It seems the Pakistanis live with the most confused state of mind in the world. Most concepts of the political science are either misinterpreted, or taught to the general public to confuse them.
For instance, let’s consider ‘the state’, the most common topic of political science. In Pakistan, ‘the state’ means something differently from the rest of the world. Pakistani academics, bureaucracy, the political elite and even journalists frequently spread misconceptions regarding ‘the state’.
Have you ever heard that ‘the state’ has decided to take stern action against Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP)? ‘The state’ has changed its narrative towards terrorists? ‘The state’ has entered into an agreement with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)? You have likely heard many questions like this. In these questions, the word ‘state’ is used interchangeably for the various authorities such as the army and intelligence agencies.
In order to understand the concept of state, we must first, understand what ‘the state’ is, and how it operates. The basic definition of state: “A populace lives in a specific territory, governed by an authority (government) having internal and external sovereignty is called a state”. Modern scholars also include the “international acknowledgment” as a key ingredient of the state.
The state has three main branches for the dispensation of its work. These include the executive (government), the parliament, and the judiciary. The executive has various institutions to run its affairs ran, such as the police, intelligence services, army, local administration and so on.
Next, how does a state operate? The main function of a state is, to enforce the ‘collective wisdom’ of the society. How could we gauge the ‘collective wisdom’? Modern scholars think ‘collective wisdom’ can only be enforced by chosen representatives of the pubic. For that purpose, an E]election is held after every five years. People bestow their trust in elected members of parliament to enforce ‘collective wisdom’ by creating laws. These laws and policies are enforced by the government.
The government is a representative of the parliament, and the parliament is a representative of the people. The government needs validation of all its acts by the parliament, otherwise, it can be disqualified.
Now let’s come back to the misconceptions we have about ‘the state’. We often hear phrases like, ‘the government has decided to have talks with the TTP?’ The prime question is who do we consider to be the government? Are these talks arranged and initiated by our elected ministers or initiated by the army chief and the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)?
In Pakistan, it is an open secret that dialogues with TTP, TLP, and other terrorists are conducted by the army and security agencies. The agreements made during these talks are never presented in the parliament for debate. The parliament does not even have the power to summon the draft of these agreement.
My question is that if these agreements are conducted by the army or security agencies, why do say that ‘the state’ is conducting these talks?
The army, police, and ISI are institutions that are subordinate to the state and they should not be considered as ‘the state’. They are state institutions; they do not comprise ‘the state’. Any decisions taken by these institutions, or any agreement conducted by them, does not have the same sanctity as those taken and acknowledged by the parliament. The state shows its intention through its government, not its institutions.
If decisions are being taken by institutions other than the government, this will undermine democracy. The state will lose respect in people’s hearts and eventually its components (in our case, the provinces) will dismember themselves from the state. This process ends with the annihilation of the state. One example is the case of Bangladesh (formerly, East Pakistan).
The image of our state has been globally destroyed. The disfigurement of our ‘state’ is an irreparable loss for our government. Instead of engaging in dialogue with our government, international forces call directly on the army chief for negotiations.
Recently, the meeting of crown prince of Saudi Arabia, the meeting of American officials, the finalization of American withdrawal from Afghanistan, support extended to the Afghan government, dealings with the Chinese over CPEC, were all conducted with the army and security agencies.
Moreover, the local business community seeks guarantees for economic stability from the army chief, instead of the government.
The questions that we need answered are: Whether these talks and dialogues are discussed and approved in parliament? And if not, is the public bound to honour them? After all, these decisions weren’t reached through ‘collective wisdom’? And the final question that remains: In Pakistan, who is the real state?
People should only respect their state. It’s possible that they may have affiliations with some departments or institutions but the only binding relationship they should be in is with the state, not an institution of the state. This is because the institutions collapse, but states sustain themselves.
In order to keep a state strong, sustainable, and inevitable the state needs to deconstruct and then reconstruct its image and perception in the world. One way to end misconceptions about ‘the state’ could be to hold a grand debate across the country. Scholars could also take steps to fix these misconceptions.
The government ought to restore its authority by honouring only those decisions that have been ratified by the parliament and truly represent the ‘collective wisdom’ of the public. All other decisions should not be granted the same honour.
The writer is a Bar at law student at Ontario Bar Canada.