Follow Us On:
Termination of the System
Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan had perfect cordial relations. Mirza was instrumental in Ayub’s selection as the Commander in Chief of the Pakistan army while Ayub helped Mirza in becoming the Governor-General of the country. Both were party to all the decisions taken by the country when Mirza was the head of the state on even the basic issues. Both had close contact with the Americans. They played a key role in formulating defense and foreign policies and were influential in pushing Pakistan to join CENTO and SEATO and granting military bases to the United States.
Both Mirza and Ayub were also jointly responsible for the political instability in Pakistan during 1955-58. They manipulated the political situation and took maximum advantage of the divided house in the second Constituent Assembly They were involved in palace intrigues and used their offices to play one political group against the other. It was because of this that four Prime Ministers were changed in a short span of two years. They had used threats of a military take over to political forces and pushed them to accept the unpopular decisions like One Unit, parity, and the mildest form of provincial autonomy.
However, when they realized that despite all the pressure the politicians were not ready to act completely according to their wish, they decided to explore other options. In March 1957, East Pakistan Assembly demanded a radical form of autonomy for the provinces. This was followed by the West Pakistan Assembly’s demand for the dissolution of One United. This compelled Mirza to openly talk about the idea of “controlled democracy” in one of his press conferences. In a nation-wide address, Mirza declared that the parliamentary system was unsuitable for the country and proposed a modified form of the American system. His close friend, Dr. Khan Sahib, suggested a “revolutionary council” with absolute powers to administer the country.
Enforcement of Martial Law
When the stage was set for the military to take over Ayub Khan went to the United States and took the US administration in confidence. After getting a green signal from Americans, an operation code-named, Operation Overload, was secretly planned. Three key officers of the General Staff, Brig. Yahya Khan, Brig. Abdul Hamid Khan and Brig. Sher Bahadur was associated with the planning of the operation. Massive PML demonstration in Karachi in protest against the banning of its National Guards, as a consequence of a general ban on all paramilitary organization and the alleged revolt of the Khan of Qalat provided for the excuse and the first Martial Law was enforced in the country on October 7, 1958. Iskander Mirza was retained as the President while Ayub Khan took charge as the first Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan.
Many in Pakistan while discussing the reasons for the enforcement of Martial Law in the country believe that it was the failure of the Parliamentary system. They argue that the politicians and the political parties of the country were not competent enough to run the affairs of the state and thus failed to provide good governance. According to this school of thought, differences arose on the basic constitutional issues like the role of Islam in Politics, Provincial Autonomy, and the distribution of powers between the East and the West Wing of the country, etc. They further claim that the bad economic conditions, due to both wrong policies as well as lack of rains, resulted in the lack of development as an important cause.
However, a good look at the history of Pakistan from 1951-1958 indicates that the system collapsed less because of the above-mentioned reasons and more because of the mal intentions of the establishment. First Ghulam Muhammad and then Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan never allowed the system to flourish. They tried their best to create hurdles in the process of institutionalization so that their hegemony could prevail. It was on the initiative of the establishment that the wrong policies like the creation of One Unit and the principle of parity were introduced. They were afraid of the masses and thus always tried to delay the holding of general elections in the country. Isn’t it an irony that those who forced Martial Law declared that the parliamentary form of government failed to work in Pakistan without having a single general election in the country? Those who have studied even the basics of political science know that elections are the main prerequisite for the parliamentary system.