Ayub Khan's martial law regime, critics observed, was a form
of "representational dictatorship," but the new political system,
introduced in 1959 as "Basic Democracy," was an apt expression
of what Ayub Khan called the particular "genius" of Pakistan.
In 1962 a new constitution was promulgated as a product of that
indirect elective system. Ayub Khan did not believe that a sophisticated
parliamentary democracy was suitable for Pakistan. Instead, the
Basic Democracies, as the individual administrative units were
called, were intended to initiate and educate a largely illiterate
population in the working of government by giving them limited
representation and associating them with decision making at a
"level commensurate with their ability." Basic Democracies were
concerned with no more than local government and rural development.
They were meant to provide a two-way channel of communication
between the Ayub Khan regime and the common people and allow social
change to move slowly.
The Basic Democracies system set up five tiers of institutions.
The lowest but most important tier was composed of union councils,
one each for groups of villages having an approximate total population
of 10,000. Each union council comprised ten directly elected members
and five appointed members, all called Basic Democrats. Union
councils were responsible for local agricultural and community
development and for rural law and order maintenance; they were
empowered to impose local taxes for local projects. These powers,
however, were more than balanced at the local level by the fact
that the controlling authority for the union councils was the
deputy commissioner, whose high status and traditionally paternalistic
attitudes often elicited obedient cooperation rather than demands.
The next tier consisted of the tehsil (subdistrict)
councils, which performed coordination functions. Above them,
the district (zilla) councils, chaired by the deputy
commissioners, were composed of nominated official and nonofficial
members, including the chairmen of union councils. The district
councils were assigned both compulsory and optional functions
pertaining to education, sanitation, local culture, and social
welfare. Above them, the divisional advisory councils coordinated
the activities with representatives of government departments.
The highest tier consisted of one development advisory council
for each province, chaired by the governor and appointed by the
president. The urban areas had a similar arrangement, under which
the smaller union councils were grouped together into municipal
committees to perform similar duties. In 1960 the elected members
of the union councils voted to confirm Ayub Khan's presidency,
and under the 1962 constitution they formed an electoral college
to elect the president, the National Assembly, and the provincial
The system of Basic Democracies did not have time to take root
or to fulfill Ayub Khan's intentions before he and the system
fell in 1969. Whether or not a new class of political leaders
equipped with some administrative experience could have emerged
to replace those trained in British constitutional law was never
discovered. And the system did not provide for the mobilization
of the rural population around institutions of national integration.
Its emphasis was on economic development and social welfare alone.
The authority of the civil service was augmented in the Basic
Democracies, and the power of the landlords and the big industrialists
in the West Wing went unchallenged.
Data as of April 1994