by Hussain Haroon 

In the annals of civilized world history immortalized by Herodotus, Arnold Toynbee, Plutarch, Ibn Khaldun and so many other distinguished luminaries,

the often overladen wheels of history grind towards a stall and then to a jarring halt and a deafening ensuing silence bespeaks a stalemate, futility and desperate breakdown of the primordial and known order confusing and muddling the already befuddled human mind and conscience. When hopelessness casts its deranged aura and the eyes cannot see, the ears do not hear or comprehend and the tongue wags in incomprehensible tripe then the often ignored golden words/works of historical visionaries illuminate and flickers in the dark and gloom, humanity resiles towards the age old religiosity of the Prophets which strengthens to resurge and resume their relevance yet sadly to prolonging the rigors of conflict between the three scions of the faith of Abraham. Then the cautionary signals of the doomsayers/seers Nostradamus, Margaret of York and their ilk reveal their bile and consequence, coercing humanity to look towards the socio political findings of Democritus, the Magna Carta, the Caesarean articles of Ghent, the American Charter of Independence and the Cromwellian Commonwealth and many others in an effort to reignite the beacon of socio political rethinking to resuscitatemankind. 

History is replete with great works in the field of the social sciences and politics and while the bulky works of Machiavelli and Rousseau etc. are prominently displayed as the works of great political craftsmen,perhaps the greatest three reasonings are found and proclaimed in Aristotle’s Politics, Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity and Locke’s Two Treatise of Government.

Locke’s Treatise remains concurrent and is his magnum opus, a veritable classic of political and social theory and the subject of a vast body of critical literature with over a hundred and fifty reprints in over twenty languages, still relevant after four hundred years. This treatise resulted in the maturity of English democratic liberalism and tantamount to the non-violent removal of the English King/Sovereign, the development of the movement of the violent American and French revolutions and their parallels in South America, Ireland and India. The resultant ‘Essay of the Original, Extent and End of Civil Government’, a rebuke to the pretences of the socio political scientist Filmer and widely hailed as the A.B.C. of all politics that provoked the irascible great Frenchman Molyneux to proclaim it unilaterally as the ‘Invaluable Treatise’. Under these compelling reasons is based the needed understanding of Locke’s theory so essential to breaching the logjam that grips Pakistan today.

Pakistan today teeters upon the uncertain edge of the precipice overlooking a deep measureless cavernous abyss. The proceeding 41 years from 1906 blanched in the presence of two world wars, the collapse of the age of Empires and the initiation and subsequent doddering new world order trumpeting the age of Breton Woods leading to the blood drenched partition of India in 1947 guiding the fruition of the aspirations of many million South Asian Muslims. In the ensuing 67 years unfolded the merciless usurpation and tyranny of every cherished ideal, vision and dream overtaken by an ever-growing nightmare gripping the soul and shredding at the innards of the audacity of the new creation while humanity aghast gasped at the violation of its throttling space and at the extent of asphyxiation hesitated, yes still hesitated to scrounge the last whiff of dying breath.

This leaderless incapacitation was not the deserved just reward for mankind; it was an antithesis of Darwinism, belief in the progression of species and instead was a termination/submission from survival and the human will and not in the natural order of things. More importantly, it was not the fate of the ‘Ashraf ul Makhlooqat’, not the true believer. Islam has the answers in endless legends and examples based upon the righteous path, not the convoluted one that only worldly desires can see.For us there was the path to tread following the eternal wisdom of Mansoor Hallaj’s ‘I am the truth’ to begin with and then so much more. But as we are currently gingerly pacing the heady mix of Anglo Saxon imbibed cloned democracy and government so let the reason and understanding be derived for want of better understanding from the annals of their socio political models. Even the west will not do to themselves what we have achieved in their footsteps, heritage and misrepresented beliefs.

Therefore let Locke bolster and unlock our society and undertake review of our dilemma and minds through the Two Treatise of Government to re-engineer our suicidal enigma.

The chapter on ‘Dissolution of Government,’ from the second Treatise assumes the most critical position of what is right and what is not, argued in the true traditions of a liberal mindset it would be an eye opener for perusal and discernment of the strict legalese that it renders as is required to understand the morality of what constitutes, comprehends and controls/coordinates the social contract, and at what point is legitimacy disdained and hence misplaced. Quoted below are some summated briefs.

For Locke an oft forgotten truth is that the only legal position of the socio political contract is in its genesis, the undisputable will created by the supremacy of the people/society. Any dissolution of the will of the people and hence society is de facto DISSOLUTION OF THE GOVERNMENT, no matter what the antecedents. Not refuting the strong statement of Locke, George Lawson in his 1947Politica Sacra toned down this impeccable assumption arguing that when the government is thus dissolved the counties (local government) maintained the community of England. Locke in persistent beliefreiterated that ‘whenever society is dissolved tis certain that the government of that society cannot remain.’Conceding though most societies and hence governments are dissolved by ‘overturning from without’ (foreign intervention/conquest) but maintains steadfastly that the specter remains of ‘ governments dissolved from within.’

