subjects there. The king immediately ordered a contingent of soldiers to go to the spot and impose the government’s writ.
In the olden days rulers did not hesitate to acknowledge their mistakes and apologise and accepting shortcomings, and advice was not considered something to be ashamed of. Kings and rulers of old were said to be absolute rulers with unquestionable authority, but the common man had access to them. Justice was dispensed promptly and there was no way of escape, even for the rich and powerful.
Caliph Umar (RA) punished his own son through lashing. Hajjaj Bin Yusuf punished the corrupt by lashing, and Sher Shah Suri punished his son in the same way when he was caught sitting on an elephant and teasing the wife of a poor man. Emperor Jehangir had a bell hung at the gate of his palace which any needy or aggrieved person could peal in order to get prompt justice or help. Mirza Ghalib was arrested for allowing gambling in his house and was prosecuted in the court of Mufti Sadruddin Arzu (Ghalib’s own disciple) who convicted him according to the law, but paid the fine from his own pocket.
Hundreds of years before the birth of Prophet Isa (PBUH), there lived an Emperor in India by the name of Vikramajit (Vikamadattya), who had his capital in Ujjani (near Bhopal). The concept of “Nau Ratan” (nine wise people) originated in his court. They were persons famous for their wisdom and knowledge. Famous poet and playwright Kali Das, who wrote Shakuntala and Maghdoot, was one of them. Vikramajit is reported to have had the blessings of Almighty God to extract evidence from stones, trees, birds, and animals. He was famous for dispensing justice.
The Moghul Dynasty flourished just as long as the rulers were honest, God-fearing and just. After the death of Aurangzeb, the dynasty deteriorated and ultimately disintegrated and many local rulers declared themselves autonomous, making it possible for the British to colonise the whole subcontinent. The British cleverly applied the concept of “divide and rule” and regularly paid those who were willing to take up arms against the Indian rulers. Consequently, the Moghul Empire became limited to the Red Fort in Delhi.
The success of the British was due to their intelligence and intrigues and also because of the differences between the local rulers, their cruel and corrupt rule and the absence of justice and rule of law. The uprising of 1857 put the last nail into Indian rulers’ coffin. The British gradually conquered the whole of the subcontinent and also made meticulous plans to keep it under their control for as long as possible. They eliminated those whom they considered to be nationalists, replacing them with stooges to make use of their services as and when required, as was done in both World Wars. They established Fort William College at Calcutta where British colonialists were compulsorily taught Urdu. Some became so fluent that they even became Urdu poets.
The British were wise in that they decided not to disturb local laws and religious traditions. Marriage and inheritance laws were left untouched and Maulvis and Pandits were employed to take care of these matters. They did not force people to learn English, but whoever spoke the language were assured of good jobs. They conferred titles on those who translated the Civil Procedure Code, the Indian Penal Code and other British laws into Urdu, notably Shamsul Ulema Deputy Nazir Ahmed. They did not change the names of the cities and abstained from interference in religious matters.
Hindu and Muslims festivals were declared holidays and loyal Muslim and Hindu officers were given titles such as Khan Bahadur, Rai Bahadur, Sir, etc. In the police force, the constable, head constable, inspector, DSP, SP and DIG were locals. Only the IG Police was British. Similarly, in the Revenue Department, the Patwari, Tehsildar and deputy revenue commissioner were Indians and only the revenue commissioner was British. In the army, the ranks of soldier to colonel were filled by Indians and those of Brigadier General and above by British.
There was no favouritism, nepotism, superseding of officials, corruption in civil work contracts, etc. Consequently, the quality of the work carried out was of such high standard that many roads, bridges and buildings still stand today and are in relatively good condition. People respected the law and fear of punishment kept them from breaking it. Law was the same for everybody. Immediately after Partition, the leaders and law enforcing agencies were honest, but within a few years corruption, nepotism and favouritism became the order of the day. Nowadays people are even committing suicide (or suicide bombings?) and the rulers are least bothered.
The Indians did a much better job. Its independent area was reduced to less than the size of Pakistan because 553 states were sovereign. However, Sardar Patel, the home and deputy prime minister, immediately annexed all the states and also abolished the Jagirdari System, thus saving the country from future intrigues and manipulation by a few rich families. We failed to take similar action. During the rule of Liaquat Ali Khan we had such a good system in place that the editor of Blitz, Mr Karanjia, advised the chief minister of Bombay, Mr Murarji Desai, to visit Pakistan and learn about good governance.
Soon autocracy and dictatorship destroyed the very fabric of the country and we are now known as one of the most corrupt, intriguing and cheating nations of the world. The ruling elite has only one purpose in mind – how to earn money quickly, by whatever means. Courts became corrupt, further facilitating the rulers in their nefarious activities. Stolen money was transferred abroad and property bought. If a case was initiated, it dragged on for years and was ultimately dropped.
Contrary to general expectations, the military rulers turned out to be no better. Dictators, having very little public support, relied on foreign powers and sold the sovereignty of the country in return for personal survival. The result is there for all to see. Loans worth almost Rs200 billion have been written off, foreign debt has increased, submission to foreign dictates is the norm, selling citizens for bounties has become acceptable, and foreign powers have been allowed to operate within the country and kill locals with impunity. Our leaders have not learnt to apply economic austerity. Our only survival lies in a popular public uprising and cleansing of the whole system, once and for all.