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
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
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
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
By G. W. Choudhury (1967). Green Book House, Dacca (East Pakistan)
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