The third region of major concern, the (largely) Islamic world, also the scene of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) that George W. Bush declared in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attack. To be more accurate, re-declared. The GWOT was declared by the Reagan administration when it took office, with a fevered rhetoric about a plague spread by depraved opponents of civilization itself (as Reagan put it) and a return to barbarism in the modern age (the words of George Shultz, his Secretary of State). The original GWOT has quietly been removed from history. It very quickly turned into a murderous and destructive terrorist war afflicting Central America, southern Africa and the Middle East, with grim repercussions to the present, even leading to the condemnation of the United States by the World Court (which Washington dismissed). In any event, it is not the right story for history, so it is gone.
The success of the Bush-Obama version of GWOT can readily be evaluated on direct inspection. When the war was declared, the terrorist targets were confined to a small corner of tribal Afghanistan. They were protected by the Afghans, who mostly disliked or despised them, under the tribal code of hospitality-which baffled Americans when poor peasants refused to turn over Osama bin Laden for the, to them, the astronomical sum of $25 million.
There are good reasons to believe that a well-constructed police action, or even serious diplomatic negotiations with the Taliban, might have placed those suspected of the 9/11 crimes in American hands for trial and sentencing. But such options were off the table. Instead, the reflexive choice was large-scale violence- it with the goal of overthrowing the Taliban (that came later) but to make clear US contempt for tentativeTaliban offers of the possible extradition of bin Laden. How serious these offers were, we do not know, since the possibility of exploring them was never entertained. Or perhaps the United States was just intent on trying to show its muscle, score a victory and scare everyone in the world. They don’t care about the suffering of the Afghans or how many people we will lose. That was the judgement of the highly respected anti-Taliban leader Abdul Haq, one of the many oppositionists who condemned the American bombing campaign launched in October 2001 as a big setback for their efforts to overthrow the Taliban from within, a goal they considered within their reach. His judgement was confirmed by Richard A. Clarke, who was the chairman of the Counterterrorism Security Group at the White House under George W. Bush when the plans to attack Afghanistan were made. As Clarke describes the meeting, when informed that the attack would violate international law, “the President yelled in the narrow conference room, ‘I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.’ ” The attack was also bitterly opposed by the major aid organizations working in Afghanistan, who warned that millions were on the verge of starvation and that the consequences might be horrendous.
The consequences for poor Afghanistan years later need hardly be reviewed.
The next target of the sledgehammer was Iraq. The US-UK invasion, utterly without credible pretext, is the major crime of the twenty first century. The invasion led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people in a country where the civilian society had already been devastated by American and British sanctions that were regarded as genocidal by the two distinguished international diplomats who administered them and resigned in protest for this reason. The invasion also generated millions of refugees, largely destroyed the country, and instigated a sectarian conflict that is now tearing apart Iraq and the entire region. It is an astonishing fact about our intellectual and moral culture that in informed and enlightened circles it can called, blandly, the liberation of Iraq.
Pentagon and British Ministry of Defence polls found that only 3% of Iraqis regarded the US security role in their neighbourhood as legitimate, less than 1% believed that the coalition (US-UK) forces were good for their security, 80% opposed the presence of coalition forces in the country, and a majority supported attacks on coalition troops. Afghanistan has been destroyed beyond the possibility of reliable polling, but there are indications that something similar may be true there as well. Particularly in Iraq, the United States suffered a severe defeat, abandoning its official war aims and leaving the country under the influence of the sole victor, Iran.
The sledgehammer was also wielded elsewhere, notably in Libya, where the three traditional imperial powers (Britain, France and the United States) procured Security Council resolution 1973 and instantly violated it, becoming the air force of the rebels. The effect was to undercut the possibility of a peaceful, negotiated settlement; sharply increase casualties (by at least a factor of ten, according to political scientist Alan Kuperman); leave Libya in ruins, in the hands of warring militias; and, more recently, to provide the Islamic State with a base that it can use to spread terror beyond. Quite sensible diplomatic proposals by the African Union, accepted in principle by Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, were ignored by the imperial triumvirate, as Africa specialist Alex de Waal reviews. A huge flow of weapons and jihadis has spread terror and violence from West Africa (now the champion for terrorist murders) to the Levant, while NATO attack also sent a flood of refugees from Africa to Europe.
Yet another triumph of humanitarian intervention and, as the long and often ghastly record reveals, not an unusual one, going back to its modern origins four centuries ago.
THE COSTS OF VIOLENCE In brief, the GWOT sledgehammer strategy has spread jihadi terror from a tiny corner of Afghanistan to much of the world from Africa through the Levant and South Asia. It has also incited attacks in Europe and the United States. The invasion of Iraq made a substantial contribution to this process, much as the intelligence agencies had predicted. Terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank estimate that the Iraqi war generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadists attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and thousands of civilians lives lost; even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one-third. Other exercises have been similarly productive.
A group of major human rights organizations—Physicians for Social Responsibility (US), Physicians for Global Survival (Canada), and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (Germany)—conducted a study that sought to provide as realistic an estimate as possible of the total body count in the three main war zones [Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan] during 12 years of ‘war on terrorism, including an extensive review of the major studies and data published on the number of victims in these countries, along with additional information on military actions. Their conservative estimate is that these wars killed about 1.3 million people, a toll that could also be in excess of 2 million. A database search by independent researcher David Peterson in the days following the publication of the report found virtually no mention of it. Who cares?
More generally, studies carried out by the Oslo Peace Research institute show that two-thirds of the region’s conflict fatalities were produced in originally internal disputes where outsiders imposed their solutions. In such conflicts, 98% of fatalities were produced only after outsiders had entered the domestic dispute with their military might. In Syria, the number of direct conflict fatalities more than tripled after the West initiated air strikes against the self-declared Islamic State and the CIA started its indirect military interference in the war—interference which appears to have drawn the Russians in as advanced US antitank missiles were decimating the forces of their ally Bashar al-Assad. Early indications are that Russian bombing is having the usual consequences.
The evidence reviewed by political scientist Timo Kivimaki indicates that the protection wars [fought by ‘coalitions of the willing] have become the main source of violence e in the world, occasionally contributing over 50% of total conflict fatalities. Furthermore, in many of these cases, including Syria, as he reviews, there were opportunities for diplomatic settlement that were ignored. As discussed elsewhere, that has also been true in other horrific situations, including the Balkans in the early 1990s, the first Gulf War, and of course the Indo China wars, the worst crime since World War II. In the case of Iraq, the question does not even arise. There surely are some lessons here.
The general consequences of resorting to the sledgehammer against vulnerable societies comes as little surprise. William Polk’s careful study of insurgencies, cited above, should be essential reading for those who want to understand today’s conflicts, and surely for planners, if they care about the human consequences and not merely power and domination. Polk reveals a pattern that has been replicated over and over. The invaders-perhaps professing the most benign motives—are naturally disliked by the population, who disobey then, at first in small ways, eliciting a forceful response, which increases opposition and support for resistance, the cycle of violence escalates until the invaders withdraw— or gain their ends by something that may approach genocide.
Obama’s global drone assassination campaign, a remarkable innovation in global terrorism, exhibits the same patterns. By most accounts, it is generating terrorists more rapidly than it is murdering those suspected of someday intending to harm us—an imperative contribution by a constitutional lawyer on the eight hundredth anniversary of Magna Carta, which established the basis for the principle of presumption of innocence that is the foundation of civilized law.
Another characteristic feature of such interventions is the belief that the insurgency will be overcome by eliminating its leaders. But when such an effort succeeds, the reviled leader is regularly replaced by someone younger, more determined, more brutal and more effective. Polk gives many examples. Military historian Andrew Cockburn has reviewed American campaigns to kill drug and then terror kingpins over a long period in his important study Kill Chain and found the same results. And one can expect with fair confidence that the pattern will continue.
No doubt right now US strategists are seeking ways to murder the Caliph of the Islamic State Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, who is a bitter rival of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The likely result of this achievement is forecast by the prominent terrorism scholar Bruce Hoffman, senior fellow at the US Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Centre. He predicts that al-Baghdadi’s death would likely pave the way for a rapprochement [with al-Qaeda] producing a combined terrorist force unprecedented in scope, size, ambition and resources.
Polk cites a treatise on warfare by Henry Jomini, influenced by Napoleon’s defeat at the hands of Spanish guerrillas, that became a textbook for generations of cadets at the West Point military academy. Jomini observed that such interventions by major powers typically result in wars of opinion, and nearly always national wars if not at first then becoming so in the course of the struggle, by the dynamics that Polk describes. Jomini concludes that commanders of regular armies are ill-advised to engage in such wars because they will lose them, and even apparent successes will prove short-lived.
Careful studies of al-Qaeda and ISIS have shown that the United States and its allies are following their game plan with some precision. Their goal is to draw the West as deeply and actively as possible into the quagmire and to perpetually engage and enervate the United States and the West in a series of prolonged overseas ventures in which they will undermine their own societies, expend their resources and increase the level of violence, setting off the dynamic that Polk reviews.
Scott Atran, one of the most insightful researchers on jihadi movements, calculates that the 9/11 attacks cost between $400,000 and $500,000 to execute, whereas the military and security response by the US and its allies is in the order of 10 million times that figure. On a strictly cost-benefit basis, this violent movement has been wildly successful, beyond even Bin Laden’s original imagination, and is increasingly so. Herein lies the full measure of jujitsu-style asymmetric warfare. After all, who could claim that we are better off than before, or that the overall danger is declining? And if we continue, he to wield the sledgehammer, tacitly following the jihadi script, the likely effect is even more violent jihadism with broader appeal. The record, Atran advises, should inspire a radical change in our counter-strategies.
Al-Qaeda/ISIS are assisted by Americans who follow their directives; for example, Ted carpet-bomb ‘em Cruz, a top Republican presidential candidate. Or, at the other end of the mainstream spectrum, the leading Middle East and international affairs columnist of the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, who in 2003 offered Washington advice on how to fight in Iraq on the Charlie Rose show: There was what I would call the terrorism bubble . . . And what we needed to do was to go over there basically, and, uh, take out a very big stick right in the heart of that world, and burst that bubble. And there was only one way to do it . . . What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy we’re going to just let it go? Well, suck on this. Ok. That, Charlie, was what this war was about. That’ll show the ragheads
LOOKING FORWARD Atran and other close observers generally agree on the prescriptions. We should begin by recognizing what careful research has convincingly shown: those drawn to jihad are longing for something in their history, in their traditions, with their heroes and their morals; and the Islamic State, however brutal and repugnant to us and even to most in the Arab Muslim world, is speaking directly to that . . . What inspires the most lethal assailants today is not so much the Quran but a thrilling cause and a call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends. In fact, few of the jihadis have much of a background in Islamic texts or theology, if any.
The best strategy, Polk advises, would be a multinational, welfare oriented and psychologically satisfying program . . . that would make the hatred ISIS relies upon less virulent. The elements have been identified for us: communal needs, compensation for previous transgressions, and calls for a new beginning. He adds, A carefully phrased apology for past transgressions would cost little and do much. Such a project could be carried out in refugee camps or in the hovels and grim housing projects of the Paris banlieues, where, , Atran writes, his research team found fairly wide tolerance or support for ISIS’s values. And even more could be done by true dedication and negotiations instead of reflexive resort to violence.
Not least in significance would be an honourable response to the refugee crisis that was a long time in coming but surged to prominence in Europe in 2015. That would mean, at the very least, sharply increasing humanitarian relief to the camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey where miserable refugees from Syria barely survive. But the issues go well beyond, and provide a picture of the self-described enlightened states that is far from attractive and should be an incentive to action.
There are countries that generate refugees through massive violence like the United States, secondarily Britain and France. Then there are countries that admit huge number of refugees, including those fleeing from Western violence, like Lebanon (easily the champion, per capita) Jordan and Syria before it imploded, among others in the region. And partially overlapping, there are countries that both generate refugees and refuse to take them in, not only from the Middle East but also from the US backyard south of the border. A strange picture painful to contemplate.
An honest picture would trace the generation of refugees much further back into history. Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk reports that one of the first videos produced by ISIS showed a bulldozer pushing down a rampart of sand that had marked the border between Iraq and Syria. As the machine destroyed the dirt revetment, the camera panned down to a handwritten poster lying in the sand. ‘End of Sykes-Picot,’ it said.
For the people of the region, the Sykes-Picot agreement is the very symbol of the cynicism and brutality of Western imperialism. Conspiring in secret during World War I, Britain’s Mark Sykes and France’s Francois Georges-Picot carved up the region into artificial states to satisfy their own imperial goals, with utter disdain for the interests of the people living there and in violation of the wartime promises issued to induce Arabs to join the Allied war effort. The agreement mirrored the practices of the European states that devastated Africa in a similar manner. It transformed what had been relatively quiet provinces of the Ottoman Empire into some of the least stable and most internationally explosive states in the world.
Repeated Western interventions since then in the Middle East and Africa have exacerbated the tensions, conflicts, and disruptions that have shattered the societies. The end result is a refugee crisis that the innocent West can scarcely endure. Germany has emerged as the conscience of Europe, at first (but no longer) admitting almost one million refugees—in one of the richest countries of the world with a population of 80 million. In contrast, the poor country of Lebanon has absorbed an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees, now a quarter of its population, on top of half a million Palestinian refugees registered with the UN refugee agency UNRWA, mostly victims of Israeli policies.
Europe is groaning under the burden of refugees from the countries it hS devastated in Africa—not without US aid, as Congolese and Angolans, among others, can testify. Europe is now seeking to bribe Turkey (with over 2 million Syrian refugees) to distance those fleeing the horrors of Syria from Europe’s borders, just as Obama is pressuring Mexico to keep US borders free from miserable people seeking to escape the aftermath of Reagan’s GWOT along with those seeking to escape more recent disasters, including a military coup in Honduras that Obama almost alone legitimized, which created one of the worst horror chambers in the region.
Words can hardly capture the US response to the Syrian refugee crisis, at least any words I can think of.