He then details examples of such dissolution. Civilized society conceives ‘being in a state of peace’ further conceiving ‘tis in their Legislative that the members of a country are united, and combined together in into one COHERENT living body.’ If the legislative is hindered from assembling and is altered or its powers of debating freedom and leisure of perfecting what is good for the peace in society, this legislative alteration also ‘puts an end to government.’ furthermore any arbitrary powers that alters ‘electors or ways of election are altered without the consent and contrary to the interest of people, then the legislative is altered,’ which also puts an end to government. Delivery of the power of the people in any way by the legislative to a foreign government is also akin to (foreign intervention/conquest) and dissolution of government from within.

Locke thunders ‘there is one way more whereby such a government may be dissolved and that is when he who has the supreme Executive power neglects and abandons the charge, so that the laws already made can no longer be put in execution. This is demonstratively to reduce all to Anarchy, and so effectually to dissolve the government. For laws not being made for themselves, but to be by their execution the Bonds of society, to keep every part of the body politic in its due place and function, when that totally ceases, the government visibly ceases. And the people become a confused multitude, without order and connection. Where there is no longer the administration of justice, for the securing of men’s rights, nor any remaining power within the community, to direct the force, or provide for the necessities of public, there certainly is no government left. Where the laws cannot be executed, it is all one as if there was no laws, and a government without laws,is, I suppose a mystery in politics, unconceivable to humane capacity, and inconsistent with humane society ‘ Four hundred years ago this was written and déjà vu to the Pakistani reader as to its relevance to our beloved country.

Locke states that when a government is dissolved ‘the people are at liberty to provide for themselves, by erecting a new legislative, differing from the other by the change of persons, or form, or both ‘ for their safety and good, the caveat being that the state of mankind should not be deterred from invoking this remedy ‘till it is to late too look for any,’ or when ‘the evil is past the cure.’ Locke elucidates this phenomena,’this is in effect no more than to bid them first to be slaves, and then to take care of their liberty; and when their chains are on, tell them they may act like freemen. This, if barely so, is rather mockery than relief; and men can never be secure from tyranny, if there be no means to escape it, till they are perfectly under it.’The strong condemnation above slams passive inaction and promotes the belief that society NEVER loses its basic and original right to protect and preserve itself and to act against dissolution of government impassively is against its natural instinct.

Locke then describes an astonishing situation of legislative rebellion, ‘when either the legislative is changed, or the legislators act contrary to the end for which they are constituted, those who are guilty are GUILTY OF REBELLION.’ This situation according to Locke is where ‘they actually introduce a state of war…and if those, who by force take away the legislative, are rebels, the legislators themselves, as has been shown, can be no less esteemed so; when they, who were set up for the protection, and preservation of the people, their liberties and properties, shall by force invade, and endeavours to take them away; and so they putting themselves into a state of war with those (the people), who made them the protectors and guardians of their peace , are properly ,and with the greatest aggravation , Rebellantes Rebels.’ Locke further dilates that there will be those who decry this doctrine ‘being so destructive to the peace of the world. They may as well say upon the same ground, that honest men may not oppose robbers or pirates, because this may occasion disorder or bloodshed. If any mischief come in such cases, it is not to be charged upon him who DEFENDS his own right, but on him, that invades his neighbor.’

Another way for a government to be dissolved is ’when the legislative or the supreme executive, either of them act contrary to their trust.’ When either institution transgress the fundamental rules of society through ambition,fear, folly or corruption and grasp the right to lives, liberties and estates of the people, ‘they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands.’ The two counter argument offered by the cynics shall be; ’people being ignorant and always discontented, to lay the foundation of government in the unsteady opinion and uncertain humour of the people, is to expose it to certain ruin.’ As no government shall be workable if the people keep sending them home for offences.

Locke acknowledged,’twill be said this hypothesis lays a ferment for frequent rebellion. To which I answer …no more than any other hypothesis. For when the people are made miserable and find themselves exposed to the ill usage of arbitrary power, … will be ready on any occasion to ease themselves of a burden that sits heavy on them.’ Secondly Locke reasoned ‘such revolutions happen not upon every little mismanagement in public affairs,’ but that ‘great mistakes, abuses, prevarications and artifices,’wreak havoc upon society and thus returning to the original argument that when a state of war is induced, it is no different from foreign conquest as the vile destruction in both cases are similar thus depriving and steam rolling of the inherent rights of society. 

Alternately Locke establishes ‘if anyone should ask, must the people then always lay themselves open to the cruelty and rage of tyranny?Must they see their cities pillaged, and laid in ashes, their wives and children exposed to the tyrants lust and fury and themselves and families reduced by their ruler to all the miseries of war and oppression and yet sit still?Must men alone be debarred the common privilege of opposing force by with force which nature allows so freely to all other creatures for their preservation from injury? I answer self defence is a part of the law of nature; nor can it be denied the community, even by the ruler himself. 

The question that will be asked then who will be the judge? Locke explains ‘ The end of government is the good of mankind, that the people be always exposed to the boundless will of tyranny, or that the rulers should be sometimes liable to be opposed, when they grow exorbitant in the use of their power, and employ it for the destruction, and not the preservation of the properties of the people .’ ‘But farther this question (who shall be judge) cannot mean that there is no judge at all. For where there is no judicature on earth , to decide controversies amongst men , God in heaven is JUDGE . He alone , tis true , is Judge of the Right ,’

Let us pray fervently for believers not misinterpreters.


The author is the former Speaker of the Sindh Assembly and former Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations