The Second Sex

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

An Introduction by Judith Thurman

In 1946, Simone de Beauvoir began to outline what she thought would be an autobiographical essay explaining why, when she had tried to define herself, the first sentence that came to mind was “I am a woman.”

Beauvoir was then a thirty-eight-year old public intellectual who had been enfranchised for only a year. Legal birth control would be denied to French women until 1967, and legal abortion, until 1975. Not until the 1960s were there an elected female head of state anywhere in the world.

Girls of my generation searching for examples of exceptional women outside the ranks of queens and courtesans, and a few artists and saints, found precious few. Opportunities for women have proliferated so broadly in the past six decades, at least in the Western world, that the distance between 2010 and 1949, when Second Sex was published in France, seems like an eternity (until, that is, one opens a newspaper-the victims of misogyny and sexual abuse are still with us, everywhere).

While no one individual or her work is responsible for that seismic shift in laws and attitudes, the millions of young women who now confidently assume that their entitlement to work, pleasure, and autonomy is equal to that of their brothers, owe a measure of their freedom to Beauvoir. The Second Sex was an act of Promethean audacity–a theft of Olympian fire–from which there was no turning back. It is not the last word on “the problem of woman,” which Beauvoir wrote, “has always been a problem of men,” but it marks the place in history where an enlightenment begins.

Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir was born in 1908 into a reactionary Catholic family with pretensions to nobility. She had a Proustian childhood on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, in Paris. But after World War I, her father, Georges, lost most of his fortune, and without dowries Simone and her sister, Helene, had dim prospects for a marriage within their class. Their mother, Francoise, a banker’s daughter who had never lived without servants, did all the housework and sewing for the family. Her pious martyrdom indelibly impressed Simone, who would improve upon Virginia Woolf’s famous advice and move to a room of her own–in a hotel, with maid service. Like Woolf and a striking number of other great women writers, Beauvoir was childless. And like Colette, who wasn’t (she relegated her late-born, only daughter to the care of surrogates), she regarded motherhood as a threat to her integrity.

Beauvoir’s singular brilliance was apparent from a young age to her teachers, and to herself. An insatiable curiosity and a prodigious capacity for synthetic reading and analysis nourished her drive. She had a sense if inferiority, it would appear, only in relation to Jean-Paul Sartre. They met in 1929, as university students (she was a star at the Sorbonne, he at the Ecole Normale Superieure), cramming as a team, for France’s most brutal, and competitive postgraduate examination, the aggregation in philosophy. When the results were posted, Sartre was first and Beauvoir second (she was the ninth woman who had ever passed), and that, forever, was the order of precedence–Adam before Eve–in their creation myth as a couple.

Even though their ideal was of a love without domination, it was part of the myth that Sartre was Beauvoir’s first man. Both sexes attracted her, and Sartre was never the most compelling of her lovers, but they recognized that each possessed something uniquely necessary to the other. He categorized their union as an ‘essential” love that only death could sunder, although in time, he said, they would naturally both have “contingent” loves–freely enjoyed and fraternally confessed in a spirit of “authenticity.” “At every level,” Beauvoir reflected, years later, of the pain she had suffered and inflicted, “we failed to face the weight of reality, priding ourselves on what we called out ‘radical freedom. ‘” but they also failed to fault themselves for the contingent casualties–the inessential others–who were sacrificed to their experiment. And the burden of free love, Beauvoir would discover, was grossly unequal for a woman and for a man.

If Beauvoir has proved to be an irresistible subject for biographers, it is in part, because she and Sartre, as a pharaonic couple of incestuous deities, reigned over twentieth-century French intellectual life in the decades of its greatest ferment. He once told her that she had “a man’s intelligence,” and there is no evidence that he changed his mind about a patronizing slight that she, too, accepted as a compliment until she began to consider what it implied. It implied, she would write, that “humanity is male, and man defines woman, not in herself, but in relation to himself,” and by all the qualities she is presumed to lack.

The Second Sex has been called a “feminist Bible,” an epithet bound to discourage impious readers wary of a sacred text and personality cult. Beauvoir herself was as devout an atheist as she had once been a Catholic, and she dismisses religions–even when they worship a goddess–as the inventions of men to perpetuate their dominion. The analogy is fitting, though, and not only to the grandeur of a book that was the first of its kind but also to its structure. Beauvoir begins her narrative, like the author of Genesis, with a fall into knowledge. The two volumes that elaborate on the consequence of that fall are the Old and New Testaments of an unchosen people with a history of enslavement. (“Facts and Myths” is a chronicle of womankind from prehistory to the 1940s; “Lived Experience” is a minutely detailed case study of contemporary womanhood and its stations of the cross from girlhood through puberty and sexual initiation to maturity and old age, with detours from the well-trodden road to Calvary taken by mystics and lesbians.) The epic concludes, like Revelation, with an eloquent, if utopian, vision of redemption.

The same drama of flesh and spirit, and of finitude and transcendence, plays itself out in both sexes; both are eaten away by time, stalked by death, they have the same essential need of the other; and they can take the same glory from their freedom; if they knew how to savour it, they would no longer be tempted to contend for false privileges; and fraternity could then be born between them.

The cult of the Virgin is “the rehabilitation of woman by the achievement of her defeat”; “The average Western male’s ideal is a woman who . . . intelligently resists but yields in the end”; “The traditional woman . . . tries to conceal her dependence from herself, which is way of consenting to it.” Examples are numerous.

On a trip to America in 1947, she had met the novelist Nelson Algren, the most significant of her male others, and it was he who advised her to expand the essay on women into a book. He had shown her the “underside” of his native Chicago, and that year and the next they explored the United States and Mexico together. Her encounter with a racism that she had never witnessed firsthand, and her friendship with Richard Wright, the author of Native Son, helped to clarify her understanding of sexism, and its relation to the anti-Semitism that she certainly had witnessed firsthand before and during the war, but, with Sartre, had never openly challenged. The black, the Jew, and the woman, she concluded, were objectified as the Other in ways that were both overtly despotic and insidious, but with the same result: their particularity as human beings was reduced to a lazy, abstract cliche (“the eternal feminine”; “the black soul’; “the Jewish character”) that served as a rationale for their subjugation.

Not all of Beauvoir’s staggering erudition and mandarin authority in The Second Sex is reliable (she would repudiate a number of her more contentious or blinkered generalities, though not all of them). Her single most famous assertion–“One is not born, but rather becomes a woman”–has been disputed by more recent feminist scholars, and a substantial body of research in biology and the social sciences supports their argument that some sexual differences (besides the obvious ones) are innate rather than “situational.” many readers have also been alienated. Y Beauvoir’s visceral horror of fertility– the “curse” of reproduction–and her desire, as they see it, to homogenize the human race.

Yet a revolution cannot begin until the diffuse, private indignation of individuals coalesces into a common cause. Beauvoir not only marshalled a vast arsenal of fact and theory; she galvanized a critical mass of consciousness-a collective identity-that was indispensable to the women’s movement. Her insights have breached the solitude of countless readers around the world who thought that the fears, transgressions, fantasies, and desires that fed their ambivalence about being female, were aberrant or unique. No woman before her had written publicly, with greater condor and less euphemism, about the most intimate secrets of her sex.

One of those secrets-the hardest, perhaps, for Beauvoir to avow-is that a free woman may refuse to be owned without wanting to renounce, or being able to transcend, her yearning to be possessed. “As long as the temptations of facility remain,” she wrote, by which she meant the temptations of romantic love, financial security, and a sense of purpose or status derived from a man, all of which Sartre had, at one time or another, provided for her, a woman “needs to expend a greater moral effort than the male to choose the path of independence.” Colette, who would have smiled, and not kindly, at the phrase, “moral effort,” states the problem less cerebrally: “How to liberate my true hope? Everything is against me. The first obstacle to my escape is this woman’s body barring my way, a voluptuous body with closed eyes, voluntarily blind, stretched out full, ready to perish.’

I would suggest that the best way to appreciate The Second Sex is to read it in the spirit it was written: as a deep and urgent personal meditation on a true hope that, as she will probably discover, is still elusive for many of us: to become, in every sense, one’s own woman.

By courtesy:


Wavell and the Dying Days of the Raj

A critical and historical understanding of Lord Archibald Wavell’s viceroyalty (Oct.1943-Mar.1947) is important for understanding the rational dynamics amongst the three leading political actors of that time, the British, the Hindus and the Muslims. The study focuses primarily on Lord Wavell’s response to Muslim politics in India in the 1940s. The hypothesis of this study is that Lord Wavell was against the demand for Pakistan, because he believed that India was a natural geographic unit and could be preserved as such. Therefore during his viceroyalty he struggled to achieve that aim, and floated and backed schemes that tried to preserve the union of India such as his Wavell Plan, the Cabinet Mission Plan and the. Breakdown Plan. However, Pakistan emerged despite Wavell’s attempt to sidetrack it. It is important to note that although Pakistan came into being almost six decades ago, it still faces the effects of the problems it inherited from the decisions taken by the last two British viceroys.

Wavell’s viceroyalty was significant and decisive because of the developments that led to a sudden British exit from India under his successor. Wavell struggled from the start of his viceroyalty to keep India united. He suggested that India should be granted independence by March 1948 and in keeping with timeframe, he suggested appropriate plans for an orderly. British retreat from India before they were forcibly thrown out by the ever increasing strength of the Indian political awakening. However, by the end of Wavell’s term, Congress had become convinced by its experiences, especially by its participation in the Interim Government that the partition of India was the only way out from a very complex situation.

Among the immediate problems that Wavell was faced with, were: firstly, the need to carry the war with Japan to a decisive and speedy victory; secondly, to deal with the Bengal famine; thirdly, to deal with the day to day issues of the Indian Government; and finally, to break the political deadlock in India, which was his most important concern.

Right from the beginning of his term, Wavell saw a variety of complex problems littering the Indian political scene. The main ones were the following:

  1. Hindu-Muslim friction, which had entered its final phase, in the 1940s.
  2. The Muslim League demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims based on the two-nation theory and the multifarious political complexities it had given rise to.
  3. This demand (for Pakistan) had divided the Muslims into two groups, its supporters and detractors, which were as sharply opposed to each other as were the Muslim League and the Congress. Additionally the Cripps Proposals had been rejected both by the Congress and the League at a critical juncture of the Second World War and the British Government was not ready to break the political impasse.
  4. Muslim politics in India had become quite complicated, for a number of political parties and groups with conflicting ideas and divergent programs had emerged on the political landscape. Uslim parties like the Unionist Party, the Khudai Khidmatgars, and the Majlis-i-Ahmar, were strongly against the Pakistan demand.

He wanted to take steps to end it whereas Whitehall had no intentions of doing so. He felt that the smooth running of administration during the war required co-operation from major political parties. Therefore he wanted to constitute an Executive Council consisting of their representatives, however, the authorities in London did not concur with his planning. They advised Wavell to wait until an appropriate moment for that move; he had to wait until the defeat of Germany for such a green signal.

At the beginning of the Simla Conference (1945), there were signs that it would succeed as Indian National Congress had accepted the parity principle between the Caste-Hindus and Muslims and agreed not to nominate any Muslims either. Wavell’s insistence on accommodating Khizar Hayat Tiwana’s (Premier of Punjab) right to nominate a Muslim to the Executive Council, however, led to his differences with the Muslim League, which in turn led to the failure of the Simla Conference.

