The Triumph of Populism 1971-1973 Like Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam, before him, 24 years later, Bhutto, the Quaid-e-Awam, was building a new country.
With the surrender of Pakistani troops on December 16, 1971, in Dhaka, Bangladesh came into being, and with that, the end of the Pakistan that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had originally created. It also resulted in the end of 13 years of military rule in what remained of the country. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was in New York at the time, flew in to Rawalpindi on December 20, and, with the assistance of a group of the military’s general officers who had been dismayed by Gen Yahya Khan and his core group over the defeat, forcing Yahya out, became the president of Pakistan as well as its only civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator.
Within a matter of days, Bhutto began to put into effect his mandate of the people, based on his electoral manifesto which had won him a majority in the elections in West Pakistan a year earlier. While economic and social reform was a key plank of the Bhutto promise, what needed pressing attention, among numerous things, was the return of the 93,000, mostly military, prisoners of war (POWs) in India. In 1971, Pakistan had lost not just East Pakistan, but half its navy, one-third of its army, and a quarter of its air force. India occupied 5,000 square miles of West Pakistani territory. The military stood humiliated after the surrender, and this was the first of only two opportunities (the other was in 2008) when elected leaders could have established long-lasting democratic rule in Pakistan. Bhutto even initiated a judicial commission, under chief justice Hamoodur Rahman, “to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the atrocities and 1971 war”, including the “circumstances in which the Commander of the Eastern Military Command surrendered the Eastern contingent forces under his command who laid down their arms”. Bhutto outdid himself when he met Indira Gandhi at Simla in July 1972 and got the better of her through his persuasive negotiating skills, and secured the release of Pakistani POWs (who came home in 1974), with India returning Pakistan’s territory, and both countries accepting the ceasefire line in Kashmir as the Line of Control. Bhutto returned a hero, yet again, to Pakistan, not just for the people, but also for sections of the military. On a parallel track, Bhutto’s leftist economic team was implementing promises that had been made during the election campaign of 1970. With roti, kapra aur makaan the key slogans of Bhutto’s electoral commitment of his notion of Islamic Socialism and social justice, the manifesto of his Pakistan People’s Party had promised the nationalisation of all basic industries and financial institutions. It had stated that “those means of production that are the generators of industrial advance or on which depend other industries must not be allowed to be vested in private hands; secondly, that all enterprises that constitute the infrastructure of the national economy must be in public ownership; thirdly, that institutions dealing with the medium of exchange, that is banking and insurance, must be nationalised”.
The economic policies of the Bhutto government rested on the premise that the control of the leading enterprises was to be in the hands of the state. It ought to be pointed out that while this policy of nationalisation has been much maligned by critics of Bhutto, his policies were a reflection of the times and of the age in which they were implemented. Since Bhutto’s rise to electoral success was based on his populist critique of Ayub Khan’s economic policies of functional inequality resulting in the infamous ‘22 families’, issues of redistribution, nationalisation and social-sector development were fundamental to his economic programme. Literally within days of taking over power, in January 1972, Bhutto had nationalised 30 major firms in 10 key industries in the large-scale manufacturing sector, essentially in the capital and intermediate goods industry. In March 1972, his government had nationalised insurance companies, and banks were to follow in 1974, as were other industrial concerns in 1976. In addition to nationalisation, extensive labour reforms were also initiated by the Bhutto government, giving labour far greater rights than they had had in the past. With the need to break the industrial-financial nexus a pillar of Bhutto’s populist social agenda, in a country which at that time was predominantly rural and agricultural, the ownership of land determined economic, social and political power. Bhutto had promised to break the hold of the feudals (notwithstanding the fact that he himself owned much land) and undertook extensive land reforms in March 1972. In a speech, he said his land reforms would “effectively break up the iniquitous concentrations of landed wealth, reduce income disparities, increase production, reduce unemployment, streamline the administration of land revenue and agricultural taxation, and truly lay down the foundations of a relationship of honour and mutual benefit between the landowner and tenant”. The PPP manifesto laid the premise for this action by stating that “the breakup of the large estates to destroy the feudal landowners is a national necessity that will have to be carried through by practical measures”. The government had decided that the land resumed from landowners would not receive any compensation unlike the Ayub Khan reforms of 1959, and this land was to be distributed free to landless tenants. The ceilings for owning land were also cut from 500 acres of irrigated land to 150 acres in 1972. Although a lot of propaganda was churned out about the success of the 1972 reforms, the resumed land was far less than was the case in 1959, and only one per cent of the landless tenants and small owners benefited from these measures. Nevertheless, like labour reforms, tenancy reforms for agricultural workers and for landless labour did give those cultivating land far greater usufruct and legal rights to the land than they previously had. Along with these structural interventions in the economy which changed ownership patterns and property rights, an ambitious social-sector programme, consisting, among other things, of the nationalisation of schools and initiating a people’s health scheme providing free healthcare to all, was also initiated. However, while economic and social reform was a key plank of the Bhutto promise and his energies were also consumed by the process of getting the POWs released, giving Pakistan its first democratic constitution was also high on his agenda.
Although 125 of the 135 members of the National Assembly voted for Pakistan’sConstitution on April 10, 1973, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is given, and deservedly so, credit for making a large, discordant group of nationalists and Islamists to agree to the draft. To get leaders like Wali Khan, who was the parliamentary leader of the opposition, Mir Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo, the sardars of Balochistan, Mufti Mahmud, and Mian Tufail, who had replaced Maulana Maudoodi as the Jamaat-e-Islami Amir, to build a consensus on a document that would determine Pakistan’s democratic trajectory was a major feat.
The Constitution came into effect on August 14, 1973, setting out a parliamentary form of government, with Bhutto as Pakistan’s first democratically elected prime minister. Since Bhutto ruled the Punjab and Sindh, he had made concessions to the nationalists in order to make them agree to his terms. Ayesha Jalal quotes Bhutto as saying that while Wali Khan “vehemently opposed” the Constitution, he skilfully manoeuvred the Khan and “smashed him into becoming a Pakistani”.
A key clause in the 1973 Constitution required members of the armed forces to take an oath promising not to take part in political activities and making it illegal for the military to intervene in politics. Clearly, the military did not read or care for the Constitution either in 1977 or in 1999.
