Pakistan focuses the concern of quite a few chancelleries and international organizations today. Not only is it a nation that possesses nuclear weapons without having a stable political system, the military having held the reins of power on a number of occasions since independence in 1947, but is also wracked by Islamist forces, many of which have links with the Afghan Taliban, Al Qaeda and possibly the Islamic State. A serious compounding factor, the civil and especially the military authorities show considerable ambivalence with regard to certain Islamist groups that they view as allies against India in Kashmir, but also in Afghanistan, where NATO, now on its way out, has been mired in war since 2001 against the Taliban and groups based in Pakistan where Al Qaeda leaders are suspected of hiding.
Western fears about Pakistan have, however, been a poor advisor for sociological and political analysis, portrayals of the country too often being oversimplified. This is not to say that certain trends are not alarming, but in attempting to explain them, it is important to discard preconceived notions and avoid culturist conflations. The present book sets out to decipher this complexity. It is not a work of field research per se, but an essay based over fifteen years of familiarity with Pakistan.
The new nation was thus born with an image of India as a villain, a Satan, and a monster next door, out to devour the newborn state (Mohammad Waseem, Politics and the State in Pakistan, Islamabad, National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, 1994, p.99)
Since the beginning, Pakistan has been confronted with the monumental task of formulating a national identity distinct from India. Born out of a schism of the old civilization of India, Pakistan has debated over the construction of a culture of its own, a culture which will not only be different from that of India but one that the rest of the world can understand. (M. Ali, “In Search of Identity”, Dawn Magazine, 7 May 2000).
As the two excerpts above indicate, Pakistan was born of a partition that overdetermined its subsequent trajectory not only because of the difficult relations it developed with India, but also because this parting of ways defined the terms of its collective quest for identity. Indeed, the 1947 Partition was the outcome of an intense struggle as well as a trauma. It grew out of a separatist ideology which crystallized at the end of the nineteenth century among the Urdu-speaking Muslim intelligentsia of North India, whose key figure was none other than Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder in 1877 of the Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College in Aligarh, a little town not far from Delhi. The Aligarh movement–as it was to be remembered in history–turned to politics in the early decades of the twentieth century when it became the crucible of the Muslim League. This party, founded in 1906, was then separatist in the sense that it obtained from the British Raj, a separate electorate for the Indian Muslims. The demand for a separate state emerged much later, in the 1940s, under the auspices of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, although in formulating it he did not outline contours of the future Pakistan until the last year of the Raj, nor did he fully grasp the traumatic implications Partition would have.
The 1947 Partition resulted in unprecedented violence. One million people died and about ten million others, crossed borders. The plural is in fact required here because Pakistan was then made up of two wings (and therefore had two borders with India), the two areas of the Raj where Muslims were in majority. East Pakistan (made up of East Bengal) and West Pakistan (made up of West Punjab, Sindh, the North West Frontier Province, the area that was to become Baluchistan, and a few princely states). Violence and migration were of such magnitude that this tragic episode can be regarded as the first example of ethnic cleansing in history (indeed, the word safai, cleaning was used at that time by the local actors). Not only millions of Muslims from East Punjab and Hindus from East Bengal crossed over and settled down in the western part of their now truncated former province, but Muslims and Hindus of both countries took refuge in the country where their community was a majority. The circumstances in which Pakistan was born are thus largely responsible not only for the way it has related to India, but also for its complicated trajectory.
Three Wars, Three Constitutions and Three Coups
The history of Pakistan over the last sixty-five years had been marked by chronic instability due to internal and external factors. In 1947, the British awarded Pakistan the status of a dominion. Under the aegis of M.A. Jinnah, the new Governor General, the 1935 Government of India Act became its interim constitution, minus its initial references to imperial control. It would take nine years for the country to give itself a constitution. In the course of this endeavour, political parties eventually lost the initiative as a result of their own internal divisions and the hunger for power of senior bureaucrats. In 1954, one of them, Ghulam Mohammad, the then Governor General who had taken over from Khwaja Nazimuddin, the successor of Jinnah (who had died in September 1948), dissolved the Constituent Assembly (with the consent of the Supreme Court) and had another one elected. The 1956 Constitution was not particularly democratic, but it could not be fully implemented anyway since another bureaucrat Iskander Mirza, and then the Commander-in-Chief of the army, Ayub Khan, seized power in 1958. Till 1969, the latter established a military regime that claimed to modernize Pakistan in the framework of Martial Law and then, after 1962, of a new constitution. This second constitution was authoritarian, but did not completely disregard political pluralism, especially after 1965 when Ayub Khan further liberalized his regime. But eventually, after months of unrest, he had to resign in favour of another general, the chief of the army, Yahya Khan in 1969.
By the end of 1970, Yahya Khan, having few other options, gave Pakistan its first opportunity to vote. The Bengalis of East Pakistan seized it to win the elections by massively supporting the Awami League, a party whose nationalism had been exacerbated by years of exploitation under the thumb of West Pakistan. Its leader, Mujibur Rahman asked for a confederal system that would give East Pakistan considerable autonomy. But almost all West Pakistanis–including the winner of elections in Punjab and Sindh, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)- rejected this option and supported repression. Civil war ensued and resulted in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971-after a military intervention of India, New Delhi arguing that violence and flow of refugees to West Bengal had to stop.
The arrival in power of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to whom Yahya Khan handed the reins in 1971, marked the beginning of the first democratic transition. Not only was the army subjected to a civilian government, but a third parliamentarian Constitution was promulgated in 1973. However, Bhutto displayed such authoritarian tendencies that the federal dimension of this text was stillborn and the social reforms (including land reform) that the PPP had promised were not truly implemented. Finally Bhutto rigged the 1977 election, a move that resulted in mass protests from the opposition. These events provided the army with an excuse to seize power once again led by General Ziaul Haq.
The second military coup gave birth to a dictatorial regime and even a police state: in contrast to the Ayub years, scores of politicians were sent to jail, opponents were tortured, and Bhutto was even executed in 1979. Zia also instrumentalised Islam in order to legitimize his rule. His Islamization policy affected all areas of life: education (with development of Quranic schools), law (with the setting of Sharia courts), and the fiscal system (with the transformation of zakat and ushr into compulsory state coordinated contributions). This policy gained momentum in the context of a new kind of war: the anti-Soviet jihad from 1979-88 in Afghanistan, its foot soldiers being mostly the Afghan Mujahideen who had found refuge in Pakistan. While Zia, like Ayub Khan resigned himself to seeking the support of Pakistani citizens through elections, he never gave up his uniform and it was not until his mysterious death in 1988 that Pakistan’s second democratic transition became possible.
This transition was not as substantial as the first one. While the generals returned to their barracks, they continued to be in charge of key policies regarding Afghanistan, Kashmir (India at large) and defense (including the nuclear program. They were also in a position to oust prime ministers one after another between 1988-99. Benazir Bhutto who had won the 1988 elections, benefitting from the PPP political machine and her family’s prestige-partly based on her father’s martyrdom--was the first prime minister to be dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in the 1990s. She was replaced by her archenemy, Nawaz Sharif, after army supervised elections in 1990. But Sharif alienated Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the army as well. He was dismissed in 1993 and replaced by Benazir again. She herself was eased out in 1996, this time by the President Farooq Leghari, enabling Nawaz Sharif to stage a comeback. The 1997 elections were different from the three previous ones because they gave Sharif’s party, the PML(N), the two-thirds majority that allows the prime minister to reform the Constitution: the thirteenth amendment re-established the parliamentary nature of the Constitution and deprived the president of the power to dismiss the prime minister and to dissolve both the national and provincial assemblies. But Sharif misused power. He did not respect either the independence of the judiciary or freedom of press. Furthermore, he alienated the army-including the chief of the army, Pervez Musharraf–by bowing to American pressures during the Kargil war.
In October 1999, Musharraf’s coup brought the army back into power. He then militarized the state and the economy more than his predecessors. Not only were (ex-) army officers appointed to positions normally reserved for civilians, but their business activities benefited from the patronage of the state more than ever before. While Zia had profited from the anti-Soviet US-sponsored war in Afghanistan, Musharraf exploited the fact that Pakistan had become a frontline state again during the war the US once again sponsored this time against the Taliban and Al Qaeda after the 11 September attacks in 2001. While Musharraf–like Ayub Khan-was ousted from power in 2007-08 in the wake of street demonstrations, those who protested so effectively this time were affiliated with a specific institution, the judiciary-hence the fear of ‘a government of judges” expressed by supporters of parliamentarianism after democracy was restored,
The 2008 elections brought back the same parties-and the same families, the Bhuttos and the Sharifs, both freshly returned from exile-as in the 1980s-90s. Benazir was assassinated in December 2007, but her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, was elected as President after the PPP won the 2008 elections. The new government, with the support of key opposition parties, restored the parliamentary nature of the 1973 Constitution that Musharraf, like Zia had presidentialised. Not only federalism but also the independence of the judiciary were at last in a position to prevail. However, the civilians failed to reassert their authority over the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the military intelligence agency that since the 1980s has become a state within the state, and the army retained the upper hand on key policies such as relations with the Taliban, the Kashmir issue and the nuclear program. The army justified its role by arguing that the country was facing huge challenges ranging from the unleashing of ethno-nationalist violence in Baluchistan and Karachi to the rise of both sectarian and jihadi Islamist movements, some of which were affiliated with Al Qaeda and attacked the Pakistan state because of its association with the US in the global war on terror.
However, the escalation of violence did not prevent Parliament from completing its five year term in March 2013 and citizens from voting in large numbers two months later, mostly in favour of Nawaz Sharif, who in June became the prime minister for the third time.
The alternation of phases of democratization and military rule every ten years or so is not the only the source of instability in Pakistan. The recurrence of armed conflict is another cause. Some of these conflicts come under the category of civil war, such as the 1970-71 in Bengal or during the 1973-77 insurgency in Baluchistan-and the war that started in the mid 2000s in that area, Others have primarily opposed Pakistan and India, overtly or covertly. As early as 1947-48, both countries fought each other in Kashmir. In 1965, Pakistan attacked India, whereas in 1971, the conflict was a sequel to the the movement for Bangladesh. The most recent conflict, the 1999 Kargil war (named after a town in Jammu and Kashmir) was short and circumscribed.
Thus the number of military coups (three-four if one includes Yahya Khan’s martial law episode in 1969-70) is equal to the number of wars with India (three-four if one includes the Kargil war). This is not just by chance. In fact, Pakistan’s political instability is to some degree overdetermined by the regional context, and more especially by the sentiment of vulnerability of Pakistan vis a vis India.
Between India and Afghanistan: Caught in a Pincer Movement?
In the beginning, this sentiment (which would be exploited by the army subsequently) stemmed from the conditions in which Partition took place. Pakistan resented the slow and incomplete manner in which India gave the country its share of the military equipment and the treasury of the defunct British Raj. Pakistan also felt cheated by the way the Kashmir question was settled. On 15 August 1947, Jammu and Kashmir was one of the last princely states that was still undecided about its future. The Maharaja-a Hindu-and the main party-the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference-were not willing to join Pakistan in spite of the fact that the state was comprised of a majority of Muslim subjects. But they did not support accession to India either, fearing Pakistani retaliation.*
*Jammu and Kashmir was largely connected to the rest of India via roads which had now become a part of Pakistan.
On 22 October 1947, 5000 paramilitaries from the Pashtun tribal belt who were not in uniform but were supported by Pakistani officers infiltrated Jammu and Kashmir and established a parallel government ( the government of Azad Kashmir-free Kashmir) while they were approaching Srinagar, the state capital.*
• The Pakistan army formally entered the war in April 1948.
The Maharajah turned to India and Nehru sent troops on 27 October. Three days later, the government of Pakistan deployed its own soldiers, but India’s military superiority enabled New Delhi not only to retain the Valley of Srinagar, but also to reconquer key positions such a Baramulla. Certainly, when the matter was brought before the UN Security Council, India was asked to organize a referendum in Jammu and Kashmir to let the local people decide whether they wanted to remain part of the Indian Union or not. But this referendum was supposed to take place after the withdrawal of Pakistan’s troops-which did not occur. In fact the Line of Ceasefire that was officially agreed in the truce signed on 1 January 1949 gave Pakistan control of a fraction of the erstwhile princely state that was divided in two. Azad Kashmir and the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, which were amalgamated to form the Northern Areas. These regions were directly administered by the central government. Most Pakistanis considered thatwithout Kashmir as part of their country, Partition remained unachieved.
Furthermore, some of them feared that India had not resigned itself to the very fact of Partition and that New Delhi would try to reunite with the subcontinent one day or another. Not only did the Hindu nationalists dream of Akhand Bharat (undivided India), but statements made by a few Congress leaders lent themselves to a similar interpretation. Party President, Acharya Kripalani declared in 1947, Neither the Congress nor the nation has given up its claim of a united India. Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbhai Patel concurred when he said, Sooner than later, we shall again be united in common allegiance to our country.*
*Cited in Muhammad Ayub Khan, Friends not Masters. A Political Autobiography, Karachi, Oxford University Press, 1967 p.136. The very fact that Ayub cites them in his autobiography shows that one of Pakistan’s most important leaders believed these words to be true and/or used them to cultivate obsessive fears in his own country. Patel, according to another minister of the Indian government, Abdul Kalam Azad, was “convinced that the new State of Pakistan was not viable and could not last”-even though, “he was the greatest supporter of partition” among Congressmen, “out of irritation and injured vanity” (Abul Kalam Azad, India Wins Freedom, Hyderabad, Orient Longman 1988, p.225). Nehru himself at one point mentioned the possibility of creating a “confederation” between India and Pakistan, something the Pakistanis found utterly unacceptable (cited in Aparna Pande, Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, London and New York, Routledge, 2011, p.30).
The fear of India was reinforced by an encirclement complex due to the attitude demonstrated by Afghanistan. In the early 1940s, the Kabul Government had asked the British upon their departure to allow the Pashtun tribes of the Raj to choose between claiming independence and becoming part of Afghanistan. Pakistan was not an option. At the same time, the Muslim League was disturbed by Kabul’s unwillingness to recognize the Durand Line as an international border. In 1947, this attitude prevented the Pakistanis from having distinct borders, its territory not being clearly defined (or stabilized)on the eastern side either. These difficulties harked back to the pervasiveness of Pashtun nationalism on both sides of the Durand Line. Certainly, this nationalism remained fuzzy. It was not clear whether its supporters were in favour of a separate country made up of Pashtun tribes or whether they were willing to incorporate Pakistan’s Pashtuns into Afghanistan. Whatever their agenda, it was bound to undermine the project of Pakistan’s founders. The latter felt especially threatened because Pashtun nationalists developed excellent relations with India. The main architect of Pashtun nationalism under the Raj in the North West Frontier Province, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, was a staunch supporter of the Congress and was known as “Frontier Gandhi” because of his close relationship to the Mahatma.
In June 1947, Afghan Prime Minister Muhammad Hashim Khan declared, if an independent Pukhtoonistan cannot be established, then the Frontier Province should join Afghanistan. Neither of these options came about and so in September 1947, Afghanistan was the only country that voted against Pakistan’s admission to the UN. The Afghan representative to the UN declared then declared that his country could not recognize the North West Frontier as part of Pakistan so long as the people of the North West Frontier have not been given the opportunity free from any kind of influence-I repeat, free from any kind of influence–to determine for themselves whether they wish to be independent or to become a part of Pakistan.*
*cited in the Aparna Pande, Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy.
One month later, Afghanistan softened its stance but made three demands in exchange: that the Pashtuns of Pakistan should be granted a proper province, that Pakistan should give Afghanistan access to the sea, and that both countries should sign a treaty according to which they agreed to remain neutral if one of them fought a war against a third country. None of these demands were met.
The leaders of Pakistan were convinced that Kabul and New Delhi tried to take their country in a pincer movement, as Ayub Khan confided in his autobiography. Indeed, in 1949, at a time when Afghanistan formally rejected the Durand Line, many Indian cities celebrated Pashtunistan Day, which Kabul had decided to celebrate every year on 31 August.
The fear of encirclement, and more especially of India, partly explains the role of the Pakistani army in the public sphere. Indeed, the military could project themselves as the saviours of a vulnerable country, and this argument was likely to appear even more convincing in the post-jinnah context when the political personnel looked weak, factionalized and corrupt. But there are other factors to the democratic deficit affecting Pakistan since the 1950s. To make sense of it, one needs to understand the way civilians related to power. Pakistani politicians not only occasionally collaborated with military rulers, compromising their reputation, but when they were in charge of the government they also tended to display authoritarian tendencies. Bhutto rigged the 1977 elections and many of his successors as prime ministers showed little respect for the independence of the judiciary and sometimes even for freedom of the press.
Pakistan’s democratic deficit can also be measured by the centralization of the state. Even when a federal constitution was (re-) introduced, the provinces were never given the autonomy they demanded, whereas almost all of them-East Bengal, West Punjab, Sindh and the NWFP—had experienced form of self-administration under the Raj and coincided by and large with an ethnic-linguistic group.
Centralization, once again may be explained by the need for a strong unified state to face India. However, on that front too, one should not focus mainly on this external factor. Certainly, the 1940 Lahore resolution through which the Muslim League officially spelled out its separatist agenda, recognized a prominent role for the provinces of the country envisioned, but their autonomy was drastically reduced as early as 1946 in the last pre-Partition blueprint of Pakistan as Jinnah imagined it. And in 1947, the citizens of the new country were required to identify not only with one religion-Islam-but also with one language-Urdu, an idiom that became the country’s official tongue even though it was spoken only by a small minority.
These developments reflected sociological dynamics. The idea of Pakistan was primarily conceived by an Urdu-speaking upper caste elite group fearing social decline. Made up of aristocratic literati, this group embodied the legacy (and the nostalgia) of the Mughal Empire. Their ancestors had prospered thanks to land and administrative status the emperors had given them between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. But in the nineteenth century, colonization called the privileges into question, not only because the British took over power from some of the Muslim rulers, but also because they did not trust the Muslims (who were seen as the former dominant group) as much as they did the Hindus.
Furthermore, the Hindus asserted themselves at the expense of Muslims because of their growing role in the economy (through trade and then industrial activities), because of their adhesion to the university system, which resulted in their increasingly important role in the administration, and because of their political influence that developed parallel to the democratization of the Raj almost in proportion to their numbers. The separatism of the Urdu-speaking elite crystallized in this context in the nineteenth century and was subsequently exacerbated (especially in the (1930s-1940s) in reaction to the fear of losing their traditional status-eventually prompting them to work towards obtaining a state to govern. The Muslim League leaders argued that they demanded Pakistan to protect Islam from Hinduism, but they also(and more importantly) did it to protect their interests from the growing influence of the Hindus,
The following pages will elaborate on this sociological interpretation of the Pakistan project, which is not new. Hamza’s Alavi developed a similar analysis In the 1970s-1980s at a time when Paul Brass argues in a similar vein that the League’s claim that Islam was in danger in the 1939s-40s was a political ploy used by elite groups to mobilize Muslim masses in support of their idea of Pakistan. But the present book’s approach is less Marxist than Alavi’s reading and less instrumentalist than Brass’s interpretation for the simple reason that it emphasizes the weight of the cultural and societal parameters that defined the mentality of the Muslim elite during the Raj.* More importantly, this book offers a reading of the Pakistan trajectory that focuses on the implications of these sociological factors for the country since its creation.
*Regarding Alavi’s approach, it may be sufficient to say that his definition of the “salariat”-the key actor behind the Pakistan project in Alavi’s view-is too restrictive. As will be shown, the idea of Pakistan was crafted by an intelligentsia that was not only motivated by vested interests, but by a specific upper caste Islamic culture. This is why an interpretation of Muslim separatism in terms of class needs to be supplemented by an analysis taking societal dimensions into account.
The history of Pakistan has been overdetermined by three sets of tensions all rooted in contradictions that were already apparent in the 1940s. The first one can be summarized by the equation Pakistan = Islam + Urdu. While all the ethnic groups of Pakistan could identify with one variant or another of Islam, they could not easily give up their linguistic identity, all the more because it often epitomized full-fledged national sentiments (or movements). Hence a first contradiction between the central (ising) government and centrifugal forces (which sometimes have given rise to separatist movements).
The second tension pertains to another form of concentration of power that the army officers and the politicians have developed over the course of time. Indeed, from the 1950s onwards, Pakistani society has been in the clutches of a civil-military establishment which has cultivated the legacy of the pre-Partition Muslim League in the sense that it was primarily interested in protecting its interests and dominant status. The elitist rationale of the Pakistan idea therefore resulted in social conservatism and the persistence of huge inequalities. Certainly, some politicians have fought for democracy, but they have never managed to dislodge from power a very well entrenched civil-military establishment and promote progressive reforms in a decisive manner-either because they were co-opted or because they eventually turned out to be autocrats themselves. In fact, some of the main opposition forces to the system that have emerged have been the judiciary (when the Supreme Court had the courage to rise to the occasion), civil society movements (including the media) and the islamists. In the absence of a credible political alternative within the institutional framework, the tensions that have developed have been especially radical. What has been at stake in most crisis that Pakistan has experienced has been the regime itself, not only in political terms, but also, sometimes in social terms.
The role of Islam in the public sphere is the root cause of the third contradiction. Jinnah looked at it as a culture and considered the Muslims of the Raj as a community that needed to be protected. They were supposed to be on a par with the members of the religious minorities in the Republic to be built. His rhetoric, therefore, had a multicultural overtone. On the contrary, clerics and fundamentalist groups wanted to create an Islamic state where the members of the minorities would be second-class citizens. Until the 1970s, the first approach tended to prevail. But in the 1970s the Islamist lobby (whose political parties never won more than one-tenth of the votes) exerted increasingly strong pressure. It could assert itself at that time partly because of circumstances. First, the trauma of the1971 war led the country to look for a return to its ethno-religious roots.second, the use of religion was part of Z.A. Bhutto’s populist ideology, which associated socialism with Islam. Third, Zia also used religion to legitimize his power and to find allies among the islamists.
