Authoritarianism and Downfall

Democracy in Disarray 1974-1977

 The fact that Zia’s legacy far outlives Bhutto’s also explains how much Pakistan has changed since 1977. The crowds waved when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto addressed them. The crowds waved when he was removed. From ecstasy to angst, Bhutto’s equation with the masses experienced a complete spectrum of emotions that, arguably, remains unparalleled in national political history

 Some historians have suggested there are two phases to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s five-and-a-half years in power. In the first phase, one sees a pro-poor, populist Bhutto, supported by many urban leftists in his party, who undertakes many far-reaching structural economic and social reforms – from land reforms to nationalisation and social-sector interventions. He is also given credit for having seen Pakistan’s first democratically agreed to Constitution approved and passed by a parliament based on universal franchise. His stature as a crafty negotiator helped him deal with Pakistani nationalists, as it did with Indira Gandhi in Simla in 1972.

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Even though Karachi was never a PPP stronghold, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was just as impassioned in his election campaign here as anywhere across the country. | Photo: The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad. 

 

This first phase lasted perhaps three years, somewhere into 1974, but soon after, one begins to see a different Bhutto; one who discards his radical allies and moves towards his landed and feudal base, making him authoritarian and dictatorial, abandoning the social groups that had been responsible for his phenomenal rise.

Bhutto was many things to many people and constituencies, playing different roles as circumstances demanded. He could be a democrat but also mercilessly authoritarian; a benevolent feudal with modernist tendencies; a nationalist with regional aspirations; and a secularist courting Islamists. Perhaps it was for these multiple and often contradictory reasons that no political leader in Pakistan has been as reviled or cherished as is Bhutto even four decades after his death.

A Year of Unintended Consequences

At least four events in 1974 had a major bearing on what was to happen to Bhutto and to Pakistan, with long-term consequences that have had an impact even to this day.

In February 1974, Bhutto was able to organise and host the Second Islamic Summit Conference in Lahore, with as many as 35 heads of state and government present.

From Shah Faisal of Saudi Arabia to the popular Muammar Qadhafi of Libya to the revolutionary Yasser Arafat, Bhutto was able to make a political statement about Pakistan’s position in the Muslim world. He also used this opportunity to recognise Bangladesh by inviting Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

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The chemistry between Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (left) and his one-time nemesis Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was worth watching during the proceedings of the Islamic Summit. Even a semblance of it just three years earlier might have led to a history different from what it actually turned out to be. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives 

 

With the first OPEC oil price rise in 1973, which led to the westernisation and modernisation of the oil-rich states, Bhutto opened the doors to the Gulf states and to the Middle East for Pakistan’s migrant labour and its remittance economy; still a key pillar of Pakistan’s economy with numerous unintended consequences. Ironically, it was Gen Ziaul Haq who benefitted the most from these ties, and, in many ways, one can make the argument that the close ties with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states changed the social, religious and political composition of Pakistan in ways which would have made Bhutto most uncomfortable.

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That he was able to garner a seriously impressive procession in a city hostile to his politics and persona was nothing but Bhutto’s charisma at work. | Photo: The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad. 

 

 

 Ayesha Jalal makes the assertion, though unfortunately provides no evidence for this, that during the Islamic Summit, “King Faisal indicated to Bhutto that Saudi aid [to Pakistan] would be contingent on Pakistan declaring Ahmadis a non-Muslim minority”. Other scholars have given far more domestically-oriented reasons and arguments for why the community was declared a minority by the National Assembly unanimously in September 1974. The consequences of this move, in which Bhutto participated, continue unabated to this day, again in ways that Bhutto would not have recognised. Today, it indicates why and how the idea of a just and inclusive notion of Pakistani citizenship failed.

The third major development in 1974 was India’s nuclear test in May. While Bhutto had the ambitions to build nuclear weapons some years prior to India going nuclear, Pakistan’s ‘Islamic Bomb’ was to be acquired even if we had “to eat grass”.

One further development in November 1974 was to cost Bhutto his life. The murder of Nawab Mohammad Ahmad Khan Kasuri, the father of dissident PPP leader Ahmed Raza Kasuri, who, many believe, was the intended target, was blamed on Bhutto, and the case was opened against him once he had been deposed by Zia in 1977, leading to Bhutto’s execution on April 4, 1979.

All these events in 1974 were to have far-reaching implications, years and decades from when they took place, beyond Bhutto’s life. In July 1974, one of the old guards of the original PPP, J.A. Rahim, the first secretary-general of the party, was beaten up brutally by Bhutto’s personal henchmen, the Federal Security Force, supposedly on Bhutto’s orders. This was just one indication of the growing authoritarianism of Pakistan’s first elected leader.

Other incidents occurred during the course of Bhutto’s reign, where editors and publishers of newspapers critical of his policies were often roughed up and threatened. Both the editors of Dawn and Jasarat were arrested under Bhutto’s increasingly draconian regime. Also not spared were nationalist leaders like Khan Abdul Wali Khan, as the National Awami Party (NAP) was banned in February 1975 after the murder of Hayat Khan Sherpao, a senior PPP leader who some saw as a contender to Bhutto, in Peshawar. Wali Khan and others were incarcerated in the Hyderabad Conspiracy case, and were later released only when the walls around Bhutto started to close in.

Creating an Opposition

 

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Elegantly dressed almost always, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was at ease in his interactions with media. | Photo: The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad. 

 

 While Bhutto certainly gave the awam, the working people, political consciousness for the very first time through his reforms and rhetoric, he also alienated this very constituency by moving away from many of his earlier promises. Moreover, given his reforms, he was bound to accumulate many enemies along the way. From landlords to business groups, from religious parties to groups that saw Bhutto’s ways as ‘un-Pakistani’ and ‘un-Islamic’, and from the US, which didn’t approve of Bhutto’s independence or his desire to go nuclear, to even the military officers who had been dismissed by him because they had expressed disagreement. Bhutto’s conceit and authoritarianism was central both to his achievements as well as to his downfall

In July 1976, Bhutto made a key error by nationalising flour and rice husking mills, and cotton ginning factories. Not only had he gone back on his word of no more nationalisation, but this decision hit a core constituency of the middle and petit bourgeois classes that could have been allies of the PPP in the Punjab. This one single decision by Bhutto alienated them from his populist and progressive economic policies. These groups may have voted for Bhutto in 1970, but with their key economic interests threatened, they turned their back on him. That many of these individuals and groups belonged to the more socially conservative segments, only made them become a powerful tool in the hands of a strong political and social opposition that was largely Islamist and was looking for revenge.

The opportunity came in January 1977 when Bhutto announced early elections. There was little doubt that Bhutto would be re-elected, for there was little organised political opposition in place. No single party would have been able to oust Bhutto. However, a coalition of nine parties, many of which were Islamic parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, and the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan, formed a conservative and right-wing coalition titled the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA). The fact that the National Democratic Party led by Sherbaz Mazari and Begum Nasim Wali was also part of the PNA demands far greater analysis than simply labelling PNA as being an Islamist conspiracy. The PNA was a broad spectrum of left-leaning, centrist and rightist parties with their main focus on opposing Bhutto.