This break with the Muslim League produced a situation which in its turn also dealt a strong blow to his dream of cooperative team work between the Muslim League and the Congress in the Executive Council. The complex situation which resulted was too much for even a man of Wavell’s capabilities and perforce he had to declare the Simla Conference a failure.

However, the Simla Conference is of immense political importance from the Muslim League’s point of view. It helped to establish two main points: firstly, it established Jinnah as the sole and undisputed leader of the Indian Muslims; secondly, it also proved that the Muslim League was the most powerful and unmatched political representative of the Muslims. For the Muslims, the acceptance of the principle that they would get representation equal to the Caste-Hindus was in essence recognition of the Two-Nation Theory. Flush with confidence on both counts, Jinnah asked the Viceroy to announce the holding of the general elections to verify the respective claims of the League and the Congress. In spite of this, in retrospect, Jinnah once described the Simla Conference as a snare for the goals of Muslims in India, in the failure of which lay the seeds of the future making of Pakistan.

In England, the Labour Party, which had promised to grant India independence, had won the elections and come into power. Also, with the end of the Second World War, they wanted to hand over power to the elected representatives, something which was close to the heart of neither the Congress nor the Viceroy, each for their own reason. Congress leadership was not in favour of calling a quick election because they felt that having been incarcerated for the duration of the war they had lost touch with the masses. Wavell, on his side, felt the elections would only help to create further divisions between the two main communities in India and wanted to initiate another effort at reconciliation between them in the form of their joint participation and effort at working together in the Executive Council.

Following the elections to the central and provincial assemblies in 1945-46, both the Muslim League and the Congress gained decisive victories in their respective constituencies. This substantiated Wavell’s fears that elections would only help to widen the gulf between them, the two leading communities instead of bridging it.

The Muslim League had proved its case as the sole authoritative representative of the Muslims of India whose main demand was for a separate homeland, but neither His Majesty’s Government nor Wavell wanted such a solution to India’s independence. Therefore, they decided to send a mission comprising of three cabinet ministers of the British Parliament to India. The mission’s aim was to try to bridge the political gulf between the two main parties with the aim of transferring the power in India to the elected representatives of the people. It was also supposed to seek an agreement with Indian leaders on the principles and procedures to be followed in framing a constitution for an independent but united India. The mission was known as the Cabinet Mission.

The cabinet delegation and Wavell worked hard to achieve their goal but bereft of any executive powers they failed in their attempt to bring about a negotiated settlement between the two major parties. To break the political impasse they presented their own constitutional scheme for India known to history as the Cabinet Mission Plan (1946).

The Cabinet Mission Plan as presented consisted of two parts, a long-term part and a short-term one. Although initially hesitant, Jinnah was able to convince the League leadership that accepting the plan in full would be in the interest of Muslims at large. The Congress on the other hand, accepted the long-term part of the plan only upon the persuasion of Lords Stafford Cripps and Pethick Lawrence. However, their acceptance seemed to lack sincerity as they started nitpicking and raising objections in spite of the fact that the Cabinet Mission had stated clearly upon its presentation that their plan ha to be accepted or rejected ‘as is’ without any modifications.

As far as Wavell was concerned the scheme though containing a ‘grouping’ clause did not defer to the demand for ‘Pakistan’ as stated by the Muslim League in its Lahore Resolution of 1940. This was exactly what Congress had in mind when it had stated that it was totally opposed to any scheme for the division of India. However, in the end, both His Majesty’s Government and the Congress united to defeat Wavell’s attempt to keep India united via the Cabinet Mission Plan.

Jinnah and the League had accepted the plan in full because they felt that it contained the seed and substance of ‘Pakistan’ as envisioned in the Lahore Resolution. In addition Jinnah was afraid that the increasing Hindu-Muslim bitterness might lead to full-scale civil war which he wanted to avoid at all cost.

Congress remained complacent on the Pakistan issue and preferred to focus on the freedom of india to grab power without caring whatsoever about the cost involved to attain such a goal. Congress considered not only the unity of India vital but also wanted the unitary form of government in the long run which could guarantee economic and industrial development. If these objects were missing, it was ready to allow the League to have Pakistan but of its, i.e. Congress’s choice. Congress demanded that the provinces should be given the choice to opt out from the groups which would help her getting Assam and NWFP provinces in Hindustan. This demand was fantastic claptrap. Likewise, its attitude towards the demand for Pakistan, which was based on the ‘two nation’ theory, remained one of self-deception and negation of principles of nationalism which led into making wrong calculations and judgements at an extremely crucial period of Indian history. At a time when their thoughts, words, and actions could lead to some repercussions, Congress leaders like Gandhi, Patel and Nehru used them extravagantly and, more importantly, without a sense of timing.

Wavell tried by all means to achieve his objective of sidetracking the demand for Pakistan and maintaining the unity of India without prejudice to the interests of Muslims in a united India. He believed that, if established, a coalition government consisting of the Congress and the League would be able to solve the communal and constitutional problems facing India. However, because of the wide gulf separating the political parties, Wavell’s vision of a coalition government soon began to fade.

Wavell, himself could not be fully absolved of the responsibility for the failure of the Cabinet Mission Plan. The complex political situation put his sense of impartiality and fair play to the test and he was found wanting. He broke the pledge given to the League of allowing it to form the government without the participation of the Congress but then allowed the Congress to form an Interim Government on the same lines, but without the League’s participation.

After the formation of the Interim Government by the Congress, Wavell felt that it was imperative to bring the League into the government to prevent a wider catastrophe from engulfing India especially following the Direct Action Day killings in Calcutta (August 1946). He also felt that rule by Congress alone would definitely lead to the division of India. He, therefore, in spite of opposition from His Majesty’s Government and the Congress worked to bring the League into the Interim Government.

However, the formation of the Interim Government which Wavell was able to achieve at the centre eventually caused more harm than good to his dream of a united India. He had felt that the Congress would refrain from repeating the blunder it had committed in 1937 by not forming coalition governments in the provinces. That step had caused great damage to the communal harmony in the country and had forced the Muslim League to adopt the Lahore Resolution in 1940; he was proved wrong once again. Muslim League knew the true intentions of the Congress High Command, that the main leaders of its Working Committee aimed at establishing a unitary form of government under the slogan of a strong centre in united India.

The coalition Interim Government instead of lessening the political tensions in India helped to increase them as both the League and the Congress declined to work as a team thus exposing their communal agendas. Congress, although a bigger party than the Muslim League, felt frustrated because they were not allowed to act unilaterally, especially because Liaquat Ali Khan, who was the finance member in the Interim Government, created severe problems for the Congress leadership. This forced even Patel to think openly on the lines of partition as the best political solution for India, something which Congress had tacitly accepted since the Rajagopalachari formula of 1942.

The Muslim League which had withdrawn its acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan, joined the Interim Government with the promise that they would accept it. Wavell failed to force the Muslim League either to attend the Constituent Assembly or to resign from the Interim Government. He, as an honest, impartial and keen observer was convinced that unless the Muslim League got a clear-cut statement from the Congress and His Majesty’s Government regarding Grouping, it would not accept the long-term part of the Cabinet Mission Plan and would not attend the Constituent Assembly’s meetings. The Congress had been demanding Wavell’s dismissal since August 1946, the Labour Party also considered him a spent force. But the fact was that Wavell was neither acceptable to the Congress nor the British Government for he was too impartial and honest. For the League, he failed to deliver the goods. In fact,he was made ineffective by the command and control of Whitehall.

Wavell thought of India as a single geographic unit and, therefore, wished to maintain its unity. This led him not only to denounce but even attempt to derail the demand for Pakistan. Initially he thought of it simply as a bargaining counter and believed that it’s creation could be avoided. However, with the passage of time, after he witnessed the rapidly rising support for the Pakistan demand and increasing popularity of Jinnah as the sole spokesman of the Muslims, he came to the conclusion that it needed to be taken very seriously and dealt with accordingly. This prompted him to suggest to His Majesty’s Government to expose the weaknesses of the Pakistan demand as incorporated in the Lahore Resolution. This was a strategy which he suggested should be adopted before the elections in order to lessen the popularity of the League’s demand; he was not allowed to pursue this course of action.

Following the victory of the Muslim League in the elections, Wavell kept Whitehall thoroughly informed of the latest political developments in India so that when the Cabinet Mission proposed its Plan for India it incorporated all those ideas which Wavell thought would help to keep India united in addition to offering the best constitutional arrangement for safeguarding the rights of the minorities, especially the Muslims, in India. What Wavell disliked was the modus operandi of the Mission’s delegates who tried to sidetrack the Muslim League’s point of view by sometimes openly, and at other times surreptitiously, siding with Congress delegates. These unfair and sometimes underhanded actions of the Cabinet Mission’s delegates aroused fear in Wavell’s mind that the Muslim League just might begin to oppose the Cabinet Mission Plan. At the same time his own position vis a vis the Congress was considerably weakened by such tactics as it came to the conclusion that Wavell could easily be bypassed while taking important decisions concerning India.

While all this activity with regards to the Cabinet Mission Plan was in progress, Wavell was also involved in giving finishing touches to his ‘Breakdown Plan’. Considerable controversy surrounds the aims and objectives of Wavell’s Breakdown Plan. H.M. Close, Narendra Sarila and Victoria Schofield are of the view that Wavell’s Breakdown Plan was designed to give Jinnah a smaller Pakistan. This study shows that Wavell’s Breakdown Plan did not aim at the partition of India. He was forced to draft his plan because of the highly depleted strength of the British military and civil forces which would have been unable to properly assert and maintain government’s control over all of India in case Congress decided to follow up on its threats of civil disobedience as it had during the ‘Quit India’ movement. The main aim of the Breakdown Plan included the following:

1. To implement the Cabinet Mission Plan in full which would involve peaceful transfer of power to the Indians while providing for the safe evacuation of all foreigners and maintenance of a united India after the departure of the British.

2. In case the two leading parties failed to compromise on the Cabinet Mission Plan, he thought that he would pressurize each of the two parties concerned by trying to make them realize that they would fall far short of their eventual aims if they rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan.

3. The third and final phase of his Breakdown Plan envisaged the phased withdrawal of British authority from four of the six Hindu-majority provinces but it would retain full control of the Centre and the Muslim-majority provinces from where he felt, the British still would be in a position to dictate a final and favourable constitutional solution to the political problem.

Whatever the merits of Wavell’s Breakdown Plan, His Majesty’s Government opposed it on the following grounds:

1. They considered it as indicating a case of ‘cut and run’ or a ‘defeatist’ attitude on his part;

2. In spite of their highly weakened positioned, something which was obvious to Wavell, His Majesty’s Government was unwilling to,even entertain the idea of completely cutting its links with India at such short notice.

3. His Majesty’s Government thought that implementation of Wavell’s Breakdown Plan would send a wrong signal to the Congress Party, i.e. this would inevitably lead to the creation of Pakistan and this was something that they were loathe to do under any circumstances.

4. Finally, such a move would have required legislation in the British Parliament and it was highly unlikely that it would get approval in that body. All these moves led to a deterioration of Wavell’s relationship with both His Majesty’s Government and the Congress and led to his dismissal soon after.