The promotion of Islam by Bhutto and Zia was partly due to external factors as well. The former supported Afghan Islamists who were likely-so he thought-to destabilize the Pashtun nationalist government of Kabul. The latter backed the same Afghan leaders and other mujahideen (including Arab groups like Al Qaeda) against the Soviets in order to make the Pakistan army’s presence felt in Afghanistan and thereby gain strategic depth vis a vis India. Zia’s Islamization policy also (re) activated the conflict between Sunnis and Shias, an opposition that was exacerbated by another external factor: the proxy war that Iran and Saudi Arabia fought in Pakistan from the 1980s onwards.
The critical implications of the legacy of Zia’s Islamization—which also resulted in the massive infiltration of jihadis in Kashmir in the 1990s—became clear after 9/11 when the US forced the Pakistan state to fight not only Al Qaeda but also the Taliban and the Islamist groups that the ISI had used so far in Indian Kashmir and elsewhere. In response, these groups turned their guns towards the Pakistani army, its former patron, and intensified their fight against their traditional targets, the Shias and non-Muslim communities, creating an atmosphere of civil war.
The three contradictions just reviewed provide a three part structure to this book, which is therefore not organized chronologically. This thematic framework is intended to enhance our understanding of the Pakistan paradox. Indeed, so far, none of the consubstantial contradictions of Pakistan mentioned above has had the power to destroy the country. In spite of the chronic instability that they have created. Pakistan continues to show remarkable resilience. This can only be understood if one makes the effort to grasp the complexity of a country that is often caricatured. This is the reason why all sides of three tensions, around which this book is organized, must be considered together: the centrifugal forces at work in Pakistan and those resisting on behalf of Pakistan nationalism and provincial autonomy; the culture of authoritarianism and the resources of democracy; the Islamist agenda, and those who are fighting it on behalf of secularism or “Muslimhood” a la Jinnah. The final picture may result in a set, not of contradictions, but of paradoxes in which virtually antagonistic elements cohabit. But whether that is sufficient to contain instability remains to be seen.
The last British viceroy of India was Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was known as Dickie to his friends. A member of the British royal family, cousin to King George VI, Mountbatten was dynamic and ambitious, and during World War II, he had risen to the post of Commander in Chief of Allied Forces, Southeast Asia. A naval man, his chief career goal was to become Lord Admiral of the British Navy, a post that had been denied his father during World War I because of the family’s German background. In addition to his other qualities, Mountbatten was charismatic and handsome, and his stock was raised further by his marriage to Edwina, an intelligent and driven woman in her own right. Still in his mid-40s at the end of World War II, Mountbatten was at the leading edge of a rising generation of British officials and politicians, and both he and Edwina developed a close relationship with Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister.
Mountbatten was hesitant to accept the post of Viceroy of India when it was first offered to him by Prime Minister Clement Attlee in January 1947. He feared that the situation in India, then threatening to descend into widespread rioting if not outright civil war, could only turn out badly, and he did not want to damage his reputation by presiding over a desperate British departure. He was only convinced to take the post after a conversation with his cousin, the king, and after Attlee agreed to grant him almost unlimited powers to organize the transition to Indian independence. Attlee, for his part, was happy to agree. He wanted someone in India with Mountbatten’s drive and stature to replace the well-intended but pessimistic Lord Wavell.
Mountbatten was sworn in as viceroy on March 24, 1947. He tried to get the situation in hand quickly by arranging face-to-face meetings with top Indian officials, thinking that this personal approach might work better than arranging meetings with all present, which had a history of ending in stalemate. For the rest of March and into the first weeks of April, Mountbatten held several meetings with top Congress Party officials Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel, as well as with Muslim League leaders Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan. He also met with Mahatma Gandhi, the symbolic head of India’s independence movement, who at the time was concerned about both the growing violence in India and the apparent likelihood that the country would be divided. The meetings convinced Mountbatten that the partition of India was now the only realistic possibility left if Britain was to achieve its goals. Jinnah was simply too set in his conviction to see Pakistan become a reality, and Nehru and other leaders were unwilling to grant concessions to Jinnah or his Muslim League that might prevent or delay partition. Britain’s goals were a peaceful withdrawal and the assurance that India and Pakistan remained tied to their soon-to-be-former colonial overlord by accepting membership in the British Commonwealth of Nations. Mountbatten’s charisma was such, and his arguments forceful enough, that even the hesitant Patel agreed to accept the principle of partition. Only Gandhi continued to resist the idea, but he had no official post in the Congress Party or India’s interim government, so his objections had no binding force on the decisions of others.
The agreement that Mountbatten hammered out with India’s leaders was dubbed Plan Balkan by members of the viceroy’s staff who likened it to the divisions of southeastern Europe in the years before World War I. During those territorial divisions, the Turkish Ottoman Empire which had dominated the regions of southeastern Europe known as the Balkans for several centuries, retreated. It left behind a complex patchwork of ethnicities and religious groups that, in that sense was like India. Some of these groups, such as the Serbs, aggressively pursued nationalist interests whereas others sought simply to preserve a sense of territorial or cultural integrity. The conflicts that arose in the Balkans in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries were some of the prime causes of World WarI. Mountbatten’s staff feared that the Balkanization of India would prove violent, as well. One of the administrators, Chief of Staff Lord Ismay, later wrote, No one in India thought it was perfect. Yet nearly everyone agreed that it was the only solution which had any chance of being accepted by all political parties, and of ensuring an equitable deal for all minorities. It was not a gamble. There was no other way. Plan Balkan went through several drafts before Krishna Menon, a congressional civil servant, devised a solution that satisfied Mountbatten’s insistence that India remain within the British Commonwealth. Menon’s proposal was that both India and Pakistan become immediate. Commonwealth members and that India’s many princely states, rather than becoming independent, would join either India or Pakistan. It was, in effect, an acknowledgement that the partition of India was imminent.
Mountbatten approved of the plan and set out to convince Nehru and Patel of its merits. Both had cone around to accepting the principle of partition but, perhaps impatient to actually govern after years of struggling for independence, they hesitated to remain closely tied to Britain. Jinnah had fewer such qualms, as he recognized that Commonwealth status would enable Pakistan to maintain strong military ties to Britain. Once Nehru was reassured that the plan would not permit individual provinces to break away from India beyond Pakistan, he pronounced himself satisfied. Patel, whose political arm twisting would secure the support of the entire Congress Party, agreed to it on conditionthat Britain leave India quickly, well before the June 1948 deadline announced by Attlee. Plan Balkan had now become Plan Partition.
On June 2, the viceroy convened a meeting of important Indian leaders, whose number included the Sikh representative, Baldev Singh but not Gandhi, although the Mahatma later turned up on his own. It was the first such gathering of importance since December 1946. There, Mountbatten secured Jinnah’s public rejection of the 1946 Cabinet Mission Plan, which would have left India united. After all the principals left to consider the partition plan, once again, Mountbatten met with Jinnah, where with some difficulty, he got the Muslim League leader to stop his endless negotiating and acquiesce to the partition plan as it then stood. The deed was done. Mountbatten had already secured the agreements of congressional leaders and the Sikhs. His final gesture at the meeting was to present Indian leaders with a prepared document entitled The Administrative. Consequences of Partition. It required them to face the practical consequences of their decision, to unravel the web left behind by three centuries of common habitation of the subcontinent-three centuries that is, of British presence, in which most of the unraveling would be practical and administrative: the division of government offices and property, the national debt and the armed forces. For many Hindus and Muslims, ties dating back ten centuries would have to be sundered, and many of these ties were abstract yet still vital, notably the connection of villagers to their surroundings and to neighbours who practiced a different faith. The partition plan, meanwhile, became public knowledge on June 3, but it did not specify precisely where the actual borders of India and Pakistan would be.
In a press conference, Mountbatten announced that the date of Britain’s departure would not be June 1948, nor sometime near the end of 1947, as he had originally thought. It would be August 15, 1947, two years after Japan’s surrender ending World War II. On July 4, the official Indian independence Bill was presented to the British Parliament; London having had to scramble to make Plan Partition and the August 15 deadline official. The British pronounced themselves quite pleased with events; one, Lord Samuel, said that “it may be said of the British Raj as Shakespeare said of the Thane of Cawdor, nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it.” Even Conservative leader Winston Churchill, who had announced in 1931 that to leave India would mean the end of the British Empire, gave his assent to the plan, and it passed into law on July 15. London’s leaders seemed to have little comprehension of the chaos their quick departure would cause. Meanwhile, in Delhi, Mountbatten printed up hundreds of large tear-off calendars to be placed in government offices, each new page noting that India was one day closer to independence.
The quickness of Britain’s departure left little time to accomplish the practical aspects of partition now that the ideal had been achieved. India’s governmental assets had to be separated, its civil service divided, its armed forces split, and, most importantly, borders had to be drawn. None of these tasks were accomplished without conflict or misgivings or, in the case of the borders, great violence. Adding even greater risk to the plan was the fact that India would simply take over a going concern with everything in place. Pakistan, on the other hand, would be starting from scratch, without an established administration, without armed forces, without records, without equipment or military stores.
Commissions and committees came up with formulas to divide government property, and the concerned officials were so conscientious that they worried about every railroad car, filing cabinet, desk lamp, and even instruments in police hands. After much discussion both sides agreed on a 1 to 4 ratio for government property. For cash assets and their counterpart, the national debt, the ratio was 82.5% for India and 17.5% for Pakistan. Government employees, meanwhile, generally remained in their places across the subcontinent or, if they worked for the central administration, made a choice between India and Pakistan. Establishing these arbitrary boundaries was reasonably straightforward, if not without conflict.
The division of India’s armed forces was more troubling for those directly involved and provided a clear example of the arbitrary borders being drawn. Although material assets, such as guns and ships, were divided in the same ratio of other government property, the same could hardly be done with the soldiers. Most troops were reassigned based on religion, a task fraught with difficulty, since, for example, many Muslims did not want to go to Pakistan, and other troops were neither Muslim, Hindu, nor Sikh. Many troops felt that their loyalty to the armed forces and to their comrades was more important than their communal ties, and they did not want India’s new borders forced upon them.
Meanwhile, officers were given the choice of either the Indian or Pakistani armies; mostly Hindu and Sikh officers chose India, but for Muslims the choice could be very difficult. Many Muslim officers had families and other ties to India and did not wish to uproot themselves. Others felt loyalty above all to Indian Muslims and the ideal of Pakistan, and they hoped to carry the traditions of the Indian army into the new country. These officers made their choices but, in some cases, brothers found themselves in separate armies, which, within months, were to oppose one another on the battlefield. Their fellow Hindu or Sikh officers, meanwhile were often just as distressed at the very idea of partitioning a force that had served India and the empire loyally for decades and had managed to remain aloof from politics.
Mountbatten’s plan had made no provision for any specific borders between India and Pakistan. No one had. All anyone knew was that Pakistan would have two wings, an eastern and western, separated by hundreds of miles of Indian territory. They also knew that, as part of the agreements tentatively reached already, the eastern province of Bengal would be divided, and so also would the western province of Punjab. Jinnah was forced to accept what he had earlier argued would be a moth-eaten Pakistan, shorn of some economic assets of the two provinces: part of the rich agricultural lands of the Punjab, as well as the Bengali city of Calcutta.
The division of Bengal and the Punjab were about as arbitrary as they possibly could be, the only guideline being to separate areas of dominant Hindu and Muslim populations. To draw the borders, Mountbatten organized two boundary commissions, one each for Bengal and the Punjab. At their head was a prominent London lawyer named Cyril Radcliffe. He knew almost nothing of India, which was one reason he was chosen for the task and flown to India on July 8. Mountbatten and other officials thought his ignorance of India would allow him to act without prejudice towards either side.
Radcliffe’s commission met in a heavily guarded bungalow on the grounds of the viceroy’s mansion in Delhi. The Englishman worked with eight prominent India judges, four each chosen by Congress and the Muslim League. To his despair, Radcliffe quickly found that the principle of drawing borders based on population concentrations could hardly be done clearly and evenly; Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs (who mostly hoped to live in India) were simply too dispersed. Some areas had a clear majority, but in thousands of villages, especially in the Punjab, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had lived side by side for centuries. Inevitably, large numbers of people were going to find themselves placed in countries where they did not wish to live or where they might not be welcome.
The potential borders might also give rise to devastating economic effects. The Punjab was watered by the Indus River system, which flowed down from the Himalayas in the north. Complex irrigation networks using these waters had turned the Punjab into the most agricultural part of India. Any new borders would not cross only cross the rivers, they would also split irrigation networks; a water pump that fed Indian fields, for instance, might be placed in Pakistan, making the entire system virtually useless. The economic vitality of eastern Pakistan was also in danger, although the drawing of the border there was generally more straightforward than in the Punjab. Eastern Bengal’s main product was jute, a natural fibre used to make bags and other packaging materials. Most of the jute was processed in factories in Calcutta. If the boundary commission decided to award Calcutta to India, millions of jute farmers would lose their livelihoods, turning eastern Pakistan into the rural slum that many feared. Meanwhile, pending any new arrangements, thousands of Calcutta factory workers might be made idle and therefore a potential threat to civil order.
The partition of the Punjab presented a particular danger to the Sikhs. They made up only 2% of India’s population, but the Punjab was their traditional homeland and was where most Sikhs lived. Drawn to the armed services, Sikhs had served in numbers disproportionate to their total population in the armies of British India, and a military leader named Baldev Singh had served as both the representative of the Sikhs and of the military during the independence negotiations of previous years. Their martial tradition derived, in part, from their perceived need to defend themselves from Muslim kings whose habit of oppressing Sikhs dated back to the seventeenth century. The Sikh population, one-sixth of the total, was scattered throughout the Punjab, and the area had been the home of an independent Sikh kingdom during the early 1800s.
Sikh concerns were not at the forefront of Radcliffe’s boundary commission, whose borders were mostly based on Hindu or Muslim interests. Sikhs in the western Punjab feared that the new borders would place them in a Muslim state where they would face renewed oppression in a repeat of earlier patterns of Muslim-Sikh hostility. Militant Muslims, meanwhile, had little interest in seeing a large Sikh population maintained in western Pakistan. The situation was ripe for conflict and misunderstanding, especially as both Muslims and Sikhs began to, take up arms to defend themselves or to plunder the other. One of the Radcliffe’s few clear choices was to award the city of Amritsar, the site of the Sikhs’ Golden Temple and their holiest spot, to India.
Some Sikhs lived in India’s princely states, and the Sikh maharaja of Patiala was the head of the Council of Princes that had represented the states in India’s independence negotiations. The princes were very concerned to preserve at least some of their authority and privileges after independence. Many claimed that, since the British had entered into separate agreements with each of them, their states should return to full independence once the British left. Neither Nehru nor Jinnah had sympathy for these arguments, and Mountbatten was not about to let the question of the princely states slow down the rapid march towards independence. Plan Partition required the princes to choose either India or Pakistan and be forced to sign articles of accession in each case, giving up any claim to political power. In exchange, the princes could keep their titles and a portion of their estates, which were sometimes vast and extremely wealthy. Groups of diplomats travelled to visit each of the princes, and by early August, almost all of them, recognizing the inevitable, had signed the accession documents. Three holdouts remained. One was the Nizam of Hyderabad, reputedly the richest man in the world. He controlled a state that was nearly as large as Britain and theoretically wealthy enough to survive on its own. He was a Muslim prince, however, in a state populated mostly by Hindus, and one that would be landlocked, surrounded by India once independence occurred. Another holdout was the ruler of Junagadh, a small state on the coast, north of Bombay. The third hesitant prince was the ruler of Kashmir, Hari Singh. His indecision, and Kashmir’s strategic importance, led to the first armed conflict between India and Pakistan in the fall and winter of 1947.
Meanwhile, Radcliffe’s boundary commissions proceeded throughout July and early August with their unhappy task. They finally presented their boundary awards to Mountbatten on August 13, and Radcliffe, under heavy guard, returned to Britain, where he remained haunted by his decisions until his death. Mountbatten decided to tell nobody of his partition plan, not even Nehru or Jinnah, before independence had been accomplished. He feared not only escalating communal violence, but that news of the specific borders would dampen enthusiasm over the coming independence celebrations, when any troubles would be the responsibility of the Indian and Pakistani governments, not the British one. He kept the newly drawn borders locked in a safe in his office and diverted any complaints from Indian and Pakistani officials on the matter.
Territorial Loose Ends
India still contained territories controlled by others when it became independent in August 1947. Since Jawaharlal Nehru and other Indian leaders wished to consolidate their new nation and prevent any fragmentation, they had to find ways to incorporate these territories and ensure both that India’s new territorial boundaries were secure, and that further fragmentation would not occur,
Three princely states remained independent that August, their leaders refusing to accede to India, even though most of their counterparts had already done so. One of these was Kashmir, which only acceded to India under the threat of an invasion from Pakistan and whose status is still a source of conflict. The other two required drastic action by India’s government. One, Junagadh, was a small state on India’s western coast, north of Bombay. Its prince, a Muslim wanted to cede his state to Pakistan, even though Pakistan lay some 150 miles away and most of Junagadh’s population was Hindu. Nehru’s government mounted a naval blockade of the coastal kingdom and, in October 1947, sent an army of 20,000 to take control of the state by force. The prince exiled himself to Pakistan, and Junagadh’s accession to India was legitimized by a vote among its people in 1948. It was integrated into the state of Gujarat.
Hyderabad, a large and wealthy kingdom that possessed, among other features, its own currency and its own airline, proved more troublesome. Its leader, the Nizam-ul-Mulk, wanted to remain completely independent of both India and Pakistan. When the Nizam refused to give up his independence, Nehru and his deputy prime minister, Vallabhbhai Patel, granted him a period of one year, until August 1948, to change his mind. After the year had passed and the Nizam still had not given in, the government authorized a large-scale invasion that resulted in four days of fighting and a victory for India, Hyderabad and nearby territories became the Indian state of Andrea Pradesh.
Other parts of India still remained under the control of European colonial powers. In the south near Madras was Pondicherry, a possession of France since the seventeenth century. Realizing that there was little point to maintaining such a small outpost against the desires of India, the French relinquished it peacefully in 1954. France had already, in 1951, surrendered its other outpost: the settlement of Chandernagore in the suburbs of Calcutta.
On India’s west coast was the large Portuguese enclave of Goa, the oldest European possession in India. Nehru began negotiating with Portugal’s military government soon after independence, but the Portuguese did not want to give up an enclave that they had held for more than 450 years and that was once the centre of their Asian empire. Fed up, Nehru sent in the army in 1961. The Portuguese were unable to mount any effective resistance over several days of fighting, so Goa became part of India, as did Portugal’s other small outposts, Damian and Diu, north of Bombay. Both Goa and Pondicherry were made Indian states and retained a distinctive part-European character.
Radcliffe had been unable to justify awarding Calcutta to East Pakistan, given the importance of the city to recent Indian history. Moreover, it contained large populations of Sikhs, Hindus and other religious groups. He placed the border of East Pakistan just to the east of the city itself, leaving the region without a major city. Calcutta’s governor H.S. Suhrawardy and other separatists thought, even in the spring and summer of 1947, that East Pakistan should become an independent country. In a clear example of creating new troubles by determining boundaries based on stated religious affiliation alone, Bengali Muslims had little in common with Muslims in the Punjab or other western provinces; indeed, aside from their religion, they were little different from Bengali Hindus, with whom they shared the Bengali language and numerous customs. Jinnah himself, meanwhile, had never even visited eastern Bengal, and it remained separated from Pakistan by hundreds of miles. Still, neither Jinnah nor Nehru was willing to accept partition into three rather than into two, and they completely rejected calls for Bengali independence.
The boundary awards in the Punjab gave the city of Lahore, one of India’s largest, to Pakistan, whereas Amritsar, only 40 miles away, remained in India. Elsewhere, the line was fairly arbitrary. Radcliffe and his advisers used the only available maps, which were old and outdated, and despite a few visits and flyovers, he gained very little accurate sense of the Punjab topography. Sometimes, not only villages but farms and even houses were separated by the blunt axe that severed Punjab. in a last-minute decision that was to have far reaching consequences, Radcliffe awarded the district of Gurdaspur to India. Gurdaspur provided the only reliable land route connecting India to Kashmir. Had the district instead been awarded to Pakistan, it is likely that Hari Singh, Kashmir’s maharaja, would have had no other choice but to cede Kashmir to Pakistan as well.
With the boundary set and the plans protected, Mountbatten prepared for the final withdrawal of Great Britain and the independence celebrations of India and Pakistan. One concession he had to make on the deadline was to shift it to August 14 rather than August 15. Hindu astrologers had pronounced August 15 to be an extremely inauspicious day and, in a nation where people consulted astrologers for important decisions on matters ranging from marriage to starting businesses to going to war, such opinions mattered. Astrologers determined that August 14, however, would be auspicious, and independence ceremonies were scheduled for midnight on that day.
On August 13, Mountbatten and his wife travelled to Karachi, the city proclaimed the capital of Pakistan. They were met there by Jinnah, who had been unanimously elected president, or head of state, by Pakistan’s constituent assembly on August 11, and the two travelled by open car to recognize the new nation’s independence. Jinnah’s lieutenant, Liaquat Ali Khan was to be the nation’s first prime minister and as such, the head of the government. Mountbatten later remembered being rather nervous because of rumoured assassination attempts, but Jinnah maintained his customary cool and aloof demeanor. Pakistan’s independence celebrations were as elaborate as could be expected, but Karachi had few facilities appropriate for large celebrations, or even for large-scale governmental administration. This left most of the celebrating to cheering crowds in the streets, which the two leaders’ car passed through. Karachi, a city of 350,000, was overwhelmed by the 250,000 visitors and migrants who had arrived to witness the independence celebrations and to shout again and again, Pakistan Zindabad! or long live Pakistan!
