Commemorative events like independence anniversaries are more than just occasions to revel and rejoice with symbolic displays of national pride and rhetorical fanfare. They are a time for mature reflection and informed discussion on what is happening around us, locally, regionally and globally, with a view to understanding how the past informs everyday life and practices. So, although skeptics may carp and complain about the tedium of officially orchestrated remembrances, staged ceremonials are potential catalysts for critical assessments of the present, seen and experienced through the revealing lens of the near and distant past.
Feature image: Revellers celebrate Independence Day at the mazar of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 2014 | Mohammad Ali, White Star
A renewed sense of self-confidence in the foundational ideals of a nation can pave the way for more concerted collective efforts to achieve a better and more fulfilling future.
On August 14, 2017, Pakistanis will mark the 70th anniversary of freedom amid widespread political disillusionment, high security concerns and intense economic anxieties. There are continuous uncertainties about the impact of an ongoing war in neighbouring Afghanistan that has taken a deadly toll on the social and moral fabric of Pakistan for almost four decades. The sense of insecurity gripping their nuclear-armed country will be especially poignant for those Pakistanis who can recall the fateful summer of 1947 when the departing colonial masters stood aloof as their erstwhile subjects celebrated their newly-won sovereignty with an orgy of horrific bloodletting.
As I cited in my 2013 book, The Pity of Partition: Manto’s Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide: “Why have human beings become so thirsty for human blood these days?” Saadat Hasan Manto had asked in his essay Qatal-o-Khoon ki Lakirain (Lines of Murder and Blood). The pity of Partition was not that instead of one country there were now two, independent India and independent Pakistan, Manto bemoaned, but the fact that “human beings in both countries were slaves, slaves of bigotry … slaves of religious passions, slaves of animal instincts and barbarity”.
Muslims were pitted against Hindus and Sikhs in a struggle for national survival then. In our own times, the killing of Muslim by Muslim has turned Pakistan into a virtual graveyard of Islam, leading some international commentators to smugly suggest that becoming the “epicentre of terror” is the inevitable fate of a country born in bloodshed and created in the name of religion. Inevitability overlooks the role of human agency and responsibility as well as the politically contingent nature of historical processes.
There was nothing inevitable about Pakistan’s descent into the murderous sectarian hatred that has engulfed it since the 1980s as a direct result of the support lent by the military regime of General Ziaul Haq to the American-led war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It is imperative to counter the presentist nature of most contemporary analyses of Pakistan with historical interpretations that are attentive to key shifts at the domestic, regional and international levels. Fed on officially constructed ‘truths’ about history, Pakistanis have been hard-pressed to grasp the reasons for their current predicament, much less counter misperceptions about their country at the global level. Instead of critical thinking marked by cautious optimism that might be expected of a people who have weathered many storms in their short but eventful history, including the traumatic dismemberment of the country in 1971, Pakistanis across different sections of society are confused and pessimistic.
This has much to do with growing economic disparities and the sense of alienation in regions that have been denied their share of resources and political power during prolonged periods of depoliticization under military and quasi-military rule. But the chronic state of national depression in Pakistan stems from a deeper psychological malaise.
There have been recurrent doubts about the country’s capacity to survive and considerable angst about the artificial nature of a state carved out of the predominantly Muslim extremities of the Subcontinent. In the brutally blunt metaphor of Britain’s last viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, “administratively it was the difference between putting up a permanent building, a nissen hut or a tent. As far as Pakistan is concerned we are putting up a tent. We can do no more”. Mountbatten had fully expected this fragile tent to collapse. Pakistan has belied this wicked prophecy of the last viceroy. But instead of the tent being replaced with a permanent building, Pakistan has transformed itself metaphorically into a sprawling military barrack.
The rise of the military to a position of dominance within Pakistan’s state structure took place within the very first decade of independence. A combination of domestic, regional and international factors tilted the balance firmly in favour of the non-elected rather than elected institutions of the state. Occurring within the context of the British-American rivalry, as much as the Cold War divide between the Soviet bloc and the West, military dominance had been established as early as 1951, well before the first military coup of 1958. Looking to raise a viable defence against India, senior civil and military officials like Iskander Mirza and General Ayub Khan reached out to the centres of the capitalist world system, especially the United States, which after the outbreak of the Korean War were looking for allies to contain the threat of communism.
An alliance with Pakistan would give the Americans military bases in the Indian Ocean, a crucial strategic move at a juncture when British prestige in West Asia was at an all-time low. But Washington was unwilling to pay the price demanded by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan — a territorial guarantee and assistance in pressing India to give way on Kashmir. The Americans had a better chance of swaying military and civil officials who, in an effort to gain some leverage, intimated to their American interlocutors that the prime minister was toying with the idea of declaring Pakistan’s neutrality in the Cold War unless Western powers helped resolve the Kashmir issue. On October 16, 1951, Liaquat was shot dead while addressing a public rally. The murder of Pakistan’s first prime minister heralded the imminent derailment of the political process and the onset of a brutal political culture of assassinations, sustained by the state’s direct or indirect complicity. His assassination cleared the way for Pakistan to join an American-backed security arrangement in the Middle East.
Without consulting either the central cabinet or parliament, Ayub, the commander-in-chief, told politicians – as cited in my book, The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics – to “make up their mind to go whole-heartedly with the West”; the Pakistan army would “take no nonsense”, nor allow them or “the public to ruin the country”. In the event of attempts to destabilize the government, Ayub warned, he would “immediately declare martial law and take charge of the situation” and the “army will do what I tell it to do”.
After Liaquat’s eviction from the national scene, a select combination of senior bureaucrats and military officials took steps to manipulate the administrative machinery, instituting a culture of state patronage that was detrimental to centre-province relations. These moves laid the foundations of what was to become a thriving political economy of defence. After formally aligning itself with the United States in 1954, Pakistan joined two American-sponsored security pacts — the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization in 1954 and the Baghdad Pact in 1955.
The alliance was unpopular in Pakistan, raising the spectre of American military assistance being put at risk by impending general elections. So, the ruling coterie of senior civil and military officials, working within the constraints of constructing and consolidating a state in an adverse regional and international environment, set about trying to control the political process and, failing that, suspending it altogether.
Pakistan’s inability to match India’s success in establishing a parliamentary democracy and avoiding military rule is generally attributed to an inept and corrupt political leadership. But the failure to create a functioning parliamentary system was not due to a ‘power vacuum’ created by a fractious and corrupt provincial leadership at the helm of political parties, with no real bases of popular support.
The very fact of a military takeover suggests that, despite the dominance of the civil bureaucracy and the army, the internal structures of the state were still fluid enough to be threatened by political forces, however disparate and divided. A clear distinction between phases of dominance and actual intervention by the military explains why weaknesses of political parties offer such an inadequate explanation for the army high command’s decision, in 1958, to directly wield state authority.
The military and its allies in the civil bureaucracy felt compelled to abort the incipient political processes before Pakistan could slip into an era of mass mobilization. It proved to be a momentous decision whose legacy is alive and well to this day.
The supremacy of non-elected over elected institutions not only survived the tentative experiment in parliamentary democracy during the first decade after independence, and the military dispensation after 1958, but also persisted following the separation of East Pakistan in 1971. A judiciary forced into subservience by an all-powerful executive gave constitutional legitimacy to the emerging structural imbalance within the state in the first decade.
The result was a centralized state structure, federal in form and unitary in substance, whose military authoritarian character went against the grain of politics in its constituent regions. These structural asymmetries have been singularly responsible for the failings and distortions of the Pakistani political system — a lack of democratic institutions, inadequate mechanisms for public accountability, a compromised media, inequitable distribution of resources and a chronic tussle between the centre and the provinces.
The dominance of the military has continued through various phases of Pakistan’s political history and is likely to persist into the future so long as extra-constitutional methods continue to be seen by some quarters as an effective means to disrupt the political process. There is a world of difference between holding elected officials accountable and discrediting the democratic political process altogether over acts of omission and commission by politicians.
Accountability requires legal norms and procedures as well as public vigilance and is undermined the instance it is used selectively for political ends. Since the country has been ruled by the military for extended periods of time, expectations of democracy in Pakistan often verge on the unrealistic. Democracy is not a magic wand waved at election time. Democracy is a process. Democracy is conflict and requires institutions to mediate workable resolutions. The difference between a successful democracy and a struggling democracy is the existence of robust elected institutions in the former and infirm or non-existent ones in the latter.
Pakistan’s survival has come at the cost of weakening democratic processes that are intrinsic to maintaining a fragile federal equation. Instead of learning from the tragic experience of dismemberment in 1971, the postcolonial Pakistani state has retained much of its centralized character, notwithstanding recent moves towards greater autonomy for the provinces. There are, however, some key elements of change that could signal a move away from cycles of military authoritarianism punctuated by short-lived elected governments. The Cold War is over, even if its legacies have endured in Pakistan. In the post-Cold War era, Pakistan is facing a more complex interface between domestic, regional and international factors, presenting opportunities and challenges alike. It took Pakistan 23 years to hold its first general election based on universal adult franchise and it was only in 2013 that the jinx of failed constitutional transfer of power from one civilian government to another was finally broken.
In the past, the judiciary typically toed the line laid down by the military and the civilian bureaucracy and state-controlled media were invariably cowed into submission. For the first time in Pakistan’s 70-year history, the third non-elective institution of the state and the fourth estate are showing some signs of wanting to side with popular political forces.
One of the more significant shifts in Pakistan’s international profile since the height of the Cold War, and one with vast consequences for domestic politics, is the relative decline of American influence. As America strengthens its economic and strategic partnership with India, Pakistan has acted swiftly to improve relations with Russia while further cementing ties with China.
The role of the United States as Pakistan’s patron par excellence has given way to belief in a potentially dramatic turnaround with the help of China blowing the tantalizing bugle of its ‘One Belt, One Road’ policy. Pakistanis would do well to avoid the temptation of seeing China as their new benefactor. Unlike Pakistan’s past dependence on the United States, the relationship with China must be a partnership for the mutual benefit of both countries.
The extent to which the boons of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are distributed equally among the constituent units or, conversely, become another means for private accumulation of wealth at public expense will in large part determine this country’s future. An open and informed public debate on new policy directions can go a long way towards smoothening out anxieties in the smaller constituent units about the implications of Pakistan’s CPEC policy. While it is still too early to predict the likely outcome of the CPEC initiative, it provides Pakistan with a real incentive to recast itself internally, regionally and globally.
At a time of dynamic change and an uncharted course for the future, there is an urgent need for the citizens of Pakistan to take the lead in making their voices heard in the highest offices of the state. The need for citizen engagement cannot be overemphasised. Pakistanis might consider taking a lead from their American counterparts who, in the aftermath of the divisive 2016 elections, have shown that democracy is more than just the rite of voting, by actively lobbying their representatives to ensure that their interests are safeguarded in pieces of legislation emanating from Washington. Where politics divide, other concerns can unite.
Pakistani citizens could try and come together in defence of their consumer rights. A civic consumerism that is attentive to quality controls, rising prices of daily necessities and environmental degradation in the name of development can lend substance to the social and economic rights of citizenship and generate popular momentum for putting an end to a kleptocratic political culture.
Admittedly, civil society in Pakistan is still relatively unorganized even though new Internet-based technologies are facilitating novel forms of information dissemination and articulation of social protest. The political party system remains weakly established and, with the constitution repeatedly trampled under the praetorian jackboot, the rule of law continues to be flouted by the very elements expected to uphold it.
Another vital element of detrimental change has been the gathering strength of religious extremism that can be traced back to the military regime of General Ziaul Haq between 1977 and 1988. His rule ushered in qualitative changes in the political and ideological profile of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The confluence of international factors that came into play two years after his military takeover gave his regime greater longevity than the decade long reign of Pakistan’s first Cold War coup-maker Ayub Khan.
Until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 brought a reversal of fortunes, Zia faced international ostracism and domestic opprobrium for hanging Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and ignoring calls for clemency. American-backed international support for the Pakistan-based Afghan resistance movement gave a new lease of life to the sagging political fortunes of his regime but never came close to giving it popular legitimacy. While resistance to him assumed multiple forms, both at home and among diasporic communities abroad, urban and middle-class women led street protests against Zia’s so-called Islamisation policies. As enraged women organised the Women’s Action Forum and took on the baton-wielding arms of the state, they were beaten and hurled into jail.
Opposition to Zia’s dictatorship also assumed the form of artistic and intellectual expression more readily than of either symbolic or violent political protests. Ahmad Faraz wrote one of the most celebrated poems of resistance against military dictatorship in Pakistan during this era, called Mahasara (Siege), in which he vowed to wield his pen against deceit and oppression, regardless of the risks. Subjected to public floggings for exercising their fundamental right of expression and thrown out of their jobs, journalists, civil rights activists, labour leaders and intellectuals met in underground coffee houses and the privacy of homes to vent their anger at Zia, his Punjabi-Sunni prejudices and his hypocritical ‘Islamisation’ policies.
Creative writers and visual and dramatic artists used political allegories to register their disdain at the whole gamut of his regime’s self-projections — whether it was the premium placed on an Arabised form of piety or attempts to reverse the few gains women had made during the preceding decades. With women’s rights under attack, there was poetic irony in the fact of Benazir Bhutto leading the opposition charge against Zia’s military rule.
Basking in the glory of his newfound importance to the United States, Zia could afford to alienate Pakistan’s leading political parties as well as forego the support of a relatively small but resilient intelligentsia and dynamic community of artists and musicians. Flush with American largesse that was matched dollar for dollar by Saudi Arabia, he presided over Pakistan’s transformation into a front-line state for an American orchestrated ‘jihad’ against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Deployed for strategic rather than religious purposes, the uses of a jihadist ideology by the military regime created the space for a transnational congregation of radicalized individuals espousing different variants of Islam but united in their opposition to godless communists. Once this same configuration of forces turned against their erstwhile backers with unbounded hate and violence, Pakistan was left reaping the whirlwind of Zia’s dabbling in the geopolitics of global jihadism.
The ethical meaning of jihadj as striving for a noble endeavour has been completely lost sight of in the temporal maelstroms of Pakistan’s politics. Departing from Islamic tradition, today’s would-be jihadis have no qualms about jihad being declared and waged by non-state actors. The eagerness to become a martyr (shaheed) is seen by contemporary militant organisations as a sufficient condition to sanctify armed warfare against perceived injustices perpetrated by enemies of Islam. But in exemplifying a widespread desire among militants to become shaheeds and not just ghazis, warriors of the faith, this raises a troubling question about the erosion of an ethics of humanity amidst the brutalization of war.
What Pakistan has needed the most ever since its inception is an educational system that can keep pace with the expanding frontiers of knowledge in the rest of the world and inculcate genuine critical thinking. This had been one of the primary objectives of Sayyid Ahmad Khan and his bevy of acolytes at Aligarh – the intellectual forerunners of All-India Muslim League’s movement for Pakistan – who in the late 19th century exhorted their co-religionists to take to new forms of education as a means for both individual self-improvement and collective advancement.
It is one of the crueler paradoxes of Pakistani history that the breadth and openness of thinking so valued by Sayyid Ahmad Khan and his Aligarh associates stands in striking contrast to the narrow and hidebound world view of those who today claim to have inherited their intellectual mantle. Instead of a wide-ranging outlook capable of adopting and adapting to new ideas, the knowledge gap has assumed staggering proportions, notably in the humanities and the social sciences. The teaching of history has been severely impaired by its replacement with self-serving national dogmas to the extent that critical thinking has become the scarcest of all commodities in Pakistan. This is not to imply that Pakistanis are uncritical as a people.
In fact, it may be that they are a little too critical about everything and, therefore, incapable of the kind of well-considered and measured creative activity that can channel national energies into constructive debate and productive enterprise. It is the deficit in analytically coherent critical thought, more than anything else, which has allowed successive managers of the post-independence Pakistani state to frame the narratives of the nation into implausible moulds without being unduly concerned about facing a coherent intellectual challenge, far less a sustained political one.
In this disconcerting scenario, the burgeoning of a popular culture in the face of decades of state-sponsored Islamisation and terrorism is a remarkable feat for Pakistan. It draws upon rich and vibrant poetic, musical and artistic traditions that are well manifested in the country’s diverse regional and sub-regional settings.
Decades of authoritarianism and state-sponsored nationalism have only strengthened the appeal of regional counter-narratives in artistic productions. Creative engagements with the regional and transnational realms of cultural and intellectual production, facilitated by new technologies, are producing rich and innovative forms of artistic expression. These are being showcased in the literary festivals that have mushroomed across Pakistan in recent years.
Equally impressive are the extensively telecast Coke Studio sessions where talented Pakistani musicians are sponsored by an American multinational to render scintillating new fusions of some of Pakistan’s greatest folk and popular songs. There is a rich tradition of musical and artistic creativity in Pakistan that has actively engaged with transnational trends, resulting in innovative blending and fresh departures.
The transnational reach of the creative arts has paralleled the globalization of Pakistani music. Building on the works of those who pioneered the modernist phase in Pakistani painting in the earlier decades, a younger generation of painters is making creative uses of new ideas and technologies to engage with a dynamic transnational artistic scene.
New directions in contemporary art, literature and music underline the ongoing tensions between an officially constructed ideology of nationalism and relatively autonomous social and cultural processes in the construction of a “national culture”. Unable to compete with the financial resources of India’s performing arts and film industry, there are many gifted Pakistanis who are nevertheless making their presence felt as independent artists, musicians, writers and film-makers in the Subcontinent.
Individual success in swamps of collective failure is not uncommon in an authoritarian state. Pakistanis’ cultural achievements, amply evident in the musical, artistic, literary and dramatic productions coming out of the country, reflect the politicization of the personal sphere that comes with the depoliticization of the public arena under authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes. If military dictatorships have failed to stunt creative impulses, waves of terror and counter-terror are being resisted through imaginative recourse to local, regional, as well as transnational idioms of a cosmopolitan humanism that celebrates, rather than eliminates, the fact of difference.
Despite these signs of cultural renewal based on individual creativity, Pakistan has not been able to shake off the stigma of being the epicentre of global terror and the price of losing control of international narratives about Pakistan has been hefty. While Pakistanis must take part of the blame, much depends on the willingness of the international community to recognize their creative accomplishments.
Their efforts to promote peace and accommodation may appear inconsequential, given the aggressive and exclusionary narratives on jihad and Muslim identity that have enjoyed state support for nearly four decades. But the costs of external wars on Pakistani soil have been a potent influence in the rising popular interest in the rich cultural repertoire of the mystical traditions of the country. These conflicting dynamics of moderation versus extremism, openness and engagement with the world versus a narrow and inward-looking closing of the mind, signify the battle for the soul of Pakistan that is being waged on several fronts, most perceptibly in Pakistan’s literature, music and the arts.
This is not to deny that the magnitude and range of problems besieging Pakistan are so vast that even a competent elected government cannot expect to deliver on all its promises. Learning to live with the shortcomings of their chosen representatives without losing faith in the democratic process is difficult for a people who, under years of military rule, have internalized negative narratives about politics and politicians.
If there is one thing Pakistanis need to take from their own history, it is that there is a world of difference between an ineffective government that can at least be voted out of office and the abject failure of democratic processes that military interventions signify. This subtle but crucial distinction holds the key to Pakistan’s release from interminable cycles of military authoritarianism.
It can help trigger the beginnings of a long but arduous journey towards a functioning democracy based on checks and balances between different institutions of the state. Institution building is a long and painful process and Pakistanis have not dignified themselves in this crucial realm. If they can overcome this crippling handicap, they may yet lay the basis for a new and robust federal union based on mutual respect and accommodation among the different constituent units.
Pakistanis can engage fruitfully with the current nexus of political factors only by getting their bearings right. If they are to renegotiate the complex contours of the contested spaces and competing narratives of their collective identity to establish a mutually beneficial federalism, they must face up to some hard truths about their history and muster the courage to learn from its lessons.
The biggest challenge for them is to reject the received wisdom about the past to deal more realistically with the present as a first step towards planning for a better future. What they cannot afford is to continue to allow official idioms of state-sponsored nationalism to gloss over the multiple and conflicting aspirations in different regions that fueled the dream of Pakistan, a denial that constitutes the single biggest obstacle to fashioning a coherent, if not necessarily unanimous, nation. Forced unanimity is no unanimity at all while restrained conflict, respectful of the human rights of all contenders, is the very stuff of democracy.
Insofar as visions of the founding fathers are meant to signpost a nation’s historical trajectory, it may be tempting to attribute the failure of democracy in Pakistan to their flawed political and intellectual legacies. Seen this way, the very notion of a Muslim nation distinct from the Subcontinent’s Hindu-majority community smacked of an inherently undemocratic conception of politics.
Even among those who otherwise hail Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s contribution to the creation of a separate homeland for India’s Muslims, measured skepticism about the appropriateness of democracy in Pakistan has been part and parcel of a self-serving agenda in which the convenience of continued access to state patronage is better than the uncertainties of dealing with an elected government.
As for those given to making sweeping judgments with little understanding of history or context, the absence of democracy in Pakistan is attributed to authoritarian strains in its Muslim culture. Those of the technocratic ilk are known to scoff at the prospect of democracy in a country with a woefully low literacy rate, conveniently overlooking social indicators in neighbouring India, billed as the largest democracy in the world.
One might disagree with the reasons why democracy went off the rails in Pakistan so early in its history. But it is palpably incorrect to locate the failure in Islam, socio-economic determinism or in the founding father’s political legacy.
An examination of Jinnah’s long and distinguished public career should disabuse anyone of doubts about his commitment to democracy and human rights. He was the most eloquent proponent of minority rights before feeling the need to claim national status for India’s Muslims. Firmly grounded in the democratic tradition, he was at the forefront of advocacy when it came to universal education, women’s rights, equal rights of citizenship irrespective of differentiations along lines of caste, class or religious community.