The PNA fought a campaign on the basis of an anti-Bhutto agenda, citing his ‘un-Islamic’ ways, and was helped by the newly alienated middle and petit bourgeois classes, especially in the Punjab. The results after the March 7 elections left the PPP with 155 seats and the PNA with 36. The equation surprised not only the opposition parties, but also the PPP, and, indeed, Bhutto himself. While the PPP would probably have retained government in the 200-strong National Assembly, such a massive victory margin suggested foul play. The PNA boycotted elections to the provincial assemblies and organised extensive street protests against the Bhutto government.

The PNA movement, as it is called, was clearly Pakistan’s most successful right-wing political movement, just as Bhutto’s 1968-69 movement was Pakistan’s most successful popular movement. Some scholars have made claims that the PNA was being funded through dollars coming from abroad; a claim which Bhutto indirectly referred to in his address to the National Assembly at the time.

The strong anti-Bhutto movement had acquired an Islamist hue from very early on, and, despite Bhutto making numerous symbolic concessions – such as banning alcohol, declaring Friday, instead of Sunday, as the weekly holiday – the PNA leaders were not going to ease their pressure on Bhutto.

Following sustained street protests, negotiations continued between March and July, and while there is now evidence that an agreement between the PNA and Bhutto had been reached around midnight July 3-4, Gen Zia, Bhutto’s hand-picked Chief of the Army Staff, in a military operation ironically called Fairplay, declared Martial Law on July 5, 1977, and deposed and imprisoned Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

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When Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto spoke, his hand-picked Army chief, General Ziaul Haq, listened … rather submissively. Little did Bhutto know of the machinations behind the meek visage. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives 

 

 One cannot but emphasise the fact that General Zia’s coup and Martial Law was also encouraged by the practices and whims of some political leaders of the opposition. Retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan had written an open letter to the three services chiefs, including Zia, to rise up against Bhutto. The practice by opposition politicians inviting the military to remove an elected leader was to continue well into the 1990s, with some overtones as recently as 2014 during the famous dharna (sit-in) in Islamabad.

Moreover, as Shuja Nawaz has argued, evidence also emerged that some senior generals had established close links with the opposition parties. There seemed to be a clear common interest of those who financially backed the PNA movement, the generals who wanted a return to order and stability, and Islamist groups who felt that, with Bhutto out of the way, they would be closer to imposing some form of Islamic order in Pakistan.

Not just was Pakistan’s first democratically elected leader later executed in a trial which many believed was fixed from the start, in 1979, but Pakistan changed forever after July 5, 1977. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan and his vision died not so much on December 16, 1971, as they did on July 5, 1977.

Legacy

Though he imposed curbs on freedom of expression and dealt with newspapers with a rather heavy hand, Bhutto never shied away from media interactions. If anything, he gained some sort of energy dealing with journalists. | Photo: The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad.

 The slogan which one hears now only infrequently, Zinda hai Bhutto, zinda hai, is as irrelevant to today’s Pakistan as is the attempt by some liberals to find and secure the Pakistan originally conceived and founded by the Quaid. Both ideals have been brushed aside by history’s changing tides in Pakistan.

Bhutto’s policies of social democracy, nationalisation, asserting working peoples’ consciousness and rights, his brand of ‘third worldism’, were all manifestations of a particular historical age. Now, neoliberalism and social conservatism tainted through a Saudi brush are the dominant cultural, social and economic forms of practice in today’s Pakistan, and, to some extent, globally.

Yet, in many ways, the issues of social justice, equality and sovereignty – themes that formulated Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s ideals for Pakistan – still remain relevant to our age where growing inequality, intolerance and militancy define where we have come since July 5, 1977. The fact that no politician today raises these issues is a sad reflection of how Bhutto’s ideals have been forgotten. Moreover, the fact that Zia’s legacy far outlives Bhutto’s also explains how much Pakistan has changed since 1977.

Authoritarianism and the downfall by S. Akbar Zaid. 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.

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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

 

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The Promise of Democracy

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.

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Wearing a Mao cap, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is seen in this undated file photo on the top sitting at a dhaba, a roadside eatery, giving seemingly complete access to the common man. It was forays like this that earned him the title of the Quaid-i-Awam – the leader of the people which, in many ways, he actually was. 

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.

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Maulana Kausar Niazi (extreme right) leading the prayers at a ceremony to mark the authentication of the Constitution on April 12, 1973. On the left is President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto standing beside Fazal Elahi Chaudhry, who at the time was the Speaker of the National Assembly and later became President of Pakistan on August 14, 1973, when Bhutto took oath of the office of the prime minister. | Photo: National Assembly Archives 

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”.

Economic Agenda

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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto addressing a gathering in this undated file photo in Karachi. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives 

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.

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A meeting of the main opposition United Democratic Front at the Intercontinental Hotel in Rawalpindi ahead of the passage of the Constitution in 1973. Seen from left to right are: Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani, Sardar Sherbaz Mazari, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, Syed Shah Mardan Shah Pir Pagaro, Maulana Mufti Mehmood, Professor Ghafoor Ahmed, Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi, Ahmed Raza Kasuri and Khan Abdul Wali Khan. | Photo: Sherbaz Mazari Archives 

Although 125 of the 135 members of the National Assembly voted for Pakistan’s Constitution 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

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A rare photograph of the Bhutto Family in its prime. Seen from left to right are Begum Nusrat Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Murtaza Bhutto (looking leftwards), Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shahnawaz Bhutto. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives 

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.

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Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was as comfortable, if not more, in the company of foreign dignitaries as he was with the masses at home. He is seen here in Washington DC with United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (left) during a visit in February 1975. Seen in the middle is Begum Nusrat Bhutto. 

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.

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Elections and Massacre

The Breakup of Pakistan 1969-1971

 

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The haunting tell-tale image on the top is symbolic of the plight of those who had survived the trauma of the 1971 war, which had led to the dismemberment of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh. She was captured through the lens of acclaimed Indian photographer Raghu Rai who had accompanied the Indian forces to Dhaka during the war. Raghu Rai has gifted his photographs to Dawn for this Special Report.

In her book, The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics, Ayesha Jalal writes about Gen Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, who imposed martial law after replacing Gen Ayub Khan in March 1969 as president of Pakistan when the latter was forced out by street protests, that Yahya was a “boisterous fellow and determined drunkard [and] had a penchant for cavorting with abandon”. Perhaps many would still remember Yahya for what Jalal calls his “nocturnal activities”, since they “were the talk of the nation”, and ‘General Rani’ became part of what she calls “elite gossip”.

However, it is more probable that today Yahya Khan is remembered for two extraordinary developments that took place under his watch: the elections of 1970, and the subsequent massacre in East Pakistan, leading to the separation of the latter and the creation of Bangladesh. He played a key role in both events. Of course, Yahya, even if indeed he was perpetually inebriated, was not the lone player in what happened in 1970-71. Two other actors, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, played critical roles as well.