Mountbatten gave Britain’s farewells to the assembled representatives of Pakistan’s diverse peoples in the crowded—and heavily guarded—assembly hall that had been chosen for the occasion. He was followed by Jinnah, who thanked Mountbatten and the British and expressed his certainty that the two nations would remain on good terms. Jinnah made a more dramatic speech on August 11, before the constituent assembly. There, he proclaimed that Pakistan would be a nation of complete religious freedom and tolerance, not the Islamic state that many feared. He assured his people that my guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality, and I am sure that with your cooperation, I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest nations of the world.
India’s formal independence celebrations began at sundown, when a procession of Hindu sannyasin or holy men, presented a collection of sacred symbols to Jawaharlal Nehru, designated India’s first prime minister, at his Delhi home. Also, that evening, Great Britain’s flag, the Union Jack, was struck from flagstaff at military and government posts around India for the last time. As in Karachi, hundreds of thousands of celebrants and migrants converged on Delhi to witness the celebrations firsthand, whereas millions of others readied festivities of their own in India’s cities and villages.
At midnight, after India’s constituent assembly had been sanctified by further Hindu rites and after a choir had sung the Congress anthem Vande Mataram, (I Bow to Thee, My Motherland), a Sanskrit poem whose adoption had angered Muslims earlier, Nehru rose to speak. His speech delivered extemporaneously, without notes, and delivered across India via the radio, announced:
Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.
Soon after, India’s new flag, a tricolour of orange, white and green was raised at Delhi’s Red Fort, an edifice originally erected by the Mughals. The Gandhian spinning wheel that had graced the banner earlier was now replaced by a sign reflecting a much earlier symbol of India’s heritage: the Asoka Buddhist wheel of life. India had achieved independence. The planned processions of Nehru, Mountbatten, and other leaders through Delhi’s streets the next day proved impossible. The crowds were too thick and, to many people’s surprise, both exuberantly happy and peaceful.
At 5:00 P.M. on August 16, Mountbatten revealed Radcliffe’s boundary awards to India’s and Pakistani leaders—Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan had flown into Delhi for the occasion. None were pleased. The placements of Calcutta, Lahore and Amritsar were no surprise, but other issues inspired ill feeling. Balder Singh was dismayed that so many Sikh holy places had been awarded to Pakistan. Indian leaders were unhappy that the mostly Buddhist Chittagong hill tracts, in far eastern Bengal also went to Pakistan. Jinnah, for his part, was disappointed that Gurdaspur District, which again provided India’s only road link to Kashmir, went to the Indians, despite an earlier warning to Mountbatten’s staff that this would have a most serious impact on relations between Pakistan and the United Kingdom. Radcliffe had apparently based his Gurdaspur decision on Nehru’s desire to leave Kashmir connected to India pending the decision of the hesitant maharaja, Hari Singh, to join one of the two nations.
The borders were revealed to the public on August 17, and those Punjabi villages whose residents had cautiously flown both Indian and Pakistani flags on August 15 now knew their status. The immediate effect was to vastly increase a torrent of migration towards India or Pakistan that had already begun. Within weeks, 11.5 million people were on the move. Ten million of these were in Punjab, as 5 million Hindus and Sikhs made their way towards India and a similar number of Muslims headed for Pakistan. These millions were people who had found new arbitrary borders drawn around them, often with little attention paid to tradition or other communal relationships, or to areas that had served the agricultural needs of its inhabitants for generations. The migrations were accompanied by communal violence that left hundreds of thousands dead. V.P. Menon, a member of Congress who had played a large part in refining the partition plan and convincing many of India’s princes to accede to it, said simply as India became independent, now our nightmares really start. He seemed to understand that the drawing of new national boundaries did not automatically create viable new nation-states, especially in a land as diverse and complex as India, a land where people’s loyalties might be attached as much to a religious community, caste, cultural group, or village as they were to a traditionally defined nation-state.
Fourth Mughal Emperor known by his imperial name, Jahangir
31 August 1569 – 28 October 1627,
Ruled from 1605 until his death in 1627.
Much romance has gathered around his name (Jahangir means ‘conqueror of the world’, and the tale of his relationship with the Mughal courtesan, Anarkali, has been widely adapted into the literature, art and cinema of India.
Full Name: Mirza Nur-ud-din Baig Mohammad Khan Salim Jahangir
Reign: 3 November 1605 – 28 October 1627
Coronation: 24 November 1605
Successor: Shahryar Mirza Shah Jahan
Born: Salim; 31 August 1569 at Fatehpur Sikri, Mughal Empire
Died: 28 October 1627 (aged 58) at Rajauri, Rajouri district, Kashmir, Mughal Empire, now Jammu and Kashmir, India Burial Tomb: Lahore Consort
Saliha Banu Begum
Malika Jahan Begum
Khas Mahal Begum
Shah Jahan Shahryar Mirza
Bahar Banu Begum
Begum Sultan Begum
Iffat Banu Begum
Religion: Sunni Islam
Jahangir was the eldest surviving son of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Impatient for power, he revolted in1599 while Akbar was engaged in the Deccan. He was defeated, but ultimately succeeded his father as Emperor in 1605 because of the
immense support and effort of his step-mothers:
Empress Ruqaiya Sultan Begum
Salima Sultan Begum
Hamida Banu Begum, his grandmother.
These women wielded considerable influence over Akbar and favoured Jahangir as his successor. The first year of Jahangir’s reign saw a rebellion organised by his eldest son Khusrau. The rebellion was soon put down; Khusrau was brought before his father in chains. After subduing and executing nearly 2000 members of the rebellion, Jahangir blinded his renegade son.
Jahangir built on his father’s foundations of administration and his reign was characterised by political stability, a strong economy and cultural achievements. The imperial frontiers continued to move forward—in Bengal, Mewar, Ahmadnagar
and the Deccan. Later during his rule, Jahangir was battling his rebellious son Khurram in Hindustan. The rebellion of Khurram absorbed Jahangir’s attention, so in the spring of 1623 he negotiated a diplomatic end to the conflict. Much of
India was politically pacified; Jahangir’s dealings with the Hindu rulers of Rajputana were particularly successful, and he settled the conflicts inherited from his father. The Hindu rulers all accepted Mughal supremacy and in return were given high ranks in the Mughal aristocracy.
Jahangir was fascinated with art, science and architecture. From a young age he showed a leaning towards painting and had an atelier of his own. His interest in portraiture led to much development in this art form. The art of Mughal
painting reached great heights under Jahangir’s reign. His interest in painting also served his scientific interests in nature. The painter Ustad Mansur became one of the best artists to document the animals and plants which Jahangir either encountered on his military exhibitions or received as donations from emissaries of other countries. Jahangir maintained a huge aviary and a large zoo, kept a record of every specimen and organised experiments.
Jahangir patronised the European and Persian arts. He promoted Persian culture throughout his empire. This was especially so during the period when he came under the influence of his Persian Empress, Nur Jahan and her relatives, who from 1611 had dominated Mughal politics. Amongst the most highly regarded Mughal architecture dating from Jahangir’s reign is the famous Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir. The world’s first seamless celestial globe was built by Mughal scientists under the patronage of Jahangir.
Jahangir was not without his vices. He set the precedent for sons rebelling against their emperor fathers and was much criticized for his addiction to alcohol, opium, and women. He was thought to allow his wife Nur Jahan too much power, and her continuous plotting at court is considered to have destabilized the empire in the final years of his rule. The situation developed into open crisis when Jahangir’s son, Khurram, fearing he would be excluded from the throne, rebelled in 1622. Jahangir’s forces chased Khurram and his troops from Fatehpur Sikri to the Deccan, to Bengal and back to the Deccan, until Khurram surrendered unconditionally in 1626. The rebellion and court intrigues that followed took a heavy toll on Jahangir’s health.
He died in 1627 and was succeeded by Khurram, who took the imperial throne of Hindustan as the Emperor Shah Jahan.
An aesthete, Jahangir decided to start his reign with a grand display of “justice”, as he saw it. To this end, he enacted Twelve Decrees that are remarkable for their liberalism and foresight. During his reign, there was a significant increase in the size of the Mughal Empire, half a dozen rebellions were crushed, prisoners of war were
released and the work of his father, Akbar, continued to flourish. Much like his father, Jahangir was dedicated to the expansion of Mughal held territory through conquest. During this regime he would target the peoples of Assam near the
eastern frontier and bring a series of territories controlled by independent rajas in the Himalayan foothills from Kashmir to Bengal. Jahangir would challenge the hegemonic claim over what became later Afghanistan by the Safavid rulers with an eye on Kabul, Peshawar and Kandahar, which were important centres of the central Asian trade system that northern India operated within.] In 1622, Jahangir sent his son Prince Khurram against the combined forces of Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda. After his victory Khurram turned against his father and make a bid for power. As with the insurrection of his eldest son [Khusrau Mirza, Jahangir was able to defeat the challenge from within his family and retain power.
Jahangir promised to protect Islam and granted general amnesty to his opponents. He was also notable for his patronage of the arts, especially of painting. During his reign the distinctive style of Mughal painting expanded and blossomed. Jahangir supported a flourishing culture of court painters.
Jahangir holding a portrait of his father Akbar
Furthermore, Jahangir preserved the Mughal tradition of a highly centralized form of government. Jahangir made the precepts of Sunni Islam the cornerstone of his state policies. A faithful Muslim, as evidenced by his memoirs, he expressed his gratitude to Allah for his many victories. Jahangir, as a devout Muslim, did not let his personal beliefs dictate his state policies. Sovereignty, according to Jahangir, was a “gift of God” not necessarily given to enforce God’s law but rather to “ensure the contentment of the world.” In civil cases, Islamic law applied to Muslims, Hindu law applied to Hindus, while criminal law was the same for both Muslims and Hindus. In matters like marriage and inheritance, both communities had their own laws that Jahangir respected. Thus Jahangir was able to deliver justice to people in accordance of their beliefs and also keep his hold on empire by unified criminal law.
In the Mughal state, therefore, defiance of imperial authority, whether coming from a prince or anyone else aspiring to political power, or a Muslim or a Hindu, was crushed in the name of law and order.
Shah Abbas I receiving Khan Alam, ambassador from Jahangir in 1617
In 1623, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, sent his Tahwildar, Khan Alam, to Safavid Persia, accompanied by 800 Sepoys, scribes and scholars along with ten Howdahs well decorated in gold and silver, in order to negotiate peace with Abbas
I of Persia after a brief conflict in the region around Kandahar. Khan Alam soon returned with valuable gifts and groups of Mir Shikar(Hunt Masters) from both Safavid Persia and even the Khanates of Central Asia.
In 1626, Jahangir began to contemplate an alliance between the Ottomans, Mughals and Uzbeks against the Safavids, who had defeated the Mughals at Kandahar. He even wrote a letter to the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV. Jahangir’s ambition did not
materialise, however, due to his death in 1627.
Salim was made a Mansabdar of ten thousand (Das-Hazari), the highest military rank of the empire, after the emperor. He independently commanded a regiment in the Kabul campaign of 1581, when he was barely twelve. His Mansab was raised
to Twelve Thousand, in 1585, at the time of his betrothal to his cousin Rajkumari Manbhawati Bai, daughter of Bhagwant Das of Amer. Bhagwant Das, was the son of Raja Bihari Mal and the brother of Akbar’s Hindu wife and Salim’s mother
The marriage with Manbhawati Bai took place on February 13, 1585. Jahangir named her Shah Begum, and gave birth to Khusrau Mirza. Thereafter, Salim married, in quick succession, a number of accomplished girls from the aristocratic Mughal and Rajput families. One of his early favourite wives was a Rajput Princess, Jagat Gosain Begum. Jahangir named her Taj Bibi Bilqis Makani and she gave birth to Prince Khurram, the future Shah Jahan, Jahangir’s successor to the throne.
On July 7, 1586 he married a daughter of Raja Rai Singh, Maharaja of Bikaner. In July 1586, he married Malika Shikar Begum, daughter of Sultan Abu Said Khan Jagatai, Sultan of Kashghar. In 1586, he married Sahib-i-Jamal Begum, daughter of Khwaja Hassan, of Herat, a cousin of Zain Khan Koka. In 1587, he married Malika Jahan Begum, daughter of Bhim Singh, Maharaja of Jaisalmer. He also married a daughter of Raja Darya Malbhas. In October 1590, he married Zohra Begum, daughter of Mirza Sanjar Hazara. In 1591, he married Karamnasi Begum, daughter of Raja Kesho Das Rathore, of Mertia. On January 11, 1592, he married Kanwal Rani, daughter of Ali Sher Khan, by his wife, Gul Khatun. In October 1592, he married a daughter of Husain Chak, of Kashmir. In January/March 1593, he married Nur un-nisa Begum, daughter of Ibrahim Husain Mirza, by his wife, Gulrukh Begum, daughter of Kamran Mirza. In September 1593, he married a daughter of Ali Khan Faruqi, Raja of Khandesh. He also married a daughter of Abdullah Khan Baluch. On June 28, 1596, he married Khas Mahal Begum, daughter of Zain Khan Koka, sometime Subadar of Kabul and Lahore. In 1608, he married Saliha Banu Begum, daughter of Qasim Khan, a senior member of the Imperial Household. On June 17, 1608, he married Koka Kumari Begum, eldest daughter of Jagat Singh, Yuvraj of Amber.
Jahangir married the extremely beautiful and intelligent Mehr-un-Nisaa (better known by her subsequent title of Nur Jahan) on May 25, 1611. She was the widow of Sher Afgan. Mehr-un-Nisaa became his indisputable chief consort and favourite wife immediately after their marriage. She was witty, intelligent and beautiful, which was what attracted Jahangir to her. Before being awarded the title of Nur Jahan(‘Light of the World’), she was called Nur Mahal(‘Light of the Palace’). Her abilities are said to range from fashion designing to hunting. There is also a myth that she had once killed four tigers with six bullets.
Mehr-Un-Nisa, or Nur Jahan, occupies an important place in the history of Jahangir. She was the widow of a rebel officer, Sher Afgan, whose actual name was Ali Quli Beg Ist’ajlu. He had earned the title “Sher Afgan” (Tiger tosser) from Emperor Akbar after throwing off a tiger that had leaped to attack Akbar on the top of an elephant in a royal hunt at Bengal and then stabbing the fallen tiger to death. Akbar was greatly affected by the bravery of the young Turkish bodyguard accompanying him and awarded him the captaincy of the Imperial Guard at Bengal. He was killed in rebellion, after learning of Jahangir’s orders to have him slain to possess his beautiful wife, as Jahangir yearned for her much earlier than her wedding. The governor of Bengal was instructed secretly by Jahangir in his quest and was also the emperor’s foster brother and Sheikh Salim’s grandson and was consequently slain by the guards of the Governor. The widowed Mehr-un-Nisa was brought to Agra along with her nine-year-old daughter and placed in—or refused to be placed in—the Royal harem in 1607. Jahangir married her in 1611 and gave her the title of Nur Jahan or “Light of the World“. It was rumoured that Jahangir had a hand in the death of her first husband, albeit there is no recorded evidence to prove that he was guilty of that crime; in fact most travellers’ reports say that he met her after her husband’s death.
The loss of Kandahar was due to Prince Khurram’s refusal to obey her orders. When the Persians besieged Kandahar, Nur Jahan was at the helm of affairs. She ordered Prince Khurram to march for Kandahar, but the latter refused to do so. There is no doubt that the refusal of the prince was due to her behaviour towards him, as she was favouring her son-in-law, Shahryar, at the expense of Khurram. Khurram suspected that in his absence, Shahryar might be given promotion and that he might die on the battlefield. This fear forced Khurram to rebel against his father rather than fight against the Persians, and thereby Kandahar was lost.
Under Jahangir, the empire continued to be a war state attuned to conquest and expansion. Jahangir’s most irksome foe was the Rana of Mewar, Amar Singh, who finally capitulated in 1613 to Khurram’s forces. In the northeast, the Mughals clashed with the Ahoms of Assam, whose guerilla tactics gave the Mughals a hard time. In Northern India, Jahangir’s forces under Khurram defeated their other principal adversary, the Raja of Kangra, in 1615; in the Deccan, his victories further consolidated the empire. But in 1620, Jahangir fell sick, and so ensued the familiar quest for power. Nur Jahan married her daughter to Shahryar, Jahangir’s youngest son from his other queen, in the hope of having a living male heir to the throne when Jahangir died.
In the year 1594, Jahangir was dispatched by his father, the Mughal Emperor Akbar, alongside Abul Hasan Asaf Khan, also known as Mirza Jaafar Beg son of Mirza Ghias Beg Isfahani and brother of Nur Jehan, and Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak, to defeat the renegade Vir Singh Deo of Bundela and capture the city of Orchha, which was considered the centre of the revolt. Jahangir arrived with a force of 12,000 after many ferocious encounters and finally subdued the Bundela and ordered Vir Singh Deo to surrender. After tremendous casualties and the start of negotiations between the two, Vir Singh Deo handed over 5000 Bundela infantry and 1000 cavalry, but he feared Mughal retaliation and remained a fugitive until his death. The victorious Jahangir, only 16 years of age, ordered the completion of the Jahangir Mahal a famous Mughal citadel in Orchha to commemorate and honour his victory.
Jahangir then gathered his forces under the command of Ali Kuli Khan and fought Lakshmi Narayan of Koch Bihar. Lakshmi Narayan then accepted the Mughals as his suzerains he was given the title Nazir and later established a garrison at Atharokotha.
In 1613, the Portuguese seized the Mughal ship Rahimi, which had set out from Surat on its way with a large cargo of 100,000 rupees and Pilgrims, who were on their way to Mecca and Medina in order to attend the annual Hajj. The Rahimi was owned by Mariam-uz-Zamani, Jahangir’s mother. She was referred to as Queen mother of Hindustan during his reign. Rahimi was the largest Indian ship sailing in the Red Sea and was known to the Europeans as the “great pilgrimage ship”.
When the Portuguese officially refused to return the ship and the passengers, the outcry at the Mughal court was unusually severe. The outrage was compounded by the fact that the owner and the patron of the ship was none other than the revered mother of the current emperor. Jahangir himself was outraged and ordered the seizure of the Portuguese town Daman. He ordered the apprehension of all Portuguese within the Mughal Empire; he further confiscated churches that belonged to the Jesuits. This episode is considered to be an example of the struggle for wealth that would later ensue and lead to colonization of the Indian sub-continent.
Jahangir was responsible for ending a century long struggle with the state of Mewar. The campaign against the Rajputs was pushed so extensively that they were made to submit with great loss of life and property.
Jahangir posted Islam Khan I to subdue Musa Khan, an Afghan rebel in Bengal, in 1608. Jahangir also thought of capturing Kangra Fort, which Akbar had failed to do in 1615. Consequently, a siege was laid and the fort was taken in 1620, which ” resulted in the submission of the Raja of Chamba who was the greatest of all the rajas in the region.” The district of Kistwar, in the state of Kashmir, was also conquered.
Jahangir was trying to restore his health by visiting Kashmir and Kabul. He went from Kabul to Kashmir but decided to return to Lahore on account of a severe cold.
Jahangir died on the way back from Kashmir near Sarai Saadabad in 1627. To preserve his body, the entrails were removed and buried in the Baghsar Fort, Kashmir. The body was then transferred to Lahore to be buried in Shahdara Bagh, a suburb of Lahore, Punjab. He was succeeded by his third son, Prince Khurram, who took the title of Shah Jahan. Jahangir’s elegant mausoleum is located in the Shahdara locale of Lahore and is a popular tourist attraction.
Sir Thomas Roe was England’s first ambassador to the Mughal court. Relations with England turned tense in 1617 when Roe warned the Jahangir that if the young and charismatic Prince Shah Jahan, newly instated as the Subedar of Gujarat, had
turned the English out of the province, “then he must expect we would do our justice upon the seas”. Shah Jahan chose to seal an official Firman allowing the English to trade in Gujarat in the year 1618.
Portrait of Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s invocation of a Dua prayer
Many contemporary chroniclers were not sure quite how to describe Jahangir’s personal belief structure. Roe labelled him an atheist, and although most others shied away from that term, they did not feel as though they could call him an orthodox Sunni. Roe believed Jahangir’s religion to be of his own making, “for he envies [the Prophet] Mohammed, and wisely sees no reason why he should not bee as great a prophet as he and therefore professed himself so… he hath found many disciples that flatter or follow him.” At this time, one of those disciples happened to be the current English ambassador, though his initiation into Jahangir’s inner circle was devoid of religious significance for Roe, as he did not understand the
full extent of what he was doing: Jahangir hung “a picture of him self set in gold hanging at a wire gold chain” round Roe’s neck. Roe thought it “an especial favour, for that all the great men that wear the Kings image (which none may do but to whom it is given) receive no other than a medal of gold as big as six pence.”
Had Roe intentionally converted, it would have caused quite a scandal in London. But since there was no intent, there was no resultant problem. Such disciples were an elite group of imperial servants, with one of them being promoted to Chief Justice. However, it is not clear that any of those who became disciples renounced their previous religion, so it is probable to see this as a way in which the emperor strengthened the bond between himself and his nobles. Despite Roe’s somewhat casual use of the term ‘atheist’, he could not quite put his finger on Jahangir’s real beliefs. Roe lamented that the emperor was either “the most impossible man in the world to be converted, or the most easy; for he loves to hear, and hath so little religion yet, that he can well abide to have any derided.”
This should not imply that the multi-confessional state appealed to all, or that all Muslims were happy with the situation in India. In a book written on statecraft for Jahangir, the author advised him to direct “all his energies to understanding the counsel of the sages and to comprehending the intimations of the ‘ulama.”