A moderate constitutionalist, he looked disdainfully upon professional rabble-rousers who made cynical uses of religion. “I know of no religion apart from human activity,” he once told Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, since it “provides a moral basis for all other activities”. Religion for him was meaningless if it did not mean identifying with the whole of mankind. Wary of all forms of exclusivity and an uncompromising opponent of bigotry, whether cultural or religious, Jinnah faulted the Indian National Congress’s methods but never once took his sights off the ultimate goal of independence from British colonial rule.
After March 1940, his insistence on national status for Indian Muslims was unshakeable. But the demand for a wholly separate and sovereign state, with no relationship whatsoever with a Hindustan containing almost as many Muslims, remained open to negotiation until the late summer of 1946. The claim that Muslims constituted a ‘nation’ was not necessarily incompatible with a federal or confederal state structure covering the whole of India.
This left open the possibility of an all-India entity reconstituted based on multiple levels of sovereignty. In keeping with the better part of India’s history, an overture to shared sovereignty seemed the best way of tackling the dilemma posed by the absence of any neat equation between Muslim identity and territory. With ‘nations’ straddling states, the boundaries between them had to be permeable and flexible, not impenetrable and absolute.
Therefore, Jinnah remained implacably opposed to a partition of Punjab and Bengal along religious lines, even while furthering the cause of a political division of India between ‘Pakistan’ and ‘Hindustan’. It was the Indian National Congress’ unwillingness to accept an equitable power-sharing arrangement with the All-India Muslim League that resulted in the creation of a sovereign Pakistan based on the partition of Punjab and Bengal along ostensibly religious lines.
Cast against its will in the role of a state seceding from a hostile Indian union, Pakistan has tried securing its independent existence by espousing an ideology of Muslim ‘nationhood’ that has entailed trampling on the provincial rights promised in the Lahore Resolution and dispensing with democracy for the better part of its history. It is no wonder that the claims of Muslim nationhood have been so poorly served by the achievement of territorial statehood.
These insights have been lost on those who unquestioningly parrot the official idioms of nationalism. Charting a linear course to the winning of statehood, these idioms paper over the vexed problems that a geographically dispersed and heterogeneous community such as the Muslims of India faced in its bid to be considered a ‘nation’. Nor can the sacred tomes of official nationalism explain why there are more subcontinental Muslims living in India and Bangladesh than in Pakistan, the much-vaunted Muslim homeland.
As if these confusions were not sufficient to plunge the Pakistani state into a serious identity crisis, its creation in the name of religion has heaped confusion upon confusion. Diehard secularists see in it the kind of anachronism that only Muslims are capable of conjuring. Self-styled representatives of religion, for their part, have seen in it an opportunity to realise the goal of an Islamic state in which they call the shots. Few have ventured to probe what religion as faith had to do with the politics of difference in late colonial India. It was mainly religion as a social demarcator – and for some also concerns about religion as faith – not the dream of an Islamic theocracy which prompted the demand for Pakistan.
Jinnah certainly envisaged Pakistan as a modern, progressive and democratic state and said as much in his speeches: “We … have a State in which we c[an] live and breathe as free men and which we c[an] develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice can find free play.”
This vision resonated with Muhammad Iqbal’s evocation of individual freedom, which was in complete contrast to the theological centralisation advocated by Jamaat-e-Islami’s founder Maulana Abul A’la Maududi. The political architect and poet-philosopher of a Muslim homeland espoused a conception that acknowledged the continued salience of some sort of a state of temporal and spiritual union presiding over regions with shares of sovereignty and citizens with multiple identities — an idea of freedom where Pakistanis in all their diversities and differences could live the lives they valued with dignity, responsibility and a sense of security.
The citizens of the Muslim homeland created by Jinnah, whose federalist vision played such a formative role in the creation of Pakistan, have both a self-interest and moral responsibility to reject the old and tired methods of coercion and neglect of constituent units. It is equally imperative to uphold his singular belief in the rule of law. Pakistan’s future historical trajectory will be what the citizens of Jinnah’s Muslim homeland want it to be. Speaking in Karachi before the Bar Association on January 25, 1948 – as cited in my book The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics – he had urged: “What reason is there for anyone to fear democracy, equality, freedom … as the highest standard of integrity and on the basis of fair play and justice for everybody?”
It remains an aspiration worth striving for, seven decades after the creation of Pakistan.
Lessons we have learnt in the last 70 years by Dr. Ayesha Jalal. The writer is a noted historian and the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Tufts University and is also the director of the University’s Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies. This was originally published in the Herald’s August 2017 issue.
WHATEVER we may think or say about Husain Haqqani — and his role, statements andexplanations — he was not primarily responsible for the US assault in Abbottabad on the night of May 1 and 2, 2011. The final decisions about the fateful incident were not his to make. Whatever he did or did not do, he claims he did not exceed his authorization and instructions. He denies he had anything to do with the planning and execution of the assault, and despite widely held and deep-rooted reservations about his conduct as ambassador in Washington (which may or may not be justified), nothing has surfaced that contradicts his denials.
However, his recent statements do raise questions. In a recent article in the Washington Post Haqqani states
“the relationships I forged with members of Obama’s campaign team … eventually enabled the US to discover and eliminate bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamic militants”.
This language, without explicitly saying so, strongly suggests, whether intentionally or not, an active and purposeful interaction with US security officials which enabled the discovery and elimination of OBL
“without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military”.
This interpretation of Haqqani’s own statement is neither far-fetched nor unreasonable. But equally Haqqani’s article is not a confession. He goes on to say in the article that
“friends I made from the Obama campaign were able to ask, three years later, as National Security Council officials, for help in stationing US Special Operations and intelligence personnel on the ground in Pakistan. I brought the request directly to Pakistan’s civilian leaders, who approved”…
and these locally stationed Americans proved invaluable when Obama decided to carry out the operation without notifying Pakistan. Once again, while not explicitly saying so, there is here an even stronger suggestion of an active role and a sense of pride in achieving a shared objective.
Our leaders are focusing on the person of Haqqani rather than the real tragedy of Abbottabad itself. So?
Pakistan was under an international obligation to cooperate in the apprehension of OBL. An elected government apparently decided to act upon this obligation. The leaders of this government instructed their ambassador in Washington accordingly. They also sent specific instructions to enable the ambassador to facilitate the rapid issue of necessary visas to US Special Operations and intelligence personnel — who obviously disguised their real identities in their visa applications — and who proved “invaluable” when the time for action came. What is wrong or illegal about this? And if there was anything, who should be held responsible: the subordinate and active ambassador or the elected leaders who gave him instructions while allegedly keeping the military and intelligence out of the loop?
But, then, why not stand up and say so — publicly as well as in testimony to the Abbottabad Inquiry Commission? In fact, the president, the prime minister and the COAS declined to meet with the Commission. Haqqani who did meet with the commission has always publicly criticized the US attack on Abbottabad and has similarly denied all prior knowledge of or involvement with the attack. Despite some possible misstatements to the commission regarding the issue of visas there has been no proof of his involvement until the suggestions he has himself made in his recent article.Why is he simultaneously denying any purposeful involvement with the US assault on Pakistan and strongly suggesting the contrary in his recent article in the Washington Post?
Whatever conclusions one may draw about the consistency and purpose of his statements andthe credibility of his behaviour as Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington,they do not add up to treachery. He was, at most, a willing instrument of his political superiors. Unfortunately, that is what politically appointed ambassadors are now expected to be. Nevertheless, in embellishing his personal role — for reasons one can only speculate about — while distancing himself from any responsibility for what occurred, Haqqani has effectively pointed a finger towards his civilian leaders at the time.No wonder, they are denouncing him and calling for another commission of inquiry!
Our media and political leaders, however, are concentrating on the person of Haqqani rather than the real tragedy of Abbottabad itself. This is a measure of their immaturity and irresponsibility which ensure their continuing irrelevance for the suffering people of Pakistan.
In 2013, PILDAT (Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency) noted a leaked interim draft of the Abbottabad Commission, and concluded that the Abbottabad assault was the
“result of inadequate threat assessments, narrow scenario planning and insufficient consideration of available policy options. If the institutions and whole system of governance were ‘dysfunctional’ they were so because of irresponsible governance over a sustained period, including incorrect priorities and acts of commission and omission by individuals who had de jure or de facto policymaking powers”.
PILDAT further noted that according to the draft report the
“government’s response before, during and after May 2 appears in large part to be a story of complacency, ignorance, negligence, incompetence, irresponsibility, and possibly worse at various levels inside and outside government. Institutions either failed to discharge responsibilities that legally were theirs or they assumed responsibility for tasks that legally were not part of their duties, and for which they were not trained. This reflected the course of civil-military relations and the power balance between them.”
The leaked draft also observed the ISI had
“become more political and less professional”.
Because of a lack of consensus in the Abbottabad Commission, the final report submitted to the then prime minister, comprised a main report, and a dissenting report.
Very irresponsibly, the government has not presented the full report to parliament or made it public despite a unanimous resolution of the Senate and National Assembly.
The Commission of Inquiry Act of 1956, moreover, is expected to be replaced by a new act which will require the government to make such reports public within 30 days of submission. The prime minister, accordingly, should now release the main and dissenting report without further delay. This matter, and not hounding Haqqani, should be our urgent priority.
Author: Ashraf Jehangir Qazi; the writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan. He was a member of the Abbottabad Commission; email@example.com; Website: ashrafjqazi.com
Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2017
Haqqani’s Article Revives Tale of OBL Raid
WASHINGTON: Some people in Pakistan did help US officials in getting to Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, says Husain Haqqani, the country’s former ambassador to US, as does renowned US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. Talking to Dawn on the strong reaction to his article published in the Washington Post on Friday, Mr. Haqqani said:
“Some people helped, but they did so independently. Yes, there’s some truth in Seymour Hersh’s story.”
In the Post article, Mr. Haqqani indicated that the contacts he made with the Obama team during the 2008 election campaign ultimately led to Osama bin Laden’s elimination in May 2011
“Of course, I was right. I believe it even more now, as I know more than I did when I wrote the piece,”
said Mr. Hersh when Dawn asked him if he still believed the article he wrote in May 2015 for the London Review of Books was right. The article was later included in his book, The Killing of Osama bin Laden, published last year. Mr. Haqqani said the May 2, 2011 US raid that killed Osama in a compound in Abbottabad was
“a bleeding wound” for most Pakistanis “who still want to know why it happened and how.”
Although Pakistan formed a commission to probe the US raid, its findings were never made public, leaving the space open for rumours and speculations.
Mr. Hersh recalled how
a retired Pakistani military officer tipped the US embassy in Islamabad about Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, received $20 million as reward, was relocated to the United States and was now living in a Washington suburb with his new wife.
Former diplomat says he’s surprised over reaction to his write-up as he has made no disclosure in it.
“Your government knows who he is. [Former US president Barack] Obama should not have talked about it right after it happened. He was to be shown in the Hindukush, not Abbottabad. That was the arrangement,”
Mr Hersh said. He said that he mentioned the name of the then CIA station manager in Islamabad, Jonathan Bank, in the article because he knew he would never deny it. “He is an honourable man. That’s why he did not deny it.” “All the CIA had to do was to produce Bank and have him deny it, but he did not, so they produced another retired CIA official,” Mr. Hersh said.
However, Mr. Hersh heavily relied on a single unnamed “retired senior intelligence official” in the article that contradicts the Obama administration’s account. Mr. Hersh also claimed that Bin Laden had been in Pakistan’s custody since 2005. He reported that his housing and care were being paid for by the Saudis; and that once Bin Laden’s location was revealed to the US,
Pakistanis agreed to let US special forces raid his compound with the explicit understanding that Bin Laden was to be assassinated.
Americans were also supposed to delay announcing that Bin Laden had been killed for a few weeks and claim that he died in a firefight on the Afghan side of the mountainous Afghan-Pakistan border. Mr. Hersh claimed that Obama administration officials were so eager to cash in politically that they reneged on their pledge and disclosed the true location of the raid almost immediately.
Reviewing Mr. Hersh’s book for The Los Angeles Times in April 2016, Zach Dorfman, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, wrote that there exists “a plausible historical pattern, which lends credence — if not absolute credibility — to his account”.
Mr. Dorfman noted that two senior US investigative journalists, Carlotta Gall and Steve Coll, also said that their own reporting corroborated, to various degrees, Mr. Hersh’s account. Mr. Dorfman pointed to the decades-old relationship among the American, Pakistani and Saudi intelligence agencies and noted that the Obama administration did little to probe OBL’s presence in Abbottabad, although their reaction would have been completely different had Bin Laden been found in a Tehran neighbourhood.
Mr. Haqqani, in his conversation with Dawn, appeared more interested in the reaction to his Washington Post article than in how and why Bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad.“The reaction in Pakistan surprises me. I said nothing new,” he said.
He said what he wrote about his close diplomatic ties established during the 2008 Obama campaign was also already in the public domain.
“So, there’s no admission or confession in my article. Seems that some people read into things what they want to read.”
He noted that relations established during the 2008 campaign advanced to a relationship with the United States, which helped them to find OBL. This, he said, was being misinterpreted in Pakistan as him having enabled the operation against OBL, which he said was not what he wrote.
Mr. Haqqani said Americans stationed lot of people in Pakistan during that period who helped in the OBL raid.
“Again, I made no statement to the effect that anybody in the embassy helped that. The article clearly says that Pakistan was not taken in the loop about the raid.”
Mr. Haqqani said he gave no unauthorized visa to any US citizen.
“It is sad that in Pakistan, to this day, no effort has been made to find out more about OBL being in Pakistan, and how Americans were able to find him when our own agencies could not.”
Responding to a question about some Pakistanis helping Americans in catching OBL, he said:
“I wish Pakistanis would be happy to take some credit for eliminating the most wanted terrorist in the world instead of abusing me for re-stating known facts.”
Meanwhile, the PPP, which appointed him Pakistan’s 24th ambassador to Washington in April 2008, has disowned him. During a parliamentary debate on Monday, PPP leader Syed Khurshid Shah said Mr. Haqqani’s Post article was
“an act of treason”.
SEYMOUR Hersh is an investigative journalist and author of The Killing of Osama Bin Laden and The Dark Side of Camelot among other books.
Author: Anwar Iqbal; Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2017
Ready to Give Statement to Commission, says Hussain Haqqani
Dawn.com, Updated March 16, 2017
Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, said on Wednesday evening that he was ready to record his statement with a parliamentary commission if an investigation into recent claims he made in an op-ed published by the Washington Post is pushed forward.
Journalist Mehar Bukhari, who hosts the ‘NewsEye’ show on DawnNews, had asked Haqqani if he would appear before a commission — if one was set up — to which the former ambassador responded in the affirmative.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had earlier on the same day called for a commission to probe Haqqani’s claims that his ‘connections’ with the Obama administration enabled the US to target and kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
“Many commissions have been set up and a report also released, but until today the Supreme Court has not taken action on this report,” Haqqani claimed.
“Someone sitting outside the country can stay there and give a statement. If a commission wants a statement from me, they should ask in writing… I will give a statement via video link,”
he said. However, he maintained that
“nothing new has been said that must be denied.”
In his article published in the Washington Post on Friday, Haqqani had defended the Trump team’s contacts with Russia during and after the 2016 US presidential elections, saying he had also established similar relations with members of the Obama campaign during the 2008 elections.
Those contacts “led to closer cooperation between Pakistan and the United States in fighting terrorism over the 3 1/2 years I served as ambassador” and “eventually enabled the United States to discover and eliminate bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military, which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamist militants,” the op-ed said.
Haqqani on Wednesday added that
“the Americans took advantage of the ties that we facilitated and conducted an operation … I also wrote that in this operation, we were not taken into confidence. This includes the army and the civilian government.”
“The problem arose when the discussion took place about the increasing number of Americans in Pakistan, because they’d given us a very large aid package — $7 billion. When they increased their numbers, some of our people said if we’re taking their aid, we should let them come here too.”
“A spy does not inform you that he is a spy before he visits … Many Americans came in larger numbers; surely there were spies present among them,”
“I wrote that this is what happened, but I did not say that anyone intended this on purpose,”
“The point is that Central Intelligence Agency operatives who notified and came to Pakistan, they all notified the Inter-Services Intelligence. They didn’t phone me and say I’m a CIA man, I’m travelling, please give me a visa,”
“Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan not because someone was issued a visa, but because he was in Pakistan,”
640: This is a relationship that had been on a roller coaster ever since it began. To some extent this is inevitable in a relationship with a world power that has a much larger canvas before it than Pakistan. It is a relationship about which governments in Pakistan have seldom been honest with their own people, leading to inevitable crises of expectations, disappointments and negative consequences. It has never been a genuine people to people, transparent or honest relationship. But it is a necessary relationship that needs to be rationalized, right-sized and freed from false assumptions. The US and Pakistan may share policy objectives but there is not sufficient basis for a strategic relationship between them. US policies towards the region in which Pakistan is situated make that impossible. The US War on Terror; it’s likely post 2014 policies in Afghanistan; its very real threat of war against Iran; its emerging hostility towards China; and it’s real; strategic partnership with India, taken together put definite and undeniable strategic limits to the relationship between Pakistan and the US. Once this is honestly accepted, a healthy, mutually beneficial and important bilateral relationship will become more feasible. It should also be an important stabilizing factor for the region.
641: Since it was the US that carried out the May 2 raid on Abbottabad, some detailed comments on the relationship between Pakistan and the United States in the run up to the incident are in order. The relationship has been based largely on US economic and military assistance on the one hand, and the contingent utility of Pakistan for the US on the other. It is a relationship that is not rooted in tradition of shared culture, political perceptions, and strategic interests. Nevertheless, at its best, it has been a mutually beneficial relationship. More often, it has pretended to be a strategic relationship without being one, except for brief durations of overlapping interests in dealing with common challenges. Pakistan’s major adversary, India, especially since the end of the Cold War, has been the US strategic partner of choice in South Asia. Pakistan also deplores the discriminatory policy of the US regarding civilian nuclear cooperation, its several violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty through border raids, drone attacks and special operations that have resulted in the death, injury and traumatizing of very significant numbers of its citizens. Many Pakistanis as a result, see the US as the primary external threat Pakistan faces today.
642: Prior to Sept 11, 2001, Pakistan under General Musharraf made a clear distinction between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and pursued a policy of support for the latter in the hope of achieving influence or a ‘chimerical’ strategic depth (i.e. leverage) in Afghanistan. However, immediately after 9/11, the General performed volte face for fear of the consequences of US wrath and accepted its war demands against the Taliban with little or no cavil. This paved the way for the American military invasion in Afghanistan on Oct 7, 2001 that led to the devastation of the country and created a veritable hell for the Afghan people, especially in the east and south of the country which adjoin Pakistan. Pakistan chose to become an unenthusiastic ally of the US in its War on Terror in Afghanistan. Even though there were several UN Resolutions on terror and apprehension of OBL, there was no specific resolution of the UN Security Council authorizing the military invasion of Afghanistan. For its connivance in the illegal US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, Pakistan was duly rewarded in 2004 with the status of a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) and substantial military and civilian assistance package. This soon led to a loose and largely unsupervised visa regime for Americans allowing the CIA to spread its tentacles throughout Pakistan. This was in fact a condition for American assistance. It ultimately facilitated the unilateral manhunt for OBL.
643: Cooperation between CIA and the ISI netted many hundreds of terrorists including high value targets (HVTs) belonging to Al-Qaeda. ISI has carried out 891 operations against Al-Qaeda in which it has killed 866 of its network operatives, including 10 key leaders. It has also apprehended 922 Al-Qaeda personnel including 96 high value targets and busted 42 networks.
644: The costs of such cooperation for Pakistan have been substantial, both in terms of blood, and treasure, as well as widespread alienation, instability within the country. Many tens of thousands of civilian lives, many thousands of military lives have been lost. Many more have been seriously wounded, crippled for life. Many hundreds of thousands of civilians were internally displaced from their homes by military operations. Similarly, illegal US drone attacks has taken their toll of human lives, and have inflicted massive physical injury, property destruction, psychological trauma and political alienation of Pakistan. These are real costs that are difficult for middle and upper-class Pakistanis living in the relative security and comfort of urban areas to comprehend even when they read about or view them in the media every day. These costs are estimated to add up to several multiples of the civilian and military assistance Pakistan has allegedly received from the US. Many Pakistanis believe that it has been a rotten bargain except for the ruling elite and the renter class.
645: Nevertheless, it would be wrong not to acknowledge the very considerable value and diversity of US assistance to Pakistan and its people. Even so, the conclusion is inescapable that to a great extent, there has been a shortage of mutual appreciation, regard and relationship, which, by and large, neither side has cared to, in a longer-term perspective, rhetorically.
646: In 2008, the US National Security Agency (NSA) Director Mike McConnell reportedly cautioned ISI Director General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, claiming that the ISI was tipping off Jihadis so that they could escape in advance of American attacks on them. President Obama reportedly also raised the issue with President Zardari. Western officials also alleged that nearly 70% of the aid given to the military during 2002-2007 had been ‘misspent’.
647: On June 11, 2008, the Gora Prai airstrike on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border killed 10 members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. The Pakistan Military condemned the air strikes as an act of aggression. There were several military confrontations also along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border including skirmishes between American and Pakistan’s forces. These culminated after the Abbottabad raid on May 2 in the deliberate, serial murder of 24 Pakistani soldiers by American forces on Nov 26, 2011 in the Salala border area. The US President refused to apologize for the loss of life and the American military investigation disingenuously blamed both sides, which further outraged opinion in Pakistan. Conversely American comment and opinion was adamantly opposed to the idea of a President apology to Pakistan. Both sides in fact saw the incident as a deliberately intended message to the Government of Pakistan that the US would brook no defiance of its demands on issues that affected the security of US forces in Afghanistan. It will not be wrong to say that there have been moments when, despite the patron-client relationship, the two countries have seen each other as adversaries if not enemies.