However, several of the ideas included by Wavell in his Breakdown Plan, unfortunately, outlived his presence in India. Whereas he had included the partition of Punjab and Bengal in his Breakdown Plan just to impress upon the Muslim League, the futility of its request for a Pakistan based upon the Lahore Resolution. With the aim of keeping India united, his successor, Lord Mountbatten and his team of Hindu advisors namely V.P. Menon and others, actually included them in their partition plans for these two provinces in June-August 1947; this led to the mass migrations and killings of countless innocent people. So those parts of Wavell’s Breakdown Plan which were actually put into practice went squarely against Muslims which was not the way he had intended them to be used in the first place. And finally, his dream of preventing the foundation of Pakistan by offering Muslims sufficient concessions within a united India also failed to materialize.

Courtesy of: Wavell and the Dying Days of the Raj by Muhammad Iqbal Chawla, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2011

Living out the legacy of his mentor

The Epoch 1990-1993/1997-1999 Going Nuclear


  • Ghulam Ishaq Khan 17/8/1988-18/7/1993
  • Farooq Leghari 14/11/1993-2/12/1997
  • Mohammad Rafiq Tarar 1/1/1998-20/6/2001

Prime Minister

Main Nawaz Sharif : 6/11/1990-18/4/1993; 17/2/1997-12/10/1999

Chief of Army Staff

  • General Mirza Aslam Baig 17/8/1988-16/8/1991
  • General Asif Nawaz Janjua 16/8/1991-8/1/1993
  • General Abdul Waheed Kakar 12/1/1993-12/1/1996
  • General Jahangir Karamat 12/1/1996-7/10/1998
  • General Pervez Musharraf 7/10/1998-28/11/2007

Chief Justice

  • Muhammad Afzal Zullah 1/1/1990-18/4/1993
  • Nasim Hassan Shah 18/4/1993-14/4/1994
  • Sajjad Ali Shah 5/6/1994-2/12/1997
  • Ajmal Mian 23/12/1997-30/6/1999
  • Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui 1/7/1999-26/1/2000

Main Nawaz Sharif became the prime minister of the country twice within two decades of the death of General Ziaul Haq, his principal benefactor, and his two terms were like a sequel of the general’s regime. His priorities were theocratisation of the polity, promotion of free enterprise, fulfilment of nuclear ambitions, and assertion of civilian authorities’ rights through centralization of power in himself. While doing the last part, he clashed with the establishment and lost power in the first term, and both authority and freedom in the second one.

For obvious reasons the business community’s interest came first with Nawaz Sharif. Several steps were taken under the label of economic reform, including a tax holiday for some, abolition of restrictions on bringing foreign exchange into the country or taking it out and on maintaining foreign currency accounts, and no questions asked. Privatization of not only nationalized units but also other enterprises, such as PIA and WAPDA, was undertaken with extraordinary zeal. Despite allegations of irregularities these steps increased the prime minister’s popularity in the circles that mattered.

Soon after assuming power in both terms Nawaz Sharif displayed his love for special courts. In the first term, Article 212A that Zia had crafted in 1979 for setting up military courts and which was dropped in 1985. These special courts were not subject to high courts and the Supreme Court and were assailed for being a parallel judicial system.

In the second term, the special courts were rejected by the Supreme Court 10 months after their formation and this became one of the issues in the skirmishes between the prime minister and the Chief Justice. However, an already brutalized public was happy.

Nawaz Sharif also gained in popularity with the masses by using force rather indiscriminately to curb lawlessness in Karachi, and more goodwill when he decided to punish the MQM after Hakim Saeed’s murder by dropping it from the coalition and ordering a crackdown in Karachi.

He also persisted in his campaign against Benazir Bhutto in the first term in the form of President’s references, and against her husband Asif Ali Zardari in the second term through the Ehtesab Cell that he had created to the chagrin of the chief ehtesab commissioner by amending the Ehtesab Act.

Soon after becoming the prime minister in 1990, Nawaz Sharif revived Ziaul Haq’s so-called Islamization drive with a Shariat Enforcement Act, but a major effort in this direction was made in his second term in the shape of the 15th Amendment that had two objectives. First, it sought to add Article 2B to the Constitution declaring Quran and Sunnah to be the supreme law, and, secondly, it proposed that the Constitution could be amended by a simple majority of members present in either house or at a joint session of the parliament.

Countrywide protests forced the government to abandon the second part of the bill and the National Assembly only adopted the proposal to add Article 2B to the basic laws. It read: “The federal government shall be under an obligation to take all steps to enforce the Shariah, to enforce Salat, to administer Zakat, to promote amr bil ma’roof and nahi unil munkar (to prescribe what is right and to forbid what is wrong), to eradicate corruption at all levels, and to provide substantial socio economic justice in accordance with the principles of Islam as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah.”

The bill resembled the Zia sponsored 9th Amendment that was adopted by the National Assembly in 1986, but it was not sent to the Senate and lapsed. Similarly, the 15th Amendment was withheld from the Senate as the government was not sure of its majority there and it too lapsed. The text of the 9th and 15th Amendments is not found in our statute books. Thus ended Nawaz Sharif’s bid to push Zia’s Islamization further and to change the Constitution through a single enactment.

During the second term, several issues – Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions, policy towards India, and the army chief’s desire to steal a military victory over India – got intertwined and offered Nawaz Sharif a mixed bag of joy and disappointment.

He met Indian Premier Inder Kumar Gujral during the SAARC summit and they agreed to be friends. Shortly thereafter, Attal Bihari Vajpayee became the prime minister of India. Among the first things the BJP government did was to carry out five nuclear tests in May 1998 that brought Nawaz Sharif under intense pressure from the people and the military to achieve parity with India in terms of nuclear capability.

Ignoring the strong advice of the country’s main economic patrons and partners, he allowed five nuclear tests on May 28, 1998, and a sixth two days later. This made the prime minister highly popular with the military and the people, but the steps accompanying the blasts, especially freezing of foreign currency accounts that the judiciary eventually overruled, did not.

Vajpayee met Nawaz Sharif in New York and proposed the start of a friendship bus service between India and Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif, with his characteristic impulsiveness, promptly agreed. Vajpayee duly arrived in Lahore by bus in February 1999 and the event did cause a thaw in India Pakistan relations, but it did not yield Nawaz Sharif the political dividend he had expected because the people had not been prepared for the policy shift and the army had not been taken on board.

Then almost from nowhere Kargil happened. The prime minister feigned ignorance of the operation to capture a few Kargil peaks while the army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, maintained that everything had been cleared by his civilian boss. As was expected, India threw its Air Force and heavy guns into the battle and Islamabad got worried. Nawaz Sharif literally forced the US president Bill Clinton to see him on July 4, 1999, the American National Day, and agreed to pull back his troops. The people, fed on stories that Pakistan had always defeated India in armed encounters, were unhappy. Worse, the army top brass put down Nawaz Sharif as a person they could not trust, a perception that was going to cause Nawaz Sharif’s downfall more than once.

Nawaz Sharif’s desire to completely control the government brought him into conflict early in his first term with president Ghulam Ishaq who also considered himself a true inheritor of Ziaul Haq’s mantle.

Among other things he denied the Premier any say in the selection of judges and appointed General Abdul Waheed Kakar as the army chief, following the sudden death of General Asif Nawaz, without informing the prime minister. In April 1993, Nawaz Sharif denounced the president in a TV address and the next day the president dissolved the National Assembly and sent him packing.

The Supreme Court restored Nawaz Sharif in the saddle only 37 days later. His failure to oust the Punjab chief minister, Manzoor Wattoo, who was openly supported by the president, reignited the feud with Ghulam Ishaq. Eventually, the army chief intervened and both vacated their offices in July 1993.

General Kakar, the gentleman general who coveted neither power nor glory for himself, demonstrated that even if the army had to intervene in a political crisis, imposition of military rule was not the only solution, a precedent yet to be emulated.

When Nawaz Sharif regained power in February 1997, the circumstances were wholly in his favour. He had two thirds majority in the National and Punjab assemblies and his party was able to form coalition governments in Sindh and the NWFP (since renamed KP). Armed with heavy mandate, he resumed his drive to eliminate the rival centres of power.

No trouble was expected from president Farooq Leghari with whom Nawaz Sharif was reported to have struck a deal before the PPP government was sacked and who had allegedly facilitated the Sharif brothers’ election in the 1997 elections by amending the ineligibility laws related to loan defaulters. The president was paid off with a Senate ticket for a relative, appointment of a friend as Punjab governor, and obliging Zulfikar Khosa to make up with Leghari.

Having done all that, Nawaz Sharif calmly told a befuddled Leghari of his decision to remove Article 58-2 (B) from the Constitution that was to deprive him of power to sack a government. The formality was completed the next day with the adoption of the 13th Amendment, a step hailed by all democrats.

Meanwhile, the prime minister’s relations with Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah deteriorated. While sparring over the selection of five judges for the Supreme Court, both resorted to bizarre tactics; the PM reduced the Supreme Court strength from 17 judges to 12, hoping to remove the need for new appointments, and the Chief Justice suspended a constitutional amendment. Eventually, the Premier gave in. But the suspension of the 14th Amendment on legislators’ defection, which gave the party bosses the last word, annoyed the prime minister and he declared that while he had ended ‘lotacracy’ the Supreme Court had restored it.

Soon enough, the chief justice hauled up the prime minister for contempt. What followed was incredible. The Supreme Court was stormed by an N-League mob that included several parliamentarians. The chief justice’s appeal for succour was heeded neither by the president nor by the army chief. Eventually, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was dethroned by his brother judges through a process that is still mentioned in whispers, and ironically enough, he fell a victim to his own judgement in the Al-Jihad Trust case. Before the year 1997 ended, president Leghari resigned to hand Nawaz Sharif his second victory in quick time.

In October 1998, army chief General Jahangir Karamat suggested the formation of a National Security Council. This, too, was first proposed by General Zia and he had inserted an article to this effect in the Constitution, but it was deleted at the time of the bargain over the 8th Amendment on the terms and conditions for lifting martial law in 1985.

Nawaz Sharif asked the army chief to resign and the latter complied with the order (though he had the last laugh when after sometime a National Security Council indeed started functioning).

By the end of 1998, Nawaz Sharif had freed himself of all possible threats from the presidency, the judiciary and the GHQ, and has become the most powerful ruler of Pakistan ever. But he had built a castle on sand. On October 12, 1999, he ordered General Musharraf’s replacement as the army chief by the then ISI chief who had failed to warn him of the officer corps’ decision not to tolerate the ‘humiliation’ of another chief. The Musharraf plane affair was bungled and the army took over. His arrest, conviction for plane hijack and exile to Saudi Arabia for nearly eight years is another story in political wilderness.

Through courtesy:

Living out the legacy of his mentor by I A Rehman.

The writer is a senior political analyst and a human rights activist.