At the start of his regime many staunch Sunnis were hopeful, because he seemed less tolerant to other faiths than his father had been. At the time of his accession and the elimination of Abu’l Fazl, his father’s chief minister and architect of his eclectic religious stance, a powerful group of orthodox noblemen had gained increased power in the Mughal court. Jahangir did not always benevolently regard some Hindu customs and rituals. On visiting a Hindu temple, he found a statue of a man with a pig’s head (more than likely actually a boar’s head, a representation of Varaha), one of the idols in the Hindu religion, so he “ordered them to break that hideous form and throw it in the tank.” If the Tuzuk is reliable on this subject (and there is no reason to suspect that it is not), then this was an isolated case. J.F. Richards argues that “Jahangir seems to have been persistently hostile to popularly venerated religious figures”, which is debatable. A Muslim saint, Hazrat Mujadid Alif Sani Imam e Rabbani Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi Al-Farooqi, who had gained large number of followers through his spiritual preaching, was imprisoned in Gwalior Fort.
Most notorious was the execution of the Sikh Guru Arjan Dev Ji, whom Jahangir had got killed in prison. His lands were confiscated and his sons imprisoned as Jahangir suspected him of helping Khusrau’s rebellion. It is unclear whether Jahangir even understood what a Sikh was, referring to Guru Arjan as a Hindu, who had “captured many of the simple-hearted of the Hindus and even of the ignorant and foolish followers of Islam, by his ways and manners… for three or four generations (of spiritual successors) they had kept this shop warm.” The trigger for Guru Arjan’s execution was his support for Jahangir’s rebel son Khusrau Mirza, yet it is clear from Jahangir’s own memoirs that he disliked Guru Arjan before then: “many times it occurred to me to put a stop to this vain affair or bring him into the assembly of the people of Islam.”Muqarrab Khan sent to Jahangir “a European curtain (tapestry) the like of which in beauty no other work of the Frank [European] painters has ever been seen.” One of his audience halls was “adorned with European screens.” Christian themes attracted Jahangir, and even merited a mention in the Tuzuk. One of his slaves gave him a piece of ivory into which had been carved four scenes.
In the last scene “there is a tree, below which the figure of the revered (hazrat) Jesus is shown. One person has placed his head at Jesus’ feet, and an old man is conversing with Jesus and four others are standing by.” Though Jahangir believed it to be the work of the slave who presented it to him, Sayyid Ahmad and Henry Beveridge suggest that it was of European origin and possibly showed the Transfiguration. Wherever it came from, and whatever it represented, it was clear that a European style had come to influence Mughal art, otherwise the slave would not have claimed it as his own design, nor would he have been believed by Jahangir.
Jahangir was fascinated with art and architecture. Jahangir himself is far from modest in his autobiography when he states his prowess at being able to determine the artist of any portrait by simply looking at a painting. He also preserved paintings of Emperor Akbar’s period. An excellent example of this is the painting of Musician Naubat Khan, son in law of legendary Tansen. It was the work of Ustad Mansur. As he said: …my liking for painting and my practice in judging it have arrived at such point when any work is brought before me, either of deceased artists or of those of the present day, without the names being told me, I say on the spur of the moment that is the work of such and such a man. And if there be a picture containing many portraits and each face is the work of a different master, I can discover which face is the work of each of them. If any other person has put in the eye and eyebrow of a face, I can perceive whose work the original face is and who has painted the eye and eyebrow.
Jahangir took his connoisseurship of art very seriously. Paintings created under his reign were closely catalogued, dated and even signed, providing scholars with fairly accurate ideas as to when and in what context many of the pieces were created, in addition to their aesthetic qualities.
The Jesuits had brought with them various books, engravings, and paintings and, when they saw the delight Akbar held for them, sent for more and more of the same to be given to the Mughals, as they felt they were on the “verge of conversion”, a notion which proved to be very false. Instead, both Akbar and Jahangir studied this artwork very closely and replicated and adapted it, adopting much of the early iconographic features and later the pictorial realism for which Renaissance art was known. Jahangir was notable for his pride in the ability of his court painters. A classic example of this is described in Sir Thomas Roe’s diaries, in which the Emperor had his painters copy a European miniature several times creating a total of five miniatures. Jahangir then challenged Roe to pick out the original from the copies, a feat Sir Thomas Roe could not do, to the delight of Jahangir.
Jahangir was also revolutionary in his adaptation of European styles. A collection at the British Museum in London contains seventy-four drawings of Indian portraits dating from the time of Jahangir, including a portrait of the emperor himself.
These portraits are a unique example of art during Jahangir’s reign because before and for sometime after, faces were not drawn full, head-on and including the shoulders as well as the head as these drawings are.
Pervez Musharraf came to power on 13 October 1999 in dramatic circumstances which could almost have been scripted in Bollywood. Nawaz Sharif’s attempt to sack him in a national television broadcast and ‘hijack’ his plane en route from Colombo to Karachi enabled the Chief of Army Staff to pose as a reluctant coup maker. In reality, tensions had been growing between the army and the Pakistan Prime Minister since the Kargil conflict in July in which Musharraf was a leading strategist. The former company commander of a commando battalion and member of the elite Special Service Group had been promoted to Chief of Army Staff in October 1998 because, like Zia before him, he was seen as an apolitical figure without a power base in the army. Both coup makers were from partition migrant families in a Punjabi-and Pashtun-dominated institution. It was there, however, that the similarities ceased. Musharraf lacked Zia’s Deobandi-influenced piety and was more of the old-style Pakistan army officer, not averse to Scotch and soda and as at home on the golf course as the parade ground. He was thus far more like Ayub than Zia. His liberalism had been nurtured by family background. His father, Syed Musharrafuddin, was educated at Aligarh. His mother, who held a degree in English Literature from Delhi’s Indraprastha College, was equally liberally educated. Musharraf, because of his father’s posting to the Pakistan Embassy in Ankara, had spent seven years of his childhood (1949-56) in Turkey.
Despite Musharraf’s liberalism, he shared the army’s traditional disdain for politicians. He possessed public relations skills, but lacked the political skills to overcome the lack of legitimacy accorded to a coup-maker. While Musharraf possessed a liberal tinge, he was schooled in the instinctive authoritarianism of the Pakistan army. He thus became increasingly ruffled and impatient when his policies were questioned. He surrounded himself with loyalists who gave the advice he wished to hear. He eventually blundered into the situation in which he needed to declare an emergency following his suspension of a popular and independent-minded Chief Justice. Musharraf, who had declared himself the saviour of Pakistan’s democracy, was badly caught out. This action in November 2007 dealt a final blow to his international standing. Washington had grown weary of his ‘Janus-faced’ approach to militancy, after initially enthusiastically embracing him as an ally in the ‘War on Terror’. The Pakistan public also increasingly opposed his calibrated approach to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militants. A liberalized media exposed Pakistan’s President to claims that he was a Western ‘stooge’.
The atmosphere had been very different at the outset of his regime. Musharraf, both in terms of his personal liberalism, being photographed with his pet dogs and in his taking the title of Chief Executive rather than Chief Martial Law Administrator, had sought to differentiate himself from Zia. Musharraf’s role model in early speeches, in keeping with his childhood and mid-career training in Turkey, was Kemal Ataturk. Enthusiasts for his regime continued to view him as the ‘second Jinnah’, committed to the founding father’s vision of a ‘moderate, progressive Muslim society’. Islamic moderation remained a watchword throughout the Musharraf era, although much less was heard about the ‘good governance’ agenda which he had vowed would replace the ‘sham democracy’ of the 1990s.
Despite the rhetoric, Musharraf did not modernize the taxation system, or roll back the Islamization legacies of the Zia era. Administrative reform shook up local government, but did not free rural society from the thralldom of patrimonial politics. There was little headway in tackling misogynist practices arising either from tribal custom or from the Hudood Ordinances. Musharraf’s attachment to a ‘good governance’ agenda, Islamic moderation and composite dialogue with India thus failed not only because of external economic and political buffetings, but because of the internal weaknesses and contradictions at the heart of the Pakistan state.
Reports which focus on his personality traits to account for the failings miss the vital point that Musharraf, like earlier Pakistan military rulers, needed to co-opt political allies. In doing so he lost the ability to introduce wide-ranging change and was as much in thrall to the vested interests of the religious establishment and the feudal class as were elected leaders. Military-backed rule thus once again proved unable to modernize Pakistan, even with a liberal and progressive-minded figure at its helm. Even the surging rate of economic growth proved to be an unsustainable bubble because of the failure to tackle long-term structural problems.
The Musharraf era exemplifies three long-running themes in Pakistan’s post independence history: firstly, that military governments are ultimately unable to modernize society, governance and the economy because of their lack of legitimacy; secondly, that Pakistan’s utilization of Islamic proxies has derailed relations with its neighbours and come at an increasing domestic cost; thirdly, the military rule is likely to increase ethnic tensions within the smaller provinces of Pakistan. The Musharraf era also reveals the complexities in Pakistan’s development which can puzzle if not elude headline writers and analysts alike. For here was a state in which a military ‘dictator’ could pursue more liberal media policies than his elected predecessor; one in which Baloch tribal chieftains with the absolute power of life and death over their dependants could represent national struggle from state ‘exploitation’; a state which is simultaneously remarkably resilient and ‘soft’ in terms of its ability to implement basic economic and administrative functions.
9/11 and its Aftermath
9/11 and the US’ and its allies’ subsequent ‘War on Terror’ exerted as profound an impact on Musharraf’s Pakistan as had the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Zia’s regime a generation earlier. In both instances, Pakistan found itself a front-line state in a struggle whose ramifications reached far beyond the region. While 9/11 restored Musharraf’s international standing and brought a massive influx of resources, it also threatened the state’s established security policies. Reversal of support for the Afghan Taliban and a toning down of support for the Kashmir jihad would have in themselves alienated sections of Pakistan opinion. The accompanying military action from 2004 onwards in the Tribal Areas set the regime not only against its former proteges, but firmly against the tide of public opinion. This would not have mattered in former times, but Musharraf had made a point of liberalizing the media to provide ‘democratic‘ credentials for his regime.
There are many colourful and contrasting depictions of the circumstances in which Musharraf brought the powerful army corps commanders round to the policy of opposing their former Taliban proteges in Afghanistan. Economic weaknesses, with debts of $38 billion, along with strategic threats possibly from both the US and India, lay behind the decision. It was subsequently referred to as the ‘turnaround‘ in official circles. Superficially this was accurate, as Pakistan had been one of just three countries which had formally recognized the Taliban regime in Kabul. We have seen earlier that the Taliban were regarded as a means of securing Pakistan’s strategic interests and at least in part owed their rise to power to military and security assistance from Islamabad. However, the Taliban had proved not compliant neighbours for Pakistan. A goodwill visit by a Pakistani football team to Kandahar ended in the humiliation of public head-shaving after the visitors had violated the Taliban dress code by wearing shorts. Despite Islamabad’s appeals over the fate of the Bamiyan Buddha statues, the 2,000-year old sculptures were blasted from their cliff face in February 2001. Ultimately, however, the Taliban lost their value as a ‘strategic asset’ to Pakistan because of the growing influence of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, after they were forced to abandon Sudan.
Pakistan supported the Operation Enduring Freedom in November 2001 by granting over-flight and landing rights to the US, by sharing intelligence and facilitating the logistical supply of forces engaged in Afghanistan. In return, it gained leverage and acceptance from the international community when its standing was low not just because of the military seizure of power, but also the issue of nuclear proliferation. The US understood the egotistical Dr. A.Q. Khan, whom Musharraf had removed from his position as head of the nuclear programme in March 2001, and later placed under house arrest, was not simply a lone ‘rogue’ element in his secret dealings with Libya, Iran and North Korea. The inflow of foreign military and economic aid boosted Pakistan’s flagging economy. In 2000, Pakistan’s fiscal debt was 5.3% of GDP and its total debt stood at 92% of GDP. It is true that Pakistan had been granted an IMF standby credit of US $596 million before 9/11. Bit it was the country’s post 9/11 international standing which led to the inflow of foreign aid, higher remittances from overseas Pakistanis and the rescheduling of debt by the Paris Club of donors to help the accelerating growth rates. President Bush’s removal of economic sanctions, which had been in place since the nuclear tests and the Musharraf coup, paved the way for over &600 million in economic support funds to be received in 2002. The improving economic outlook saw annual rates of economic growth rise from an average of 3% at the beginning of the Musharraf era to a peak of over 6%. The parlous foreign exchange reserves, which were only sufficient to cover one month’s imports at US 908 million in 2000, rose to around 1 billion by 2004. One striking piece of evidence of the increased prosperity was the expansion of mobile-phone use in the six-year period 2001-07: from 600,000 to around 50 million.
Musharraf was unable, however, to make rapid economic growth sustainable, by tackling structural weaknesses in the economy. These included not just low taxation rates and poor physical infrastructure, but low human capital. Pakistan lagged most of South Asia with respect to Human Development Indicators such as infant mortality, primary school enrolment and expenditure on education. As the Human Development Report for 2007 summed up, ‘Economic growth in Pakistan is yet to be adequately linked with human development by deliberate re-distributive public policy. Indeed, the predicament of Pakistan lies in the utter divorce of income distribution policies from growth policies’. With a third of the population living below the poverty line and over half having no access to education, basic health services or sanitation, growth remained captive to exogenous favourable events and to the continued provision of credit for wealthier consumers. Critics of Musharraf’s economic reforms were justified in their stance that macro-economic improvements with respect to indebtedness and foreign reserves were primarily the result of a one-off windfall arising from Pakistan’s stance post 9/11.
Musharraf, like Zia, had been given political as well as economic breathing space by the turn of international developments. He won kudos by opening licences for private TV and radio broadcasting, and allowed newspaper editors free rein. This policy provided a veneer of liberalism to his regime. It may also have been prompted by notions that the state-run TV system had lost Pakistan the media war with India over Kargil, and that local private channels could usefully compete with foreign satellite providers who were increasingly threatening old-style policing of television. The new media however gave discursive space not only to liberal voices, but to spokesmen of militant groups. It also reported on the ‘collateral damage’ arising from military action in Waziristan. It is unlikely that Musharraf would have become so universally unpopular because of his ‘pro-American’ stance if the old restricted media had survived. Ultimately private TV companies such as GEO fell foul of the government in 2007 when they sided with the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, in his struggle with Musharraf. The introduction of the emergency which curbed both the media and political opponents did immense harm to Musharraf’s international standing. It coincided with both Washington and London’s increasing frustrations with the ambiguities surroundings Pakistan’s response to the threat of trans-national terrorist activity in the region. During his final period as President, Musharraf came under increasing pressure to replace his system of military-backed rule with a fully-fledged democratic system. This was seen by both Western analysts and liberals in Pakistan as holding the key to tackling not only the country’s chronic instability, but the terrorist threat which was seen as emanating from its porous border regions with Afghanistan. The sentiment was summed up by Zahid Hussain when he wrote, ‘The war against militancy and Islamic extremism can be best fought and won in a liberal democracy.’
Post 9/11 the Pakistan state engaged in increasingly complex and fraught responses to the militant groups which had either traditionally operated out of sanctuaries in its territory, or had crossed into Pakistan in the wake of the US toppling the Taliban government in Afghanistan and the capture of Al-Qaeda’s Tora Bora redoubt in December 2001. While security and later military operations were undertaken against ‘foreign fighters’ and leadership cadres of Al-Qaeda, the Pakistan state did not pursue the Afghan Taliban or Kashmir jihadists. Some ISI operatives and military commanders undoubtedly sympathized with the Afghan Taliban whom they had nurtured. The policy of providing sanctuary however primarily reflected Musharraf’s pragmatism and commitment to the long-term Indo-centric security strategy. The US overthrow of the Taliban regime represented a major setback as it brought non-Paktuns to the corridors of power in Kabul who had traditionally looked to India for support. Increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan raised fears of encirclement in some security analysts’ minds. This was not a totally irrational response, as Pakistan intelligence claimed Indian involvement in the growing insurgency in Balochistan. Pakistan also sought to counteract India by continuing to provide sanctuary to Kashmir jihadist organizations, more to keep up pressure on New Delhi than in a post-Kargil anticipation that Kashmir could be wrenched from India through a military victory.
Afghan Taliban from bases in Waziristan increasingly infiltrated into Afghanistan as the West diverted its attention from that country to Iraq. For many years Afghan Taliban leaders freely operated from headquarters in Quetta (the so-called Quetta Shura). Cross-border infiltration into Kashmir also continued during 2001. The bold move by Pakistan-based LeT and JeM to expand their jihad from Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian heartland by attacking the parliament in New Delhi on 13 December 2002 forced the Musharraf regime to readjust its policy. Both LeT and JeM received logistical and financial support from the military and ISI in their past development. This had not gone unnoticed either in New Delhi or Washington.
The high-profile attack on the Indian parliament brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. It resulted in Musharraf’s banning not only LeT and JeM but the militant sectarian SSP and TNFJ organizations. The security operations against them were largely ineffective and in some instances desultory. According to one report, while the head of LeT, Hafiz Saeed, was under arrest following the attack on the Indian parliament, he still had access to an international telephone and was in touch with supporters and sympathizers in the US. Banned organizations could reform under new titles and by adopting legitimate business covers as charitable organizations. The SSP for example operated as Ahle Sunnat-wal-Jamaat; JeM as Tehreek-e-Khaddim-ul-Islam; and LeT as Jamaat-ud-Dawa. They provided jobs for militants returned from the jihad front and assistance for the families of those martyred. JuD was to provide humanitarian assistance to the wider population in the wake of the 2005 earthquake in Azad Kashmir and following the 2010 flood disaster.
In a striking departure, the army and Frontier Corps began military campaigns in the Tribal Areas in 2004. The aim in the face of mounting pressure on Western forces in Afghanistan was to root out Afghan Taliban who had close ties with Al-Qaeda and ‘foreign forces’ (mostly Arabs, Chechens and Uzbeks) who had found sanctuary in South Waziristan. The operations were marked by military setbacks, and growing resistance from local tribesmen who not only sympathized with the Afghan jihad cause, but tenaciously upheld long-term commitments to independence from outside intrusion and Paktunwali codes for revenge for deaths to kinsmen caught in the crossfire and protection of ‘guests’. A combination of increased resistance and hostile public opinion led to a series of peace deals in South Waziristan. The first was the so-called Shakai Agreement in April 2004. Later in February 2005 another peace deal was signed in South Waziristan with Baitullah Mehsud (Sra Rogah Deal).
Local pro-Taliban militant support was eventually institutionalized in 2007 with the formation of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) by Baitullah Mehsud. The move was a direct response to the Pakistan army’s seizure of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad on 10 July 2007 in a bloody battle which claimed over 150 lives. The TTP brought together local militant commanders from the various Tribal Agencies, some of whom were committed to the local Islamization of society, others who were much more closely committed to Al-Qaeda and the international jihad. The extent to which the Deobandi mosques and schools alone provided the ideological motive for militant recruitment will be explored later. In addition, the TTP’s generous financial inducements, charitable support for militants’ dependants which has echoes in the army’s formal Fauji Foundation and the veneration in which the martyrs are held, seen in the pilgrimages to the tombs of Shaheeds, all played a part. The TTP helped fund its activities through local taxes, which had more overtones of a protection racket than Islamic charitable giving. Despite its decentralization, the TTP was capable of unified and sustained operations. Outside the Tribal Areas, the long established Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) operated under its umbrella in Swat. JeM, SSP and LeJ formed what became known as the Punjab Taliban. In all as many as 40 militant groups were brought under the TTP umbrella. While it remained committed to the Afghan jihad, it was increasingly drawn into conflict with the Pakistan state and sought to usher in an Islamic revolution. The Afghan Taliban focused its efforts across the Durand Line, and its sanctuaries in Pakistan were not engaged by the security forces.
The fighting was bloodiest in South Waziristan, reaching a peak in the winter of 2007-8. There was also conflict in North Waziristan in October 2007, which led 80,000 people to flee their homes. Over the course of 2008, government forces also fought militants in the Bajaur and Mohmand agencies. Military activity in FATA was to increase greatly in the post-Musharraf period, after a lull following the ANP’s assumption of office in the Frontier which saw further abortive peace agreements. The launching of operations in Waziristan was accompanied by growing terrorist blasts in Peshawar, which were eventually to spread to Punjab. Some Western analysts once again raised fears that Pakistan was a ‘failed’ state. Despite their immense human toll, such outrages did not presage an Islamist takeover of the state, which continued to rest on the twin bulwarks of the army and the economic, cultural and political commitment of the Punjabi population to the Pakistan state project.
Washington also had its long-term strategic interest in the stability of Pakistan, now a nuclear power as well as an ally in the ‘War on Terror’. As we have seen, it poured huge resources into the country post 9/11. The Bush presidency for many years feted Musharraf, thereby strengthening his own position. This policy was not universally supported by such prominent US critics as the veteran South Asia specialist, Seleg Harrison. The US also exerted influence to pull back India and Pakistan from the brink of war in 2002 and encouraged the reopening of diplomatic dialogue. In the later years of Musharraf presidency, however, relations with Washington became strained over the extent of Pakistan’s commitment to the ‘War on Terror’. The activities of the Quetta Shura were noted, as was the fact that the arrest of known militants frequently followed Western pressure, and although such leading figures as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (Al-Qaeda number 3 figure) and Mullah Obeidullah (the Taliban regime’s Defence Minister) were netted, and militants like Aby Hamza Rabia and Mushin Musa Marwalli Arwah were killed, many others remained at large. Leading militants such as Fazlur Rehman Khalil (HuM) and Maulana Masood Azhar (JeM) were released during 2002-4. It was especially irksome for Washington that Osama bin Laden remained at large.
