The Triumph of Populism 1971-1973 Like Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam, before him, 24 years later, Bhutto, the Quaid-e-Awam, was building a new country.
With the surrender of Pakistani troops on December 16, 1971, in Dhaka, Bangladesh came into being, and with that, the end of the Pakistan that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had originally created. It also resulted in the end of 13 years of military rule in what remained of the country. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was in New York at the time, flew in to Rawalpindi on December 20, and, with the assistance of a group of the military’s general officers who had been dismayed by Gen Yahya Khan and his core group over the defeat, forcing Yahya out, became the president of Pakistan as well as its only civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator.
Within a matter of days, Bhutto began to put into effect his mandate of the people, based on his electoral manifesto which had won him a majority in the elections in West Pakistan a year earlier. While economic and social reform was a key plank of the Bhutto promise, what needed pressing attention, among numerous things, was the return of the 93,000, mostly military, prisoners of war (POWs) in India. In 1971, Pakistan had lost not just East Pakistan, but half its navy, one-third of its army, and a quarter of its air force. India occupied 5,000 square miles of West Pakistani territory. The military stood humiliated after the surrender, and this was the first of only two opportunities (the other was in 2008) when elected leaders could have established long-lasting democratic rule in Pakistan. Bhutto even initiated a judicial commission, under chief justice Hamoodur Rahman, “to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the atrocities and 1971 war”, including the “circumstances in which the Commander of the Eastern Military Command surrendered the Eastern contingent forces under his command who laid down their arms”. Bhutto outdid himself when he met Indira Gandhi at Simla in July 1972 and got the better of her through his persuasive negotiating skills, and secured the release of Pakistani POWs (who came home in 1974), with India returning Pakistan’s territory, and both countries accepting the ceasefire line in Kashmir as the Line of Control. Bhutto returned a hero, yet again, to Pakistan, not just for the people, but also for sections of the military. On a parallel track, Bhutto’s leftist economic team was implementing promises that had been made during the election campaign of 1970. With roti, kapra aur makaan the key slogans of Bhutto’s electoral commitment of his notion of Islamic Socialism and social justice, the manifesto of his Pakistan People’s Party had promised the nationalisation of all basic industries and financial institutions. It had stated that “those means of production that are the generators of industrial advance or on which depend other industries must not be allowed to be vested in private hands; secondly, that all enterprises that constitute the infrastructure of the national economy must be in public ownership; thirdly, that institutions dealing with the medium of exchange, that is banking and insurance, must be nationalised”.
The economic policies of the Bhutto government rested on the premise that the control of the leading enterprises was to be in the hands of the state. It ought to be pointed out that while this policy of nationalisation has been much maligned by critics of Bhutto, his policies were a reflection of the times and of the age in which they were implemented. Since Bhutto’s rise to electoral success was based on his populist critique of Ayub Khan’s economic policies of functional inequality resulting in the infamous ‘22 families’, issues of redistribution, nationalisation and social-sector development were fundamental to his economic programme. Literally within days of taking over power, in January 1972, Bhutto had nationalised 30 major firms in 10 key industries in the large-scale manufacturing sector, essentially in the capital and intermediate goods industry. In March 1972, his government had nationalised insurance companies, and banks were to follow in 1974, as were other industrial concerns in 1976. In addition to nationalisation, extensive labour reforms were also initiated by the Bhutto government, giving labour far greater rights than they had had in the past. With the need to break the industrial-financial nexus a pillar of Bhutto’s populist social agenda, in a country which at that time was predominantly rural and agricultural, the ownership of land determined economic, social and political power. Bhutto had promised to break the hold of the feudals (notwithstanding the fact that he himself owned much land) and undertook extensive land reforms in March 1972. In a speech, he said his land reforms would “effectively break up the iniquitous concentrations of landed wealth, reduce income disparities, increase production, reduce unemployment, streamline the administration of land revenue and agricultural taxation, and truly lay down the foundations of a relationship of honour and mutual benefit between the landowner and tenant”. The PPP manifesto laid the premise for this action by stating that “the breakup of the large estates to destroy the feudal landowners is a national necessity that will have to be carried through by practical measures”. The government had decided that the land resumed from landowners would not receive any compensation unlike the Ayub Khan reforms of 1959, and this land was to be distributed free to landless tenants. The ceilings for owning land were also cut from 500 acres of irrigated land to 150 acres in 1972. Although a lot of propaganda was churned out about the success of the 1972 reforms, the resumed land was far less than was the case in 1959, and only one per cent of the landless tenants and small owners benefited from these measures. Nevertheless, like labour reforms, tenancy reforms for agricultural workers and for landless labour did give those cultivating land far greater usufruct and legal rights to the land than they previously had. Along with these structural interventions in the economy which changed ownership patterns and property rights, an ambitious social-sector programme, consisting, among other things, of the nationalisation of schools and initiating a people’s health scheme providing free healthcare to all, was also initiated. However, while economic and social reform was a key plank of the Bhutto promise and his energies were also consumed by the process of getting the POWs released, giving Pakistan its first democratic constitution was also high on his agenda.
Although 125 of the 135 members of the National Assembly voted for Pakistan’sConstitution on April 10, 1973, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is given, and deservedly so, credit for making a large, discordant group of nationalists and Islamists to agree to the draft. To get leaders like Wali Khan, who was the parliamentary leader of the opposition, Mir Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo, the sardars of Balochistan, Mufti Mahmud, and Mian Tufail, who had replaced Maulana Maudoodi as the Jamaat-e-Islami Amir, to build a consensus on a document that would determine Pakistan’s democratic trajectory was a major feat.
The Constitution came into effect on August 14, 1973, setting out a parliamentary form of government, with Bhutto as Pakistan’s first democratically elected prime minister. Since Bhutto ruled the Punjab and Sindh, he had made concessions to the nationalists in order to make them agree to his terms. Ayesha Jalal quotes Bhutto as saying that while Wali Khan “vehemently opposed” the Constitution, he skilfully manoeuvred the Khan and “smashed him into becoming a Pakistani”.
A key clause in the 1973 Constitution required members of the armed forces to take an oath promising not to take part in political activities and making it illegal for the military to intervene in politics. Clearly, the military did not read or care for the Constitution either in 1977 or in 1999.
Nationalists and Military
While the PPP had its governments in the Punjab and Sindh, the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan were ruled by coalition governments formed by the National Awami Party (NAP) and the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI) which gave a voice to Baloch and Pashtun nationalisms of the 1970s variety. In February 1973, weapons were found in the Iraqi embassy in Islamabad that were supposedly meant for armed insurrection by the nationalists in Balochistan. On February 14, Sardar Attaullah Khan Mengal’s government in Balochistan was dismissed, and the next day, the NAP-JUI government in the NWFP resigned, while Bhutto’s governor in Balochistan, Sardar Akbar Khan Bugti, resigned in October 1973 as a political crisis emerged and grew stronger by the day. Many of the sardars and their tribesmen had started a militant movement for a Greater Balochistan, joined in by many Cambridge-educated scions of elite households, largely from the Punjab. Bhutto called in the military, with General Tikka Khan, dubbed by many as the ‘butcher of East Pakistan’, to curb the armed uprising and for Tikka Khan to add another accolade to his titles, that of the ‘butcher of Balochistan’. So soon after having lost political and public support, once again, a constitutional crisis slowly brought in the military into a position of increasing prestige and prominence. The lessons of just a few years ago, of giving nationalists their rights and accepting electoral outcomes, were once again being brushed aside by the same democratically-elected leader, and, indeed, by the military.
Early Signs of Authoritarianism
As his rule progressed, we see clear signs of hubris and authoritarianism emerging in the political practices of Bhutto, but there were early signs which may have suggested what was to come, with Shuja Nawaz and many other authors seeing the rise of an eventual “civilian dictatorship”. One example of this was the decision to set up the Federal Security Force (FSF), a paramilitary organisation, so as not to rely on the military, as early as September 1972. The FSF, whose head later became a state witness in the infamous Bhutto trial, was once seen as ‘Bhutto’s private military arm’. Furthermore, it is ironic that while Bhutto was a social democrat, giving numerous rights and powers to the downtrodden, to the labourers and to the peasants and landless workers, he also used the power of the state to undermine the force of the street, particularly in Karachi. In the summer of 1972, organised trade unions in Karachi took to the streets and initiated industrial action in the form of strikes, but were met by a brutal police force resulting in the death of a number of workers. Organised labour, which had supported Bhutto’s rise, was dealt a harsh blow about the reality of incumbent politics.
Like Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam, before him, 24 years later, Bhutto, the Quaid-e-Awam, was building a new country. Both had dismissed provincial governments and showed signs of an incipient authoritarianism and desire for centralisation and control. We do not know what Jinnah would have done had he lived, but Bhutto’s democratic and socialist credentials were soon to come undone. Arrogance and clear signs of intolerance of dissent were emerging in the Pakistan of 1972-73. Many of the promises made in the late 1960s and the early 1970s by Bhutto were to be played out between 1974 and 1977, setting a stage for Bhutto’s regional and global aspirations and ambitions. However, perhaps it was the same ambition and confidence that had led him to an electoral victory in 1970 which was to become a cause for his eventual downfall in 1977, and then death in 1979. He had also made far too many enemies along the way, and many of them were just waiting for their opportunity to settle scores. Between 1974 and 1977, Bhutto was to give them many such opportunities.
The promise of democracy by S. Akbar Zaidi. The writer is a political economist based in Karachi. He has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge, and teaches at Columbia University in New York and at the IBA in Karachi.
In her book, The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics, Ayesha Jalal writes about Gen Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, who imposed martial law after replacing Gen Ayub Khan in March 1969 as president of Pakistan when the latter was forced out by street protests, that Yahya was a “boisterous fellow and determined drunkard [and] had a penchant for cavorting with abandon”. Perhaps many would still remember Yahya for what Jalal calls his “nocturnal activities”, since they “were the talk of the nation”, and ‘General Rani’ became part of what she calls “elite gossip”.
However, it is more probable that today Yahya Khan is remembered for two extraordinary developments that took place under his watch: the elections of 1970, and the subsequent massacre in East Pakistan, leading to the separation of the latter and the creation of Bangladesh. He played a key role in both events. Of course, Yahya, even if indeed he was perpetually inebriated, was not the lone player in what happened in 1970-71. Two other actors, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, played critical roles as well.
It was the numerous contradictions which emerged from the Decade of Development’s capitalist logic under an authoritarian military state which gave rise to the regional, social, economic and political discontent of the late 1960s, forcing Ayub Khan’s resignation in Pakistan’s first popular uprising.
In West Pakistan, while it was Baloch and Pakhtun nationalists who were demanding the end of the One Unit, it was Bhutto who led students, the working classes and sections of the newly emerging middle classes against Ayub. While some scholars have read too much into the Bhutto agitation, stating that Pakistan was on the verge of a socialist revolution, his not being Punjabi and having already publicly parted ways with Ayub after Tashkent in 1966, saw Bhutto emerge as the dominant voice in West Pakistan opposing military authoritarianism of which he was once a part.