648: Less than 3 months before the US raid on Abbottabad, there was the infamous Raymond Davis case. The American ‘private security contractor’ (a euphemism for privately hired hit men, goon, thug) shot dead two Pakistani motorcyclists in Lahore in broad daylight whom he claimed were threatening him. Later, the US demanded the killer goon be considered a diplomat on their say so, even though he had not been designated by the US or listed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) as a diplomat. The US suspended high-level contacts with Pakistan because the temerity of MoFA not to accede to its arrogant and unlawful demand which was nothing less than an affront to the sovereignty and dignity of Pakistan. However, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan lost his job because of his principled stand.
649: Revelations from Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars”. The White House approved insider author Bob Woodward makes it clear in his book, ‘Obama’s Wars’ that President Obama and his top advisors had the most negative perceptions regarding Pakistan’s policy makers. Pakistan was regarded as a ‘dishonest partner’ and its leadership was ‘living a lie.’ The ISI was behaving ‘as if it had six or seven personalities.’ It’s Directorate ‘S’ was financing and nurturing the ‘Taliban’. The ISI and the military ‘could not or would not control their own people. They had ‘paranoid mindset’. They neither wanted the US to succeed in Afghanistan nor to leave Afghanistan. They feared ‘encirclement by India’ more than ‘extremists at home’. There were more than 150 Taliban training camps in FATA. The Haqqani network had ‘virtual immunity’ in Pakistan and ‘Al-Qaeda was free to set up and train.’ Accordingly, the question for US was: ‘How do we change Pakistan’s calculus?’ If ‘you do not get Pakistan right you cannot win.’ According to President Obama ‘changing Pakistan’s calculus is key to our core goals. The safety of the US hinges on Pakistan.’ What did changing Pakistan’s calculus entail?650: According to Bruce Reidel, a senior adviser to the US President on terrorism, “Pakistan was the most dangerous country in the world. It was ‘the epicenter of Al-Qaeda’s fight.’ The cancer had spread there and it had to be ‘excised’.” The US had to be ‘on both sides of the Afghan border’ to be effective. The focus had to shift to Pakistan, which was ‘the patron, the victim and the safe haven all at once.’ “A Retribution Plan to bomb 150 ‘known terrorist’s safe havens’ inside Pakistan were reportedly drawn up. General Petraeus said he was ‘worried’ Pakistan was emerging as a necessary war.
651: Shortly after the New York Times Square bombing attempt, the US conveyed to Pakistan that US could “no longer tolerate Pakistan’s a la carte approach in going after some terrorist groups and supporting, if not owning others. Pakistan is playing Russian roulette. The chamber has turned out empty last several times. But there will be a round in the chamber someday.” (That day was May 2, 2011)652: So, what could the US do to ‘impact Pakistan’s attitude?” According to Reidel, “one, raid across the border, and two, bomb the extremists in Pakistan.” What would be the consequences? “Pakistan would probably be pissed off” and “take some actions against us, but would eventually adjust to the situation.” The US “could get away with it.” (This is strikingly like what happened after Abbottabad, and later Salala.)
653: Bob Woodward’s book was published a year before the US raid on Abbotabad and was and still is widely available in Pakistan. But the DG ISI told the Commission no one reads or even thinks in Pakistan. In the period between the publishing of the book and May 2, 2011, the Pakistan-US relationship if anything got worse. The Raymond Davis incident, the unilateral drone attacks without consulting Pakistan and several other actions of the US made clear how aggressive and ‘kinetic’ its policies had become in brazen disregard for human rights and international law. Thus, in the run up to the Abbotabad incident, the US and Pakistan bilateral relationship, while based on wide ranging military, economic and other cooperation was also significantly marred by ‘mutual’ perceptions of each other’s involvement in violence against their respective forces, conflicting interests in the region, escalating tensions, and opinion polls that indicated the two countries deeply disliked and distrusted each other. Nevertheless, those whose direct responsibility was the defense of Pakistan, ‘could not even dream’ that the US would “stab Pakistan in the back.”
The US raid was a total surprise, a ‘betrayal’ and a stab in the back, as the two countries were allies in a War on Terrorism, together had captured a significant number of HVTS, which the ISI handed over to CIA. According to Defense Policy of 2004 and the Joint Strategic Directive (JSD) of 2007, both of which were still operative – the only designated hostile country was India. The two documents specifically directed the armed forces to maintain good relations and avoid confrontation with the US. Pakistan Defense capabilities were designed and developed for a one front conflict situation. Despite tensions, including several border raids and differences on many issues, neither the political leadership, nor the defense policy planners could imagine the US would actually stoop to such a low blow as they inflicted on Pakistan on May 2, 2011. On this assumption, Pakistan air defense capabilities on the western border were deployed in ‘peacetime’ mode.
Moreover, there was tremendous military asymmetry and technology gap between the armed forces of the two countries. This enabled the US to avoid Pakistan air defense capabilities and deterred Pakistan from taking any action that risked escalating the situation beyond control. The US attack helicopters were equipped with stealth technology, night vision, sound suppression, and fast and low flying ‘map of the earth’ flight capabilities. The US intruders were backed by US AWACS and F16 fighters across the border ready to respond to any of the PAF interceptor aircraft.
During the killing, they used silencers. The noise of the Chinooks was heard over Abbotabad valley, acting as an echo chamber, it was not easy to detect the direction from where the sound came. It was only after the loud explosion of the destruction of the downed Black Hawk that the whole town became aware of some in toward development. By then the military mission had completed its work and had departed the scene. By the time the COAS was alerted, the US helicopters were exiting or about to exit Pakistan airspace. The PAF would normally be alerted by radar detection and would scramble in accordance with its standard operating procedures. But on this occasion the radars were unable to pick up anything for the reasons explained. The first time the PAF came to know when the COAS contacted the CAS. By then the opportunity to intercept the American intruders had gone. It was a case of military and technology asymmetry.
In this regard, there was an assertion that even if a significant US military raid had been anticipated as a possible scenario, there was little that Pakistan could do to avert or counter it given the massive military imbalance between the US and Pakistan.
Findings: This is where the crucial weakness of the security mindset and planning in Pakistan showed up. While military options may indeed have been limited, non-military options including stepping up the search of HVTs, dismantling extremist infrastructure in Pakistan, preventing the use of Pakistan territory for the launching of Mujahideen attacks on occupying NATO forces in Afghanistan, diplomatic mitigations of threat perception, policy reviews to address US concerns without compromising national sovereignty or violating international law it could have been utilized to minimize the likelihood of such an anticipatory scenario. None of this was done. There was no pro-active anticipatory policy or policy planning. There was only a policy to reacting to developments after they had occurred. Under these circumstances, the factor of military asymmetry could not be taken account of and countered or mitigated.
While the political relationship was strained, the situation was not considered threatening enough to warrant an expedited review of the long-standing threat identification of the Defense Policy of 2004 and JSD if 2007. Militarily, the technology gap was decisive. US warnings, including President Obama’s public warnings were amazingly discounted and ignored as being addressed only to US public. One senior military official: as Obama’s remarks were not conveyed in writing to Pakistan, they were not considered to be policy statements. While the military and the intelligence leadership might be forgiven for such a simplistic deduction, the political and diplomatic leadership had no business being so incompetent and irresponsible as to ignore such high level specific and precise warnings.
Findings: The Commission is of the view that these warnings were almost certainly conveyed to the highest levels, even in private. The Pakistan military and political leadership displayed a degree of incompetence and irresponsibility that was truly breathtaking and indeed culpable.
The PAF says it responded as soon as it was made aware of the intrusion and attack. Its radar coverage was evaded and by the time the COAS informed the CAS about what happened in Abbotabad, it was already too late to intercept the intruders. The PAF said it gave shoot down orders to the PAF fighter pilots if they encountered aircraft flying over Abbotabad. Nevertheless it was acknowledged that militarily engaging the US was generally not a good option. In fact, it was specifically admitted that the PAF had limited capacity to ensure that another US Special Operation against HVT in Pakistan could be thwarted even with stepped up surveillance and deployment of detection resources in place. All we could do was to respond with unspecific diplomatic and political measures in the event of a repetition of May 2, 2011. Even such measures would be limited by the inevitable need to limit diplomatic escalation with the US as the subsequent Sahala incident clearly demonstrated.
Finding: There was an overall policy bankruptcy for which the political leadership was ultimately responsible although PAF and military leadership also share responsibility. Submission to a military threat or military aggression from a military superior power without military resistance, whatever the military costs, has existential implication for Pakistan.
The radars were neither jammed nor switched off, although they were reported in a mode of ‘rest’ since it was not economical to have them permanently switched on the western border, especially when defense deployment was in ‘peace time mode.’ The Commission flew the route supposedly taken by the American helicopters and visited the Air Defense Command centre at Chaklala. There was apparently no compelling evidence to conclude that any non-routine pattern of aircraft movement was picked up by Pakistani radars near the border on the night of the raid. Moreover, none of the helicopters flying in and out of Pakistan were picked up by the radars. There were reports and even the testimony of a very senior PAF Officer that some of the radars did in fact pick up unusual activity across the border that the PAF had not made all defense preparedness on the west which could have made it much more difficult for even so-called stealth helicopters and low flying terrain hugging techniques to completely escape detection by a properly planned and deployed air defense system which should not have been in peace time mode because of the developing threat on the western border. There were F16s and AWACS flying close to the border ready to respond to any PAF reaction. This was picked up by PAF radars but was not seen as a non-routine pattern of US aircraft along the border. In counter-terror air operation inside Afghanistan, no AWACS would be necessary. Maybe this should have been non-routine air activity across the border and communicated as such to Air Defense Command.
Findings: The Commission was unable to obtain any conclusive evidence to support a finding of non-routine air activity despite the cogency of argument to the contrary. About the criticism of the air defense and planning that was brought to the attention, the Commission finds merit in some of the criticism but not in all of them. Even it was unfair to suggest the PAF was ‘asleep’ on the job; it certainly should have done a better job in providing its inputs for overall defense planning.
There seemed to be some suspicion among PAF personnel that the PAF had for some reason deliberately took no action against the intruders, possibly in response to communication from the US to the Pakistan leadership. The PAF leadership took measures to belay any such misgivings by providing a technician briefing to PAF personnel who were affected by the bitter media criticism of the Pakistan Defense Forces, especially the PAF in the immediate aftermath of this incident. Moreover, the PAF leadership told the Commission that there was no way to edit out or suppress radar tracings of unusual activity or to act on a directive not to respond to foreign attack without the information being known to PAF personnel who would have reacted very strongly.
There were widespread rumours and many well-connected persons with PAF background, who privately alleged that a communication was indeed received because there was always a possibility of something going worse during the operation (and something actually did go wrong with one of the helicopters). It was accordingly, considered by the US to engage in political damage control in advance. As mentioned, this has been strongly denied by all the senior PAF officers the Commission met. It is possible to understand if not agree with the US decision to militarily implement its Special Operations mission. But it is much more difficult to understand the rationale for it by not sending any communication to Pakistan at any time before, or even during the operation in view of the inherent and irreducible risk of detection by the Pakistan Air Defense system, and the US political imperative to minimize any risks of capture or injury to its Navy SEALs. However, the Commission was not presented any conclusive evidence of any communication from the US warning Pakistan of either imminent or ongoing operation. More importantly, the leaders at the helm of affairs, who were able to provide the most reliable information did not meet with the Commission which would have put questions on this and other unanswered questions directly to them.
The PAF apparently received its first information about the incident at 0207 on May 2. The US helicopters apparently arrived at the OBL compound in Abbotabad between 0030 and 0040. The blast destroying the downed helicopter was at 0105 or 0106. It still took 1 hour for the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) to be informed by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), by which time it was too late. In fact, before the blast, one Chinook and one Black Hawk were circling around Abbotabad valley for around half an hour before they returned to the Compound on the completion of the kill and search mission. Given the 90 minutes between the arrival of the helicopters over Abbotabad and the blast of the destruction of the crippled helicopter, it is surprising that no one brought the matter to the attention of the military Command, especially as it was known that Pakistan helicopters seldom, if ever flew at night.
·Why was the Garrison not aware something serious was taking place until it heard the blast?
·Why the CAS not directly informed about helicopters flying at night over Abbotabad?
·Why did he have to first learn of the incident from the COAS?
Both the US and Pakistan governments denied any collaboration or prior understanding regarding the raid. Admiral Mullen’s phone call to the COAS at 0500 on May 2 was said to be the very first US communication to Pakistan on the subject. Nevertheless, as indicated there is room for some skepticism on this issue. Minimizing the risk for the US Navy SEALs was an obligation of the US military and of the US President. In fact, the US Attorney General in trying to legally justify the killing of an unarmed OBL, argued that no possible risk to the lives of the Navy SEALs could be entertained. There would have been greater risk to the safety of the SEALs had the armed forces of Pakistan detected their intrusion and tried to intercept it at any stage of their mission in Pakistan, which lasted more than 3 hours. Despite the technology advantage, the risk could not be eliminated unless some prior communication from the US regarding non-interception was received.
Findings: Nevertheless, there was no conclusive evidence made available to this Commission that would support a finding of prior communication, although there have been unsubstantiated reports to the contrary. If indeed contact was made it is likely to be revealed at some time in the future when there is lesser risk of further destabilizing the bilateral relationship and the government in Islamabad.
Conclusion: The whole episode of the US assassination mission of May 2, 2011 and the Pakistan’s government’s response before, during and after appears in large part to be a story of complacency, ignorance, negligence, incompetence, irresponsibility and possibly worse at various levels inside and outside the government. Institutions either failed to discharge responsibilities that legally were theirs or they assumed responsibility for tasks that legally were not part of their duties and for which they were not trained. This reflected the course of civil and military relations and the power balance between them. The resulting lapses were sometimes of a serious nature; the fact is that at more senior levels, sufficient evidence was not easily available for acts of culpability to be assigned to specific individuals who wielded critical decision-making powers does not diminish their responsibility for institutional and systemic failures.
The US raid of May 2, 2011 was not a development without background and history. It was a product of increasing tensions and mistrust between the US and Pakistan which were known to the entire country. It related to a subject on which the policy of the US had been stated and reiterated on many occasions. It took place on a context of policy choices made by the military and intelligence establishment without sufficient constitutional and sharing information with their political supporters, the elected government. In turn, the elected government showed no desire to discharge their responsibility to take charge of counter terrorism and the search for OBL. The incident finally occurred within a situation of near absolute military asymmetry in which completely superior capabilities of the US military were well known. It was the result of inadequate threat assessment, narrow scenario and insufficient consideration of available policy options. If institutions and whole systems of government were ‘dysfunctional’ – they were so because of irresponsible governance over a long period, including incorrect priorities and acts of commission and omission by individuals who had de jure or de facto policy making power. Accordingly, responsibility for the state of affairs that existed must rest with them even if many are today beyond judgment. The culpability of low level officers cannot explain any of culpability, lack of due diligence and dereliction of duty at the highest levels.
The May 2 ‘incident’ may not have been the result of any significant failures of immediate military detection and response in the fateful night itself, although there are several credible but unconfirmed reports that allege otherwise. But what is undeniable is that the incident was the outcome over time of a whole series of actions and inactions at very senior decision-making levels. Unless this is acknowledged, discussed in the higher political forums in the country and seriously addressed and redressed as a major national priority, there can be no guarantee against further disasters of the kind that have happened before and after the US assassination mission on Abbotabad on the night of May 2, 2011. The biggest challenge for the future of Pakistan is the refusal to acknowledge unpleasant facts and the tendency to shy away from addressing fundamental flaws in critical decision-making processes that affect the survival, interests of Pakistan.
As the report has shown many individuals and institutions were involved in the series of misdemeanors due to nets of irresponsibility and lack of due diligence in the period leading up to the ‘incident’ of May 2, 2011. The US responsibility is clear. But it is not the primary concern of the Commission. As far as Pakistan is concerned, the failure was primarily an intelligence-security failure that was rooted in political irresponsibility and the military exercise of authority and influence in policy and administrative areas for which it neither had constitutional or legal authority, nor necessary expertise or competence. This is the case even though it is also true that those civilian institutions and powers that had proper constitutional responsibility for policy making, administrative and policing duties were in fact less competent than the military because of the effect of an absence of civilian control and participation in national defense making over a very long period. In the premier intelligence institutions religiosity replaced accountability at the expense of professional competence.
In these circumstances, it would be almost irrelevant and certainly invidious to designate relatively low-level officials with limited powers as the main culprits. They had their responsibilities, while in many cases as pointed out, they failed to discharge professionally and dutifully, and for which they deserve to be reprimanded. But finally, no honest assessment of the situation can escape the conclusion that those individuals who wielded primary authority and influence in national decision-making bear the primary responsibility for creating the national circumstances and environment in which the May 2 incident occurred. It is unnecessary to specifically name them because it is obvious who they are. It may be politically unrealistic to suggest ‘punishment’ for them. But as honourable men they ought to do the honourable thing in duly submitting a formal apology to the nation for their dereliction of duty. It will be for the people of Pakistan in the forthcoming elections to pass collective political judgment on them.
Pervez Musharraf came to power on 13 October 1999 in dramatic circumstances which could almost have been scripted in Bollywood. Nawaz Sharif’s attempt to sack him in a national television broadcast and ‘hijack’ his plane en route from Colombo to Karachi enabled the Chief of Army Staff to pose as a reluctant coup maker. In reality, tensions had been growing between the army and the Pakistan Prime Minister since the Kargil conflict in July in which Musharraf was a leading strategist. The former company commander of a commando battalion and member of the elite Special Service Group had been promoted to Chief of Army Staff in October 1998 because, like Zia before him, he was seen as an apolitical figure without a power base in the army. Both coup makers were from partition migrant families in a Punjabi-and Pashtun-dominated institution. It was there, however, that the similarities ceased. Musharraf lacked Zia’s Deobandi-influenced piety and was more of the old-style Pakistan army officer, not averse to Scotch and soda and as at home on the golf course as the parade ground. He was thus far more like Ayub than Zia. His liberalism had been nurtured by family background. His father, Syed Musharrafuddin, was educated at Aligarh. His mother, who held a degree in English Literature from Delhi’s Indraprastha College, was equally liberally educated. Musharraf, because of his father’s posting to the Pakistan Embassy in Ankara, had spent seven years of his childhood (1949-56) in Turkey.
Despite Musharraf’s liberalism, he shared the army’s traditional disdain for politicians. He possessed public relations skills, but lacked the political skills to overcome the lack of legitimacy accorded to a coup-maker. While Musharraf possessed a liberal tinge, he was schooled in the instinctive authoritarianism of the Pakistan army. He thus became increasingly ruffled and impatient when his policies were questioned. He surrounded himself with loyalists who gave the advice he wished to hear. He eventually blundered into the situation in which he needed to declare an emergency following his suspension of a popular and independent-minded Chief Justice. Musharraf, who had declared himself the saviour of Pakistan’s democracy, was badly caught out. This action in November 2007 dealt a final blow to his international standing. Washington had grown weary of his ‘Janus-faced’ approach to militancy, after initially enthusiastically embracing him as an ally in the ‘War on Terror’. The Pakistan public also increasingly opposed his calibrated approach to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militants. A liberalized media exposed Pakistan’s President to claims that he was a Western ‘stooge’.
The atmosphere had been very different at the outset of his regime. Musharraf, both in terms of his personal liberalism, being photographed with his pet dogs and in his taking the title of Chief Executive rather than Chief Martial Law Administrator, had sought to differentiate himself from Zia. Musharraf’s role model in early speeches, in keeping with his childhood and mid-career training in Turkey, was Kemal Ataturk. Enthusiasts for his regime continued to view him as the ‘second Jinnah’, committed to the founding father’s vision of a ‘moderate, progressive Muslim society’. Islamic moderation remained a watchword throughout the Musharraf era, although much less was heard about the ‘good governance’ agenda which he had vowed would replace the ‘sham democracy’ of the 1990s.
Despite the rhetoric, Musharraf did not modernize the taxation system, or roll back the Islamization legacies of the Zia era. Administrative reform shook up local government, but did not free rural society from the thralldom of patrimonial politics. There was little headway in tackling misogynist practices arising either from tribal custom or from the Hudood Ordinances. Musharraf’s attachment to a ‘good governance’ agenda, Islamic moderation and composite dialogue with India thus failed not only because of external economic and political buffetings, but because of the internal weaknesses and contradictions at the heart of the Pakistan state.
Reports which focus on his personality traits to account for the failings miss the vital point that Musharraf, like earlier Pakistan military rulers, needed to co-opt political allies. In doing so he lost the ability to introduce wide-ranging change and was as much in thrall to the vested interests of the religious establishment and the feudal class as were elected leaders. Military-backed rule thus once again proved unable to modernize Pakistan, even with a liberal and progressive-minded figure at its helm. Even the surging rate of economic growth proved to be an unsustainable bubble because of the failure to tackle long-term structural problems.
The Musharraf era exemplifies three long-running themes in Pakistan’s post independence history: firstly, that military governments are ultimately unable to modernize society, governance and the economy because of their lack of legitimacy; secondly, that Pakistan’s utilization of Islamic proxies has derailed relations with its neighbours and come at an increasing domestic cost; thirdly, the military rule is likely to increase ethnic tensions within the smaller provinces of Pakistan. The Musharraf era also reveals the complexities in Pakistan’s development which can puzzle if not elude headline writers and analysts alike. For here was a state in which a military ‘dictator’ could pursue more liberal media policies than his elected predecessor; one in which Baloch tribal chieftains with the absolute power of life and death over their dependants could represent national struggle from state ‘exploitation’; a state which is simultaneously remarkably resilient and ‘soft’ in terms of its ability to implement basic economic and administrative functions.
9/11 and its Aftermath
9/11 and the US’ and its allies’ subsequent ‘War on Terror’ exerted as profound an impact on Musharraf’s Pakistan as had the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Zia’s regime a generation earlier. In both instances, Pakistan found itself a front-line state in a struggle whose ramifications reached far beyond the region. While 9/11 restored Musharraf’s international standing and brought a massive influx of resources, it also threatened the state’s established security policies. Reversal of support for the Afghan Taliban and a toning down of support for the Kashmir jihad would have in themselves alienated sections of Pakistan opinion. The accompanying military action from 2004 onwards in the Tribal Areas set the regime not only against its former proteges, but firmly against the tide of public opinion. This would not have mattered in former times, but Musharraf had made a point of liberalizing the media to provide ‘democratic‘ credentials for his regime.