The Musharraf regime responded to US criticisms by reporting that by May 2006 over 600 Al-Qaeda members had been arrested in Pakistan and perhaps as many as 1,000 had been killed. The effect that this had on organizational capacity can be gauged by the fact that Ayman al-Zawahiri repeatedly called for an uprising against Musharraf and for his assassination as an enemy against Islam. There were many attempts on his life. Worryingly, information began to emerge of some servicemen being implicated in the two bomb attacks in the space of less than a fortnight in December 2003 and 6 July 2007 attack at Rawalpindi airport.
The US response to what it saw as Islamabad’s half-hearted commitment to halting the flow of militants into Afghanistan was to use remote control missiles (drones) tp attack militant bases in Pakistan and even to threaten ‘hot pursuit’ of militants into Pakistan soil. This stance further inflamed anti-American sentiment in Pakistan which was running at a high level despite US economic largesse. The drones did not always hit their military targets but caused civilian casualties in the Tribal Areas. The hatred of America was deeply corrosive of Musharraf’s standing. It was probably in to shore this up that Islamabad complained in public about the drone attacks, while privately supplying intelligence information which enabled the successful targeting of Al-Qaeda commanders and such notable Pakistan Taliban figures as Baitullah Mehsud. While only rhetoric was deployed against drone attacks, the ‘hot pursuit’ policy raised the real danger that there might be engagement between Pakistani and US ground forces. It was not until the post-Musharraf period, because of Taliban excesses in Swat and terrorist attacks on ‘soft’ civilian targets, that public opinion began to shift away from the notion that Pakistan was being asked to fight America’s war and was suffering therefore. Washington’s unilateral action in the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad reversed this trend.
Relations with India
Pakistan’s relations with India veered from the edge of war to the brink of a major breakthrough on Kashmir. The high points were the Agra summit of July 2001 and the meeting between Musharraf and the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee during the Islamabad SAARC summit in January 2004. The low point was the military stand-off following the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament. In the event, the Musharraf era closed with no decisive change to the decades-long enduring rivalry. The prospect of a ‘peace dividend’ for the region remained as tantalizing as ever. Throughout this period, Islamabad’s foreign policy remained fixed on the Indian ‘threat’, despite the pressure to reverse its strategy in Afghanistan. The overthrow of the Taliban represented a major strategic setback. The US-backed interim government of President Karzai brought members of the anti-Pakistan Northern Alliance who had previously been supported by India, Russia and Iran to the heart of government in Kabul. Rather than Afghanistan providing strategic depth, there was now the possibility of a two-front threat from India emanating from the country. Islamabad claimed that the new Indian consulates opened in Kandahar and Jalalabad were part of a growing Indian presence which had security threats attached to it. Similarly, there were allegations that India was fishing in the troubled waters of Balochistan through its consulate at Zahedan close to the Pakistan-Iran border. Undoubtedly India, through its humanitarian assistance and involvement in reconstruction projects, established a growing influence in post-war Afghanistan. Pakistan’s tolerance of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s network, which launched operations against ISAF/NATO troops from its base in Miranshah in North Waziristan, was a response to the Afghan Indian threat, as Islamabad wanted leverage with a future Paktun moderate Taliban grouping. While requiring a stake in any post-Karzai Afghanistan, Pakistan’searlier experiences with the Taliban rule made it aware that a client state was an unrealistic aim.
The US worked hard to get Islamabad and New Delhi to improve their relations so that Al-Qaeda could not provoke war between the nuclear-armed South Asian powers. The US also had a vested interest in ensuring that tensions with India did not result in the reduction of Pakistan forces on the border with Afghanistan. In addition to US pressure, the lessening of cross-border infiltration from Pakistan into Kashmir from 2002 onwards paved the way for India to agree to a resumption of the composite dialogue process which had been abandoned following Kargil. Musharraf was an unlikely partner for dialogue, as he was seen in New Delhi as the architect of the Kargil war which had claimed over a thousand lives. However, he displayed far greater flexibility than previous civilian leaders in his suggestions for unlocking the logjam of the Kashmir dispute. He not only declared that the UN Security Council Resolutions which had been the centre point of Pakistan diplomacy over six decades could be ‘set aside’, but in December 2005 raised a series of proposals which included soft borders, demilitarization, self-governance and joint mechanisms of supervision for the Kashmir region. Alongside these public pronouncements, the Musharraf regime engaged in back-channel diplomacy which by April 2007 had made progress in the settlement of the Kashmir dispute. India as the status quo power was more inclined to put Kashmir on the back burner, while encouraging a range of confidence-building measures. They included the opening of a bus service with much fanfare between the two sides of Kashmir in April 2005. In reality, the Pakistan military still regarded India as the main strategic threat, despite the improvement of diplomatic relations from the nadir of 2001-2.
Pervez Musharraf termed the post-Zia era a period of ‘sham democracy’. It was, he maintained, marred by corruption, economic incompetence and disunity. He identified this litany of failure with the personalities of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, thereby having a ready-made excuse for their political exclusion. Benazir in political exile in London and Dubai. Nawaz Sharif was found guilty in July 2000 of charges of corruption, kidnapping and hijacking. He was allowed to leave Attock jail in December and go with family members to exile in Saudi Arabia. Although Musharraf was initially adept at speaking the language of an internationally acceptable ‘good governance’ agenda, with its vocabulary of transparency, accountability and empowerment, the attempt to build a ‘real’ democracy boiled down to the tried and tested approaches of the country’s previous military rulers: namely, a process of accountability to discipline political opponents, rather than root out across-the -board corruption; the curtailing of political activity; and the attempt to build direct links with the populace by means of local government reforms which bypassed the influence of the political opposition. While these measures temporarily weakened opponents, they were unable to secure legitimacy for a regime which faced mounting criticism at home and abroad. It thus had to restart a quasi-democratic political process. This involved alliances with the more opportunistic elements of the religious and feudal elites. From the attempt to bypass patrimonial politics, Musharraf was back to square one, relying for example on the manipulations of kinship networks and patronage by the Chaudhrys of Gujrat to underpin his power in Punjab.
Musharraf transformed Nawaz Sharif’s Ehtesab commission into the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). This was tasked under the Chairmanship of Lieutenant General Syed Mohammad Amjad to investigate corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen. Its closed courts and snaring of opposition politicians in a string of cases led to the charges of its being a partisan body. Significantly, politicians who were known for corruption, but who had switched allegiance to pro-establishment parties were not investigated. This led to some accusations that the Musharraf loyalist PML(Q) was created by NAB. Undoubtedly the fear of being involved in court cases led to defection from the PPP with some 20 members forming the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarian Patriot group. Its post-2002 election alliance with the PML(Q) was crucial in ensuring that Musharraf loyalists a majority in the National Assembly. While the NAB set about its political witch hunt, significantly only 8 of the 522 people who were prosecuted in its first four years of activity came from the armed forces.
Political activity was curbed not just by the NAB, but by sedition laws and the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. Freedom of association was curtailed from 15 March 2000, when an order was introduced banning public rallies, demonstrations and strikes. It was only shortly before the October 2002 polls that the ban on political activities was lifted. Even then rallies and processions were forbidden. The mounting problems besetting the Musharraf regime in 2007 led to a further period of curbs. On 3 November a state of emergency was introduced through a Provisional Constitutional Order. This was ended on 15 December, just one day before the campaigning for national elections was due to begin. In the event the polls were delayed until February 2008, following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.
Local government reforms were overseen by a new National Reconciliation Bureau headed by Lieutenant General (retd) S. Tanwir Naqvi. The new district administration system gave considerable power to the elected district Nazims at the expense both of the bureaucracy and the provincial-level politicians. Significantly, the old Ziast ploy was adopted of holding the local elections on a non-party basis. Nazims were unconstrained as to how they spent government block grant funding allocated to their district, which bypassed both the bureaucrats and the provincial legislators. In the long run, the Nazim were unable to provide a bulwark for the Musharraf regime as were the Basic Democracies for Ayub. Some Nazims cashed in their new-found opportunities for wealth and rose to become provincial-level politicians. the reforms further encouraged patronage rather than issue-based politics.
The reforms did not increase administrative efficiency. On the contrary, the weakening of bureaucracy and the failure to follow through the promised police reform promulgated in the ordinance of 2002 contributed to a further decline in governance. This was marked by both inefficiency in the delivery of services and waning confidence in the state’s ability to sustain the rule of the law. Transparency International’s 2007 report maintained that the 350,000-strong police force was the most corrupt public sector agency in Pakistan. Such scholars as Alan Krueger and Jita Maleckova maintain that the resulting sense of marginality and frustration is even more significant than poverty itself in providing a breeding ground for terrorism.
Administrative reforms localized politics and further politicized local administration. Depoliticization at the provincial level boosted the politics of identity and patronage-based politics, as had happened in the Zia era. The kutchery style of politics was extended upwards from the local bodies. Simultaneously, local administration was politicized to an even greater degree than previously. This undermined government efficiency. Rather than addressing the issue of weak institutions which had beset the state since its foundation, Musharraf contributed to what has been termed the ‘graveyard of institutions’ in Pakistan. Alarmingly by the close of the Musharraf era, there was a decline in the reach of the state, not only in the traditionally lightly controlled FATA region, but in parts of the North West Frontier Province abutting the Tribal Areas and in South Punjab. This encouraged the activities of militant groups who had been initially patronized by the state, but increasingly pitted themselves against it.
Musharraf, like Ayub and Zia before him found it impossible to engineer legitimacy for his regime. His power base lay with the army not through the ballot box. Attempts to secure some degree of popular legitimization brought further problems. The June 2002 referendum designed to legitimize his presidency had many of the hallmarks of Zia’s 1984 rigged referendum. Indeed, Musharraf was led to apologize for the patent interference which had delivered 98% of the votes in his favour. The opposition parties maintained that the turnout was a mere 5% of the electorate. The official government figure was 70%. The New York Times neatly summed it up when it declared that ‘the balloting had actually diminished Musharraf’s stature’. The irregularities certainly dispelled the favourable impression created by the political reforms which increased the number of seats for women, reduced the voting age to eighteen, and stipulated that only those who held degrees were eligible for election to the National Assembly. The most far-reaching reform, however, ended separate electorates, thus enabling the return of minorities to the political mainstream for the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
The national and provincial elections in October 2002 were in fact stage-managed similarly to the referendum. The Political Parties Amendment Act of 28 June, which set eligibility requirements for parties, turned the clock back to the Zia period. Another Presidential Ordinance issued the following month limited Prime Ministers to two terms in office, thereby ruling out Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. In the event neither of the two most important opposition leaders returned to Pakistan to campaign. Musharraf further armed himself against possible opposition by issuing the Legal Framework Order which established a National Security Council and restored the President’s power to dismiss the Prime Minister.
At the same time as restricting opponents, Musharraf cultivated ties with the Islamic parties and the more opportunistic elements of the Punjab’s rural elite. The religious parties’ unprecedented electoral success, which saw them gain 45% of the votes and 29 National Assembly seats in NWFP, arose in part from the inflaming of Pashtun sentiment following the US military intervention in Afghanistan. It will be recalled that no Islamic party had previously obtained more than 5% of the national vote. The six-party MMA coalition was also greatly assisted by the neutralization of the mainstream parties and support from the military establishment. This was seen most visibly in the lifting of legal cases against religious leaders. The other beneficiary of official support was the so-called ‘Kings’ party, the PML(Q), which emerged with 77 National Assembly seats and formed the largest party. It mainly comprised pro-establishment former members of the PML(N).
After a period of horse-trading following the election, the PML(Q) took office under the leadership of the Baloch politician Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali. He was as much a puppet of the President as Mohammad Khan Junejo had initially been under Zia. Jamali was to be replaced, after a brief transitional period under Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, by Shaukat Aziz, a former Citibank executive. Aziz had even less political standing, but was the technocrat type of public figure preferred by military leaders from Ayub onwards. Following his swearing in as Prime Minister, he promised to seek ‘guidance’ from the President in order to provide ‘good governance’ for the people.
Musharraf maintained a tight control over the PML(Q), although he did not join it as Ayub had done with the Convention Muslim League. The President arbitrated in its internal disputes and eased tensions with allies such as the MQM when they arose. As Ayesha Siddiqa has perceptively remarked, this approach ‘Instead of strengthening democratic institutions, as Musharraf claimed . . . encouraged clientelism’. Factionalism within the ranks of PML(Q) was an inevitable result. The most powerful group comprised the followers of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Parvaiz Elahi, which was cemented around landed and biraderi ties. The generally weak political position of the PML(Q) was revealed in the 2008 elections. In the absence of rigging and with Musharraf’s star on the wane, the PML(Q) saw its support eroded by a resurgent PML(N) and PPP.
The MMA proved more difficult partners than the PML(Q). Its JI component was especially critical of Musharraf’s failure to stand down as Chief of Army Staff while holding the dual office of President. The JI was also hostile to the government’s pro-American policy. It finally parted ways with its JUI(F) coalition partner and with Musharraf over the military action against the Red Mosque. The MMA’s limited action in implementing Islamic measures made it open to being outflanked by radical Islamists. At the same time it did little to meet the Frontier population’s aspirations for improved economic conditions. The main consequence of the MMA government was however its inactivity in the face of growing influence of the TNSM in Swat. The provincial government in Peshawar had responsibility for the region but did nothing to quell the increasing vigilante actions within it.
We have noted earlier that military rule has not only undermined Pakistan’s political institutionalization, but has also weakened the ability of civil society to underpin democratization. Musharraf differed from both Ayub and Zia in that, apart from the short-term emergency in November 2007, he did not crack down either on the media or on civil society institutions. Ironically, perhaps the greatest testament to Musharraf’s liberalism was the scope it allowed for civil society organizations led by lawyers to push him out of office.
The State of Islam Musharraf portrayed Pakistan as a moderate Islamic state which would act as a source of stability in a volatile West Asia region. He launched the concept of Enlightened Moderation at the 2002 OIC conference in Malaya. He also emphasized Sufi teachings as a counter to extremism. In November 2006, he launched a National Sufi Council amidst great fanfare in Lahore. Education sector reforms sought to modernize the curriculum of religious schools, with $50 million allocated to pay the salaries of teachers of non-religious subjects. Mounting sectarian violence, claims by both India and Afghanistan of continuing cross-border terrorism, the involvement of members of the Pakistan diaspora in acts of international terrorism and a rising tide of suicide bombings and fiyadeen attacks within Pakistan belied this image. Suicide bombings were introduced to Pakistan via the Iraq conflict. The first major attack claimed the lives of a busload of French naval construction workers outside the Sheraton Hotel, Karachi on 8 May 2002. By the end of the Musharraf era such episodes were a weekly occurrence. For an international audience, Pakistan became synonymous with terrorism. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, the number of violence-related deaths rocketed from 183 in 2003 to 3,599 in 2007. The Musharraf regime’s attempts to secure legitimacy subsequently shifted, as it presented itself as a bulwark against the destabilization of a nuclear-armed state.
Government efforts ensured that a number of religious scholars, headed by the Chairman of the Barelvi education board, Tanzimul Madaris Pakistan, issued a fatwa on 19 May 2005 which forbade suicide attacks on Muslims and places of worship and public congregations. Deobandi ulema steadfastly refused to provide a blanket condemnation of suicide attacks. Even more damaging was the government’s inability to clamp down on the mushrooming ‘hate literature‘. The banning of 90 books by the Interior Ministry in 2006 which contained such literature was the tip of the iceberg. Monthly copies of Mujalla Al-Dawa and Ghazwa, the mouthpieces of LeT, continued to circulate in the Musharraf era. These included jihadist articles and glorification of militant actions. Even more extremist materials than newspapers and magazines were the CDs in circulation which included footage of the beheadings of US ‘spies’. These could be obtained quite readily on newsstands outside militant mosques. Extremist messages were also broadcast by radio stations. The most famous of these were run by Mullah Fazlullah in Swat, but there were dozens if not hundreds of other FM stations operating in FATA.
Was the government unable to curb such material, or did it choose not to do so? At the heart of Musharraf’s stance was a pragmatic view of Islam’s usefulness for state policy. He could not break with the religious parties in the MMA, as he needed their support. This set up contradictions with his policy of Enlightened Moderation. Ultimately he would only go so far in risking the opposition of religious groups, which in any case became increasingly disaffected by his pro-US stance. He thus adopted on the whole a cautious approach, whether this was curbing militants, attempting to roll back state-sponsored Islamization, or responding to Western pressures to reform the curriculum of the madaris. Musharraf never abandoned the policy of utilizing ties with Islamic proxies to secure strategic interests in both Afghanistan and Kashmir. He of course had to tread more carefully after 9/11. This involved, as we have seen earlier, distinguishing between militant organizations which had links with Al-Qaeda or were acting independently of the establishment’s control and those which might yet prove useful for the pursuit of national strategic goals.
A combination of Musharraf’s own liberal attitudes, mounting sectarian conflict and the need to secure a favourable international image for his regime led him initially to attempt to roll back some of the Islamization measures, which had been introduced from the Zia era onwards. In May 2000, Musharraf attempted to introduce a limited reform to take away the power of local police officials to respond to blasphemy charges. There had been a number of cases directed against the Christian minority which revealed that the blasphemy ordinance was being used maliciously. Strikes organized by the religious parties led him however to back down. Four years later, he returned to the issue calling for both the Hudood Ordinance and the Blasphemy Ordinance to be ‘studied afresh’ so that they were not misused. The pronouncement was accompanied by the creation of an independent National Commission for Human Rights.
It was not until 2006 that President Musharraf moved to reform the Hudood Ordinance, following mounting pressure from human rights groups and women’s organizations that women who were the victims of rape were being punished while their male assailants were not being prosecuted. Rather than annul the Hudood Ordinance, thereby risking the hostility of Islamic groups, the government introduced the Women’s Protection Bill which, when it became law on 1 December, allowed rape to be prosecuted under civil law. Opponents called the measure mere ‘eyewash’. It failed to protect women, but was useful in burnishing Musharraf’s moderate image in the West.
The Musharraf regime also moved cautiously on the issue of madrasa reform, again seeking to balance the need for international approval against the risk of stirring up domestic opposition. While the government had ridden out the October 2001 street protests against US intervention in Afghanistan, orchestrated by the religious parties, Musharraf subsequently trod warily. The role of madaris in encouraging extremism had come under considerable international scrutiny since 9/11. The initial Western understanding, although this was later challenged, saw the madaris as being the last educational resource for the poor who had been abandoned by the state. Education in these institutions exposed individuals to abuse and to an atmosphere which increased intolerance and militancy. While not all madaris trained militants, they provided an ideological justification for violence. The growing tide of sectarian violence provided Musharraf with his own motivation for exerting a tighter grip. After an initial lull in sectarian killings in 2000, they threatened to get out of hand, as they had done in the closing months of Nawaz Sharif’s rule. It was not until 2002 that he introduced an ordinance making the imparting of sectarian hatred and militancy in madaris a crime punishable by two years’ rigourous imprisonment. The ordinance also drew up a three-year project to provide government funds and technical assistance for the widening of the curriculum to include ‘modern’ general subjects including English and Science. Nevertheless the implementation of reform was slow and large numbers of madaris remained unregistered. Of the 13,000 or so that were registered, the vast majority did not participate in the reform programme, which were seen as being American-driven.
Strategic concerns, as we have noted, lay behind the calibrated response to militancy in FATA. Undoubtedly, however, Musharraf’s need of MMA support impacted on his response to the growing activities of militant groups who sought to impose shari’ah both in the Malakand division and the federal territory of Islamabad.
The spill-over of the Swat insurgency in April 2009 was to herald a major military offensive not only in Swat but later in South Waziristan. Earlier events in Swat were often seen in the West as heralding the spread of Talibanization from the peripheral border areas to Pakistan’s heartland. What Swat demonstrates is the longer-term roots of contemporary Talibanization in some of the Pashtun areas. The TTP operations in Swat were in reality those of the TSNM writ large. The latter organization had emerrged under the leadership of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, a former JI leader, in response to the legal vaccum created by the merger of the Swat Princely State with the rest of Pakistan in 1969. It had developed in response to the local population’s sense that the old-style riwaj system of law, which allowed disputants to be tried by customary law or shari’ah, had worked but the new provincially administered Tribal Area criminal and civil codes were inadequate. The implementation of shari’ah was sought not only as an Islamization measure but to secure speedy and fair justice for the local population.
Swat’s merger with Pakistan had also been accompanied by increased corruption and tensions between the dominant Yusufzai elite and the Gujjar lower classes. As early as 1995 the TSNM had become engaged in armed struggle with the Pakistan state, so what was to happen in Swat in the following decade was by no means unprecedented. The TSNM not only espoused the cause of legal reform but appealed to the poorer sections of Swat society, most notably the Gujjars and Kammis who had acquired land at the end of princely rule but were vulnerable to harassment from local leading Yusufzai Khans. Sufi Muhammad had encouraged his followers in 2001 to fight the US invasion of Afghanistan, during which many had perished. When Musharraf cracked down on militant groups following the attack on the Indian parliament, the TSNM was banned and Sufi Muhammad was arrested. His son-in-law, Maulvi Fazlullah, who was to become the Taliban commander in the region, stepped up the campaign to enforce shari’ah. The black turbaned movement grew in strength under his leadership and forged links with other militant groups in the Tribal Areas. This was evidenced when his brother was killed in a US drone attack on an Al-Qaeda compound at Damadola in Bajaur. The MMA government which had responsibility for Swat and the rest of the Malakand division, did not check the expansion of TSNM power, even though this was at the expense of the state functionaries. Fazlullah announced that the TSNM was a component of the TTP follwing its creation in 2007. It was this step, along with the burning of girls’ schools and the continuing use of illegal FM stations to broadcast calls for Islamic revolution, that led to the military operation in Swat late in the Musharraf era. The military operation Rah-e-Haq, in which more than 200 policemen and soldiers were killed in fighting with the supporters of TSNM, drove Fazlullah to take refuge in the hills. The new ANP government in Peshawar was no more committed to defeating the TSNM than the MMA had been. The peace treaty of May 2008 enabled Fazlullah to regroup before temporarily seizing power in Swat from the Pakistan state.
