Socialism and Constitutionalism in Pakistan


Muhammad Ali Jan

The past one and a half year has seen an enormous regeneration of political life in Pakistan. What began as a protest by lawyers against the unconstitutional sacking of the Chief Justice of Pakistan
by the then President/COAS General Musharraf, quickly became (as these things usually become, being reflections of the myriad contradictions of class society) a democratic struggle for the ouster
of the Military dictator. The fervour of the streets shall forever remain engrained in our collective memory; the marching men and women in black and white, the slogans, the bleeding heads, the determined faces; the end of the dictator is surely the crowning achievement of these brave men and women.

However, the battle on the streets was always accompanied by the battle on the ideological front, with the meanings of various terms being hotly contested by all sides of the political spectrum. Today,
almost all parties are unanimous in their call for the ‘Restoration of the 1973 Constitution’ whether in government or in the opposition.However, what is missing from the ‘restoration’ discourse is the idea
of Socialism, already engrained in the constitution, but seldom invoked by its defenders. Perhaps this had to do with the nature of the historic blocs (to use Gramsci’s term) dominant within the
movement, whose class interests are tied to the existence of private property, but it would be a mistake for all those interested in the broad democratization of society (including many lawyers themselves) not to evoke this term; it would be a genuine test of revealing how
far the defenders of the Constitution will go before the various class interests within this seemingly homogeneous group are throughly revealed; in short, it would unravel not just the committment of
those in government to the 1973 Constitution, but also those who vow to struggle against it.

Background to Article 3: The PPP and Socialism

As many of you know that the PPP rode to power in the wake of the anti-Ayub movement of 1968-69. This was the height of the Vietnam War (the Tet Offensive had taken place in 1968), the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the Anti-Imperialist movement in the heartland of Imperialism, i.e. the USA. In Pakistan, the movement was lead by the radical sections of the petty-bourgeoise strata with its allies in the working class and the peasantry. Seeing which way the movement was turning, the PPP put the popular slogan ‘Maang Raha Hai Har Insaan – Roti, Kapra aur Makaan’ (Every human being is demanding Bread, Clothing and Shelter!) as well as the slogan of ‘Socialism avay hee avay’ (Socialism is bound to come!). The inclusion of what became the socialism clause are to read against this background and it is immaterial how much the PPP remained true to its word, the point is that the term occupies a central place within the constitution and it is important for its defenders to entreat it.

Article 3 and Karl Marx

The ‘Socialism clause’ is Article 3 of the Constitution (above clause 6 for High treason that no one tires of mentioned!) entitled ‘Elimination of exploitation’ and reads:

The State shall ensure the elimination of all forms of exploitation and the gradual fulfilment of the fundamental principle, from each according to his ability, to each according to his work.

The above quote is taken from Marx’s classic work ‘The Critique of the Gotha Program’ where he explicates how the principle of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” can
only be realized in the Classless, Stateless Communist society where material production abounds and for socialist society, arising fresh out of the birth pangs of Capitalism, a better measure would be ‘from
each according to his ability, to each according to the labour performed’. Consequently, the above phrase was included as the cornerstone of the Constitution of the USSR, the first Socialist Country on earth. Despite not actually materializing, Socialism is definitely a part of our constitution.

Conclusion: ‘Restoration’ and Socialism

It is therefore abundantly clear that the question of the restoration of the 1973 Constitution is invariably tied to the question of Socialism in Pakistan. The fact that it has not been mentioned within
the numerous debates of the past one year may tell us something about the class composition of the Lawyers movement; it may also explain why the broad masses of the workers and peasants of Pakistan, although definitely inspired by the heroic struggle of the lawyers and their allies, have not actively participated in the Defence of the Constitution. The Radicals in the Democratic movement need to bring Article 3 to the fore in order to connect the Constitutional question with the popular classes, as well as to see whether the class loyalties of the ‘Constitutionalists’ take precedence over
their Defence of the Constitution. Any Takers?

3 Responses to “Socialism and Constitutionalism in Pakistan”

  1. The Constitution of Pakistan (1.1 -1973 version) was ratified by the political elites of Pakistan. The fact that much of it – including the language – was an inherited baggage of Act of India 1935 cannot be missed. If Constitutions were to change the structural imbalances and embedded systems of exploitation then many countries in the world (including India, Pakistan and Bangaldesh) would be egalitarian and prosperous socieites.

    The reference to Art 3 is interesting – however, constitutionalism and rule of law are essentially bourgeois tools to retain hegemony – of the core, the ruling classes tied with imperial power[s]. For this reason the ‘middle class’ aspiration and agenda for a liberal bourgeois democracy should not be equated with ‘elimination’ of exploitation. There is an inherent inconsistency [I am not using the word contradiction as the purists will attack me – :)] here and twain are not likely to meet..

    Political mobilisation – the pedagogical undertaking with the oppressed – occurs outside the ‘formal’ domains of constitutional rules and procedures that happen to be essentially colonial in their ehtos. Small wonder that this fear of intensive mobilisation has resulted in the killing of the otherwise feudal and elitist Bhuttos in Pakistan.

    Incisive comments on the lawyers’ movement disconnect and I like the final question and the need to connect the agendas.

    thanks for posting this..

  2. Revlutionary greetings from Greece!

  3. I think it is futile to expect socialism to come through parliament and constitutionalism. The manifesto of the UK’s Labour Party talks about socialism vehemently but since 1923 the history of the Labour has been one of failures. Socialism will be brought about by a revolutionary party through a non-parliamentary path. The emancipation of the working class is an act of working class itself — not their so-called representatives who hail from the bourgeoisie. So one should only ‘feel good’ about the quote of Karl Marx included in the constitution, but to think that it should help us achieve socialism in any way will be a misassumption.

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