Returning to the opening question, Who rules the world? we might also want to pose another question: What principles and values rule the world?” That question should be foremost in the minds of the citizens of the rich and powerful states, who enjoy an unusual legacy of freedom, privilege and opportunity, thanks to the struggles of those who came before them, and who now face fateful choices as to how to respond to challenges of great human import.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (17 March 1920 – 15 August 1975), was a Bengali politician and statesman. He is the founding father of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. He served as the first President of Bangladesh and later Prime Minister of Bangladesh from March 1971 until his assassination in August 1975.
He was the driving force behind the independence of Bangladesh.
He is popularly known under the title of Bangabandhu (Friend of Bengal).
He became a leading figure in and eventually the leader of the Awami League, founded in 1949 as an East Pakistan-based political party in Pakistan.
Mujib is credited as an important figure in efforts to gain politician autonomy for East Pakistan and later as the central figure behind the Bangladesh Liberation Movement and the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.
Thus, he is regarded Jatir Janak or Jatir Pita (meaning Father of the Nation) of Bangladesh.
An advocate of socialism, Mujib rose to the ranks of the Awami League and East Pakistani politics as a charismatic and forceful orator. He became popular for his opposition to the ethnic and institutional discrimination of Bengalis in Pakistan, who comprised most of the state’s population. At the heightening of sectional tensions, he outlined a 6-point autonomy plan and was jailed by the regime of Field Marshal Ayub Khan for treason.
Mujib led the Awami League to win the first democratic election of Pakistan in 1970. Despite gaining a majority, the League was not invited by the ruling military junta to form a government. As civil disobedience erupted across East Pakistan, Mujib indirectly announced independence of Bangladesh during a landmark speech on 7 March 1971. On 26 March 1971, the Pakistan Army responded to the mass protests with Operation Searchlight, in which Prime Minister-elect Mujib was arrested and flown to solitary confinement in West Pakistan, while Bengali civilians, students, intellectuals, politicians and military defectors were murdered as part of the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. Despite Mujib’s absence, Bengalis from all walks of life joined the Mukti Bahini and fought and won against Pakistan Armed Forces in Bangladesh Liberation War. After Bangladesh’s independence, Mujib was released from Pakistani custody due to international pressure and returned to Dhaka in January 1972 after a short visit to Britain and India.
Sheikh Mujib became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh under a parliamentary system adopted by the new country. His government enacted a constitution proclaiming socialism and secular democracy. The Awami League won a huge mandate in the country’s first general election in 1973. However, Mujib faced challenges of rampant unemployment, poverty, and corruption. A famine took place in 1974. The government was criticized for denying constitutional recognition to indigenous minorities and human rights violations by its security forces, notably the National Defence Force para militia. Amid rising political agitation, Mujib initiated one party socialist rule in January 1975. Six months later, he and most of his family were assassinated by renegade army officers during a coup. A martial law government was subsequently established.
In a 2004 BBC poll, Mujib was voted the Greatest Bengali of all time.
Born: 17 March 1920; Tungipara, Bengal Presidency, British India (now in Bangladesh)
Died: 15 August 1975 (aged 55) Dhaka, Bangladesh
Cause of death: Assassination
Nationality: Pakistan, Bangladesh
Political party: Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (1975)
Other political affiliations: All-India Muslim League(Before 1949); Awami League(1949–1975)
University of Dhaka
Spouse: Sheikh Fazilat-un Nisa Mujib
Children • Sheikh Hasina: leader of the Awami League and the present Prime Minister of Bangladesh. • Sheikh Kamal: was an organizer of the Mukti Bahini guerrilla struggle in 1971 and received wartime commission in Bangladesh Army during the Liberation War. He was perceived to be the successor to Sheikh Mujib • Sheikh Jamal trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Great Britain and later joined the Bangladesh Army as a Commissioned Officer. • Sheikh Rehana • Sheikh Rasel
The Sheikh Family was under house arrest during Bangladesh liberation war until 17 December, Sheikh Kamal and Jamal found the means to escape and cross over to a liberated zone, where they joined the struggle to free the country. Almost entire Sheikh family was assassinated on 15 August 1975 coup d’état . Only Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, who were visiting West Germany, escaped. Sheikh Mujib is the maternal grandfather of Tulip Siddiq, British-born Labour politician, and member of parliament for Hampstead and Kilburn since the 2015 general election.
Early life and education
Mujib was born in Tungipara, a village in Gopalganj District in the province of Bengal in British India, to Sheikh Lutfur Rahman, a serestadar (court clerk) of Gopalganj civil court. He was born into a Muslim, native Bengali family as the third child in a family of four daughters and two sons.In 1929, Mujib entered into class three at Gopalganj Public School, and two years later, class four at Madaripur Islamia High School. From very early age Mujib showed a potential of leadership. His parents noted in an interview that at an young age, he organized a student protest in his school for the removal of an inept principal. Mujib withdrew from school in 1934 to undergo eye surgery, and returned to school only after four years, owing to the severity of the surgery and slow recovery.
Later, he passed his Matriculation from Gopalganj Missionary School in 1942, Intermediate of Arts from Islamia College (now Maulana Azad College) in 1944 and BA from the same college in 1947. After the partition of India, he got himself admitted into the University of Dhaka to study law but could not complete it due to his expulsion from the University in early 1949 on the charge of inciting the fourth-class employees in their agitation against the University authority’s indifference towards their legitimate demands. After 61 year, in 2010, the expulsion was withdrawn terming it as unjust and undemocratic.
Political activism in British India
Mujib became politically active when he joined the All India Muslim Students Federation in 1940, when he was a student of Islamia College. He joined the Bengal Muslim League in 1943. During this period, he worked actively for the League’s cause of a separate Muslim state of Pakistan, and in 1946 he went on to become general secretary of the Islamia College Students Union. M. Bhaskaran Nair describes that Mujib emerged as the most powerful man in the party because of his proximity to Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy.After obtaining his BA degree in 1947, he was one of the Muslim politicians working under Suhrawardy during the communal violence that broke out in Calcutta, in 1946, just before the partition of India.
Leader of Pakistan After the Partition of India, Mujib chose to stay in the newly created Pakistan. On his return to what became known as East Pakistan, he enrolled in the University of Dhaka to study law and founded the East Pakistan Muslim Students’ League. He became one of the most prominent student political leaders in the province. During these years, he developed an affinity for socialism as the solution to mass poverty, unemployment, and poor living conditions.
Following the declaration of Muhammad Ali Jinnah on the 21 March 1948, that the people of East Bengal would have to adopt Urdu as the state language*, protests broke out amongst the population. Mujib immediately decided to start a movement against this former planned decision of the Muslim League. At the same year, 2 March, a conference was held at Dhaka University’s Fazlul Haq Muslim Hall, with leaders of different political parties. In this conference, discussions about the movement against the Muslim League were discussed. From here on, the decision of the constitution of the All-party Parliamentary Council was decided. The strike was celebrated in Dhaka on March 11, 1948, in the call of this council. During the strike, some other political activists including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were arrested in front of the secretariat building. But due to pressure from the student protest, Mujib and other student leaders were released on March 15. On the occasion of their release, Rastrabhasa Sangram Parishad (National Language Action Committee) arrange a rally which took place at Dhaka University. Police had blocked this rally. In protest of police activities Sheikh Mujib immediately announced nationwide student strike on March 17, 1948. On 19 March, he organized a movement aimed at securing the rights of the fourth-class employees of Dhaka University. On 11 September 1948, he was again arrested.
*Jinnah has asked that Urdu should be the lingua franca which is not the state language
The founding of the Awami League
Mujib left the Muslim League to join Maulana Bhashani and Yar Mohammad Khan in the formation of the Awami Muslim League, the predecessor of the Awami League. Maulana Bhashani was elected as President while Yar Mohammad Khan was the treasurer. He was elected joint secretary of its East Bengal unit in 1949. While Suhrawardy worked to build a larger coalition of East Bengali and socialist parties, Mujib focused on expanding the grass-roots organization. In 1953, he was made the party’s general secretary, and elected to the East Bengal Legislative Assembly on a United Front coalition ticket in 1954. Serving briefly as the minister for agriculture during A. K. Fazlul Huq’s government, Mujib was briefly arrested for organizing a protest of the central government’s decision to dismiss the United Front ministry.
He was elected to the second Constituent Assembly of Pakistan and served from 1955 to 1958. The government proposed to dissolve the provinces in favour of an amalgamation of the western provinces of the Dominion of Pakistan in a plan called One Unit; at the same time the central government would be strengthened. Under One Unit, the western provinces were merged as West Pakistan during the creation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1956. That year East Bengal was renamed as East Pakistan as part of One Unit at the same time. Mujib demanded that the Bengali people’s ethnic identity be respected and that a popular verdict should decide the question of naming and of official language: Sir [President of the Constituent Assembly], you will see that they want to place the word East Pakistan instead of East Bengal. We had demanded so many times that you should use Bengal instead of Pakistan. The word Bengal has a history, has a tradition of its own. You can change it only after the people have been consulted. So far as the question of One Unit is concerned it can come in the Constitution. Why do you want it to be taken up just now? What about the state language, Bengali? We will be prepared to consider one-unit with all these things. So, I appeal to my friends on that side to allow the people to give their verdict in any way, in the form of referendum or in the form of plebiscite.
In 1956, Mujib entered a second coalition government as minister of industries, commerce, labour, anti-corruption and village aid. He resigned in 1957 to work full-time for the party organization. In 1958 General Ayub Khan suspended the constitution and imposed martial law. Mujib was arrested for organizing resistance and imprisoned till 1961. After his release from prison, Mujib started organizing an underground political body called the Swadhin Bangal Biplobi Parishad (Free Bangla Revolutionary Council), comprising student leaders, to oppose the regime of Ayub Khan. They worked for increased political power for Bengalis and the independence of East Pakistan. He was briefly arrested again in 1962 for organizing protests.
Following Suhrawardy’s death in 1963, Mujib came to head the Awami League, which became one of the largest political parties in Pakistan. The party had dropped the word Muslim from its name in a shift towards secularism and a broader appeal to non-Muslim communities. Mujib was one of the key leaders to rally opposition to President Ayub Khan’s Basic Democracies plan, the imposition of martial law and the one-unit scheme, which centralized power and merged the provinces. Working with other political parties, he supported opposition candidate Fatima Jinnah against Ayub Khan in the 1964 election. Mujib was arrested two weeks before the election, charged with sedition and jailed for a year. In these years, there was rising discontent in East Pakistan over the atrocities committed by the Pakistani Armed Forces against Bengalis and the neglect of the issues and needs of East Pakistan by the ruling regime. Despite forming a majority of the population, the Bengalis were poorly represented in Pakistan’s civil services, police and military. There were also conflicts between the allocation of revenues and taxation. The 1965 war between India and Pakistan also revealed the markable vulnerability of East Pakistan compared to West Pakistan.
Unrest over continuing denial of democracy spread across Pakistan and Mujib intensified his opposition to the disbandment of provinces. In 1966, Mujib proclaimed a 6-point plan titled Our Charter of Survival at a national conference of opposition political parties at Lahore in which he demanded self-government and considerable political, economic and defence autonomy for East Pakistan in a Pakistani federation with a weak central government. According to his plan:
1. The constitution should provide for a Federation of Pakistan in its true sense on the Lahore Resolution and the parliamentary form of government with supremacy of a legislature directly elected based on the universal adult franchise. 2. The federal government should deal with only two subjects: defence and foreign affairs, and all other residuary subjects shall be vested in the federating states. 3. Two separate, but freely convertible currencies for two wings should be introduced; or if this is not feasible, there should be one currency for the whole country, but effective constitutional provisions should be introduced to stop the flight of capital from East to West Pakistan. Furthermore, a separate banking reserve should be established, and separate fiscal and monetary policy be adopted for East Pakistan. 4. The power of taxation and revenue collection shall be vested in the federating units and the federal centre will have no such power. The Federation will be entitled to a share in the state taxes to meet its expenditures. 5. There should be two separate accounts for the foreign exchange earnings of the two wings; the foreign exchange requirements of the federal government should be met by the two wings equally or in a ratio to be fixed; indigenous products should move free of duty between the two wings, and the constitution should empower the units to establish trade links with foreign countries. 6. East Pakistan should have a separate militia or paramilitary forces.
Mujib’s points catalysed public support across East Pakistan, launching what some historians have termed the 6-point movement – recognized as the definitive gambit for autonomy and rights of Bengalis in Pakistan. Mujib obtained the broad support of Bengalis, including the Hindu and other religious communities in East Pakistan. However, his demands were considered radical in West Pakistan and interpreted as thinly veiled separatism. The proposals alienated West Pakistani people and politicians, as well as non-Bengalis and Muslim fundamentalists in East Pakistan.
Anti-Ayub movement Mujib was arrested by the army and after two years in jail, an official sedition trial in a military court opened. Widely known as the Agartala Conspiracy Case, Mujib and 34 Bengali military officers were accused by the government of colluding with Indian government agents in a scheme to divide Pakistan and threaten its unity, order and national security. The plot was alleged to have been planned in the city of Agartala, in the Indian state of Tripura. The outcry and unrest over Mujib’s arrest and the charge of sedition against him destabilized East Pakistan amidst large protests and strikes. Various Bengali political and student groups added demands to address the issues of students, workers and the poor, forming a larger 11-point plan. The government caved to the mounting pressure, dropped the charges on February 22, 1969 and unconditionally released Mujib the following day. He returned to East Pakistan as a public hero. He was given a mass reception on February 23, at Racecourse ground and conferred with the title Bangabandhu, meaning Friend of the Bengal.
Joining an all-parties conference convened by Ayub Khan in 1969, Mujib demanded the acceptance of his six points and the demands of other political parties and walked out following its rejection. On 5 December 1969 Mujib made a declaration at a public meeting held to observe the death anniversary of Suhrawardy that henceforth East Pakistan would be called Bangladesh:
There was a time when all efforts were made to erase the word “Bangla” from this land and its map. The existence of the word Bangla was found nowhere except in the term Bay of Bengal. I on behalf of Pakistan announce today that this land will be called Bangladesh instead of East Pakistan.