Nationalists and Military
While the PPP had its governments in the Punjab and Sindh, the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan were ruled by coalition governments formed by the National Awami Party (NAP) and the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI) which gave a voice to Baloch and Pashtun nationalisms of the 1970s variety. In February 1973, weapons were found in the Iraqi embassy in Islamabad that were supposedly meant for armed insurrection by the nationalists in Balochistan. On February 14, Sardar Attaullah Khan Mengal’s government in Balochistan was dismissed, and the next day, the NAP-JUI government in the NWFP resigned, while Bhutto’s governor in Balochistan, Sardar Akbar Khan Bugti, resigned in October 1973 as a political crisis emerged and grew stronger by the day. Many of the sardars and their tribesmen had started a militant movement for a Greater Balochistan, joined in by many Cambridge-educated scions of elite households, largely from the Punjab. Bhutto called in the military, with General Tikka Khan, dubbed by many as the ‘butcher of East Pakistan’, to curb the armed uprising and for Tikka Khan to add another accolade to his titles, that of the ‘butcher of Balochistan’. So soon after having lost political and public support, once again, a constitutional crisis slowly brought in the military into a position of increasing prestige and prominence. The lessons of just a few years ago, of giving nationalists their rights and accepting electoral outcomes, were once again being brushed aside by the same democratically-elected leader, and, indeed, by the military.
Early Signs of Authoritarianism
As his rule progressed, we see clear signs of hubris and authoritarianism emerging in the political practices of Bhutto, but there were early signs which may have suggested what was to come, with Shuja Nawaz and many other authors seeing the rise of an eventual “civilian dictatorship”. One example of this was the decision to set up the Federal Security Force (FSF), a paramilitary organisation, so as not to rely on the military, as early as September 1972. The FSF, whose head later became a state witness in the infamous Bhutto trial, was once seen as ‘Bhutto’s private military arm’. Furthermore, it is ironic that while Bhutto was a social democrat, giving numerous rights and powers to the downtrodden, to the labourers and to the peasants and landless workers, he also used the power of the state to undermine the force of the street, particularly in Karachi. In the summer of 1972, organised trade unions in Karachi took to the streets and initiated industrial action in the form of strikes, but were met by a brutal police force resulting in the death of a number of workers. Organised labour, which had supported Bhutto’s rise, was dealt a harsh blow about the reality of incumbent politics.
Like Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam, before him, 24 years later, Bhutto, the Quaid-e-Awam, was building a new country. Both had dismissed provincial governments and showed signs of an incipient authoritarianism and desire for centralisation and control. We do not know what Jinnah would have done had he lived, but Bhutto’s democratic and socialist credentials were soon to come undone. Arrogance and clear signs of intolerance of dissent were emerging in the Pakistan of 1972-73. Many of the promises made in the late 1960s and the early 1970s by Bhutto were to be played out between 1974 and 1977, setting a stage for Bhutto’s regional and global aspirations and ambitions. However, perhaps it was the same ambition and confidence that had led him to an electoral victory in 1970 which was to become a cause for his eventual downfall in 1977, and then death in 1979. He had also made far too many enemies along the way, and many of them were just waiting for their opportunity to settle scores. Between 1974 and 1977, Bhutto was to give them many such opportunities.
The promise of democracy by S. Akbar Zaidi. The writer is a political economist based in Karachi. He has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge, and teaches at Columbia University in New York and at the IBA in Karachi.
Liaquat Ali Khan was as pivotal to the consolidation of Pakistan as the Quaid-i-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was central to the creation of Pakistan. He became the country’s first prime minister not simply because he was a trusted lieutenant of Jinnah, but by his proven leadership skills in having led the Muslim League bloc in the interim government before partition. Liaquat, having left all his property in India, refused to file a claim to which he was entitled as a ‘refugee’. The Nawabzada reduced his standard of life and set about building institutions in the new country. Such was the stuff the man was made of.
The course of Pakistan’s journey can be seen meandering its way from a prime minister proverbial for his probity and down to his successors who every now and then faced investigations related to their wealth. It is no wonder, then, that after Pakistan had turned the corner in terms of consolidation, questions began to be raised regarding the constituency of Liaquat in Pakistan.
His tenure as prime minister is seen by certain quarters as having set a controversial path for the nation to follow. There have been two basic contentions. The first one relates to his decision to move away from what used to be the Soviet Union. The decision also had its reverberations in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy case.
The first step in this direction was taken on May 3, 1948, when it was announced that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Pakistan were to exchange ambassadors. On the occasion, Liaquat stated: “It has been the desire of Pakistan to have friendly relations with all the nations of the world, and the decision to exchange ambassadors with Russia is in consequence of that policy.”
The invitation for Liaquat to visit Moscow came a year later, on June 2, 1949, through the Soviet ambassador to Iran. Russia thereafter insisted that ambassadors be exchanged prior to Liaquat’s visit. Although on June 9, Sir Zafrullah Khan tried to stall the move, Liaquat proceeded regardless. The Pakistani ambassador was appointed on December 31, 1949, while the Soviet ambassador was appointed on March 22, 1950.
In June 1949, the USSR ‘advanced’ the date of the invitation, from August 20 to August 14. Liaquat could not agree to the date as it happened to be the first Independence Day of Pakistan after the Quaid-i-Azam’s demise. Subsequently came an invitation from the US and Liaquat proceeded there in May 1950.
Liaquat mentioned the Soviet invitation when leaving for the US, while he was on the US soil, and on his return home. A year later, Liaquat, while addressing a press conference in Karachi, explained the position thus:
“I cannot go [to Moscow] until those people who invited me fix a date and ask me to go on such date … The invitation came. Later, they suggested August 14, 1949. I replied that this is our Independence Day. I can come on any day after that; after that they have not replied”.
I am not the first to challenge the ‘myth’ of the Moscow invitation. Others, including Irtiza Husain, Mansur Alam and Shahid Amin, have preceded me. Syed Ashfaque Husain Naqvi, a diplomat based in Tehran at the time, rejected the allegation that Liaquat had cadged an invitation.
And this is what Dr. Samiullah Koreshi, who was posted at Moscow, related in his book ‘Diplomats and Diplomacy’: “Mr. Shuaib Qureshi was the first ambassador to USSR [in 1949] … He called on Andre Gromyko, then deputy foreign minister, to tell him that the prime minister had dispatched him post haste so that he could make all arrangements for his visit to Moscow in response to their invitation.