There are many colourful and contrasting depictions of the circumstances in which Musharraf brought the powerful army corps commanders round to the policy of opposing their former Taliban proteges in Afghanistan. Economic weaknesses, with debts of $38 billion, along with strategic threats possibly from both the US and India, lay behind the decision. It was subsequently referred to as the ‘turnaround‘ in official circles. Superficially this was accurate, as Pakistan had been one of just three countries which had formally recognized the Taliban regime in Kabul. We have seen earlier that the Taliban were regarded as a means of securing Pakistan’s strategic interests and at least in part owed their rise to power to military and security assistance from Islamabad. However, the Taliban had proved not compliant neighbours for Pakistan. A goodwill visit by a Pakistani football team to Kandahar ended in the humiliation of public head-shaving after the visitors had violated the Taliban dress code by wearing shorts. Despite Islamabad’s appeals over the fate of the Bamiyan Buddha statues, the 2,000-year old sculptures were blasted from their cliff face in February 2001. Ultimately, however, the Taliban lost their value as a ‘strategic asset’ to Pakistan because of the growing influence of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, after they were forced to abandon Sudan.
Pakistan supported the Operation Enduring Freedom in November 2001 by granting over-flight and landing rights to the US, by sharing intelligence and facilitating the logistical supply of forces engaged in Afghanistan. In return, it gained leverage and acceptance from the international community when its standing was low not just because of the military seizure of power, but also the issue of nuclear proliferation. The US understood the egotistical Dr. A.Q. Khan, whom Musharraf had removed from his position as head of the nuclear programme in March 2001, and later placed under house arrest, was not simply a lone ‘rogue’ element in his secret dealings with Libya, Iran and North Korea. The inflow of foreign military and economic aid boosted Pakistan’s flagging economy. In 2000, Pakistan’s fiscal debt was 5.3% of GDP and its total debt stood at 92% of GDP. It is true that Pakistan had been granted an IMF standby credit of US $596 million before 9/11. Bit it was the country’s post 9/11 international standing which led to the inflow of foreign aid, higher remittances from overseas Pakistanis and the rescheduling of debt by the Paris Club of donors to help the accelerating growth rates. President Bush’s removal of economic sanctions, which had been in place since the nuclear tests and the Musharraf coup, paved the way for over &600 million in economic support funds to be received in 2002. The improving economic outlook saw annual rates of economic growth rise from an average of 3% at the beginning of the Musharraf era to a peak of over 6%. The parlous foreign exchange reserves, which were only sufficient to cover one month’s imports at US 908 million in 2000, rose to around 1 billion by 2004. One striking piece of evidence of the increased prosperity was the expansion of mobile-phone use in the six-year period 2001-07: from 600,000 to around 50 million.
Musharraf was unable, however, to make rapid economic growth sustainable, by tackling structural weaknesses in the economy. These included not just low taxation rates and poor physical infrastructure, but low human capital. Pakistan lagged most of South Asia with respect to Human Development Indicators such as infant mortality, primary school enrolment and expenditure on education. As the Human Development Report for 2007 summed up, ‘Economic growth in Pakistan is yet to be adequately linked with human development by deliberate re-distributive public policy. Indeed, the predicament of Pakistan lies in the utter divorce of income distribution policies from growth policies’. With a third of the population living below the poverty line and over half having no access to education, basic health services or sanitation, growth remained captive to exogenous favourable events and to the continued provision of credit for wealthier consumers. Critics of Musharraf’s economic reforms were justified in their stance that macro-economic improvements with respect to indebtedness and foreign reserves were primarily the result of a one-off windfall arising from Pakistan’s stance post 9/11.
Musharraf, like Zia, had been given political as well as economic breathing space by the turn of international developments. He won kudos by opening licences for private TV and radio broadcasting, and allowed newspaper editors free rein. This policy provided a veneer of liberalism to his regime. It may also have been prompted by notions that the state-run TV system had lost Pakistan the media war with India over Kargil, and that local private channels could usefully compete with foreign satellite providers who were increasingly threatening old-style policing of television. The new media however gave discursive space not only to liberal voices, but to spokesmen of militant groups. It also reported on the ‘collateral damage’ arising from military action in Waziristan. It is unlikely that Musharraf would have become so universally unpopular because of his ‘pro-American’ stance if the old restricted media had survived. Ultimately private TV companies such as GEO fell foul of the government in 2007 when they sided with the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, in his struggle with Musharraf. The introduction of the emergency which curbed both the media and political opponents did immense harm to Musharraf’s international standing. It coincided with both Washington and London’s increasing frustrations with the ambiguities surroundings Pakistan’s response to the threat of trans-national terrorist activity in the region. During his final period as President, Musharraf came under increasing pressure to replace his system of military-backed rule with a fully-fledged democratic system. This was seen by both Western analysts and liberals in Pakistan as holding the key to tackling not only the country’s chronic instability, but the terrorist threat which was seen as emanating from its porous border regions with Afghanistan. The sentiment was summed up by Zahid Hussain when he wrote, ‘The war against militancy and Islamic extremism can be best fought and won in a liberal democracy.’
Post 9/11 the Pakistan state engaged in increasingly complex and fraught responses to the militant groups which had either traditionally operated out of sanctuaries in its territory, or had crossed into Pakistan in the wake of the US toppling the Taliban government in Afghanistan and the capture of Al-Qaeda’s Tora Bora redoubt in December 2001. While security and later military operations were undertaken against ‘foreign fighters’ and leadership cadres of Al-Qaeda, the Pakistan state did not pursue the Afghan Taliban or Kashmir jihadists. Some ISI operatives and military commanders undoubtedly sympathized with the Afghan Taliban whom they had nurtured. The policy of providing sanctuary however primarily reflected Musharraf’s pragmatism and commitment to the long-term Indo-centric security strategy. The US overthrow of the Taliban regime represented a major setback as it brought non-Paktuns to the corridors of power in Kabul who had traditionally looked to India for support. Increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan raised fears of encirclement in some security analysts’ minds. This was not a totally irrational response, as Pakistan intelligence claimed Indian involvement in the growing insurgency in Balochistan. Pakistan also sought to counteract India by continuing to provide sanctuary to Kashmir jihadist organizations, more to keep up pressure on New Delhi than in a post-Kargil anticipation that Kashmir could be wrenched from India through a military victory.
Afghan Taliban from bases in Waziristan increasingly infiltrated into Afghanistan as the West diverted its attention from that country to Iraq. For many years Afghan Taliban leaders freely operated from headquarters in Quetta (the so-called Quetta Shura). Cross-border infiltration into Kashmir also continued during 2001. The bold move by Pakistan-based LeT and JeM to expand their jihad from Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian heartland by attacking the parliament in New Delhi on 13 December 2002 forced the Musharraf regime to readjust its policy. Both LeT and JeM received logistical and financial support from the military and ISI in their past development. This had not gone unnoticed either in New Delhi or Washington.
The high-profile attack on the Indian parliament brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. It resulted in Musharraf’s banning not only LeT and JeM but the militant sectarian SSP and TNFJ organizations. The security operations against them were largely ineffective and in some instances desultory. According to one report, while the head of LeT, Hafiz Saeed, was under arrest following the attack on the Indian parliament, he still had access to an international telephone and was in touch with supporters and sympathizers in the US. Banned organizations could reform under new titles and by adopting legitimate business covers as charitable organizations. The SSP for example operated as Ahle Sunnat-wal-Jamaat; JeM as Tehreek-e-Khaddim-ul-Islam; and LeT as Jamaat-ud-Dawa. They provided jobs for militants returned from the jihad front and assistance for the families of those martyred. JuD was to provide humanitarian assistance to the wider population in the wake of the 2005 earthquake in Azad Kashmir and following the 2010 flood disaster.
In a striking departure, the army and Frontier Corps began military campaigns in the Tribal Areas in 2004. The aim in the face of mounting pressure on Western forces in Afghanistan was to root out Afghan Taliban who had close ties with Al-Qaeda and ‘foreign forces’ (mostly Arabs, Chechens and Uzbeks) who had found sanctuary in South Waziristan. The operations were marked by military setbacks, and growing resistance from local tribesmen who not only sympathized with the Afghan jihad cause, but tenaciously upheld long-term commitments to independence from outside intrusion and Paktunwali codes for revenge for deaths to kinsmen caught in the crossfire and protection of ‘guests’. A combination of increased resistance and hostile public opinion led to a series of peace deals in South Waziristan. The first was the so-called Shakai Agreement in April 2004. Later in February 2005 another peace deal was signed in South Waziristan with Baitullah Mehsud (Sra Rogah Deal).
Local pro-Taliban militant support was eventually institutionalized in 2007 with the formation of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) by Baitullah Mehsud. The move was a direct response to the Pakistan army’s seizure of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad on 10 July 2007 in a bloody battle which claimed over 150 lives. The TTP brought together local militant commanders from the various Tribal Agencies, some of whom were committed to the local Islamization of society, others who were much more closely committed to Al-Qaeda and the international jihad. The extent to which the Deobandi mosques and schools alone provided the ideological motive for militant recruitment will be explored later. In addition, the TTP’s generous financial inducements, charitable support for militants’ dependants which has echoes in the army’s formal Fauji Foundation and the veneration in which the martyrs are held, seen in the pilgrimages to the tombs of Shaheeds, all played a part. The TTP helped fund its activities through local taxes, which had more overtones of a protection racket than Islamic charitable giving. Despite its decentralization, the TTP was capable of unified and sustained operations. Outside the Tribal Areas, the long established Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) operated under its umbrella in Swat. JeM, SSP and LeJ formed what became known as the Punjab Taliban. In all as many as 40 militant groups were brought under the TTP umbrella. While it remained committed to the Afghan jihad, it was increasingly drawn into conflict with the Pakistan state and sought to usher in an Islamic revolution. The Afghan Taliban focused its efforts across the Durand Line, and its sanctuaries in Pakistan were not engaged by the security forces.
The fighting was bloodiest in South Waziristan, reaching a peak in the winter of 2007-8. There was also conflict in North Waziristan in October 2007, which led 80,000 people to flee their homes. Over the course of 2008, government forces also fought militants in the Bajaur and Mohmand agencies. Military activity in FATA was to increase greatly in the post-Musharraf period, after a lull following the ANP’s assumption of office in the Frontier which saw further abortive peace agreements. The launching of operations in Waziristan was accompanied by growing terrorist blasts in Peshawar, which were eventually to spread to Punjab. Some Western analysts once again raised fears that Pakistan was a ‘failed’ state. Despite their immense human toll, such outrages did not presage an Islamist takeover of the state, which continued to rest on the twin bulwarks of the army and the economic, cultural and political commitment of the Punjabi population to the Pakistan state project.
Washington also had its long-term strategic interest in the stability of Pakistan, now a nuclear power as well as an ally in the ‘War on Terror’. As we have seen, it poured huge resources into the country post 9/11. The Bush presidency for many years feted Musharraf, thereby strengthening his own position. This policy was not universally supported by such prominent US critics as the veteran South Asia specialist, Seleg Harrison. The US also exerted influence to pull back India and Pakistan from the brink of war in 2002 and encouraged the reopening of diplomatic dialogue. In the later years of Musharraf presidency, however, relations with Washington became strained over the extent of Pakistan’s commitment to the ‘War on Terror’. The activities of the Quetta Shura were noted, as was the fact that the arrest of known militants frequently followed Western pressure, and although such leading figures as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (Al-Qaeda number 3 figure) and Mullah Obeidullah (the Taliban regime’s Defence Minister) were netted, and militants like Aby Hamza Rabia and Mushin Musa Marwalli Arwah were killed, many others remained at large. Leading militants such as Fazlur Rehman Khalil (HuM) and Maulana Masood Azhar (JeM) were released during 2002-4. It was especially irksome for Washington that Osama bin Laden remained at large.
The Musharraf regime responded to US criticisms by reporting that by May 2006 over 600 Al-Qaeda members had been arrested in Pakistan and perhaps as many as 1,000 had been killed. The effect that this had on organizational capacity can be gauged by the fact that Ayman al-Zawahiri repeatedly called for an uprising against Musharraf and for his assassination as an enemy against Islam. There were many attempts on his life. Worryingly, information began to emerge of some servicemen being implicated in the two bomb attacks in the space of less than a fortnight in December 2003 and 6 July 2007 attack at Rawalpindi airport.
The US response to what it saw as Islamabad’s half-hearted commitment to halting the flow of militants into Afghanistan was to use remote control missiles (drones) tp attack militant bases in Pakistan and even to threaten ‘hot pursuit’ of militants into Pakistan soil. This stance further inflamed anti-American sentiment in Pakistan which was running at a high level despite US economic largesse. The drones did not always hit their military targets but caused civilian casualties in the Tribal Areas. The hatred of America was deeply corrosive of Musharraf’s standing. It was probably in to shore this up that Islamabad complained in public about the drone attacks, while privately supplying intelligence information which enabled the successful targeting of Al-Qaeda commanders and such notable Pakistan Taliban figures as Baitullah Mehsud. While only rhetoric was deployed against drone attacks, the ‘hot pursuit’ policy raised the real danger that there might be engagement between Pakistani and US ground forces. It was not until the post-Musharraf period, because of Taliban excesses in Swat and terrorist attacks on ‘soft’ civilian targets, that public opinion began to shift away from the notion that Pakistan was being asked to fight America’s war and was suffering therefore. Washington’s unilateral action in the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad reversed this trend.
Relations with India
Pakistan’s relations with India veered from the edge of war to the brink of a major breakthrough on Kashmir. The high points were the Agra summit of July 2001 and the meeting between Musharraf and the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee during the Islamabad SAARC summit in January 2004. The low point was the military stand-off following the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament. In the event, the Musharraf era closed with no decisive change to the decades-long enduring rivalry. The prospect of a ‘peace dividend’ for the region remained as tantalizing as ever. Throughout this period, Islamabad’s foreign policy remained fixed on the Indian ‘threat’, despite the pressure to reverse its strategy in Afghanistan. The overthrow of the Taliban represented a major strategic setback. The US-backed interim government of President Karzai brought members of the anti-Pakistan Northern Alliance who had previously been supported by India, Russia and Iran to the heart of government in Kabul. Rather than Afghanistan providing strategic depth, there was now the possibility of a two-front threat from India emanating from the country. Islamabad claimed that the new Indian consulates opened in Kandahar and Jalalabad were part of a growing Indian presence which had security threats attached to it. Similarly, there were allegations that India was fishing in the troubled waters of Balochistan through its consulate at Zahedan close to the Pakistan-Iran border. Undoubtedly India, through its humanitarian assistance and involvement in reconstruction projects, established a growing influence in post-war Afghanistan. Pakistan’s tolerance of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s network, which launched operations against ISAF/NATO troops from its base in Miranshah in North Waziristan, was a response to the Afghan Indian threat, as Islamabad wanted leverage with a future Paktun moderate Taliban grouping. While requiring a stake in any post-Karzai Afghanistan, Pakistan’searlier experiences with the Taliban rule made it aware that a client state was an unrealistic aim.
The US worked hard to get Islamabad and New Delhi to improve their relations so that Al-Qaeda could not provoke war between the nuclear-armed South Asian powers. The US also had a vested interest in ensuring that tensions with India did not result in the reduction of Pakistan forces on the border with Afghanistan. In addition to US pressure, the lessening of cross-border infiltration from Pakistan into Kashmir from 2002 onwards paved the way for India to agree to a resumption of the composite dialogue process which had been abandoned following Kargil. Musharraf was an unlikely partner for dialogue, as he was seen in New Delhi as the architect of the Kargil war which had claimed over a thousand lives. However, he displayed far greater flexibility than previous civilian leaders in his suggestions for unlocking the logjam of the Kashmir dispute. He not only declared that the UN Security Council Resolutions which had been the centre point of Pakistan diplomacy over six decades could be ‘set aside’, but in December 2005 raised a series of proposals which included soft borders, demilitarization, self-governance and joint mechanisms of supervision for the Kashmir region. Alongside these public pronouncements, the Musharraf regime engaged in back-channel diplomacy which by April 2007 had made progress in the settlement of the Kashmir dispute. India as the status quo power was more inclined to put Kashmir on the back burner, while encouraging a range of confidence-building measures. They included the opening of a bus service with much fanfare between the two sides of Kashmir in April 2005. In reality, the Pakistan military still regarded India as the main strategic threat, despite the improvement of diplomatic relations from the nadir of 2001-2.
Pervez Musharraf termed the post-Zia era a period of ‘sham democracy’. It was, he maintained, marred by corruption, economic incompetence and disunity. He identified this litany of failure with the personalities of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, thereby having a ready-made excuse for their political exclusion. Benazir in political exile in London and Dubai. Nawaz Sharif was found guilty in July 2000 of charges of corruption, kidnapping and hijacking. He was allowed to leave Attock jail in December and go with family members to exile in Saudi Arabia. Although Musharraf was initially adept at speaking the language of an internationally acceptable ‘good governance’ agenda, with its vocabulary of transparency, accountability and empowerment, the attempt to build a ‘real’ democracy boiled down to the tried and tested approaches of the country’s previous military rulers: namely, a process of accountability to discipline political opponents, rather than root out across-the -board corruption; the curtailing of political activity; and the attempt to build direct links with the populace by means of local government reforms which bypassed the influence of the political opposition. While these measures temporarily weakened opponents, they were unable to secure legitimacy for a regime which faced mounting criticism at home and abroad. It thus had to restart a quasi-democratic political process. This involved alliances with the more opportunistic elements of the religious and feudal elites. From the attempt to bypass patrimonial politics, Musharraf was back to square one, relying for example on the manipulations of kinship networks and patronage by the Chaudhrys of Gujrat to underpin his power in Punjab.
Musharraf transformed Nawaz Sharif’s Ehtesab commission into the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). This was tasked under the Chairmanship of Lieutenant General Syed Mohammad Amjad to investigate corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen. Its closed courts and snaring of opposition politicians in a string of cases led to the charges of its being a partisan body. Significantly, politicians who were known for corruption, but who had switched allegiance to pro-establishment parties were not investigated. This led to some accusations that the Musharraf loyalist PML(Q) was created by NAB. Undoubtedly the fear of being involved in court cases led to defection from the PPP with some 20 members forming the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarian Patriot group. Its post-2002 election alliance with the PML(Q) was crucial in ensuring that Musharraf loyalists a majority in the National Assembly. While the NAB set about its political witch hunt, significantly only 8 of the 522 people who were prosecuted in its first four years of activity came from the armed forces.
Political activity was curbed not just by the NAB, but by sedition laws and the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. Freedom of association was curtailed from 15 March 2000, when an order was introduced banning public rallies, demonstrations and strikes. It was only shortly before the October 2002 polls that the ban on political activities was lifted. Even then rallies and processions were forbidden. The mounting problems besetting the Musharraf regime in 2007 led to a further period of curbs. On 3 November a state of emergency was introduced through a Provisional Constitutional Order. This was ended on 15 December, just one day before the campaigning for national elections was due to begin. In the event the polls were delayed until February 2008, following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.
Local government reforms were overseen by a new National Reconciliation Bureau headed by Lieutenant General (retd) S. Tanwir Naqvi. The new district administration system gave considerable power to the elected district Nazims at the expense both of the bureaucracy and the provincial-level politicians. Significantly, the old Ziast ploy was adopted of holding the local elections on a non-party basis. Nazims were unconstrained as to how they spent government block grant funding allocated to their district, which bypassed both the bureaucrats and the provincial legislators. In the long run, the Nazim were unable to provide a bulwark for the Musharraf regime as were the Basic Democracies for Ayub. Some Nazims cashed in their new-found opportunities for wealth and rose to become provincial-level politicians. the reforms further encouraged patronage rather than issue-based politics.
The reforms did not increase administrative efficiency. On the contrary, the weakening of bureaucracy and the failure to follow through the promised police reform promulgated in the ordinance of 2002 contributed to a further decline in governance. This was marked by both inefficiency in the delivery of services and waning confidence in the state’s ability to sustain the rule of the law. Transparency International’s 2007 report maintained that the 350,000-strong police force was the most corrupt public sector agency in Pakistan. Such scholars as Alan Krueger and Jita Maleckova maintain that the resulting sense of marginality and frustration is even more significant than poverty itself in providing a breeding ground for terrorism.
Administrative reforms localized politics and further politicized local administration. Depoliticization at the provincial level boosted the politics of identity and patronage-based politics, as had happened in the Zia era. The kutchery style of politics was extended upwards from the local bodies. Simultaneously, local administration was politicized to an even greater degree than previously. This undermined government efficiency. Rather than addressing the issue of weak institutions which had beset the state since its foundation, Musharraf contributed to what has been termed the ‘graveyard of institutions’ in Pakistan. Alarmingly by the close of the Musharraf era, there was a decline in the reach of the state, not only in the traditionally lightly controlled FATA region, but in parts of the North West Frontier Province abutting the Tribal Areas and in South Punjab. This encouraged the activities of militant groups who had been initially patronized by the state, but increasingly pitted themselves against it.
Musharraf, like Ayub and Zia before him found it impossible to engineer legitimacy for his regime. His power base lay with the army not through the ballot box. Attempts to secure some degree of popular legitimization brought further problems. The June 2002 referendum designed to legitimize his presidency had many of the hallmarks of Zia’s 1984 rigged referendum. Indeed, Musharraf was led to apologize for the patent interference which had delivered 98% of the votes in his favour. The opposition parties maintained that the turnout was a mere 5% of the electorate. The official government figure was 70%. The New York Times neatly summed it up when it declared that ‘the balloting had actually diminished Musharraf’s stature’. The irregularities certainly dispelled the favourable impression created by the political reforms which increased the number of seats for women, reduced the voting age to eighteen, and stipulated that only those who held degrees were eligible for election to the National Assembly. The most far-reaching reform, however, ended separate electorates, thus enabling the return of minorities to the political mainstream for the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
The national and provincial elections in October 2002 were in fact stage-managed similarly to the referendum. The Political Parties Amendment Act of 28 June, which set eligibility requirements for parties, turned the clock back to the Zia period. Another Presidential Ordinance issued the following month limited Prime Ministers to two terms in office, thereby ruling out Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. In the event neither of the two most important opposition leaders returned to Pakistan to campaign. Musharraf further armed himself against possible opposition by issuing the Legal Framework Order which established a National Security Council and restored the President’s power to dismiss the Prime Minister.