Mujib’s declaration heightened tensions across the country. The West Pakistani politicians and the military began to see him as a separatist leader. His assertion of Bengali cultural and ethnic identity also re-defined the debate over regional autonomy. Many scholars and observers believed the Bengali agitation emphasized the rejection of the Two-Nation Theory – the case upon which Pakistan had been created – by asserting the Ethnocultural identity of Bengalis as a nation. Mujib was able to galvanize support throughout East Pakistan, which was home to a majority of the national population, thus making him one of the most powerful political figures in the Indian subcontinent. It was following his 6-point plan that Mujib was increasingly referred to by his supporters as Bangabandhu (literally meaning “Friend of Bengal” in Bengali).
1970 elections and civil disobedience
A major coastal cyclone struck East Pakistan on 12 November 1970, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced. Bengalis were outraged, and unrest began because of what was considered the weak and ineffective response of the central government to the disaster. Public opinion and political parties in East Pakistan blamed the governing authorities as intentionally negligent. The West Pakistani politicians attacked the Awami League for allegedly using the crisis for political gain. The dissatisfaction led to divisions within the civil services, police and Pakistani Armed Forces.
In the Pakistani general elections held on 7 December 1970, the Awami League under Mujib’s leadership won a massive majority in the provincial legislature, and all but two of East Pakistan’s quota of seats in the new National Assembly, thus forming a clear majority.
The largest and most successful party in the western wing of the nation was the Pakistan People’s Party headed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He was completely opposed to Mujib’s demand for greater autonomy. Bhutto threatened to boycott the assembly and oppose the government if Mujib was invited by Yahya Khan (then president of Pakistan) to form the next government and demanded inclusion of the PPP. Much of the Pakistani military and the Islamic political parties opposed Mujib’s becoming Pakistan’s prime minister. At the time neither Mujib nor the Awami League had explicitly advocated political independence for East Pakistan, but smaller nationalist groups were demanding independence for Bangladesh.
Bhutto feared civil war and sent a secret message to Mujib and his inner circle to arrange a meeting with them. Hassan met with Mujib and persuaded him to form a coalition government with Bhutto. They decided that Bhutto would serve as President, with Mujib as Prime minister. These developments took place secretly and none of the Pakistan Armed Forces personnel were kept informed. Meanwhile, Bhutto increased the pressure on Yahya Khan to take a stand on dissolving the government.
Establishment of Bangladesh
Following political deadlock, Yahya Khan delayed the convening of the assembly – a move seen by Bengalis as a plan to deny Mujib’s party, which formed a majority, from taking charge. It was on 7 March 1971 that Mujib called for independence and asked the people to launch a major campaign of civil disobedience and organized armed resistance at a mass gathering of people held at the Race Course Ground in Dhaka.
The struggle now is the struggle for our emancipation; the struggle now is the struggle for our independence. Joy Bangla! Since we have given blood, we will give more blood. God-willing, the people of this country will be liberated … Turn every house into a fort. Face (the enemy) with whatever you have.
Following a last-ditch attempt to foster agreement, Yahya Khan declared martial law, banned the Awami League and ordered the army to arrest Mujib and other Bengali leaders and activists. The army launched Operation Searchlight to curb the political and civil unrest, fighting the nationalist militias that were believed to have received training in India. Speaking on radio even as the army began its crackdown, Mujib asked his fellows to create resistance against Pakistani Army of occupation by a telegraph at midnight on 26 March 1971:
The Pakistan Army have suddenly attacked the Pilkhana EPR Headquarter and the Rajarbag Police Line as well as killed many innocents in Dhaka. The battle has started in various places of Dhaka and Chittagong. I am asking help to all the nations of this world. Our freedom fighters are valiantly fighting against the foes to save their motherland. In the name of Almighty Allah my last request and order to you all is to fight for independence till death. Ask your brothers of Police, EPR, Bengal Regiment and Ansar to fight with you. No compromise, the victory is ours. Execute the last foe from our holy motherland. Carry my message to all the leaders, activists and the other patriots from every corner of the country. May Allah bless you all. Joy Bangla. – from Shadhinota Shongrame Bangali by Aftab Ahmad
Sheikh Mujib was arrested and taken to West Pakistan after midnight from Tejgaon Airport on a PAF C-130 flight right under the noses of ATC Officer Squadron Leader Khwaja, Senior Operations Officer Wing Commander Khadem ul Bashar and Director of Airport and Flight Security Squadron Leader M. Hamidullah Khan. All were on duty that night due to the state of emergency. Mujib was moved to West Pakistan and kept under heavy guard in a jail near Faisalabad (then Lyallpur). Many other League politicians avoided arrest by fleeing to India and other countries. Pakistani General Rahimuddin Khan was appointed to preside over Mujib’s military court case in Faisalabad, the proceedings of which have never been made public.
The Pakistani army’s campaign to restore order soon degenerated into a rampage of terror and bloodshed. With militias known as Razakars, the army targeted Bengali intellectuals, politicians and union leaders, as well as ordinary civilians. Due to deteriorating situation, large numbers of Hindus fled across the border to the neighbouring Indian states of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. The East Bengali army and police regiments soon revolted, and League leaders formed a government in exile in Kolkata under Tajuddin Ahmad, a politician close to Mujib. A major insurgency led by the Mukti Bahini (Freedom Fighters) arose across East Pakistan. Despite international pressure, the Pakistani government refused to release Mujib and negotiate with him. Most of the Mujib family was kept under house arrest during this period. General Osmani was the key military commanding officer in the Mukti Bahini, which was a part of the struggle between the state forces and the nationalist militia during the war that came to be known as the Bangladesh Liberation War. Following Indian intervention in December 1971, the Pakistani army surrendered to the joint force of Bengali Mukti Bahini and Indian Army, and the League leadership created a government in Dhaka which was called Mujibnagar Government.
Upon assuming the presidency after Yahya Khan’s resignation, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto responded to international pressure and released Mujib on 8 January 1972. After release from prison, Bhutto and Mujib met in Rawalpindi. In that meeting, Bhutto proposed some links between Pakistan and Bangladesh. However, Mujib said he could not commit to anything until he visited Bangladesh and talked to his colleagues. He was then flown to London where he met with British Prime Minister Edward Heath and addressed the international media at the Claridge’s Hotel. Mujib then flew to New Delhi on a Royal Air Force (RAF) plane provided by the British government to take him back to Dhaka. In New Delhi, he was received by Indian President Varahagiri Venkata Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as well as the entire Indian cabinet and chiefs of armed forces. Delhi was given a festive look as Mujib and Indira addressed a huge crowd where he publicly expressed his gratitude to Indira Gandhi and the best friends of my people, the people of India. From New Delhi, Sheikh Mujib flew back to Dhaka on the RAF jet where he was received by a massive and emotional sea of people at Tejgaon Airport.
Mujib briefly assumed the provisional presidency and later took office as the prime minister. A new country Bangladesh begins with a lot of ‘rampage and rape of Bangladesh economy’ by Pakistani occupation force. In January 1972 Time magazine reported: In the aftermath of the Pakistani army’s rampage last March, a special team of inspectors from the World Bank observed that some cities looked like the morning after a nuclear attack. Since then, the destruction has only been magnified. An estimated 6,000,000 homes have been destroyed, and nearly 1,400,000 farm families have been left without tools or animals to work their lands. Transportation and communications systems are totally disrupted. Roads are damaged, bridges out and inland waterways blocked. The rape of the country continued right up until the Pakistani army surrendered a month ago. In the last days of the war, West Pakistani-owned businesses—which included nearly every commercial enterprise in the country—remitted virtually all their funds to the West. Pakistan International Airlines left exactly 117 rupees ($16) in its account at the port city of Chittagong. The army also destroyed bank notes and coins, so that many areas now suffer from a severe shortage of ready cash. Private cars were picked up off the streets or confiscated from auto dealers and shipped to the West before the ports were closed.
The politicians elected in 1970 formed the provisional parliament of the new state. The Mukti Bahini and other militias amalgamated to form a new Bangladeshi army to which Indian forces transferred control on 17 March. Mujib described the fallout of the war as the biggest human disaster in the world, claiming the deaths of as many as 3 million people and the rape of more than 200,000 women.
Although the state was committed to secularism, Mujib soon began moving closer to political Islam through state policies as well as personal conduct. He revived the Islamic Academy (which had been banned in 1972 for suspected collusion with Pakistani forces) and banned the production and sale of alcohol and banned the practice of gambling, which had been one of the major demands of Islamic groups. In his public appearances and speeches, Mujib made increased usage of Islamic greetings, slogans, and references to Islamic ideologies. In his final years, Mujib largely abandoned his trademark Joy Bangla salutation for Khuda Hafez preferred by religious Muslims. He also declared a common amnesty to the suspected war criminals in some conditions to get the support of far-right groups as the communists were not happy with Mujib’s regime.
He declared, I believe that the brokers, who assisted the Pakistanis during the liberation war has realized their faults. I hope they will involve themselves in the development of the country forgetting all their misdeeds. Those who were arrested and jailed in the Collaborator act should be freed before the 16 December 1974. He charged the provisional parliament to write a new constitution, and proclaimed the four fundamental principles of “nationalism, secularism, democracy, and socialism,” which would come to be known as Mujibism. Mujib nationalized hundreds of industries and companies as well as abandoned land and capital and initiated land reform aimed at helping millions of poor farmers. A constitution was proclaimed in 1973 and elections were held, which resulted in Mujib and his party gaining power with an absolute majority. He further outlined state programs to expand primary education, sanitation, food, healthcare, water and electric supply across the country.
Economic policies The Mujib government faced serious challenges, which including the rehabilitation of millions of people displaced in 1971, organizing the supply of food, health aids and other necessities. The effects of the 1970 cyclone had not worn off, and the state’s economy had immensely deteriorated by the conflict. Economically, Mujib embarked on a huge nationalization program. By the end of the year, thousands of Bengalis arrived from Pakistan, and thousands of non-Bengalis migrated to Pakistan; and yet many thousand remained in refugee camps. Major efforts were launched to rehabilitate an estimated 10 million refugees. The economy began recovering and a famine was prevented. A five-year plan released in 1973 focused state investments into agriculture, rural infrastructure and cottage industries. But a famine occurred in 1974 when the price of rice rose sharply. In that month “widespread starvation started in Rangpur district. Government mismanagement had been blamed for that. During Mujib’s regime the country witnessed industrial decline, Indian control over Bangladesh’s industries and counterfeit money scandals.
Foreign policies After Bangladesh achieved recognition from major countries, Mujib helped Bangladesh enter into the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement. He travelled to the United States, the United Kingdom and other European nations to obtain humanitarian and developmental assistance for the nation. Mujib maintained a close tie with India. He signed a treaty of friendship with India, which pledged extensive economic and humanitarian assistance and began training Bangladesh’s security forces and government personnel. Mujib forged a close friendship with Indira Gandhi, strongly praising India’s decision to intercede, and professed admiration and friendship for India. Mujib sought Bangladesh’s membership in the Organization and the Islamic Development Bank and made a significant trip to Lahore in 1974 to attend the OIC summit, which helped repair relations with Pakistan to an extent. On the international stage, Mujib and his Indian counterpart Indira Gandhi signed the 25-year Indo-Bangladeshi Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace. Bangladesh joined the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Commonwealth of Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement. Mujib was invited to Washington DC and Moscow for talks with American and Soviet leaders. Mujib declared that Bangladesh would be the “Switzerland of the East” and by this declaration he meant that Bangladesh would steer clear from the Cold War and would remain non-partisan in the tug of Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. In the Delhi Agreement of 1974, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan pledged to work for regional stability and peace. The agreement paved the way for the return of interned Bengali officials and their families stranded in Pakistan, as well as the establishing of diplomatic relations between Dhaka and Islamabad. Japan became a major aid provider to the new country. Although Israel was one of early countries to recognize Bangladesh, the government in Dhaka strongly supported Egypt during the Arab-Israeli War of 1973. In return, Egypt gifted Bangladesh’s military with 44 tanks. Many Eastern European countries, particularly Yugoslavia, East Germany and Poland, enjoyed excellent relations with Bangladesh. The Soviet Union supplied several squadrons of Mig-21 planes for the Bangladesh Air Force.
Left wing insurgency At the height of Mujib’s power, left wing insurgents, organized by Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal’s armed wing Gonobahini fought against the government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in order to establish a Marxist government. The government responded by forming an elite para-military force Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini on 8 February 1972, initially formed to curb the insurgency and maintain law and order. The force began a campaign of brutal human rights abuses against the general populace, including the force became involved in numerous charges of human rights abuse including political killings, shooting by death squads, forced disappearances and rape. Members of Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini were granted immunity from prosecution and other legal proceedings. The force had sworn an oath of loyalty to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
BAKSAL Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL) the only legally recognized party of Bangladesh founded on 7 June 1975 following the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of Bangladesh. Mujib’s government soon began encountering increased dissatisfaction and unrest. His programs of nationalization and industrial socialism suffered from lack of trained personnel, inefficiency, rampant corruption, and poor leadership. Mujib focused almost entirely on national issues and thus neglected local issues and government. The party and central government exercised full control and democracy was weakened, with virtually no elections organized at the grass roots or local levels. Political opposition included communists as well as Islamic fundamentalists, who were angered by the declaration of a secular state. Mujib was criticized for nepotism in appointing family members to important positions. A famine in 1974 further intensified the food crisis, and devastated agriculture – the mainstay of the economy. Intense criticism of Mujib arose over the lack of political leadership, a flawed pricing policy, and rising inflation amidst heavy losses suffered by the nationalized industries. Mujib’s ambitious social programs performed poorly, owing to scarcity of resources, funds, and personnel, and caused unrest amongst the masses. BAKSAL was protested by different groups but they were punished by Sheikh Mujib. It was known that Sheikh Mujib never accepted any criticism against him. Mujib was widely accused for 40000 killings by his Rakkhi Bahini.