Some Western critics have maintained that the July 2007 Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) affair in Islamabad, if not stage-managed by Musharraf, was the outcome of his deliberately allowing militancy to fester. He could then present himself as the only barrier to a ‘Talibanized’ Pakistan. The reality is more likely that a combination of the need for MMA assistance, knowledge that the liberated media would sensationalize any action and the fear that there would be backlash in the Tribal Areas led to a policy of inactivity. Moreover, the prayer leader of the Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, had continued links with ISI. These may have afforded him protection as part of the post 9/11 carefully calibrated response to militancy. They may also have been his undoing, leading him to overstep the limits in his campaign to enforce shari’ah and to refuse incentives to surrender as the stand-off developed. Respected Pakistani commentators maintain that it was impossible, given the mosque’s proximity to the ISI headquarters, that the agency was unaware of the stockpiling of weapons and the presence of militants from such banned organizations as JeM within the compound.
The Red Mosque in Islamabad had been constructed in 1965 with the Deobandi scholar Maulana Muhammad Abdullah as its imam. Its close links with the military dated from the Zia era when it had been important in raising recruits for the Afghanistan jihad. The mosque was also associated with hardline Sunni sectarianism. Maulana Abdullah had ties with SSP and was assassinated by Shia militants in 1998. The mosque’s running was taken over by his sons Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi. The latter, who was a History graduate from Quaid-e-Azam University, had until that point been following a secular path. Despite its former establishment links, the mosque became a focus of opposition to the Musharraf regime when it reversed its security policies post 9/11. Abdul Rashid Ghazi went underground in 2004 after being accused of involvement in a plot to blow up government buildings in Islamabad. He reportedly had close links with such leading Al-Qaeda figures as Ayman Al-Zawahari. Every Friday demonstrations were raised at the mosque in support of Osama bin Laden.
The provocation for eventual military action against the mosque however came as a result of the activities of Maulana Abdul Aziz’s wife Ume-Hassan, who headed the girls’ madrasa (Jamia Hafsa) which was attached to it. Baton- wielding burqa-clad students took over a nearby children’s library and abducted women who they claimed were running a neighbourhood brothel. Their initial protests in January 2007 had been prompted by the government’s demolition of illegally constructed mosques in Islamabad. For many years the Capital Development Authority had turned a blind eye to their expansion. The vigilante actions of the Jamia Hafsa students formed the backdrop to clashes with the male Lal Masjid students, who sought to impose shari’ah by unlawfully destroying CDs and cassettes of local shopkeepers. They also kidnapped a number of policemen. After months of inaction, troops stormed the mosque on 10 July 2007 and 50 militants were killed, including Abdul Rashid Ghazi. He was soon to be extolled in posters, conference gatherings and on web pages as a ‘gallant warrior’ and martyr.
While the military operation was successful, it resulted in an intensification of the insurgencies in the Tribal Areas under the umbrella of the newly formed TTP. When Ghazi’s brother was released, while he disavowed suicide attacks and bombings, he publicly thanked Allah for bestowing upon people like Fazlullah and Sufi Muhammad the power to enforce the shari’ah. Punjab based sectarian militants not only joined the TTP, but for the first time targeted the state, initially in the Pashtun areas, but ultimately in the Punjab as well. These attacks became increasingly daring and were directed at the army and ISI, which had in the past helped to nurture and protect organizations such as the LeJ and SSP. The immediate of the Lal Masjid operation saw an average of one suicide attack a day during July. Suicide bombers targeted security forces, government buildings and symbols of Western presence in Pakistan, such as the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad which was hit in September 2008. Musharraf survived a further assassination attempt, but Benazir Bhutto was to fall victim to the mounting tide of violence which in 2008 saw over 2,000 terrorist attacks, killing or injuring around 7,000 people.
Insurgency in Balochistan The Musharraf era did see the completion of one major construction project: Gwadar port. This too, however, generated centre-province tensions. Indeed, it was a contributory factor in the third round of insurgency in Balochistan since independence. The return of a military guided government committed to the development of Balochistan in the national interest provoked long standing antipathy towards the province’s ‘colonial status’. The establishment of cantonments in Balochistan in the wake of 9/11 made it appear that a Punjab-led occupying force was taking over. Musharraf’s encouragement for Pushtun Islamist parties further created a sense of Balochistan marginalization in provincial as well as national politics. The circumstances were thus created for a new phase in militancy. Musharraf appears to have little respect for the Baloch Sardars, believing that they objected to any development in the region which might weaken their autocratic power. From this perspective, their claims to be upholding Baloch rights and interests are merely hypocritical. Security concerns that New Delhi was assisting a low-intensity insurgency may further have encouraged a high-handed attitude which failed to consult Baloch interests when drawing up the developmental projects in the province. The Pakistan government attached great strategic and economic importance to the Gwadar development. The deep-sea port at the entrance of the Arabian Sea is designed to provide naval strategic depth for Pakistan (it is 450 km further from the Indian border than Karachi). It came into operation in 2008 and is being managed by the Port of Singapore Authority. The economic aim is to make Pakistan a transit hub for trade, especially in oil for Central Asia and the rapidly developing Xinjiang region of China.
Baloch nationalists fear that trade profits will be siphoned off to other provinces. They are also concerned about the influx of non-Baloch labourers in search of employment opportunities. Another grievance is the fact that local land has been acquired by real estate agencies at low prices, subsequently sold on at vast profit to non-Baloch. On 3 May 2004, three Chinese engineers were killed by a remote-controlled car bomb as they made their way to work at Gwadar. Security was immediately stepped up and protection provided to the 450 Chinese technicians. Responsibility for this outrage was claimed by a shadowy organization known as the Balochistan Liberation Army. It has been engaged in a low intensity insurgency since 2000. Its roots can be traced to the 1973-77 insurgency when it was funded by the Soviet Union. Some analysts have claimed that its re-emergence was facilitated by Indian support, alarmed at the Chinese strategic interests at Gwadar.
By 2005, violence had escalated and shifted from Gwadar to the Bugti tribal area, a locality so rich in natural gas that it provides around a third of Pakistan’s energy needs. The Bugtis were not involved in the 1973-77 Balochistan insurgency. The tribal Sardar Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti had traditionally been regarded as loyal to Islamabad. He had for example become Chief Minister of Balochistan in 1988. He founded his own political party which drew mainly on Bugti support: The Jamhoori Watan Party. The rape of Dr. Shazia Khalid was the catalyst for the conflict between the Bugtis and the Pakistan state. She was assaulted on 2 January 2005 by an army officer. The incident occurred at the Pakistan Petroleum Plant at Sui. It was seen by Nawab Bugti as an attack on his tribe’s ‘honour’ as Shazia was a ‘protected guest’. Bugti’s attempt to prevent an official cover up led to mounting conflict and attacks on gas pipelines by tribesmen. Bugti fled his residence at Dera Bugti shortly before it came under attack. From a cave in the Bhamboor Hills he directed what became known an insurgency against authorities. He died a martyr for the Baloch cause on 26 August 2006, when an intercepted satellite phone-call revealed the cave at Tarnai, near Kohlu, in which he was hiding. F-16s and helicopter gunships bombed the area killing the veteran Baloch leader and 36 of his followers. The insurgency had by the time spread from the Bugtis to their traditional Marri rivals. The Marri tribal area became the centre of military activity following a rocket attack on 14 December 2005 on a Pakistan Frontier Corps camp outside the town of Kohlu, which was being visited at the time by President Musharraf. There was also firing on the helicopter which was carrying the Frontier Corps’ Inspector-General Shujaat Zamir. Three days later Kohlu town was bombed along with its surrounding areas. The Marri in these circumstances finally settled differences with the Bugtis, so that there could be a common front in the Baloch struggle. The Marri tribe provided the main personnel for the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which commenced a campaign directed against security personnel, gas pipes, electricity pylons and railway tracks. On 1 May 2006, the BLA claimed the responsibility for blowing up a railway bridge on the main Quetta railway line in the Kohlu district. In the same month, President Musharraf banned it as a terrorist organization. At least 450 persons, including 226 civilians, 82 soldiers and 147 insurgents, were killed in 772 incidents in Balochistan in 2006. The attacks continued into 2007: in May, a series of railway line explosions severely disrupted communications between Balochistan and the rest of Pakistan. Punjabi ‘settlers’ became the victim of target killings. The insurgency in Balochistan, because it was not linked with the ‘War on Terror’, attracted far less international attention than that in the Tribal Areas. However, the region is of immense strategic and economic significance for Pakistan’s future development.
Military-backed government raised again the old claim of Punjabization. Musharraf adhered to centralization as much as any previous military ruler, despite his talk of devolution. Indeed the practical effect of the ‘localization of politics’ arising from his local government reforms was as Mohammad Waseem has pointed out, to ‘enhance unbridled centralism’. Yet the Musharraf era revealed the extreme limitations facing a centralizing administration committed to top-down modernization if it lacked political legitimacy. Attempts to develop Balochistan on behalf of the national interest ran into increasing particularist opposition. Similarly, Musharraf was unable like Zia before him to address Pakistan’s mounting water management and electricity supply problems by forcing througfh the Kalabagh Dam project.
As early as the mid 1980s, plans were drawn up for a major dam to be constructed at Kalabagh on the Indus. Its proponents argued that the hydro-electricity produced by it (over 2,000 MW generation capacity) would meet the growing energy ‘gap’, while it would also address the increasing water shortage. Despite promises of international support and the expenditure of vast sums of money on the project plans, provincial opposition to federal government’s proposals prevented the scheme going ahead. The greatest opposition came from Sindh with fears that the dam would reduce the Indus flow with resulting desertification in the interior and increased flooding by sea water
Musharraf sought to cut through this stalemate by announcing in December 2005 that the Kalabagh Dam would go ahead. He could not, however, command the country as easily as he could the army. Within less than six months, the mounting campaigns in Sindh and NWFP forced him to abandon the proposal. This was democracy of a kind in operation, but the problem of water supply and electricity generation would not be so easily wished away. Unsurprisingly the post-2008 PPP-led government of President Zardari did not reopen what would have been a can of worms for its Sindhi supporters. The 2010 flood disaster, however, pointed to the fact that Pakistan faced more immediate problems of water management arising from climate change than it had previously anticipated. The Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, went on record that the flood disaster in Sindh would have been mitigated if the Kalabag Dam had been constructed. Lack of trust, however, continues to threatens timely mreasures such as smaller dam projects, let alone the politically charged Kalabagh scheme whose construction in any case would take around six years.
Civil-Military Relations and Milbus Under Musharraf The military’s penetration of Pakistan’s state, economy and society has been a constant theme throughout this text. Its emergence as a key interest group which intervened to safeguard institutional interests in the name of the nation’s stability and security dates back, as we have seen, to the early post-independence era. Under Ayub and Zia, the military role in the running of the state grew apace, although its power was never hegemonic, both because military regimes failed to acquire political legitimacy and because they had to rely to a degree on civilian allies drawn from the rural elite, the Islamic establishment and the bureaucracy. Under Musharraf, military control increased at the expense of the bureaucracy, although the Islamic parties remained restive allies in comparison with the more supine landowners. Before turning to the intensified role of the army in both Pakistan’s administration and economy, it is important to note that Musharraf institutionalized its role at the heart of politics.
This was achieved firstly by restoring the powers of the President to dismiss the Prime Minister and assemblies which had been a feature of Zia’s legacy, but had been removed during Nawaz Sharif’s second stint in office. This measure was important as Musharraf once again restored a direct linkage between the presidency and the military by virtue of his dual office holding as COAS and President. In the early 1990s, civilian presidents had worked closely with the army but always at one step removed. The Legal Framework Order which was incorporated into the constitution early in 2004 ensured presidential power in Pakistan. Secondly, Musharraf gave the military a permanent role in governance through the passage of the National Security Council Act in 2004. The idea that the military should have a permanent presence in deliberation of national policy-making drew inspiration from the Turkish model of civil-military relations. The notion of a Pakistani version was mooted during the Zia era. Musharraf’s introduction of the National Security Council revealed both the long-term suspicion of the army that the state’s functioning could not be left to elected politicians and an established pattern of intervention to safeguard its interests
Despite the misgivings of some of the Islamic parties, the 2002 elections had delivered a National Assembly that was sufficiently pro-establishment to ease through the the legislation. Supporters of the measure stressed that the NSC was merely consultative and that by bringing the army into the heart of governance it would strengthen democracy by encouraging responsibility and removing the need for future coups. This ignored the fact that the NSC not only reduced still further the possibility of the army being held accountable to civilians, but also was reflective of the weakness of democracy rather than a step towards its consolidation.
At the same time as institutionalizing the imbalance in civil-military relations, the Musharraf regime increased both the size of the military’s internal economy and the penetration of serving and retired military personnel in all major institutions. This included not only businesses and commercial undertakings where they may have acquired military based technical skills, but also as heads of universities and think tanks. Within government itself, around 4-5,000 posts were held by military officers.
Long established military enterprises such as the Frontier Works Organization, further extended their activities by seeking private sector partnerships, as for example in the project along with the Habib Rafique Group and Sacchal Construction to build a Lahore-Sheikhupura-Faisalabad motorway. The military’s interest in real-estate development was another marked feature of this period. In 2002, for example, a presidential order enabled the Defence Housing Authority in Lahore to come into existence by taking over the Lahore Cantonment Cooperative Housing Society which had been in existence since 1925. The army was not alone in speculating in real estate which, according to Ayesha Siddiqa, ‘can be considered as one of the primary sources of economic activity in the country, especially after 9/11’, but it remains a ‘major stakeholder’ and most importantly there is clear evidence here of its political power being used to forward economic interests. Property prices escalate in army-run housing schemes because they are seen as more ‘secure’ and have a better infrastructure than civilian-run schemes.
The direct military association with power opened it up to corruption, which reduced its standing in the public’s eyes. This declined further as Musharraf’s own popularity slumped whilst he continued to hold dual offices of President and Chief of Army Staff. The army regained its high standing because of its tackling militancy and the disastrous floods in July-August 2010. Nonetheless it is important not to see the army’s burgeoning economic interests in a totally negative light. Most military enterprises were run reasonably efficiently. The Fauji Foundation’s support for ex-servicemen and their dependents not only provided the conditions for steady supply of recruits, but through, for example, its educational facilities enabled the army to act as the only meritocratic institution in Pakistan. This was evidenced most clearly when General Ashfaq Kayani replaced Musharraf as Army Chief in November 2007. Kayani’s father had been a non-commissioned officer.
Musharraf’s Decline and Fall Musharraf, like his military predecessors, lacked legitimacy and cast about for ways to secure a popular mandate. He was more adept at political manipulation than Ayub, but lacked Zia’s native cunning. By 2007, the year in which he needed to secure re-election and parliamentary elections were scheduled, he faced mounting unpopularity because of his perceived pro-American stance. At the same time, his Western allies were urging him to come to terms with Benazir Bhutto to shore up democratic and liberal forces in Pakistan against a growing tide of militancy. Musharraf not only shared the army’s mistrust of the PPP, but personally disliked Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari. His initial preference was to secure his position as President before allowing her to return to Pakistan on his terms. He attempted this manoeuvre by securing re-election as President from the loyalist parliament dominated by the PML(Q). The questionable legitimacy of this action encouraged the mainstream opposition parties to boycott the indirect electoral college comprising the National Assembly, Provincial Assemblies and the Senate. This duly re-elected Musharraf as President for five years on 6 October. This did not shore up Musharraf’s position, however, which had already been severely weakened because of his suspension in March 2007 of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, on allegations of misconduct and nepotism. The Chief Justice had displayed increasing independence. Musharraf feared that he might pose a legal threat to his re-election process. His action, however, seriously backfired as Pakistan’s lawyers came out onto the streets in mass protest which widened from its concern with the independence of the judiciary into an anti-Musharraf movement. This was the beginning of what was to become the ‘Go Musharraf, Go’ campaign which eventually culminated in his resignation.
Musharraf was unable to prevent Benazir Bhutto’s and Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan shortly after his re-election. Benazir Bhutto had returned on 18 October after an amnesty had been granted and all corruption charges against her were lifted. Her triumphant return was marred by an assassination attempt in Karachi in which a suicide bomber killed 136 people and injured at least 450. Nawaz Sharif returned from his Saudi exile in less dramatic circumstances on 25 November. It was increasingly clear that Musharraf would only be able to preserve his position by working with the leaders of the two parties which would come out on top in the impending elections. In another ill-considered step, however, he painted himself further into a corner by taking the drastic step of declaring a state of emergency on 3 November. This was prompted not by fear of Bhutto and Sharif so much as concern that the Supreme Court would invalidate his recent re-election. The new restriction on the mainstream media which had been given freedom to grow earlier in his regime were epitomized by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Ordinance. The state of emergency was lifted on 15 December in time for parliamentary elections after new appointees to the Supreme Court ratified Musharraf’s election. Earlier on 28 November he had stepped down as Chief of Army Staff, handing control of the army to General Ashfaq Kayani. This decision, which had been long demanded by opponents, did nothing however to restore his credibility and merely further exposed him to opposition without the army’s ‘cover’. The emergency had done irreparable damage to both his domestic and international standing. The Commonwealth had suspended Pakistan from membership on 22 November. Musharraf may have won the battle for the presidency but had lost the wider war of political acceptability. This was amply demonstrated by the concerted attempts to secure his impeachment in the wake of national elections. These had been delayed from January to February 2008 following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in Rawalpindi on 27 December 2007. political opponents claimed that Musharraf was behind her murder. Subsequent reports have pointed out lapses of security for which he must bear responsibility. In the wake of the revulsion and shock which followed her death, some writers feared for the unity of the Pakistan federation. These anxieties were to be proved exaggerated. The main consequences were to prevent any establishment rigging of the polls. The PPP undoubtedly benefited from the sympathy vote, while the PML(N) returned to power in its Punjab heartland at the expense of the discredited pro-Musharraf PML(Q). The pattern of the pre-2002 elections was restored in which the religious-based parties were reduced to the margins. The ANP was the main beneficiary of this process in the NWFP. In a striking reversal of fortune, the widower of Benazir Bhutto and the new co-chair of the PPP, Asif Ali Zardari, emerged as the key figure in Pakistan politics. Musharraf’s fate was sealed when Nawaz Sharif agreed to join Zardari’s coalition government. While the cooperation between them was short-lived, they were able to demand the President’s impeachment with a reasonable expectation that they could muster the necessary two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and Senate to pass an impeachment resolution. Musharraf pre-empted this process by announcing his resignation on 18 August. He maintained that the charges against him were false and that his decision was prompted by the need for national unity. Pakistan’s long journey to democratic consolidation was set to enter a new phase.
Conclusion The mixed legacy of Musharraf’s nearly nine years in office was reflected by the jubilant celebration of political opponents and civil society groups, while the responses of the business classes and of many ordinary citizens were more muted. It may have been this along with an undoubted patriotism which later raised his ambition for a possible return to the political stage through the vehicle of a new party, the All Pakistan Muslim league (APML). By the time of its launch at the beginning of October 2010, the Musharraf era appeared an oasis of relative stability and efficient governance following the chaos and insecurity of the Zardari years. Memories are short in politics so Musharraf’s moves were not greeted with the condemnation which had accompanied his departure from the political scene. In 2008, however, Musharraf, if not exactly a busted flush, appeared to have a few tricks left up his sleeve. He had promised to improve Pakistan’s governance and economy but had bequeathed a deteriorating situation to his successors. Rather than being the self-proclaimed saviour of the country, he had not begun to address the problems which had bedevilled it since 1947. Political institutions had been further weakened and the issue of provincial autonomy versus centralization still awaited a resolution. Half-hearted attempts had been made to roll back the Islamization measures introduced by Zia. At the same time, the challenge of shariatization had increased, in part because of the ambiguous attitude of the Musharraf regime to Islamic parties and Islamic proxies. The initial hopes for improvement in relations with India had stalled, along with the composite dialogue process. Similarly, the proclaimed empowerment of the masses through political reform had proved a chimera. Perhaps, in these circumstances, the best summary of the Musharraf regime would run along the lines that much was promised but little was delivered. Pakistan still had to resolve the issues which had blocked off its economic and political development since independence. If Pakistan was not a failed state under Musharraf’s stewardship, it remained immobilized. Yet there had never been greater need for structural reform.
By courtesy: Pakistan, A New History by Ian Talbot, Oxford University Press, Oxford,New York 2015
A Dictator by any Name
The Military Strikes Back 1999-2008
General Pervez Musharraf overthrew an elected government, an offense punishable by the Constitution of Pakistan.
Lest it be forgotten, General Pervez Musharraf was always a military dictator who, to start with, overthrew an elected government, which is a treasonable offense punishable by death according to the Constitution of Pakistan. The epithet added to him being a ‘liberal dictator’, a crucial fallacy committed even by otherwise smart and intelligent academics, glosses over and partially legitimizes the fact that he was, once and always, a military dictator.
The fascination by Pakistan’s anti-democratic elite, particularly its neoliberal, globalised elite, who partied long and hard with Musharraf and entertained him (and his hand-picked prime minister Shaukat Aziz), of imagining Musharraf as being some type of ‘liberal’, was limited to his westernised lifestyle which they shared.
There was nothing ‘liberal’ about his dictatorial politics, an incipient style of anti-democratic conduct, which the westernized elite also supported wholeheartedly. Whether Musharraf’s personal lifestyle-liberalism did any good in opening social spaces to this elite (and non-elite) – being more tolerant of certain cultural and social practices, allowing women to occasionally find greater political agency and so on – is an important, though secondary, consideration.
The fact that dictators can be, when they so choose, benevolent and do some social good, needs to be sharply contrasted with their anti-democratic, authoritarian interventions that often have serious consequences in the long run.