[Gromyko replied] ‘Our invitation to your prime minister? Oh, you mean your proposal that he come here’.”
Thereafter, the Soviet government did not revert to the subject.
The point is that the change of date having been made by the Soviets and Liaquat having conveyed his reservations clearly, Pakistan cannot be accused of having tried to pit one world power against the other, or of having picked up any of the two. He simply went ahead with the invitation that was valid and cannot be charged with failure to make use of the one that was not there on the table.
The other controversy regarding Liaquat’s tenure relates to the Objectives Resolution which is blamed for having opened the door for the subsequent Islamisation of General Ziaul Haq. Regardless of if Pakistan was to be an Islamic state, the Pakistan movement clearly shows that it was not meant to be a territory with an ideology, but an ideology with a territory. Securing human rights and survival for a community suffering from religious discrimination is of ideological, and not of territorial, import.
The Objectives Resolution moved by Liaquat is denounced as a regressive document by which he allegedly sought to nullify the secular vision of the Quaid-i-Azam. To determine the veracity of the charge, we need to see three documents.
The first is the draft by the religious parties’ alliance. It read:
“The Sovereignty of Pakistan belongs to Allah alone, and the Government of Pakistan has no right other than to enforce the will of Allah. The basic law of Pakistan is the Shariah of Islam. All those laws repugnant to Islam are to be revoked, and, in future, no such laws can be passed. The Government of Pakistan shall exercise its authority within the limits prescribed by Islamic Shariah.”
Now compare this draft with the one presented by Liaquat. It read:
“Whereas the sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust. This Constituent Assembly representing the people of Pakistan, resolves to frame a constitution of the sovereign independent state of Pakistan wherein the state shall exercise its power and authority through the chosen representatives of the people.”
What is the difference between the two drafts? The one presented by the ulema negates democracy, while Liaquat’s draft asserts it. Without democracy, even a minority sect can rule over a majority sect; a situation that has thrown the whole of the Middle East into confusion today.
The third document is the speech of Liaquat in the Constituent Assembly that he delivered on March 7, 1949, on the subject.
“I assure the minorities that we are fully conscious of the fact that if the minorities are able to contribute to the sum total of human knowledge and thought, it will redound to the credit of Pakistan and will enrich the life of the nation. Therefore, the minorities may look forward, not only to a period of the fullest freedom, but also to an understanding and appreciation on the part of the majority … Sir, there are many interests for which the minorities desire protection. This protection this Resolution seeks to provide. We are fully conscious of the fact that they do not find themselves in their present plight for any fault of their own. It is also true that we are not responsible by any means for their present position. But now that they are our citizens, it will be our special effort to bring them up to the level of other citizens so that they may bear the responsibilities imposed by their being citizens of a free and progressive State …”
It is true that members of the Pakistan National Congress had raised objections to the Resolution, but, among many others, it had the support of Sir Zafrullah Khan and Mian Ifthikharuddin who represented two divergent schools of thought and became part of religious and political minority in later years. And this is a proof of Liaquat’s sincere intentions in moving the Objectives Resolution and of the tinkering that the Resolution suffered afterwards.
Besides, Liaquat had held out the assurance that the Objectives Resolution would not become a substantive part of the Constitution. This, and other linguistic jugglery, was done much later by General Ziaul Haq. Therefore, it is unjustifiable to blame Liaquat for the excesses caused by the dictator that opened the door for even more abuse than he himself probably thought of.
Whatever the critics might say, Liaquat was what he was. It was a real achievement on his part that he could set Pakistan on the course to industrialization. Western countries, seeking to ensure Pakistan’s demise, refused to supply even on payment, machinery and parts. They wanted Pakistan to be subservient to India. Liaquat nevertheless could procure the necessary equipment from East European countries in return for hard cash. Sishir Chandra Chattopadhaya had stated on the floor of the Constituent Assembly that the link between East Bengal and Calcutta could not be broken. Liaquat broke the link.
He refused to devalue currency when Britain and India did so. In the face of the Indian threat not to lift jute at the new price, Liaquat went to the growers, directly pleading with them not to sell at the old rate. If need be, the government of Pakistan would lift the entire stock, he assured the growers. The jute mills of Calcutta could not run without jute from East Bengal and, ultimately, the owners purchased at the new rate. This single decision enabled Liaquat to derive full benefit from the boom created by the Korean War, and the country, which had been written off as nonviable, became more than solvent.
The British, since 1857, had imposed certain standards for the recruitment of soldiers. Liaquat removed them and started the induction of Bengalis in Pakistan Army. Similarly, there was only one ICS officer from East Pakistan, Nurun-Nabi Choudhry. Liaquat immediately fixed a 50 per cent quota for East Bengal civil servants to generate parity.
The critics of Liaquat survived, but Liaquat did not. And he died in circumstances that have never allowed anyone to pinpoint the actual killer … or killers. Liaquat’s life and actions generated controversies when there should have been none, and his death remains a controversy that failed to generate much interest where it mattered. Liaquat deserved better.
Featured Image: Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan signing his assent after having been sworn in as Pakistan’s first Prime Minister on August 15, 1947, in the presence of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (right) on the grounds of the Governor General House in Karachi. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives
Dawn: “The misunderstood Premier, Liaquat Ali Khan (1895-1951) by Dr. Muhammad Reza Kazimi.” The writer is a historian and biographer of Liaquat Ali Khan.
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
The Line-up of the Powers By 1914 the European powers were already divided into two rival camps. After the outbreak of war both groups sought allies. Germany and Austria-Hungary were joined by Turkey and Bulgaria. Russia, France and Great Britain sought and gained the support of Japan, Italy, Romania and, after a long struggle, Greece. By far the most important adherent to the Allied cause was the United States, which declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917. In Europe, the price in terms of life and material destruction changed men’s conception of war; it is estimated that over eight million combatants were killed
The war which began in August 1914 as a European war turned into a world war in 1917, and can be seen as a bridge between the age of European predominance and the age of global politics. The spark that triggered it off was the assassination of the Austrian heir-presumptive, Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Bosnian terrorists at Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. In the ensuing crisis, none of the powers was prepared to accept diplomatic defeat; war replaced diplomatic manoeuvre.