The 1974 famine had personally shocked Mujib and profoundly affected his views on governance, while political unrest gave rise to increasing violence. During the famine, 70000 people were reported as dead.
In response, he began increasing his powers. In 1974, Mujib declared a state of emergency. In 1975, his political supporters approved a constitutional amendment with few other parties of a new system called BAKSHAL. Banning all opposition political parties against BAKSHAL. Mujib assumed the presidency and was given extraordinary powers. According to Time magazine: Under the new system, executive powers are vested in the President, who will be elected directly every five years, and in a Council of Ministers appointed by him. Although an elected Parliament can pass legislation, the President has veto power and can dissolve Parliament indefinitely. His political supporters amalgamated to form the only legalized political party, the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League, commonly known by its initials—BAKSAL. The party identified itself with the rural masses, farmers, and labourers and took control of government machinery. It also launched major socialist programs. Using government forces and a militia of supporters called the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini, Mujib oversaw the arrest of opposition activists and strict control of political activities across the country.
Assassination On 15 August 1975, a group of junior army officers invaded the presidential residence with tanks and killed Mujib, his family and personal staff. Only his daughters Sheikh Hasina Wajed and Sheikh Rehana, who were visiting West Germany, escaped. They were banned from returning to Bangladesh. The coup was planned by disgruntled Awami League colleagues and military officers, which included Mujib’s colleague and former confidante Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, who became his immediate successor. There was intense speculation in the media accusing the US Central Intelligence Agency of having instigated the plot. Lawrence Lifschultz has alleged that the CIA was involved in the coup and assassination, basing his assumption on statements by the then US ambassador in Dhaka, Eugene Booster.
Mujib’s death plunged the nation into many years of political turmoil. The coup leaders were soon overthrown, and a series of counter-coups and political assassinations paralyzed the country. Order was largely restored after a coup in 1977 gave control to the army chief Ziaur Rahman. Declaring himself President in 1978, Ziaur Rahman signed the Indemnity Ordinance, giving immunity from prosecution to the men who plotted Mujib’s assassination and overthrow.
Tomb of Sheikh Mujibur in Gopalganj; The Bangabandhu Square Monument
Mujib has been depicted in Bangladeshi currency, Taka and is the namesake of many Bangladesh public institutions.
During Mujib’s tenure as the premier leader, Muslim religious leaders and some politicians intensely criticized Mujib’s adoption of state secularism. He alienated some segments of nationalists and those in the military who feared Bangladesh would become too dependent on India. They worried about becoming a satellite state by taking extensive aid from the Indian government and allying with that country on many foreign and regional affairs. Mujib’s imposition of one-party rule and suppression of political opposition with censorship and abuse of the judiciary, also alienated large segments of the population. Historians and political scientists think that it derailed Bangladesh’s development as a democratic state, contributing to its subsequent political instability and violence. The economy also collapsed due to widespread corruption in the same period.
Lawrence Lifschultz wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review in 1974 that Bangladeshis considered the corruption and malpractices and plunder of national wealth unprecedented. Zafrullah Chowdhury asserts that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman himself was a major impediment to the fulfilment of those aspirations of the liberation, although he admits that he was a great leader.
Following his assassination, succeeding governments offered low-key commemorations of Mujib. Restoration of his public image awaited the election of an Awami League government in 1996, which was led by his eldest daughter, Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the party. 15 August has since been commemorated as National Mourning Day. The country keeps it flags lower to half-mast in this day as a sign of mourning. In 2016, the Awami League government passed a law that criminalized any criticism of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Despite controversy and disagreement among politician, Mujib remain a popular figure in Bangladesh. In a 2004 BBC Bengali opinion poll, Mujib was voted as the Greatest Bengali of All Time. The waistcoat coat that Mujib used to wore during his political campaign is called Mujib coat in Bangladesh.
Worldwide After one year of independence and Mujib rule, Time magazine wrote: in sum, Bangladesh had little reason to enjoy a happy first birthday. If it is not the basket case that Henry Kissinger once called it, neither has it become the Shonar Bangla (Golden Bengal) envisioned by Mujib. How much this is the fault of Mujib is a moot question. It is true that he has had little time in which to combat some of Bangladesh’s immense problems. Nevertheless, some critics contend that he has wasted some time playing the role of popular revolutionary figure (such as personally receiving virtually any of his people who call on him) when he should have been concentrating more on serious matters of state. If, as expected, he is elected in March, Mujib will face a clear test of whether he is not only the father of Bangladesh but also its savior.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro compared Mujib’s personality with the Himalayas during the Non-Aligned Summit in 1973.
Time Magazine USA 25 August 1975 wrote ten Days after his death: Mujib returned to the most tumultuous welcome Dacca had ever seen—and a staggering array of problems in probably the poorest (and most densely populated) country on earth. There were virtually no civil servants and little industry. Ports were clogged, railroads destroyed, the educated elite savaged. Worse, what had not been destroyed in war was soon destroyed by a devastating drought in 1973 and floods last year that inundated three-quarters of the country
Sheikh Mujib wrote two volumes of his autobiography, where he expressed his view on politics and described his personal life. Both books were published after his death by his daughter and current Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. • The Unfinished Memoirs. The University Press Limited, Penguin Books and Oxford University Press. ISBN 9789845061100. • Karagarer Rojnamcha. Bangla Academy. ISBN 978-0-470-60264-5.
Tariq Rahman has engagingly traced the history of the ‘upstart’ Urdu language, involving its gradual displacement of Persian from the middle of the nineteenth century to its blossoming as a ‘badge of identity, a mark of sophistication and refinement’ for elite Muslims. Its journey was to culminate in it being accorded the status of Pakistan’s national language, although at the time of independence only around 7% of the population spoke it as a mother tongue. The initial refusal to accord a similar status to Bengali, the language spoken by most Pakistanis in 1947, was a factor in the growing tensions between the country’s eastern and western wings.
From the 1900 foundation of the Urdu Defence Association onwards, Urdu was a major symbol of Muslim political identity in colonial India. The association owed its birth to the success of partisans of Hindi, securing its recognition alongside Urdu as an official language in the United Provinces (UP). Urdu had been adopted as the official language of UP in 1858, but Hindi language activists mounted increasingly vociferous public campaigns to change this government decision. Altogether 118 memorials signed by 67,000 persons submitted in favour of Hindi as the medium of instruction when the Commission on National Education sat in 1882. The Hindi-Urdu controversy really intensified, however, at the beginning of the next century, arising from the anti-Urdu stance of the Lieutenant Governor of the North-Western Provinces, Sir A.P. MacDonnell. During its course, both Urdu and Hindi became identified as the language of essentialized ‘Muslim’ and ‘Hindu’ religious communities. In this respect language advocacy intersected with the growing impact of socio-religious reform in North India.
Urdu was not only the mother tongue of the UP Muslim elite, but was spoken by members of the Muslim upper classes throughout India. The mass of the Muslim population, however, spoke a variety of other languages, with Punjabi and Bengali having the greatest number of users. The British had made Urdu, however, the official vernacular language in Punjab from 1854 onwards, thereby marginalizing the Punjabi mother tongue. The decision, partly taken for administrative convenience and resting on official prejudices against the ‘rustic’ Punjabi language, possessed profound long-term significance.
Attachment to Urdu became a key component of the Muslim separatist platform in colonial India. Nonetheless, Urdu has proved much less effective in promoting a national Pakistani identity than have regional languages in articulating ethnic identity. Centralization around one language has strengthened the role of regional languages in identity politics. This is especially marked in Sindh, where the language movement emerged in resistance to the local influx of Urdu-speaking Mohajirs as well as to the national domination by the ruling Mohajir and later Punjabi elites. It is present in most parts of Pakistan, although it is muted in Punjab, outside of its Seraiki-speaking belt. This arises from the colonial tradition of subsuming Punjabi to Urdu. It also reflects the fact that the Punjab has been the core of the Pakistan state. Influentials segments of its inhabitants have largely been prepared to eschew cultural nationalism in favour of physical control of state political and economic power.
The rapid social mobility arising from internal migration has certainly strengthened Urdu as a common lingua franca. The process has its limitations, however, because of the politicization of language in smaller provinces of Pakistan. Urdu itself became the focus of an ethnic identity, rather than of Pakistan nationalism with the emergence of a Mohajir political identity in urban Sindh early in the 1980s.
Sindhi has long been an important element in identity politics along with other community markers relating to dress (wearing of the ajrak shawl), poetry and Sufism. Indeed, it was Sufi poems (kafi) which helped to establish Sindhi linguistic traditions, despite their ancient origins. The nationalist politician and writer G.M. Syed drew on these ancient cultural traditions to support the demand for an independent Sindhi homeland, Sindhu Desh, in the 1970s, although the driving force of his separatist stance was the ‘Punjabi-‘ political domination. Syed had warned even in the early 1940s that Pakistan was likely to be a Punjabi-dominated state. There was considerable resentment the influx of Punjabi agriculturists following the completion of the Sukkur Barrage irrigation scheme in 1932. This was nothing compared with the flood of Urdu-speaking refugees from India in 1947.
During the colonial era, Sindhi was standardized in the Arabic script, formerly having also been written in Nagri and Gurumukhi. Since independence, Sindhi language activists have been engaged in clashes with the state. A strong sense of Sindhi cultural identity lay behind the resistance to the centralizing and Islamizing policies of Zia, as can be glimpsed in such poems as Naz Hamayooni’s ‘Love for Homeland’. G.M. Syed, despite his long-term resistance to the Pakistan state, stood aloof from this movement, however, in the main because of his hostility to the PPP. Ironically, Karachi’s Urdu-speakers celebrated the veteran Sindhi nationalist 81st birthday in January 1984.
Pashto from the colonial era onwards has become an important component of Pakhtun ethnic identity, although before this Persian was the ‘language of sophisticated discourse’ and the moral code of Pakhtunwali undergirded identity. The British imposition of Urdu as the official vernacular language encouraged the promotion of Pashto as a symbol of anti-colonial resistance by Red Shirt movement of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. Whilst the use of Pashto thereafter became central to the Pakhtun identity, along with Pakhtunwali and Islam, it met with resistance from both Hindko-speaking Muslims and the Hindu-Sikh population. The Pakistan state viewed Pashto with similar suspicion as did their colonial forebears, because of Afghanistan’s irredentist claims and the Afghan state’s promotion of Pashto over Dari as symbol of Pakhtun domination. During the 1950s and 1960s, the issue of Pashto was central to the aspirations of Pakhtunistan secessionists. More recently, the integration of Pakhtuns into the Pakistan state has seen the rise in Urdu use, although Pashto retains its symbolic significance in identity politics and demands for greater autonomy, which culminated in the renaming of the North West Frontier Province as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Tribal social structures have been more important in framing Baloch political identity than language, as Balochistan’s multilingualism has limited such possibilities. Its linguistic mix resulted not only from the presence of a sizeable Pashto-speaking Pakhtun population in such areas as Sibi, Zhob and Pishin, but also from the prevalence of a Brahvi-speaking Baloch ethnic group. Indeed, the Khan of Kalat’s family were Brahvi-speaking, but inspite of this Baloch nationalists have looked to Mir Nisar Khan, who had forged the Kalat state in the second half of the eighteenth century, as an inspiration for independent statehood. Seraiki-speaking tribes such as the Jamalis also identify themselves as Baloch. Urdu was the recognised vernacular language of the British administered Balochistan. Since independence, the Pakistan state has promoted Urdu as a vehicle for national integration. Its prevalence among the Baloch elite, the underdeveloped nature of Balochi as a written language and the divide between it and Brahvi have led to tribal loyalties and economic and political grievances, rather than language driving nationalist resistance to the Pakistan state.
Modernising states’ reactions to ‘sub-national’ political identities based on ethnicity, language and religion have been a major factor in encouraging authoritarianism not only in South Asia but throughout the developing world. Superficially, Pakistan’s limited range of politically-conscious ethnic groups in comparison with India’s appear less of a threat to democratic consolidation. A number of scholars have argued conversely, however, that India’s complex ethnic structure has worked as an enabling factor for democracy by for example preventing the state from being captured by a single dominant ethnic group.
In any other region of the world, a state of Pakistan’s size with a population of around 175 million, an army of around 500,000 and a GDP of over $160 billion would be a significant power. India, however, with its 1 billion plus population, 1 million of which are in arms, and GDP eight times higher than Pakistan’s, dwarfs it and in doing so perpetuates the sense of insecurity which has dogged Pakistan’s history.
While Pakistan cannot match India’s size, military and economic might, its population and economy have grown rapidly since 1947. According to the 1951 census the population for what now includes Bangladesh as well as Pakistan was just 73 million. Today’s truncated Pakistan, with an estimated population of 185 million, is the sixth largest country in the world in terms of its population. The rate of increase is still around 2.2% per annum; this compares with 1.4% and 0.6% respectively for its Indian and Chinese neighbours. Around half of Pakistan’s people are under the age of 15. Some estimates put the population under the age of 25 as high as 100 million, making this one of the largest youth populations in the world. This youthful dynamism is a factor in the state’s resilience. The youth bulge could either prove a demographic dividend, helping to drive forward economic growth, or it could prove to be a time-bomb, if the state is unable to educate and utilize it.