It was the numerous contradictions which emerged from the Decade of Development’s capitalist logic under an authoritarian military state which gave rise to the regional, social, economic and political discontent of the late 1960s, forcing Ayub Khan’s resignation in Pakistan’s first popular uprising.

In West Pakistan, while it was Baloch and Pakhtun nationalists who were demanding the end of the One Unit, it was Bhutto who led students, the working classes and sections of the newly emerging middle classes against Ayub. While some scholars have read too much into the Bhutto agitation, stating that Pakistan was on the verge of a socialist revolution, his not being Punjabi and having already publicly parted ways with Ayub after Tashkent in 1966, saw Bhutto emerge as the dominant voice in West Pakistan opposing military authoritarianism of which he was once a part.

In East Pakistan, even though Maulana Bhashani spoke for the peasants of the province, it was Sheikh Mujib, who, after raising his Six-Point Programme in 1966 for democracy and greater provincial autonomy, and who was implicated (but later released) in the Agartala Conspiracy Case in 1968, was fast emerging as the main voice of East Pakistani/Bengali nationalism when Ayub was forced out.

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Sheikh Mujibur Rahman making his way through a sea of supporters in Lahore while he was still a Pakistani. | Photo: Dawn/White Star Archives 

 

 It is important to state that while some Bengali voices were challenging the unity of Pakistan, Mujib, at this political juncture, was still in favour of a united, democratic, federal Pakistan, despite the growing realisation in the eastern wing that East Pakistan had by now become a mere colony of West Pakistan.

Under these circumstances, led by charismatic and populist leaders who had sat through 11 years of military rule, Yahya Khan announced elections for October 1970, doing away with the One Unit, giving the majority province on the basis of its population 162 seats in a parliament of 300.

Yahya had imposed martial law when he took over from Ayub, and the military and bureaucracy were busy influencing political parties and elements that were eager to test their popularity. Historians examining Yahya’s decision have argued that it was based on reports by military intelligence which stated that no single party would win a majority in parliament, and, with a hung parliament, real power would still reside with the military-bureaucracy oligarchy.

Due to monsoon rains in East Bengal, the government postponed the elections by two months. The polls were announced for Dec 7. However, a devastating cyclone in November 1970 in East Pakistan, which claimed the lives of close to 200,000 people, sealed the fate of the elections and, in retrospect it seems, of Pakistan. East Pakistanis were appalled at the response of the predominantly Punjabi-Muhajir military-bureaucratic administration in dealing with this crisis, and East Pakistani politicians, with just a few weeks to go for Pakistan’s first elections, were eager to point out how irrelevant Pakistani Bengalis had become to the ruling West Pakistan clique.

Academics studying the process of democratisation in Pakistan have argued that one of the many reasons why elections were never held in Pakistan was the fear of the Punjabi-Muhajir elites, and of their military-bureaucratic alliance, that with East Pakistan’s majority population universal franchise would always result in a majority of seats from East Pakistan.

The 1970 election results went further in confirming these fears. Sheikh Mujib’s Awami League won 160 of the 162 seats in East Pakistan, giving it a majority in united Pakistan’s parliament. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party won 81 seats out of 138 in West Pakistan, becoming the majority party in West Pakistan, mainly from Sindh and Punjab. The critical outcome from the 1970 elections was that neither of the two largest parties won a single seat in the other wing. Electorally, Pakistan stood divided.

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A grim Yahya Khan at a function during his dictatorship that lasted from March 25, 1969, to December 20, 1971. | Photo: Dawn/White Star Archives 

While the military’s Operation Searchlight in East Pakistan started in March 1971, the short period following the elections until the brutal military operations, clearly showed how the egos of a handful of West Pakistani politicians played out and were matched with the incompetence and unwillingness of the military leadership in understanding and addressing political issues.

United Pakistan just might have been saved in these few weeks had the Punjabi-Muhajir military-bureaucratic leadership allowed the results of the 1970 elections to be honoured. But this would have gone against their very own genius and their core material interests. Moreover, there was one particular popular democrat who refused to acknowledge the democratic mandate which did not entirely suit him.

Soon after the election results, there was talk of having two prime ministers for Pakistan, with Bhutto apparently having agreed. Yahya, on the other hand, on a visit to Dhaka, called Mujib the “future prime minister of Pakistan”. On his return to West Pakistan from Dhaka, Yahya flew to Larkana to meet Bhutto, who advised Yahya not to give control of the National Assembly, and, hence, of Pakistan, to Mujib. Bhutto flew to Dhaka to meet Mujib, but talks had clearly failed between the two.

Shuja Nawaz in his Crossed Swords writes that there were many senior generals who were willing to “back Bhutto”. Clearly, the electoral winner in West Pakistan and the generals were not willing to honour the election results and a major political and constitutional crisis was at hand.

Bhutto famously remarked that “a majority alone does not count” (ironically, words which would haunt his daughter in 1988), and further made one of his many famous statements, threatening to break the legs of any West Pakistani elected representative who proceeded to Dhaka — “tangain tore doon ga” — to participate in the National Assembly session called by Yahya on March 3, 1971. It was Bhutto, again, who later uttered words that led to one journalist coining the famed headline: ‘udhar tum, idhar hum’.

After repeated failed attempts to call the National Assembly meeting and with talks completely having broken down, Operation Searchlight was launched by the military on March 25, 1971, under Gen Tikka Khan, with both Yahya and Bhutto still in Dhaka.

There has been a great deal written by Pakistani military men and historians, as well as by Indian and Bangladeshi academics and scholars, on what happened in East Pakistan between March 25 and Dec 16, 1971. While versions may vary, as do number counts — of casualties, massacres and rapes — there is broad consensus, especially among Pakistani authors, that the scale and nature of atrocities conducted by the military was on a horrific scale.

A Pakistani journalist who worked for the Morning News in Karachi, Anthony Mascarenhas, wrote for the London Sunday Times on June 13, 1971, an article simply entitled ‘Genocide’, which revealed to the world the atrocities committed in East Pakistan.

Yet, while George Harrison of the Beatles organised a concert for Bangladesh, the US and other world powers, turned a blind eye to what was happening in East Pakistan. As the massacre took place in East Pakistan, Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon did “nothing, intentionally”, as documented in Gary Bass’ book, The Blood Telegram, based partly on a telegram sent by Archer Blood, the then US consul general in Dhaka, who warned of what was happening.

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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at one of the several United Nations Security Council meetings ahead of the fall of Dhaka. | The Directorate of Electronic Media and Publications [DEMP], Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad & Karachi. 

 The Americans at the time were courting Mao’s China and Pakistan mattered to them, for it was the conduit for what later became known as ‘ping-pong’ diplomacy. China, too, kept out of Pakistan’s “internal affairs”.

Military action in East Pakistan continued from March to early December, with a Bangladesh government-in-exile based in Kolkata (Calcutta at the time). A pretty large number of non-Bengalis, mainly Biharis, were also killed by those who were part of the Mukti Bahini fighting their war of independence, and hundreds of thousands of East Pakistanis fled across the border into India.

