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PAKISTAN: Reluctant Dictator

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In Karachi last week, iron-minded, frail bodied Governor General Ghulam Mohammed decreed for himself further “emergency powers.” He signed an edict combining four provinces (Sind, Baluchistan, West Punjab and Northwest Frontier Province) and several princely states into one unit called West Pakistan (pop. 33.5 million). He put his civil servants to work on what Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly had for seven years failed to achieve—a constitution.

None of his own totalitarian activity, which his strong right-hand man, Major General Mirza, defines as “controlled democracy,” appeals much to Ghulam Mohammed. A man disabled by a stroke and half-paralyzed, trained by crack British civil servants to rule by law, Ghulam does not really like being a dictator. He sometimes talks about reconvening the Constituent Assembly—which he dissolved last October—and about calling for Pakistan’s first general elections. Ghulam’s advisers argue, however, that restoring democracy would mean restoring chaos. The Federal Court ruled fortnight ago that Ghulam’s “controlled democracy,” in the presence of an emergency and in the absence of a constitution, is legal under the old British India Act of 1935.

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