The Symphony Of Our Times
Politics in undivided Pakistan during 1960’s
As I wrote in the January, 1965 issue of the Concept: "It was a long and dreary struggle that the opposition had been fighting. It began with the moment in June 1962 when the present constitution came into force. The cry of the first hours of the struggle was for an outright "scrapping" of the constitution. The canon of the early phase was total rejection of the system offered. Its epitome was the June 1962 statement of the "Nine leaders". According to idealistic logic that was the proper and the correct thing to do-that refusal to accept in to or in part, a system which was described in so many words as "totally unacceptable." But the logic of ideas, of theory is not the logic of real life. The realities of life and facts of politics forced the opposition of the system to shift little by little their stand and approach vis-a-vis the existing order.
The opposition abandoned its strategy of challenging and destroying the system from outside. It wanted to replace Ayub's disguised dictatorship by a really democratic government. By August 1964, it decided to defeat the system by entering it.
The opposition had called the constitution "undemocratic and dictatorial". Yet it was under this constitution that they chose to fight it and challenge its authority. It has been denouncing the restricted nature of franchise as exercised by 80,000 Basic Democrats. Yet it chose to end that system of restricted franchise through the system itself. In brief they mounted an effort to fight what they themselves dubbed "an undemocratic-dictatorial system" with its own weapons under rules and regulations made by itself ostensibly and naturally to its own advantage.
The effort reached the height of their momentum with the stage being set for the Presidential elections. The struggle reached its zenith attaining in the process an unprecedented dimension with the entry of Miss Fatima Jinnah on the political scene formally as the Presidential nominee of the COP (September, 1964) and actually as the very spearhead of the entire opposition in the country, the NDF not excepted. The acceptance of the present system was complete if not total".
As politics in undivided Pakistan during the decade of 1960's moved towards its climactic end we carried on our daily activities. It was not possible for us at that period of evolving history to fully realize its profound implications. Nevertheless, we were excited and enthused by the move of the combined opposition to try defeat Ayub within his own system. Save those of our contemporaries who were directly involved in politics, our participation in the struggle for democracy was largely academic and indirect.
Sessions with friend and colleagues within the academia and without were alive with unhesitating support for the opposition candidate Fatema Jinnah. We were aware that despite support of the vast majority of the people, the opposition candidate had slim chance of success. The franchise in the Presidential polls was restricted to an electoral college consisting of Basic Democrats most of whom belonged to the ruling party. President Ayub was confident that his creatures, the Basic Democrats Electoral College could not let him down. As I wrote in January 1965 issue of the Concept under the pen name Rafiq Rahbar:
"President Ayub, the reports, said was playing golf and went to shoot ducks the day before the nation or rather some one-thousandth of it-went to the polls to elect a President who would steer the country for the next five years. Now, after he has won what may well be called and has actually been called "a landslide victory" in the Presidential elections, those seemingly carefree activities of the President may naturally appear, in retrospect, to have been symbolic of a confident 'tomorrow' so far as he was concerned.
It is highly improbable that there could be any one else at the time other than the President himself who might have read his mind and assured that this actually was the case: that the President was shooting ducks on the eve of the elections because he was confident that victory would be his for the taking or, to use a phrase popular with the army, victory would be "sitting ducks" for him to shoot at and hit without miss...
The idea was that the eighty thousand Basic Democrats or Members of the Electoral College could not disregard the sentiment and wishes of the vast majority of their own electors, the people, or they would not. The expectation was that they would "commit suicide" by voting against their own system so that others may live under a system of their own choice.
But the opposition in Pakistan had its point to put forth. Its stand was only this that the election was not democratic. The charge brought by the opposition is not that the elections were rigged in the sense that boxes were tempered with or the counting was deliberately faulty. It is a subtler and therefore graver charge. The essence of it is that the whole system of election is such that it does not do justice to the wishes of the people. The MEC's, the opposition pointed out, did not reflect the will of the nation. ...
In trying to achieve that avowed purpose through fighting the Presidential polls with Miss Fatima Jinnah at the lead, it had to appeal to those who had the right of franchise. The President and his party were in an advantageous position. In fact it now appears that this is what makes President Ayub 'invincible' however great the force of struggle against him or his regime may appear to be.
But what all and especially President Ayub cannot afford to overlook is the fact that even under this system he is not as invincible as could be thought or expected.
Some thirty thousand of the MEC's had cast their votes against President Ayub for his opponent against the very system of government which made them what they are and which promised to make them what many of them never could dream they would be the first class, pampered and privileged citizens of a nation of hundred millions. Out of this thirty thousand, more than eighteen-thousand are East Pakistani MEC's. That again is something President Ayub would surely take note a forty-five per cent minority of the MEC's rejected him and his system in East Pakistan.
As the dust and smoke of the Presidential election-strife settles down, its significance would emerge in clearer lights to the powers that are. So far as the opposition is concerned it refuses to admit defeat. Miss Fatima Jinnah has said, "the struggle for emancipation has just begun". She is at once right and wrong. In a sense the struggle has not just begun, it had already began only a phase of it has been over. But it is an important phase that has ended and one could say that this end was a new beginning". (Mizanur Rahman Shelley writing as Rafiq Rahbar, Pakistan the Second Republic Politics and Parties, Concept Publications, 1970).
Dr Mizanur Rahman Shelley, founder Chairman of Centre for Development Research (CDRB), and former technocrat Cabinet Minister of Bangladesh, died
on August 12, 2019. He
contributed his writeups to the Daily Observer which are being
published regularly as "The Symphony of Our Times".