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Millions of refugees fled East Bengal with bare belongings in search of safety. | Photo: Raghu Rai.

Eventually, India launched a military attack on East Pakistan in November, with (West) Pakistan attacking Indian territory on Dec 3. Despite the fact that West Pakistanis were told as late as Dec 14 and 15 that they were winning the war, on Dec 16, 1971, Gen A.A.K. ‘Tiger’ Niazi, GOC, East Pakistan, surrendered to the Indian troops led by Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora in Dhaka. East Pakistan had now formally become Bangladesh. Not just had there been yet another partition in the Indian subcontinent, but Jinnah’s ‘two-nation theory’ had also come undone.

Shuja Nawaz writes that it was a corrupt military’s “wishful thinking”, a military which had become used to the “culture of entitlement”, “clouded by blissful ignorance and liberal doses of alcohol” which led to Pakistan’s debacle, but it is evident that there were at least three clear stages of events leading up to the eventuality of Dec 16, 1971.

By not acknowledging the wishes of the electorate, Bhutto and his backers in the military created a crisis which the military then dealt with in the only way it knew how. Elite interests in West Pakistan were unwilling to give democracy and the people their mandate. While West Pakistani politicians are responsible for the constitutional failure, it was only the military leadership which was responsible for the massacres that took place in East Pakistan.

Sadly though, not many West Pakistani intellectuals or political leaders protested and opposed military action in East Pakistan. Their silence makes them complicit in the killings. India helped East Pakistan become Bangladesh in the last few months of 1971, but was not responsible for the conditions between 1947 and 1970 which led to the breakup of Pakistan. External forces can only build on local fissures and take advantage of conditions created domestically, and India did just that.

Since 1971, one has heard of the great saneha of East Pakistan, yet perhaps lessons are still left unlearned. While the separation of East Pakistan brought about democracy in the truncated Pakistan which survived, events in 1972 and 1973, once again, and despite a democratic dispensation, brought to the fold issues of greater centralisation against so-called regionalism and provincialism, with little accountability and retribution of those who were responsible for the breakup of Pakistan.

Elections and massacre 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.

Courtesy of :

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

 

Despotic Islamisation

Of the numerous Pakistani rulers, the one person who single-handedly changed Pakistan, perhaps forever, but certainly for some decades, was the military dictator, General Mohammad Ziaul Haq. In his speech to the nation on taking over power on July 5, 1977, Gen Zia said he had done so only to defend democracy and for the well-being (baqa’a) of Pakistan, that he had no political ambitions whatsoever, and that he would leave his post of Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) after three months – the infamous 90 days – and hand over power to Pakistan’s elected representatives.

 

The photographs above show Habib Jalib, a poet known for his revolutionary zeal, being attacked by policemen during a demonstration organised by the Women’s Action Forum against the Law of Evidence that was promulgated by General Ziaul Haq. The photographs were taken on February 12, 1983, by Dawn photographer, the late Azhar Jafri, and symbolise the tyranny and repression that characterised Zia’s reign over Pakistan.

Moreover, the Constitution was not in abeyance, Zia told the listening public, but certain parts of it were to be put on hold. No judicial authority could challenge the proclamations of the Martial Law setup, and the CMLA seemed to be above the law. He said he had discussed the matter with the Chief Justice, who seemed to agree with him, and the Supreme Court some months later invoked the Doctrine of Necessity to allow Zia to continue with his actions for years to come.

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The last few sentences of the 14-minute speech of this self-styled ‘soldier of Islam’, ended with the following statement: “Pakistan, which was created in the name of Islam, will continue to survive only if it stays with Islam. That is why I consider the introduction of an Islamic system as an essential prerequisite for the country.” As Shuja Nawaz argues, Zia became a “ferocious instrument of change for Pakistan”

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GENERAL Ziaul Haq, flanked by senior officers, is seen smiling at the traditional soldiers’ feast held at the Army barracks. At least in public, Zia was all smiles all the times. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives 

If one were just to list the numerous changes Zia brought about in his 11-year rule, what stands out as his legacy to Pakistan would be a type of Islamisation – of a particularly severe kind – based on Saudi Wahabism, which was quite alien to Pakistan when it came into being. Moreover, this Islamisation, supported by a severe despotic, military dictator, led to the rise of Islamists within the military, which at the time was Pakistan’s most powerful and dominant institution. He and his government gave what can only be called state sponsorship to militant Islamic Sunni sectarian groups, which resulted in a strong anti-Shiaism in Pakistan. His tenure saw the state-sponsored export of Islamic jihad to several parts of the world.

Saudi Arabia began to play a far greater role in the religious, cultural and political life of Pakistan, and has continued to do so. Zia benefited immensely from Bhutto’s overtures to the Gulf countries in the mid-1970s, as the Gulf boom solved many of Pakistan’s economic problems. Often not considered, but equally important, was the rise of the petit bourgeois trading and lower middle classes that benefitted from the dominance of a Punjabi/Arain from Jullundur who could speak the language of a constituency which had otherwise not had a voice.

Moreover, this socially conservative petit bourgeois class, which was hurt by Bhutto’s 1976 nationalisation of rice-husking and cotton-ginning factories, found in Zia a voice which strengthened the anti-Bhutto constituency. With petit bourgeois capitalism and a Saudi-Wahabi Islam, Zia gave representative voice to new social classes that became powerful over subsequent decades.

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LONDON was a favourite spot for intellectuals who tried to stay away from Zia’s Pakistan. Seen here is the iconic Faiz Ahmed Faiz at the Urdu Markaz Mushaira that was organised by the BBC in the 1980s. He is flanked here by Ahmed Faraz and Zehra Nigah on the right and Gopi Chand Narang on the left. | Photo: Faiz Ghar Archives.  

Although many liberals are uncomfortable with Zia’s Islamisation, they often ignore his gift to the lower middle classes: a political stake in the mandi towns, mainly of the Punjab. Bhutto had undertaken certain reforms that had allowed the small and medium entrepreneurs to emerge and consolidate their economic condition; Zia gave them further impetus to build their vision on Islam.

 CHANGING FORTUNES

There were at least three clear phases in Zia’s endless 11 years: from July 1977 to April 1979 when the two-men-one-grave chatter became part of public conversation; from December 1979 to around 1985 when Pakistan became a frontline state in the Afghan war; and then from March 1985 to May 1988 during which he experimented with praetorian democracy and when his own system came back to challenge him.

Although all political leaders except Begum Nasim Wali Khan had been arrested, once Bhutto was released, it became evident to Zia that Bhutto was still very popular across the country as he began his campaign for the promised elections. He always had a large public following, but after being imprisoned, his status grew further. He would probably have won the elections whenever they were held.

The case related to the murder of a political opponent was registered in 1975 when Bhutto was still the prime minister, and had been settled. Once Bhutto had been removed, Zia reopened it in September 1977 in far more hostile circumstances. And, as time passed, Zia kept postponing elections, saying it was not ‘written in the Quran’ that elections were to be held at a given date.