Everyone expected a short war, over by Christmas 1914. The Germans knew that their chances in a long war on two fronts were slender. Their war plan drawn up by Schlieffen in 1905, was to trap and annihilate the French army by a great encirclement movement through Belgium, before the Russians had time to mobilise. But the Russians mobilised unexpectedly, quickly, invaded East Prussia, defeated the German 8th Army at Gumbinnen (20 August), and drew off German reserves from the west. However, the Germans defeated the Russian invasion at Tannenberg (26-29 August), but were not strong enough to exploit their victory.
Map 2: The German attack in the west and the battle of Marne Germans invaded Belgium successfully taking Liege on 16 August; the French offensive in Alsace was defeated with heavy loss. A further French offensive towards the Ardennes was defeated, and the British and one French army were forced to retreat from the Mons area to avoid encirclement. The Germans were too weak to go west of Paris as they planned and they passed north-east of Paris to cross the Marne. The exposed German army north of Paris was attacked by the French army on 5 September, and in manoeuvring to oppose the French attack left a gap on its own eastern flank. British and French advanced into the gap. The German army retired to the Aisne to regroup.
In the west, the Allies outmanoeuvred the Germans in the Battle of the Marne (5-8 September). The Schlieffen Plan was always a gamble; when it failed the Germans had no alternative strategy. On 8-12 September, the Russians won a crushing victory over Austria at Lemberg. A last, mutual attempt by the Germans and Allied armies to outflank each other in Flanders failed in November, and both sides dug in on a line 400 miles long from the Channel to the Swiss frontier. In the east, mobile warfare was still possible because of the far lower density of men and guns—a possibility brilliantly exploited by the Germans at Gorlice-Tarnow in 1915, and by the Russian general Brusilov in 1916.
The Naval War: After the battle of Jutland (1916) in which the Germans inflicted heavier losses but the British retained command of the North Sea, both sides used naval means to cut the other’s supply lines in a war of attrition. The British instituted an open blockade of the Central Powers which became effective by the end of 1916. In that year, there were fifty-six food riots in German cities. In reply, the Germans resorted to unrestricted submarine warfare in February 1917 and one out of every four ships leaving British ports was sunk. The assault was only checked by the convoy system first used in May 1917.
In the west, from the beginning of 1915 the dominant factors were trenches, barbed wire, artillery, machine-guns and mud. The war of mobility gave way to a war of attrition. One entrenched man with a machine-gun was more than a match for a hundred advancing across open country. Railways could bring up defenders faster than slowly-moving troops could advance into the front-line gaps which they had created at such high human cost.
Map 3: The Great War in Europe On the Western Front only the opening and closing stages saw a war of movement. From late 1914 to Spring 1918, the superiority of defence based on trench-systems and machine-guns over slow moving offensives by infantry, preceded by the fire of immense concentrations of artillery, imposed a stalemate. Only when armies had been weakened by years of attrition did sweeping advances again become possible. In Eastern Europe and the Balkans, with a lower density of manpower and weaker defences, the war was more mobile. The Italian front along the River Isonzo saw another stalemate despite eleven Italian offensives against the Austrians; a stalemate broken in October 1917 by the German-Austrian victory at Caporetto, and the Italian victory in Vittorio Veneto a year later.
Yet the German occupation of Belgium and northern France made it inevitable that the Allies should seek to expel them. This meant repeated French offensives in Artois and Champagne in 1915, assisted by small British offensives at Neuve Chappelle and Loos. For 1916 the Allies planned a joint offensive on the Somme, but the Germans struck first, at Verdun, with the intention of bleeding the French army to death. On 1 July 1916, the British launched their first mass offensive of the war, on the Somme. The fighting lasted until November; each side suffered some 600,000 casualties. It failed to break the stalemate.
By now the conflict was becoming a total war demanding the mobilisation of industry, carried out in Germany by Rathenau and in Britain by Lloyd George. Answers to the trench stalemate were sought in technology; poison gas was first used by the Germans at Ypres in April 1915; the British invented the tank and fielded 32 of them in the closing stages of the Somme battle, but owing to manufacturing difficulties it was only in November 1917, at Cambrai, that the first mass tank attack took place—also proving indecisive.
The struggle spread to the skies, where the handful of reconnaissance aircraft of 1914 gave way to fighters, bombers and artillery-spotters. With the Zeppelin airship and the Gotha long range bomber the Germans introduced strategic bombing of enemy towns. By means of naval blockade the Allies sought to starve the industries and peoples of the Central powers; Germany riposted by U-boat attacks on British shipping.
The War in the Middle East The war was not confined to Europe. To protect the Persian oil wells, an Anglo-Indian force occupied Basra (22 November 1914) and marched on Baghdad (October 1915); they were forced to retreat and surrendered to the Turks at Kut (April 1916). Meanwhile, the British had repelled a Turkish attempt to cross the Suez Canal (1915), and a counter-offensive force entered Palestine in 1916. Here they were assisted by the British-sponsored Arab revolt against Ottoman rule, which broke out in June 1916 under Sherif Hussein of Mecca, but they were checked by the Turks at Gaza in 1917. To the north, the Russians occupied Turkish Armenia (July 1916) and held it until the Russian revolution restored initiative to the Ottomans. In Autumn 1917, British forces under General Allenby rallied, and pushed through Gaza to Jerusalem (11 December). In Mesopotamia, Kut was retaken, and Baghdad was finally captured (10 March 1917); Mosul was occupied shortly after the Anglo-Turkish Armistice (29 October 1918), while Damascus had fallen to British and Arab troops at the beginning of the same month. The war spilled over into Africa and the Far East where Germany quickly lost its colonial possessions. The South Africans conquered German South-West Africa in July 1915; the British and French took the Cameroons and Togoland. In German East Africa, the British had a more difficult task because of the determined German defence under General von Lettow-Vorbeck. In the Pacific, Australian, New Zealand and Japanese troops captured the German colonies within four months of the outbreak of war, and the concessions in China also fell to Japanese and British forces.
Confronted by failure in the west, the Allies sought successes on other fronts:
the Dardanelles (April 1915-January 1916)
an offensive in Mesopotamia against the Turks
a landing at Salonika to help the Serbs.