Dawn Nov.18, 2017

Majid Khan, Cricketer

Majid Jahangir Khan is a former cricketer, batsman and captain of the Pakistan cricket team. In his prime, Majid Khan was considered one of the best batsmen in the world, able to decimate any bowling attack, including the mighty West Indian fast bowlers of that era. It is a shame that over an 18-year Test career, he only played in 63 Test matches, primarily because Pakistan played a very limited Test match schedule. Thus, the cricketing world was deprived of the pleasure of watching one of the greatest exponents of batting in the world. Khan’s first-class career spanned 1961 to 1985. Overall, he played 63 Tests for Pakistan, scoring 3,931 runs with 8 centuries, scored over 27,000 first-class runs and made 73 first-class centuries, with 128 fifties. Majid played his last Test for Pakistan in January 1983 against India at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore and his last One Day International (ODI) was in July 1982 against England at Old Trafford, Manchester.

Early life

Born on 28 September 1946 in Ludhiana, in the state of Punjab in India, Khan grew up in Lahore, the capital of the Punjab in Pakistan. His father, Jahangir Khan, had played Test cricket for British India before the independence of Pakistan in 1947. Majid Khan started his career as a pace bowler, but a back injury and doubts over his technique converted him into an off-spin bowler and batsman. He also played for:

  • Glamorgan and Cambridge University in Britain
  • Queensland in Australia
  • Pakistan International Airlines
  • Rawalpindi
  • Punjab

Majid’s father, Dr. Jahangir Khan, famously killed a bird in flight while bowling during an MCC vs. Cambridge University match in 1936. This bird is now part of the permanent MCC museum exhibit at Lord’s Cricket ground. Dr. Jahangir Khan was the Chief Selector of then Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP) when Majid Khan was close to national selection. Dr. Jahangir Khan resigned from his post to maintain the impartiality of the Cricket Board during selection.

International career

Majid’s Test career started in 1964 against Australia at National Stadium, Karachi. Khan is one of only five batsmen (the other four are Trumper, Macartney, Bradman, and Warner) to have scored a century before lunch in a test match, scoring 108 not-out off 112 balls against New Zealand in Karachi during the 1976–77 test series.

Khan made his ODI debut against New Zealand in 1973 at Lancaster Park, New Zealand. He also holds the unique honour of scoring the first one-day century for Pakistan, in an ODI against England at Trent bridge on 31 August 1974. Khan scored 109 from 93 balls with 16 fours and a six.

Majid had played for Lahore since 1961–62 and had made his Test debut against Australia in 1964–65 and toured England and Wales with the 1967 Pakistanis. During a match with Glamorgan, Majid blasted a rapid 147 in 89 minutes, hitting Roger Davis for five sixes in one over. Wilf Wooller, the club secretary, had been a close friend of Majid’s father when Dr Jahangir Khan had been up at Cambridge, and the influential Glamorgan secretary persuaded Glamorgan county to sign him as the overseas player from 1968.

In 1972 he won the Walter Lawrence Trophy for the season’s fastest century which he scored in 70 minutes for Glamorgan against Warwickshire. He captained the Welsh county between 1973 and 1976, scored over 9000 runs punctuated with 21 first-class centuries for them. Imran Khan, the legendary Pakistani ex-captain and fast bowler, and Javed Burki are his cousins. Bazid Khan, Majid’s son, has also played for Pakistan, making the family the second, after the Headleys, to have three consecutive generations of Test cricketers.

Initially, Majid Khan continued to boost Pakistan’s middle order, until he was promoted to fill the opener’s slot with Sadiq Mohammad in 1974. He was the first century scorer for Pakistan in One Day International Cricket, scoring 108 runs against England at Trent Bridge, Nottingham in the same season. Majid Khan was also a specialist slip fielder and made most catches look easy. Khan was also well known as a “walker”, maintaining the standards of the game in an era when professionalism was straining at the game’s traditional etiquette.

The 1976–77 tour of West Indies was the most remarkable period for Majid Khan, where he scored 530 Test runs against one of the most powerful bowling attacks in the history of the game. His best innings was perhaps the 167 in Pakistan’s second innings at Georgetown that saved Pakistan from likely defeat. Pakistan lost that series 2–1.

On 30 October 1976, while playing against New Zealand in Karachi, he became only the fourth cricketer to score a century before lunch on the first day of a Test match, after Victor Trumper, Charlie Macartney and Don Bradman.

After retirement from International Cricket, Khan became an administrator with the Pakistan Cricket Board, becoming the CEO of the board in mid-1990s.

He now lives in Islamabad.


1857 The Uprising from the Indian Perspective

Featured image: The deposed and broken Emperor after the show trial in Delhi

Although Bahadur Shah II, the last Mughal is a central figure in this book, it is not a biography of Zafar so much as a portrait of the Delhi he personified, a narrative of the last days of the Mughal capital and its final destruction in the catastrophe of 1857. Archives containing Zafar’s letters and his court records can be found in London, Lahore, and even Rangoon. Most of the material, however, still lies in Delhi, Zafar’s former capital.

How and why the relatively easy relationship of Indian and Briton, so evident in the end of the eighteenth century, gave way to the hatreds and racism of the high nineteenth-century Raj? The Uprising, it is clear, was the result of that change, not its cause.

Two things seem to have put paid to this easy coexistence. One was the rise of British power: in a few years, the British had defeated not only the French but also all their Indian rivals; in a manner, not unlike the Americans after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the changed balance of power quickly led to an attitude of undisguised imperial arrogance.

The other was the ascendancy of Evangelical Christianity, and the profound change in attitudes that this brought about. The wills written by Company servants show that the practice of marrying or cohabiting with Indian wives or bibis, all but disappeared. Memoirs of prominent eighteenth-century British Indian worthies which mentioned their Indian wives or Anglo-Indian children were re-edited so that the consorts were removed from later editions. No longer were Indians seen as inheritors of a body of sublime and ancient wisdom as eighteenth-century luminaries such as Sir William Jones and Warren Hastings had once believed, they were instead merely “poor benighted heathen,” or even “licentious pagans,” who, it was hoped, were eagerly awaiting conversion. 

There is an important point here. Many historians blithely use the word “colonialism” as if it has some kind of clearly locatable meaning, yet it is increasingly apparent that at this period there were multiple modes and very distinct phases of colonialism; there were also many very different ways of inhabiting, performing and transgressing the still fluid notion of Britishness. It was not the British per se, so much as specific groups with a special imperial agenda–namely the Evangelicals and Utilitarians–who ushered in the most obnoxious phase of colonialism, a change which adversely affected the White Mughals as much as it did the Great Mughals.

For, by the early 1850s, many British officials were nursing plans finally to abolish the Mughal court, and to impose not just British laws and technology on India but also Christianity. The reaction to this steady crescendo of insensitivity came in 1857 with the Great Mutiny. Of the 139,000 sepoys of the Bengal Army–the largest modern army in Asia–all but 7,796 turned against their British masters. In some parts of northern India, such as Avadh, the sepoys were joined by a very large proportion of the population. Atrocities abounded on both sides.

Delhi was the principal centre of the Uprising. As mutinous troops poured into the city from all round northern India–even the rebel regiments at Kanpur intended to head straight to Delhi until diverted to attack their officers by Nana Sahib–it was clear from the outset that the British had to recapture Delhi or lose their Indian empire for ever. Equally, the sepoys rallying to the throne of Bahadur Shah whom they believed to be the legitimate ruler of Hindustan, realised that if they lost Delhi they lost everything. Every available British soldier was sent to the Delhi Ridge, and for the four hottest months of the Indian summer, the Mughal capital was bombarded by British artillery with thousands of helpless civilians caught up in the horrors.


While in the first weeks of the Uprising troops came to Delhi from all over Hindustan, thereafter the city, and especially its besiegers, remained to a great extent cut off from news of developments elsewhere. In that sense, the siege of Delhi was always a war within a war, relatively independent of the momentous developments to the south and east. Until the very end of July. the British on the Delhi Ridge were still expecting to be relieved by General Wheeler’s army at Kanpur, less than 300 miles to the south-east, quite unaware that Wheeler’s army had surrendered and been slaughtered, almost to a man, more than a month earlier, on 27 June. Equally, the Delhi defenders were convinced that they were about to be saved by two non-existent Persian armies, one heading down from the Khyber Pass, while the other was supposed to be making its way north-east from a seaborne landing in Bombay.

 Over the last four years, I and my colleagues have been working through many of the 20,000 virtually unused Persian and Urdu documents relating to Delhi in 1857, known as the Mutiny Papers, that were found on the shelves of the National Archives of India. These allow 1857 in Delhi to be seen for the first time from a properly Indian perspective, and not just from the British sources through which to date it has usually been viewed.

The treasures held by the National Archives existed as detailed documentation of the four months of the Uprising in Delhi as can exist for any Indian city at any period of history; as a source for daily events, for the motivation of the rebels, for the problems they faced, the level of chaos in the city, and the ambiguous and equivocal response of both the Mughal elite and the Hindu trading class of the city, the Mutiny Papers contain unrivaled quantity of unique material. Cumulatively, the stories that the collection contains allow the Uprising to be seen not in terms of nationalism, imperialism, oriental-ism or other such abstractions, but instead as a human event of extraordinary, tragic and often capricious outcomes, and they allow us to resurrect the ordinary individuals whose fate it was to be accidentally caught up in one of the great upheavals of history.

A  large proportion of the Mutiny Papers are the petitions of ordinary Delhiwallahs who had suffered at the hands of the sepoys; invariably they are addressed to Zafar, who they hope will protect them against the increasingly desperate Tilangas. Significantly, in their petitions to the court, the words the ordinary people of Delhi used to describe what was happening in 1857 were not Ghadr (mutiny) and still less Jang-e-Azadi (freedom struggle or, more literally, war of freedom) so much as fasad (riots) and danga (disturbance or commotion). For the people of Delhi, the daily reality of what happened in 1857 was not so much liberation as violence, uncertainty and starvation. Indeed, reading through the Mutiny Papers there are times when it seems almost as if the siege of Delhi had become a three-cornered contest, with the sepoys and the British fighting it out, and with the people of Delhi caught in the middle, their lives wrecked by the violence of both. Clearly Zafar saw his job as protecting the people of Delhi from both firangi (foreigners, Franks) and Tilanga.

 What I have found at the end of all this confirms a growing conviction of many of the more recent historians of 1857. Instead of the single coherent mutiny or patriotic national war of independence beloved of Victorian or Indian nationalist historiography, there was in reality a chain of very different uprisings and acts of resistance, whose form and fate were determined by local and regional situations, passions and grievances.

For Delhi has always been quite clear about its superiority to the rest of the country. It was the seat of the Great Mughal and the place where the most chaste Urdu was spoken. It believed it had the best-looking women, the finest mangoes, the most talented poets. While many in the city welcomed the sepoys in their endeavour to restore the Mughal to power and to expel the hated kafir interlopers, nevertheless the people of Shahjahanabad* soon tired of hosting a large and undisciplined army of boorish and violent peasants from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. For the people of Avadh, the sepoys were local lads, and for them 1857 was a genuine popular uprising that touched a chord across the region. In contrast, for Delhi, the incoming sepoys remained strangers, with different dialects, accents and customs. The Delhi sources invariably describe them as ‘Tilangas**” or “Purbias**“–effectively outsiders. Neither of these words is ever used of the sepoys in Avadh sources.

*Shahjahanabad is the walled city now known as Old Delhi built by the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan (1592-1666) and opened as his new capital in 1648.