Election activity continued as Bhutto was arrested on murder charges, and Zia decided to do what all the three military dictators have done; hold Local Body elections, rather than national or provincial elections. The PPP won the 1979 Local Body elections, and it became clear to Zia that if ever Bhutto were to be released, he would win the general elections and was bound to hold Zia accountable for what the general had done in 1977. One grave, two men. We know what happened next. Despite clemency appeals aplenty from across the world, Zia insisted he would follow the orders of the court.

Bhutto’s judicial murder was not the only event of significance which happened in 1979 which had a huge bearing on regional and domestic circumstances. In February 1979, the Iranian Revolution gave a greater sense of identity to the global, and particularly Pakistani, Shia community, which had earlier felt marginalised in world developments. Imam Khomeini’s revolution made it difficult for a Sunni Zia, who already had close ties with Saudi Arabia, to continue to marginalise the Shias of Pakistan. While still ostracised in dominantly Sunni Pakistan, the Shias fought many battles against the ‘Sunnisation’ of Pakistan, and made their political presence felt. Yet one sees the beginnings of a marked, organised, violent, sectarian divide which still has not abetted.

In October 1979, Zia moved further towards converting Pakistan into a totalitarian state, clamping a ban on political activities and gagging the press with imprisonments and the flogging of journalists.

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Public floggings became a common sight during General Ziaul Haq’s tyrannical reign, especially in its early part. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives 

The economy did not do exceptionally well in the 1977-79 period, and one wondered, despite Bhutto having gone and the PPP in some disarray, if organised politics would contest this unfamiliar, severe, despotic government. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 put to rest all such speculation and made the way possible for many long years of Zia’s rule.

The story of the first Afghan war is well known, as are its consequences for Pakistan. Four million refugees from Afghanistan, millions of new heroin addicts amongst the Pakistani youths, billions of dollars in aid to the military to fight the American war in Afghanistan – backed with Saudi funding – and Jihad becoming a profession. While the CIA helped strengthen the ISI, the broader mullah-military alliance became entrenched for many decades, and probably still is.

Pakistan’s frontline status was milked to the core by Pakistani generals, with the emergence of categories of ‘millionaire generals’, many of whom were accused of siphoning off CIA funds meant for the Afghans, or then having made money from lucrative narcotic deals. Pakistan during its Islamisation phase under its own soldier of Islam was the single largest supplier of heroin globally.

Along with the trade in narcotics came the trade in arms that gave rise to the ‘Kalashnikov culture’ still on display in the country. The military, like never before, had become a corporate entity, involved in all kinds of activities; legal and illegal. Perhaps never before had Pakistan’s armed forces been drawn into a nexus of military might, money, corruption and privilege.

Despite all this and more, Zia needed to find some civilian or constitutional cover to prolong his rule after a certain time. An orchestrated Majlis-e-Shura was followed by an ill-worded referendum seeking the electorate’s approval of his Islamic reforms – getting an embarrassing approval rate in return. Then came the praetorian democracy in the form of partyless elections in 1985 that led to the elevation to prime ministership of a relatively unknown politician from Sindh: Mohammad Khan Junejo who was chosen by Zia to become his subservient prime minister.

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Though he came from nowhere in the wake of the partyless polls of 1985, Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo, donning a Jinnah cap here, tried to be his own man. He raised and pointed the finger a few times too many and paid the price on May 29, 1988, with the dismissal of his government – and the National Assembly. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

Even Junejo grew in confidence in this short span, and insisted that martial law be lifted. He disagreed with Zia on the end-game in Afghanistan, and, following the Ojhri Camp blasts in April 1988 which exposed the growing relative independence even of a partyless legislature, the National Assembly stood dissolved in May 1988; Zia using the Eight Amendment which was inserted into the Constitution as a prerequisite for parliament to proceed and for martial law to be lifted in 1985, and allowed Zia to dismiss parliament under Article 58-2(b). Like Islamisation, the Eighth Amendment was Zia’s gift to the Pakistani pubic, and determined all political and electoral activity for a decade after his death. Unlike his Islamisation programme, however, parliament was eventually able to rid itself of 58-2(b) although, as the recent dismissal of Nawaz Sharif shows, key elements of the Eighth Amendment still determine the fate of politics in Pakistan.

RESISTANCE

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The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), starting in August 1983, was up against a government which was trying its best to convert the very concept of democracy into something abhorrent and objectionable. Right across the country, activists came under brutal attack by police as a matter of routine. And yet, they had the last laugh, even if a rather muted one, when partyless polls were announced in 1985. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives 

No matter how despotic a ruler, and no matter how well the economy did – under Zia the economy grew on average 6.7 per cent, with remittances playing a strong distributive effect – dictatorship always gives rise to resistance. The MRD movement of 1983 and 1986, and Benazir Bhutto’s triumphant return to Pakistan in 1986 were all expressions of defiant protests. Religious minorities, in particular Ahmadis, suffered the most and were made third class citizens with few rights. Still worse, they were often unable to even protest since the environment had turned hostile against them.

Not fully recognised is the role of women’s groups, particularly that of the Women’s Action Forum, which took on the might of a misogynistic state. The punitive measure and restrictions imposed on women included the Law of Evidence, Hudood Ordinance as early as 1979, and Zina Ordinance which obscured the distinction between rape and adultery. The struggle for women’s rights provided further sustenance to the demands for greater democratic and universal rights, and women, perhaps led by Sindhiani Tehrik and WAF, symbolised resistance to a despotic dictator more than any other constituency, social, political, ethnic or religious. Women became the symbols of resistance and played a key role in the revival of democracy under Zia.

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BUSHRA Aitzaz, a human rights activist, was one of the women who were arrested during a protest organised by the Women’s Action Forum in Lahore in February 1983. The protestors were subjected to brutal violence at the hands of policemen armed with batons and teargas. | Photo: Aitzaz Ahsan Archives. 

One wonders what would have happened if Zia’s plane had not fallen from the sky on August 17, 1988, because we really don’t know who killed the general. Jo Epstein, in a very interesting article in Vanity Fair, gives a list of many elements that had reason to see Zia go. The fact the list is long only highlights how unpopular Zia really was. It included such diverse and divergent forces as the Indian RAW, Israeli Mossad, Soviet KGB, Afghan KHAD and right down to the Al-Murtaza branch of the PPP.

Perhaps elements in the American CIA might have wanted to tackle Zia, but since he was such a sycophantic ally, one wonders why they would have gone this route. Quite possibly, there were some in the military who by then had felt tired of Zia’s ways. They knew they could not just wish him away, and must have hoped for some miracle from the skies. We will never know.

But it cannot be denied that many people must have looked up to the heavens on August 17, 1988, and raised their hands in prayer.

Despotic Islamisation 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.

Courtesy: 

 

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 Misunderstood Premier

 

Liaquat Ali Khan (1895-1951)

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An influential politician and everything else that he was, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan loved gadgets of all kinds and was an avid photographer. Here he is seen getting ready to take a snap of his beloved wife, Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan, during his state visit to the United States of America in May 1950. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

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.