All ended in failure. Italy, which entered the war on the Allied side on 23 May 1915, likewise failed to break the Austrian front on the Isonzo.
On the Easter Front, too, there was no decision, despite the German-Austrian offensive at Gorlice-Tarnow in 1915 and a far reaching Russian advance under General Brusilov in 1916. Serbian resistance was crushed, but the Germans were now embedded in the prolonged two-front war they had dreaded.
By the end of 1916, all the combatants recognised that victory was far off. There were peace feelers, but annexationist German demands ruled out a compromise peace. The war went on—under new and ruthless leaders: the soldiers Hindenburg and Ludendorff in Germany, the civilians Lloyd George in Britain and later Clemenceau in France.
On 1 February 1917 Germany declared unrestricted U-boat warfare, in the hope of bringing Britain to her knees. This was narrowly averted by the introduction of the convoy system in May 1917. But the U-boat offensive brought the United States into the war on 6 April 1917—a potentially decisive help to the Allies.
In March, revolution broke out in Russia, sparked by heavy losses, war-weariness and economic dislocation. On 15 March 1917, the Tsar abdicated. The future of Russia as an ally lay in doubt. By May, France was in deep trouble too. An offensive by the new Commander-in-Chief, Nivelle, failed to achieve his promised object of a breakthrough leading to peace. Widespread mutinies erupted in the French army with parallel civilian unrest on the home front. The British planned an offensive at Ypres as the best means of keeping German pressure off the French and encouraging Russia. The “Passchendaele” offensive, dogged by bad weather, failed to break the German front; each side sufferedsome 250,000 casualties.
In November 1917, the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia and in December sued for peace at Brest-Litovsk. At last the Germans could concentrate the bulk of their strength on the Western Front. On 21 March 1918 Hindenburg and Ludendorff launched a series of offensives aimed at victory in the West before the Americans could arrive in strength. They failed, despite impressive initial success. On 18 July, the new Allied generalissimo Foch, launched a French counterstroke. On 8 August Haig followed with a brilliant success on the Somme. From then on the Allies hammered the enemy without respite, breaking the Hindenburg Line on 27-30 September. Meanwhile Germany’s allies, Austria, Turkey and Bulgaria were beginning to collapse under Allied offensives. On 29 September Ludendorff acknowledge defeat and urged his government to ask for an immediate armistice. In October, the German fleet mutinied; revolution and the abdication of the Kaiser followed, and the new German government accepted the Allies’ armistice terms. Fighting stopped on 11 November 1918.
The material and human cost of the war had been immense; the political and social consequences were incalculable. The Europe of 1914 had vanished.
Courtesy of: The Times Atlas of World History Edited by Geoffrey Barraclough, Hammond Incorporated Maplewood, New Jersey
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,”
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.
The shield that India acquired was the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship concluded in Delhi on August 9, 1971. The treaty, which many Americans and Europeans tended to see as a virtual abandonment of India’s policy of nonalignment, had originally been proposed by Moscow and discussed by the two countries in considerable detail in 1969. That was the year when Soviet leadership was beginning to shed some of its suspicions about Indira’s ideological moorings originally fostered by her swift move to devalue Indian currency in 1966 under seeming World Bank pressure and by the warm welcome that President Johnson had accorded Mrs. Gandhi during her visit to Washington soon after she became Prime Minister. Not only had Brezhnev and Kosygin seen indications of India’s moving closer to the United States under Indira’s leadership, but Indira in her turn had her own reasons to be wary of Soviet intentions. It was about that time Moscow endeavoured to adopt a nonaligned posture in the affairs of the subcontinent and started for the first time supplying arms to Pakistan in the hope of gaining certain political leverage with its military rulers. The quantities of arms given to Pakistan were limited, but they were enough to distress India. Also, during a visit to New Delhi in the beginning of 1968, Kosygin offered Indira advice about affairs in Kashmir and management of various Soviet-collaboration industrial projects that to Indira’s sensitive ears sounded not like friendly counsel but unwarranted interference. By the middle of 1969, however, both sides had overcome much of their suspicion and realized the fruitlessness of drifting apart. Indira’s confrontation with the Congress Party Old Guard and her close association with the Communist Party of India, the Moscow-affiliated section of Indian Communists, in her temporary tacit coalition government, brightened her image in Brezhnev’s eyes. Additionally, Moscow by then had found that its decision to supply arms to Pakistan was yielding no noticeable dividends and, much to India’s satisfaction, had resolved not to make any fresh commitments.
The suggestion that India and the Soviet Union should sign a friendship treaty was, however, greeted by many Indian leaders with hesitation and a marked lack of enthusiasm in 1969. Indira’s advisers were divided among themselves over its political implications. The treaty, some argued, would bind India too closely with the Soviet Union for it to function with complete independence—and would needlessly antagonize its Western friends. If the bear could hug, it could also bite, they pointed out. Others held that fears about impairment of India’s independence and nonalignment were exaggerated and that India had gathered sufficient self-confidence and political stability to be able to join a partnership even with a superior power without limiting its freedom of action. This group among her advisers argued that any misunderstandings the treaty might cause in India’s relations with Western powers would be temporary and outweighed by the enormous political, psychological, and even military gains that the arrangement would offer.
Durga Prashad Dhar, a progressive Kashmiri leader then newly appointed Ambassador to Moscow, suggested a compromise. India, he said, might discuss and even finalize the treaty, but it should be concluded formally only at some future time that both parties might consider opportune. The Prime Minister favoured this approach and, when Moscow signaled its willingness to accept such an arrangement, ordered the discussions to begin. She, however, directed Dhar and others entrusted with the negotiations to bear in mind two points: The treaty, she told them, should contain nothing that might make India look like “a client state of the Soviet Union.” Also, the phrasing of the document should not draw attention unduly to the clause relating to mutual collaboration in the event of a threat to a signatory’s security.
By the beginning of 1970 the draft of the treaty had been finalized. Dhar and others had made it clear that a friendship treaty between India and the Soviet Union would be meaningless if the Russians had any intention of resuming their supply of arms to Pakistan. The Indian representatives had also balked at the excessive bluntness in the language of the early draft stating each country’s responsibility to come to the military assistance of the other; the language originally favoured by Moscow virtually made it imperative for each party to offer military support to the other in the event of a war. Indira and her colleagues were anxious to keep the commitment somewhat hazy for fear of the friendship treaty’s looking like a mutual defence pact, and Clause 9 of the final draft, which provided for mutual consultations in the event of either party’s being subjected to an attack, or a threat of one, was largely the result of Indian reluctance to enter into an explicit defense commitment.