Rapid population has been a contributory factor to Pakistan’s poor achievements in educational provision for its citizens, although they are primarily a result of the state’s historically low tax levels and the privileging of defence expenditure over that on both health and education. Literacy stands at around 55% of the population, although this masks significant regional and gender imbalances. Only around a third of adult women are literate, while little more than a fifth participate in the labour force. Women made up only 10.96 million out of a total labour force 51.78 million in 2007-8. Pakistan in 2007-8 stood 125 out of 138 countries in terms of the Gender-related Development Index, and ranked 82 out of 93 in the Gender Empowerment Measure. The following year, the increasing security crisis in the Malakand division and parts of the NWFP kept girls especially from education. According to one report perhaps as many as 80,000 girls in Swat were deprived of education. Scandalously high rates of female illiteracy in the more conservative areas of Pakistan such as the Frontier and the Tribal Areas (with just 18% female literacy in the former and 3% in the latter) have exacerbated the failures of half-hearted government programmes of family planning. A recent report revealed that only 18% of the women in the countryside use the modern method of family planning. Around 200,000 women are admitted to hospital each year because of unsafe abortions, at a conservatively estimated cost of $22 million. A dramatic expansion of female education is essential, not only in terms of addressing gender inequalities, but because if its historical connection with the slowing of population increase. Bangladesh’s better record than Pakistan in reducing fertility rates is directly attributable not only to its more effective family planning policies, which have been largely provided by NGO (in Pakistan they account for around 13% of family planning services), but to its policies designed to educate and economically empower women. According to some accounts, there is a gap of 25% between the demand and supply of contraceptive services in Pakistan. Its consequences are revealed by the slow pace in the decline if fertility and the chilling statistic that 1 in 7 pregnancies end in induced abortion.
Population growth continuing at its current rate of over 2% per annum could in future reach crisis proportions. Some demographers project that this will result in a population of around 335 million by the mid twenty-first century, this would make Pakistan the fourth populous country in the world. More immediate high levels of population increase poverty in the absence of policies of economic redistribution; around 1 in 5 Pakistanis continue to live beneath the poverty line. About 60% of Pakistan’s population subsist on less than $2 a day.
There are again marked regional differences in this exposure to poverty, with the poorest populations being found in the Tribal Areas, the interior of Sindh and Balochistan. It is significant to note that the areas which were most developed in the colonial era have retained their advantage since independence. There are parallels with India with respect to the former Princely States, in that there were pockets of deep poverty in some of the Princely States which acceded, while other states were ‘progressive’ (e.g. Mysore in the Indian context) and had similar standards of living to those of neighbouring British India districts. Khairpur and Bahawalpur were the most developed states that acceded to Pakistan, as they shared in the irrigation (the Sutlej Valley Project) and communication developments of the adjacent British provinces. The Frontier Princely States of Amb, Chitral and Dir lagged far behind the settled districts of the Frontier. Swat had a literacy rate of just 1.75% in 1951. Education was banned by the Nawab of Dir in case it undermined his autocratic rule by which he owned all the land in his state. However, the Balochistan states with their poor communications and nomadic inhabitants were the most backward of all the states that acceded to Pakistan. Kharan and Lasbela had only one middle school each for boys by 1949. The disparity of socio-economic development between the Princely States and the former British provinces, together with their strategic location, complicated their integration in Pakistan. With the notable exception of Kalat, extremely low levels of political consciousness accompanied the poor social development indicators.
Even in the most prosperous areas of Pakistan such as the Punjab, the rural areas lag behind their urban counterparts. The absence of amenities and life chances in rural Pakistan has contributed to another marked feature of the country’s economic profile: that of high levels of migration. Rural-urban migration has resulted in Karachi and to a lesser extent Lahore as emerging mega cities. Future migration trends will increase their size and those of other urban combinations, so that by 2030 it is estimated that half of the population will live in urban centres. Nonetheless, Pakistan continues at present to have a large rural population. Agriculture still accounts for around 20% of the annual GDP and provides employment for over 40% of the country’s labour force. The extensive production of rice and wheat is possible because of the existence of one of the largest irrigation networks in the world, which waters around 16 million hectares of land.
Pakistan is a society on the move. Its birth was accompanied by by the Partition of the subcontinent and the division of the two Muslim major priory provinces of Punjab and Bengal. The Partition-related violence sparked the largest uprooting people in the twentieth century. While the two way transfer of 9 million Punjabis in the short period of August-December 1947 forms the iconic representation of this upheaval, migration of Muslims into Sindh continued well into the1950s. By 1951, the Urdu-speaking UP migrants (mohajirs) numbered around 50% of Karachi’s population. The creation of a UP Urdu speaking enclave in the sands if Sindh was to have profound consequences for Pakistan’s politics. The cultural and political assimilation of Punjabi-speaking migrants, unlike their Urdu counterparts in Sindh, has obscured the fact that the greatest number of migrants from India (over 5 million) came from East Punjab. They settled on the agricultural land abandoned by the outgoing Sikh farmers in the Canal Colony areas and in the towns and cities of West Punjab, where they frequently accounted for over 50% of the population. The Punjabi migrants have formed a constituency for Islamists and extremist sectarian movements as well as for the mainstream factions of e Muslim League. They are also staunch upholders of the Kashmir cause, reflecting the fact that there was not only a significant influx of Kashmiri refugees into Pakistan in 1947, but the experiences of upheaval by ethnic Punjabis led them to an anti-Indian stance. The Punjabi refugee element in Pakistan’s politics has been overlooked, but in fact has formed another of the longer-term shaping factors which are not always recognized in contemporary security driven analyses.
Since independence, internal migration has formed an important feature of Pakistan’s experience and helped shape its political developments. There has been outright rural-urban migration, but also movement from countryside to small towns, sometimes as a staging post in the migration process, while the overall population increased by 250% in the period 1947-81, urban population growth was close to 400%. Karachi’s population had risen from under half a million in 1947 to 13 million in 2007. Lahore’s population stood at 5 million, with six other cities having a population of over 1 million. By 2025 it is projected that Pakistan’s urban population will total over 100 million, with Karachi and Lahore, both forming mega-cities of around 19 and 10 million respectively. The presence of large migrant communities in towns and cities has sustained outlooks and community networks from the rural setting rather than resulting in the emergence of a new ‘modern’ urban class. Small towns especially represent more of a village environment than is expected by the Western conception of an urban society. The migration of Pakhtuns throughout Pakistan, alongside the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, may be seen as a factor in introducing tribal cultural mores and norms into a growing ‘orthodox’ expression of Islam.
It is impossible to understand Karachi’s political turmoil in the 1990s (which by 2010 had shown dangerous signs of resurgence) without acknowledging the fact that this is not only the city of Indian migrants (mohajirs) but is the third largest Pakhtun city in the world and has a greater Baloch population than Quetta. Ethnic struggles for power and control over resources, in which criminal mafias play a role, have been contributory factors in the city’s reputation for violence. While Karachi is the melting pot par excellence, no area of Pakistan is homogenous, although provincial politics are frequently discussed in these terms. Around 40% of e population of Balochistan is, for example Pakhtun. There are significant Kashmiri populations in such Punjabi cities as Lahore and Sialkot. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan brought an influx of 3 million Afghans. Internal displacement of populations has been a feature of the military operations in the Tribal Areas. Indeed one aspect behind the resurgence of violence in Karachi in 2010 was the growing number of Pakhtuns who had moved to the city from the Tribal Areas. Alongside economic migrants and victims of military conflict, the natural disaster of the 2010 floods was another factor in internal displacement. Finally, there is little reported movement of perhaps as many 100,000 Punjabi settlers from Balochistan as a result of the growing number of targeted killings of Punjabis in the current phase of insurgency in the province.
Overseas migration has also impacted both on Pakistan’s economy and its international image. During the colonial era there was considerable migration from the Punjab future heartland of Pakistan; this included Muslim Rajputs from the poorer northern areas of the province as well as Sikh Jats from its central districts. Military service was a common feature for both areas, providing exposure to lands well beyond the native home (Desh) and creating a culture of international migration. There was also a tradition of migration from the Sylhet region of Assam ( now part of Bangladesh) based on the poorer sections of its population turning to careers as lascars (sailors) which led them to life overseas. Independence continued the earlier pattern of migration in that most international migrations were from Punjab and East Bengal. One discontinuity was provided by the push to overseas migration for the population of Mirpur in Azad Kashmir, following the displacement created by the construction of the Mangla Dam.
North America, Europe and the UK were the main centres of permanent migration, although large number of workers also moved for short-term contracts to the Middle-East from the 1970s and 1980s. This has undoubtedly increased the size and scale of middle-class wealth in Pakistan. The psychological reactions arising from the frustrations of newly enriched returnees has been dubbed the Dubai chalo (Let’s go to Dubai) theme in Pakistani society. Overseas Pakistanis in UAE and Saudi Arabia provide the largest inflows of remittances. In the period July 2010 to January 2011, for example, almost half of the $5.3 billion in remittances came from Pakistanis in these two areas.
However, Pakistanis living permanently in the West also provide large sums for their homeland’s foreign exchange reserves. The cultural impact of overseas migration is much less quantifiable than its economic consequences. The growing religious orthodoxy coincided with the increase of labour migration to the Gulf and Saudi Arabia in the 1970s. Assessments of the ‘Arabization’ of Pakistani Islam tend to focus on the Saudi export of Wahhabism in the political context of the Iranian revolution and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In doing so, they overlook the influence of growing numbers of migrant oil and construction workers who returned home to Pakistan,not only with increased prosperity, but commitment to a scriptural Islam in opposition to popular ‘folk Islam’.
The UK received the largest number of migrants, with the 2001 Census revealing a population of over 1 million persons with Pakistani or Bangladeshi origins. The growing South Asian diaspora in the US from 1965 onwards was dominated by Indian migrants, although there also the emergence of a professional Pakistani class, comprising engineers, academics, and especially medical practitioners. The size of the Pakistani population in the US is disputed, as US Census figures which put it around 200,000 do not include college students or second and third generation members, if they are accounted the numbers can increase to 700,000. While the Pakistani diaspora has not played a pivotal role in national politics as have, for example, overseas Tamils through their support for LTTE, all parties have overseas branches. London and Dubai were twin poles of the PPP during the years of exile of its leader Benazir Bhutto. London has also been the residence of Baloch nationalists. The MQM is run by Altaf Hussain from its London Secretariat. Former President Musharraf launched his All Pakistan Muslim League in London at the beginning of October 2010. Within the UK, , Birmingham because of its large diaspora community is another centre of intense political activity.
The diaspora represents an important economic resource through remittances, support for the major parties and for humanitarian aid, as at the time of the 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods. The US community is the wealthiest Pakistani diaspora and provides the most in remittances (around $1.73 billion p.a.by 2007-8). Indeed periods of Pakistan’s rapid economic growth in the early 1980 and again two decades later appear to have been driven in part by overseas remittances which increased consumer demand for housing and transport. The involvement in the 7 July 2005 London bombings of the British-born young Muslims of Pakistani descent who had visited radical mosques in Pakistan, followed by the failed Times Square bombing in New York in May 2010, represented a more disturbing element in the ongoing diaspora-homeland connection. Further evidence came from the fact that the grey-bearded Swat Taliban spokesman, Muslim Khan, was a returned former painter and decorator from the Boston area.
Pakistani society is marked by vast disparities of wealth and access to basic goods and services, such as health, education and sanitation. These remain limited in an environment in which just 1% of the population is directly taxed. Western donors in the wake of the 2010 floods have urged that Pakistan address this issue and mobilize more of its own resources. Much of the funding for social welfare programmes is at present dependent on international aid. To provide just one example, US AID provides around $45 million for family planning programmes which have been chronically underfunded from government sources. The political power of big landowners continues to block the introduction of an agricultural income tax and thereby improve Pakistan’s woeful tax to GDP ratio of 9%. In a country of some 190 million people, there are only 2.7 million registered tax payers. Significantly, agriculture, which accounts for nearly a quarter of Pakistan’s GDP, provides only 1% of its tax revenues. Its favouring is to the detriment of industry, which has a tax share three times its contribution to GDP.
The failure to bring the wealthy into the tax net has undermined the consolidation of democracy and is a factor in encouraging the notion that Islamization would bring greater social justice in its wake. State-sponsored Islamization in the 1980s concentrated, however, on the punitive aspects of Islamic law rather than on the encouragement of egalitarianism. Periods of rapid economic growth in the 1980s and in the early years of the twenty-first century have seen some trickle down effects, with a concomitant rise in life expectancy and lifting of sections of the population out of poverty. Nonetheless, grinding poverty affects rural populations in Sindh and Balochistan.
Estimates of the incidence of poverty in Pakistan are difficult not only because of faulty survey design, but inaccuracies in the raw official data. The World Bank estimated that 28.3% of the population were living below the poverty line in 2004-5. This global figure masks trends across the provinces and between urban and rural settings. The Social Policy Development Centre produced the breakdown for 2001-2 shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Poverty incidence by province (%)
province overall/rural/provincial capital/large cities/small cities and towns
Source: Safiya Aftab, Journal of Conflict and Peace Studies 1, 1 (October-December 2008) p.70.
We shall be noting later the extent to which uneven development has played a role in undermining nation-building. Certainly, the sense of Punjabi domination of Pakistan has been generated not only by the region’s association with the military, but because it is more highly developed than elsewhere, with the exception of Karachi. More recently attention has been turned to the link between poverty and Islamic militancy. Attention has been drawn to the fact that FATA, which is the most backward region of Pakistan with 60% of the population living below the poverty line, a literacy rate of only 17% and a per capita public expenditure of a third of the national average, have been the focus of insurgencies. Another major area of militant recruitment, however, is southern Punjab. While its poorest districts, such as Dera Ghazi Khan and Muzaffargarh, lag far behind its richest, the incidence of poverty is not as great as in for example the interior of Sindh and Balochistan. Yet neither of these areas are centres for radicalization and militancy. Muzaffargarh, the lowest ranked Punjabi district in terms of human development index, still in 2003, stood only at 59 out of 91 districts in Pakistan. While poverty and unemployment may feed militancy, this can only be fully understood in terms of a complex mix of religious, sectarian, social and historical factors.