 

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Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Miss Fatima Jinnah (left) arriving in December 1946 at the Gul-e-Rana residence of Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan and Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan (right) in New Delhi to attend a reception given in honour of Mr Jinnah. | Photo: The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad.
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Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan with Begum Rana Liaquat and their two sons Akbar (left) and Ashraf (right). | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

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.

 

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The man that Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan was. No one ever doubted that the resolve behind the smile was ironclad. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

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.

 

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Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan (extreme right) sitting in mourning as the body of the slain Prime Minister, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, lay in state before the burial. He was assassinated on October 16, 1951, during a public rally at Rawalpindi’s Company Bagh which was later renamed Liaquat Bagh. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

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

Courtesy:

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.

 

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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 Great War 1914-18

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 suffered some 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

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1857 THE MUGHAL IMPERIAL FAMILY IN DELHI  AND THE BRITISH

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Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II (1775-1862) at his coronation

Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II (1775-1862)
The elderly Mughal Emperor–eldest but not favourite son of the Emperor Akbar Shah II–was a calligrapher, Sufi, theologian, patron of painters of miniatures, creator of gardens and a very serious mystical poet. By the 1850s he held little real day-to-day power beyond the still potent mystique attached to the Mughal dynasty and was in many ways “a chessboard king.” Though he was initially horrified by the rough and desperate sepoys who barged into his palace on 11 May 1857, Zafar ultimately agreed to give his blessings to the Uprising, seeing it as the only way to save his great dynasty from extinction. It was a decision he later came to regret bitterly.

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The Nawab Zinat Mahal Begum (1821-1882)
Zafar’s senior wife, and his only consort to come from an aristocratic background: when they married in 1840, she was nineteen while he was sixty-four. Having toppled her rival Taj Mahal Begum from the position of favourite wife and provided a son in the shape of Mirza Jawan Bakht, she worked single-mindedly to have her son–the fifteenth of Zafar’s sixteen boys–declared heir apparent. Zafar was widely regarded to be completely under her influence, but during 1857, the limits of her power over him became quickly apparent.

Taj Mahal Begum
The beautiful daughter of a humble court musician, Taj presided over the celebrations that accompanied Zafar’s accession to the throne in 1837 as his favourite wife and the head of his harem. Taj’s fall began when Zafar married the nineteen-year old Zinat Mahal in 1840. By 1857 she had been imprisoned for a suspected affair with Zafar’s nephew, Mirza Kamran, and remained bitterly alienated from both Zafar and Zinat Mahal.

Mirza Fakhru–aka Mirza Ghulam Fakhruddin (1818-1856)
When Zafar’s eldest son Mirza Dara Bakht, died from a fever in 1849, the British assumed that Zafar’s next son, Mirza Fakhru, would succeed him as heir apparent. Mirza Fakhru was a talented and popular poet and historian, but under the influence of Zinat Mahal, Zafar tried unsuccessfully to block his appointment as heir apparent in favour of Zinat’s fifteen-year old son, Mirza Jawan Bakht. Mirza Fakhru died in 1856, probably from cholera, but Palace gossip attributed the death to poisoning.

Mirza Mughal (1821-1857)
Zafar’s fifth son by a sayyida (descendant of the Prophet) of aristocratic birth named Sharaf ul-Mahal Sayyidani, who was a senior figure in Zafar’s harem. Mirza Mughal rose to prominence at court as a protege of Zinat Mahal after the disgrace of Mirza Fakhru in 1852 and was appointed qiladar (fort keeper). After the death of Mirza Fakhru in 1856 he was the oldest of Zafar’s surviving legitimate sons, and may at this point have contacted the discontented sepoys in the Company’s army. Certainly, from 12 May onwards he became the principal rebel leader in the royal family, and worked with great industry to keep the Delhi administration running amid the chaos of the Uprising and siege.

Mirza Khizr Sultan (1834-1857)
Zafar’s ninth son, the illegitimate child of a Palace concubine. Aged twenty-three in 1857, he was renowned for his physical beauty and had some capacity as a poet and marksman, but after throwing in his lot with the rebels in 1857, he did little to distinguish himself and ran away in fear from the battle of Badli Ki Serai, so causing a panic among the rebel troops. During the siege, he earned himself a reputation for corruption, and is frequently criticized in the sources for making arrests and collecting taxes from the town’s bankers without authority to do so.

Mirza Abu Bakr (died 1857)
Mirza Abu Bakr was the eldest son of Mirza Fakhru and Zafar’s oldest surviving legitimate grandson; he was also the principal badmash, or ruffian, in the imperial family. Within a few days of the outbreak, Mirza Abu Bakr began appearing in petitions and complaints to the Emperor, accused of whoring and drunkenness, whipping his servants, beating up watchmen, and casually attacking any policeman who tried to rein him in. He took nominal charge of the rebel cavalry, looting Gurgaon and various suburbs of Delhi, before leading the disastrous expedition to Meerut which ended in the rebel defeat at the Hindan Bridge on 30 and 31 May.

Mirza Jawan Bakht (1841-1884)
Zafar’s favourite son, and the only child he had by Zinat Mahal. Though he was the fifteenth of his sixteen male offsprings, Zafar was determined to try to make him heir apparent. Spoilt and selfish, Mirza Jawan Bakht had few supporters other than his parents, and took little interest in his studies. During the Uprising, he was kept away from the rebels by his mother, who hoped that after the sepoys’ defeat, her son’s succession would be assured.

Mirza Ilahe Bakhsh
Father-in-law of Mirza Fakhru, grandfather of Mirza Abu Bakr, and one of the leaders of the pro-British faction in the Palace, both before and after 1857. He was in close contact with William Hodson throughout the siege, and was instrumental in persuading Zafar to surrender after the fall of the city. In the weeks that followed, he was responsible for identifying which of his relatives had sympathised with the rebels, and having guaranteed his own life, at the cost of most of his family,. including his own grandson, he became known as the “Traitor of Delhi.”

THE EMPEROR’S HOUSEHOLD

Hakim Ahsanullah Khan
A highly intelligent, wily and cultured man. The Hakim was Zafar’s most trusted confidant and was appointed the prime minister and personal physician. Before 1857, the Hakim had an uneasy relationship with Zinat Mahal, but they made common cause during 1857, uniting against the rebel army and opening communication with the British. When his letters were discovered by the rebel sepoys, they tried to kill him, but he was protected by Zafar. The Hakim continued to press Zafar not to commit himself to the rebel cause, and to surrender himself to the British. When Zafar ultimately did so, the Hakim betrayed him by providing evidence against him at the trial, in return for his own pardon.

Mahbub Ali Khan (died 1857)
The Chief Eunuch of the Palace and Zinat Mahal’s notoriously ruthless “enforcer” beyond the walls of the zenana. Like his mistress, he was deeply suspicious of the Uprising, and he was a leading member of the pro-British faction in the Palace after the outbreak. His death on 14 June 1857 followed a prolonged illness, but was widely rumoured to be the result of poisoning.