The decision to quickly dust off the treaty and formally sign it was taken by India only in the beginning of August. By then the number of refugees who had crossed into West Bengal had already risen to over 6 million. The conscience of the world community had remained distressingly unmoved by this tragic uprooting of humanity. The nations and their governments, it was felt in India, were shirking their duty by hiding behind a clause in the U.N. Charter forbidding interference in the “internal affairs” of a member country. Surely, Indira told numerous diplomats, newsmen, and various audiences, those who had drafted the Charter could not have imagined or anticipated the scale on which genocide was being committed in a part of Pakistan. By regarding the military crimes in East Pakistan as a domestic problem of Yahya Khan’s government, the world, she said, was observing the letter of the Charter provision and ignoring the real spirit of the total document. In any case, with millions of Pakistanis crossing into a neighbouring country in an endless stream, the situation she stressed repeatedly had become an international problem. World inaction could not be justified. But her pleas elicited little positive response from abroad. As the weeks passed, India’s grievance over other nation’s indifference rapidly turned into an obsessive sense of isolation. Why was it that no one did anything effective to lessen the enormous burden India was carrying alone? Many in India asked in despair and puzzlement. Legislators as well as newspaper writers wondered why it was that neither of the two superpowers, which regarded themselves as the guardians of world peace, nor various European nations claiming to live by superior political and moral values, nor even any of the Arab countries, which had a refugee problem of their own and whose cause India had steadfastly espoused, had come forward to roundly condemn Pakistan and ask Yahya Khan to desist from mass terror. When Indira remarked that words of praise for India irritated her and noted that Pakistan, instead of being rebuked, was still receiving material help, she was not merely expressing her own very deep-seated exasperation but also a national feeling of being without friends.
Something dramatic was needed to change that mood of frustration and helplessness. It came when Andrei Gromyko arrived suddenly in New Delhi on August 7. Dhar, who had by then left the Moscow post to be a special adviser to the Prime Minister at Indira’s bidding, had hurriedly persuaded the Soviet Government to sign the treaty at that moment. In the earlier stages of the East Pakistan conflict Moscow’s appreciation of the problem had been remarkably like that of the Nixon Administration in Washington. Before his arrest Sheikh had been in touch with Soviet and American diplomats and with what he regarded as consummate skill in playing one power against the other had made all kinds of promises to both in the event of his coming to power. That combined with some double-talk by Yahya Khan had encouraged Moscow to hope that the Soviet Union would be able to persuade both sides to share authority, thus earning good will all around. When the massacre that followed Sheikh Mujib’s arrest at the beginning of March, however, revealed the naiveté of the Soviet assessment. Kosygin wrote Yahya Khan a personal letter protesting the bloodthirstiness of his troops. The Soviet leaders were disturbed, moreover, by the unreserved support that Peking had offered the Pakistan Government. When, therefore, Dhar suggested that the treaty be concluded, they responded with alacrity. (Few reports could be farther off the mark than the one in the New York Times four days after the signing of the treaty, suggesting on the authority of a secret CIA informant in the Indian Government that Indira had extracted the Soviet signatures as the price for deferring formal recognition of Bangladesh. At stake on both sides was much more than the recognition issue.)
The move to resurrect the document and sign it publicly was one of the best-kept secrets in the Indian capital. Besides Indira, not half a dozen persons knew about the last-minute exchanges with Moscow. The Indian Cabinet was informed of the Prime Minister’s decision to enter a treaty arrangement with Moscow just half an hour before the accord was due to be signed by Foreign Minister Gromyko and Swaran Singh. The announcement about the conclusion of the Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty had the expected impact on the morale of the Indian public. A few brief expressions of skepticism apart, people received it exuberantly. In their view, it meant that in the affairs of the subcontinent the Soviet Union at least was no longer sitting on the fence. Through the treaty, the Russians promised India support in the war with Pakistan that by then seemed almost certain to come. The treaty also issued to the United States and China an implicit warning that they would intervene in the conflict on Pakistan’s side only at the risk of elevating it into something bigger than a limited war between two relatively backward countries. Most Indians were grateful for this assurance and praised Indira for her adroitness in securing for them.
By courtesy of :
INDIRA BY KRISHAN BHATIA, PRAEGER PUBLISHERS INC., NEW YORK, WASHINGTON, 1974
Tremendous though it was at the time, Indira’s power did not attain its peak with the unexpected and overwhelming electoral victory she won for her party in the beginning of 1971. In the following twelve months, she was to face a challenge much bigger than the one the Congress party “Old Guard” had posed, and her remarkable success in tackling it was to impress the world and turn the substantial but routine political support of her own people into what was for many months real, if sometimes frenzied, adulation. The threat to India’s security came from its neighbour and old adversary, Pakistan, but because of the way the situation developed in the subcontinent the United States and the Soviet Union, particularly the former, also got deeply involved, politically and diplomatically, in the conflict.
About the time Indira and her supporters in India were jubilantly watching the announcement of the parliamentary election results, Yahya Khan, Pakistan’s military dictator, and other leaders in that country were confronted with an unnerving situation that threatened to split their country governmentally as drastically as it was split geographically. Yahya Khan had come to power in Islamabad in March 1969, following a coup against his predecessor Ayub Khan. Yahya Khan had promised to hold elections and restore normal political institutions—some, including free elections and an uncontrolled press, abolished as far back as 1958. The general elections held in fulfillment of that promise gave the majority in the Pakistan National Assembly to the Awami League, the dominant party in the country’s distant eastern wing, 1,000 miles away across the intervening territory belonging to India. This party, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was committed to securing maximum autonomy for East Pakistan. Not surprisingly, the prospects of a national government headed by Sheikh Mujib and autonomy for East Pakistan deeply agitated the ruling groups in West Pakistan, which had until then enjoyed power and economic benefits almost exclusively.