Despite the existence of much poverty and inequality, it would nevertheless be wrong to portray Pakistan as an unchanging society. Despite major failings of governance, economic growth during the past decade has resulted in the emergence of a youthful and dynamic middle-class. According to some assessments there are now as many as 35 million people with a per capita income of up to $1,900. There is no monolithic middle stratum of society; it is differentiated by
• family antecedents,
• language and
The middle classes contain both modernist and traditionalist elements and are as a result not necessarily more Westernized in outlook and lifestyle than the urban younger generation drawn from feudal elites. Indeed, one if the most striking developments of the past decade has been the spread of the orthodox Al-Huda movement amongst educated middle-class Pakistani women. This has promoted the Arab dress code of the full-size abaya. Perhaps the most unifying element of the middle classes is consumerism, as seen in the surge in sales of cars, televisions and mobile phones. One in two Pakistanis is a mobile phone subscriber, one of the highest rates in the region. Civil society groups have established a telemedicine network (Jaroka Telehealthcare) that enables health workers in remote areas to connect to connect with doctors in major cities. In addition to expenditure on electronic durables, the middle classes have become the main users of the burgeoning private educational establishments and privately run poly clinics which have become a marked feature of the urban landscape. According to one estimate, around three-quarters of all health care is provided by the private sector.
The rise of the middle class has also contributed to the growth of electronic media transmissions, which is another marked feature of contemporary Pakistan. The days have long passed when recourse to the BBC World Service and grainy images from the Indian Doordarshan television network were the only alternatives to the strictly controlled state broadcasting. Ease in dealing with an increasingly independent and intrusive media is becoming as much a political requirement in Pakistan as elsewhere in the media-driven world. The new cable networks have, however, strengthened existing orthodoxies in many instances, rather than interrogating them, and in the eyes of some critics have contributed to the powerful anti-Western discourse in contemporary Pakistan. Increased media access has in fact provided new opportunities for the spread of conspiracy theories, which are a marked feature of Pakistani public life. According to some commentators, they reflect a widespread national malaise which, by denying the root causes of Pakistan’s problems, prevent any attempts to address them. Symptomatic of the delusional world of conspiracy theories in Pakistan was the revelation by an international opinion pollster that two-thirds of Pakistanis surveyed believed that the person killed in the US operation in Abbotabad was not Osama bin Laden but a double. The former army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg not only concurred with this view, but maintained that Osama had been killed sometime before in Afghanistan and the 2 May 2011 episode was a US plot to defame Pakistan. Another widely believed conspiracy theory was that the raid on bin Laden was a practice run for the US seizure of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. When Hilary Clinton visited Pakistan towards the end of the month, she pointedly remarked that anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories will not make problems disappear.
With respect to politics, the inchoate character of the middle classes mean that no single party has benefited from their development. In Lahore, middle-class voters are likely to support the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N). In Karachi, they divide on ethnic lines, with Pakhtun businessmen, for example, supporting the Awami National Party (ANP), and mohajirs the Muttahida Qaumi Mahaz (MQM) or United National Movement), formerly the Mohajir Qaumi Movement. More traditionalist members of the middle classes throughout Pakistan are likely to vote for the Islamist Party Jamaat-i-Islami (JI or Islamic Society) or the Deobandi party the Jamiat-ulUlama-e-Islam (JUI). Although tiny by Indian standards, the middle classes in Pakistan are beginning to become an important social and economic actor, even if they lack national political power because of the continued grip of the feudal elites and biraderi (kinship group) heads.
It is widely argued in Pakistan that the feudals’ political influence has been a major factor in undermining democracy. The term feudal is used loosely to include the landed and tribal elites, many of whom may have interests not only in capitalist farming, but in agri-businesses and urban real estate development. Moreover, not all feudals’ can rely on the coercive localism described by critics to ensure the votes of their tenants. Socio-economic changes in parts of Punjab, for example, have created circumstances not that dissimilar from India, where elites must constantly rejuvenate their ties with their clients through the provision of patronage, and voters can remove incumbents in order to maximize the benefits they receive from political elites.
The Sindhi waderos symbolize Pakistan’s feudal class. They are seen as using their power to veto socio-economic reforms, including education in their localities. They are also blamed for blocking land reform and rural taxation and for cornering development aid. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s foes argued that he had never outgrown the arbitrariness and cruelty (zulm) of his Sindhi feudal background. Concentration on the waderos ignores the fact that a new landholding class has emerged in parts of Sindh as well as in Punjab in recent decades, drawn from the higher echelons of the bureaucracy and the army. It is also important to recognize that landowning alone is not the sole basis of political power in the countryside. In order to be really effective it needs to be combined with tribal and biraderi (kinship group) leadership and with the notion of reputation. This helps to explain why controls on female sexuality which could bring family dishonour are frequently so savage in tribal communities. Religious sanctity is another source of rural power. The connection between Sufi shrines and power has been traced in the colonial era in the works of such writers as David Gilmartin and Sarah Ansari. At the outset of the post-2008 PPP-led government both the Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, and the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi hailed from leading Sufi families of Multan. Recent studies have pointed to the fact that Islamists are increasingly challenging the pirs‘ influence not just on the long-established grounds of orthodox resistance to shrine worship, but by presenting themselves as opponents of the feudal structures in which the Sufi order are enmeshed.
Two points need to be made regarding tribal and biraderi leadership. It is well known that the tribal heads (sardars) in Balochistan wield far more power than their counterparts in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. There are large tribal heads in south Punjab who are originally of Baloch descent: the Legharis represent a good example. Outside Balochistan, the greatest tribal influence is wielded by the waderos of the interior of Sindh. The strongest biraderi networks are found amongst the smaller-scale land holding communities of the central Punjab. Biraderi networks are also important in some towns and cities. Politics in Lahore for example are dominated by the factional struggles amongst members the Arian and Kashmiri biraderis.
Four major impacts of Pakistani feudalism which have encouraged political authoritarianism have been identified by the critics.
1. First, the vast economic and social gulf between the landholding elite and the rural masses has effectively depoliticized the latter. Votes are sought in an atmosphere of coercive localism. The rural poor dare not oppose their landlord patrons.
2. Second, the perpetuation of feudal power relations has contributed to a political culture of violence and combativeness rather than cooperation.
3. Third, the parochial and personalized character of Pakistan politics is rooted in the landlords’ predominance; this is a factor in the weak political institutionalization which has hindered democratic consolidation.
4. Fourth, the landlords are concerned primarily with bolstering the local prestige rather than with pursuing a political agenda. This means that a significant fraction of the rural elite will always be prepared to lend legitimacy ton authoritarian rulers. Along with a section of the ulama, landlords are on hand to join what has been derisively termed the Martial Law B Team.
Mohammad Waseem has recently argued, however, that it is the rightist middle class rather than the feudals who undermine democracy. He maintains that the absolute majority of the middle class is rightist, although lawyers, writers and intellectuals comprise a small pro-democracy element within it. The rightist element is made up of military officers and bureaucrats, engineers, architects, corporate managers, information technologists and businessmen, all of whom are intensely conservative in outlook. While he acknowledges the combative and patronage-driven characteristics of the feudals’ political involvement, he sees traditional landed elites as more reflective of plural ethnolinguistic ties and as being prepared to build alliances across communities and regions. This class is attached to the Islam of pir and shrine, rather than that of the mosque and madrasa. The middle class on the other hand is driven by the twin ideologies of Pakistan nationalism, with its strong anti-Indian sentiment, and scriptural Islam, which is Pan-Islamic and anti-Western sentiment. The rightist middle class shares the state-centric, rather than people-centred vision held by the military and bureaucrat establishment. With the exception of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Waseem maintains that Pakistan’s authoritarian rulers have been drawn from the middle classes. Their stock in trade is that democracy has been hijacked by the feudals, politicians are corrupt and Pakistan society is not yet fit for democracy. Waseem’s views provide a useful counterpoint to the more widely held belief that the rise of the middle class in Pakistan will go hand in hand with democratization and liberalism. Indeed it could be argued that Wahhabi and Deobandi puritanical interpretations of Islam especially appeal to an emerging middle class locked out of power by feudals with their rhetoric of equality, brotherhood of Muslims, and claim that the implementation of the shari’ah will ensure social justice. As Mathew Nelson has so expertly revealed, for the landholding classes, however, a major preoccupation has been to use a combination of coercion, legal delay and political influence to circumvent the shari’ah’s impact on patrilineal customs of female disinheritance. For Nelson, political influence in the Punjabi rural setting lies in the ability to to circumvent existing post-colonial laws which have undermined the British enhancement of tribal custom. He sees the resulting informal patterns of extra-legal political accountability as possessing deleterious consequences for democratic consolidation. His understanding not only challenges Waseem’s, but those who adopt a less nuanced understanding of the lack of efficiency of the district courts and sees the colonial legacies for contemporary Pakistan only in narrow institutional inheritances.
Pakistan’s sensitive geo-political situation to the east of the Persian Gulf and in close proximity to Russia, China and India has given rise to it being termed a garrison state in which the military role is inevitably over-developed. Critics of militarism have seen the army as turning to its advantage enmity with India and regional Western strategic concerns, firstly derived from the Cold War and latterly the War on Terror to transform Pakistan into a permanent insecurity state. The cost of the army’s positioning and repositioning itself as the state’s predominant institution has been Pakistan’s neo-vassal status.
The fact that Pakistan was carved out of the British Indian Empire has meant that its history has been profoundly influenced by relations with its mighty neighbour Indian attitudes have been coloured by the fact that Pakistan is seen as a secessionist state; while in Pakistan there has been the abiding fear that India will seek to undo the 1947 Partition. This intensified with the breakaway of its eastern wing to form Bangladesh in 1971.
Pakistan had emerged in 1947 with its eastern and western wings divided by over 1,000 miles of Indian territory. While this geographical absurdity by no means condemned it to division, the remoteness of Dhaka from the federal capital, first in Karachi and then later in Islamabad intensified the sense of marginality of the Bengali political elites. I feel a peculiar sensation when I come from Dacca to Karachi, the Bengal Chief Minister Ataur Rahman Khan declared early in 1956; I feel physically, apart from mental feeling, that I am living here in a foreign country. I did not feel as much when I went to Zurich, to Geneva . . . or London as much as I feel here in my own country that I am in a foreign land. This perception was materially based in the different topographies, landholding structures and population densities of the two wings and the fact that over 1 in 5 of East Pakistan’s population was non-Muslim, whereas the figures for West Pakistan were less than 1 in 30. The loss of the eastern wing profoundly transformed Pakistan in terms of its demography. It also encouraged the country to look more to the Middle-East than to South Asia as its neighbourhood region in cultural and economic terms. It was not fully recognised at the time but the federal government’s use of Islamic irregulars (Razakars) drawn from the Urdu-speaking Bihari population in East Pakistan in 1971 encouraged notions of Islamic militants’ value as strategic assets in the enduring rivalry with India. Pakistan was greatly weakened in relation to India by the loss of its eastern wing, but this did not abate their enduring rivalry, which was rooted in the Kashmir issue.
While Pakistan’s territorial dispute with India over Kashmir has symbolised the distrust between the two countries over the past six decades, it also inherited another disputed border with Afghanistan. In July 1949 the Afghan parliament formally renounced the Durand Line border which the British had negotiated with Amir Abdur Rahman Khan in 1893 to demarcate the frontier of the Raj. Kabul laid claim to the territories it had lost to Pakistan. This was a serious threat because of Pakistan’s immediate post-Partition weakness and because it occurred in the context of Afghanistan’s support for ethnic Pakhtun nationalists across the Durand Line in Pakistan, who sought to create their own Pakhtunistan state. The date of 31 August was earmarked in Afghanistan as the official annual celebration of a Greater Pakhtunistan Day. The goal of a Greater Pakhtunistan was designed not only to increase the power of the Afghan state, by absorbing a Pakhtunistan area carved out of Pakistan, but to cement the ethnic dominance of Pakhtuns within it at the expense of the Hazaras, Uzbeks and Tajiks, Kabul’s posture exacerbated Pakistan’s insecurity, which was already fevered by the 1947-8 clash with India over Kashmir. The geo-political imperative for a strong military received further encouragement. Within less than a decade of independence, Pakistan and Afghanistan became part of competing Cold War alliance systems within the region. Pakistan became a member of the US Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). Although India and Afghanistan retained the fiction of non-alignment, they received increasing amounts of aid from the USSR. Soviet assistance encouraged closer ties between Kabul and New Delhi, adding a further antagonistic element to Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.
During the Cold War and the post 9/11 War on Terror, Pakistan has found itself in the front line of an international conflict because of its geo-strategic location. Pakistan’s support was vital in the October 2001 war which removed the Taliban regime from power. It also became an important ally as NATO battled to contain the Taliban-led insurgency from 2006 onwards. By 2010-11, around 40% of all fuel and 80% of all containerised cargo for Western forces was passing through the country.
Some authors have gone so far as to declare that Pakistan has been a prisoner of its geography. The region’s geo-politics since the 1980s have brought Pakistan economic benefits, but high costs in terms of internal instability arising from the ‘blowback effects’ of weaponization, the influx of Afghan refugees and the support afforded to militant and sectarian expressions of Islam. The US strategy of encouraging jihad in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan in the early 1980s did not initiate the Pakistan state’s alliances with Islamic proxies, but it profoundly influenced their development:
firstly, by introducing large numbers of foreign fighters into the region;
secondly by flooding weapons into the country;
thirdly by increasing the power and influence of Pakistan’s ISI and its links with militant groups;
fourthly by providing a template which Pakistan was to adopt in its strategic aims to dominate post-Soviet Afghanistan and to wear down India in Kashmir.
Since 9/11 Pakistan has feared encirclement as a result of growing Indian development assistance to Afghanistan, which it had hoped to dominate itself. By the end of 2007, India was second only to the US in the provision of aid. Moreover, non-Pakhtun minorities which have traditionally looked to India for support had gained a measure of power in Hamid Karzai’s regime. The resentment this generated, fuelled the growing Taliban insurgency, for since the foundation of the modern Afghan state in the mid-eighteenth century it has been ruled by Pakhtuns, with the exception of the brief Tajik hold on power during the reign of Habibullah II and the post-Soviet presidency of Burhanuddin Rabbani. Pakistan has seen the Pakhtuns as its natural allies in Afghanistan following the decline of an irredentist Pakhtunistan threat. The policy of securing influence in Afghanistan through the backing of Pakhtun Islamic militants pre-dates the 1979 Soviet invasion, but received major Western and Saudi backing at that juncture. It has persisted to the present day with Islamabad seeing its strategic interests being served through successive Pakhtun groups of Islamist and Deobandi militant clients, ranging from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Mullah Omar and the Taliban to the Haqqanis at the time of the post-2005 Taliban insurgency against the government of President Hamid Karzai.