In East Pakistan, even though Maulana Bhashani spoke for the peasants of the province, it was Sheikh Mujib, who, after raising his Six-Point Programme in 1966 for democracy and greater provincial autonomy, and who was implicated (but later released) in the Agartala Conspiracy Case in 1968, was fast emerging as the main voice of East Pakistani/Bengali nationalism when Ayub was forced out.
It is important to state that while some Bengali voices were challenging the unity of Pakistan, Mujib, at this political juncture, was still in favour of a united, democratic, federal Pakistan, despite the growing realisation in the eastern wing that East Pakistan had by now become a mere colony of West Pakistan.
Under these circumstances, led by charismatic and populist leaders who had sat through 11 years of military rule, Yahya Khan announced elections for October 1970, doing away with the One Unit, giving the majority province on the basis of its population 162 seats in a parliament of 300.
Yahya had imposed martial law when he took over from Ayub, and the military and bureaucracy were busy influencing political parties and elements that were eager to test their popularity. Historians examining Yahya’s decision have argued that it was based on reports by military intelligence which stated that no single party would win a majority in parliament, and, with a hung parliament, real power would still reside with the military-bureaucracy oligarchy.
Due to monsoon rains in East Bengal, the government postponed the elections by two months. The polls were announced for Dec 7. However, a devastating cyclone in November 1970 in East Pakistan, which claimed the lives of close to 200,000 people, sealed the fate of the elections and, in retrospect it seems, of Pakistan. East Pakistanis were appalled at the response of the predominantly Punjabi-Muhajir military-bureaucratic administration in dealing with this crisis, and East Pakistani politicians, with just a few weeks to go for Pakistan’s first elections, were eager to point out how irrelevant Pakistani Bengalis had become to the ruling West Pakistan clique.
Academics studying the process of democratisation in Pakistan have argued that one of the many reasons why elections were never held in Pakistan was the fear of the Punjabi-Muhajir elites, and of their military-bureaucratic alliance, that with East Pakistan’s majority population universal franchise would always result in a majority of seats from East Pakistan.
The 1970 election results went further in confirming these fears. Sheikh Mujib’s Awami League won 160 of the 162 seats in East Pakistan, giving it a majority in united Pakistan’s parliament. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party won 81 seats out of 138 in West Pakistan, becoming the majority party in West Pakistan, mainly from Sindh and Punjab. The critical outcome from the 1970 elections was that neither of the two largest parties won a single seat in the other wing. Electorally, Pakistan stood divided.
While the military’s Operation Searchlight in East Pakistan started in March 1971, the short period following the elections until the brutal military operations, clearly showed how the egos of a handful of West Pakistani politicians played out and were matched with the incompetence and unwillingness of the military leadership in understanding and addressing political issues.
United Pakistan just might have been saved in these few weeks had the Punjabi-Muhajir military-bureaucratic leadership allowed the results of the 1970 elections to be honoured. But this would have gone against their very own genius and their core material interests. Moreover, there was one particular popular democrat who refused to acknowledge the democratic mandate which did not entirely suit him.
Soon after the election results, there was talk of having two prime ministers for Pakistan, with Bhutto apparently having agreed. Yahya, on the other hand, on a visit to Dhaka, called Mujib the “future prime minister of Pakistan”. On his return to West Pakistan from Dhaka, Yahya flew to Larkana to meet Bhutto, who advised Yahya not to give control of the National Assembly, and, hence, of Pakistan, to Mujib. Bhutto flew to Dhaka to meet Mujib, but talks had clearly failed between the two.
Shuja Nawaz in his Crossed Swords writes that there were many senior generals who were willing to “back Bhutto”. Clearly, the electoral winner in West Pakistan and the generals were not willing to honour the election results and a major political and constitutional crisis was at hand.
Bhutto famously remarked that “a majority alone does not count” (ironically, words which would haunt his daughter in 1988), and further made one of his many famous statements, threatening to break the legs of any West Pakistani elected representative who proceeded to Dhaka — “tangain tore doon ga” — to participate in the National Assembly session called by Yahya on March 3, 1971. It was Bhutto, again, who later uttered words that led to one journalist coining the famed headline: ‘udhar tum, idhar hum’.
After repeated failed attempts to call the National Assembly meeting and with talks completely having broken down, Operation Searchlight was launched by the military on March 25, 1971, under Gen Tikka Khan, with both Yahya and Bhutto still in Dhaka.
There has been a great deal written by Pakistani military men and historians, as well as by Indian and Bangladeshi academics and scholars, on what happened in East Pakistan between March 25 and Dec 16, 1971. While versions may vary, as do number counts — of casualties, massacres and rapes — there is broad consensus, especially among Pakistani authors, that the scale and nature of atrocities conducted by the military was on a horrific scale.
A Pakistani journalist who worked for the Morning News in Karachi, Anthony Mascarenhas, wrote for the London Sunday Times on June 13, 1971, an article simply entitled ‘Genocide’, which revealed to the world the atrocities committed in East Pakistan.
Yet, while George Harrison of the Beatles organised a concert for Bangladesh, the US and other world powers, turned a blind eye to what was happening in East Pakistan. As the massacre took place in East Pakistan, Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon did “nothing, intentionally”, as documented in Gary Bass’ book, The Blood Telegram, based partly on a telegram sent by Archer Blood, the then US consul general in Dhaka, who warned of what was happening.
The Americans at the time were courting Mao’s China and Pakistan mattered to them, for it was the conduit for what later became known as ‘ping-pong’ diplomacy. China, too, kept out of Pakistan’s “internal affairs”.
Military action in East Pakistan continued from March to early December, with a Bangladesh government-in-exile based in Kolkata (Calcutta at the time). A pretty large number of non-Bengalis, mainly Biharis, were also killed by those who were part of the Mukti Bahini fighting their war of independence, and hundreds of thousands of East Pakistanis fled across the border into India.
Eventually, India launched a military attack on East Pakistan in November, with (West) Pakistan attacking Indian territory on Dec 3. Despite the fact that West Pakistanis were told as late as Dec 14 and 15 that they were winning the war, on Dec 16, 1971, Gen A.A.K. ‘Tiger’ Niazi, GOC, East Pakistan, surrendered to the Indian troops led by Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora in Dhaka. East Pakistan had now formally become Bangladesh. Not just had there been yet another partition in the Indian subcontinent, but Jinnah’s ‘two-nation theory’ had also come undone.
Shuja Nawaz writes that it was a corrupt military’s “wishful thinking”, a military which had become used to the “culture of entitlement”, “clouded by blissful ignorance and liberal doses of alcohol” which led to Pakistan’s debacle, but it is evident that there were at least three clear stages of events leading up to the eventuality of Dec 16, 1971.
By not acknowledging the wishes of the electorate, Bhutto and his backers in the military created a crisis which the military then dealt with in the only way it knew how. Elite interests in West Pakistan were unwilling to give democracy and the people their mandate. While West Pakistani politicians are responsible for the constitutional failure, it was only the military leadership which was responsible for the massacres that took place in East Pakistan.
Sadly though, not many West Pakistani intellectuals or political leaders protested and opposed military action in East Pakistan. Their silence makes them complicit in the killings. India helped East Pakistan become Bangladesh in the last few months of 1971, but was not responsible for the conditions between 1947 and 1970 which led to the breakup of Pakistan. External forces can only build on local fissures and take advantage of conditions created domestically, and India did just that.
Since 1971, one has heard of the great saneha of East Pakistan, yet perhaps lessons are still left unlearned. While the separation of East Pakistan brought about democracy in the truncated Pakistan which survived, events in 1972 and 1973, once again, and despite a democratic dispensation, brought to the fold issues of greater centralisation against so-called regionalism and provincialism, with little accountability and retribution of those who were responsible for the breakup of Pakistan.
Elections and massacre by S. Akbar Zaidi. The writer is a political economist based in Karachi. He has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge, and teaches at Columbia University in New York and at the IBA in Karachi.
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HBL has been an indelible part of the nation’s fabric since independence, enabling the dreams of millions of Pakistanis. At HBL, we salute the dreamers and dedicate the nation’s 70th anniversary to you. Jahan Khwab, Wahan HBL
Liaquat Ali Khan was as pivotal to the consolidation of Pakistan as the Quaid-i-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was central to the creation of Pakistan. He became the country’s first prime minister not simply because he was a trusted lieutenant of Jinnah, but by his proven leadership skills in having led the Muslim League bloc in the interim government before partition. Liaquat, having left all his property in India, refused to file a claim to which he was entitled as a ‘refugee’. The Nawabzada reduced his standard of life and set about building institutions in the new country. Such was the stuff the man was made of.
The course of Pakistan’s journey can be seen meandering its way from a prime minister proverbial for his probity and down to his successors who every now and then faced investigations related to their wealth. It is no wonder, then, that after Pakistan had turned the corner in terms of consolidation, questions began to be raised regarding the constituency of Liaquat in Pakistan.
His tenure as prime minister is seen by certain quarters as having set a controversial path for the nation to follow. There have been two basic contentions. The first one relates to his decision to move away from what used to be the Soviet Union. The decision also had its reverberations in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy case.
The first step in this direction was taken on May 3, 1948, when it was announced that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Pakistan were to exchange ambassadors. On the occasion, Liaquat stated: “It has been the desire of Pakistan to have friendly relations with all the nations of the world, and the decision to exchange ambassadors with Russia is in consequence of that policy.”
The invitation for Liaquat to visit Moscow came a year later, on June 2, 1949, through the Soviet ambassador to Iran. Russia thereafter insisted that ambassadors be exchanged prior to Liaquat’s visit. Although on June 9, Sir Zafrullah Khan tried to stall the move, Liaquat proceeded regardless. The Pakistani ambassador was appointed on December 31, 1949, while the Soviet ambassador was appointed on March 22, 1950.
In June 1949, the USSR ‘advanced’ the date of the invitation, from August 20 to August 14. Liaquat could not agree to the date as it happened to be the first Independence Day of Pakistan after the Quaid-i-Azam’s demise. Subsequently came an invitation from the US and Liaquat proceeded there in May 1950.
Liaquat mentioned the Soviet invitation when leaving for the US, while he was on the US soil, and on his return home. A year later, Liaquat, while addressing a press conference in Karachi, explained the position thus:
“I cannot go [to Moscow] until those people who invited me fix a date and ask me to go on such date … The invitation came. Later, they suggested August 14, 1949. I replied that this is our Independence Day. I can come on any day after that; after that they have not replied”.
I am not the first to challenge the ‘myth’ of the Moscow invitation. Others, including Irtiza Husain, Mansur Alam and Shahid Amin, have preceded me. Syed Ashfaque Husain Naqvi, a diplomat based in Tehran at the time, rejected the allegation that Liaquat had cadged an invitation.
And this is what Dr. Samiullah Koreshi, who was posted at Moscow, related in his book ‘Diplomats and Diplomacy’: “Mr. Shuaib Qureshi was the first ambassador to USSR [in 1949] … He called on Andre Gromyko, then deputy foreign minister, to tell him that the prime minister had dispatched him post haste so that he could make all arrangements for his visit to Moscow in response to their invitation.
[Gromyko replied] ‘Our invitation to your prime minister? Oh, you mean your proposal that he come here’.”