Plainly, Yahya and those who supported the junta had not visualized such a development. (While visiting Islamabad, Henry Kissinger, was asked by a half-drunk Yahya Khan at a banquet, “Do you think I am a dictator?” Reportedly, the U.S. national security adviser quipped, “Mr. President, for a dictator you run a lousy general election.”) Efforts at a compromise between the Awami League and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who had emerged as the principal leader of the western wing, failed. Yahya then sent several divisions of Punjabi troops to Dacca, the capital city of East Pakistan. There ensued a barbaric attempt to put down the largely Bengali, protesting citizenry, Hindu and Muslim alike. As all those who understood the Bengali mind, but as Yahya Khan apparently did not, the brutal use of force by their countrymen, instead of overawing the East Pakistanis, stiffened East Pakistan’s resolve to end the western wing’s dominance.
Mujib and some other Bengali leaders were arrested. Many others eluded Yahya Khan’s police, however, and went underground in East Pakistan or across the border in India. And as a ragged but fiercely determined guerrilla force came into being, the Awami League’s ultimate objective changed from autonomy within Pakistan to complete independence for the 75 million people in a country that now tentatively adopted for itself the name of Bangladesh.
Mrs. Gandhi vehemently denies the Pakistani charge that the Bengali uprising drew its inspiration from and what was later sustained by India. “India had no part in the internal development of Pakistan—West or East,” she says. The sympathy of the Indian Government however, as well as of the public undoubtedly was with Sheikh Mujib. Pakistan’s Western wing leaders had trod on Indian toes so frequently since the partition of the subcontinent that to see them discomfited and to consider the possibility of Pakistan’s breakup as a nation caused widespread satisfaction in India. Furthermore, at a later stage of the liberation movement, the Mukti Bahini, or Freedom Fighters, received considerable help from India in training and equipment. But in March 1971, when the conflict began, India was distinctly not involved in what Indira described as the “battle that Pakistan was waging against its own citizens.” Those close to Indira testify that there was no link—direct or otherwise—at that time between Indira or any of her authorized representatives and Sheikh Mujib—if for no other reason than she was too deeply engrossed in her own political survival to mastermind a revolt in a neighbouring country. She was then still fighting her political opponents at home with grim earnestness, and so complete was her involvement in that battle that she deferred attention to all other matters, however pressing. While the political drama in Dacca was moving to its bloody second act, Indira was engaged in the hectic election campaign during which she travelled over 40,000 miles. On many days, she was at places deep in the interior of the country where news of what was happening in East Pakistan often did not even reach her.
The Pakistani Army’s vicious crackdown in Dacca began as Indira, after celebrating her victory in the elections, was getting her new government in Delhi on the rails. Most of the Western newsmen who congregated in Dacca to watch Pakistan’s constitutional tussle work itself out were forcibly prevented from witnessing the atrocities that the West Pakistani troops were ordered to commit in the hope of terrorizing the Bengali populace into submission. But before the Military Governor of East Pakistan summarily debarred the press—no exception was made even in the case of correspondents from traditionally pro-Pakistani conservative papers in Britain and the United States—many visiting newsmen had seen enough of what was beginning to occur or evidence of the earliest atrocities to write dispatches that made their readers’ stomach turn. In the organized burning of villages, destruction of crops, mass shooting of innocent people (whose bodies were left to be devoured by vultures), and the rape of tens of thousands of Bengali women, many Western reporters saw terror equaling, perhaps surpassing, that which the Jews had suffered in Hitler’s Germany.
It was inevitable that the Indians would be much more deeply affected by the gory developments in and around Dacca than were people living continents away. Dispatches from British and American newspapers were reproduced in the Indian press, but Indians had even more graphic and moving accounts of what was happening from those East Pakistanis who began crossing into India by the thousands before the Pakistani Army’s “campaign” was a month old. Despite the barrier that partition had erected between them, Indian and Pakistani Bengalis had maintained strong cultural and emotional ties over the years. The Hindus in East Pakistan constituted a defenseless minority and were the special target of the Pakistani Army’s venom. Most of those who now fled to India were, therefore, Hindus. Many Hindus believed that the Pakistani Army repression was designed primarily to rid East Pakistan completely of its non-Muslim population, and the anger aroused was widespread. In Parliament and the press there were some who from the start seriously advocated war with Pakistan to stop the terror and influx of refugees. Indira, deeply affected by the tragedy, later wrote in Foreign Affairs:
We would normally have welcomed the attainment of freedom by any victim of colonial oppression but usually it would have little direct impact on us. Bangladesh, however, was a part of our subcontinent. How could we ignore a conflict which took place on our very border and overflowed into our own territory?
It was only a short time before the conflict between the two wings of Pakistan spread into India. Since the partition of the two countries in 1947, Pakistan had driven out several million of its Hindu citizens, who had crossed into India in periodic waves. Thus, East Pakistani Hindus seeking refuge in the Indian state of Bengal were by no means an uncommon phenomenon. They arrived, destitute and in a state of shock following sudden, inexplicable outbursts of religious hatred or equally inexplicable acts of official highhandedness in their homeland. In the decade following independence, nearly 4 million Hindus from East Pakistan had been reluctantly absorbed into India—their expulsion viewed as an unfortunate extension of the communal frenzy that had seized people in both countries at the time of partition. But over the years the pace had slowed almost to a trickle and by now, twenty-fours after independence, official as well as public attitudes towards having to offer them permanent refuge had changed. In March 1971 over 10 million Hindus were still in East Pakistan. They were citizens of Pakistan. India considered the lengthy chapter in the subcontinent’s history devoted to exchange of persons finally closed. Not that Indians would shut the door in the face of the terror-stricken. Poor in the world’s terms as their country was, they would look after these new refugees from Pakistan as best as they could—but it had to be understood that the refugees’ stay must be short. They were East Pakistanis and in time they must return home.
Indira Gandhi wondered if Pakistan was trying to solve one of its problems by driving out the 10 million people whose presence as citizens it found “inconvenient.” As April gave way to May and June, another aspect of the steadily rising influx that worried her was its possible impact on the area in India into which refugees were streaming. West Bengal bordering East Pakistan was – and still is—among the most thickly populated and politically restive parts of India. The state had a history of administrative instability, and sizable sections of its volatile people had earlier tried to seek power through Maoist attempts at organized violence. The arrival of many refugees was liable to strain the area’s limited economic resources and the ensuing frustration might well encourage further violence. From the very start, therefore, Indira was quite clear in her mind that irrespective of the fact that many of them were Hindus, the East Pakistani refugees must return home. And in the beginning of October 1971, by which time a staggering 9 million refugees had entered India, she told BBC, “We have no intention of absorbing these people here—no matter what. I am absolutely determined about it.”