Mirza Asadullah Khan “Ghalib” (1797-1869)
The greatest lyric poet in Urdu and from 1854–following the death of his rival Zauq–Poet Laureate of Mughal Delhi. A mystical Sufi by inclination, self consciously rakish and aristocratic by temperament, Ghalib in his writings provides some of the most sophisticated and melancholy records of the destruction of Mughal Delhi in the siege and fall of the city in 1857.

Zahir Dehlavi (1835-1911)
An attendant to Zafar at the Mughal court who had been working in the Fort since his thirteenth birthday. By 1857, he was twenty-two and had risen to the post of Darogah of the Mahi Maraatib, or Keeper of the Dynastic Fish Standard of the Mughals. A pupil of Zauq, he was a highly polished and cultured courtier and poet. His Dastan-i-Ghadr, which has never been previously translated or used in any English language account of the Uprising, gives the fullest and richly detailed surviving account of the course of the siege and Uprising from the point of view of the Palace.

THE REBEL ARMY

General Bakht Khan
A subahdar of artillery prior to 1857, Bakht Khan was a much garlanded and battle-hardened veteran of the Afghan wars. A tall, portly and heavily built man with huge handlebar moustaches and sprouting sideburns, Bakht Khan had been elected general by the Bareilly troops and arrived in Delhi with a reputation as both an administrator and an effective military leader. When he arrived in Delhi halfway through the siege, on 2 July 1857, it initially looked as if Bakht Khan and his 3,000 men would bring a swift victory to the rebels, but the General’s tactless treatment of other rebel leaders–and particularly of Mirza Mughal–quickly made him enemies, as did his “Wahhabi” religious views. By the middle of August, his failure to dent the British defences led to his demotion from rebel Commander-in-Chief.

General Sudhari Singh and Brigade Major Hira Singh
The leaders of the Nimach Brigade and the principal rivals of Bakht Khan. They refused to accept the latter’s authority and worked to undermine his position, especially after he left their troops to their fate when ambushed by Nicholson’s column at Najafgarh on 25 August.

Brigade Major Gauri Shankar Sukul
Leader of the Haryana Regiment who became the most important British mole and agent provocateur within the rebel ranks.

Maulvi Sarfraz Ali
Bakht Khan’s spiritual mentor, the “Wahhabi” preacher, Maulvi was soon known as “the imam of the Mujahedin.” Prior to the Uprising, he had spent many years in Delhi and was well-connected to both the court and the city. He had been one of the first clerics to preach jihad against the British in the days leading up to the outbreak, and as the siege progressed and the number of jihadis increased, his influence as a rebel leader grew.

OTHER DELHIWALLAHS

Munshi Jiwan Lal
Prior to the outbreak of the Uprising, Jiwan Lal had long been the hugely fat Mir Munshi (Chief Assistant) of Sir Thomas Metcalfe at the British Residency. Although restricted to the cellar of his house during much of the course of the siege, Jiwan Lal ran a highly effective intelligence operation from his hideaway, every day sending out “two Brahmins and two Jats for the purpose of obtaining news of the doings of the rebels from every quarter,” which he in due course passed on to William Hodson, the British chief of intelligence on the Ridge.

Mufti Sadruddin Khan –“Azurda” (died 1868)
Mufti Sadruddin Azurda was a close friend of both Zafar and Ghalib and played an important role as bridge between the British and Mughal elites in the early days of the British ascendancy in Delhi. For thirty years Azurda balanced his roles as chief Muslim judge (Sadr Amin) in Delhi, leading literary figure at court and prominent madrasa teacher with a mild Anglophilia. But, in 1857, alienated by the Company’s encouragement of missionaries, he threw in his lot with the rebels. A natural mediator, he was responsible for reconciling the jihadis, the court and the sepoys during the crisis over cow killing which took place during the ‘Id of 1 August 1857′, so avoiding a potential civil war within the rebel ranks.

Muinuddin Husain Khan
At the outbreak of the Uprising, Muinuddin Husain Khan was the Thanadar, or Head Police Officer at Paharganj police station, a little to the southwest of the walled city.

Sarvar ul-Mulk
A young Mughal nobleman, probably aged around twelve at the time of the outbreak. During the conflict, his Afghan tutor became a jihadi and his father had to defend the family house against the assaults of plundering sepoys. The family escaped from the city just after 14 September, and made it safely to Hyderabad, where Sarvar ul-Mulk eventually wrote a fine description of the siege in his autobiography, My Life.

THE BRITISH

The Metcalfes

Sir Charles Metcalfe (1785-1846)
The first of the Metcalfes to come to Delhi, in his first spell–initially as assistant to Sir David Ochterloney from 1806, and as Resident from 1811–Charles Metcalfe had fitted in with the tone set by his principal, building himself a house in the Mughal Shalimar Gardens and fathering three sons by a Sikh bibi who (according to family tradition), he married “by Indian rites.” By the time of his return to Delhi as Resident in 1826, Metcalfe had however jettisoned his bibi and begun to take a very different attitude to India and its Mughal rulers. “I have renounced my former allegiance to the house of Timur,” he announced to Lord Bentinck in a letter of 1832, shortly after he had left Delhi to take up position as Member of the Council in Calcutta.

Sir Thomas Metcalfe (1795-1853)
Sir Thomas arrived in Delhi in 1813 as assistant to his elder brother, Sir Charles Metcalfe, and stayed there for his entire career, rising to become Resident in 1835. A very particular and fastidious man, Metcalfe dedicated much of his professional life to negotiating a succession settlement that would allow the Company to expel the royal family from the Red Fort on the death of Zafar. He had some affection, but little real respect for the man he was determined should be the last of the Timurid line. Although to Zafar’s face he was always polite, in private, he was less generous. “Zafar is mild and talented,” he wrote, “but lamentably weak and vacillating, and impressed with a very erroneous notion of his own importance.” Having negotiated a succession agreement with Mirza Fakhru that entailed the Mughals leaving the Red Fort, Metcalfe died in 1853 from a digestive disorder that his doctors believed was caused by poison. His family believed the poison was administered on the orders of Zinat Mahal.

Sir Theophilus Metcalfe –“Theo” (1828-1883)
In 1857 Theo Metcalfe was a junior magistrate in the Company’s service, and a very different figure from his father: Where Sir Thomas was reserved and particular; Theo was sociable and expansive, and also, when he wished to be, extremely charming. If his father liked solitude and disliked the business of entertaining, Theo was noisy and convivial, and enjoyed parties, riding horses and dogs. If his father was resolutely self-disciplined and law abiding, Theo tended to cut corners and get into what his father described as “scrapes.” At the outbreak of the Uprising on 11 May 1857, Theo was one of the only British officials within the walls successfully to make his escape, and after joining the Delhi Field Force he took the lead in the bloodthirsty work of revenge.