The Tribal Areas which comprise the seven protected agencies of
North Waziristan and
form a 280 mile wedge of mountainous land along this sensitive western border with Afghanistan. Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have frequently been uneasy in this region. Contemporary Afghanistan presents itself as the victim of repeated cross-border incursions by Islamic militants based in this region, but it has not always been the case of one-way traffic. The Pakistan army for example had to repel major Afghan incursions into Bajaur in 1961.
Pakistan has continued the colonial strategy of regarding the Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan as a buffer zone in which rule was indirect, with stability being provided by the Political Agent working through tribal jirgas. Further legacies were the provision for the imposition of collective punishments under the Frontier Crimes Regulations and the absence of a permanent military presence in the tribal heartland. Another historical inheritance which pre-dated the colonial era was the raising of tribal revolt by charismatic Muslim leaders in the Pakhtun tribal areas abutting Afghanistan. This tradition can be linked as far back as the jihad against the Sikh rule led by Sayyid Ahmed Barelvi (1786-1831). The Hadda Mullah’s jihads against the British in 1893 and 1897 were in response to colonial encroachment into the region. Hadda Mullah and his successors fused religious revivalism with the allegiances arising from the traditional Sufi ties between pirs and their murids.
The unanticipated ramifications of inducting Pakistani troops into the area in pursuit of foreign militants linked with Al-Qaeda will be discussed later in the volume. Suffice it to say here that home-grown militancy directed increasingly not against the Afghanistan state, but Pakistan itself, can be explained in part by the region’s continued isolation from political and socio-economic change elsewhere in the country, the sixth Five Year Plan declared the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to be the least developed area of Pakistan, with an adult literacy rate of just 15%. This has perpetuated extreme social conservatism and a history of sporadic uprisings against state encroachments led by unifying Islamic leaders. Despite a dramatic increase in educational expenditure from 2005, militancy and state counter-insurgency measures, with their attendant population displacement, resulted in the FATA annual school census report for 2009-10 revealing a dropout rate in government primary schools of 63% among boys and 77% among girls.
Pakistan’s geo-political location provides economic possibilities as well as strategic dangers. Pakistan could form an important hub for trade and energy transmission if regional relations were improved, with the country providing interconnecting links between Iran, Afghanistan and India. New Delhi has pulled out of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project because of US disquiet, which became institutionalised in the June 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Disinvestment Act. It is signed up however to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline project which was agreed at Ashgabat in December 2010. This could eventually supply 30 billion cubic metres of gas a year from the Caspian Sea region. The pipeline would have to cross strategically sensitive areas of south-eastern Afghanistan, including Helmand and Balochistan. It would however not only provide transit route fees of up to $160 million a year, equivalent to half of its national revenue and jobs for Afghanistan, but clean fuel for both Pakistan and India. US state department officials have termed TAPI’s route as a stabilising corridor which would link regional neighbours together in economic growth and prosperity. This has been echoed by an eminent Pakistani expert, who sees TAPI as having the potential for reshaping the security discourse in South Asia’ away from conflicting geo-political rivalries to mutually beneficial ‘geo-economics.
After the fall of Dhaka, eight days later, on Dec 24, 1971, the President of Pakistan Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto set up the War Inquiry Commission, commonly known as the Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission. It examined 213 witnesses, mostly Pakistani army officers, hundreds of classified documents and army signals between East and West Pakistan. The final report was submitted in November 1974, detailing how political, administrative, military, and moral failings were responsible for the surrender in East Pakistan.
The report said:
The process of moral degeneration among the senior ranks of the armed forces was set in motion by their involvement in martial law duties in 1958; that these tendencies reappeared and were in fact intensified when martial law was imposed once again in March 1969 by General Yahya Khan.
Due to corruption arising out of the performance of martial law duties, lust for wine and woman, and greed for lands and houses, a large number of senior army officers, particularly those occupying the highest positions, had not only lost the will to fight but also the professional competence necessary for taking the vital and critical decisions demanded of them for the successful prosecution of war, the Commission observed.
According to the Commission, these perversions led to the army brass willfully subverting public life in Pakistan. In furtherance of their common purpose they did actually try to influence political parties by threats, inducements and even bribes to support their designs, both for bringing some of the political parties and the elected members of National Assembly to refuse to attend the session of the National Assembly scheduled to be held at Dhaka on March 3, 1971.
A fully civil government could not be formed in East Pakistan as had been announced by the ex-President namely Dr. Malik- an old politician who had a weak personality. He could not annoy the Martial Law Administrator (Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi) because of the unsettled conditions obtaining in the Eastern Wing. Gen. Niazi, on the other hand cherished and liked power, but did not have the breadth of vision or ability to understand political implications. He did not display much respect for the civilian Governor; the Army virtually continued to control civil administration. The Commission discovered.
The installation of a civilian governor in September 1971 was merely to hoodwink public opinion at home and abroad.Poor Dr. Malik and his ministers were figureheads only, the Commission observed.
Real decisions in all important matters still lay with the army. In the first picture of the new Cabinet, Maj. Gen. Farman Ali was prominently visible sitting on the right side of the Governor, although he was not a member of the Cabinet.
The rot began at the very top from the East Pakistan army’s commander, Lt-General A.A.K.Niazi, who the commission said acquired a notorious reputation for sexual immorality and indulgence in the smuggling of paan (betel leaf) from East to West Pakistan. The inevitable consequence was that he failed to inspire respect and confidence in the minds of his subordinates with absolute absence of leadership qualities and determination; he also encouraged laxity in discipline and moral standards among the officers and men under his command, the Commission determined.
The Commission recommended public trial of the following officers:
General Yahya Khan, former Commander-in-Chief
General Abdul Hamid Khan, ex-Chief of Staff to the President
Lt. Gen. S.G.M.M. Pirzada, ex-Personal Staff Officer to the President
Lt. Gen. Gul Hasan ex Chief of General Staff
Maj. Gen. Ghulam Umar ex Second-in -Command of NSC
Maj Gen A. O. Mitha ex Deputy Corps Commander
Lt. Gen. Irshad Ahmad Khan, ex-Commander 1 Corps
Maj Gen Abid Zahid, ex-GOC 15 Div.
Maj. Gen B.M. Mustafa, ex-GOC 18 Div.
The Commission recommended court martial of the following officers:
Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, ex Commander, Eastern Command
Maj Gen. Mohammad Jamshed, ex-GOC 36 (ad-hoc) Division,
Maj Gen. M. Rahim Khan, ex-GOC 39 (ad-hoc) Division.
Brig. G.M. Baqir Siddiqui, ex COS, Eastern Command, Dhaka
Brig. Mohammad Hayat, ex Commander. 107 Brigade. (9 Div.)
Brig. Mohammad Aslam Niazi, ex Commander 53 Brigade (39 Ad-hoc Div.)
The Commission recommended departmental action against the following officers:
Brig. Abdul Qadir Khan, ex-Commander, 93 Brigade, 36 Div.
The Commission observed that the suitability of the following officers for continued retention in military service would not be justified:
Maj. Gen. M.H. Ansari, GOC 9 Div.
Maj. Gen. Qazi Abdul Majid, GOC 14 Div.
Maj Gen Nazar Hussain Shah, GOC 16 Div.
Maj. Gen. Rao Farman Ali, ex Adviser to the Governor of East Pakistan.
Plus 19 Brigadiers.
The Commission further recommended that armed services should devise ways and means to ensure: –
That moral values are not allowed to be compromised by disgraceful behaviour particularly at higher levels;
That moral rectitude is given due weightage along with professional qualities in the matter of promotion to higher ranks;
That syllabi of academic studies at the military academies and other service institutions should include courses designed to inculcate in the young minds respect for religious, democratic and political institutions;
That use of alcoholic drinks should be banned in military messes and functions;
That serious notice should be taken of notorious sexual behaviour and other corrupt practices.
Nothing ever happened. The army’s role in dismembering Pakistan after its greatest military debacle was largely ignored by successive Pakistani governments and many of those indicted by the Commission were instead rewarded with military and political sinecures.
Bhutto, reportedly, as Prime Minister personally ordered that each and every copy of The Report be burnt.
A copy of the Final Report was however saved, which was leaked and published in Indian magazine India Today in August 2000. The following day, Pakistani newspaper Dawn also carried the report.
General Pervez Musharraf stated in October 2000 that the incidents in 1971 were a political as well as a military debacle, and that calls for generals to be tried were not fair.
Had action been initiated against the accused, as recommended by the Commission, the nation could have averted the coup d’état of Zia-ul-Haq whose 11-year rule of infamy completely devastated the political as well as the socio-economic fabric of the state and society. Besides many irreversibles, it led to radicalization of the society, which is now clearly visible. The policies of that era invited foreign intervention which is so deep rooted now. And the role of intelligence agencies from media management to missing persons is so pervasive. We could have also averted the illegitimate takeover of Pervez Musharraf and whatever followed thereafter.
Fast Forward to 2018:
The security establishment plays the most important overt and covert role in ruling this country. It also defines the contours of national interest.
The security establishment is in full control of our economic, defence and foreign policy. The political government is in no position to make organic changes in policy formulation.
Actual annual defence budget exceeding rupees 1100 billion (some estimates exceed rupees 2000 billion) is allocated on direction from the military and there is no parliamentary oversight.
According to human rights groups, more than 5000 persons are missing in Pakistan and nobody has any access to them.
Wiki leaks reports that in March 2009 the Chief of the Army Staff considered removing the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and replacing him with the leader of ANP.
The elected Prime Minister and his daughter are in jail after a trial which has lost its credibility after the statement of a judge of the High Court that the army and the ISI manipulated the trial and influenced the courts. Drastic censorship, harassment and intimidation is the order of the day, may it be media, civil society or political leadership. The entire world media including China have termed the 2018 elections as a farce. The country is split on pro and anti-establishment camps which is most stark in the province of Punjab. Terrorist organizations have been allowed to contest elections and sectarian outfits are running political campaigns. Terrorists, whose backbone was claimed to have been broken are back in business and scores have been killed in recent terrorist attacks. First time in the history of Punjab, anti-army slogans have been raised on roads.
How long can this country survive in its present form is the million-dollar question?
As I knew from my visits during Dad’s time in office, Camp David is one of the greatest privileges afforded to the president. Nestled in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains, about seventy miles from Washington, the 200-acre site is a thirty-minute ride from the White House. It feels much more removed than that. The retreat is run by the Navy and protected by the Marines. It consists of rustic cabins, a gym and swimming pool, a bowling alley, a chipping green, and scenic trails through the woods for hiking and biking. The atmosphere fosters reflection and clear thinking.
The presidential cabin is known as Aspen. Its interior is simple but comfortable. The wooden structure has three bedrooms, a perfect size for our family; a sunlit living room where I watched football with my brother Marvin and friends; and a stone fireplace beside which Laura and I liked to read at night.
About a quarter mile down the hill is Laurel, a large lodge with a spacious dining area, a small presidential office, and a wood- panelled conference room that Jimmy Carter used when he negotiated the Camp David Peace Accords.
That was where my national security team gathered on Saturday morning, September 15, to start developing the battle plan for Afghanistan. The mood was sombre, serious and focused. With me at the big oak table were the top national security officials from across the government*. Together they had decades of crisis management experience. * • Vice President Dick Cheney • Secretary of State Colin Powell • Defence Secretary Don Rumsfeld • Deputy Secretary Defence Paul Wolfowitz • Attorney General John Ashcroft • FBI Director Bob Mueller • Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill • CIA Director George Tenet • Deputy Director CIA John McLaughlin • Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Hugh Shelton • Vice Chairman Dick Myers • White House Chief of Staff Andy Card; • National Security Adviser Condi Rice • Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley • White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales • Chief of Staff to the Vice President I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
The first key presentation that morning came from CIA Director George Tenet. Six months earlier, at my direction, George and the National Security Council had started developing a comprehensive strategy to destroy the al Qaeda network. In the four days between 9/11 and the Camp David meeting, the CIA team had beefed up their plan. George proposed that I grant broader authority for covert actions, including permission for CIA to kill or capture al Qaeda operatives without asking for my sign-off each time. I decided to grant the request.
The heart of the CIA plan was a new offensive in Afghanistan, where 9/11 had been planned. The roots of the terrorist presence in Afghanistan traced back to 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded and installed a communist puppet regime. Afghan tribes, along with a band of hard core Islamic fighters known as the Mujahideen, rose up against the foreign occupation. With assistance from the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the rebels inflicted fifteen thousand casualties and drove out the Soviets in 1989. Two years later, the super power collapsed.
Free of the communist occupiers, the Afghan people had a chance to rebuild their country. But the U.S. government no longer saw a national interest in Afghanistan, so it cut off support. America’s non-involvement helped create a vacuum. Tribal warriors who had defeated the Soviets turned their guns on one another. Ultimately the Taliban, a group of Islamic fundamentalists, seized power. They imposed a fanatical, barbaric brand of Islam that prohibited girls from going to school, required men to grow beards of a certain length, and forbade women from leaving their homes without a male relative a an escort. The simplest pleasures-singing, clapping and flying kites-were banned.
The Taliban‘s rules were enforced by brutal religious police. A 1998 State Department report described a woman struggling to carry two small children and a load of groceries on a street in Mazar-i-Sharif. When her body length burqa slipped from her face, she was beaten with a car antenna. Petty thieves were taken to the national soccer stadium to have their limbs hacked off.
Homosexuals were stoned to death, as anyone suspected of adultery. Shortly after the Taliban seized Kabul, they kidnapped the former president of Afghanistan from his UN compound. After beating and castrating him, they hung his body from a lamppost. In Bamiyan province, home to the minority Hazaras, the Taliban massacred at least 170 innocent civilians in January 2001. Later that year they dynamited two cherished 1500-year-old Buddha sculptures.
