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President Ayub speaks on Basic Democracies

President Ayub introduced a system of local self-government through the Basic Democracies Order promulgated on 27 October 1959. According to him, the Basic Democracies were going to provide a structure for the subsequent constitutional reforms and representative government. The following is his radio braodcast, delivered several weeks before the promulgation of the order.

On the Scheme of Basic Democracies

Speech broadcast from Radio Pakistan

Dacca. September 2, 1959

My countrymen, 'Assalam-o-Alaikum'

As I speak to you this evening, my mind goes back to those crucial days of October last when we were obliged to take the drastic and extreme step of abandoning the fašade of democracy which in the circumstances of those days had become the hotbed of exploitation and intrigue by selfish politicians and unclean vested interests.

The democratic instrument, as handled by unscrupulous elements in the country, had been warped beyond recognition. This brought the country to the very verge of political as well as economic ruin.

It is in these circumstances that the Constitution which was no better than a bundle of unworkable compromises, was abrogated, and a Revolutionary Government came at the helm of the affairs of the State.

Its primary task was to bring the country back to sanity, and to take immediate steps to restore to it the pristine health and vigour which marked the early days of its emergence as a sovereign, independent nation.

While we endeavoured to restore the nation to normalcy by tackling some of the more immediate and urgent problems, we were also conscious that the measures and reforms we introduced had to be so devised and orientated so as to prepare the country and the people for a representative government in the quickest possible time. Our object was not to impose any particular system from above but to cause a system to grow below in relation with the social, economic, educational and moral realities of the situation.

All changes and reforms which have been introduced or are contemplated, in the agrarian, educational, legal and economic spheres are in fact designed to prepare the base on which an upward of a sound political system can be developed.

Past experience had shown that what appeared to be a Western type democracy could not be transplanted or imposed upon a soil that was not prepared for its healthy nourishment and growth.

There were certain basic requirements of the Western democratic structure which did not exist in our country. Western democracy presupposes a high degree of social and political awareness and mass literacy, so that the people know the value of their vote in terms of 

broad national policies and an advanced system of mass communication for speedy and accurate dissemination of information on a wide variety of themes of individual and general interest.

For these ideal conditions to be created in our country, we would have to wait for God knows how log, before launching a Western type of democracy.

The choice before us, then, was a simple one - should we wait for ideal conditions to prevail or should we study our own needs and requirements and work out a plan based on the realities of the situation, and lay the foundations of a democratic system suited to the  genius of our people?

I had no hesitation in choosing the latter course, and it is in pursuance of this that the necessary legislation introducing basic democracies in Pakistan has been finalized this morning and the Ordinance to this effect will be promulgated in due course.

When, as a result of certain conditions and circumstances then prevailing in the country, we abandoned the so-called democratic pattern, we were quite clear in our minds that this was purely a temporary measure, and that it was a necessary and inevitable steps towards introducing democracy on a sound footing in Pakistan.

Our ultimate aim, as I have reminded you time and again, was to restore democracy, but of a type that people could understand and work. And in less than a year's time, we have already worked out the preliminary details of such a scheme. We have given it the name of Basic Democracies for the obvious reason that we want it to grow and evolve from the very first rung of the political and economic ladder so that it finds its roots deep among the people, starting at the village level in rural areas, and at mohalla level in town.

Without going to the hard core of our nation, at a really intimate level, every system of democracy in our country is bound to become a farce, as it did in the past. The large majority of our people lives in villages: they are mostly uneducated and illiterate, and, therefore, unable to exercise their rights of vote except at their community or village level where personal contact and the immediacy and urgency of individual and community interests made it practical and possible for them to judge people and elect only those in whom they have full confidence, based on personal knowledge of the candidate's background, temperament, behaviour towards other people, and past performance in general.

Source: Documents and Speeches on the Constitution of Pakistan
By G. W. Choudhury (1967). Green Book House, Dacca (East Pakistan)

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