One so-called liberal dictator of a very different era, General Ayub Khan, was partially responsible for the separation of East Pakistan; Musharraf, three decades later, left a legacy of violence, killings and suicide bombings under the guise of militant Islam and jihadism, which are perhaps only now being addressed.
Despite the best of lifestyle-liberal intentions, political consequences of decisions taken by dictators, leave their mark. Envisaging himself first as an Ataturk, and often as a Jinnah, by the end of his reign in 2008, as numerous events in 2007 were to reveal, Musharraf became another uniformed bully, hungry for personal power … just another military dictator dependent on the largesse of the United States.
Since General Yahya Khan, unlike Pakistan’s three coup makers, was more an accidental and make-shift military ruler rather than a military dictator, Musharraf needs to be viewed against the experiences provided by Generals Ayub and Ziaul Haq. And, unlike his two military predecessors, General Musharraf’s nine-year-long presence on, and dominance of Pakistan’s political scene was far more colourful and riddled with far greater contradictions. While Ayub and Zia were ideologically opposites of each other, only sharing their distaste for civilian politicians, one could argue that their agenda and their politics were far more straightforward, simple and uncomplicated compared toMusharraf’s brand of lifestyle-liberalism mixed with a different brand of dictatorial politics.
One must also emphasize that the regional, global and domestic contexts – in terms of ethnic politics, social classes, global linkages and capitalist accumulation – of all three were also markedly different, though some similarities could be drawn.
From the Cold War politics of the 1960s to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, to the US intervention in Afghanistan in the last decade, one could argue that Pakistan’s three military dictators shared some global and regional similarities, but the 1960s, the 1980s and the 2000s were all considerably different.
One major starting point to their coups which indicates how much the world and Pakistan had changed over the 40 years since 1958, was that, unlike his predecessors, Musharraf did not declare Martial Law when he dismissed and subsequently banished prime minister Nawaz Sharif on October 12, 1999. In fact, that he chose the title of Chief Executive as he wanted “to serve people, rather than rule” was clearly indicative of the sensibilities of a new generation and a different world.
Pakistan’s higher judiciary, in all its wisdom and based on many decades of its institutional experience of endorsing and working with military dictators, gave Musharraf three years after his coup to hold elections. As Pakistan’s chief executive, supported by the westernized elite, backed by numerous formerly radical members of civil society and NGOs, with a finance (and later, prime) minister specially invited from Citibank, Musharraf set up a technocratic government based on his Seven Point Reform agenda, which would make any autocrat proud.
The first three years of the Musharraf regime were troubled, although it was popular in some domestic circles, with Pakistan still a pariah state internationally because of sanctions that had been imposed after the nuclear tests in 1998. Things were made worse by the Musharraf coup in an era when military interventions were no longer fashionable. This international isolation, with consequences on Pakistan’s economy, lasted till the fateful day in September 2001 when much of the world changed.
Just as Gen Zia was rescued by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Musharraf found after 9/11, a longevity which he could not have expected in 1999. Once Musharraf decided that he was with the US rather than against it, and was far secure of his future, he began to unravel new interventions in the political and governance structures he had prepared.
He started by building a new system of local government (prior to 2001), doing away with the urban-rural divide and reducing the powers of bureaucrats. He increased considerably the number of seats reserved for women at all tiers of electoral representation. Having moved on from being a non-descript chief executive to be the president of Pakistan in July 2001, he called for a referendum in April 2002 to seek legitimacy from the people for his efforts, receiving a ‘Yes’ vote, in true dictator style, of 97.5 per cent.
Unlike Gen Zia’s never ending ‘90 days’, to his credit, Musharraf did hold elections after the Supreme Court’s three-year moratorium was over, in 2002. Yet, one must recognise that after the US attack on Afghanistan, with his future secured, he could easily afford to do so. With George Bush in the White House backing his ‘buddy’ in Islamabad fighting the War on Terror, Musharraf could get away with a great deal at home. And he did.
Meddling with the Constitution after creating a King’s Party of former tried and failed politicians from Nawaz Sharif’s party, he enforced electoral reforms which specifically barred both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from becoming prime minister again. He also lowered the voting age to 18 years, believing that Pakistan’s millennials would endorse his vision of Enlightened Moderation and vote for candidates he approved of, making graduation a requirement to contest elections.
Always under pressure from the religious right, however, he had to give in to their demands of allowing religious non-graduate, seminary-trained individuals to contest his graduate-only elections.
The result was that while he got a subservient parliament in Islamabad and Lahore, he was forced to give away the NWFP [since renamed KP] to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of religious parties opposed to Musharraf’s pro-West agenda and to his, and the GHQ’s, U-turn on the Taliban. Nevertheless, Musharraf learned to use the MMA presence in the NWFP as a bargaining chip with the Americans to his significantadvantage.
The 2007 Implosion
From 9/11 onwards, thinking that he was assured of a tenure reminiscent of Ayub Khan, backed unequivocally by the US, pumped up by the hubris and bravado of a commando that he once was, Musharraf unfolded another experiment in praetorian democracy in the country that was different from what the country had under Zia. Musharraf’s experiment, having been initiated in 2002, imploded in 2007. If ever there was a year of supreme significance in Pakistan’s political history, with consequences well into its future, it was 2007. In March of that year, Musharraf dismissed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. It was an event which resulted in not just the lawyers’ movement, but played a key role in bringing Musharraf down eventually, and in rebuilding Nawaz Sharif’s political future.
On May 12, Musharraf showed his true colours and demonstrated his vicious streak in Islamabad that left many killed in Karachi as they awaited the arrival of the deposed chief justice. Then in July, an attack on Lal Masjid by the army – shown live on Musharraf’s gift to the Pakistani people, a free-for-all, independent, electronic media – led to the killing of an unknown number of militants. The incident resulted in the country’s worst wave of domestic terror which continued for at least a decade, killing, by some accounts, up to 70,000. In October, Musharraf signed the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), granting amnesty to many prominent politicians, a further sign of his weakening grip on power. On November 3, Musharraf imposed a desperate mini-martial law, an Emergency, as an uncertain future stared him in the face.
Elections had been announced by then, and both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had returned to the country and were challenging Musharraf under the banner of a Charter of Democracy they had signed a year earlier in London. Having survived an assassination attempt in Karachi on her return in October, Benazir Bhutto fell victim to an assassin’s bullet on December 27, ending an extraordinary year.
Pervez Musharraf was forced out by democratic forces in 2008. A decade later, he threatens to return to Pakistan to contest elections, but remains an absconder from the courts where he is under trial, among other cases, for treason. Given Pakistan’s political history, this is clearly a unique situation for a former president who also happened to be the army chief.
Good intentions are one thing; eventual outcomes something else. Whatever Musharraf thought he would leave as a legacy, he left Pakistan far more unstable, more violent, less tolerant, and in further disarray.
The Balochistan crisis, on which news continues to be suppressed, was a creation of his regime, where the killing of Akbar Bugti stands out yet another case of state murder. Failure or success need to be evaluated in terms of what could have been achieved, and what wasn’t in assessing opportunities that were floundered.
Musharraf and his technocratic whiz kids are to be held responsible for not achieving many key reforms when they had undisputed power, with key sections of the political class either in disarray or bought over, with support from some key constituencies, and when those in power were awash with capital from abroad. Just the fiscal space created because postponed debt repayments on account of 9/11 amounted to an extra $5 billion each year which could have been spent on social and infrastructure development. Yet, most was squandered in speculative property and stock market machinations which produced nothing tangible except making many of the cronies of the regime very rich.
Musharraf had a dictatorial model of politics, with crony capitalism his sense of economics, and lifestyle-liberalism his social agenda, all backed up by huge dependence on the United States.
A decade after his ouster, much of what Musharraf did has been undone, reversed by popular and political mandate, been put aside completely, perhaps a sign of maturity of the country’s democratic transition and transformation.
While his regime left behind consequences that survived well beyond 2008, history will prove Musharraf and his interventions to be far fickler and fleeting than he could have ever imagined. No wonder he is remembered only as a lifestyle-liberal or ‘dictator chic’ (as Edward Luce of the Financial Times has used the phrase in a different context), who just happened to be Pakistan’s third military dictator.
By S. Akbar Zaidi: The writer is a political economist based in Karachi. He has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge. He teaches at Columbia University in New York, and at the IBA in Karachi.
Dawn December 1, 2017
HBL has been an indelible part of the nation’s fabric since independence, enabling the dreams of millions of Pakistanis. At HBL, we salute the dreamers and dedicate the nation’s 70th anniversary to you. Jahan Khwab, Wahan HBL
Editorial Dawn Dec. 1, 2017
Is it shocking or the new normal? Former military dictator and army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf has expressed his admiration and support for Hafiz Saeed and the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba.. Unprovoked, seemingly for no reason other than his need to make headlines with increasingly outrageous statements and with no regard for Pakistan’s delicate international position, Mr Musharraf has once again spewed out fantastical nonsense. What is more than puzzling is that when Mr Musharraf was army chief and had installed himself as a military dictator, it was his regime that took significant steps to restrain militancy. Indeed, it was on the former dictator’s orders that many militants groups were outlawed, and at least nominal clampdowns enforced.
Quite why Mr Musharraf has felt the need to traverse the ground between an advocate of a moderate Pakistan to now saying virtually anything that appears to pop in his mind or interviewers goad him into saying is not clear.
What is clear is that his former institution or whoever is able to counsel restraint needs to urgently speak to Mr Musharraf and put an end to his unpredictable outbursts.
Perhaps Mr Musharraf also needs to be reminded of the destructiveness of his regime. After nearly a decade in charge, militants were rampant, the economy had tanked and society was under the influence of growing extremism.
If there is a singular justification for why modern Pakistan needs democracy not dictatorship, Mr Musharraf is it. Unable to deal with his ouster after a revolt by Pakistani society, Mr Musharraf has tried to establish himself as a legitimate political alternative to no avail.
Now, he has chosen self-exile rather than facing a treason trial. But even by the standards of a frustrated former strongman, Mr Musharraf appears to have little regard for the damage his comments can cause to the country.
If a long-term army chief and military dictator cannot exercise restraint, perhaps it is time for him to be ignored all together by the nation.
It should be clear that Pakistan, though a deeply troubled state, is also a tough one; and that, barring catastrophic decisions in Washington, New Delhi-and of course Islamabad-it is likely to survive as a country. In the long run, the greatest threat to Pakistan’s existence is not insurgency, but ecological change. However, Pakistan’ s farmers are also tough and adaptable, and while some areas like the Quetta valley are likely soon to suffer disastrous water shortages in the country, drought will take several decades to become truly catastrophic. Floods, though devastating in the short term, can also be controlled and harnessed given determination, organization and money. This allows time for human action to ameliorate the impending crisis, if the West, China and of course Pakistan itself have the will to take this action.
Featured image: The aftermath of a suicide attack by the Pakistan Taliban on the Lahore High Court, 10 January 2008
The rest of the world should work hard to help Pakistan, because, long after Western forces have left Afghanistan, Pakistan’s survival will remain a vital Western and Chinese interest. This should encourage cooperation between Beijing and Washington to ensure Pakistan’s survival. By contrast, a Sino-US struggle for control over Pakistan should be avoided at all costs, as this would add enormously to Pakistan’s destabilization.
In the short term, of course, Western policy towards Pakistan will be shaped by developments in Afghanistan, but this policy should not be dictated by those developments. For Pakistan is in the end a great deal more important and potentially dangerous than Afghanistan. Whatever strategy the US ends up adopting in Afghanistan, Pakistan will be critical to its success. Quite apart from Islamabad’s strategic calculations, this is made inevitable by the fact that more than half of the Pathan ethnicity lives in Pakistan, while maintaining a strong interest in what happens to the Pathans on the other side of the Durand Line.
Whatever happens, Pakistan will therefore insist both that Pathans are strongly represented in any Afghan regime, and that Islamabad has a share of influence in Afghanistan, at least to the point where other countries-meaning above all India-cannot use Afghanistan as a base from which to threaten Pakistan.
No conceivable short-term gains in the Western campaign in Afghanistan or the ‘war on terror’ could compensate for the vastly increased threats to the region and the world that would stem from Pakistan’s collapse, and for disasters that would result for Pakistan’s own peoples. Though many Indians may not see it this way, the collapse of Pakistan would also be disastrous for India, generating chaos that would destabilize the entire region. Western and Indian strategy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan should therefore be devised with this fact firmly in mind.
This would include recognition, at least in private, that it has above all been the US-led campaign in Afghanistan which has been responsible for increasing Islamist insurgency and terrorism in Pakistan since 2001. By this I do not mean to advocate a humiliating US and British scuttle from Afghanistan, nor to suggest that a Western withdrawal from Afghanistan would end the extremist threat to Pakistan, a threat which has long since developed a life of its own. Nonetheless, concern for the effects of the US military presence in Afghanistan on the situation in Pakistan is one of the strongest arguments for bringing that presence to an end as soon as this can honourably be achieved, and against conducting more wars against Muslim states under any circumstances whatsoever.
This also implies that the US should observe restraint in its pressure on Pakistan. Drone attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas have killed many Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders, but they have not noticeably impaired the Afghan Taliban’s ability to go on fighting effectively, while causing outrage among Pakistanis–especially because of the very large numbers of women and children who have been killed by the attacks. The US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, discussed the risks of the drone strategy in a cable sent to the State Department in 2009 and revealed by Wikileaks. She acknowledged that drones had killed ten out twenty known top Al Qaeda leaders in the region, but stated that they could not entirely eliminate the Al Qaeda leadership and, in the meantime:
Increased unilateral operations in these areas risk destabilizing the Pakistan state, alienating both the civilian government and military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis within Pakistan without finally achieving the goal [of eliminating the Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership].
The well substantiated belief that–despite official denials–the Pakistan high command and government have provided information to the US in return for strikes against Pakistan Taleban leaders has also been confirmed by WikiLeaks. As Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani told US officials in August 2008,
‘I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly, then ignore it.’
Pakistani acquiescence in the drone strikes, however, damaged the prestige of the military in society and the morale of ordinary soldiers, and encouraged the perception of the military as a ‘force for hire’. There should therefore be no question of extending the attacks to new areas of Balochistan or Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which would further enrage local society, spread the Pakistani Taliban insurgency to new areas, and reduce existing Pakistani cooperation with the US.
Even more dangerous is the presence of US special forces on the ground in Pakistan. Reports of this in Pakistan are greatly exaggerated. According to the US Embassy cables released by Wikileaks, as of October 2009 only sixteen such soldiers were deployed in Pakistan, to two Pakistani military bases in north and south Waziristan. While they are doing some useful work against the Taliban, they are also potential hostages to fortune, and likely to provoke mass anger at their presence in the population and the military.
Above all, there must be no open intervention of US ground forces in FATA, as this risks outright mutiny in the Pakistani army. This restraint should be observed even if the US comes under new terrorist attack. Britain should use whatever influence it possesses in Washington to oppose any such interventions, which could have the most disastrous effects on both terrorism and ethnic relations within Britain itself.
Pakistan’s links to the Afghan Taliban, hitherto seen in the West overwhelmingly as a problem, should also be seen potentially a critical asset in the search for an exit from Afghanistan. We might as well try to use Pakistan in this way, since, as the US embassy in Islamabad reported gloomily but accurately in September 2010:
There is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced (US) assistance levels in any field as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these groups (i.e. the Afghan Taliban and their allies) which it sees as an important part of its national security apparatus against India. The only way to achieve a cessation of such support is to change the Pakistani government’s perception of its security requirements.
The US and other Western countries fighting in Afghanistan should use Pakistan as an intermediary to initiate talks with the Taliban in the hope of eventually reaching a settlement, if, as seems highly probable, the attempt to defeat the Taliban by force does not succeed. Because of its links with the Taliban, Pakistan will have to play a key role in bringing about such negotiations. In 2010 the Obama administration began to move towards the idea of talks, but still seemed very far away from a recognition of what such talks would really entail. In the words of a senior Pakistani diplomat:
The US needs to be negotiating with the Taleban, those Taleban with no links to al-Qaida. We need a power-sharing agreement in Afghanistan and it will have to be negotiated with all parties . . . The Afghan government is already talking to all the stakeholders, the Taleban, the Haqqani network, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Mullah Omar. The Americans have been setting ridiculous preconditions for talks. You can’t lay down such conditions when you are losing.
Such a Western strategy should also stem from a recognition that Pakistan’s goals in Afghanistan are in part legitimate–even if the means by which they have been sought have not been–and this legitimacy needs to be recognised by the West. The US and EU should work hard to try to reconcile legitimate Pakistani goals in Afghanistan with those of India, and to draw other regional states into a consensus on how to limit the Afghan conflict. China, close to Pakistan and fearful of Islamist extremism, could be a key player in this regard.
The US needs to continue to limit Indian involvement in Afghanistan if it is to have any hope of a long-term cooperative relationship with Pakistan. The West also needs to seek a peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute, despite all the immense obstacles in both Pakistan and India. As Ambassador Patterson told her government:
Most importantly, it is the perception of India as the primary threat to the Pakistani state that colours its perceptions of the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s security needs. The Pakistani establishment fears that a pro-Indian government in Afghanistan would allow India to operate a proxy war against Pakistan from its territory . . . Increased Indian investment in, trade with, and development support to the Afghan government, which the USG (US Government) has encouraged, causes, Pakistan to embrace Taleban groups as anti-India allies. We need to reassess Indian involvement in Afghanistan and our own policies towards India . . .Resolving the Kashmir dispute would dramatically improve the situation.
The overall question of the future of US-Indian relations is far too broad to be discussed here. What can be said is that a balance needs be struck between the economic and security benefits to the West of closer ties to India and the security threats to the West stemming from a growth of Islamist militancy in Pakistan. In the end, not even the greatest imaginable benefits of the US-Indian friendship could compensate for the actual collapse of Pakistan, with all the frightful dangers this would create not just for the West but for India too.
We should also not dream-as US neoconservatives are apt to do–that India can somehow be used by the US to control Pakistani behaviour. The truth, outlined by Ambassador Patterson, is exactly the opposite.
Only Pakistanis can control Pakistan, and the behaviour of the Pakistani security establishment will always be determined by what they see as the vital needs of Pakistan and the Pakistani army.
A new approach to Pakistan over the future of Afghanistan should therefore be part of a much deeper long-term engagement with Pakistan by the West in general, and one tied not to the temporary war in Afghanistan but to the permanent importance of Pakistan as a state. This is crucial for Britain, whose large minority of Pakistani origin retains extremely close ties with Pakistan and forms an enduring organic link between the two countries, and, through Britain to Europe and North America.
Whatever happens, this human link is not going to go away. To help make it a force for good rather than a danger, the west needs to develop a much deeper knowledge of Pakistan, a much deeper stake in Pakistan, and a much more generous attitude to helping Pakistan. I hope that by showing Pakistan in all its complex patchwork of light and shadow, this book will help bring about such a new approach.
General Muhammad Ziaul Haq, military ruler 1977-88; Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Prime Minister 1971-77; Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan; Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, military ruler 1958-69; Poster of the Bhutto-Zardari family 2010; Nawaz Sharif (left) and Shahbaz Sharif 2008
Courtesy of: Pakistan, A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven. Published by Penguin Group, London 2011
Air Marshall Mohammad Asghar Khan (1921- ) First Pakistani Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Air Force (1957-65 )
Asghar Khan was born on January 17, 1921. He is Pakistan’s veteran aviation historian, peace activist, and retired military figure; a three star air marshal who served as the first non-white commander in chief of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) from 1957 until resigning in 1965, prior to the start of the air operations of the PAF during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.
Upon his return, Asghar Khan was most-senior officer in the Royal Indian Air Force. He was also the first Royal Indian Air Force officer to fly a jet fighter aircraft—a Gloster Meteor— whilst doing a fighter leader’s course in UK in 1946
He became first commandant of Pakistan Air Force Academy in 1947
First to head the Directorate-General for Air Operations (DGAO) in 1950.
In 1957, he became the youngest to-date and first non-white Air Force commander-in-chief of PAF.
His tenure as air chief saw the extensive modernization of the PAF, in both technical and military equipment, and after resigning in 1965, he was not consulted by President Ayub Khan prior to launch of Operation Gibraltar. On retirement from the air force, Asghar Khan became president of the civilian national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) which he led until 1968.
C-in-C Asghar Khan awarding Gliding wings to Safi Mustafa* 356 Tempest House, PAF Public School Sargodha 1961(?)
*Flight Lt. Syed Safi Mustafa, (martyred), Sitara Jurat, East Pakistan,1971
Personal life: Asghar Khan was married to Ms. Amina Shamsie in 1946 and they had five children, Nasreen, Shereen, Saira, Omar (deceased) and Ali Asghar Khan. He has also authored 13 books, among them:
(1969) Khan, Asghar. Pakistan at the Cross Roads. Karachi: Ferozsons. OCLC 116825.
(1979). The First Round, Indo-Pakistan War 1965. Sahibabad: Vikas. ISBN 0-7069-0978-X.
(1983). Generals in Politics. New Delhi: Vikas. ISBN 0-7069-2215-8.
(1985). The Lighter side of the Power Game. Lahore: Jang Publishers. OCLC 15107608.
(2005). We’ve Learnt Nothing from History. Karachi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-597883-8.
(2008). My Political Struggle. Karachi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-547620-0.
(2009). Milestones in a Political Journey. Islamabad: Dost Publications. ISBN 978-9694963556.
Khan, Ashghar (1985). Sada-i-Hosh (in Urdu). Lahore: Jang Publishers. OCLC 14214332.
(1998). Chehray nahi Nizam ko Badlo (in Urdu). Islamabad: Dost Publications. ISBN 978-9694960401.
(1999). Islam – Jamhooriat aur Pakistan (in Urdu). Islamabad: Dost Publications. ISBN 978-9694960852.
(1999). Ye Batain Hakim Logon Ki (in Urdu). Islamabad: Dost Publications. ISBN 978-9694960876.