When, during that terrible summer and early autumn, Yahya Khan protested that what his army was doing in East Pakistan was the country’s internal matter and many abroad appeared to agree with him, Indira, through Indian and international news media, reacted strongly. The problem in East Pakistan was not of India’s making: “We have never interfered in any way in the politics of Pakistan,” she said. “But Pakistan can no longer pretend that this is its internal problem.” With millions of helpless Pakistani citizens entering India, “it has become an internal problem for us and it has become a major problem of humanity, a question of conscience and of the protection of people’s lives and rights,” she asserted. India’s Foreign Minister Swaran Singh, whom she dispatched that summer to London, Washington, Moscow, and other major capitals to explain the implications of the refugee influx, told various heads of governments that what India was experiencing was a “civilian invasion.” As the verbal battle mounted, Yahya Khan, equally angry but less decorous, told a correspondent of Le Figaro in August that Indira “is neither a woman nor a head of state by wanting to be both at once.” Should he come face to face with her, he would say to her, “Shut up woman; leave me alone and let refugees come back,” he declared.
Not many even among Yahya Khan’s friends abroad seriously believed that India had any interest in deliberately holding back Pakistani refugees from returning home, as Yahya Khan was now claiming. For one thing, the overwhelming nature of the strain on India’s resources was obvious. Several special taxes, including a substantial surcharge on the postal rates, were levied temporarily to raise additional revenue burdening an already weak economy. India was then spending $5 to $6 million daily to feed the refugees and provide them with some improvised shelter and basic medical care (an outbreak of cholera in epidemic form was narrowly averted). When torrential rains hit West Bengal, the refugee camps turned into vast marshy lakes. The more fortunate among the residents were those who had had the initiative to establish squatting rights in large concrete sewer pipes awaiting installation. U.N. observers, volunteers of numerous relief organizations, visiting U.S. senators and congressman, British M.P.s, and scores of reporters from all over the world wrote or spoke of the miserable conditions in which the refugees had to live and the sacrifice that India was required to make to keep them there at all and alive, even if in misery. Despite these reports there were those who sometimes inquired in apparent innocence why India did not “let the refugees return home” as Yahya Khan had suggested. Snappishly, Indira pointed out the absurdity of the return-home “invitation.” How could any refugees be persuaded to go back when tens of thousands more of their countrymen were arriving every day with new horror stories to tell and with evidence in their blank eyes and scarred bodies of the continuance of the terror from which they had fled?
Even those who expressed admiration for India for the way it offered succor to the terror-stricken did not always please Indira. After a while, in fact, such expression of praise became, she said, “a bit of an irritant.” India’s efforts, she believed, were being dismissed with flattering words. Meanwhile Pakistan was continuing to get material help from the United States and China. The world, she often said with exasperation, even bitterness, as the situation steadily worsened, was not doing its moral duty towards the people of Bangladesh. Instead of condemning Pakistan for the “callous, inhuman, and intemperate” butchery that its military apparatus had organized, most countries were merely appeasing their consciences or their isolated groups of outraged citizens by praising India or offering some food, clothing, and medicines for the refugees.
There could be “only one solution,” she told an Italian journalist:
Conditions must be created in East Pakistan, Bangladesh as it is called, in which there is not military terror but normal democratic functioning of the people’s will, so that the refugees are enabled to return to their homes and their safety is guaranteed. The rulers of Pakistan must be made to see that there is no other way. It is the duty of every country which has any influence with Pakistan to impress the truth upon them.
But Indira’s hope that the world community would exert the required pressure on Pakistan’s military junta was, and all along had been, slender. Early in the conflict in East Pakistan, she had come to feel reasonably certain that the Western wing’s repressive hand would not be withdrawn until too late, and that East Pakistanis, particularly Hindus would continue to flee from terror in massive numbers while the world held back from action to end the tragic situation. Armed conflict with Pakistan, she and her advisers had begun to reason, might become unavoidable if her resolve to send back the refugees was to be fulfilled.
As early as the beginning of April 1971, soon after she had formed her new Cabinet, Indira had issued formal directions to India’s army chief, General S.H.F.J. Manekshaw, to prepare for the eventuality of a war. As he told an interviewer, Manekshaw (who had since been promoted to be India’s first field marshal) was impressed by the “clarity of the briefing issued to me by my political command.” The influx of the refugees he was told, was expected to continue and was creating economic, social, and psychological burdens that India could bear for no more than ten months to a year. If the government’s efforts to find a peaceful solution of the problem failed during that period, the armed forces would be ordered to achieve “the specific objective of opening the door” for the refugees to return home. While preparing for the task, he must keep in view the fact the international situation and the political pressures that India would likely to invite upon itself in the event of a war with Pakistan would permit the army only “three to four weeks” to achieve the objective. Besides allowing herself time to search for a peaceful solution, Indira’s ten-month deadline for the refugees’ return presumably considered the time Manekshaw must need to prepare the army for the conflict and the fact that from June until September the monsoon would make any swift military operation impossible.
While they were helping her make the necessary preparations for a war, the Prime Minister’s advisers also warned her against getting the country involved in battle at a time and place of Pakistan’s choosing. Pakistan could be expected to launch an attack from its Western wing, where its military power was considerable, and to occupy a certain amount of Indian territory before responding to the almost certain Security Council for cease-fire. If that happened, India would find itself in an embarrassing predicament. It would have to pull back its troops from East Pakistan to have its own territory in the western area surrendered by Yahya Khan’s troops. Also, the Bangladesh problem would then be internationalized, which would give Islamabad all the time it would need to put down the Bengali uprising. The Political Affairs Committee of the Cabinet, over which Indira presided, therefore considered that India must be strong enough to deliver a quick, effective blow in the East while defending its borders in the West. It must also acquire a shield against big-power pressure for halting the conflict before the return of the refugees to their homeland was secured.
BY COURTESY: INDIRA BY KRISHAN BHATIA, PRAEGER PUBLISHERS INC., NEW YORK, WASHINGTON, 1974