** “Purbias” which in Delhi was alternatively used with “Tilangas” simply means Easterners. Both words carry the same connotations of foreignness “these outsiders from the East.”

For all the ambiguity of the equivocal Delhi responses to 1857, it is clear how very central Delhi was to the Uprising. For despite its diffuse and fractured nature, many of its different elements converged into a single programme: to restore the Mughal Empire.

For a century, this fact has been partially obscured by nationalist historians for whom the idea of Hindu sepoys flocking to Delhi to revive the Mughal Empire was more or less anathema. Since the time of V.D. Savarkar’s book The Indian War of Independence, 1857, published in 1909, the March outbreak in Barrackpore has been seen as the crucial event of the Mutiny, and Mangal Pandey its central icon. This is a position which was cemented by the recent Bollywood film which, though known as The Rising in its English-language avatar, was called simply Mangal Pandey in Hindi.

Yet in many ways Pandey was almost irrelevant to the outbreak which took place two months later at Meerut in May. Instead the Meerut insurgents headed straight to Delhi, drawn to the court of the Great Mughal, the one clear source of legitimacy recognised across Hindustan. Even in Lucknow, which had been in rebellion against Delhi since the late eighteenth century, the sepoys rose in the name of the Emperor, and the Aradhi court sent an envoy to Delhi asking for Zafar to confirm the title Wazir for the young heir apparent, Birjis Qadir, who was already minting his coins in the Emperor’s name. The same was true in Kanpur, where the rebels celebrated victory as due to

 “the enemy-destroying fortune of the Emperor.”

If Mangal Pandey was the sepoy’s inspiration, they certainly did not articulate it, nor did they rush towards Barrackpore or Calcutta. Instead it was, unequivocally, the capture of Delhi which was the great transforming masterstroke for the Uprising. The fact that Zafar gave the sepoys his tacit support instantly, turned an army mutiny–one of a large number of mutinies and acts of armed resistance that had occurred under the Company–into the major political challenge to British dominance in India, and sparked off what would swiftly escalate into the most serious armed challenge to imperialism the world over during the course of the nineteenth century.

For this reason many ordinary people in northern India responded to Zafar’s appeal, much to the astonishment of the British, who had long ceased to take him seriously, and who, having completely lost touch with Indian opinion, were amazed at how Hindustan reacted to his call. Seeing only the powerlessness of Zafar, the British had ceased to recognize the charisma that the name of the Mughal still possessed for both Hindus and Muslims in northern India.

Mark Thornhill, the British collector in Mathura, recorded his own surprise in his diary immediately after the rebel capture of Delhi:

Their talk was all about the ceremonial of the palace and how it would be revived. They speculated as to who would be Grand Chamberlain, which of the chiefs of Rajputana would guard the different gates, and who were the fifty-two rajahs who would assemble to put the Emperor on the throne . . . As I listened I realised as I never had done before the deep impression that the splendour of the ancient court had made on the popular imagination, how dear to them were the traditions and how faithfully, all unknown to us, they had preserved them. Thee was something weird in the Mogul Empire thus starting into a sort of phantom life after the slumber of a hundred years.

For many the appeal of the Mughal Emperor was as much religious as political. As far as the Indian participants were concerned, the Uprising was overwhelmingly expressed as a war of religion, and looked upon as a defensive action against the rapid inroads missionaries and Christianity were making in India, as well as a more generalised fight for freedom from foreign domination.

The Great Mutiny has usually been presented by the Marxist historians of the 1960s and 1970s primarily as a rising against social and economic policies, as both urban revolution and a peasants’ revolt sparked off by loss of land rights and employment opportunities as much as anything else. All this certainly played a part. Yet when the Indian participants of the Uprising articulate the reason for their revolt–as they do with great frequency and at some length in the Mutiny Papers–they invariably state that they were above all resisting a move by the Company to impose Christianity and Christian laws on India–something many Evangelical Englishmen were indeed contemplating. 

As the sepoys told Zafar on 11 May 1857,

 “we have joined hands to protect our religion and our faith.

 Later they stood in the Chandni Chowk, the main street of Delhi, and asked people:

Brothers: are you with those of the faith?”

British men and women who had converted to Islam–and there were a surprising number of those in Delhi–were not hurt; but Indians who had converted to Christianity were cut down immediately. As late as 6 September, when calling the people of Delhi to rally against the coming assault by the British, a proclamation issued in the name of Zafar spelled out very plainly

that this is a religious war, and is being prosecuted on account of the faith, and it behoves all Hindus and Musalman residents of the imperial city, or of the villages in the country . . . to continue true to their faith and creeds.”

Even if one accepts that the word “religion” (for Muslims din) is often being used in the very general and non-sectarian sense of dharma (or duty, righteousness)–so that when the sepoys say they are rising to defend their dharma, they mean as much their way of life as their sectarian religious identity–it is still highly significant that the Urdu sources usually refer to the British not as angrez (the English) or as goras (whites) or even firangis, but instead almost always as kafirs (infidels) and nasrani (Christians).

Although the great majority of the sepoys were Hindus, in Delhi a flag of jihad was raised in the principal mosque, and many of the insurgents described themselves as mujahedin, ghazis and jihadis. Indeed, by the end of the siege, after a significant proportion of the sepoys had melted away, unpaid, hungry and dispirited, the proportion of jihadis in Delhi grew to be about a quarter of the total fighting force, and included a regiment of: suicide ghazis 

” from Gwalior who had vowed never to eat again and to fight until they met death at the hands of the kafirs, ‘for those who have come to die have no need for food.’ “

One of the causes of unrest, according to one Delhi source, was  that

the British had closed the madrasas.

These were words that had no resonance to the historians of the 1960s. Now, sadly, in the aftermath of 9/11 and 7/7, they are phrases we understand all too well, and words like jihad scream out of the dusty pages of the source manuscripts, demanding attention.

I wonder what Zafar would have made of all this. Looking down over the Sufi shrine that abuts his palace. I suspect he would somehow have managed to make his peace with the fast-changing cyber-India of outsourcing, call centres and software parks that are now rapidly overpowering the last remnants of his world. After all, realism and acceptance were always qualities Zafar excelled in. For all the tragedy of his life, he was able to see that the world continued to turn, and that however much the dogs might bark, the great caravan of life continued to move on. In the words of the poem commonly attributed to Zafar, and said to have been written shortly after his imprisonment:

When in silks you came and dazzled
Me with the beauty of your Spring,
You brought a flower to bloom–
Love within my being.

You lived with me, breath of my breath,
Being in my being, nor left my side;
But now the wheel of Time has turned
And you are gone–no joys abide.

You pressed your lips upon my lips,
Your heart upon my beating heart,
And I have no wish to fall in love again,
For they who sold Love’s remedy
Have shut shop, and I seek in vain.

My life now gives no ray of light,
I bring no solace to heart or eye;
Out of dust to dust again,
Of no use to anyone am I.

Delhi was once a paradise,
Where Love held sway and reigned;
But its charm lies ravished now
And only ruins remain.

No tears were shed when shroudless they
Were laid in common graves;
No prayers were read for the noble dead,
Unmarked remain their graves.

The heart distressed, the wounded flesh,
The mind ablaze, the rising sigh;
The drop of blood, the broken heart,
Tears on the lashes of the eye.

But things cannot remain, O Zafar,
Thus for who can tell?
Through God’s great mercy and the Prophet
All may yet be well.


Zinat Mahal
Zinat Mahal in captivity in Rangoon in 1872
Zafar’s two surviving sons, who shared his exile in Rangoon: the beloved Mirza Jawan Bakht (left), only son of Zinat Mahal and the illegitimate Mirza Shah Abbas

By courtesy


Admiral Graf Spee

Admiral Graf Spee was a Deutschland-class heavy cruiser which served with the Kriegsmarine during World War IL. The vessel was named after Admiral Maximilian von Spee, commander of the East Asia Squadron that fought the battles of Coronel and the Falkland Islands, where he was killed in action, in World War I.


She was ordered by the Reichsmarine from the Reichsmarinewerft shipyard in Wilhelmshaven. Her keel was laid on 1 October 1932, and the ship was launched on 30 June 1934; at her launching, she was christened by the daughter of Admiral Maximilian von Spee, the ship’s namesake. The ship was completed slightly over a year and a half, and commissioned into the German fleet on 6 January 1936. She was nominally under the 10,000 long tons (10,000 t) limitation on warship size imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, though with a full load displacement of 16,020 long tons (16,280 t), this was significantly exceeded. Armed with six 28 cm (11 in) guns in two triple gun turrets, Admiral Graf Spee and her sisters were designed to outgun any cruiser fast enough to catch them. Their top speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph) left only the few battle cruisers in the Anglo-French navies fast enough and powerful enough to sink them.

Admiral Graf Spee spent the first three months of her career conducting extensive sea trials to ready the ship for service. The ship’s first commander was Kapitän KzS Conrad Patzig; he was replaced in 1937 by Walter Warzecha. After joining the fleet, she became the flagship of the German Navy.

  • In the summer of 1936, following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, she deployed to the Atlantic to participate in non-intervention patrols off the Republican-held coast of Spain.
  • Between August 1936 and May 1937, the ship conducted three patrols off Spain.
  • On the return voyage from Spain, Admiral Graf Spee stopped in Great Britain to represent Germany in the Coronation Review on May 20 at Spithead for King George VI.
  • After the conclusion of the Review, Admiral Graf Spee returned to Spain for a fourth non-intervention patrol.
  • Following fleet manoeuvres and a brief visit to Sweden,
  • The ship conducted a fifth and final patrol in February 1938.

In 1938, KzS Hans Langsdorff took command of the vessel; she conducted a series of goodwill visits to various foreign ports throughout the year. These included cruises into the Atlantic, where she stopped in Tangier and Vigo. She also participated in extensive fleet manoeuvres in German waters. She was part of the celebrations for the reintegration of the port of Memel into Germany, and a fleet review in honour of Admiral Miklós Horthy, the Regent of Hungary. Between 18 April and 17 May 1939, she conducted another cruise into the Atlantic, stopping in the ports of Ceuta and Lisbon. On 21 August 1939, Admiral Graf Spee departed Wilhelmshaven, bound for the South Atlantic.

World War II: following the outbreak of war between Germany and the Allies in September 1939, Adolf Hitler ordered the German Navy to begin commerce raiding against Allied merchant traffic. Hitler nevertheless delayed issuing the order until it became clear that Britain would not countenance a peace treaty following the conquest of Poland. The Admiral Graf Spee was instructed to strictly adhere to prize rules, which required raiders to stop and search ships for contraband before sinking them, and to ensure that their crews are safely evacuated. Langsdorff was ordered to avoid combat, even with inferior opponents, and to frequently change position. On 1 September, the cruiser rendezvoused with her supply ship Altmark southwest of the Canary Islands. While replenishing his fuel supplies, Langsdorff ordered superfluous equipment transferred to the Altmark; this included several of the ship’s boats, flammable paint, and two of her ten 2 cm anti-aircraft guns, which were installed on the tanker.