Founding Independence Movement: after leaving the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Asghar Khan criticized and blamed President Ayub Khan and Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for the 1965 war with India, and later, he turned the criticism towards General Yahya Khan for the 1971 debacle, which resulted in the breakup of Pakistan; Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League had won the election, but had not been allowed to form the government. In protest in January 1969, Asghar Khan relinquished awards of ‘Hilal-i-Pakistan’ and ‘Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam’ against repressive policies of Field Marshal Ayub Khan.
During the Bangladesh war of secession, Asghar Khan did support East-Pakistanis (Bengalis) morally, alleging that West-Pakistan under Bhutto had deprived them from their political and economic rights. He also demanded power to be handed over to the people of East Pakistan. In 1972, after Bhutto was made president, Asghar Khan accused Bhutto for the break-up, later noting that:
“We are living virtually under one party state…. The outstanding feature is suppression.
In 1970, Asghar Khan founded the Tehrik-e-Istiqlal, initially a centrist secular party. He criticized Bhutto on numerous occasions, holding him responsible for tyranny during the 1970 elections. However, he, and his party failed to score any big hits during the 1970 parliamentary elections, failing to secure any seats in the parliament.
Peace activism: Besides political activism, Asghar Khan has been engaged in peace activism. On various occasion, he called for normalization of Indo-Pakistan relations. He also renounced the nuclear tests operations conducted by Pakistan, targeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif move for making that move. In 2011 he maintained that:
In the last over 60 years, India has never attacked Pakistan, as it cannot afford it. Indians know well, if Pakistan is destroyed, they will be the next target… It was made our problem that one day India would invade us. But we did so four times and the first attack was on Kashmir, where Maharaja was not prepared to accede to India for he wanted to join Pakistan and waited for this for 21 days. Indian forces came to East-Pakistan when people were being slaughtered there. Moreover, again at Kargil, Indian never mounted an assault…
Asghar Khan also blamed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for Balochistan conflict and the East-Pakistan war, terming it: “inflexible attitude” of Bhutto. Commenting of his political collapse, Asghar Khan accused the civil society for his failure, and marked that: “the majority in Pakistan voted for the (corrupt) politicians, as they also wanted their job done by “hook or by crook.”
He was designated a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, and conferred with the Gold Medal by the Human Rights Commission and Jinnah Award by the Jinnah Society for the cause of democracy. After years of founding the Independence Movement, Asghar Khan merged his party with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, led by cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, in January 2012.
Activism in national politics–Tehrik-e-Istiqlal: During Bhutto’s rule from 1971 to 1977, Air Marshal Asghar Khan played a major role in opposition to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. During the 1977 elections, he allied his party, the Tehreek-i-Istiqlal with the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) against the People’s Party. It was during this period that he and his party faced frequent attacks by Pakistan People’s Party supporters and from the brutal paramilitary Federal Security Force. He was imprisoned in Kot Lakhpat and Sahiwal prisons from March to June 1977.
He contested two seats, one from Karachi and the other from Abbottabad; despite alleged rigging by the PPP, Asghar Khan was elected by a huge margin from both seats. The PNA rejected the election results as rigged and launched a nationwide agitation against them (results). Asghar Khan resigned from both National Assembly seats as a mark of protest against massive rigging in the elections.
Supporting martial law: While imprisoned, Asghar Khan wrote a much-criticized letter to the leadership of Defence Forces, asking them to renounce their support for the “illegal regime of Bhutto”, and asked the military leadership to “differentiate between a “lawful and an unlawful” command… and save Pakistan”. This letter is considered by the historians as instrumental in encouraging the advent of the far-right Zia regime. However in a television show, Asghar Khan strongly defended his letter. According to him “nowhere in the letter had he asked for the military to take over”, and he had written it in response to a news story that he had read in which a army major had shot a civilian showing him the “V sign”. After the overthrow of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government by the military in the summer of 1977, Asghar Khan was offered a cabinet post by General Zia-ul-Haq, which he refused to join, and withdrew from the PNA after a growing split between the various parties.
Political activism: After successfully calling for Bhutto’s “judicial murder”, Asghar Khan decided to take on the far-right regime of General Zia-ul-Haq who had announced general elections in 1979. The Tehrik-e-Istiqlal became the most favorite party and benefited with large number of high-profile civilian political figures, including:
Gohar Ayub Khan
Zafar Ali Shah
Ahmed Raza Kasuri
Sher Afgan Niazi
Syeda Abida Hussain
Syed Fakhar Imam
and many others. These members left Asghar Khan under Nawaz Sharif who founded the largest conservative party, the Pakistan Muslim League (N). However, at the last moment, General Zia-ul-Haq indefinitely postponed the elections, ordering the arrests of Asghar Khan who remained under house arrest for more than five years.
In 1983, Asghar Khan decided to join the left-wing alliance, the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) led by Benazir Bhutto but was detained by the government. He was kept under house arrest at his Abbotabad residence from 16/10/1979 to 2/10/1984, and was named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. With decline in public approval in 1986, Asghar Khan left the MRD, as a result of which many of the Tehrik’s members resigned in protest. He boycotted the non-partisan elections held in 1985. However, Asghar Khan and his party took full part in 1988 parliamentary elections. But this time, he was accused by Pakistan Peoples Party for having called for Bhutto’s death sentence and the martial law, which Asghar Khan failed to justify.
His party members disintegrated and allied with conservative Nawaz Sharif, a major setback for his career. His public rating plummeted and he faced complete annihilation in 1988 elections. He conceded defeat but again contested in the 1990 parliamentary elections from Lahore. He was once again defeated. Briefly retiring from active politics in the late 1990s, his party faced another one of its many splits. Since 1990, Asghar Khan has not held a significant position in politics.
Collapse and merging with Pakistan Movement for Justice: As he grew older, he handed over his small party to his equally capable son Omar Asghar Khan, who had for a while joined the military government of General Pervaiz Musharraf, and became minister of Ministry of Environment. After his son’s resignation from the cabinet, he (son Omer) took over Tehrik-e-Istiqlal and subsequently merged it with assorted other non-governmental organization and formed a new party called National Democratic Party, an event which caused another split in the party. Both Independence Movement and National Democratic Party suffered major shock and setback when Omar Asghar Khan was murdered in Karachi on 25/6/2001 prior to the elections. An inquiry into his death was ordered b y the Sindh High Court and despite repeated requests, it was never started.
In a historic press conference on 12/12/2011, Asghar Khan announced his full support to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Imran Khan. He praised Imran Khan for his struggle and endorsed him as the only hope left for the survival of Pakistan. This endorsement came at a crucial time for Imran Khan, when many tainted politicians were joining his party. After announcing his party’s support for PTI, Asghar Khan resigned as President of Tehreek-e-Istiqlal and left the future of his party in the hands of his workers. Contrary to many media reports, Asghar Khan never joined PTI.
As we honour the men who fought against all odds in 1965, we must also acknowledge the miscalculations of the army’s high command. Air Commodore Retd. Sajjad Haider sets the record straight.
Come September, Pakistanis are told how the gallant Pakistan Armed forces fought and thwarted the Indian Juggernaut which invaded Pakistan in a surprise move on September 6 ‘without any provocation’. For 49 years, the nation has been regaled by the stories of valor and ‘victory over the evil enemy’. These stories are true, but the whole truth has not been told.
Seldom has any attempt been made to tell the nation that the fighting elements of the armed forces achieved this spectacular success not because, but in spite of the vision-less leadership which had perpetrated this senseless war on a flimsy, unprofessional and immature hypothesis. A soldier’s duty is to obey commands; theirs’ is not to question why. So it was for 99 per cent of the Pakistani armed forces, professional fighting men who obeyed orders, often paying the ultimate price, while the one per cent issued orders from their safe bunkers and palaces, far from the discordant sound of guns, planes and the rattle of tanks. These knights in shining armour gave their lives so that their leaders, wearing suits of rusted mail, could cover themselves in glory.
In India, there is now a clear and coordinated attempt to paint the 1965 war as a great victory. Encouraged by the Modi government, which seeks to reverse historical humiliations by rewriting history, the Indian armed forces, top media outlets like the Indian Express and India Today, along with even renowned writers like Kuldip Nayyar are going all out to ‘prove’ that India came out on top in the ’65 war. This is an uphill task, given that even histories recorded by renowned Indian scholars say the opposite. Ignored is the defeat of the Indian 31 brigade at Kanjarkot, the Indian losses in the Kutch skirmish, the capitulation of its fighters to PAF interceptors in May 1965. The hopeless performance of the IAF in both the East and West, and the strident drubbing it received at the hands of a PAF that was one-third its size in particular stands out when you consider that our air force inflicted several times the attrition caused by the IAF.
The official IAF losses are chronicled in an award-winning air war history by military historian P.V.S Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra, which details the 66 IAF operational aircraft lost to PAF action and the nine aircraft lost to accidents. By contrast, PAF attrition was 12 aircraft destroyed due to enemy action and five lost to accidents. This means that an air force 3.5 times the size of the PAF suffered an attrition ratio of 5:1 in favour of the PAF. Thus, the ‘Big Picture’ that sections of the Indian media is trying to project vis-à-vis the ’65 war is in fact an ‘unreal picture.’ One can understand their frustration and the need for Indian Prime Minister Modi to rewrite history, but such fabrications cannot stand in the face of facts.
But let’s leave India aside and focus on the facts about the war that we have not been told in Pakistan. After all, the first step in learning from your mistakes is to acknowledge those mistakes in the first place, and that is something we have not done. Having been in a key operational command in both 1965 and 1971, I say with full confidence that irrespective of which branch of the armed forces they served in, the fearless spirit and valor of our fighting men was exemplary. Sadly, the laurels of victory in Pakistan were placed largely on undeserving heads, while the real achievers and heroes still remain deprived of their due accolades. This was done due to the efforts and the pervasive propaganda unleashed by those at the highest echelons of the army and all the ‘King’s Men’ who, immediately after the cease fire, set out to successfully create a massive cover-up to bury deep the blunders that cost thousands of lives even before September 6. This may come as a surprise to many because the secret of those martyrs sent on Operation: Gibraltar, a one way mission to capture Kashmir, does not find mention during the celebration ceremonies.
Who was it who thought that an operation to capture Kashmir would not invite ferocious Indian action? It was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who, with Aziz Ahmed in tow, propounded
“The plan to create an Algerian type revolution in the vale”,
a plan that field marshal-turned-president Ayub Khan and his selected Commander in Chief (C-in-C) Musa Khan swallowed hook, line and sinker. Thus, 8,000 or so men (mostly non-soldiers) were thrown into the fray without a thought as to the consequences of this action. These men were recruited largely from the Muzaffarabad area with the guidance of a single regular Azad Kashmir battalion and were interspersed with a smattering of highly trained commandoes. It was a folly reminiscent of Field Marshall Raglan’s ordering the light brigade to charge into the Russian guns during the Crimean War.
The C-in-C at the time writes in his memoirs that the Azad Kashmiri irregulars were trained for six to eight weeks at Rawalpindi in the art of guerilla warfare. Let that sink in for a moment: six to eight weeks only. Ho-chi Minh, Chou en Li, Ben Bella and Che Guevara must have turned in their graves at this. And so it was that, without a modicum of strategic vision or proper contingency planning or preparation; without any known networking with local elements or even their sympathy, Operation Gibraltar was launched.
In the last brief at Kharian, I think in late July, the President had asked for a brief on Operation Gibraltar. Two most significant things happened in this briefing, as I learnt from General Gul Hassan as well as General Akhtar Malik separately much after the war. The President asked General Akhtar Malik why he does not go for Akhnur, the sole entry point and the jugular vein of the valley known as the ‘Chicken’s Neck’, and block off India from the Vale. Akhtar Malik replied that he could take Akhnur provided he is given a task force. According to history, the 12 Div. was then allocated additional forces for Operation: Grand Slam. Resultantly, the capture of Akhnur through Operation Grand Slam came on the menu only at that time.
The second point would surprise many:
General Sarfraz, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 10 Division, meant for the defense of Lahore, implored the C-in-C to allow them to take full defensive measures in case of an inevitable escalation. He was curtly told ‘No, do not provoke the enemy; do not escalate a local operation (meaning the occupation of Kashmir)’.
The panic which prevailed amongst the Indian troops while fleeing from Chhamb can be seen from this picture. It shows an Indian Army Truck, a jeep with a trailer and AMX tank abandoned in the middle of the river Tawi. The gun of the tank is facing to Pakistan side ready to fight. But the tank crew along with other occupants of the truck and the jeep would rather choose to run for their life than fire their guns
General Gul Hassan told me years later at my home that he had instructions from the C-in-C that every signal to operational units must end with “Do Not Provoke, Do Not Escalate”. Thus a disaster foretold ominously was made reality by the national leadership and army high command. They thought in their limited ‘barrack to battalion’ knowledge of military strategy that India will lose Kashmir without a whimper, and will not dare to escalate the war. They believed that this resulting victory would then cement the insecure president’s position and ensure a bright future for all his courtiers.
How ironic that despite all the blunders and the lives lost to their callous incompetence and utter stupidity, yet these men flourished and remained unaccountable. In shameful contrast, the martyrs of Op Gibraltar who were sent on a one way mission were removed from the radar in perpetuity. What about their kith and kin? Should they not deserve the acknowledgement of their martyrdom? Indubitably, the Indian invasion was not unprovoked; it was the direct consequence of the failed Operation: Gibraltar and the imminent threat posed by Operation Grand Slam to Akhnur, the sole entry and the jugular of the valley known as the ‘Chicken’s Neck’.
General Akhtar Hussain Malik almost achieved that herculean task. In his war diaries, general officer commanding-in-chief (GOC-in-C) of the western front, General Joginder Singh writes:
“General Akhtar Malik had steam rolled over Chamb and was heading for Akhnur with tremendous velocity; Akhnur lay like a ripe plum and undoubtedly he would head for Jammu after securing Akhnur; even today we hang our heads in shame that the officers and men of the 161 artillery regiment, stationed for the main defense of Akhnur had defected after hearing the news of Akhtar Malik’s onslaught on Chamb and heading for Akhnur. But suddenly there was eerie quiet and we wondered what Gen Malik was planning. A whole day passed and Providence came to our help as we heard the news that General Malik had been replaced.”
This has been a heart breaking event which my fingers quiver to write about even today. History would have been very different had the high palace intrigue not deprived the brave General Malik of his red letter day. Brigadier Amjad Hussain, Commander Artillery describes vividly the shock and rage at the removal of General Akhtar Hussain Malik and the turning of a victory foretold into a tragedy in perpetuity.
Yahya Khan, in a high intrigue drama was given command. In Yahya’s own words, spoken at the Quetta Staff College when he was the President and questioned by an irate chief instructor on why he did not take Akhnur on Sept 1, he replied curtly,
“Because I was ordered not to do it”.
That day, we lost Kashmir forever, not due to the enemy’s strong riposte but due to the deceit and incompetence of our own leadership. It was not the high command, but the courage and resolute will of the fighting elements of the armed forces that saved the country. As the Indian blitz on the 6th of Sept was developing against the city of Lahore, the heart and soul of Pakistan, it was met with the indomitable spirit, resolve and blood of a handful of soldiers (officers and men) who stood like the rock of Gibraltar to defend the their homeland with their blood, looking death in the eye.
Numerically, India had 4:1 superiority on land and 3.5:1 in the air. Besides, it had great geographical depth and a huge resource fountain. But what the enemy did not know was the fact that they had an unknown advantage accruing from Pakistan’s leadership. It would be instructive to understand the disadvantage our forces had suffered owing to the same failure of leadership and mindset. When Operation Gibraltar was launched, 25 per cent of the army personnel were on home leave. The Divisional Commanders at Lahore, Kasur and Sialkot were not permitted to place defensive mines and other measures for the defense of the border; nor allowed full deployment on the border. The idea being not to provoke the Indians to avoid escalation, as the occupation of Kashmir was in progress. Another colossal mishap requires attention: the president, in his infinite wisdom, along with his army chief decided not to bring PAF leader Air Marshall Asghar Khan, the father of a force he had trained to be amongst the best in the world, into the Kashmir misadventure loop.
Ayub Khan’s information czar, Altaf Gauhar, writes that the reason was that Ayub knew that Asghar Khan would give meaning and content to the war and make it decisive. I have these comments if anyone is interested.
It was on the fateful day that Asghar Khan was completing his eight years of service on July 23, 1965, and handing the PAF command to Air Marshal Nur Khan, a brave and great fighter himself, but one who had been away for eight years winning laurels for his successes and who only took command when war was imminent. But national security was apparently an idea which had to be the exclusive domain of the supreme commander; everyone in crucial positions had to be amenable to the President. Luckily, Air Marshall Nur Khan inherited a formidable fighting machine.
As opposed to the depleted operational readiness status enforced by the design of the army leadership, the PAF had been kept on Phase 1 Operational Alert since the Rann of Kutch episode and it was buzzing with operational vibrancy. I often felt sorry for our gallant and professional army, where I knew lots and lots of great officers, who were not lucky enough to have leaders like the PAF had since its inception. The PAF doctrine for war had been the master-mind of the visionary Air Marshall Asghar Khan and the operational strategy the work of a team working under the guidance of Air Marshall Rahim Khan, Chief of Operations. We, as young squadron commanders had been summoned to Air Headquarters along with Officers commanding, Wings and Base commanders on June 6, 1965 and given a comprehensive brief into the concept of air operations as the C-in-C opined that he saw war clouds on the horizon. Air Marshall Asghar Khan had no inkling about the Kashmir Committee plan to de-freeze Kashmir.
Finally, each commander present was allocated his war missions. The tactical aspects of mission accomplishment were left to each squadron commander; such was the confidence level of the PAF high command in the junior commanders. This is leadership and the loyalty it evokes in the hearts of fighting elements to do and die for the country. After the air battle over Kashmir, where the IAF lost five fighters, the next air action of the 1965 war came on September 6, at 9.30am. It was the first mission of war assigned to No. 19 Sherdil Squadron, which I had the honour to command. The target assigned was an enemy artillery regiment across the Jassar Bridge in the Sialkot-Shakargarh bulge. The squadron had been custom trained to be second to none. Each pilot wore this dedication to excellence on his sleeve and understood well that excellence was not an option but an instinct in mission accomplishment.
The narrative will prove what I mean here: five minutes away from the target area, the radio crackled and the voice of our Air Defence Commander was discernible. He instructed us that our primary mission is cancelled and that we were to proceed to village Attari area and destroy enemy forces about to enter Lahore. He may as well have transmitted a million watts electric shock to us with the word ‘Lahore’. Here it would be prudent to mention that the Indian Express in its 23rd issue carries an irresponsible and highly manipulative article based on twisted facts which needs a strong riposte. It reads,
“In Punjab, the army reached close to the outskirts of Lahore but did not press on.”
This is yet another fabrication, and a very condescending and flimsy one at that. I don’t want to dwell too much on my own role in a war where so many gave their all, but I was at the scene leading 6 Falcons of 19 Squadron as we were diverted to the GT road. Why would the Indian General Chaudhary risk invading the heart of Pakistan and then circumvent it for some odd reason?
On the contrary, General Chaudhary had held a conference late at night in which several foreign correspondents, including Mark Tully of the BBC, were invited to the Lahore Gymkhana for a victory drink. What really happened is best described in an account about our air action at Wagah by none less than General Lachhman Singh, Gen Sukhwant Singh and award winning historians Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra, quoted here in parts:
“No.19 Sqdn. From Peshawar, led by (my name), flew a six aircraft strike mission at 0930 hours against the leading elements of Indian army thrust towards Lahore. The leading battalion of the division, 3 Jat, led by Col. Desmond Hyde had its columns strafed and rocketed by PAF Sabres. The unit lost all its Guns and Sherman Tanks … (Lachhman) …. It was about 9.30 am and the enemy aircraft shot up every vehicle for about 15 minutes undeterred by fire from our troops.”
I also read that after the drubbing at the hands of PAF there was a rout in the leading echelons of the Indian Strike force. Quoting General Sukhwant Singh,
“the C.O. of the battalion ran back with just one sock and one shoe, deserting the battalion. His 2nd in command followed suit and escaped on a bicycle and took refuge in Amritsar.”
Here’s an interesting anecdote I would like to share:
I was asked by Pushpindar Singh, a top air war historian if I knew whose Flag Jeep I had fired upon at Wagha on the morning of September 6. I replied that I recalled it was my sixth and last attack and while exiting the theatre, I saw a jeep with a flag which I shot at and saw a figure jumping out before the bullets hit the jeep. Pushpindar confirmed that this was Major General Nirindera Parshad, the Divisional Commander who abandoned his Division. Having set out for the Lahore Gymkhana, he instead ended up in Amritsar to be court martialled.
That same evening in our third mission of the day we obliterated the IAF base at Pathankot, destroying 13 fighters as part of the tragically failed magnum opus of the PAF planned by venerable Air Marshall Asghar Khan. It failed because his June 6 strategic plan was not followed through, owing to the negativity of a couple of timid air staff officers who misled the newly appointed C-in-C. Had the plan, which had been fully rehearsed with aircraft and the best pilots of the PAF made available, the IAF would have incontrovertibly lost over 50 fighters. Sadly, the command at two prime bases failed in their mission.
We expect nothing from the Indians, but this nation and its rulers (I didn’t say leaders) owe so much to such few gallant fighters for their strident commitment to their country, a commitment they have always fulfilled with their blood, sweat and the tears of the families. As we fight a different war even today, we must not shy away from acknowledging the mistakes of the past. It is only by doing so that we can secure our future.
By courtesy : Straight shooting on the 1965 war by Air Commodore Retired Sajjad Haider. The writer is a retired air commodore and author of the bestseller Flight of the Falcon: Demolishing Myths of 1965-1971 Senseless Wars. Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, September 6th, 2015.