At the same time as restricting opponents, Musharraf cultivated ties with the Islamic parties and the more opportunistic elements of the Punjab’s rural elite. The religious parties’ unprecedented electoral success, which saw them gain 45% of the votes and 29 National Assembly seats in NWFP, arose in part from the inflaming of Pashtun sentiment following the US military intervention in Afghanistan. It will be recalled that no Islamic party had previously obtained more than 5% of the national vote. The six-party MMA coalition was also greatly assisted by the neutralization of the mainstream parties and support from the military establishment. This was seen most visibly in the lifting of legal cases against religious leaders. The other beneficiary of official support was the so-called ‘Kings’ party, the PML(Q), which emerged with 77 National Assembly seats and formed the largest party. It mainly comprised pro-establishment former members of the PML(N).
After a period of horse-trading following the election, the PML(Q) took office under the leadership of the Baloch politician Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali. He was as much a puppet of the President as Mohammad Khan Junejo had initially been under Zia. Jamali was to be replaced, after a brief transitional period under Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, by Shaukat Aziz, a former Citibank executive. Aziz had even less political standing, but was the technocrat type of public figure preferred by military leaders from Ayub onwards. Following his swearing in as Prime Minister, he promised to seek ‘guidance’ from the President in order to provide ‘good governance’ for the people.
Musharraf maintained a tight control over the PML(Q), although he did not join it as Ayub had done with the Convention Muslim League. The President arbitrated in its internal disputes and eased tensions with allies such as the MQM when they arose. As Ayesha Siddiqa has perceptively remarked, this approach ‘Instead of strengthening democratic institutions, as Musharraf claimed . . . encouraged clientelism’. Factionalism within the ranks of PML(Q) was an inevitable result. The most powerful group comprised the followers of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Parvaiz Elahi, which was cemented around landed and biraderi ties. The generally weak political position of the PML(Q) was revealed in the 2008 elections. In the absence of rigging and with Musharraf’s star on the wane, the PML(Q) saw its support eroded by a resurgent PML(N) and PPP.
The MMA proved more difficult partners than the PML(Q). Its JI component was especially critical of Musharraf’s failure to stand down as Chief of Army Staff while holding the dual office of President. The JI was also hostile to the government’s pro-American policy. It finally parted ways with its JUI(F) coalition partner and with Musharraf over the military action against the Red Mosque. The MMA’s limited action in implementing Islamic measures made it open to being outflanked by radical Islamists. At the same time it did little to meet the Frontier population’s aspirations for improved economic conditions. The main consequence of the MMA government was however its inactivity in the face of growing influence of the TNSM in Swat. The provincial government in Peshawar had responsibility for the region but did nothing to quell the increasing vigilante actions within it.
We have noted earlier that military rule has not only undermined Pakistan’s political institutionalization, but has also weakened the ability of civil society to underpin democratization. Musharraf differed from both Ayub and Zia in that, apart from the short-term emergency in November 2007, he did not crack down either on the media or on civil society institutions. Ironically, perhaps the greatest testament to Musharraf’s liberalism was the scope it allowed for civil society organizations led by lawyers to push him out of office.
The State of Islam Musharraf portrayed Pakistan as a moderate Islamic state which would act as a source of stability in a volatile West Asia region. He launched the concept of Enlightened Moderation at the 2002 OIC conference in Malaya. He also emphasized Sufi teachings as a counter to extremism. In November 2006, he launched a National Sufi Council amidst great fanfare in Lahore. Education sector reforms sought to modernize the curriculum of religious schools, with $50 million allocated to pay the salaries of teachers of non-religious subjects. Mounting sectarian violence, claims by both India and Afghanistan of continuing cross-border terrorism, the involvement of members of the Pakistan diaspora in acts of international terrorism and a rising tide of suicide bombings and fiyadeen attacks within Pakistan belied this image. Suicide bombings were introduced to Pakistan via the Iraq conflict. The first major attack claimed the lives of a busload of French naval construction workers outside the Sheraton Hotel, Karachi on 8 May 2002. By the end of the Musharraf era such episodes were a weekly occurrence. For an international audience, Pakistan became synonymous with terrorism. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, the number of violence-related deaths rocketed from 183 in 2003 to 3,599 in 2007. The Musharraf regime’s attempts to secure legitimacy subsequently shifted, as it presented itself as a bulwark against the destabilization of a nuclear-armed state.
Government efforts ensured that a number of religious scholars, headed by the Chairman of the Barelvi education board, Tanzimul Madaris Pakistan, issued a fatwa on 19 May 2005 which forbade suicide attacks on Muslims and places of worship and public congregations. Deobandi ulema steadfastly refused to provide a blanket condemnation of suicide attacks. Even more damaging was the government’s inability to clamp down on the mushrooming ‘hate literature‘. The banning of 90 books by the Interior Ministry in 2006 which contained such literature was the tip of the iceberg. Monthly copies of Mujalla Al-Dawa and Ghazwa, the mouthpieces of LeT, continued to circulate in the Musharraf era. These included jihadist articles and glorification of militant actions. Even more extremist materials than newspapers and magazines were the CDs in circulation which included footage of the beheadings of US ‘spies’. These could be obtained quite readily on newsstands outside militant mosques. Extremist messages were also broadcast by radio stations. The most famous of these were run by Mullah Fazlullah in Swat, but there were dozens if not hundreds of other FM stations operating in FATA.
Was the government unable to curb such material, or did it choose not to do so? At the heart of Musharraf’s stance was a pragmatic view of Islam’s usefulness for state policy. He could not break with the religious parties in the MMA, as he needed their support. This set up contradictions with his policy of Enlightened Moderation. Ultimately he would only go so far in risking the opposition of religious groups, which in any case became increasingly disaffected by his pro-US stance. He thus adopted on the whole a cautious approach, whether this was curbing militants, attempting to roll back state-sponsored Islamization, or responding to Western pressures to reform the curriculum of the madaris. Musharraf never abandoned the policy of utilizing ties with Islamic proxies to secure strategic interests in both Afghanistan and Kashmir. He of course had to tread more carefully after 9/11. This involved, as we have seen earlier, distinguishing between militant organizations which had links with Al-Qaeda or were acting independently of the establishment’s control and those which might yet prove useful for the pursuit of national strategic goals.
A combination of Musharraf’s own liberal attitudes, mounting sectarian conflict and the need to secure a favourable international image for his regime led him initially to attempt to roll back some of the Islamization measures, which had been introduced from the Zia era onwards. In May 2000, Musharraf attempted to introduce a limited reform to take away the power of local police officials to respond to blasphemy charges. There had been a number of cases directed against the Christian minority which revealed that the blasphemy ordinance was being used maliciously. Strikes organized by the religious parties led him however to back down. Four years later, he returned to the issue calling for both the Hudood Ordinance and the Blasphemy Ordinance to be ‘studied afresh’ so that they were not misused. The pronouncement was accompanied by the creation of an independent National Commission for Human Rights.
It was not until 2006 that President Musharraf moved to reform the Hudood Ordinance, following mounting pressure from human rights groups and women’s organizations that women who were the victims of rape were being punished while their male assailants were not being prosecuted. Rather than annul the Hudood Ordinance, thereby risking the hostility of Islamic groups, the government introduced the Women’s Protection Bill which, when it became law on 1 December, allowed rape to be prosecuted under civil law. Opponents called the measure mere ‘eyewash’. It failed to protect women, but was useful in burnishing Musharraf’s moderate image in the West.
The Musharraf regime also moved cautiously on the issue of madrasa reform, again seeking to balance the need for international approval against the risk of stirring up domestic opposition. While the government had ridden out the October 2001 street protests against US intervention in Afghanistan, orchestrated by the religious parties, Musharraf subsequently trod warily. The role of madaris in encouraging extremism had come under considerable international scrutiny since 9/11. The initial Western understanding, although this was later challenged, saw the madaris as being the last educational resource for the poor who had been abandoned by the state. Education in these institutions exposed individuals to abuse and to an atmosphere which increased intolerance and militancy. While not all madaris trained militants, they provided an ideological justification for violence. The growing tide of sectarian violence provided Musharraf with his own motivation for exerting a tighter grip. After an initial lull in sectarian killings in 2000, they threatened to get out of hand, as they had done in the closing months of Nawaz Sharif’s rule. It was not until 2002 that he introduced an ordinance making the imparting of sectarian hatred and militancy in madaris a crime punishable by two years’ rigourous imprisonment. The ordinance also drew up a three-year project to provide government funds and technical assistance for the widening of the curriculum to include ‘modern’ general subjects including English and Science. Nevertheless the implementation of reform was slow and large numbers of madaris remained unregistered. Of the 13,000 or so that were registered, the vast majority did not participate in the reform programme, which were seen as being American-driven.
Strategic concerns, as we have noted, lay behind the calibrated response to militancy in FATA. Undoubtedly, however, Musharraf’s need of MMA support impacted on his response to the growing activities of militant groups who sought to impose shari’ah both in the Malakand division and the federal territory of Islamabad.
The spill-over of the Swat insurgency in April 2009 was to herald a major military offensive not only in Swat but later in South Waziristan. Earlier events in Swat were often seen in the West as heralding the spread of Talibanization from the peripheral border areas to Pakistan’s heartland. What Swat demonstrates is the longer-term roots of contemporary Talibanization in some of the Pashtun areas. The TTP operations in Swat were in reality those of the TSNM writ large. The latter organization had emerrged under the leadership of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, a former JI leader, in response to the legal vaccum created by the merger of the Swat Princely State with the rest of Pakistan in 1969. It had developed in response to the local population’s sense that the old-style riwaj system of law, which allowed disputants to be tried by customary law or shari’ah, had worked but the new provincially administered Tribal Area criminal and civil codes were inadequate. The implementation of shari’ah was sought not only as an Islamization measure but to secure speedy and fair justice for the local population.
Swat’s merger with Pakistan had also been accompanied by increased corruption and tensions between the dominant Yusufzai elite and the Gujjar lower classes. As early as 1995 the TSNM had become engaged in armed struggle with the Pakistan state, so what was to happen in Swat in the following decade was by no means unprecedented. The TSNM not only espoused the cause of legal reform but appealed to the poorer sections of Swat society, most notably the Gujjars and Kammis who had acquired land at the end of princely rule but were vulnerable to harassment from local leading Yusufzai Khans. Sufi Muhammad had encouraged his followers in 2001 to fight the US invasion of Afghanistan, during which many had perished. When Musharraf cracked down on militant groups following the attack on the Indian parliament, the TSNM was banned and Sufi Muhammad was arrested. His son-in-law, Maulvi Fazlullah, who was to become the Taliban commander in the region, stepped up the campaign to enforce shari’ah. The black turbaned movement grew in strength under his leadership and forged links with other militant groups in the Tribal Areas. This was evidenced when his brother was killed in a US drone attack on an Al-Qaeda compound at Damadola in Bajaur. The MMA government which had responsibility for Swat and the rest of the Malakand division, did not check the expansion of TSNM power, even though this was at the expense of the state functionaries. Fazlullah announced that the TSNM was a component of the TTP follwing its creation in 2007. It was this step, along with the burning of girls’ schools and the continuing use of illegal FM stations to broadcast calls for Islamic revolution, that led to the military operation in Swat late in the Musharraf era. The military operation Rah-e-Haq, in which more than 200 policemen and soldiers were killed in fighting with the supporters of TSNM, drove Fazlullah to take refuge in the hills. The new ANP government in Peshawar was no more committed to defeating the TSNM than the MMA had been. The peace treaty of May 2008 enabled Fazlullah to regroup before temporarily seizing power in Swat from the Pakistan state.
Some Western critics have maintained that the July 2007 Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) affair in Islamabad, if not stage-managed by Musharraf, was the outcome of his deliberately allowing militancy to fester. He could then present himself as the only barrier to a ‘Talibanized’ Pakistan. The reality is more likely that a combination of the need for MMA assistance, knowledge that the liberated media would sensationalize any action and the fear that there would be backlash in the Tribal Areas led to a policy of inactivity. Moreover, the prayer leader of the Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, had continued links with ISI. These may have afforded him protection as part of the post 9/11 carefully calibrated response to militancy. They may also have been his undoing, leading him to overstep the limits in his campaign to enforce shari’ah and to refuse incentives to surrender as the stand-off developed. Respected Pakistani commentators maintain that it was impossible, given the mosque’s proximity to the ISI headquarters, that the agency was unaware of the stockpiling of weapons and the presence of militants from such banned organizations as JeM within the compound.
The Red Mosque in Islamabad had been constructed in 1965 with the Deobandi scholar Maulana Muhammad Abdullah as its imam. Its close links with the military dated from the Zia era when it had been important in raising recruits for the Afghanistan jihad. The mosque was also associated with hardline Sunni sectarianism. Maulana Abdullah had ties with SSP and was assassinated by Shia militants in 1998. The mosque’s running was taken over by his sons Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi. The latter, who was a History graduate from Quaid-e-Azam University, had until that point been following a secular path. Despite its former establishment links, the mosque became a focus of opposition to the Musharraf regime when it reversed its security policies post 9/11. Abdul Rashid Ghazi went underground in 2004 after being accused of involvement in a plot to blow up government buildings in Islamabad. He reportedly had close links with such leading Al-Qaeda figures as Ayman Al-Zawahari. Every Friday demonstrations were raised at the mosque in support of Osama bin Laden.
The provocation for eventual military action against the mosque however came as a result of the activities of Maulana Abdul Aziz’s wife Ume-Hassan, who headed the girls’ madrasa (Jamia Hafsa) which was attached to it. Baton- wielding burqa-clad students took over a nearby children’s library and abducted women who they claimed were running a neighbourhood brothel. Their initial protests in January 2007 had been prompted by the government’s demolition of illegally constructed mosques in Islamabad. For many years the Capital Development Authority had turned a blind eye to their expansion. The vigilante actions of the Jamia Hafsa students formed the backdrop to clashes with the male Lal Masjid students, who sought to impose shari’ah by unlawfully destroying CDs and cassettes of local shopkeepers. They also kidnapped a number of policemen. After months of inaction, troops stormed the mosque on 10 July 2007 and 50 militants were killed, including Abdul Rashid Ghazi. He was soon to be extolled in posters, conference gatherings and on web pages as a ‘gallant warrior’ and martyr.
While the military operation was successful, it resulted in an intensification of the insurgencies in the Tribal Areas under the umbrella of the newly formed TTP. When Ghazi’s brother was released, while he disavowed suicide attacks and bombings, he publicly thanked Allah for bestowing upon people like Fazlullah and Sufi Muhammad the power to enforce the shari’ah. Punjab based sectarian militants not only joined the TTP, but for the first time targeted the state, initially in the Pashtun areas, but ultimately in the Punjab as well. These attacks became increasingly daring and were directed at the army and ISI, which had in the past helped to nurture and protect organizations such as the LeJ and SSP. The immediate of the Lal Masjid operation saw an average of one suicide attack a day during July. Suicide bombers targeted security forces, government buildings and symbols of Western presence in Pakistan, such as the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad which was hit in September 2008. Musharraf survived a further assassination attempt, but Benazir Bhutto was to fall victim to the mounting tide of violence which in 2008 saw over 2,000 terrorist attacks, killing or injuring around 7,000 people.
Insurgency in Balochistan The Musharraf era did see the completion of one major construction project: Gwadar port. This too, however, generated centre-province tensions. Indeed, it was a contributory factor in the third round of insurgency in Balochistan since independence. The return of a military guided government committed to the development of Balochistan in the national interest provoked long standing antipathy towards the province’s ‘colonial status’. The establishment of cantonments in Balochistan in the wake of 9/11 made it appear that a Punjab-led occupying force was taking over. Musharraf’s encouragement for Pushtun Islamist parties further created a sense of Balochistan marginalization in provincial as well as national politics. The circumstances were thus created for a new phase in militancy. Musharraf appears to have little respect for the Baloch Sardars, believing that they objected to any development in the region which might weaken their autocratic power. From this perspective, their claims to be upholding Baloch rights and interests are merely hypocritical. Security concerns that New Delhi was assisting a low-intensity insurgency may further have encouraged a high-handed attitude which failed to consult Baloch interests when drawing up the developmental projects in the province. The Pakistan government attached great strategic and economic importance to the Gwadar development. The deep-sea port at the entrance of the Arabian Sea is designed to provide naval strategic depth for Pakistan (it is 450 km further from the Indian border than Karachi). It came into operation in 2008 and is being managed by the Port of Singapore Authority. The economic aim is to make Pakistan a transit hub for trade, especially in oil for Central Asia and the rapidly developing Xinjiang region of China.
Baloch nationalists fear that trade profits will be siphoned off to other provinces. They are also concerned about the influx of non-Baloch labourers in search of employment opportunities. Another grievance is the fact that local land has been acquired by real estate agencies at low prices, subsequently sold on at vast profit to non-Baloch. On 3 May 2004, three Chinese engineers were killed by a remote-controlled car bomb as they made their way to work at Gwadar. Security was immediately stepped up and protection provided to the 450 Chinese technicians. Responsibility for this outrage was claimed by a shadowy organization known as the Balochistan Liberation Army. It has been engaged in a low intensity insurgency since 2000. Its roots can be traced to the 1973-77 insurgency when it was funded by the Soviet Union. Some analysts have claimed that its re-emergence was facilitated by Indian support, alarmed at the Chinese strategic interests at Gwadar.
By 2005, violence had escalated and shifted from Gwadar to the Bugti tribal area, a locality so rich in natural gas that it provides around a third of Pakistan’s energy needs. The Bugtis were not involved in the 1973-77 Balochistan insurgency. The tribal Sardar Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti had traditionally been regarded as loyal to Islamabad. He had for example become Chief Minister of Balochistan in 1988. He founded his own political party which drew mainly on Bugti support: The Jamhoori Watan Party. The rape of Dr. Shazia Khalid was the catalyst for the conflict between the Bugtis and the Pakistan state. She was assaulted on 2 January 2005 by an army officer. The incident occurred at the Pakistan Petroleum Plant at Sui. It was seen by Nawab Bugti as an attack on his tribe’s ‘honour’ as Shazia was a ‘protected guest’. Bugti’s attempt to prevent an official cover up led to mounting conflict and attacks on gas pipelines by tribesmen. Bugti fled his residence at Dera Bugti shortly before it came under attack. From a cave in the Bhamboor Hills he directed what became known an insurgency against authorities. He died a martyr for the Baloch cause on 26 August 2006, when an intercepted satellite phone-call revealed the cave at Tarnai, near Kohlu, in which he was hiding. F-16s and helicopter gunships bombed the area killing the veteran Baloch leader and 36 of his followers. The insurgency had by the time spread from the Bugtis to their traditional Marri rivals. The Marri tribal area became the centre of military activity following a rocket attack on 14 December 2005 on a Pakistan Frontier Corps camp outside the town of Kohlu, which was being visited at the time by President Musharraf. There was also firing on the helicopter which was carrying the Frontier Corps’ Inspector-General Shujaat Zamir. Three days later Kohlu town was bombed along with its surrounding areas. The Marri in these circumstances finally settled differences with the Bugtis, so that there could be a common front in the Baloch struggle. The Marri tribe provided the main personnel for the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which commenced a campaign directed against security personnel, gas pipes, electricity pylons and railway tracks. On 1 May 2006, the BLA claimed the responsibility for blowing up a railway bridge on the main Quetta railway line in the Kohlu district. In the same month, President Musharraf banned it as a terrorist organization. At least 450 persons, including 226 civilians, 82 soldiers and 147 insurgents, were killed in 772 incidents in Balochistan in 2006. The attacks continued into 2007: in May, a series of railway line explosions severely disrupted communications between Balochistan and the rest of Pakistan. Punjabi ‘settlers’ became the victim of target killings. The insurgency in Balochistan, because it was not linked with the ‘War on Terror’, attracted far less international attention than that in the Tribal Areas. However, the region is of immense strategic and economic significance for Pakistan’s future development.
Military-backed government raised again the old claim of Punjabization. Musharraf adhered to centralization as much as any previous military ruler, despite his talk of devolution. Indeed the practical effect of the ‘localization of politics’ arising from his local government reforms was as Mohammad Waseem has pointed out, to ‘enhance unbridled centralism’. Yet the Musharraf era revealed the extreme limitations facing a centralizing administration committed to top-down modernization if it lacked political legitimacy. Attempts to develop Balochistan on behalf of the national interest ran into increasing particularist opposition. Similarly, Musharraf was unable like Zia before him to address Pakistan’s mounting water management and electricity supply problems by forcing througfh the Kalabagh Dam project.
As early as the mid 1980s, plans were drawn up for a major dam to be constructed at Kalabagh on the Indus. Its proponents argued that the hydro-electricity produced by it (over 2,000 MW generation capacity) would meet the growing energy ‘gap’, while it would also address the increasing water shortage. Despite promises of international support and the expenditure of vast sums of money on the project plans, provincial opposition to federal government’s proposals prevented the scheme going ahead. The greatest opposition came from Sindh with fears that the dam would reduce the Indus flow with resulting desertification in the interior and increased flooding by sea water
Musharraf sought to cut through this stalemate by announcing in December 2005 that the Kalabagh Dam would go ahead. He could not, however, command the country as easily as he could the army. Within less than six months, the mounting campaigns in Sindh and NWFP forced him to abandon the proposal. This was democracy of a kind in operation, but the problem of water supply and electricity generation would not be so easily wished away. Unsurprisingly the post-2008 PPP-led government of President Zardari did not reopen what would have been a can of worms for its Sindhi supporters. The 2010 flood disaster, however, pointed to the fact that Pakistan faced more immediate problems of water management arising from climate change than it had previously anticipated. The Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, went on record that the flood disaster in Sindh would have been mitigated if the Kalabag Dam had been constructed. Lack of trust, however, continues to threatens timely mreasures such as smaller dam projects, let alone the politically charged Kalabagh scheme whose construction in any case would take around six years.