There were some who received warm hospitality from the Taliban. Shortly after taking power, the radical mullahs offered sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, the founder of al Qaeda. Between 1996 and 2001, bin Laden established camps in Afghanistan that trained an estimated ten thousand terrorists. In return, bin Laden drew on his personal fortune to fund the Taliban. By 9/11, Afghanistan was not only a state sponsor of terror, but a state sponsored by terror.
While the Taliban’s ideology was rigid, its control of the country was not. In a small section of northern Afghanistan, a group of tribal commanders called the Northern Alliance held the allegiance of the local population. On September 9, 2001, bin Laden operatives assassinated the Northern Alliance’s beloved leader, Ahmad Shah Masoud. His murder galvanised the Alliance to cooperate with America. We shared an enemy and a determination to end Taliban rule.
George’s plan called for deploying CIA teams to arm, fund and join forces with the Northern Alliance. Together they would form the initial thrust of the attack. By mating up our forces with the local opposition, we would avoid looking like a conqueror or occupier. America would help the Afghan people liberate themselves.
We would not act alone. Colin Powell had done an impressive job rallying countries to our coalition. Some, such as Great Britain and Australia, offered to deploy forces. Others, including Japan and South Korea, pledged humanitarian aid and logistical support. South Korea later sent troops. Key Arab partners, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, shared sensitive intelligence on al Qaeda operations.
The most pivotal nation we recruited was Pakistan. No country wielded more influence in Afghanistan than its eastern neighbour. On 9/11, Pakistan was one of only three countries that recognised the Taliban. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the other two,
Some in Pakistan may have sympathised with the Taliban’s ideology. But the primary motive was to counterbalance India. Pakistan’s bitter archival. So long as Pakistan held the loyalty of Afghanistan’s government, it would never be encircled.
Pakistan had a troubled history with the United States. After our close cooperation in the Cold War, Congress suspended aid to Pakistan-including coveted F-16s America had promised to sell them–out of concern over the government’s nuclear weapons program. In 1998, Pakistan conducted a secret nuclear test, incurring further sanctions. A year later General Pervez Musharraf overthrew the democratically elected government in a coup. By 2001, America had cut off virtually all aid to Pakistan.
On September 13, Colin Powell called President Musharraf and made clear he had to decide whose side he was on. He presented a list of non-negotiable demands, including condemning the 9/11 attacks, denying al Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan, sharing intelligence, granting us overflight rights and breaking diplomatic relations with the Taliban.
Musharraf faced intense internal pressure. Turning against the Taliban was unthinkable for hardliners in his government and intelligence service. I called Musharraf from Camp David during a break in the war council meeting. I want to thank you for listening to our sad nation’s requests, and I look forward to working with you to bring these people to justice, I said.
The stakes are high, Musharraf told me. We are with you.
Our relationship with Pakistan would prove complex. But in four days we had turned Afghanistan’s pivotal neighbour from a supporter of the Taliban to a partner in removing them from power.
In the fall of 2006, I ordered a troop increase that would boost our force levels from twenty-one thousand to thirty-one thousand over the next two years. I called the 50% increase a silent surge. to help the Afghan government extend its reach and effectiveness, we more than doubled funding for construction. We increased the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which brought together military personnel and civilian experts to ensure that security gains were translated into meaningful improvements in everyday life. We also increased the size of the Afghan National Army, expanded our counter narcotics effort, improved intelligence efforts along the Pakistan border, and sent civilian experts from the U.S. government to help Afghan ministries strengthen their capacity and reduce corruption.
I urged our NATO allies to match our commitment by dropping caveats on their troops and adding more forces. Several leaders responded, including Stephen Harper of Canada, Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark, Nicolas Sarkozy of France, the British and Canadians fought especially bravely and suffered significant casualties, America was fortunate to have them at our side and we honour their sacrifice as our own.
Other leaders told me bluntly that their parliaments would never go along. It was maddening. Afghanistan was supposed to be a war the world had agreed was necessary and just. And yet many countries were sending troops so heavily restricted that our generals complained they just took up space. NATO had turned into a two-tiered alliance, with some countries willing to fight and many not.
The adjustments in our strategy improved our ability to take on the insurgents. Yet the violence continued. The primary cause of the trouble did not originate in Afghanistan, or, as some suggested. In Iraq. It came from Pakistan.
For most of my presidency, Pakistan was led by President Pervez Musharraf. I admired his decision to side with America after 9/11. He held parliamentary elections in 2002, which his party won, and spoke about enlightened moderation as an alternative to Islamic extremism. He took serious risks to battle al Qaeda. Terrorists tried to assassinate him at least four times.
In the months after we liberated Afghanistan, I told Musharraf I was troubled by reports of al Qaeda, Taliban forces fleeing into the loosely governed, tribal provinces of Pakistan-an area often compared to the Wild West. I’d be more than willing to send our Special Forces across the border to clear out the areas, I said. He told me that sending American troops into combat in Pakistan would be viewed as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. A revolt would likely ensue. His government would probably fall. The extremists could take over the country, including its nuclear arsenal.
In that case, I told him, his soldiers needed to take the lead. For several years, the arrangement worked. Pakistani forces netted hundreds of terrorists, including al Qaeda leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Abu Faraj al Libbi. Musharraf also arrested A.Q. Khan, the revered father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, for selling components from the country’s program on the black market. As Musharraf often reminded me, Pakistani forces paid a high price for taking on the extremists. More than fourteen hundred were killed in the war on terror.
In return for Pakistan’s cooperation, we lifted the sanctions, designated Pakistan a major non-NATO ally, and helped fund its counterterrorism operations. We also worked with Congress to provide $3 billion in economic aid and opened markets to more Pakistani goods and services,
Over time it became clear that Musharraf either would not or could not fulfil all his promises. Part of the problem was Pakistan’s obsession with India. In almost every conversation we had, Musharraf accused India of wrongdoing. Four days after 9/11, he told me the Indians trying to equate us with terrorists and trying to influence your mind. As a result, the Pakistan military spent most of its resources preparing for war with India. Its troops were trained to wage a conventional battle with its neighbour, not counterterrorism operations in the tribal areas. The fight against the extremists came second.
A related problem was that Pakistani forces pursued the Taliban much less aggressively than they pursued al Qaeda. Some in the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, retained close ties to Taliban officials. Others wanted an insurance policy in case America abandoned Afghanistan and India tried to gain influence there. Whatever the reason, Taliban fighters who fled Afghanistan took refuge in Pakistan’s tribal regions and populated cities like Peshawar and Quetta. In 2005 and 2006, these sanctuaries aided the rise of the insurgency.
In March 2006, I visited President Musharraf in Islamabad. Our meeting followed a stop in India, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and I signed an agreement clearing the way for nuclear cooperation between the two countries. The deal was the culmination o our efforts to improve relations between the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy. I believe India, home to roughly a billion people and an educated middle-class, has the potential to be one of America’s closest partners. The nuclear agreement was a historic step because it signalled the country’s new role on the world stage.
The nuclear deal naturally raised concerns in Pakistan. Our ambassador, a remarkable veteran Foreign Service officer named Ryan Crocker, argued strongly that we should spend the night in Islamabad as a sign of respect. No president had done that since Richard Nixon thirty-seven years earlier. The Secret Service was anxious, especially after a bombing near the U.S. consulate in Karachi the day before we arrived. But symbolism matters in diplomacy, and I wanted to signal that I valued our relationship. At the airport, a decoy motorcade drove to the embassy, mostly empty. My chief of protocol, Ambassador Don Ensenat, took my place in the presidential limo, while Laura and I flew secretly via Black Hawk helicopter.
In contrast to the rigid security precautions, President Musharraf organised a relaxed and enjoyable visit. He and his wife Sehba, received us warmly at their version of the White House, known as Aiwan-e-Sadr. We met with survivors of the previous October’s 7.6 magnitude earthquake in northern Pakistan, which killed more than seventy-three thousand people. America had provided $500 million in relief. Our Chinook helicopters became known as angels of mercy. The experience reinforced a lesson: one of the most effective forms of diplomacy is to show the good heart of America to the world.
Later in the day, I went to the embassy courtyard to watch some cricket, Pakistan’s national pastime. There I met national team captain Inzaman-ul-Haq, the Pakistani equivalent of Michael Jordan. To the delight of school children at hand, I took a few whacks with the cricket bat. I didn’t master the game but did pick up some of the lingo. At the elegant state dinner that night, I opened my toast by saying, I was fooled by a googly,* otherwise I would have been a better batsman.
*A spinning pitch that is hard to hit, similar to a screwball in baseball.
My meetings with President Musharraf focused on two overriding priorities. One was his insistence on serving as both president and top general, a violation of the Pakistan constitution. I pushed him to shed his military affiliation and govern as a civilian. He promised to do it. But he wasn’t in much of a hurry.
I also stressed the importance of the fight against extremists. We’ve got to keep these guys from slipping into your country and back into Afghanistan, I said.
I give you our assurances that we will cooperate with you against terrorism, Musharraf said. We are totally on board.
The violence continued to grow. As the insurgency worsened, Hamid Karzai became furious with Musharraf. He accused the Pakistani president of destabilising Afghanistan. Musharraf was insulted by the allegation. By the fall of 2006, the two were barely on speaking terms. I decided to step in with some serious personal diplomacy. I invited Karzai and Musharraf to dinner at the White House in September 2006. When I welcomed them in the Rose Garden, they refused to shake hands or even look at each other. The mood did not improve when we sat down for dinner in the Old Family Dining Room. Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Steve Hadley, and I watched as Karzai and Musharraf traded barbs. At one point, Karzai accused Musharraf of harbouring the Taliban.
Tell me where they are, Musharraf responded testily. You know where they are! Karzai fired back. If I did, I would get them, said Musharraf. Go do it! Karzai persisted.
I started to wonder whether this dinner had been a mistake.
I told Musharraf and Karzai that the stakes were too high for personal bickering. I kept the dinner going for two and a half hours, trying to help them find common ground. After a while, the venting stopped, and the meeting turned out to be productive. The two leaders agreed to share more intelligence, meet with tribes on both sides of the border to urge peace, and stop bad-mouthing each other in public.
As a way to staunch the flow of Taliban fighters, Musharraf informed us that he had recently struck a series of deals with tribes in the border region. Under the agreements, Pakistani forces would leave the areas alone, while tribal leaders would commit to stopping the Taliban from recruiting operatives or infiltrating into Afghanistan.
While well intentioned, the strategy failed. The tribes did not have the will or the capacity to control the extremists. Some estimates indicated that the flow of Taliban fighters into Afghanistan increased fourfold.
Musharraf had promised Karzai and me-both sceptics of the strategy-that he would send troops back into the tribal areas if the deals failed. But instead of focusing on that problem, Musharraf and the Pakistani military were increasingly distracted by a political crisis. In March 2007, Musharraf suspended the chief justice of the Supreme Court, who he feared would rule that he was violating the law by continuing to serve as both president and army chief of staff. Lawyers and democracy advocated marched in the streets. Musharraf responded by:
• declaring a state of emergency • suspending the constitution • removing more judges, and • arresting thousands of political opponents.
Pressure mounted on me to cut ties with Musharraf. I worried that throwing him overboard would add to the chaos. I had a series of frank conversations with him in the fall of 2007.
It looks ugly from here. The image here is that you have lawyers being beaten and thrown into jail, I said. I am troubled by the fact that there is no apparent way forward. I strongly suggested one:
• set a date for free elections, • resign from the army, and • lift the state of emergency.
Musharraf made each of these commitments, and kept them. When he scheduled parliamentary elections, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto returned from exile to compete. She ran on a pro-democracy platform, which made her a target of the extremists. Tragically, she was assassinated on December 27, 2007 at a political rally in Rawalpindi. In February 2008, her followers won the elections soundly. They formed a government, and Musharraf stepped down peacefully. Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower, took his place as President. Pakistan’s democracy had survived the crisis.
Over time, the Pakistani government learned the lesson of the Bhutto assassination. Pakistani forces returned to the fight in the tribal areas-not just against al Qaeda but against the Taliban and other extremists as well. Yet more than a year had been lost, as Pakistan’s attention had been focused on its internal political crisis. The Taliban and other extremist exploited that window of opportunity to increase their tempo of operations in Afghanistan, which drove up the violence and led many Afghans to turn against their government and our coalition. It was essential that we find a way to retake the offensive.
By the middle of 2008, I was tired of reading intelligence reports about extremist sanctuaries in Pakistan. I thought back to a meeting I’d had with Special Forces in Afghanistan in 2006.
Are you guys getting everything you need? I asked. One SEAL raised his hand and said, No sir.
I wondered what his problem might be.
Mr. President, he said, we need permission to go kick some ass inside Pakistan. I understood the urgency of the threat and wanted to do something about it. But on this issue, Musharraf’s judgement had been well-founded. When our forces encountered unexpected resistance, they got into a firefight and made international news. U.S. Commandos Attack Pakistan’s Sovereignty, one Pakistani headline said. Islamabad exploded with outrage. Both houses of Parliament passed unanimous resolutions condemning our action. No democracy can tolerate violations of its sovereignty.
I looked for ways to reach into the tribal areas. The Predator, an unmanned aerial vehicle was capable of conducting video surveillance and firing laser-guided bombs. I authorised the intelligence community to turn up the pressure on the extremists. Many of the details of our actions remain classified. But soon after I gave the order, the press started reporting more Predator strikes. Al Qaeda’s number-four man, Khalid al-Habib turned up dead. So did al Qaeda leaders responsible for propaganda, recruitment, religious affairs and planning attack overseas. One of the last reports I received described al Qaeda as embattled and eroding in the border region.
We also stepped up our support for Pakistan’s democratic government. We provided money, training, and equipment, and proposed joint counterterrorism operations-all aimed at helping increase Pakistani capabilities. When the financial crisis hit in the fall of 2008, we took steps to make sure Pakistan received the assistance it needed to mitigate the effects of the recession and stay focused on fighting the extremists.
Courtesy of : Decision Points by George W. Bush, Crown Publishers, New York November 2010