RULE OF LAW —- A PERSPECTIVE
RASHEED HASAN KHAN
Any text book of political science will tell you that there are three pillars of the state; the judiciary, the legislature and the executive. In Pakistan, since its inception, the executive, comprising of the civil and military bureaucracy has played the dominant role. Thus, for more than half of its short life the nation has been ruled by military dictators, with a façade of parliament and political process to provide them legitimacy. This is due to the fact that the political institutions in the country are weak. The weakness of the bourgeois political parties lies in their history of disorganization and divorcement from the masses and the bankruptcy of their leadership. Thus it has always been easy for the military to carry out a coup d etat, secure the cooperation of the civil bureaucracy and obtain a certificate of legitimacy from a Judiciary which lacked integrity. Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf were legitimized under the Doctrine of Necessity. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Munir, the first to utilize this doctrine, during the Ayub Regime, declared that “Every successful revolution provides its own validation”.
Every society is built on the foundations of its economic structure. Relations of production form the basis on which the superstructure of its politics, culture and philosophy is constructed. This superstructure in turn, serves to reinforce the basis. It is a source of the morality, ethics and law that governs the society. An examination of past history reveals the existence of the primitive egalitarian society, the nomadic society, the slave owning society, the feudal society and the capitalist society in that order. In all these societies, the laws that governed the society are a reflection of the relations between man and society and between men in the society. Needless to say, these laws were framed to facilitate the economic, political and cultural supremacy of the ruling class in that particular society.
This briefly outlines the general features of the relationship between the economic base and the superstructure of the society. Human society and everything in nature is in constant motion and change. In every society there comes a time when the forces of production develop to such an extent that they find the existing relations of production a hindrance to their further development, this leads to a radical rupture with the past; first in the economic sphere then in the field of superstructure. These two radical ruptures are necessary for the creation of a new social order. Every society from primitive egalitarian society to the present day capitalist society has followed this path of transition.
When Pakistan came into being, the dominant relations of production in the region were feudal relations of production. The bourgeoisie was weak and formed a coalition with the feudal class and the civil and military bureaucracy had an inordinately large influence in this arrangement. This was reflected in the fact that almost up to the present day the deputy commissioner of a district was also the district magistrate. Land Reforms were effectively carried out in East Pakistan in the early fifties but in West Pakistan, despite three land reforms, the system of land ownership remains, in essence, feudal. The feudal class inherits its privileges with the land. The ‘Divine Right of Kings’ claimed by Charles I of England in the 17 Century, is a statement of the feudal juridical position. Ideologically and practically, they consider themselves above any law which governs the common man. Their will and whim is the Law. It is quite obvious that such a mindset cannot run a modern industrial society. From the question of trade and industry to the Penal Code, rules and regulations must be made and observed to carry out the task of development and progress. The decline and degeneration we see in Pakistan’s economic, political and cultural spheres today is largely due to the absence of accountability. For correcting this, special institutions are created every now and then but the result is absolute zero because the real issue is not addressed. The real issue is that our whole society needs to be governed by law and not the whims, fancies and prejudices of the ruling clique. Granted that the law if applied, would be a bourgeois law, by and large, an instrument of bourgeois oppression and exploitation. But a bourgeois law is that is practiced is better than no law at all. Besides, the bourgeois law, however insincerely, must guarantee the Fundamental Rights to the population. This can be the platform of action, to broaden the scope of the struggle to achieve the economic and political demands of the people.
This is a perspective of the struggle for the rule of law from the side of the people of Pakistan. The issue, however, is not going to be resolved easily. The feudal, the civil and military bureaucracy and above all their Imperialist masters, have held unquestioned sway over the country for all of its past history. They are not going to allow anything that would curtail their freedom to oppress and exploit the people. Today the ruling class is free to indulge in corruption and mismanagement of public funds. It can make people disappear for talking about their birthright. It is free to economically squeeze the life out of the people through subservience to I.M.F. and other Imperialist economic agencies. Its secret agencies are at liberty to initiate and pursue the so called Targeted Killings to generate fear, hatred and divert the attention of the suffering masses. The Rule of Law would substantially reduce, if not end this. Therefore the powers that be will put every hurdle in the path of this struggle. But the writing on the wall is bold and clear, this state of affairs cannot continue, if there is no law which rules the land then perhaps the land itself will cease to exist as a viable state.