Civil-Military Relations and Milbus Under Musharraf The military’s penetration of Pakistan’s state, economy and society has been a constant theme throughout this text. Its emergence as a key interest group which intervened to safeguard institutional interests in the name of the nation’s stability and security dates back, as we have seen, to the early post-independence era. Under Ayub and Zia, the military role in the running of the state grew apace, although its power was never hegemonic, both because military regimes failed to acquire political legitimacy and because they had to rely to a degree on civilian allies drawn from the rural elite, the Islamic establishment and the bureaucracy. Under Musharraf, military control increased at the expense of the bureaucracy, although the Islamic parties remained restive allies in comparison with the more supine landowners. Before turning to the intensified role of the army in both Pakistan’s administration and economy, it is important to note that Musharraf institutionalized its role at the heart of politics.
This was achieved firstly by restoring the powers of the President to dismiss the Prime Minister and assemblies which had been a feature of Zia’s legacy, but had been removed during Nawaz Sharif’s second stint in office. This measure was important as Musharraf once again restored a direct linkage between the presidency and the military by virtue of his dual office holding as COAS and President. In the early 1990s, civilian presidents had worked closely with the army but always at one step removed. The Legal Framework Order which was incorporated into the constitution early in 2004 ensured presidential power in Pakistan. Secondly, Musharraf gave the military a permanent role in governance through the passage of the National Security Council Act in 2004. The idea that the military should have a permanent presence in deliberation of national policy-making drew inspiration from the Turkish model of civil-military relations. The notion of a Pakistani version was mooted during the Zia era. Musharraf’s introduction of the National Security Council revealed both the long-term suspicion of the army that the state’s functioning could not be left to elected politicians and an established pattern of intervention to safeguard its interests
Despite the misgivings of some of the Islamic parties, the 2002 elections had delivered a National Assembly that was sufficiently pro-establishment to ease through the the legislation. Supporters of the measure stressed that the NSC was merely consultative and that by bringing the army into the heart of governance it would strengthen democracy by encouraging responsibility and removing the need for future coups. This ignored the fact that the NSC not only reduced still further the possibility of the army being held accountable to civilians, but also was reflective of the weakness of democracy rather than a step towards its consolidation.
At the same time as institutionalizing the imbalance in civil-military relations, the Musharraf regime increased both the size of the military’s internal economy and the penetration of serving and retired military personnel in all major institutions. This included not only businesses and commercial undertakings where they may have acquired military based technical skills, but also as heads of universities and think tanks. Within government itself, around 4-5,000 posts were held by military officers.
Long established military enterprises such as the Frontier Works Organization, further extended their activities by seeking private sector partnerships, as for example in the project along with the Habib Rafique Group and Sacchal Construction to build a Lahore-Sheikhupura-Faisalabad motorway. The military’s interest in real-estate development was another marked feature of this period. In 2002, for example, a presidential order enabled the Defence Housing Authority in Lahore to come into existence by taking over the Lahore Cantonment Cooperative Housing Society which had been in existence since 1925. The army was not alone in speculating in real estate which, according to Ayesha Siddiqa, ‘can be considered as one of the primary sources of economic activity in the country, especially after 9/11’, but it remains a ‘major stakeholder’ and most importantly there is clear evidence here of its political power being used to forward economic interests. Property prices escalate in army-run housing schemes because they are seen as more ‘secure’ and have a better infrastructure than civilian-run schemes.
The direct military association with power opened it up to corruption, which reduced its standing in the public’s eyes. This declined further as Musharraf’s own popularity slumped whilst he continued to hold dual offices of President and Chief of Army Staff. The army regained its high standing because of its tackling militancy and the disastrous floods in July-August 2010. Nonetheless it is important not to see the army’s burgeoning economic interests in a totally negative light. Most military enterprises were run reasonably efficiently. The Fauji Foundation’s support for ex-servicemen and their dependents not only provided the conditions for steady supply of recruits, but through, for example, its educational facilities enabled the army to act as the only meritocratic institution in Pakistan. This was evidenced most clearly when General Ashfaq Kayani replaced Musharraf as Army Chief in November 2007. Kayani’s father had been a non-commissioned officer.
Musharraf’s Decline and Fall Musharraf, like his military predecessors, lacked legitimacy and cast about for ways to secure a popular mandate. He was more adept at political manipulation than Ayub, but lacked Zia’s native cunning. By 2007, the year in which he needed to secure re-election and parliamentary elections were scheduled, he faced mounting unpopularity because of his perceived pro-American stance. At the same time, his Western allies were urging him to come to terms with Benazir Bhutto to shore up democratic and liberal forces in Pakistan against a growing tide of militancy. Musharraf not only shared the army’s mistrust of the PPP, but personally disliked Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari. His initial preference was to secure his position as President before allowing her to return to Pakistan on his terms. He attempted this manoeuvre by securing re-election as President from the loyalist parliament dominated by the PML(Q). The questionable legitimacy of this action encouraged the mainstream opposition parties to boycott the indirect electoral college comprising the National Assembly, Provincial Assemblies and the Senate. This duly re-elected Musharraf as President for five years on 6 October. This did not shore up Musharraf’s position, however, which had already been severely weakened because of his suspension in March 2007 of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, on allegations of misconduct and nepotism. The Chief Justice had displayed increasing independence. Musharraf feared that he might pose a legal threat to his re-election process. His action, however, seriously backfired as Pakistan’s lawyers came out onto the streets in mass protest which widened from its concern with the independence of the judiciary into an anti-Musharraf movement. This was the beginning of what was to become the ‘Go Musharraf, Go’ campaign which eventually culminated in his resignation.
Musharraf was unable to prevent Benazir Bhutto’s and Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan shortly after his re-election. Benazir Bhutto had returned on 18 October after an amnesty had been granted and all corruption charges against her were lifted. Her triumphant return was marred by an assassination attempt in Karachi in which a suicide bomber killed 136 people and injured at least 450. Nawaz Sharif returned from his Saudi exile in less dramatic circumstances on 25 November. It was increasingly clear that Musharraf would only be able to preserve his position by working with the leaders of the two parties which would come out on top in the impending elections. In another ill-considered step, however, he painted himself further into a corner by taking the drastic step of declaring a state of emergency on 3 November. This was prompted not by fear of Bhutto and Sharif so much as concern that the Supreme Court would invalidate his recent re-election. The new restriction on the mainstream media which had been given freedom to grow earlier in his regime were epitomized by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Ordinance. The state of emergency was lifted on 15 December in time for parliamentary elections after new appointees to the Supreme Court ratified Musharraf’s election. Earlier on 28 November he had stepped down as Chief of Army Staff, handing control of the army to General Ashfaq Kayani. This decision, which had been long demanded by opponents, did nothing however to restore his credibility and merely further exposed him to opposition without the army’s ‘cover’. The emergency had done irreparable damage to both his domestic and international standing. The Commonwealth had suspended Pakistan from membership on 22 November. Musharraf may have won the battle for the presidency but had lost the wider war of political acceptability. This was amply demonstrated by the concerted attempts to secure his impeachment in the wake of national elections. These had been delayed from January to February 2008 following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in Rawalpindi on 27 December 2007. political opponents claimed that Musharraf was behind her murder. Subsequent reports have pointed out lapses of security for which he must bear responsibility. In the wake of the revulsion and shock which followed her death, some writers feared for the unity of the Pakistan federation. These anxieties were to be proved exaggerated. The main consequences were to prevent any establishment rigging of the polls. The PPP undoubtedly benefited from the sympathy vote, while the PML(N) returned to power in its Punjab heartland at the expense of the discredited pro-Musharraf PML(Q). The pattern of the pre-2002 elections was restored in which the religious-based parties were reduced to the margins. The ANP was the main beneficiary of this process in the NWFP. In a striking reversal of fortune, the widower of Benazir Bhutto and the new co-chair of the PPP, Asif Ali Zardari, emerged as the key figure in Pakistan politics. Musharraf’s fate was sealed when Nawaz Sharif agreed to join Zardari’s coalition government. While the cooperation between them was short-lived, they were able to demand the President’s impeachment with a reasonable expectation that they could muster the necessary two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and Senate to pass an impeachment resolution. Musharraf pre-empted this process by announcing his resignation on 18 August. He maintained that the charges against him were false and that his decision was prompted by the need for national unity. Pakistan’s long journey to democratic consolidation was set to enter a new phase.
Conclusion The mixed legacy of Musharraf’s nearly nine years in office was reflected by the jubilant celebration of political opponents and civil society groups, while the responses of the business classes and of many ordinary citizens were more muted. It may have been this along with an undoubted patriotism which later raised his ambition for a possible return to the political stage through the vehicle of a new party, the All Pakistan Muslim league (APML). By the time of its launch at the beginning of October 2010, the Musharraf era appeared an oasis of relative stability and efficient governance following the chaos and insecurity of the Zardari years. Memories are short in politics so Musharraf’s moves were not greeted with the condemnation which had accompanied his departure from the political scene. In 2008, however, Musharraf, if not exactly a busted flush, appeared to have a few tricks left up his sleeve. He had promised to improve Pakistan’s governance and economy but had bequeathed a deteriorating situation to his successors. Rather than being the self-proclaimed saviour of the country, he had not begun to address the problems which had bedevilled it since 1947. Political institutions had been further weakened and the issue of provincial autonomy versus centralization still awaited a resolution. Half-hearted attempts had been made to roll back the Islamization measures introduced by Zia. At the same time, the challenge of shariatization had increased, in part because of the ambiguous attitude of the Musharraf regime to Islamic parties and Islamic proxies. The initial hopes for improvement in relations with India had stalled, along with the composite dialogue process. Similarly, the proclaimed empowerment of the masses through political reform had proved a chimera. Perhaps, in these circumstances, the best summary of the Musharraf regime would run along the lines that much was promised but little was delivered. Pakistan still had to resolve the issues which had blocked off its economic and political development since independence. If Pakistan was not a failed state under Musharraf’s stewardship, it remained immobilized. Yet there had never been greater need for structural reform.
By courtesy: Pakistan, A New History by Ian Talbot, Oxford University Press, Oxford,New York 2015
A Dictator by any Name
The Military Strikes Back 1999-2008
General Pervez Musharraf overthrew an elected government, an offense punishable by the Constitution of Pakistan.
Lest it be forgotten, General Pervez Musharraf was always a military dictator who, to start with, overthrew an elected government, which is a treasonable offense punishable by death according to the Constitution of Pakistan. The epithet added to him being a ‘liberal dictator’, a crucial fallacy committed even by otherwise smart and intelligent academics, glosses over and partially legitimizes the fact that he was, once and always, a military dictator.
The fascination by Pakistan’s anti-democratic elite, particularly its neoliberal, globalised elite, who partied long and hard with Musharraf and entertained him (and his hand-picked prime minister Shaukat Aziz), of imagining Musharraf as being some type of ‘liberal’, was limited to his westernised lifestyle which they shared.
There was nothing ‘liberal’ about his dictatorial politics, an incipient style of anti-democratic conduct, which the westernized elite also supported wholeheartedly. Whether Musharraf’s personal lifestyle-liberalism did any good in opening social spaces to this elite (and non-elite) – being more tolerant of certain cultural and social practices, allowing women to occasionally find greater political agency and so on – is an important, though secondary, consideration.
The fact that dictators can be, when they so choose, benevolent and do some social good, needs to be sharply contrasted with their anti-democratic, authoritarian interventions that often have serious consequences in the long run.
One so-called liberal dictator of a very different era, General Ayub Khan, was partially responsible for the separation of East Pakistan; Musharraf, three decades later, left a legacy of violence, killings and suicide bombings under the guise of militant Islam and jihadism, which are perhaps only now being addressed.
Despite the best of lifestyle-liberal intentions, political consequences of decisions taken by dictators, leave their mark. Envisaging himself first as an Ataturk, and often as a Jinnah, by the end of his reign in 2008, as numerous events in 2007 were to reveal, Musharraf became another uniformed bully, hungry for personal power … just another military dictator dependent on the largesse of the United States.
Since General Yahya Khan, unlike Pakistan’s three coup makers, was more an accidental and make-shift military ruler rather than a military dictator, Musharraf needs to be viewed against the experiences provided by Generals Ayub and Ziaul Haq. And, unlike his two military predecessors, General Musharraf’s nine-year-long presence on, and dominance of Pakistan’s political scene was far more colourful and riddled with far greater contradictions. While Ayub and Zia were ideologically opposites of each other, only sharing their distaste for civilian politicians, one could argue that their agenda and their politics were far more straightforward, simple and uncomplicated compared toMusharraf’s brand of lifestyle-liberalism mixed with a different brand of dictatorial politics.
One must also emphasize that the regional, global and domestic contexts – in terms of ethnic politics, social classes, global linkages and capitalist accumulation – of all three were also markedly different, though some similarities could be drawn.
From the Cold War politics of the 1960s to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, to the US intervention in Afghanistan in the last decade, one could argue that Pakistan’s three military dictators shared some global and regional similarities, but the 1960s, the 1980s and the 2000s were all considerably different.
One major starting point to their coups which indicates how much the world and Pakistan had changed over the 40 years since 1958, was that, unlike his predecessors, Musharraf did not declare Martial Law when he dismissed and subsequently banished prime minister Nawaz Sharif on October 12, 1999. In fact, that he chose the title of Chief Executive as he wanted “to serve people, rather than rule” was clearly indicative of the sensibilities of a new generation and a different world.
Pakistan’s higher judiciary, in all its wisdom and based on many decades of its institutional experience of endorsing and working with military dictators, gave Musharraf three years after his coup to hold elections. As Pakistan’s chief executive, supported by the westernized elite, backed by numerous formerly radical members of civil society and NGOs, with a finance (and later, prime) minister specially invited from Citibank, Musharraf set up a technocratic government based on his Seven Point Reform agenda, which would make any autocrat proud.
The first three years of the Musharraf regime were troubled, although it was popular in some domestic circles, with Pakistan still a pariah state internationally because of sanctions that had been imposed after the nuclear tests in 1998. Things were made worse by the Musharraf coup in an era when military interventions were no longer fashionable. This international isolation, with consequences on Pakistan’s economy, lasted till the fateful day in September 2001 when much of the world changed.
Just as Gen Zia was rescued by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Musharraf found after 9/11, a longevity which he could not have expected in 1999. Once Musharraf decided that he was with the US rather than against it, and was far secure of his future, he began to unravel new interventions in the political and governance structures he had prepared.
He started by building a new system of local government (prior to 2001), doing away with the urban-rural divide and reducing the powers of bureaucrats. He increased considerably the number of seats reserved for women at all tiers of electoral representation. Having moved on from being a non-descript chief executive to be the president of Pakistan in July 2001, he called for a referendum in April 2002 to seek legitimacy from the people for his efforts, receiving a ‘Yes’ vote, in true dictator style, of 97.5 per cent.
Unlike Gen Zia’s never ending ‘90 days’, to his credit, Musharraf did hold elections after the Supreme Court’s three-year moratorium was over, in 2002. Yet, one must recognise that after the US attack on Afghanistan, with his future secured, he could easily afford to do so. With George Bush in the White House backing his ‘buddy’ in Islamabad fighting the War on Terror, Musharraf could get away with a great deal at home. And he did.
Meddling with the Constitution after creating a King’s Party of former tried and failed politicians from Nawaz Sharif’s party, he enforced electoral reforms which specifically barred both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from becoming prime minister again. He also lowered the voting age to 18 years, believing that Pakistan’s millennials would endorse his vision of Enlightened Moderation and vote for candidates he approved of, making graduation a requirement to contest elections.
Always under pressure from the religious right, however, he had to give in to their demands of allowing religious non-graduate, seminary-trained individuals to contest his graduate-only elections.
The result was that while he got a subservient parliament in Islamabad and Lahore, he was forced to give away the NWFP [since renamed KP] to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of religious parties opposed to Musharraf’s pro-West agenda and to his, and the GHQ’s, U-turn on the Taliban. Nevertheless, Musharraf learned to use the MMA presence in the NWFP as a bargaining chip with the Americans to his significantadvantage.
The 2007 Implosion
From 9/11 onwards, thinking that he was assured of a tenure reminiscent of Ayub Khan, backed unequivocally by the US, pumped up by the hubris and bravado of a commando that he once was, Musharraf unfolded another experiment in praetorian democracy in the country that was different from what the country had under Zia. Musharraf’s experiment, having been initiated in 2002, imploded in 2007. If ever there was a year of supreme significance in Pakistan’s political history, with consequences well into its future, it was 2007. In March of that year, Musharraf dismissed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. It was an event which resulted in not just the lawyers’ movement, but played a key role in bringing Musharraf down eventually, and in rebuilding Nawaz Sharif’s political future.
On May 12, Musharraf showed his true colours and demonstrated his vicious streak in Islamabad that left many killed in Karachi as they awaited the arrival of the deposed chief justice. Then in July, an attack on Lal Masjid by the army – shown live on Musharraf’s gift to the Pakistani people, a free-for-all, independent, electronic media – led to the killing of an unknown number of militants. The incident resulted in the country’s worst wave of domestic terror which continued for at least a decade, killing, by some accounts, up to 70,000. In October, Musharraf signed the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), granting amnesty to many prominent politicians, a further sign of his weakening grip on power. On November 3, Musharraf imposed a desperate mini-martial law, an Emergency, as an uncertain future stared him in the face.
Elections had been announced by then, and both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had returned to the country and were challenging Musharraf under the banner of a Charter of Democracy they had signed a year earlier in London. Having survived an assassination attempt in Karachi on her return in October, Benazir Bhutto fell victim to an assassin’s bullet on December 27, ending an extraordinary year.
Pervez Musharraf was forced out by democratic forces in 2008. A decade later, he threatens to return to Pakistan to contest elections, but remains an absconder from the courts where he is under trial, among other cases, for treason. Given Pakistan’s political history, this is clearly a unique situation for a former president who also happened to be the army chief.
Good intentions are one thing; eventual outcomes something else. Whatever Musharraf thought he would leave as a legacy, he left Pakistan far more unstable, more violent, less tolerant, and in further disarray.
The Balochistan crisis, on which news continues to be suppressed, was a creation of his regime, where the killing of Akbar Bugti stands out yet another case of state murder. Failure or success need to be evaluated in terms of what could have been achieved, and what wasn’t in assessing opportunities that were floundered.
Musharraf and his technocratic whiz kids are to be held responsible for not achieving many key reforms when they had undisputed power, with key sections of the political class either in disarray or bought over, with support from some key constituencies, and when those in power were awash with capital from abroad. Just the fiscal space created because postponed debt repayments on account of 9/11 amounted to an extra $5 billion each year which could have been spent on social and infrastructure development. Yet, most was squandered in speculative property and stock market machinations which produced nothing tangible except making many of the cronies of the regime very rich.
Musharraf had a dictatorial model of politics, with crony capitalism his sense of economics, and lifestyle-liberalism his social agenda, all backed up by huge dependence on the United States.
A decade after his ouster, much of what Musharraf did has been undone, reversed by popular and political mandate, been put aside completely, perhaps a sign of maturity of the country’s democratic transition and transformation.
While his regime left behind consequences that survived well beyond 2008, history will prove Musharraf and his interventions to be far fickler and fleeting than he could have ever imagined. No wonder he is remembered only as a lifestyle-liberal or ‘dictator chic’ (as Edward Luce of the Financial Times has used the phrase in a different context), who just happened to be Pakistan’s third military dictator.
By S. Akbar Zaidi: The writer is a political economist based in Karachi. He has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge. He teaches at Columbia University in New York, and at the IBA in Karachi.
Dawn December 1, 2017
HBL has been an indelible part of the nation’s fabric since independence, enabling the dreams of millions of Pakistanis. At HBL, we salute the dreamers and dedicate the nation’s 70th anniversary to you. Jahan Khwab, Wahan HBL
Editorial Dawn Dec. 1, 2017
Is it shocking or the new normal? Former military dictator and army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf has expressed his admiration and support for Hafiz Saeed and the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba.. Unprovoked, seemingly for no reason other than his need to make headlines with increasingly outrageous statements and with no regard for Pakistan’s delicate international position, Mr Musharraf has once again spewed out fantastical nonsense. What is more than puzzling is that when Mr Musharraf was army chief and had installed himself as a military dictator, it was his regime that took significant steps to restrain militancy. Indeed, it was on the former dictator’s orders that many militants groups were outlawed, and at least nominal clampdowns enforced.
Quite why Mr Musharraf has felt the need to traverse the ground between an advocate of a moderate Pakistan to now saying virtually anything that appears to pop in his mind or interviewers goad him into saying is not clear.
What is clear is that his former institution or whoever is able to counsel restraint needs to urgently speak to Mr Musharraf and put an end to his unpredictable outbursts.
Perhaps Mr Musharraf also needs to be reminded of the destructiveness of his regime. After nearly a decade in charge, militants were rampant, the economy had tanked and society was under the influence of growing extremism.
If there is a singular justification for why modern Pakistan needs democracy not dictatorship, Mr Musharraf is it. Unable to deal with his ouster after a revolt by Pakistani society, Mr Musharraf has tried to establish himself as a legitimate political alternative to no avail.
Now, he has chosen self-exile rather than facing a treason trial. But even by the standards of a frustrated former strongman, Mr Musharraf appears to have little regard for the damage his comments can cause to the country.
If a long-term army chief and military dictator cannot exercise restraint, perhaps it is time for him to be ignored all together by the nation.