Sir Edward Campbell (1822-1882)
Son-in-law of Sir Thomas Metcalfe and Prize Agent during the siege of Delhi. Campbell had been a protege of Sir Charles Napier, the former Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in India, with whom Sir Thomas Metcalfe had had a serious disagreement. Moreover, despite his title, Campbell was more or less penniless, all of which led Sir Thomas initially to try and block Campbell’s engagement to his daughter Georgina (known in the family as “GG”). Campbell’s regiment, the 60th Rifles, was one of the first to try out the new Enfield rifles; after his regiment mutinied, Campbell joined the Delhi Field Force on the Ridge and at the end of the siege was voted Prize Agent, responsible for administering the legalised looting of the captured city, a job for which his gentle and religious temperament was quite unsuited. 

THE BRITISH IN DELHI

Reverend Midgeley John Jennings (died 1857)
Padre Jennings had come out to India in 1832, and though initially posted to various quiet hill stations, had long dreamt of opening a mission in Delhi and getting stuck into some serious work as “Missionary to the Heathen.”  He finally got the job of chaplain in the Mughal capital in 1852 and moved straight into the front line, the Red Fort itself, having been invited to share the Lahore Gate lodgings of Captain Douglas, Commander of the Palace Guard. His unctuous yet tactless manner won him few friends, and he was regarded as a “bigot” by much of the British community in Delhi. The people of Delhi disliked him even more, especially after he succeeded in converting two prominent Delhi Hindus–Master Ramchandra and Chiman Lal–in 1852. Jennings was personally responsible for convincing many of the people of Delhi that the Company intended to convert them, by force if necessary.

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Robert and Harriet Tytler

Robert and Harriet Tytler (Robert died 1872; Harriet died 1907)
Tytler was a veteran of the 38th Native Infantry and an officer of the old school who was close to his sepoys, concerned for their well-being and completely fluent in Hindustani. Tytler appears t have been a kind and sensitive man, a widower with two little children who had recently remarried, this time to the brisk and resilient Harriet. Harriet was half his age and as fluent in Hindustani as her husband. Together the two Tytlers pursued their amateur artistic enthusiasms, and unexpectedly for an army couple–became pioneering photographers. At the outbreak, the couple escaped from Delhi to Ambala, where they eventually joined the Delhi Field Force. Harriet’s memoirs are among the best sources on life on the Ridge during the siege of Delhi, and on the fate of the city after the fall.

Edward Vibart
In 1857 Edward Vibart of the 54th Bengal Native Infantry was a nineteen-year old company commander in Delhi, from an Indian army family: his father was a cavalry officer in Kanpur. During the Uprising, Vibart’s father was killed at the Kanpur massacre, while the son narrowly escaped from the city at the outbreak and survived to take part in the siege and recapture. His memoirs, and particularly his letters, are one of the best sources for the atrocities committed by the British during the taking of the city and during the extended reprisals that followed.

THE DELHI FIELD FORCE

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General Sir Archdale Wilson

General Sir Archdale Wilson (1803-1874)
A small, neat, cautious gentleman of fifty-four; Archdale Wilson was one of the station commanders at Meerut at the outbreak of the Mutiny, and later led a column from the garrison which defeated Mirza Abu Bakr at the Hindan Bridge on 30 and 31 May. He rendezvoused with the Delhi Field Force at Alipore shortly before the battle of Badli ki Serai on 8 June. Following the death of General Barnard and the resignation of General Reed, he took over command of British forces at the siege of Delhi from 17 July. He quickly put in place a defensive strategy, much criticised at the time but which successfully preserved British strength until reinforcements arrived shortly before the assault on 14 September. During the taking of the city, Wilson’s nerve finally failed him, and at one point John Nicholson threatened to shoot him if he should order a retreat.

 

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Brigadier General John Nicholson

Brigadier General John Nicholson (1821-1857)
A taciturn Ulster Protestant, Nicholas was said to have personally decapitated a local robber chieftain, then kept the man’s head on his desk. He had “a commanding presence, some six feet, two inches in height, with a long black beard, dark grey eyes with black pupils which under excitement would dilate like a tiger’s. For reasons that remain unclear, Nicholson inspired a religious sect, the “Nikal Seyn,” who apparently regarded him as an incarnation of Vishnu.
During the Uprising Nicholson became a legend among the British in India. His mixture of piety, gravity and courage, combined with his merciless capacity for extreme brutality were exactly the qualities needed to put heart into the British troops on the Ridge. There were few who remained immune to the hero-worship of this great imperial psychopath. Shortly after his arrival at the siege, Nicholson led a forced march to ambush a column of sepoys at Najafgarh on 25 August. On 14 September he personally led the assault on the city and was mortally wounded the same day.

 

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William Hodson

William Hodson (1821-1858)
Prior to 1857, William Hodson had been regarded by most of his colleagues as a black sheep. Hodson was the bright, university-educated son of a clergyman, and had risen rapidly to be Adjutant of the new Corps of Guides. His fall from grace was equally sudden. In 1854, Hodson was relieved of his command after an investigation declared that he had embezzled regimental funds. During the Uprising, he founded an irregular cavalry regiment known as Hodson’s Horse, and ran the remarkably efficient British intelligence service on the Delhi Ridge.
On his own authority he negotiated the surrender of Zafar and Zinat Mahal, and on 21 September he brought them captive into Delhi. The following day he went back to bring in princes Mirza Mughal, Khizr Sultan and Abu Bakr; then, having separated them from their followers, disarmed them. He told them to strip naked and shot all three dead at point-blank range. He was killed a few months later, in March 1858, at the siege of Lucknow.

OTHER BRITISH OFFICIALS

Lord Canning (1821-1862)
Canning was a handsome and industrious–if somewhat reserved–Tory politician in his early forties, who had accepted the appointment of Governor General of India ony because of his frustration at his consistent failure to gain a senior Cabinet berth in London. Before his departure he had had no previous interest in India, and having only arrived there in February 1856 hadf yet to leave the heat and damp of Calcutta by the time of the outbreak. However, none of this prevented him from taking a confidently dismissive attitude towards “the farce of Mughal pretensions” and putting in place plans to depose the Mughals within a few weeks of his arrival. After the suppression of the Uprising, he attempted to limit the vindictiveness of the bloody British retribution, with mixed results.

Sir John Lawrence (1811-1879)
Younger brother of Sir Henry Lawrence, who in 1857 was Chief Commissioner in Avadh. Sir John was a former deputy of Sir Thomas Metcalfe in Delhi. John Lawrence had risen rapidly through the ranks of the Company’s civil service thanks to his reputation for hard work and efficiency, and in 1853, he was made Chief Commissioner of the newly conquered Punjab. He forbade his officers from going up to the hills for the hot weather, and made known his disapproval of “a cakery man,” by which he meant someone who, besides presumably liking cakes, “pretended to much elegance and refinement.” In 1857, he proved to be arguably the most capable of all the British officials in North India, disarming mutinous sepoys, raising new irregular regiments and quickly pacifying the Punjab so that the maximum number of troops could be sent to the Delhi Ridge. After the fall of the city, he worked hard to minimise the scale of the retribution, and personally saved Mughal Delhi from a plan to level the entire metropolis.

By courtesy:

 

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