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5th July 1977 Martial Law by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

Today there were many talk shows, editorials and op-ed pieces about the martial law imposed on July 5th, 1977. There were talks of the social damage done by the Islamist agenda of General Zia ul Haq while politicians of PML-N, PPP, and PTI blamed each other for being the creation of military establishment. No one actually talked about what democracy really means and whether it has served the interests of the people in last nine years. So let’s have a review of the last nine years of so-called democracy in the country.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is the party founded by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that gave us the slogan of roti, kaprah aur makan (bread, clothes, and house). They have been ruling Sind whenever there was a democracy but despite this long rule, no one considers Sind as one of the best-managed provinces. In fact, the level of poverty, illiteracy, and decline of infrastructure in the province is evident to everyone that has cared to travel across it. There are many reports of private jails as well as economic slavery. It is also clear that the slogan roti, kapra aur makan did not include the possibility of anyone else ruling the country or the party apart from Bhutto family. This means that Bhutto thought like a benevolent feudal lord who considers himself responsible for providing roti, kapra aur makan but never allows his peasants to rule over him. His slogan also did not include education which is an important condition to keep people as serfs for the ruling elite and deprive them of ever becoming equal.

PML-N has been ruling Punjab for most of the Democratic tenures since the 1980s. Nawaz Sharif as a capitalist and member of an oligarch always ensured their special interests were always safeguarded. During the tenure of PML-N small traders, salaried class, and poor farmers always suffered economically while the economic divide between rich and poor grew. Like a seth, Nawaz Sharif believes his political party should be inherited by his family members. Punjab has progressed many folds during the tenure of PML-N through mega projects but other provinces felt left behind which contributed towards weakening of the social fabric as well as the union of the federating units. As leader of an Islamist party, Nawaz Sharif also contributed towards sectarian divide by being close to Saudi Arabia rather than rise above it in his foreign policy.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) promised to be different from the other two parties through the adoption of merit, ideology, and empowerment of middle class. But as soon as they tasted power in a province Imran Khan gave up on all these promises. Now he has become a promoter and friends with oligarch and political elite. All district governments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) are sons, brothers, and relatives of party MNAs and MPAs. Merit and ideology have been thrown in the dustbin while oligarchs and maurosi siasat dan have been controlling of the party that we now call PTI-L (lotas). Instead of developing new leadership Imran Khan is eager to welcome turncoats of other parties with open arms and gladly handover party to them. He is more interested in being a Prime Minister rather than the leader of a reform movement.

These are the three national parties while the situation is not much different in other small regional or special interest parties like ANP, JUI-F, PkMAP etc. MQM and JI may be two exceptions but their agenda is narrow and have no roots in the masses at the national level. In other words on 5th July we can condemn a martial law but can we really celebrate that true democracy has been introduced in the country. Can we really be happy that military dictatorship is replaced by civilian dictatorships? Can we be sure that our nation is on the path of progress or will it continue to regress?

What is the solution? The solution is the development of the civil society and engagement of educated middle class in the affairs of the state through an institutional approach. Middle Class should form civic organizations like Pakistan Civil Liberties Union or Pakistan Consumer Protection Council etc. to institutionalize their activism. Political elites can silence an individual through threats but they can’t silence an organization that has millions of members. Middle Class should also join political parties and pressurize them to convert into institutions rather than be controlled by individuals and their families. They can only achieve these if they are able to develop networks of donors and other resource providers. People with resources should also realize that giving charity to individuals is not enough some charity should be given to community development organizations as well because only a well-organized society can get rid of oppression and poverty as well as ensure social justice.

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