It should be clear that Pakistan, though a deeply troubled state, is also a tough one; and that, barring catastrophic decisions in Washington, New Delhi-and of course Islamabad-it is likely to survive as a country. In the long run, the greatest threat to Pakistan’s existence is not insurgency, but ecological change. However, Pakistan’ s farmers are also tough and adaptable, and while some areas like the Quetta valley are likely soon to suffer disastrous water shortages in the country, drought will take several decades to become truly catastrophic. Floods, though devastating in the short term, can also be controlled and harnessed given determination, organization and money. This allows time for human action to ameliorate the impending crisis, if the West, China and of course Pakistan itself have the will to take this action.
Featured image: The aftermath of a suicide attack by the Pakistan Taliban on the Lahore High Court, 10 January 2008
The rest of the world should work hard to help Pakistan, because, long after Western forces have left Afghanistan, Pakistan’s survival will remain a vital Western and Chinese interest. This should encourage cooperation between Beijing and Washington to ensure Pakistan’s survival. By contrast, a Sino-US struggle for control over Pakistan should be avoided at all costs, as this would add enormously to Pakistan’s destabilization.
In the short term, of course, Western policy towards Pakistan will be shaped by developments in Afghanistan, but this policy should not be dictated by those developments. For Pakistan is in the end a great deal more important and potentially dangerous than Afghanistan. Whatever strategy the US ends up adopting in Afghanistan, Pakistan will be critical to its success. Quite apart from Islamabad’s strategic calculations, this is made inevitable by the fact that more than half of the Pathan ethnicity lives in Pakistan, while maintaining a strong interest in what happens to the Pathans on the other side of the Durand Line.
Whatever happens, Pakistan will therefore insist both that Pathans are strongly represented in any Afghan regime, and that Islamabad has a share of influence in Afghanistan, at least to the point where other countries-meaning above all India-cannot use Afghanistan as a base from which to threaten Pakistan.
No conceivable short-term gains in the Western campaign in Afghanistan or the ‘war on terror’ could compensate for the vastly increased threats to the region and the world that would stem from Pakistan’s collapse, and for disasters that would result for Pakistan’s own peoples. Though many Indians may not see it this way, the collapse of Pakistan would also be disastrous for India, generating chaos that would destabilize the entire region. Western and Indian strategy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan should therefore be devised with this fact firmly in mind.
This would include recognition, at least in private, that it has above all been the US-led campaign in Afghanistan which has been responsible for increasing Islamist insurgency and terrorism in Pakistan since 2001. By this I do not mean to advocate a humiliating US and British scuttle from Afghanistan, nor to suggest that a Western withdrawal from Afghanistan would end the extremist threat to Pakistan, a threat which has long since developed a life of its own. Nonetheless, concern for the effects of the US military presence in Afghanistan on the situation in Pakistan is one of the strongest arguments for bringing that presence to an end as soon as this can honourably be achieved, and against conducting more wars against Muslim states under any circumstances whatsoever.
This also implies that the US should observe restraint in its pressure on Pakistan. Drone attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas have killed many Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders, but they have not noticeably impaired the Afghan Taliban’s ability to go on fighting effectively, while causing outrage among Pakistanis–especially because of the very large numbers of women and children who have been killed by the attacks. The US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, discussed the risks of the drone strategy in a cable sent to the State Department in 2009 and revealed by Wikileaks. She acknowledged that drones had killed ten out twenty known top Al Qaeda leaders in the region, but stated that they could not entirely eliminate the Al Qaeda leadership and, in the meantime:
Increased unilateral operations in these areas risk destabilizing the Pakistan state, alienating both the civilian government and military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis within Pakistan without finally achieving the goal [of eliminating the Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership].
The well substantiated belief that–despite official denials–the Pakistan high command and government have provided information to the US in return for strikes against Pakistan Taleban leaders has also been confirmed by WikiLeaks. As Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani told US officials in August 2008,
‘I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly, then ignore it.’
Pakistani acquiescence in the drone strikes, however, damaged the prestige of the military in society and the morale of ordinary soldiers, and encouraged the perception of the military as a ‘force for hire’. There should therefore be no question of extending the attacks to new areas of Balochistan or Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which would further enrage local society, spread the Pakistani Taliban insurgency to new areas, and reduce existing Pakistani cooperation with the US.
Even more dangerous is the presence of US special forces on the ground in Pakistan. Reports of this in Pakistan are greatly exaggerated. According to the US Embassy cables released by Wikileaks, as of October 2009 only sixteen such soldiers were deployed in Pakistan, to two Pakistani military bases in north and south Waziristan. While they are doing some useful work against the Taliban, they are also potential hostages to fortune, and likely to provoke mass anger at their presence in the population and the military.
Above all, there must be no open intervention of US ground forces in FATA, as this risks outright mutiny in the Pakistani army. This restraint should be observed even if the US comes under new terrorist attack. Britain should use whatever influence it possesses in Washington to oppose any such interventions, which could have the most disastrous effects on both terrorism and ethnic relations within Britain itself.
Pakistan’s links to the Afghan Taliban, hitherto seen in the West overwhelmingly as a problem, should also be seen potentially a critical asset in the search for an exit from Afghanistan. We might as well try to use Pakistan in this way, since, as the US embassy in Islamabad reported gloomily but accurately in September 2010:
There is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced (US) assistance levels in any field as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these groups (i.e. the Afghan Taliban and their allies) which it sees as an important part of its national security apparatus against India. The only way to achieve a cessation of such support is to change the Pakistani government’s perception of its security requirements.
The US and other Western countries fighting in Afghanistan should use Pakistan as an intermediary to initiate talks with the Taliban in the hope of eventually reaching a settlement, if, as seems highly probable, the attempt to defeat the Taliban by force does not succeed. Because of its links with the Taliban, Pakistan will have to play a key role in bringing about such negotiations. In 2010 the Obama administration began to move towards the idea of talks, but still seemed very far away from a recognition of what such talks would really entail. In the words of a senior Pakistani diplomat:
The US needs to be negotiating with the Taleban, those Taleban with no links to al-Qaida. We need a power-sharing agreement in Afghanistan and it will have to be negotiated with all parties . . . The Afghan government is already talking to all the stakeholders, the Taleban, the Haqqani network, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Mullah Omar. The Americans have been setting ridiculous preconditions for talks. You can’t lay down such conditions when you are losing.
Such a Western strategy should also stem from a recognition that Pakistan’s goals in Afghanistan are in part legitimate–even if the means by which they have been sought have not been–and this legitimacy needs to be recognised by the West. The US and EU should work hard to try to reconcile legitimate Pakistani goals in Afghanistan with those of India, and to draw other regional states into a consensus on how to limit the Afghan conflict. China, close to Pakistan and fearful of Islamist extremism, could be a key player in this regard.
The US needs to continue to limit Indian involvement in Afghanistan if it is to have any hope of a long-term cooperative relationship with Pakistan. The West also needs to seek a peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute, despite all the immense obstacles in both Pakistan and India. As Ambassador Patterson told her government:
Most importantly, it is the perception of India as the primary threat to the Pakistani state that colours its perceptions of the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s security needs. The Pakistani establishment fears that a pro-Indian government in Afghanistan would allow India to operate a proxy war against Pakistan from its territory . . . Increased Indian investment in, trade with, and development support to the Afghan government, which the USG (US Government) has encouraged, causes, Pakistan to embrace Taleban groups as anti-India allies. We need to reassess Indian involvement in Afghanistan and our own policies towards India . . .Resolving the Kashmir dispute would dramatically improve the situation.
The overall question of the future of US-Indian relations is far too broad to be discussed here. What can be said is that a balance needs be struck between the economic and security benefits to the West of closer ties to India and the security threats to the West stemming from a growth of Islamist militancy in Pakistan. In the end, not even the greatest imaginable benefits of the US-Indian friendship could compensate for the actual collapse of Pakistan, with all the frightful dangers this would create not just for the West but for India too.
We should also not dream-as US neoconservatives are apt to do–that India can somehow be used by the US to control Pakistani behaviour. The truth, outlined by Ambassador Patterson, is exactly the opposite.
Only Pakistanis can control Pakistan, and the behaviour of the Pakistani security establishment will always be determined by what they see as the vital needs of Pakistan and the Pakistani army.
A new approach to Pakistan over the future of Afghanistan should therefore be part of a much deeper long-term engagement with Pakistan by the West in general, and one tied not to the temporary war in Afghanistan but to the permanent importance of Pakistan as a state. This is crucial for Britain, whose large minority of Pakistani origin retains extremely close ties with Pakistan and forms an enduring organic link between the two countries, and, through Britain to Europe and North America.
Whatever happens, this human link is not going to go away. To help make it a force for good rather than a danger, the west needs to develop a much deeper knowledge of Pakistan, a much deeper stake in Pakistan, and a much more generous attitude to helping Pakistan. I hope that by showing Pakistan in all its complex patchwork of light and shadow, this book will help bring about such a new approach.
General Muhammad Ziaul Haq, military ruler 1977-88; Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Prime Minister 1971-77; Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan; Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, military ruler 1958-69; Poster of the Bhutto-Zardari family 2010; Nawaz Sharif (left) and Shahbaz Sharif 2008
Courtesy of: Pakistan, A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven. Published by Penguin Group, London 2011
Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader, CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, FRAeS, DL (21 February 1910 – 5 September 1982) was a Royal Air Force (RAF) flying ace during the Second World War. He was credited with 22 aerial victories, four shared victories, six probables, one shared probable and 11 enemy aircraft damaged
Bader joined the RAF in 1928, and was commissioned in 1930. In December 1931, while attempting some aerobatics, he crashed and lost both his legs. Having been on the brink of death, he recovered, retook flight training, passed his check flights and then requested reactivation as a pilot. Although there were no regulations applicable to his situation, he was retired against his will on medical grounds.
After the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, however, Douglas Bader returned to the RAF and was accepted as a pilot. He scored his first victories over Dunkirk during the Battle of France in 1940. He then took part in the Battle of Britain and became a friend and supporter of Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory and his “Big Wing” experiments.
In August 1941, Bader bailed out over German-occupied France and was captured. Soon afterward, he met and was befriended by Adolf Galland, a prominent German fighter ace. Despite his disability, Bader made many escape attempts and was eventually sent to the prisoner of war camp at Colditz Castle. He remained there until April 1945 when the camp was liberated by the First United States Army.
Bader left the RAF permanently in February 1946 and resumed his career in the oil industry. During the 1950s, a book and a film, Reach for the Sky, chronicled his life and RAF career to the end of the Second World War. Bader campaigned for the disabled and in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 1976 was appointed a Knight Bachelor “for services to disabled people “and continued to fly until ill health forced him to stop in 1979. Three years later, at the age of 72, Bader died on 5 September 1982, after a heart attack.
Early years, childhood and education
Bader was born on 21 February 1910 in St John’s Wood, London, the second son of Frederick Roberts Bader, a civil engineer, and his wife Jessie Scott MacKenzie. His first two years were spent with McCann relatives in the Isle of Man while his father, accompanied by Bader’s mother and older brother Frederick (named after his father but called ‘Derick’ to distinguish the two), returned to his work in India after the birth of his son. At the age of two, Bader joined his parents in India for a year; however, when his father resigned from his job in 1913 the family moved back to London, and settled in Kew. Bader’s father saw action in the First World War in the Royal Engineers, and was wounded in action in 1917. He remained in France after the war, where, having attained the rank of major, he died in 1922 of complications from those wounds in a hospital in Saint-Omer, the same area where Bader would bail out and be captured in 1941.
Bader’s mother remarried shortly thereafter to the Reverend Ernest William Hobbs. Bader was subsequently brought up in the rectory of the village of Sprotborough, near Doncaster, West Riding of Yorkshire. Bader’s aggressive energy found a new lease of life at St Edward’s School, where he received his secondary education. During his time there, he thrived at sports. Bader played rugby and often enjoyed physical battles with bigger and older opponents. Bader’s sporting interests continued into his military service. He was selected for the Royal Air Force cricket team, to play a first-class match against the Army at the Oval in July 1931. He scored 65 and 1. In August, he played in a two-day game against the Royal Navy. He played cricket in a German prisoner of war camp after his capture in 1941, despite his later disability.
In mid-1923, Bader, at the age of 13, was introduced to an Avro 504 during a school holiday trip to visit his aunt, Hazel, who was marrying RAF Flight Lieutenant Cyril Burge, adjutant at RAF Cranwell. Although he enjoyed the visit and took an interest in aviation, he showed no signs of becoming a keen pilot. Still very sports minded, an interest which dominated Bader’s formative years, he took less of an interest in his studies. Bader received guidance from Warden Kendall and, with Kendall’s encouragement, he excelled at his studies and was later accepted as a cadet at RAF Cranwell. Soon afterwards, he was offered a place at Oxford University, but turned it down as he preferred Cambridge University.
His mother refused to allow Bader to attend Cambridge in December 1927, claiming she could not afford the fees. A master at St. Edwards, a Mr. Dingwall, helped pay these fees in part. Due to his new connection with Cyril Burge, Bader learned of the six annual prize cadetships offered by RAF Cranwell each year. Out of hundreds of applicants, he finished fifth. He left St Edward’s in early 1928, aged 18.
Joining the RAF
In 1928, Bader joined the RAF as an officer cadet at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in rural Lincolnshire. He continued to excel at sports, and added hockey and boxing to his repertoire. Motorcycling was tolerated at Cranwell, though cadets usually took part in banned activities such as speeding, pillion racing and buying and racing motorcars.
On 13 September 1928, Bader took his first flight with his instructor Flying Officer W. J. “Pissy” Pearson in an Avro 504. After just 11 hours and 15 minutes of flight time, he flew his first solo, on 19 February 1929.
Bader competed for the “Sword of Honour” award at the end of his two-year course, but lost to Patrick Coote, his nearest rival. On 26 July 1930, Bader was commissioned as a pilot officer into No. 23 Squadron RAF based at Kenley, Surrey. Flying Gloster Gamecocks and soon after, Bristol Bulldogs, Bader became a daredevil while training there, often flying illegal and dangerous stunts. While very fast for its time, the Bulldog had directional stability problems at low speeds, which made such stunts exceptionally dangerous. Strict orders were issued forbidding unauthorised aerobatics below 2,000 feet (610 m). Douglas took this as an unnecessary safety rule rather than an order to be obeyed. After one training flight at the gunnery range, Bader achieved only a 38 percent hit rate on a target. Receiving jibes from a rival squadron (No. 25 Squadron RAF), Bader took off to perform aerobatics and show off his skill. It was against regulations, and seven out of 23 accidents caused by ignoring regulations had proven fatal. The CO of No. 25 Squadron remarked that he would order Bader to face a court-martial if Bader was in his unit. The COs of Bader’s unit, Harry Day and Henry Wollett, gave the pilots more latitude, although Day encouraged them to recognise their own limits.
No. 23 Squadron had won the Hendon Air Show “pairs” event in 1929 and 1930. In 1931 Bader, teamed with Harry Day, successfully defended the squadron’s title in the spring that year. In late 1931, Bader undertook training for the 1932 Hendon Air Show, hoping to win a second consecutive title. Two pilots had been killed attempting aerobatics. The pilots were warned not to practise these manoeuvres under 2,000 feet (610 m) and to keep above 500 feet (150 m) always.
Nevertheless, on 14 December 1931, while visiting Reading Aero Club, he attempted some low-flying aerobatics at Woodley Airfield in a Bulldog Mk. IIA, K1676, of 23 Squadron, apparently on a dare. His aircraft crashed when the tip of the left wing touched the ground. Bader was rushed to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, where, in the hands of the prominent surgeon J. Leonard Joyce (1882–1939), both his legs were amputated — one above and one below the knee. Bader made the following laconic entry in his logbook after the crash: Crashed slow-rolling near ground. Bad show. — Douglas Bader
In 1932, after a long convalescence, throughout which he needed morphine for pain relief, Bader was transferred to the hospital at RAF Uxbridge and fought hard to regain his former abilities after he was given a new pair of artificial legs. In time, his agonising and determined efforts paid off, and he could drive a specially modified car, play golf, and even dance. During his convalescence there, he met and fell in love with Thelma Edwards, a waitress at a tea room called the Pantiles on the A30 London Road in Bagshot, Surrey.
Bader got his chance to prove that he could still fly when, in June 1932, Air Under-Secretary Philip Sassoon arranged for him to take up an Avro 504, which he piloted competently. A subsequent medical examination proved him fit for active service, but in April 1933 he was notified that the RAF had decided to reverse the decision because this situation was not covered by King’s Regulations. In May, Bader was invalided out of the RAF, took an office job with the Asiatic Petroleum Company (now Shell) and, on 5 October 1933, married Thelma Edwards.
Return to RAF
With increasing tensions in Europe in 1937–1939, Bader repeatedly requested that the Air Ministry give him a posting and he was finally invited to a selection board meeting at Adastral House in Kingsway. Bader was disappointed to learn that it was only “ground jobs” that were being offered. It appeared that he would be refused a flying position; but Air Vice Marshal Halahan, commandant of RAF Cranwell in Bader’s days there, personally endorsed him and asked the Central Flying School, Upavon, to assess his capabilities.
On 14 October 1939, the Central Flying School requested Bader report for flight tests on 18 October. He did not wait; driving down the next morning, Bader undertook refresher courses. Despite reluctance on the part of the establishment to allow him to apply for an A.1.B. (full flying category status), his persistent efforts paid off. Bader regained a medical categorisation for operational flying at the end of November 1939 and was posted to the Central Flying School for a refresher course on modern types of aircraft. On 27 November, eight years after his accident, Bader flew solo again in an Avro Tutor; once airborne, he could not resist the temptation to turn the biplane upside down at 600 feet (180 m) inside the circuit area. Bader subsequently progressed through the Fairey Battle and Miles Master (the last training stage before flying Spitfires and Hurricanes).
Second World War
In January 1940, Bader was posted to No. 19 Squadron based at RAF Duxford near Cambridge, where, at 29, he was older than most of his fellow pilots. Squadron Leader Geoffrey Stephenson, a close friend from his Cranwell days, was the commanding officer, and it was here that Bader got his first glimpse of a Spitfire. It was thought that Bader’s success as a fighter pilot was partly because of his having no legs; pilots pulling high “g-forces” in combat turns often “blacked out” as the flow of blood from the brain drained to other parts of the body, usually the legs. As Bader had no legs he could remain conscious longer, and thus had an advantage over more able-bodied opponents.
Between February and May 1940 Bader practised formation flying, air tactics, and undertook flights over sea convoys. Bader found opposition to his ideas about aerial combat. He favoured using the sun and altitude to ambush the enemy, but the RAF did not share his opinions. Official orders/doctrine dictated that pilots should fly line-astern and attack singly. Despite this being at odds with his preferred tactics, Bader obeyed orders, and his skill saw him rapidly promoted to section leader.
During this time, Bader crashed a Spitfire on take-off. He had forgotten to switch the propeller pitch from coarse to fine, and the aircraft careened down the runway at 80 mph, ultimately crashing. Despite a head wound, Bader got into another Spitfire for a second attempt. Leigh-Mallory made Bader a flight commander of No. 222 Squadron RAF a few weeks later which also meant an advance from flying officer to flight lieutenant.
Battle of France
Bader had his first taste of combat with No. 222 Squadron RAF, which was based at RAF Duxford and commanded by another old friend of his, Squadron Leader “Tubby” Mermagen. On 10 May the Wehrmacht invaded Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. The campaigns went badly for the Western Allies and soon they were evacuating from Dunkirk during the battle for the port. RAF Squadrons were ordered to provide air supremacy for the Royal Navy during Operation Dynamo.
While patrolling the coast near Dunkirk on 1 June 1940 at around 3,000 feet (910 m), Bader happened upon a Messerschmitt Bf 109 in front of him, flying in the same direction and at approximately the same speed. He believed that the German must have been a novice, taking no evasive action even though it took more than one burst of gunfire to shoot him down. Bader was also credited with a Messerschmitt Bf 110 damaged, despite claiming five victories in that dogfight.
In the next patrol Bader was credited with a Heinkel He 111 damaged. On 4 June 1940, his encounter with a Dornier Do 17, which was attacking Allied shipping, involved a near collision while he was firing at the aircraft’s rear gunner during a high-speed pass.
Shortly after Bader joined 222 Squadron, it moved to RAF Kirton in Lindsey, just south of the Humber.
After flying operations over Dunkirk, Bader was posted to command No. 242 Squadron RAF as acting squadron leader on 28 June 1940, a Hawker Hurricane unit based at RAF Coltishall, mainly made up of Canadians who had suffered high losses in the Battle of France and had low morale. Despite initial resistance to their new commanding officer, the pilots were soon won over by Bader’s strong personality and perseverance, especially in cutting through red tape to make the squadron operational again. Bader transformed 242 Squadron back into an effective fighting unit. Upon the formation of No. 12 Group RAF, 242 Squadron was assigned to the Group while based at RAF Duxford. No. 242 Squadron only became fully operational on 9 July 1940.
Battle of Britain
After the French campaign, the RAF prepared for the coming Battle of Britain in which the Luftwaffe intended to achieve air supremacy. Once attained, the Germans would attempt to launch Operation Sea Lion, the code name for an invasion of Britain. The battle officially began on 10 July 1940.
On 11 July, Bader scored his first victory with his new squadron. The cloud base was down to just 600 feet while drizzle and mist covered most of the sky, and forward visibility was down to just 2,000 yards. Bader was alone on patrol, and was soon directed toward an enemy aircraft flying north up the Norfolk coast. Spotting the aircraft at 600 yards, Bader recognised it as a Dornier Do 17, and after he closed to 250 yards its rear gunner opened fire. Bader continued his attack and fired two bursts into the bomber before it vanished into cloud. The Dornier, which crashed into the sea off Cromer, was later confirmed by a member of the Royal Observer Corps.
On 21 August, a similar engagement took place. This time, a Dornier went into the sea off Great Yarmouth and again the Observer Corps confirmed the claim. There were no survivors.
