The State of Martial Rule – Groundhog Day

Re-reading Ayesha Jalal’s   “The State of Martial Rule – The origins of Pakistan’s political economy of defence” makes it pertinent in light of the event in Pakistan today. Groundhog Day – the recurrence of military rule in Pakistan is a devastating comment on a nation unable to govern itself democratically.

Noises about General Pervez Musharraf  going the way of Saddam Hussain (having opponents killed off etc) is taking a strong hold. Ayesha Jalal’s comprehensive and compelling book looks at Pakistan’s first military coup in 1958 throws light on the profound similarities to the rise of Musharraf and the strategic concerns of the 1958 event. Small unseen measures taken by governing authorities have had a cumulative effect on the economy and political psyche of a nation. In her book, Jalal explains that:

“If anything, the state’s palpably crude attempts at Islamic social engineering gave religious bigotry its head as never before.  In a step that baffled the more discerning citizens of the state, Liaquat Ali Khan issued an official injunction urging Muslims to observe the ramazan fasts in letter and spirit. Someone thought it would be a good thing is this was followed up with a law forcing hotels and restaurants to go out of business during the house of the fast….”

An important and relevant text, Jalal’s book (published in 1990) could have been written today. Sub-textually she looks at Pakistan’s perpetual return to medieval sensibilities – where Pakistan is more and more reliant on living under military rule of some sort – hell bent on un-educating itself in democracy – running towards a religious orthodoxy.

The paradox is: will this orthodoxy deny itself modernity in the realms of technology or will there be a need to find a relevant text from the holy text giving permission to partake in the world’s economy?

The State of Martial Rule – The origins of Pakistan’s political economy of defence by Ayesha Jalal – Vanguard Publication 1990 ISBN 969-402-036-0

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