On 11 September, while still transferring supplies from Altmark, Admiral Graf Spee’s Arado floatplane spotted the British heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland approaching the two German ships. Langsdorff ordered both vessels to depart at high speed, successfully evading the British cruiser. On 26 September, the ship finally received orders authorizing attacks on Allied merchant shipping. Four days later Admiral Graf Spee’s Arado located Booth Steam Ship Co’s cargo ship Clement off the coast of Brazil. The cargo ship transmitted an “RRR” signal, “I am under attack by a raider” before the cruiser ordered her to stop.

Admiral Graf Spee took Clement’s captain and chief engineer prisoner but let the rest of her crew to abandon ship in the lifeboats. The cruiser then fired 30 rounds from her 28 cm and 15 cm guns and two torpedoes at the cargo ship, which broke up and sank. Langsdorff ordered a distress signal sent to the naval station in Pernambuco to ensure the rescue of the ship’s crew. The British Admiralty immediately issued a warning to merchant shipping that a German surface raider was in the area. The British crew later reached the Brazilian coast in their lifeboats.

On 5 October, the British and French navies formed eight groups to hunt down Admiral Graf Spee in the South Atlantic. The British aircraft carriers HMS Hermes, Eagle, and Ark Royal, the French aircraft carrier Béarn, the British battlecruiser Renown, and French battleships Dunkerque and Strasbourg, and 16 cruisers were committed to the hunt. Force G, commanded by Commodore Henry Harwood and assigned to the east coast of South America, comprised the cruisers Cumberland and Exeter. Force G was reinforced by the light cruisers Ajax and Achilles; Harwood detached Cumberland to patrol the area off the Falkland Islands while his other three cruisers patrolled off the River Plate.

  • On the same day as the formation of the Anglo-French hunter groups, Admiral Graf Spee captured the steamer Newton Beech. Two days later, she encountered and sank the merchant ship Ashlea.
  • On 8 October, the following day, she sank Newton Beech, which Langsdorff had been using to house prisoners. Newton Beech was too slow to keep up with Admiral Graf Spee, and so the prisoners were transferred to the cruiser.
  • On 10 October, she captured the steamer Huntsman, the captain of which had not sent a distress signal until the last minute, as he had mistakenly identified Admiral Graf Spee as a French warship. Unable to accommodate the crew from Huntsman, Admiral Graf Spee sent the ship to a rendezvous location with a prize crew.
  • On 15 October, Admiral Graf Spee rendezvoused with Altmark to refuel and transfer prisoners; the following morning, the prize Huntsman joined the two ships. The prisoners aboard Huntsman were transferred to Altmark and Langsdorff then sank Huntsman on the night of 17 October.
  • On 22 October, Admiral Graf Spee encountered and sank the steamer Trevanion. At the end of October, Langsdorff sailed his ship into the Indian Ocean south of Madagascar. The purpose of that foray was to divert Allied warships away from the South Atlantic, and to confuse the Allies about his intentions.
  • By this time, Admiral Graf Spee had cruised for almost 30,000 nautical miles (56,000 km; 35,000 mi) and needed an engine overhaul.
  • On 15 November, the ship sank the tanker Africa Shell, and the following day, she stopped an unidentified Dutch steamer, though did not sink her.
  • Admiral Graf Spee returned to the Atlantic between 17 and 26 November to refuel from Altmark. While replenishing supplies, the crew of Admiral Graf Spee built a dummy gun turret on her bridge and erected a dummy second funnel behind the aircraft catapult to alter her silhouette significantly in a bid to confuse allied shipping as to her true identity.
  • Admiral Graf Spee’s Arado floatplane located the merchant ship Doric Star: Langsdorff fired a shot across her bow to stop the ship. Doric Star was able to send out a distress signal before she was sunk, which prompted Harwood to take his three cruisers to the mouth of the River Plate, which he estimated would be Langsdorff’s next target.
  • On the night of 5 December, Admiral Graf Spee sank the steamer Tairoa. The next day, she met with Altmark and transferred 140 prisoners from Doric Star and Tairoa.
  • Admiral Graf Spee encountered her last victim on the evening of 7 December: the freighter Streonshalh. The prize crew recovered secret documents containing shipping route information.
  • Based on that information, Langsdorff decided to head for the seas off Montevideo. On 12 December, the ship’s Arado196 broke down and could not be repaired, depriving Graf Spee of her aerial reconnaissance. The ship’s disguise was removed, so it would not hinder the ship in battle.

Battle of the River Plate

  • At 05:30 on the morning of 13 December 1939, lookouts spotted a pair of masts off the ship’s starboard bow. Langsdorff assumed this to be the escort for a convoy mentioned in the documents recovered from Tairoa.
  • At 05:52, however, the ship was identified as HMS Exeter; she was accompanied by a pair of smaller warships, initially thought to be destroyers but quickly identified as Leander-class cruisers. Langsdorff decided not to flee from the British ships, and so ordered his ship to battle stations and to close at maximum speed.
  • At 06:08, the British spotted Admiral Graf Spee; Commodore Harwood divided his forces up to split the fire of Admiral Graf Spee’s 28 cm guns. The German ship opened fire with her main battery at Exeter and her secondary guns at the flagship Ajax at 06:17.
  • At 06:20, Exeter returned fire, followed by Ajax at 06:21 and Achilles at 06:24. In the span of thirty minutes, Admiral Graf Spee had hit Exeter three times, disabling her two forward turrets, destroying her bridge and her aircraft catapult, and starting major fires. Ajax and Achilles moved closer to Admiral Graf Spee to relieve the pressure on Exeter. Langsdorff thought the two light cruisers were making a torpedo attack, and turned away under a smokescreen.
  • The respite allowed Exeter to withdraw from the action; by now, only one of her gun turrets was still in action, and she had suffered 61 dead and 23 wounded crew members.
  • At around 07:00, Exeter returned to the engagement, firing from her stern turret. Admiral Graf Spee fired on her again, scored more hits, and forced Exeter to withdraw again, this time with a list to port.
  • At 07:25, Admiral Graf Spee scored a hit on Ajax that disabled her aft turrets. Both sides broke off the action, Admiral Graf Spee retreating into the River Plate estuary, while Harwood’s battered cruisers remained outside to observe any possible breakout attempts. In the course of the engagement, Admiral Graf Spee had been hit approximately 70 times; 36 men were killed and 60 more were wounded, including Langsdorff, who had been wounded twice by splinters while standing on the open bridge.



Scuttling in Montevideo: as a result of battle damage and casualties, Langsdorff decided to put into Montevideo, where repairs could be effected and the wounded men could be evacuated from the ship. Most of the hits scored by the British cruisers caused only minor structural and superficial damage but the oil purification plant, which was required to prepare the diesel fuel for the engines, was destroyed. Her desalination plant and galley were also destroyed, which would have increased the difficulty of a return to Germany. A hit in the bow would also have negatively affected her seaworthiness in the heavy seas of the North Atlantic. Admiral Graf Spee had fired much of her ammunition in the engagement with Harwood’s cruisers. After arriving in port, the wounded crewmen were taken to local hospitals and the dead were buried with full military honours. Captive Allied seamen still aboard the ship were released. Repairs necessary to make the ship seaworthy were expected to take up to two weeks.

British naval intelligence worked to convince Langsdorff that vastly superior forces were concentrating to destroy his ship, if he attempted to break out of the harbour. The Admiralty broadcast a series of signals, on frequencies known to be intercepted by German intelligence. The closest heavy units—the carrier Ark Royal and battlecruiser Renown—were some 2,500 nm (4,600 km; 2,900 mi) away, much too far to intervene in the situation. Believing the British reports, Langsdorff discussed his options with commanders in Berlin. These were either to break out and seek refuge in Buenos Aires, where the Argentine government would intern the ship, or to scuttle the ship in the Plate estuary.

Langsdorff was unwilling to risk the lives of his crew, so he decided to scuttle the ship. He knew that although Uruguay was neutral, the government was on friendly terms with Britain and if he allowed his ship to be interned, the Uruguayan Navy would allow British intelligence officers access to the ship. Under Article 17 of the Hague Convention, neutrality restrictions limited Admiral Graf Spee to a period of 72 hours for repairs in Montevideo, before she would be interned for the duration of the war.On 17 December 1939, Langsdorff ordered the destruction of all important equipment aboard the ship. The  ship’s remaining ammunition supply was dispersed throughout the ship, in preparation for scuttling.

On 18 December, the ship, with only Langsdorff and 40 other men aboard, moved into the outer roadstead to be scuttled. A crowd of 20,000 watched as the scuttling charges were set; the crew was taken off by an Argentine tug and the ship was scuttled at 20:55. The multiple explosions from the munitions sent jets of flame high into the air and created a large cloud of smoke that obscured the ship which burned in the shallow water for the next two days.

On 20 December, in his room in a Buenos Aires hotel, Langsdorff shot himself in full dress uniform and lying on the ship’s battle ensign. In late January 1940, the neutral American cruiser USS Helena arrived in Montevideo and the crew was permitted to visit the wreck of Admiral Graf Spee. The Americans met the German crewmen, who were still in Montevideo. In the aftermath of the scuttling, the ship’s crew were taken to Argentina, where they were interned for the remainder of the war.

Photo by Imperial War Museum staff – This is photograph HU 3285 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 6307-02), Public Domain,

By S. W. Roskill – The War at Sea 1939–1945, Chapter VI, Public Domain,

By courtesy


Pakistan’s First Military Ruler; Pakistan’s Constitutional Past & Political Legacy

What is past is a prologue: any objective appraisal of Ayub Khan’s military rule in Pakistan which lasted for well over ten years (1958-1969), would place him in the medieval tradition of benevolent dictatorship. Ayub’s assumption and exercise of personal power was not an unusual phenomenon in Muslim history. Among the Muslims, the ruler has long been seen as the ‘shadow of God’- the ultimate source of power. Muslim jurists regard power as a ‘gift of Allah’, hence its own justification. To question the possession of power was to invite disorder. Following the doctrine of the lesser evil they firmly believed that personal rule, however tyrannical, was better than lawlessness. A usurper had only to plant himself at the pulpit and the ‘believers’ would render him instant allegiance. When the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared that the military revolution which brought Ayub to power in 1958 was in its own ‘source of law’, he was only following a well-established practice in Muslim history.

Ayub had one advantage over most other military rulers. His accession to power was generally, and quite genuinely, acknowledged as the only way out of the mess which the politicians had created during the first eleven years of Pakistan’s existence. The elitist classes, the feudal lords, the ulema and the bureaucrats, had all lost the right to speak for the people and this gave Ayub direct access to the masses. He spoke to them and they listened- he promised them reforms and they believed him.

Had Ayub remained true to the authoritarian tradition he would have relied on the more vocal and influential religious leaders to advocate and uphold his rule while keeping the army under his personal command. Instead, he sent the army back to the barracks and debarred the politicians, religious as well as secular, from participating in the affairs of the country. His hope was that he would take Pakistan into the modern age by disassociating himself from the fundamentalist visions of the past.

He knew that he could not achieve his goal without the participation of the people but he did not fully comprehend the requirements and demands of the people’s participation. He thought that given the low rate of literacy, hardly above ten percent, it should be enough for the people to choose their local leaders-Basic Democrats-after which they should leave him alone to get on with the job without undue interference. Like most Muslim rulers, Ayub failed to realize the participation would have no meaning unless it was based on the principles of equality and interdependence. Equality makes the people partners in failure, as in success, and interdependence generates a sense of mutual obligation based on tolerance and trust. The Islamic system of government, as generally understood, guarantees the rights of all citizens but their rights are not equal, nor do different communities interact with each other in a framework of interdependence. Under Ayub’s highly centralized system the people in the provinces never had the feeling of equality nor were the people of the country bound together in a network of collective self- reliance. East Bengal, in particular, blamed and not without justification, the central government for exploiting the resources of the province and denying the people their fundamental rights. Ayub presided over a coalition of unequal and unwilling partners.

Of great public concern was Ayub’s refusal to submit to any transparent system of accountability. Anyone who questioned the motives or performance of his government was considered ignorant or malicious. He expected the people to repose their trust in ‘the leader’ in order to enjoy the munificence of his rule. Given the resources of the country, Ayub should have known that the beneficiaries of his system would never outnumber the deprived among the masses. The prominence and affluence of the few would only add to the unhappiness of the many, who were denied even elementary opportunities of education, health and employment. That was why Ayub could never understand the disaffection of the Bengalis. He attributed their outbursts of resentment and agitation to emotionalism.

Under Ayub, Pakistan made great strides in the agricultural sector which was rapidly modernized and introduced to more efficient and productive methods of farming. The country made significant progress in the industrial field and a vibrant private sector, relieved of bureaucratic controls, came into operation. Unfortunately the hold of the big landlords on the land and the emergence of business and industrial cartels resulted in the concentration of wealth in a few hands. The ‘trickle down’ economics, which Ayub had embraced at the instigation of the World Bank proved a hollow slogan for development.

Ayub’s detractors criticize him disrupting the natural evolution of the democratic process in the country; his apologists blame the politicians who preceded him for corrupting the democratic institutions which Pakistan had inherited from the British at the time of independence in 1947. Both these positions are familiar alibis used by Muslim intellectuals and social scientists to avoid addressing the fundamental problem of reconciling the Islamic doctrines, as enunciated by Muslim jurists, with the democratic concepts and demands of the modern age.

Ayub tried to move the people towards the modern age but he found every route blocked not only by the fundamentalists but even by the so-called modernists who would tentatively sneak out of their conventional habitat, survey the ground and withdraw into their shells at the first sign of opposition. In the end Ayub was left with no supporter or any intermediary.

A quarter of a century on, social and political problems which Ayub set out to resolve continue to haunt the people of Pakistan. If anything, they have acquired greater complexity and gravity. The nation- state remains undefined. Equality of all citizens in all respects, regardless of faith and gender is still an unacceptable concept. The demand for an Islamic state has assumed far greater intensity though there is still no agreed definition of an Islamic state. The Constitution, as it stands today, confers such overriding powers on an indirectly- elected President that he can command the government to act in accordance with his instructions or wishes, and if he finds the working of the government unsatisfactory he can dissolve the National Assembly and dismiss the government. The President can, and indeed does, act in much the same manner as his authoritarian predecessors did because the basic problem of division of power between the head of state and parliament remains unsolved.

Ayub introduced a range of reforms in the hope that the benefits flowing from these would reach the people and they would come to recognize the merits of his system of government. Some of the reforms never got off the ground; others, like the land reforms, lost their purpose in the course of implementation. Still the introduction of the reforms created an atmosphere of rethinking which constituted a challenge to vested interests. The ulema were particularly alarmed when Family Laws came into operation. These laws gave married women certain rights which acted as a restraint on male freedom to divorce at will or acquire more than one wife. While women welcomed these laws, the conservative classes considered them an assault on the Islamic structure of society. When Ayub’s reforms came to be questioned he began to wonder whether he had not ‘pushed the people into the modern age.’

The implementation of the reforms was left to the administration. The result was sudden expansion in the size and powers of the bureaucracy which started to intrude in every corner of life and, at the behest of the rulers, snuffed out all criticism and dissent. In the end it was the bludgeoning presence of government functionaries which incited the people to revolt against an intrusive and oppressive system of government. The revolt was essentially a secular phenomenon because it arose out of the people’s refusal to accept any restrictions on their right of franchise or expression. Ayub thought that the people had ‘gone mad’ but he never understood the cause of their madness. The people had come to know of heir democratic rights, and despite their history, they opted for ‘lunacy’ because sanity demanded renunciation of those rights.

The provinces, particularly East Bengal, felt that they had lost their identity in Ayub’s unitary form of government. The governors of the provinces were mere agents of the President and the Provincial Assemblies were composed mostly of nominees of the administration, parading as representatives of the people. The struggle of the Bengalis for greater freedom evoked spontaneous response from the smaller provinces of West Pakistan which were groaning under the yoke of Punjabi and Pathan domination. Towards the end , Ayub came to the dismal conclusion that there was nothing to hold the country together except the fear of the Hindu. The best thing, he thought, was to ‘let East Pakistan go’ and give the other provinces the maximum autonomy they wanted.

Ayub had given Pakistan a system which Western social scientists had come to see as a model of development but as Ayub said towards the end, ‘We managed to bluff the world but our own people called the bluff.’

Ayub was seen as an enlightened world leader, particularly among the Afro-Asian nations. His greatest contribution was the bond of friendship he established between Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China. Few leaders could have withstood the tremendous pressure he came under during the India-China War of 1962. President Kennedy wanted Ayub to give India some gesture of support which would help it to repel the Chinese invasion without having to worry about its flanks. Had Ayub succumbed to this pressure the Chinese would have been permanently alienated from Pakistan. Instead, Ayub used the opportunity with great foresight and skill to negotiate a border agreement with China which established a close relationship of understanding and cooperation between the two countries. Unfortunately, the Americans did not recognize that Pakistan’s friendship with China could also serve as an opening for them. Two years after Ayub’s abdication,  the Americans would use Pakistan as a covert channel of communication with the Chinese which led to a degree of normalization of relations between the US and the People’s Republic China.

No less significant was the breakthrough which Ayub achieved with the Soviet Union. As an ally of the United States, which had provided the USA with military bases, and a member of two regional pacts opposed to Soviet interests, Ayub could hardly expect a warm response from the Soviet leaders to any overture on his part. Yet when he visited the Soviet Union in March 1965, the first such venture by any Pakistani head of government, he succeeded in persuading the Soviet troika, Brezhnev, Podgorny and Kosygin, that the Soviet Union could rely on Pakistan as a friendly neighbour. He received a promise of military aid and economic cooperation and substantial financing for important joint projects. Ayub presented his case against India with great adroitness and secured an undertaking from the Soviet leaders to review their stand on Kashmir. In return Ayub gave a firm indication of his intention not to renew the lease of the US communication base in Pakistan. The Americans reacted angrily to Ayub’s parleys in Moscow and President  Johnson cancelled Ayub’s official visit to Washington. Unfortunately for Ayub, the USA had not yet realized that their regional pacts had lost all purpose, and their bases in Pakistan were no longer of vital importance to them.

India was Ayub’s greatest disappointment. He had successfully negotiated the Indus Basin treaty for the distribution of waters between India and Pakistan and hoped to resolve the Kashmir dispute through negotiations. The Indian Prime Minister Nehru, who was reasonable on other issues, was adamant on Kashmir with which he had deep personal attachment.

How did Ayub, a man of prudence, who would take infinite pains to examine a problem and who never hesitated to take personal command of any difficult situation get involved in Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir which made no military sense? And why did he allow the Operation to be controlled and run by a volatile Foreign Minister and an irresolute Commander- in- Chief?  Hopefully this account answers these questions. The controversy about Grand Slam, which was planned as the crowning move in Operation Gibraltar, and the decision to relieve General Akhtar Malik, who had masterminded the whole operation three days before the outbreak of the war, is finally laid to rest. The prevailing view in Pakistan is that if Ayub had allowed General Malik to play his hand to the finish he would have won the game. Even sensible army officers in Pakistan rely on an Indian writer who suggested that Grand Slam, if successful, ‘might have, at one stroke, lopped off the state of Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of India, militarily and politically’. They ignore the proviso ‘if successful’ and insist that the change of command at that crucial moment was the most fateful decision of the war. The truth is that Grand Slam had no chance of success regardless of who was in command. General Akhtar Malik had lost all the tricks, none of his finesse had worked, and the trump he was holding was a rag.

There is no evidence that Ayub was the victim of any conspiracy, though there is enough to show that he was grossly misinformed about the details of the Operation and deliberately kept in the dark about its failure. He had approved Operation Gibraltar himself though he always regretted that he never set up a ‘counter syndicate’ to identify its flaws and weaknesses, a job which should have been done by the Commander- in-Chief in any case.

Ayub allowed his Foreign Minister to convince him that Kashmir was seething with discontent and the oppressed people of the state would rise in revolt once they saw Pakistan coming out in support of their struggle for liberation. There was no evidence whatever to support such a claim. Pakistan in fact had no contact with the leaders of Kashmir, much less with the people in the villages, where Pakistan commandos, armed to the teeth, would appear as liberators in the middle of the night only to create panic and terror. The whole Operation was based on two assumptions: (1) that the people of Kashmir would spontaneously rise in support of Pakistani soldiers coming to their liberation, and (2) that the Hindu had no stomach for a fight. The first assumption was a Foreign Office- cum Military Intelligence contrivance, inspired by wishful thinking and the second was the reflection of the traditional Muslim belief in their martial superiority. Ayub subscribed to this belief. In the final order  he issued before the outbreak of the war he said, ‘As a general rule Hindu morale would not stand more than a couple of hard blows at the right time and place.’

Ayub was no Abraham Lincoln or Salahuddin Ayubi, as Bhutto presented him in the beginning, but he was no charlatan either, as Bhutto portrayed him in the end. Ayub’s reforms in the economic field and the courageous and enlightened manner in which he faced international and domestic pressures during the India-China War made a lasting contribution in Pakistan’s stability and advancement. Ayub failed because military rule is a complete negation of democratic principles and fundamental human rights. The people of Pakistan rejected Ayub’s dictatorship, despite some of its material benefits, because they were not prepared to give up their democratic rights. More than any other form of personal rule, military dictatorship brings out the worst qualities in a citizen- fear, jealousy, suspicion- and turns the qualities of tolerance, trust  and self- sacrifice into unrewarding pursuits.

Ayub’s greatest contribution was to continue the process which Jinnah had initiated, of reconciling the demands of the modern age with the demands of Islam. If the people of Pakistan pursue that process, with their eyes on the expanding avenues of the times, and defy the fundamentalists who would drive them back to the dark caves of the past, then the lessons of the Ayub era would serve as a prologue to the struggle that awaits the Muslims and demands of them a dynamic willingness to undertake Ijtihad, the highest form of creative defiance of obscurantist tradition. Without Ijtihad the dream of Muslim renaissance shall, for ever, remain an illusion.



The concept of Pakistan found its first formal expression in the Pakistan Resolution adopted by the Muslim League in 1940. The Resolution envisaged the grouping of areas in which the Muslims were numerically in a majority, as in the north-western and eastern zones of India, into “independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign”. This position was reconsidered by the Muslim League in the Legislator’s Convention held in Delhi between 7 and 9 April 1946. In his speech to the Convention, Jinnah said:

We are a nation of 100 million and what is more with our own distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of values and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendar, history an traditions, aptitudes and ambitions; in short, we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of international law we are a nation.

In the resolution that was adopted by the Convention on 9 April it was demanded that “the zones comprising Bengal and Assam in the North East and the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sindh and Baluchistan in the North West of India, namely Pakistan zones, where the Muslims ate in in a dominant majority, be constituted into a sovereign independent state”. On 12 May 1946 the Muslim League endorsed the President’s memorandum of the minimum demands of the Muslims according to which the six Muslim provinces (Punjab, NWFP, Baluchistan, Sindh, Bengal and Assam), named as the Pakistan Group would deal with all subjects and matters “except foreign affairs, defense and communications necessary for defense”. A separate constitution-making body would be established for the six Muslim provinces to “frame constitutions for the Group and the provinces in the Group” and to determine “the list of subjects that shall be provincial and Central (of the Pakistan Federation) with residuary sovereign powers vesting in the Provinces”. While the subjects were not identified the memorandum provided that: “After the Constitutions of the Pakistan Federal government and the Provinces are finally framed by constitution-making Body, it will be open to any province of the Group to decide to opt out of its Group, provided the wishes of the people of that Province are ascertained by a referendum to opt out or not”. (Emphasis added). The provinces were thus given a pledge that they would have full control over all subjects except the three which were allocated to the central government under clause I of the memorandum. It is true that the memorandum was adopted while the Muslim League was still engaged in negotiations with the British and the Congress in the hope of establishing a confederation in India composed of two federations and, therefore, the powers of the confederate authority were being restricted to the minimum possible extent. But even a plain reading of the April resolution and of all the earlier resolutions, leaves one in no doubt that the Muslim League did not envisage at any time the establishment of a federal state of Muslim provinces in which the constituent units would be wholly subservient to central authority.

In his Presidential address to the Assembly on 11 August 1947 Jinnah said:

“The Constituent Assembly has got two main functions to perform. Th first is the very onerous and responsible task of framing our future Constitution of Pakistan and the second of functioning as a full and complete sovereign body as the federal legislature of Pakistan”. Referring to the first function, he made a momentous declaration, saying:

Pakistan could be made and prosperous if the government were to concentrate on the well- being of the people especially of the masses and the poor. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to hat community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what his colour, caste, or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges and obligations . . . you may belong to any religion or caste or creed- that has nothing to do with the business of state.

He concluded with the words:

Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to b Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the  state.

When Jinnah’s speech appeared in the newspapers it caused a great consternation among the orthodox classes since Jinnah was clearly advocating a secular model of democratic government of Pakistan. The question arose “What will be the position of Islam in Pakistan?” Almost immediately the  ulema who had, at best, played a subsidiary role in the struggle for Pakistan began to assert that the alone had the authority to define the place of Islam in the future Constitution of Pakistan. The Lahore Resolution contained no reference to Islam. Nor was there anything to suggest that Pakistan had been established to revive old Islamic institutions. The Resolution only talked about the areas where the Muslims were in a numerical majority and required that such areas should be grouped to constitute independent states. It was a secular demand based on the western secular concept of the people exercising their right of self- determination. Thus were sown the seeds of a major conflict between those who shared Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan as a democratic state, where all citizens would have equal status and rights, and the fundamentalists who wanted to convert Pakistan into a model Islamic state governed by the Qur’an and Sunnah.

The Constituent Assembly of Pakistan consisting of some sixty- nine members, comprising politicians, landlords, retired bureaucrats, lawyers and businessmen, few of whom had any knowledge of Islamic law or history, was overwhelmed by the rhetoric of the ulema. They had been elected to the Constituent Assembly not directly by the people but by the provincial assemblies before Independence. In March 1949 the Assembly adopted what was called the Objectives Resolution. The Resolution proclaimed: “whereas sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to God Almighty alone and the authority which He had delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust”. The concept of sovereignty was not defined nor was any indication give of the limits prescribed by Allah. The Resolution required the Assembly to frame a Constitution for “the sovereign independent State of Pakistan“.

A Basic Principles Committee and a Board of Talimaat-i-Islamia was appointed to advise on matters arising out of the Objectives Resolution. The Committee submitted an interim report on September 1950. It proposed that the Objectives Resolution should be incorporated in the Constitution as a directive principle of state policy. The Committee also suggested that “steps should be taken in many spheres of governmental activities to enable the Muslims, as laid down in the Objectives Resolution to order their lives in accordance with the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah”.

The growing difference of opinion among the representatives of the different sects of Islam compounded the problem of providing an agreed definition of the Islamic State and the fundamentalists began to fear that the Islamic Constitution might come to be seen as  “a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. Stung by this fear the ulema held a convention in Karachi in January 1951. Thirty one religious scholars “representing all the schools of Islamic thought” unanimously formulated what they called “the fundamental principles of the Islamic State”.  The document containing these principles provided inter alia that “ultimate sovereignty over all Nature and all Law vests in Allah, the Lord of the universe, alone” and “the Laws of the Land shall be based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah and no law shall be enacted nor any administrative order issued in contravention of the Qur’an and Sunnah”;  “the State shall be based not on geographical, racial, linguistic, or any other materialistic concepts but on the principles and ideals of Islamic ideology”; that “the Head of the State shall always be a make Muslim in whose piety, learning, and soundness of judgement the people or their elected representatives had confidence”; and that “no interpretation of the Constitution which is in conflict with the provisions of the Qur’an or the Sunnah shall be valid”. The ulema made no attempt to define “the principles and ideals of Islamic ideology” on which the state was to be based nor did they suggest any institution or procedure for the interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah. They did not recognize universal franchise and there was no mention of any legislature. They talked about the body empowered to elect the Head of the State but did not suggest how that body was to come into existence. The provinces were to be reduced to the level of ‘administrative units’ under the “supremacy of the centre”. The whole document was a farrago of archaic, contradictory, and self- serving recommendations aimed at establishing an authoritarian form of government in which the ulema would have the ultimate authority to interpret the Qur’an and Sunnah an prescribe the scope and limits of legislation. In other words the ulema would act as a supra- parliament body with the power to overrule the legislature. Not surprisingly the unanimous endeavours of the ulema did not advance the cause of the Islamic state.

The final report of the Basic Principles Committee was published in December 1952 and another convention of the ulema met in Karachi in January 1953 and proposed a number of amendments to the recommendations made by the Committee. At last the ulema mustered the courage to address the problem of defining Islamic ideology. They held that: “. . . it was not enough to say in the Constitution that no law should be enacted which was repugnant to the Qur’an and Sunnah. What is required is that it should be laid down as a matter of principle that the dictates and directives of the Qur’an and Sunnah should be the chief source of legislation”.

Before giving assent to any bill, the Head of State must consult ” a Board consisting of not more than five persons well- versed in Islamic laws”, an if the Board unanimously found the bill repugnant to the Qur’an and Sunnah the bill should be referred back to a joint sitting of the two houses of the federal legislature. For a member of the Board It was enough to have been a mufti for ten years or a qadi or a teacher in any religious institution, but to be a member of the legislature, a Muslim must be known to observe all Islamic duties and desist from all that was forbidden. Most of the amendments proposed by the ulema were as vague as the principles formulated by them.


The demand for Pakistan was based on Jinnah’s “Two-Nation Theory” according to which the Muslims of India represented a separate nation and were entitled to an independent homeland of their own. Jinnah did not question the principle of majority rule, nor did he disagree with the western concept of democratic government. He rested his case on the claim, which was not easy to refute, that the principle of majority rule under one government could not apply to two separate nations. The fact of Hindu-Muslim ‘separateness’ was the critical point in Jinnah’s argument which had a tremendous emotional appeal for the Muslim masses because it reflected so dramatically the reality of their social condition.

Once Pakistan was established, the sense of separateness and fear of Hindu domination which had provided the principal motivating force during the struggle for liberation disappeared. Free, at last, the Muslims were called upon to establish a nation state based on the principles of equality, justice, accountability to the people, and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms. The only collective political concept with which the Muslims were familiar was that of the ‘Ummah‘ (Muslim brotherhood). A democratic nation-state, governed by majority rule regardless of caste, colour or creed was something wholly novel, if not alien, to Muslim history. But in the euphoria of independence, Islam and Pakistan had come to be treated as synonymous.

Jinnah recognized the problem and attempted to resolve it in his inaugural address to the Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947. But there were fundamental conceptual contradictions which could not be resolved by appeals to national unity. The distinction between the nation and the state was not recognized; indeed the state was not even defined. With the establishment of Pakistan, two lobbies began to assert themselves: the reformists, inclined towards secular democratic ideals, and the fundamentalists, who favoured the revival of an authoritarian form of government dominated by civil- military bureaucracy.

To the reformists, Islam was a dynamic force, a concept of life, and not of law, a source of nourishment for the springs of creative thought and not an immutable code of do’s and don’ts. They maintained that the Qur’an did not prescribe any form of government nor were any rigid rules or regulations laid down for organizing the institutional structure of the state. The Islamic state should be built on the principles of equality and justice as presented in the Qur’an and it must respond to the demands of the time by providing full freedom to the creative spirit of the people. The principles of equality and justice were immutable but there was an ever expanding field available for innovation and progress in the intellectual, political and social spheres. The reformists asserted these principles quite forcefully, but when it came to giving them a concrete form, suited to the needs of the people, they could not think of any institutions other than the ones they had become accustomed to under the British.

The fundamentalists, on the other hand, insisted that the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad PBUH) provided all the laws that would ever be needed by mankind and those laws were applicable to all societies at all times. All fundamental questions of principle having been finally settled, there was no longer any room for innovation or dissent. All that was required was to discover those laws from the Qur’an, by following the judgements and decrees of authoritative Muslim jurists, not to invent new laws. The reformists had the support of the Western educated classes. The fundamentalists found their supporters among the conservative lower- middle classes. The reformists clung to the British institutions, the fundamentalists to their memory of the past. Paradoxically, both the reformists and the fundamentalists ended up by becoming champions of status quo and allies of the ruling junta in frustrating the popular forces of change.

Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, who was Secretary-General in the Government of Pakistan and later became Prime Minister, regarded the British institutions as “the principal gift of the British to their colonies”. The Western elite, and politicians, the civil servants, the judges and the lawyers believed that the future of the country, as much as their own, depended on the continuation of those institutions.

Among the fundamentalists there was much talk of introducing the Shariah ( the Islamic code) and establishing Islamic institutions. But when it came to formulating any concrete proposals, the ulema could not go beyond making vacuous assertions and pious declarations. It took them years to decide whether sovereignty belonged to the people or to Allah. They never paused to reflect that sovereignty was a complex western concept based on ‘the principle that the authority of law was derived from the community and the law was supreme, not only over subjects but over rulers.

In 1956 when the first Constitution was adopted, after nine years of political debate, all that was recognizable as Islamic in the Constitution was a directive principle of state policy that “steps shall be taken to enable the Muslims of Pakistan individually and collectively to order their lives in accordance with the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah”. The rest of the Constitution was no more than a revised version of the Government of India Act 1935. Ayub Khan would later describe the Constitution as a ‘document of despair.’

By courtesy: Ayub Khan by Altaf Gauhar, Oxford University Press Karachi 1996