Later in the month, Bader scored a further two victories over Messerschmitt Bf 110s.
On 30 August 1940, No. 242 Squadron was moved to Duxford again and found itself in the thick of the fighting. On this date, the squadron claimed 10 enemy aircraft, Bader scoring two victories against Bf 110s. Other squadrons were involved, and it was impossible to verify which RAF units were responsible for the damage on the enemy.
On 7 September, two more Bf 110s were shot down, but in the same engagement Bader was badly hit by a Messerschmitt Bf 109. Bader almost baled out, but recovered the Hurricane. Other pilots witnessed one of Bader’s victims crash.
On 7 September, Bader claimed two Bf 109s shot down, followed by a Junkers Ju 88.
On 9 September, Bader claimed another Dornier. During the same mission, he attacked a He 111 only to discover he was out of ammunition. Enraged, he thought about ramming it and slicing off the rudder with his propeller, but turned away when he regained his composure.
On 14 September, Bader was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his combat leadership.
On 15 September, known as the Battle of Britain Day, Bader damaged a Do 17 and a Ju 88, while destroying another Do 17 in the afternoon. Bader flew several missions that day, which involved heavy air combat. The original combat report states that he destroyed one enemy aircraft, claimed no probable, but did claim several damaged. The Dornier’s gunner attempted to bail out, but his parachute was caught on the tail wheel and he died when the aircraft crashed into the Thames Estuary. Further detail suggests Bader took pity on the gunner and “tried to kill him to put him out of his misery”.
Another Do 17 and a Ju 88 were claimed on 18 September. A Bf 109 was claimed on 27 September. Bader was gazetted on 1 October 1940. On 24 September, he had been promoted to the war substantive rank of flight lieutenant.
As a friend and supporter of his 12 Group commander, Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Bader joined him as an active exponent of the controversial “Big Wing” theory which provoked much debate in the RAF during the battle. Bader was an outspoken critic of the careful “husbanding” tactics being used by Air Vice Marshal Keith Park, the commander of 11 Group. Park was supported by Fighter Command Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the overall commander. Bader vociferously campaigned for an aggressive policy of assembling large formations of defensive fighters north of London ready to inflict maximum damage on the massed German bomber formations as they flew over South-East England. As the Battle progressed, Bader often found himself at the head of a composite wing of fighters consisting of up to five squadrons, known as the “Duxford Wing”. Achievements of the Big Wing were hard to quantify, as the large formations often took too long to form up, over claimed victories, and too often did not provide timely support of the over-committed 11 Group. The episode probably contributed to the departure of Park, who was replaced with Leigh-Mallory in November 1940, and Dowding. While it is not known whether Mallory and Bader were aware that the claims of the RAF and Big Wings were exaggerated, they certainly tried to use them as a potent tool with which to remove Park and Dowding from command and pursue the Big Wing tactic. After the war, Bader insisted that both he and Leigh-Mallory wanted the Big Wing tactic enacted in 12 Group only. They both believed, according to Bader, that it was impractical to use it in 11 Group, as the command was located too close to the enemy and would not have enough time to assemble.
RAF ace Johnnie Johnson offered a balanced view of Bader and the Big Wing:
Douglas was all for the Big Wings to counter the German formation[s]. I think there was room for both tactics – the Big Wings and the small squadrons. It might well have been fatal had Park always tried to get his squadrons into “Balbos”, for not only would they have taken longer to get to their height, but sixty or seventy packed climbing fighters could have been seen for miles and would have been sitting ducks for higher 109s. Also, nothing would have pleased Göring more than for his 109s to pounce on large numbers of RAF fighters. Indeed, Adolf Galland and Werner Mölders complained about the elusiveness of Fighter Command and Park’s brilliance was that by refusing to concentrate his force he preserved it throughout the battle. This does not mean, as Bader pointed out at the time, that two or three Balbos from 10 and 12 Groups, gaining height beyond the range of the 109s, would not have played a terrific part in the fighting.
During the Battle of Britain, Bader used three Hawker Hurricanes. The first was P3061, in which he scored six air victories. The second aircraft was unknown, but Bader did score one victory and two damaged in it on 9 September. The third was V7467, in which he destroyed four more and added one probable and two damaged by the end of September. The machine was lost on 1 September 1941 while on a training exercise.
On 12 December 1940, Bader was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his services during the Battle of Britain. His unit, No. 242 Squadron, had claimed 62 aerial victories. Bader was gazetted on 7 January 1941. By this time, he was an acting squadron leader.
On 18 March 1941, Bader was promoted to acting wing commander and became one of the first “wing leaders”. Stationed at Tangmere with 145, 610 and 616 Squadrons under his command, Bader led his wing of Spitfires on sweeps and “Circus” operations (medium bomber escort) over north-western Europe throughout the summer campaign. These were missions combining bombers and fighters designed to lure out and tie down German Luftwaffe fighter units that might otherwise serve on the Russian front. One of the wing leader’s “perks” was permission to have his initials marked on his aircraft as personal identification, thus “D-B” was painted on the side of Bader’s Spitfire. These letters gave rise to his radio call-sign “Dogsbody”.
During 1941 his wing was re-equipped with Spitfire VBs, which had two Hispano 20 mm cannon and four .303 machine guns. Bader flew a Mk VA equipped with eight .303 machine guns, as he insisted that these guns were more effective against fighter opposition. His tactics required a close-in approach in which he felt the lower calibre weapons had a more devastating effect. At the time, RAF trials with wing-mounted cannons had also revealed many shortcomings that precluded a widespread acceptance of the armament.
Bader’s combat missions were mainly fought against Bf 109s over France and the Channel.
On 7 May 1941, he shot down one Bf 109 and claimed another as a probable victory. The German formation belonged to Jagdgeschwader 26 (Fighter Wing 26), which on that date was led in action by German ace Adolf Galland, and was also when Galland claimed his 68th victory. Bader and Galland met again 94 days later.
On 21 June 1941, Bader shot down a Bf 109E off the coast near Desvres. His victory was witnessed by two other pilots who saw a Bf 109 crash and the German pilot bail out.
On 25 June 1941 Bader shot down two more Bf 109Fs. The first was shot down between 11:58 and 13:35 off the coast of Gravelines; the pilot bailed out. In the same action he shared in the destruction of another Bf 109F. The second Bf 109 was shot down in the afternoon.
The following month was more successful for Bader.
On 2 July 1941, he was awarded the bar to his DSO. Later that day he claimed one Bf 109 destroyed and another damaged.
On 4 July, Bader fired on a Bf 109E which slowed down so much that he nearly collided with it. Squadron Leader Burton saw the entire combat and noted the Bf 109 “fell away in a sloppy fashion”, “as though the pilot had been hit”. It was marked as a probable.
On 6 July, another Bf 109 was shot down and the pilot bailed out. This victory was witnessed by Pilot Officers Johnnie Johnson and Alan Smith (Bader’s usual wingman).
On 9 July, Bader claimed one probable and one damaged, both trailing coolant or oil.
On 10 July Bader claimed a Bf 109 (and one damaged) over Bethune. Later, Bader destroyed a Bf 109E which blew up south of, or over, Calais.
On 12 July, Bader found further success, shooting down one Bf 109 and damaging three others between Bethune and St Omer. Bader was again gazetted on 15 July.
On 23 July, Bader claimed another Bf 109 damaged and possibly destroyed, even though the action resulted in two Bf 109s destroyed. The other was shot down by Squadron Leader Burton. Bader did not see his Bf 109 crash, so he claimed it as a damaged only, despite the fact pilots of No. 242 Squadron RAF saw two Bf 109s crash
Bader had been pushing for more sorties to fly in late 1941 but his Wing was tired. He was intent on adding to his score, which, according to the CO of No. 616 Squadron RAF Billy Burton, brought the other pilots and mood in his wing to a near-mutinous state. Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Bader’s immediate superior as OC No. 11 Group, Fighter Command, relented and allowed Bader to continue frequent missions over France even though his score of 20 and the accompanying strain evident on his features obliged Leigh-Mallory to consider his withdrawal from operations. Ultimately, Leigh-Mallory did not want to upset his star pilot, and did not invoke any restrictions.
Between 24 March and 9 August 1941, Bader flew 62 fighter sweeps over France.
On 9 August 1941, Bader was flying a Spitfire Mk VA serial W3185 “D-B” on an offensive patrol over the French coast, looking for Messerschmitt Bf 109s from Abbeville or Wissant without his trusted wingman Alan Smith. Smith, who was described by fellow pilot Johnnie Johnson as “leechlike” and the “perfect number two”, was unable to fly on that day due to a head cold, so was in London being fitted for a new uniform ready for his officer commission. It is possible that this may have been a contributing factor as to how events unfolded. Just after Bader’s section of four aircraft crossed the coast, 12 Bf 109s were spotted flying in formation approximately 2,000 to 3,000 feet (600 to 900 metres) below them and travelling in the same direction. Bader dived on them too fast and too steeply to be able to aim and fire his guns, and barely avoided colliding with one of them. He levelled out at 24,000 feet (7,300 metres) to find that he was now alone, separated from his section, and was considering whether to return home when he spotted three pairs of Bf 109s a couple of miles in front of him. He dropped down below them and closed before destroying one of them with a short burst of fire from close range. Bader was just opening fire on a second Bf 109, which trailed white smoke and dropped down, when he noticed the two on his left turning towards him. At this point he decided it would be better to return home; however, making the mistake of banking away from them, Bader believed he had a mid-air collision with the second of the two Bf 109s on his right that were continuing straight ahead. Bader’s fuselage, tail and fin were gone from behind him, and he lost height rapidly at what he estimated to be 400 mph (640 km/hr) in a slow spin. He jettisoned the cockpit canopy, released his harness pin, and the air rushing past the open cockpit started to suck him out, but his prosthetic leg was trapped. Part way out of the cockpit and still attached to his aircraft, Bader fell for some time before he released his parachute, at which point the leg’s retaining strap snapped under the strain and he was pulled free. A Bf 109 flew by some 50 yards away as he neared the ground at around 4,000 feet (1,200 metres).
Controversy over cause
Although Bader believed for years that he had collided in midair with a Bf 109, two other possibilities have later been put forward; that he was shot down by a German Bf 109, or alternatively that he may have been a victim of friendly fire. Recent research shows no Bf 109 was lost to a collision that day, and there is also doubt that a German pilot was responsible for shooting him down. Feldwebel Max Meyer of II./Jagdgeschwader 26 flying a Bf 109 had claimed him shot down that morning and according to Luftwaffe records a Leutnant Kosse of 5./JG 26 and Meyer, of 6./JG 26 were the only German pilots to claim a victory that day. Furthermore, Meyer mentioned that he had followed the downed Spitfire and watched the pilot bail out, something which seems to match this passage in Bader’s memoirs:
I was floating in the sunshine above broken, white cloud … I heard an aeroplane just after I passed through. A Bf 109 flew past.
The quest to find Bader’s Spitfire, W3185, shed light on the demise of another famous wartime ace, Wilhelm Balthasar, Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 2, who was killed in action on 3 July 1941 when his Bf 109F crashed into Ferme Goset, Wittes, France. It was recovered in March 2004. Later, in the summer 2004, a further aircraft was discovered in Widdebrouch. It was found to be that of a Bf 109F, flown by Unteroffizier Albert Schlager of JG 26, who was reported missing during Bader’s last combat on 9 August 1941. A brief glimpse of hope was discovered later, when a Spitfire wreck was found. Inside was a flying helmet with the letters “DB” written on the top. It was later identified as a Spitfire IX, owing to the findings of a 20mm cannon (which Bader’s Spitfire did not have), and ammunition dated as 1943.
Bader’s aircraft was not found. It is likely that it came down at Mont Dupil Farm near the French village of Blaringhem, possibly near Desprez sawmill. A French witness, Jacques Taffin, saw the Spitfire disintegrating as it came down. He thought it had been hit by anti-aircraft fire, but none was active in the area. There were also no Spitfire remains in the area. The lack of any remains was not surprising, owing to the Spitfire breaking up on its descent. Historians have also been misled as to the whereabouts of the Spitfire because of a mistake in the book Reach for the Sky, in which Bader stated his leg had been dug out from the wreckage but was damaged, indicating a definite crash site. Bader’s leg had been found in an open field.
Prisoner of war
The Germans treated Bader with great respect. When he bailed out, Bader’s right prosthetic leg became trapped in the aircraft, and he escaped only when the leg’s retaining straps snapped after he pulled the ripcord on his parachute. General Adolf Galland notified the British of his damaged leg and offered them safe passage to drop off a replacement. Hermann Göring himself gave the green light for the operation. The British responded on 19 August 1941 with the “Leg Operation” — an RAF bomber could drop a new prosthetic leg by parachute to St Omer, a Luftwaffe base in occupied France, as part of Circus 81 involving six Bristol Blenheims and a sizeable fighter escort. The Germans were less impressed when, task done, the bombers proceeded on to their bombing mission to Gosnay Power Station near Bethune, although bad weather prevented the target being attacked. Galland stated in an interview that the aircraft dropped the leg after bombing Galland’s airfield. Galland did not meet Bader again until summer 1945, when he, Günther Rall and Hans-Ulrich Rudel arrived at RAF Tangmere as prisoners of war. Bader, according to Rall, personally arranged for Rudel, a fellow amputee, to be fitted with an artificial leg.
Bader escaped from the hospital where he was recovering by tying together many sheets. Initially the “rope” did not reach the ground; with the help of another patient, he slid the sheet from under the comatose New Zealand pilot, Bill Russell of No. 485 Squadron, who had had his arm amputated the day before. Russell’s bed was then moved to the window to act as an anchor. A French maid at the St. Omer hospital attempted to get in touch with British agents to enable Douglas to escape back to Britain. She later brought a letter from a peasant couple (a Mr. and Mrs. Hiecques), who promised to shelter him outside St. Omer until he could be passed further down the line. Until then, their son would wait outside the hospital every night until there was a chance of escape. Eventually, he escaped out of a window. The plan worked initially. Bader completed the long walk to the safe house despite wearing a British uniform. Unfortunately for him, the plan was betrayed by another woman at the hospital. He hid in the garden when a German staff car arrived at the house, but was found later. Bader denied that the couple had known he was there. They, along with the French woman at the hospital, were sent for forced labour in Germany. The couple survived. After the war, French authorities sentenced the woman informer to 20 years in prison.
Over the next few years, Bader made himself a thorn in the side of the Germans. He often practised what the RAF personnel called “goon-baiting”. He considered it his duty to cause as much trouble to the enemy as possible, much of which included escape attempts. He made so many escape attempts that the Germans threatened to take away his legs. In August 1942, Bader escaped with Johnny Palmer and three others from the camp at Stalag Luft III B in Sagan. Unluckily, a Luftwaffe officer of Jagdgeschwader 26 was in the area. Keen to meet the Tangmere wing leader, he dropped by to see Bader, but when he knocked on his door, there was no answer. Soon the alarm was raised, and a few days later, Bader was recaptured. During the escape attempt, the Germans produced a poster of Bader and Palmer asking for information. It described Bader’s disability and said he “walks well with stick”. Twenty years later, Bader was sent a copy of it by a Belgian civilian prisoner, who had worked in a Gestapo office in Leipzig. Bader found this amusing, as he had never used a stick. He was finally dispatched to the “escape-proof” Colditz Castle Oflag IV-C on 18 August 1942, where he remained until 15 April 1945 when it was liberated by the First United States Army.
Last years in the RAF
After his return to Britain, Bader was given the honour of leading a victory flypast of 300 aircraft over London in June 1945. On 1 July, he was promoted to temporary wing commander. Soon after, Bader was looking for a post in the RAF. Air Marshal Richard Atcherley, a former Schneider Trophy pilot, was commanding the Central Fighter Establishment at Tangmere. He and Bader had been junior officers at Kenley in 1930, while serving in No. 23 Squadron RAF. Bader was given the post of the Fighter Leader’s School commanding officer. He received a promotion to war substantive wing commander on 1 December and soon after was promoted to temporary group captain.
Unfortunately for Bader, fighter aircraft’s roles had now grown significantly and he spent most of his time instructing on ground attack and co-operation with ground forces. Also, Bader did not get on with the newer generation of squadron leaders who considered him to be “out of date“. In the end, Air Marshal James Robb offered Bader a role commanding the North Weald sector of No. 11 Group RAF, an organisation steeped in Fighter Command and Battle of Britain history. It is likely Bader would have stayed in the RAF for some time had his mentor Leigh-Mallory not been killed in an air crash in November 1944, such was the respect and influence he held over Bader, but Bader’s enthusiasm for continued service in the RAF waned. On 21 July 1946, Bader retired from the RAF with the rank of group captain to take a job at Royal Dutch Shell.
Bader considered politics, and standing as a Member of Parliament for his home constituency in the House of Commons. He despised how the three main political parties used war veterans for their own political ends. Instead, he resolved to join Shell. His decision was not motivated by money, but a willingness to repay a debt. Shell had been ready to take him on, aged 23, after his accident. He spent most of his time abroad flying around in a company-owned Percival Proctor and later a Miles Gemini. On one mission, between 15 August and 16 September 1946, Bader was sent on a public relations mission for Shell around Europe and North Africa with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) General James Doolittle.
Bader became Managing Director of Shell Aircraft until he retired in 1969. He travelled to every major country outside the Communist world, becoming internationally famous and a popular after-dinner speaker on aviation matters. In 1975, he spoke at the funeral of Keith Park.
Bader’s controversial traits were touched upon by Brickhill in the book Reach for the Sky. “He is a somewhat ‘difficult’ person,” Brickhill told (Sir) Billy Collins, head of his publishing house William Collins and Sons, after spending over a year talking to him. Nevertheless, Bader was received as a legendary figure by the wider public, who closely identified him as a leader of The Few in the Battle of Britain. Bader also wrote the foreword to Hans-Ulrich Rudel’s biography Stuka Pilot. Even when it emerged that Rudel was a fervent supporter of the Nazi Party, Bader said that prior knowledge would not have changed his mind about his contribution.
Bader’s first wife, Thelma, developed throat cancer in 1967. Aware that her survival was unlikely, the two spent as much time with each other as possible. Thelma was a smoker, and although she stopped smoking, it did not save her. After a long battle, she died on 24 January 1971. Bader married Joan Murray (née Hipkiss) on 3 January 1973. They spent the remainder of their lives in the village of Marlston, Berkshire. Joan was the daughter of a steel tycoon. Bader campaigned vigorously for people with disabilities and set an example of how to overcome a disability. In June 1976, Bader was knighted for his services to disabled people. Actor John Mills and Air Vice-Marshal Neil Cameron attended the ceremony.
Other awards followed. Bader maintained his interest in aviation, and in 1977 he was made a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He also received a Doctorate of Science from Queen’s University Belfast. Bader was also busy acting as a consultant to Aircraft Equipment International at Ascot, Berkshire. Bader’s health was in decline in the 1970s, and he soon gave up flying altogether. On 4 June 1979, Bader flew his Beech 95 Travelair for the last time, the aircraft having been gifted to him on his retirement from Shell. He had recorded 5,744 hours and 25 minutes flying time. Bader’s friend Adolf Galland followed Bader into retirement soon afterwards for the same reasons.
His workload was exhausting for a legless man with a worsening heart condition. On 5 September 1982, after a dinner honouring Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris at the Guildhall, at which he spoke, Bader died of a heart attack while being driven through Chiswick, west London, on his way home.
Among the many dignitaries and personalities at his funeral was Adolf Galland. Galland and Douglas Bader had shared a friendship that spanned more than 42 years since their first meeting in France. Although Galland was on a business trip to California, he made sure to attend the memorial service held for Bader at the St Clement Danes Church in the Strand.
Peter Tory wrote in his London Diary newspaper column:
Certainly Bader, had he been present, would have instantly recognised the stranger in the dark raincoat. Stomping over to his side, he would have banged him on the back and bellowed: “Bloody good show, glad you could come!”— Peter Tory
Douglas Bader House in Fairford is now the headquarters for the RAF Charitable Trust
A biography about Douglas Bader by Paul Brickhill, Reach for the Sky, was published in 1954. Some 172,000 copies were sold in the first few months alone. The feature film of the same title was released in 1956, starring Kenneth More as Bader, topping the box office in Britain that year.
Honours and awards
1 October 1940 – Acting Squadron Leader Bader (26151) is appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order:
This officer had displayed, gallantry and leadership of the highest order. During three recent engagements, he has led his squadron with such skill and ability that thirty-three enemy aircraft have been destroyed. During these engagements Squadron Leader Bader had added to his previous successes by destroying six enemy aircraft
London Gazette: 7 January 1941 – Acting Squadron Leader Bader, DSO (26151), No. 242 Squadron is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross:
Squadron Leader Bader has continued to lead his squadron and wing with the utmost gallantry on all occasions. He has now destroyed a total of ten hostile aircraft and damaged several more.
London Gazette: 15 July 1941 – Acting Wing Commander Bader, DSO, DFC (26151) is awarded a bar to the Distinguished Service Order:
This officer has led his wing on a series of consistently successful sorties over enemy territory during the past three months. His high qualities of leadership and courage have been an inspiration to all. Wing Commander Bader has destroyed 15 hostile aircraft.
London Gazette: 9 September 1941 – Acting Wing Commander Bader, DSO, DFC (26151) is awarded a bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:
The fearless pilot has recently added a further four enemy aircraft to his previous successes; in addition he has probably destroyed another four and damaged five hostile aircraft. By his fine leadership and high courage Wing Commander Bader has inspired the wing on every occasion.
London Gazette: 2 January 1956 – Group Captain Bader, DSO, DFC is appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to the disabled.
12 June 1976 – Group Captain Bader, CBE, DSO, DFC is made a Knight Bachelor for services to disabled people.
Bader attributed his success to the belief in the three basic rules, shared by the German ace Erich Hartmann:
If you had the height, you controlled the battle.
If you came out of the sun, the enemy could not see you.
If you held your fire until you were very close, you seldom missed.