Thereafter, the Soviet government did not revert to the subject.
The point is that the change of date having been made by the Soviets and Liaquat having conveyed his reservations clearly, Pakistan cannot be accused of having tried to pit one world power against the other, or of having picked up any of the two. He simply went ahead with the invitation that was valid and cannot be charged with failure to make use of the one that was not there on the table.
The other controversy regarding Liaquat’s tenure relates to the Objectives Resolution which is blamed for having opened the door for the subsequent Islamisation of General Ziaul Haq. Regardless of if Pakistan was to be an Islamic state, the Pakistan movement clearly shows that it was not meant to be a territory with an ideology, but an ideology with a territory. Securing human rights and survival for a community suffering from religious discrimination is of ideological, and not of territorial, import.
The Objectives Resolution moved by Liaquat is denounced as a regressive document by which he allegedly sought to nullify the secular vision of the Quaid-i-Azam. To determine the veracity of the charge, we need to see three documents.
The first is the draft by the religious parties’ alliance. It read:
“The Sovereignty of Pakistan belongs to Allah alone, and the Government of Pakistan has no right other than to enforce the will of Allah. The basic law of Pakistan is the Shariah of Islam. All those laws repugnant to Islam are to be revoked, and, in future, no such laws can be passed. The Government of Pakistan shall exercise its authority within the limits prescribed by Islamic Shariah.”
Now compare this draft with the one presented by Liaquat. It read:
“Whereas the sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust. This Constituent Assembly representing the people of Pakistan, resolves to frame a constitution of the sovereign independent state of Pakistan wherein the state shall exercise its power and authority through the chosen representatives of the people.”
What is the difference between the two drafts? The one presented by the ulema negates democracy, while Liaquat’s draft asserts it. Without democracy, even a minority sect can rule over a majority sect; a situation that has thrown the whole of the Middle East into confusion today.
The third document is the speech of Liaquat in the Constituent Assembly that he delivered on March 7, 1949, on the subject.
“I assure the minorities that we are fully conscious of the fact that if the minorities are able to contribute to the sum total of human knowledge and thought, it will redound to the credit of Pakistan and will enrich the life of the nation. Therefore, the minorities may look forward, not only to a period of the fullest freedom, but also to an understanding and appreciation on the part of the majority … Sir, there are many interests for which the minorities desire protection. This protection this Resolution seeks to provide. We are fully conscious of the fact that they do not find themselves in their present plight for any fault of their own. It is also true that we are not responsible by any means for their present position. But now that they are our citizens, it will be our special effort to bring them up to the level of other citizens so that they may bear the responsibilities imposed by their being citizens of a free and progressive State …”
It is true that members of the Pakistan National Congress had raised objections to the Resolution, but, among many others, it had the support of Sir Zafrullah Khan and Mian Ifthikharuddin who represented two divergent schools of thought and became part of religious and political minority in later years. And this is a proof of Liaquat’s sincere intentions in moving the Objectives Resolution and of the tinkering that the Resolution suffered afterwards.
Besides, Liaquat had held out the assurance that the Objectives Resolution would not become a substantive part of the Constitution. This, and other linguistic jugglery, was done much later by General Ziaul Haq. Therefore, it is unjustifiable to blame Liaquat for the excesses caused by the dictator that opened the door for even more abuse than he himself probably thought of.
Whatever the critics might say, Liaquat was what he was. It was a real achievement on his part that he could set Pakistan on the course to industrialization. Western countries, seeking to ensure Pakistan’s demise, refused to supply even on payment, machinery and parts. They wanted Pakistan to be subservient to India. Liaquat nevertheless could procure the necessary equipment from East European countries in return for hard cash. Sishir Chandra Chattopadhaya had stated on the floor of the Constituent Assembly that the link between East Bengal and Calcutta could not be broken. Liaquat broke the link.
He refused to devalue currency when Britain and India did so. In the face of the Indian threat not to lift jute at the new price, Liaquat went to the growers, directly pleading with them not to sell at the old rate. If need be, the government of Pakistan would lift the entire stock, he assured the growers. The jute mills of Calcutta could not run without jute from East Bengal and, ultimately, the owners purchased at the new rate. This single decision enabled Liaquat to derive full benefit from the boom created by the Korean War, and the country, which had been written off as nonviable, became more than solvent.
The British, since 1857, had imposed certain standards for the recruitment of soldiers. Liaquat removed them and started the induction of Bengalis in Pakistan Army. Similarly, there was only one ICS officer from East Pakistan, Nurun-Nabi Choudhry. Liaquat immediately fixed a 50 per cent quota for East Bengal civil servants to generate parity.
The critics of Liaquat survived, but Liaquat did not. And he died in circumstances that have never allowed anyone to pinpoint the actual killer … or killers. Liaquat’s life and actions generated controversies when there should have been none, and his death remains a controversy that failed to generate much interest where it mattered. Liaquat deserved better.
Featured Image: Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan signing his assent after having been sworn in as Pakistan’s first Prime Minister on August 15, 1947, in the presence of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (right) on the grounds of the Governor General House in Karachi. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives
Dawn: “The misunderstood Premier, Liaquat Ali Khan (1895-1951) by Dr. Muhammad Reza Kazimi.” The writer is a historian and biographer of Liaquat Ali Khan.
HBL has been an indelible part of the nation’s fabric since independence, enabling the dreams of millions of Pakistanis. At HBL, we salute the dreamers and dedicate the nation’s 70th anniversary to you. Jahan Khwab, Wahan HBL
Commemorative events like independence anniversaries are more than just occasions to revel and rejoice with symbolic displays of national pride and rhetorical fanfare. They are a time for mature reflection and informed discussion on what is happening around us, locally, regionally and globally, with a view to understanding how the past informs everyday life and practices. So, although skeptics may carp and complain about the tedium of officially orchestrated remembrances, staged ceremonials are potential catalysts for critical assessments of the present, seen and experienced through the revealing lens of the near and distant past.
Feature image: Revellers celebrate Independence Day at the mazar of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 2014 | Mohammad Ali, White Star
A renewed sense of self-confidence in the foundational ideals of a nation can pave the way for more concerted collective efforts to achieve a better and more fulfilling future.
On August 14, 2017, Pakistanis will mark the 70th anniversary of freedom amid widespread political disillusionment, high security concerns and intense economic anxieties. There are continuous uncertainties about the impact of an ongoing war in neighbouring Afghanistan that has taken a deadly toll on the social and moral fabric of Pakistan for almost four decades. The sense of insecurity gripping their nuclear-armed country will be especially poignant for those Pakistanis who can recall the fateful summer of 1947 when the departing colonial masters stood aloof as their erstwhile subjects celebrated their newly-won sovereignty with an orgy of horrific bloodletting.
As I cited in my 2013 book, The Pity of Partition: Manto’s Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide: “Why have human beings become so thirsty for human blood these days?” Saadat Hasan Manto had asked in his essay Qatal-o-Khoon ki Lakirain (Lines of Murder and Blood). The pity of Partition was not that instead of one country there were now two, independent India and independent Pakistan, Manto bemoaned, but the fact that “human beings in both countries were slaves, slaves of bigotry … slaves of religious passions, slaves of animal instincts and barbarity”.
Muslims were pitted against Hindus and Sikhs in a struggle for national survival then. In our own times, the killing of Muslim by Muslim has turned Pakistan into a virtual graveyard of Islam, leading some international commentators to smugly suggest that becoming the “epicentre of terror” is the inevitable fate of a country born in bloodshed and created in the name of religion. Inevitability overlooks the role of human agency and responsibility as well as the politically contingent nature of historical processes.
There was nothing inevitable about Pakistan’s descent into the murderous sectarian hatred that has engulfed it since the 1980s as a direct result of the support lent by the military regime of General Ziaul Haq to the American-led war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It is imperative to counter the presentist nature of most contemporary analyses of Pakistan with historical interpretations that are attentive to key shifts at the domestic, regional and international levels. Fed on officially constructed ‘truths’ about history, Pakistanis have been hard-pressed to grasp the reasons for their current predicament, much less counter misperceptions about their country at the global level. Instead of critical thinking marked by cautious optimism that might be expected of a people who have weathered many storms in their short but eventful history, including the traumatic dismemberment of the country in 1971, Pakistanis across different sections of society are confused and pessimistic.
This has much to do with growing economic disparities and the sense of alienation in regions that have been denied their share of resources and political power during prolonged periods of depoliticization under military and quasi-military rule. But the chronic state of national depression in Pakistan stems from a deeper psychological malaise.
There have been recurrent doubts about the country’s capacity to survive and considerable angst about the artificial nature of a state carved out of the predominantly Muslim extremities of the Subcontinent. In the brutally blunt metaphor of Britain’s last viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, “administratively it was the difference between putting up a permanent building, a nissen hut or a tent. As far as Pakistan is concerned we are putting up a tent. We can do no more”. Mountbatten had fully expected this fragile tent to collapse. Pakistan has belied this wicked prophecy of the last viceroy. But instead of the tent being replaced with a permanent building, Pakistan has transformed itself metaphorically into a sprawling military barrack.
The rise of the military to a position of dominance within Pakistan’s state structure took place within the very first decade of independence. A combination of domestic, regional and international factors tilted the balance firmly in favour of the non-elected rather than elected institutions of the state. Occurring within the context of the British-American rivalry, as much as the Cold War divide between the Soviet bloc and the West, military dominance had been established as early as 1951, well before the first military coup of 1958. Looking to raise a viable defence against India, senior civil and military officials like Iskander Mirza and General Ayub Khan reached out to the centres of the capitalist world system, especially the United States, which after the outbreak of the Korean War were looking for allies to contain the threat of communism.
An alliance with Pakistan would give the Americans military bases in the Indian Ocean, a crucial strategic move at a juncture when British prestige in West Asia was at an all-time low. But Washington was unwilling to pay the price demanded by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan — a territorial guarantee and assistance in pressing India to give way on Kashmir. The Americans had a better chance of swaying military and civil officials who, in an effort to gain some leverage, intimated to their American interlocutors that the prime minister was toying with the idea of declaring Pakistan’s neutrality in the Cold War unless Western powers helped resolve the Kashmir issue. On October 16, 1951, Liaquat was shot dead while addressing a public rally. The murder of Pakistan’s first prime minister heralded the imminent derailment of the political process and the onset of a brutal political culture of assassinations, sustained by the state’s direct or indirect complicity. His assassination cleared the way for Pakistan to join an American-backed security arrangement in the Middle East.
Without consulting either the central cabinet or parliament, Ayub, the commander-in-chief, told politicians – as cited in my book, The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics – to “make up their mind to go whole-heartedly with the West”; the Pakistan army would “take no nonsense”, nor allow them or “the public to ruin the country”. In the event of attempts to destabilize the government, Ayub warned, he would “immediately declare martial law and take charge of the situation” and the “army will do what I tell it to do”.
After Liaquat’s eviction from the national scene, a select combination of senior bureaucrats and military officials took steps to manipulate the administrative machinery, instituting a culture of state patronage that was detrimental to centre-province relations. These moves laid the foundations of what was to become a thriving political economy of defence. After formally aligning itself with the United States in 1954, Pakistan joined two American-sponsored security pacts — the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization in 1954 and the Baghdad Pact in 1955.
The alliance was unpopular in Pakistan, raising the spectre of American military assistance being put at risk by impending general elections. So, the ruling coterie of senior civil and military officials, working within the constraints of constructing and consolidating a state in an adverse regional and international environment, set about trying to control the political process and, failing that, suspending it altogether.
Pakistan’s inability to match India’s success in establishing a parliamentary democracy and avoiding military rule is generally attributed to an inept and corrupt political leadership. But the failure to create a functioning parliamentary system was not due to a ‘power vacuum’ created by a fractious and corrupt provincial leadership at the helm of political parties, with no real bases of popular support.
The very fact of a military takeover suggests that, despite the dominance of the civil bureaucracy and the army, the internal structures of the state were still fluid enough to be threatened by political forces, however disparate and divided. A clear distinction between phases of dominance and actual intervention by the military explains why weaknesses of political parties offer such an inadequate explanation for the army high command’s decision, in 1958, to directly wield state authority.
The military and its allies in the civil bureaucracy felt compelled to abort the incipient political processes before Pakistan could slip into an era of mass mobilization. It proved to be a momentous decision whose legacy is alive and well to this day.
The supremacy of non-elected over elected institutions not only survived the tentative experiment in parliamentary democracy during the first decade after independence, and the military dispensation after 1958, but also persisted following the separation of East Pakistan in 1971. A judiciary forced into subservience by an all-powerful executive gave constitutional legitimacy to the emerging structural imbalance within the state in the first decade.
The result was a centralized state structure, federal in form and unitary in substance, whose military authoritarian character went against the grain of politics in its constituent regions. These structural asymmetries have been singularly responsible for the failings and distortions of the Pakistani political system — a lack of democratic institutions, inadequate mechanisms for public accountability, a compromised media, inequitable distribution of resources and a chronic tussle between the centre and the provinces.
The dominance of the military has continued through various phases of Pakistan’s political history and is likely to persist into the future so long as extra-constitutional methods continue to be seen by some quarters as an effective means to disrupt the political process. There is a world of difference between holding elected officials accountable and discrediting the democratic political process altogether over acts of omission and commission by politicians.
Accountability requires legal norms and procedures as well as public vigilance and is undermined the instance it is used selectively for political ends. Since the country has been ruled by the military for extended periods of time, expectations of democracy in Pakistan often verge on the unrealistic. Democracy is not a magic wand waved at election time. Democracy is a process. Democracy is conflict and requires institutions to mediate workable resolutions. The difference between a successful democracy and a struggling democracy is the existence of robust elected institutions in the former and infirm or non-existent ones in the latter.
Pakistan’s survival has come at the cost of weakening democratic processes that are intrinsic to maintaining a fragile federal equation. Instead of learning from the tragic experience of dismemberment in 1971, the postcolonial Pakistani state has retained much of its centralized character, notwithstanding recent moves towards greater autonomy for the provinces. There are, however, some key elements of change that could signal a move away from cycles of military authoritarianism punctuated by short-lived elected governments. The Cold War is over, even if its legacies have endured in Pakistan. In the post-Cold War era, Pakistan is facing a more complex interface between domestic, regional and international factors, presenting opportunities and challenges alike. It took Pakistan 23 years to hold its first general election based on universal adult franchise and it was only in 2013 that the jinx of failed constitutional transfer of power from one civilian government to another was finally broken.
In the past, the judiciary typically toed the line laid down by the military and the civilian bureaucracy and state-controlled media were invariably cowed into submission. For the first time in Pakistan’s 70-year history, the third non-elective institution of the state and the fourth estate are showing some signs of wanting to side with popular political forces.
One of the more significant shifts in Pakistan’s international profile since the height of the Cold War, and one with vast consequences for domestic politics, is the relative decline of American influence. As America strengthens its economic and strategic partnership with India, Pakistan has acted swiftly to improve relations with Russia while further cementing ties with China.
The role of the United States as Pakistan’s patron par excellence has given way to belief in a potentially dramatic turnaround with the help of China blowing the tantalizing bugle of its ‘One Belt, One Road’ policy. Pakistanis would do well to avoid the temptation of seeing China as their new benefactor. Unlike Pakistan’s past dependence on the United States, the relationship with China must be a partnership for the mutual benefit of both countries.
The extent to which the boons of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are distributed equally among the constituent units or, conversely, become another means for private accumulation of wealth at public expense will in large part determine this country’s future. An open and informed public debate on new policy directions can go a long way towards smoothening out anxieties in the smaller constituent units about the implications of Pakistan’s CPEC policy. While it is still too early to predict the likely outcome of the CPEC initiative, it provides Pakistan with a real incentive to recast itself internally, regionally and globally.
At a time of dynamic change and an uncharted course for the future, there is an urgent need for the citizens of Pakistan to take the lead in making their voices heard in the highest offices of the state. The need for citizen engagement cannot be overemphasised. Pakistanis might consider taking a lead from their American counterparts who, in the aftermath of the divisive 2016 elections, have shown that democracy is more than just the rite of voting, by actively lobbying their representatives to ensure that their interests are safeguarded in pieces of legislation emanating from Washington. Where politics divide, other concerns can unite.
Pakistani citizens could try and come together in defence of their consumer rights. A civic consumerism that is attentive to quality controls, rising prices of daily necessities and environmental degradation in the name of development can lend substance to the social and economic rights of citizenship and generate popular momentum for putting an end to a kleptocratic political culture.
Admittedly, civil society in Pakistan is still relatively unorganized even though new Internet-based technologies are facilitating novel forms of information dissemination and articulation of social protest. The political party system remains weakly established and, with the constitution repeatedly trampled under the praetorian jackboot, the rule of law continues to be flouted by the very elements expected to uphold it.
Another vital element of detrimental change has been the gathering strength of religious extremism that can be traced back to the military regime of General Ziaul Haq between 1977 and 1988. His rule ushered in qualitative changes in the political and ideological profile of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The confluence of international factors that came into play two years after his military takeover gave his regime greater longevity than the decade long reign of Pakistan’s first Cold War coup-maker Ayub Khan.
Until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 brought a reversal of fortunes, Zia faced international ostracism and domestic opprobrium for hanging Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and ignoring calls for clemency. American-backed international support for the Pakistan-based Afghan resistance movement gave a new lease of life to the sagging political fortunes of his regime but never came close to giving it popular legitimacy. While resistance to him assumed multiple forms, both at home and among diasporic communities abroad, urban and middle-class women led street protests against Zia’s so-called Islamisation policies. As enraged women organised the Women’s Action Forum and took on the baton-wielding arms of the state, they were beaten and hurled into jail.
Opposition to Zia’s dictatorship also assumed the form of artistic and intellectual expression more readily than of either symbolic or violent political protests. Ahmad Faraz wrote one of the most celebrated poems of resistance against military dictatorship in Pakistan during this era, called Mahasara (Siege), in which he vowed to wield his pen against deceit and oppression, regardless of the risks. Subjected to public floggings for exercising their fundamental right of expression and thrown out of their jobs, journalists, civil rights activists, labour leaders and intellectuals met in underground coffee houses and the privacy of homes to vent their anger at Zia, his Punjabi-Sunni prejudices and his hypocritical ‘Islamisation’ policies.
Creative writers and visual and dramatic artists used political allegories to register their disdain at the whole gamut of his regime’s self-projections — whether it was the premium placed on an Arabised form of piety or attempts to reverse the few gains women had made during the preceding decades. With women’s rights under attack, there was poetic irony in the fact of Benazir Bhutto leading the opposition charge against Zia’s military rule.
Basking in the glory of his newfound importance to the United States, Zia could afford to alienate Pakistan’s leading political parties as well as forego the support of a relatively small but resilient intelligentsia and dynamic community of artists and musicians. Flush with American largesse that was matched dollar for dollar by Saudi Arabia, he presided over Pakistan’s transformation into a front-line state for an American orchestrated ‘jihad’ against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Deployed for strategic rather than religious purposes, the uses of a jihadist ideology by the military regime created the space for a transnational congregation of radicalized individuals espousing different variants of Islam but united in their opposition to godless communists. Once this same configuration of forces turned against their erstwhile backers with unbounded hate and violence, Pakistan was left reaping the whirlwind of Zia’s dabbling in the geopolitics of global jihadism.
The ethical meaning of jihadj as striving for a noble endeavour has been completely lost sight of in the temporal maelstroms of Pakistan’s politics. Departing from Islamic tradition, today’s would-be jihadis have no qualms about jihad being declared and waged by non-state actors. The eagerness to become a martyr (shaheed) is seen by contemporary militant organisations as a sufficient condition to sanctify armed warfare against perceived injustices perpetrated by enemies of Islam. But in exemplifying a widespread desire among militants to become shaheeds and not just ghazis, warriors of the faith, this raises a troubling question about the erosion of an ethics of humanity amidst the brutalization of war.
What Pakistan has needed the most ever since its inception is an educational system that can keep pace with the expanding frontiers of knowledge in the rest of the world and inculcate genuine critical thinking. This had been one of the primary objectives of Sayyid Ahmad Khan and his bevy of acolytes at Aligarh – the intellectual forerunners of All-India Muslim League’s movement for Pakistan – who in the late 19th century exhorted their co-religionists to take to new forms of education as a means for both individual self-improvement and collective advancement.
It is one of the crueler paradoxes of Pakistani history that the breadth and openness of thinking so valued by Sayyid Ahmad Khan and his Aligarh associates stands in striking contrast to the narrow and hidebound world view of those who today claim to have inherited their intellectual mantle. Instead of a wide-ranging outlook capable of adopting and adapting to new ideas, the knowledge gap has assumed staggering proportions, notably in the humanities and the social sciences. The teaching of history has been severely impaired by its replacement with self-serving national dogmas to the extent that critical thinking has become the scarcest of all commodities in Pakistan. This is not to imply that Pakistanis are uncritical as a people.
In fact, it may be that they are a little too critical about everything and, therefore, incapable of the kind of well-considered and measured creative activity that can channel national energies into constructive debate and productive enterprise. It is the deficit in analytically coherent critical thought, more than anything else, which has allowed successive managers of the post-independence Pakistani state to frame the narratives of the nation into implausible moulds without being unduly concerned about facing a coherent intellectual challenge, far less a sustained political one.
In this disconcerting scenario, the burgeoning of a popular culture in the face of decades of state-sponsored Islamisation and terrorism is a remarkable feat for Pakistan. It draws upon rich and vibrant poetic, musical and artistic traditions that are well manifested in the country’s diverse regional and sub-regional settings.
Decades of authoritarianism and state-sponsored nationalism have only strengthened the appeal of regional counter-narratives in artistic productions. Creative engagements with the regional and transnational realms of cultural and intellectual production, facilitated by new technologies, are producing rich and innovative forms of artistic expression. These are being showcased in the literary festivals that have mushroomed across Pakistan in recent years.
Equally impressive are the extensively telecast Coke Studio sessions where talented Pakistani musicians are sponsored by an American multinational to render scintillating new fusions of some of Pakistan’s greatest folk and popular songs. There is a rich tradition of musical and artistic creativity in Pakistan that has actively engaged with transnational trends, resulting in innovative blending and fresh departures.
The transnational reach of the creative arts has paralleled the globalization of Pakistani music. Building on the works of those who pioneered the modernist phase in Pakistani painting in the earlier decades, a younger generation of painters is making creative uses of new ideas and technologies to engage with a dynamic transnational artistic scene.
New directions in contemporary art, literature and music underline the ongoing tensions between an officially constructed ideology of nationalism and relatively autonomous social and cultural processes in the construction of a “national culture”. Unable to compete with the financial resources of India’s performing arts and film industry, there are many gifted Pakistanis who are nevertheless making their presence felt as independent artists, musicians, writers and film-makers in the Subcontinent.
Individual success in swamps of collective failure is not uncommon in an authoritarian state. Pakistanis’ cultural achievements, amply evident in the musical, artistic, literary and dramatic productions coming out of the country, reflect the politicization of the personal sphere that comes with the depoliticization of the public arena under authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes. If military dictatorships have failed to stunt creative impulses, waves of terror and counter-terror are being resisted through imaginative recourse to local, regional, as well as transnational idioms of a cosmopolitan humanism that celebrates, rather than eliminates, the fact of difference.
Despite these signs of cultural renewal based on individual creativity, Pakistan has not been able to shake off the stigma of being the epicentre of global terror and the price of losing control of international narratives about Pakistan has been hefty. While Pakistanis must take part of the blame, much depends on the willingness of the international community to recognize their creative accomplishments.
Their efforts to promote peace and accommodation may appear inconsequential, given the aggressive and exclusionary narratives on jihad and Muslim identity that have enjoyed state support for nearly four decades. But the costs of external wars on Pakistani soil have been a potent influence in the rising popular interest in the rich cultural repertoire of the mystical traditions of the country. These conflicting dynamics of moderation versus extremism, openness and engagement with the world versus a narrow and inward-looking closing of the mind, signify the battle for the soul of Pakistan that is being waged on several fronts, most perceptibly in Pakistan’s literature, music and the arts.
This is not to deny that the magnitude and range of problems besieging Pakistan are so vast that even a competent elected government cannot expect to deliver on all its promises. Learning to live with the shortcomings of their chosen representatives without losing faith in the democratic process is difficult for a people who, under years of military rule, have internalized negative narratives about politics and politicians.
If there is one thing Pakistanis need to take from their own history, it is that there is a world of difference between an ineffective government that can at least be voted out of office and the abject failure of democratic processes that military interventions signify. This subtle but crucial distinction holds the key to Pakistan’s release from interminable cycles of military authoritarianism.
It can help trigger the beginnings of a long but arduous journey towards a functioning democracy based on checks and balances between different institutions of the state. Institution building is a long and painful process and Pakistanis have not dignified themselves in this crucial realm. If they can overcome this crippling handicap, they may yet lay the basis for a new and robust federal union based on mutual respect and accommodation among the different constituent units.
Pakistanis can engage fruitfully with the current nexus of political factors only by getting their bearings right. If they are to renegotiate the complex contours of the contested spaces and competing narratives of their collective identity to establish a mutually beneficial federalism, they must face up to some hard truths about their history and muster the courage to learn from its lessons.
The biggest challenge for them is to reject the received wisdom about the past to deal more realistically with the present as a first step towards planning for a better future. What they cannot afford is to continue to allow official idioms of state-sponsored nationalism to gloss over the multiple and conflicting aspirations in different regions that fueled the dream of Pakistan, a denial that constitutes the single biggest obstacle to fashioning a coherent, if not necessarily unanimous, nation. Forced unanimity is no unanimity at all while restrained conflict, respectful of the human rights of all contenders, is the very stuff of democracy.
Insofar as visions of the founding fathers are meant to signpost a nation’s historical trajectory, it may be tempting to attribute the failure of democracy in Pakistan to their flawed political and intellectual legacies. Seen this way, the very notion of a Muslim nation distinct from the Subcontinent’s Hindu-majority community smacked of an inherently undemocratic conception of politics.
Even among those who otherwise hail Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s contribution to the creation of a separate homeland for India’s Muslims, measured skepticism about the appropriateness of democracy in Pakistan has been part and parcel of a self-serving agenda in which the convenience of continued access to state patronage is better than the uncertainties of dealing with an elected government.
As for those given to making sweeping judgments with little understanding of history or context, the absence of democracy in Pakistan is attributed to authoritarian strains in its Muslim culture. Those of the technocratic ilk are known to scoff at the prospect of democracy in a country with a woefully low literacy rate, conveniently overlooking social indicators in neighbouring India, billed as the largest democracy in the world.
One might disagree with the reasons why democracy went off the rails in Pakistan so early in its history. But it is palpably incorrect to locate the failure in Islam, socio-economic determinism or in the founding father’s political legacy.
An examination of Jinnah’s long and distinguished public career should disabuse anyone of doubts about his commitment to democracy and human rights. He was the most eloquent proponent of minority rights before feeling the need to claim national status for India’s Muslims. Firmly grounded in the democratic tradition, he was at the forefront of advocacy when it came to universal education, women’s rights, equal rights of citizenship irrespective of differentiations along lines of caste, class or religious community.
A moderate constitutionalist, he looked disdainfully upon professional rabble-rousers who made cynical uses of religion. “I know of no religion apart from human activity,” he once told Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, since it “provides a moral basis for all other activities”. Religion for him was meaningless if it did not mean identifying with the whole of mankind. Wary of all forms of exclusivity and an uncompromising opponent of bigotry, whether cultural or religious, Jinnah faulted the Indian National Congress’s methods but never once took his sights off the ultimate goal of independence from British colonial rule.
After March 1940, his insistence on national status for Indian Muslims was unshakeable. But the demand for a wholly separate and sovereign state, with no relationship whatsoever with a Hindustan containing almost as many Muslims, remained open to negotiation until the late summer of 1946. The claim that Muslims constituted a ‘nation’ was not necessarily incompatible with a federal or confederal state structure covering the whole of India.
This left open the possibility of an all-India entity reconstituted based on multiple levels of sovereignty. In keeping with the better part of India’s history, an overture to shared sovereignty seemed the best way of tackling the dilemma posed by the absence of any neat equation between Muslim identity and territory. With ‘nations’ straddling states, the boundaries between them had to be permeable and flexible, not impenetrable and absolute.
Therefore, Jinnah remained implacably opposed to a partition of Punjab and Bengal along religious lines, even while furthering the cause of a political division of India between ‘Pakistan’ and ‘Hindustan’. It was the Indian National Congress’ unwillingness to accept an equitable power-sharing arrangement with the All-India Muslim League that resulted in the creation of a sovereign Pakistan based on the partition of Punjab and Bengal along ostensibly religious lines.
Cast against its will in the role of a state seceding from a hostile Indian union, Pakistan has tried securing its independent existence by espousing an ideology of Muslim ‘nationhood’ that has entailed trampling on the provincial rights promised in the Lahore Resolution and dispensing with democracy for the better part of its history. It is no wonder that the claims of Muslim nationhood have been so poorly served by the achievement of territorial statehood.
These insights have been lost on those who unquestioningly parrot the official idioms of nationalism. Charting a linear course to the winning of statehood, these idioms paper over the vexed problems that a geographically dispersed and heterogeneous community such as the Muslims of India faced in its bid to be considered a ‘nation’. Nor can the sacred tomes of official nationalism explain why there are more subcontinental Muslims living in India and Bangladesh than in Pakistan, the much-vaunted Muslim homeland.
As if these confusions were not sufficient to plunge the Pakistani state into a serious identity crisis, its creation in the name of religion has heaped confusion upon confusion. Diehard secularists see in it the kind of anachronism that only Muslims are capable of conjuring. Self-styled representatives of religion, for their part, have seen in it an opportunity to realise the goal of an Islamic state in which they call the shots. Few have ventured to probe what religion as faith had to do with the politics of difference in late colonial India. It was mainly religion as a social demarcator – and for some also concerns about religion as faith – not the dream of an Islamic theocracy which prompted the demand for Pakistan.
Jinnah certainly envisaged Pakistan as a modern, progressive and democratic state and said as much in his speeches: “We … have a State in which we c[an] live and breathe as free men and which we c[an] develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice can find free play.”
This vision resonated with Muhammad Iqbal’s evocation of individual freedom, which was in complete contrast to the theological centralisation advocated by Jamaat-e-Islami’s founder Maulana Abul A’la Maududi. The political architect and poet-philosopher of a Muslim homeland espoused a conception that acknowledged the continued salience of some sort of a state of temporal and spiritual union presiding over regions with shares of sovereignty and citizens with multiple identities — an idea of freedom where Pakistanis in all their diversities and differences could live the lives they valued with dignity, responsibility and a sense of security.
The citizens of the Muslim homeland created by Jinnah, whose federalist vision played such a formative role in the creation of Pakistan, have both a self-interest and moral responsibility to reject the old and tired methods of coercion and neglect of constituent units. It is equally imperative to uphold his singular belief in the rule of law. Pakistan’s future historical trajectory will be what the citizens of Jinnah’s Muslim homeland want it to be. Speaking in Karachi before the Bar Association on January 25, 1948 – as cited in my book The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics – he had urged: “What reason is there for anyone to fear democracy, equality, freedom … as the highest standard of integrity and on the basis of fair play and justice for everybody?”
It remains an aspiration worth striving for, seven decades after the creation of Pakistan.
Lessons we have learnt in the last 70 years by Dr. Ayesha Jalal. The writer is a noted historian and the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Tufts University and is also the director of the University’s Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies. This was originally published in the Herald’s August 2017 issue.
WHATEVER we may think or say about Husain Haqqani — and his role, statements andexplanations — he was not primarily responsible for the US assault in Abbottabad on the night of May 1 and 2, 2011. The final decisions about the fateful incident were not his to make. Whatever he did or did not do, he claims he did not exceed his authorization and instructions. He denies he had anything to do with the planning and execution of the assault, and despite widely held and deep-rooted reservations about his conduct as ambassador in Washington (which may or may not be justified), nothing has surfaced that contradicts his denials.
However, his recent statements do raise questions. In a recent article in the Washington Post Haqqani states
“the relationships I forged with members of Obama’s campaign team … eventually enabled the US to discover and eliminate bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamic militants”.
This language, without explicitly saying so, strongly suggests, whether intentionally or not, an active and purposeful interaction with US security officials which enabled the discovery and elimination of OBL
“without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military”.
This interpretation of Haqqani’s own statement is neither far-fetched nor unreasonable. But equally Haqqani’s article is not a confession. He goes on to say in the article that
“friends I made from the Obama campaign were able to ask, three years later, as National Security Council officials, for help in stationing US Special Operations and intelligence personnel on the ground in Pakistan. I brought the request directly to Pakistan’s civilian leaders, who approved”…
and these locally stationed Americans proved invaluable when Obama decided to carry out the operation without notifying Pakistan. Once again, while not explicitly saying so, there is here an even stronger suggestion of an active role and a sense of pride in achieving a shared objective.
Our leaders are focusing on the person of Haqqani rather than the real tragedy of Abbottabad itself. So?
Pakistan was under an international obligation to cooperate in the apprehension of OBL. An elected government apparently decided to act upon this obligation. The leaders of this government instructed their ambassador in Washington accordingly. They also sent specific instructions to enable the ambassador to facilitate the rapid issue of necessary visas to US Special Operations and intelligence personnel — who obviously disguised their real identities in their visa applications — and who proved “invaluable” when the time for action came. What is wrong or illegal about this? And if there was anything, who should be held responsible: the subordinate and active ambassador or the elected leaders who gave him instructions while allegedly keeping the military and intelligence out of the loop?
But, then, why not stand up and say so — publicly as well as in testimony to the Abbottabad Inquiry Commission? In fact, the president, the prime minister and the COAS declined to meet with the Commission. Haqqani who did meet with the commission has always publicly criticized the US attack on Abbottabad and has similarly denied all prior knowledge of or involvement with the attack. Despite some possible misstatements to the commission regarding the issue of visas there has been no proof of his involvement until the suggestions he has himself made in his recent article.Why is he simultaneously denying any purposeful involvement with the US assault on Pakistan and strongly suggesting the contrary in his recent article in the Washington Post?
Whatever conclusions one may draw about the consistency and purpose of his statements andthe credibility of his behaviour as Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington,they do not add up to treachery. He was, at most, a willing instrument of his political superiors. Unfortunately, that is what politically appointed ambassadors are now expected to be. Nevertheless, in embellishing his personal role — for reasons one can only speculate about — while distancing himself from any responsibility for what occurred, Haqqani has effectively pointed a finger towards his civilian leaders at the time.No wonder, they are denouncing him and calling for another commission of inquiry!
Our media and political leaders, however, are concentrating on the person of Haqqani rather than the real tragedy of Abbottabad itself. This is a measure of their immaturity and irresponsibility which ensure their continuing irrelevance for the suffering people of Pakistan.
In 2013, PILDAT (Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency) noted a leaked interim draft of the Abbottabad Commission, and concluded that the Abbottabad assault was the
“result of inadequate threat assessments, narrow scenario planning and insufficient consideration of available policy options. If the institutions and whole system of governance were ‘dysfunctional’ they were so because of irresponsible governance over a sustained period, including incorrect priorities and acts of commission and omission by individuals who had de jure or de facto policymaking powers”.
PILDAT further noted that according to the draft report the
“government’s response before, during and after May 2 appears in large part to be a story of complacency, ignorance, negligence, incompetence, irresponsibility, and possibly worse at various levels inside and outside government. Institutions either failed to discharge responsibilities that legally were theirs or they assumed responsibility for tasks that legally were not part of their duties, and for which they were not trained. This reflected the course of civil-military relations and the power balance between them.”
The leaked draft also observed the ISI had
“become more political and less professional”.
Because of a lack of consensus in the Abbottabad Commission, the final report submitted to the then prime minister, comprised a main report, and a dissenting report.
Very irresponsibly, the government has not presented the full report to parliament or made it public despite a unanimous resolution of the Senate and National Assembly.
The Commission of Inquiry Act of 1956, moreover, is expected to be replaced by a new act which will require the government to make such reports public within 30 days of submission. The prime minister, accordingly, should now release the main and dissenting report without further delay. This matter, and not hounding Haqqani, should be our urgent priority.
Author: Ashraf Jehangir Qazi; the writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan. He was a member of the Abbottabad Commission; firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: ashrafjqazi.com
Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2017
Haqqani’s Article Revives Tale of OBL Raid
WASHINGTON: Some people in Pakistan did help US officials in getting to Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, says Husain Haqqani, the country’s former ambassador to US, as does renowned US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. Talking to Dawn on the strong reaction to his article published in the Washington Post on Friday, Mr. Haqqani said:
“Some people helped, but they did so independently. Yes, there’s some truth in Seymour Hersh’s story.”
In the Post article, Mr. Haqqani indicated that the contacts he made with the Obama team during the 2008 election campaign ultimately led to Osama bin Laden’s elimination in May 2011
“Of course, I was right. I believe it even more now, as I know more than I did when I wrote the piece,”
said Mr. Hersh when Dawn asked him if he still believed the article he wrote in May 2015 for the London Review of Books was right. The article was later included in his book, The Killing of Osama bin Laden, published last year. Mr. Haqqani said the May 2, 2011 US raid that killed Osama in a compound in Abbottabad was
“a bleeding wound” for most Pakistanis “who still want to know why it happened and how.”
Although Pakistan formed a commission to probe the US raid, its findings were never made public, leaving the space open for rumours and speculations.
Mr. Hersh recalled how
a retired Pakistani military officer tipped the US embassy in Islamabad about Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, received $20 million as reward, was relocated to the United States and was now living in a Washington suburb with his new wife.
Former diplomat says he’s surprised over reaction to his write-up as he has made no disclosure in it.
“Your government knows who he is. [Former US president Barack] Obama should not have talked about it right after it happened. He was to be shown in the Hindukush, not Abbottabad. That was the arrangement,”
Mr Hersh said. He said that he mentioned the name of the then CIA station manager in Islamabad, Jonathan Bank, in the article because he knew he would never deny it. “He is an honourable man. That’s why he did not deny it.” “All the CIA had to do was to produce Bank and have him deny it, but he did not, so they produced another retired CIA official,” Mr. Hersh said.
However, Mr. Hersh heavily relied on a single unnamed “retired senior intelligence official” in the article that contradicts the Obama administration’s account. Mr. Hersh also claimed that Bin Laden had been in Pakistan’s custody since 2005. He reported that his housing and care were being paid for by the Saudis; and that once Bin Laden’s location was revealed to the US,
Pakistanis agreed to let US special forces raid his compound with the explicit understanding that Bin Laden was to be assassinated.
Americans were also supposed to delay announcing that Bin Laden had been killed for a few weeks and claim that he died in a firefight on the Afghan side of the mountainous Afghan-Pakistan border. Mr. Hersh claimed that Obama administration officials were so eager to cash in politically that they reneged on their pledge and disclosed the true location of the raid almost immediately.
Reviewing Mr. Hersh’s book for The Los Angeles Times in April 2016, Zach Dorfman, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, wrote that there exists “a plausible historical pattern, which lends credence — if not absolute credibility — to his account”.
Mr. Dorfman noted that two senior US investigative journalists, Carlotta Gall and Steve Coll, also said that their own reporting corroborated, to various degrees, Mr. Hersh’s account. Mr. Dorfman pointed to the decades-old relationship among the American, Pakistani and Saudi intelligence agencies and noted that the Obama administration did little to probe OBL’s presence in Abbottabad, although their reaction would have been completely different had Bin Laden been found in a Tehran neighbourhood.
Mr. Haqqani, in his conversation with Dawn, appeared more interested in the reaction to his Washington Post article than in how and why Bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad.“The reaction in Pakistan surprises me. I said nothing new,” he said.
He said what he wrote about his close diplomatic ties established during the 2008 Obama campaign was also already in the public domain.
“So, there’s no admission or confession in my article. Seems that some people read into things what they want to read.”
He noted that relations established during the 2008 campaign advanced to a relationship with the United States, which helped them to find OBL. This, he said, was being misinterpreted in Pakistan as him having enabled the operation against OBL, which he said was not what he wrote.
Mr. Haqqani said Americans stationed lot of people in Pakistan during that period who helped in the OBL raid.
“Again, I made no statement to the effect that anybody in the embassy helped that. The article clearly says that Pakistan was not taken in the loop about the raid.”
Mr. Haqqani said he gave no unauthorized visa to any US citizen.
“It is sad that in Pakistan, to this day, no effort has been made to find out more about OBL being in Pakistan, and how Americans were able to find him when our own agencies could not.”
Responding to a question about some Pakistanis helping Americans in catching OBL, he said:
“I wish Pakistanis would be happy to take some credit for eliminating the most wanted terrorist in the world instead of abusing me for re-stating known facts.”
Meanwhile, the PPP, which appointed him Pakistan’s 24th ambassador to Washington in April 2008, has disowned him. During a parliamentary debate on Monday, PPP leader Syed Khurshid Shah said Mr. Haqqani’s Post article was
“an act of treason”.
SEYMOUR Hersh is an investigative journalist and author of The Killing of Osama Bin Laden and The Dark Side of Camelot among other books.
Author: Anwar Iqbal; Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2017
Ready to Give Statement to Commission, says Hussain Haqqani
Dawn.com, Updated March 16, 2017
Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, said on Wednesday evening that he was ready to record his statement with a parliamentary commission if an investigation into recent claims he made in an op-ed published by the Washington Post is pushed forward.
Journalist Mehar Bukhari, who hosts the ‘NewsEye’ show on DawnNews, had asked Haqqani if he would appear before a commission — if one was set up — to which the former ambassador responded in the affirmative.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had earlier on the same day called for a commission to probe Haqqani’s claims that his ‘connections’ with the Obama administration enabled the US to target and kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
“Many commissions have been set up and a report also released, but until today the Supreme Court has not taken action on this report,” Haqqani claimed.
“Someone sitting outside the country can stay there and give a statement. If a commission wants a statement from me, they should ask in writing… I will give a statement via video link,”
he said. However, he maintained that
“nothing new has been said that must be denied.”
In his article published in the Washington Post on Friday, Haqqani had defended the Trump team’s contacts with Russia during and after the 2016 US presidential elections, saying he had also established similar relations with members of the Obama campaign during the 2008 elections.
Those contacts “led to closer cooperation between Pakistan and the United States in fighting terrorism over the 3 1/2 years I served as ambassador” and “eventually enabled the United States to discover and eliminate bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military, which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamist militants,” the op-ed said.
Haqqani on Wednesday added that
“the Americans took advantage of the ties that we facilitated and conducted an operation … I also wrote that in this operation, we were not taken into confidence. This includes the army and the civilian government.”
“The problem arose when the discussion took place about the increasing number of Americans in Pakistan, because they’d given us a very large aid package — $7 billion. When they increased their numbers, some of our people said if we’re taking their aid, we should let them come here too.”
“A spy does not inform you that he is a spy before he visits … Many Americans came in larger numbers; surely there were spies present among them,”
“I wrote that this is what happened, but I did not say that anyone intended this on purpose,”
“The point is that Central Intelligence Agency operatives who notified and came to Pakistan, they all notified the Inter-Services Intelligence. They didn’t phone me and say I’m a CIA man, I’m travelling, please give me a visa,”
“Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan not because someone was issued a visa, but because he was in Pakistan,”
640: This is a relationship that had been on a roller coaster ever since it began. To some extent this is inevitable in a relationship with a world power that has a much larger canvas before it than Pakistan. It is a relationship about which governments in Pakistan have seldom been honest with their own people, leading to inevitable crises of expectations, disappointments and negative consequences. It has never been a genuine people to people, transparent or honest relationship. But it is a necessary relationship that needs to be rationalized, right-sized and freed from false assumptions. The US and Pakistan may share policy objectives but there is not sufficient basis for a strategic relationship between them. US policies towards the region in which Pakistan is situated make that impossible. The US War on Terror; it’s likely post 2014 policies in Afghanistan; its very real threat of war against Iran; its emerging hostility towards China; and it’s real; strategic partnership with India, taken together put definite and undeniable strategic limits to the relationship between Pakistan and the US. Once this is honestly accepted, a healthy, mutually beneficial and important bilateral relationship will become more feasible. It should also be an important stabilizing factor for the region.
641: Since it was the US that carried out the May 2 raid on Abbottabad, some detailed comments on the relationship between Pakistan and the United States in the run up to the incident are in order. The relationship has been based largely on US economic and military assistance on the one hand, and the contingent utility of Pakistan for the US on the other. It is a relationship that is not rooted in tradition of shared culture, political perceptions, and strategic interests. Nevertheless, at its best, it has been a mutually beneficial relationship. More often, it has pretended to be a strategic relationship without being one, except for brief durations of overlapping interests in dealing with common challenges. Pakistan’s major adversary, India, especially since the end of the Cold War, has been the US strategic partner of choice in South Asia. Pakistan also deplores the discriminatory policy of the US regarding civilian nuclear cooperation, its several violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty through border raids, drone attacks and special operations that have resulted in the death, injury and traumatizing of very significant numbers of its citizens. Many Pakistanis as a result, see the US as the primary external threat Pakistan faces today.
642: Prior to Sept 11, 2001, Pakistan under General Musharraf made a clear distinction between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and pursued a policy of support for the latter in the hope of achieving influence or a ‘chimerical’ strategic depth (i.e. leverage) in Afghanistan. However, immediately after 9/11, the General performed volte face for fear of the consequences of US wrath and accepted its war demands against the Taliban with little or no cavil. This paved the way for the American military invasion in Afghanistan on Oct 7, 2001 that led to the devastation of the country and created a veritable hell for the Afghan people, especially in the east and south of the country which adjoin Pakistan. Pakistan chose to become an unenthusiastic ally of the US in its War on Terror in Afghanistan. Even though there were several UN Resolutions on terror and apprehension of OBL, there was no specific resolution of the UN Security Council authorizing the military invasion of Afghanistan. For its connivance in the illegal US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, Pakistan was duly rewarded in 2004 with the status of a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) and substantial military and civilian assistance package. This soon led to a loose and largely unsupervised visa regime for Americans allowing the CIA to spread its tentacles throughout Pakistan. This was in fact a condition for American assistance. It ultimately facilitated the unilateral manhunt for OBL.
643: Cooperation between CIA and the ISI netted many hundreds of terrorists including high value targets (HVTs) belonging to Al-Qaeda. ISI has carried out 891 operations against Al-Qaeda in which it has killed 866 of its network operatives, including 10 key leaders. It has also apprehended 922 Al-Qaeda personnel including 96 high value targets and busted 42 networks.
644: The costs of such cooperation for Pakistan have been substantial, both in terms of blood, and treasure, as well as widespread alienation, instability within the country. Many tens of thousands of civilian lives, many thousands of military lives have been lost. Many more have been seriously wounded, crippled for life. Many hundreds of thousands of civilians were internally displaced from their homes by military operations. Similarly, illegal US drone attacks has taken their toll of human lives, and have inflicted massive physical injury, property destruction, psychological trauma and political alienation of Pakistan. These are real costs that are difficult for middle and upper-class Pakistanis living in the relative security and comfort of urban areas to comprehend even when they read about or view them in the media every day. These costs are estimated to add up to several multiples of the civilian and military assistance Pakistan has allegedly received from the US. Many Pakistanis believe that it has been a rotten bargain except for the ruling elite and the renter class.
645: Nevertheless, it would be wrong not to acknowledge the very considerable value and diversity of US assistance to Pakistan and its people. Even so, the conclusion is inescapable that to a great extent, there has been a shortage of mutual appreciation, regard and relationship, which, by and large, neither side has cared to, in a longer-term perspective, rhetorically.
646: In 2008, the US National Security Agency (NSA) Director Mike McConnell reportedly cautioned ISI Director General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, claiming that the ISI was tipping off Jihadis so that they could escape in advance of American attacks on them. President Obama reportedly also raised the issue with President Zardari. Western officials also alleged that nearly 70% of the aid given to the military during 2002-2007 had been ‘misspent’.
647: On June 11, 2008, the Gora Prai airstrike on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border killed 10 members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. The Pakistan Military condemned the air strikes as an act of aggression. There were several military confrontations also along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border including skirmishes between American and Pakistan’s forces. These culminated after the Abbottabad raid on May 2 in the deliberate, serial murder of 24 Pakistani soldiers by American forces on Nov 26, 2011 in the Salala border area. The US President refused to apologize for the loss of life and the American military investigation disingenuously blamed both sides, which further outraged opinion in Pakistan. Conversely American comment and opinion was adamantly opposed to the idea of a President apology to Pakistan. Both sides in fact saw the incident as a deliberately intended message to the Government of Pakistan that the US would brook no defiance of its demands on issues that affected the security of US forces in Afghanistan. It will not be wrong to say that there have been moments when, despite the patron-client relationship, the two countries have seen each other as adversaries if not enemies.
648: Less than 3 months before the US raid on Abbottabad, there was the infamous Raymond Davis case. The American ‘private security contractor’ (a euphemism for privately hired hit men, goon, thug) shot dead two Pakistani motorcyclists in Lahore in broad daylight whom he claimed were threatening him. Later, the US demanded the killer goon be considered a diplomat on their say so, even though he had not been designated by the US or listed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) as a diplomat. The US suspended high-level contacts with Pakistan because the temerity of MoFA not to accede to its arrogant and unlawful demand which was nothing less than an affront to the sovereignty and dignity of Pakistan. However, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan lost his job because of his principled stand.
649: Revelations from Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars”. The White House approved insider author Bob Woodward makes it clear in his book, ‘Obama’s Wars’ that President Obama and his top advisors had the most negative perceptions regarding Pakistan’s policy makers. Pakistan was regarded as a ‘dishonest partner’ and its leadership was ‘living a lie.’ The ISI was behaving ‘as if it had six or seven personalities.’ It’s Directorate ‘S’ was financing and nurturing the ‘Taliban’. The ISI and the military ‘could not or would not control their own people. They had ‘paranoid mindset’. They neither wanted the US to succeed in Afghanistan nor to leave Afghanistan. They feared ‘encirclement by India’ more than ‘extremists at home’. There were more than 150 Taliban training camps in FATA. The Haqqani network had ‘virtual immunity’ in Pakistan and ‘Al-Qaeda was free to set up and train.’ Accordingly, the question for US was: ‘How do we change Pakistan’s calculus?’ If ‘you do not get Pakistan right you cannot win.’ According to President Obama ‘changing Pakistan’s calculus is key to our core goals. The safety of the US hinges on Pakistan.’ What did changing Pakistan’s calculus entail?650: According to Bruce Reidel, a senior adviser to the US President on terrorism, “Pakistan was the most dangerous country in the world. It was ‘the epicenter of Al-Qaeda’s fight.’ The cancer had spread there and it had to be ‘excised’.” The US had to be ‘on both sides of the Afghan border’ to be effective. The focus had to shift to Pakistan, which was ‘the patron, the victim and the safe haven all at once.’ “A Retribution Plan to bomb 150 ‘known terrorist’s safe havens’ inside Pakistan were reportedly drawn up. General Petraeus said he was ‘worried’ Pakistan was emerging as a necessary war.
651: Shortly after the New York Times Square bombing attempt, the US conveyed to Pakistan that US could “no longer tolerate Pakistan’s a la carte approach in going after some terrorist groups and supporting, if not owning others. Pakistan is playing Russian roulette. The chamber has turned out empty last several times. But there will be a round in the chamber someday.” (That day was May 2, 2011)652: So, what could the US do to ‘impact Pakistan’s attitude?” According to Reidel, “one, raid across the border, and two, bomb the extremists in Pakistan.” What would be the consequences? “Pakistan would probably be pissed off” and “take some actions against us, but would eventually adjust to the situation.” The US “could get away with it.” (This is strikingly like what happened after Abbottabad, and later Salala.)
653: Bob Woodward’s book was published a year before the US raid on Abbotabad and was and still is widely available in Pakistan. But the DG ISI told the Commission no one reads or even thinks in Pakistan. In the period between the publishing of the book and May 2, 2011, the Pakistan-US relationship if anything got worse. The Raymond Davis incident, the unilateral drone attacks without consulting Pakistan and several other actions of the US made clear how aggressive and ‘kinetic’ its policies had become in brazen disregard for human rights and international law. Thus, in the run up to the Abbotabad incident, the US and Pakistan bilateral relationship, while based on wide ranging military, economic and other cooperation was also significantly marred by ‘mutual’ perceptions of each other’s involvement in violence against their respective forces, conflicting interests in the region, escalating tensions, and opinion polls that indicated the two countries deeply disliked and distrusted each other. Nevertheless, those whose direct responsibility was the defense of Pakistan, ‘could not even dream’ that the US would “stab Pakistan in the back.”
The US raid was a total surprise, a ‘betrayal’ and a stab in the back, as the two countries were allies in a War on Terrorism, together had captured a significant number of HVTS, which the ISI handed over to CIA. According to Defense Policy of 2004 and the Joint Strategic Directive (JSD) of 2007, both of which were still operative – the only designated hostile country was India. The two documents specifically directed the armed forces to maintain good relations and avoid confrontation with the US. Pakistan Defense capabilities were designed and developed for a one front conflict situation. Despite tensions, including several border raids and differences on many issues, neither the political leadership, nor the defense policy planners could imagine the US would actually stoop to such a low blow as they inflicted on Pakistan on May 2, 2011. On this assumption, Pakistan air defense capabilities on the western border were deployed in ‘peacetime’ mode.
Moreover, there was tremendous military asymmetry and technology gap between the armed forces of the two countries. This enabled the US to avoid Pakistan air defense capabilities and deterred Pakistan from taking any action that risked escalating the situation beyond control. The US attack helicopters were equipped with stealth technology, night vision, sound suppression, and fast and low flying ‘map of the earth’ flight capabilities. The US intruders were backed by US AWACS and F16 fighters across the border ready to respond to any of the PAF interceptor aircraft.
During the killing, they used silencers. The noise of the Chinooks was heard over Abbotabad valley, acting as an echo chamber, it was not easy to detect the direction from where the sound came. It was only after the loud explosion of the destruction of the downed Black Hawk that the whole town became aware of some in toward development. By then the military mission had completed its work and had departed the scene. By the time the COAS was alerted, the US helicopters were exiting or about to exit Pakistan airspace. The PAF would normally be alerted by radar detection and would scramble in accordance with its standard operating procedures. But on this occasion the radars were unable to pick up anything for the reasons explained. The first time the PAF came to know when the COAS contacted the CAS. By then the opportunity to intercept the American intruders had gone. It was a case of military and technology asymmetry.
In this regard, there was an assertion that even if a significant US military raid had been anticipated as a possible scenario, there was little that Pakistan could do to avert or counter it given the massive military imbalance between the US and Pakistan.
Findings: This is where the crucial weakness of the security mindset and planning in Pakistan showed up. While military options may indeed have been limited, non-military options including stepping up the search of HVTs, dismantling extremist infrastructure in Pakistan, preventing the use of Pakistan territory for the launching of Mujahideen attacks on occupying NATO forces in Afghanistan, diplomatic mitigations of threat perception, policy reviews to address US concerns without compromising national sovereignty or violating international law it could have been utilized to minimize the likelihood of such an anticipatory scenario. None of this was done. There was no pro-active anticipatory policy or policy planning. There was only a policy to reacting to developments after they had occurred. Under these circumstances, the factor of military asymmetry could not be taken account of and countered or mitigated.
While the political relationship was strained, the situation was not considered threatening enough to warrant an expedited review of the long-standing threat identification of the Defense Policy of 2004 and JSD if 2007. Militarily, the technology gap was decisive. US warnings, including President Obama’s public warnings were amazingly discounted and ignored as being addressed only to US public. One senior military official: as Obama’s remarks were not conveyed in writing to Pakistan, they were not considered to be policy statements. While the military and the intelligence leadership might be forgiven for such a simplistic deduction, the political and diplomatic leadership had no business being so incompetent and irresponsible as to ignore such high level specific and precise warnings.
Findings: The Commission is of the view that these warnings were almost certainly conveyed to the highest levels, even in private. The Pakistan military and political leadership displayed a degree of incompetence and irresponsibility that was truly breathtaking and indeed culpable.
The PAF says it responded as soon as it was made aware of the intrusion and attack. Its radar coverage was evaded and by the time the COAS informed the CAS about what happened in Abbotabad, it was already too late to intercept the intruders. The PAF said it gave shoot down orders to the PAF fighter pilots if they encountered aircraft flying over Abbotabad. Nevertheless it was acknowledged that militarily engaging the US was generally not a good option. In fact, it was specifically admitted that the PAF had limited capacity to ensure that another US Special Operation against HVT in Pakistan could be thwarted even with stepped up surveillance and deployment of detection resources in place. All we could do was to respond with unspecific diplomatic and political measures in the event of a repetition of May 2, 2011. Even such measures would be limited by the inevitable need to limit diplomatic escalation with the US as the subsequent Sahala incident clearly demonstrated.
Finding: There was an overall policy bankruptcy for which the political leadership was ultimately responsible although PAF and military leadership also share responsibility. Submission to a military threat or military aggression from a military superior power without military resistance, whatever the military costs, has existential implication for Pakistan.
The radars were neither jammed nor switched off, although they were reported in a mode of ‘rest’ since it was not economical to have them permanently switched on the western border, especially when defense deployment was in ‘peace time mode.’ The Commission flew the route supposedly taken by the American helicopters and visited the Air Defense Command centre at Chaklala. There was apparently no compelling evidence to conclude that any non-routine pattern of aircraft movement was picked up by Pakistani radars near the border on the night of the raid. Moreover, none of the helicopters flying in and out of Pakistan were picked up by the radars. There were reports and even the testimony of a very senior PAF Officer that some of the radars did in fact pick up unusual activity across the border that the PAF had not made all defense preparedness on the west which could have made it much more difficult for even so-called stealth helicopters and low flying terrain hugging techniques to completely escape detection by a properly planned and deployed air defense system which should not have been in peace time mode because of the developing threat on the western border. There were F16s and AWACS flying close to the border ready to respond to any PAF reaction. This was picked up by PAF radars but was not seen as a non-routine pattern of US aircraft along the border. In counter-terror air operation inside Afghanistan, no AWACS would be necessary. Maybe this should have been non-routine air activity across the border and communicated as such to Air Defense Command.
Findings: The Commission was unable to obtain any conclusive evidence to support a finding of non-routine air activity despite the cogency of argument to the contrary. About the criticism of the air defense and planning that was brought to the attention, the Commission finds merit in some of the criticism but not in all of them. Even it was unfair to suggest the PAF was ‘asleep’ on the job; it certainly should have done a better job in providing its inputs for overall defense planning.
There seemed to be some suspicion among PAF personnel that the PAF had for some reason deliberately took no action against the intruders, possibly in response to communication from the US to the Pakistan leadership. The PAF leadership took measures to belay any such misgivings by providing a technician briefing to PAF personnel who were affected by the bitter media criticism of the Pakistan Defense Forces, especially the PAF in the immediate aftermath of this incident. Moreover, the PAF leadership told the Commission that there was no way to edit out or suppress radar tracings of unusual activity or to act on a directive not to respond to foreign attack without the information being known to PAF personnel who would have reacted very strongly.
There were widespread rumours and many well-connected persons with PAF background, who privately alleged that a communication was indeed received because there was always a possibility of something going worse during the operation (and something actually did go wrong with one of the helicopters). It was accordingly, considered by the US to engage in political damage control in advance. As mentioned, this has been strongly denied by all the senior PAF officers the Commission met. It is possible to understand if not agree with the US decision to militarily implement its Special Operations mission. But it is much more difficult to understand the rationale for it by not sending any communication to Pakistan at any time before, or even during the operation in view of the inherent and irreducible risk of detection by the Pakistan Air Defense system, and the US political imperative to minimize any risks of capture or injury to its Navy SEALs. However, the Commission was not presented any conclusive evidence of any communication from the US warning Pakistan of either imminent or ongoing operation. More importantly, the leaders at the helm of affairs, who were able to provide the most reliable information did not meet with the Commission which would have put questions on this and other unanswered questions directly to them.
The PAF apparently received its first information about the incident at 0207 on May 2. The US helicopters apparently arrived at the OBL compound in Abbotabad between 0030 and 0040. The blast destroying the downed helicopter was at 0105 or 0106. It still took 1 hour for the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) to be informed by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), by which time it was too late. In fact, before the blast, one Chinook and one Black Hawk were circling around Abbotabad valley for around half an hour before they returned to the Compound on the completion of the kill and search mission. Given the 90 minutes between the arrival of the helicopters over Abbotabad and the blast of the destruction of the crippled helicopter, it is surprising that no one brought the matter to the attention of the military Command, especially as it was known that Pakistan helicopters seldom, if ever flew at night.
·Why was the Garrison not aware something serious was taking place until it heard the blast?
·Why the CAS not directly informed about helicopters flying at night over Abbotabad?
·Why did he have to first learn of the incident from the COAS?
Both the US and Pakistan governments denied any collaboration or prior understanding regarding the raid. Admiral Mullen’s phone call to the COAS at 0500 on May 2 was said to be the very first US communication to Pakistan on the subject. Nevertheless, as indicated there is room for some skepticism on this issue. Minimizing the risk for the US Navy SEALs was an obligation of the US military and of the US President. In fact, the US Attorney General in trying to legally justify the killing of an unarmed OBL, argued that no possible risk to the lives of the Navy SEALs could be entertained. There would have been greater risk to the safety of the SEALs had the armed forces of Pakistan detected their intrusion and tried to intercept it at any stage of their mission in Pakistan, which lasted more than 3 hours. Despite the technology advantage, the risk could not be eliminated unless some prior communication from the US regarding non-interception was received.
Findings: Nevertheless, there was no conclusive evidence made available to this Commission that would support a finding of prior communication, although there have been unsubstantiated reports to the contrary. If indeed contact was made it is likely to be revealed at some time in the future when there is lesser risk of further destabilizing the bilateral relationship and the government in Islamabad.
Conclusion: The whole episode of the US assassination mission of May 2, 2011 and the Pakistan’s government’s response before, during and after appears in large part to be a story of complacency, ignorance, negligence, incompetence, irresponsibility and possibly worse at various levels inside and outside the government. Institutions either failed to discharge responsibilities that legally were theirs or they assumed responsibility for tasks that legally were not part of their duties and for which they were not trained. This reflected the course of civil and military relations and the power balance between them. The resulting lapses were sometimes of a serious nature; the fact is that at more senior levels, sufficient evidence was not easily available for acts of culpability to be assigned to specific individuals who wielded critical decision-making powers does not diminish their responsibility for institutional and systemic failures.
The US raid of May 2, 2011 was not a development without background and history. It was a product of increasing tensions and mistrust between the US and Pakistan which were known to the entire country. It related to a subject on which the policy of the US had been stated and reiterated on many occasions. It took place on a context of policy choices made by the military and intelligence establishment without sufficient constitutional and sharing information with their political supporters, the elected government. In turn, the elected government showed no desire to discharge their responsibility to take charge of counter terrorism and the search for OBL. The incident finally occurred within a situation of near absolute military asymmetry in which completely superior capabilities of the US military were well known. It was the result of inadequate threat assessment, narrow scenario and insufficient consideration of available policy options. If institutions and whole systems of government were ‘dysfunctional’ – they were so because of irresponsible governance over a long period, including incorrect priorities and acts of commission and omission by individuals who had de jure or de facto policy making power. Accordingly, responsibility for the state of affairs that existed must rest with them even if many are today beyond judgment. The culpability of low level officers cannot explain any of culpability, lack of due diligence and dereliction of duty at the highest levels.
The May 2 ‘incident’ may not have been the result of any significant failures of immediate military detection and response in the fateful night itself, although there are several credible but unconfirmed reports that allege otherwise. But what is undeniable is that the incident was the outcome over time of a whole series of actions and inactions at very senior decision-making levels. Unless this is acknowledged, discussed in the higher political forums in the country and seriously addressed and redressed as a major national priority, there can be no guarantee against further disasters of the kind that have happened before and after the US assassination mission on Abbotabad on the night of May 2, 2011. The biggest challenge for the future of Pakistan is the refusal to acknowledge unpleasant facts and the tendency to shy away from addressing fundamental flaws in critical decision-making processes that affect the survival, interests of Pakistan.
As the report has shown many individuals and institutions were involved in the series of misdemeanors due to nets of irresponsibility and lack of due diligence in the period leading up to the ‘incident’ of May 2, 2011. The US responsibility is clear. But it is not the primary concern of the Commission. As far as Pakistan is concerned, the failure was primarily an intelligence-security failure that was rooted in political irresponsibility and the military exercise of authority and influence in policy and administrative areas for which it neither had constitutional or legal authority, nor necessary expertise or competence. This is the case even though it is also true that those civilian institutions and powers that had proper constitutional responsibility for policy making, administrative and policing duties were in fact less competent than the military because of the effect of an absence of civilian control and participation in national defense making over a very long period. In the premier intelligence institutions religiosity replaced accountability at the expense of professional competence.
In these circumstances, it would be almost irrelevant and certainly invidious to designate relatively low-level officials with limited powers as the main culprits. They had their responsibilities, while in many cases as pointed out, they failed to discharge professionally and dutifully, and for which they deserve to be reprimanded. But finally, no honest assessment of the situation can escape the conclusion that those individuals who wielded primary authority and influence in national decision-making bear the primary responsibility for creating the national circumstances and environment in which the May 2 incident occurred. It is unnecessary to specifically name them because it is obvious who they are. It may be politically unrealistic to suggest ‘punishment’ for them. But as honourable men they ought to do the honourable thing in duly submitting a formal apology to the nation for their dereliction of duty. It will be for the people of Pakistan in the forthcoming elections to pass collective political judgment on them.