War Inquiry Commission 1971

Hamood-ur-Rahman Commission Report

After the fall of Dhaka, eight days later, on Dec 24, 1971, the President of Pakistan Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto set up the War Inquiry Commission, commonly known as the Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission. It examined 213 witnesses, mostly Pakistani army officers, hundreds of classified documents and army signals between East and West Pakistan. The final report was submitted in November 1974, detailing how political, administrative, military, and moral failings were responsible for the surrender in East Pakistan.

The Findings

The report said:

  1. The process of moral degeneration among the senior ranks of the armed forces was set in motion by their involvement in martial law duties in 1958; that these tendencies reappeared and were in fact intensified when martial law was imposed once again in March 1969 by General Yahya Khan.
  2. Due to corruption arising out of the performance of martial law duties, lust for wine and woman, and greed for lands and houses, a large number of senior army officers, particularly those occupying the highest positions, had not only lost the will to fight but also the professional competence necessary for taking the vital and critical decisions demanded of them for the successful prosecution of war, the Commission observed.
  3. According to the Commission, these perversions led to the army brass willfully subverting public life in Pakistan. In furtherance of their common purpose they did actually try to influence political parties by threats, inducements and even bribes to support their designs, both for bringing some of the political parties and the elected members of National Assembly to refuse to attend the session of the National Assembly scheduled to be held at Dhaka on March 3, 1971.
  4. A fully civil government could not be formed in East Pakistan as had been announced by the ex-President namely Dr. Malik- an old politician who had a weak personality. He could not annoy the Martial Law Administrator (Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi) because of the unsettled conditions obtaining in the Eastern Wing. Gen. Niazi, on the other hand cherished and liked power, but did not have the breadth of vision or ability to understand political implications. He did not display much respect for the civilian Governor; the Army virtually continued to control civil administration. The Commission discovered.
  5. The installation of a civilian governor in September 1971 was merely to hoodwink public opinion at home and abroad. Poor Dr. Malik and his ministers were figureheads only, the Commission observed.
  6. Real decisions in all important matters still lay with the army. In the first picture of the new Cabinet, Maj. Gen. Farman Ali was prominently visible sitting on the right side of the Governor, although he was not a member of the Cabinet.
  7. The rot began at the very top from the East Pakistan army’s commander, Lt-General A.A.K.Niazi, who the commission said acquired a notorious reputation for sexual immorality and indulgence in the smuggling of paan (betel leaf) from East to West Pakistan. The inevitable consequence was that he failed to inspire respect and confidence in the minds of his subordinates with absolute absence of leadership qualities and determination; he also encouraged laxity in discipline and moral standards among the officers and men under his command, the Commission determined.

The Recommendations

The Commission recommended public trial of the following officers:

  1. General Yahya Khan, former Commander-in-Chief
  2. General Abdul Hamid Khan, ex-Chief of Staff to the President
  3. Lt. Gen. S.G.M.M. Pirzada, ex-Personal Staff Officer to the President
  4. Lt. Gen. Gul Hasan ex Chief of General Staff
  5. Maj. Gen. Ghulam Umar ex Second-in -Command of NSC
  6. Maj Gen A. O. Mitha ex Deputy Corps Commander
  7. Lt. Gen. Irshad Ahmad Khan, ex-Commander 1 Corps
  8. Maj Gen Abid Zahid, ex-GOC 15 Div.
  9. Maj. Gen B.M. Mustafa, ex-GOC 18 Div.

The Commission recommended court martial of the following officers:

  1. Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, ex Commander, Eastern Command
  2. Maj Gen. Mohammad Jamshed, ex-GOC 36 (ad-hoc) Division,
  3. Maj Gen. M. Rahim Khan, ex-GOC 39 (ad-hoc) Division.
  4. Brig. G.M. Baqir Siddiqui, ex COS, Eastern Command, Dhaka
  5. Brig. Mohammad Hayat, ex Commander. 107 Brigade. (9 Div.)
  6. Brig. Mohammad Aslam Niazi, ex Commander 53 Brigade (39 Ad-hoc Div.)

The Commission recommended departmental action against the following officers:

  1. Brig. S.A. Ansari, ex-Commander, 23 Brigade
  2. Brig. Manzoor Ahmad, ex-Commander 57 Brigade, 9 Div.
  3. Brig. Abdul Qadir Khan, ex-Commander, 93 Brigade, 36 Div.

The Commission observed that the suitability of the following officers for continued retention in military service would not be justified:

  1. Maj. Gen. M.H. Ansari, GOC 9 Div.
  2. Maj. Gen. Qazi Abdul Majid, GOC 14 Div.
  3. Maj Gen Nazar Hussain Shah, GOC 16 Div.
  4. Maj. Gen. Rao Farman Ali, ex Adviser to the Governor of East Pakistan.
  5. Plus 19 Brigadiers.

The Commission further recommended that armed services should devise ways and means to ensure:

  1. That moral values are not allowed to be compromised by disgraceful behaviour particularly at higher levels;
  2. That moral rectitude is given due weightage along with professional qualities in the matter of promotion to higher ranks;
  3. That syllabi of academic studies at the military academies and other service institutions should include courses designed to inculcate in the young minds respect for religious, democratic and political institutions;
  4. That use of alcoholic drinks should be banned in military messes and functions;
  5. That serious notice should be taken of notorious sexual behaviour and other corrupt practices.

The Action:

  1. Nothing ever happened. The army’s role in dismembering Pakistan after its greatest military debacle was largely ignored by successive Pakistani governments and many of those indicted by the Commission were instead rewarded with military and political sinecures.
  2. Bhutto, reportedly, as Prime Minister personally ordered that each and every copy of The Report be burnt.
  3. A copy of the Final Report was however saved, which was leaked and published in Indian magazine India Today in August 2000. The following day, Pakistani newspaper Dawn also carried the report.
  4. General Pervez Musharraf stated in October 2000 that the incidents in 1971 were a political as well as a military debacle, and that calls for generals to be tried were not fair.

The Aftermath

Had action been initiated against the accused, as recommended by the Commission, the nation could have averted the coup d’état of Zia-ul-Haq whose 11-year rule of infamy completely devastated the political as well as the socio-economic fabric of the state and society. Besides many irreversibles, it led to radicalization of the society, which is now clearly visible. The policies of that era invited foreign intervention which is so deep rooted now. And the role of intelligence agencies from media management to missing persons is so pervasive. We could have also averted the illegitimate takeover of Pervez Musharraf and whatever followed thereafter.

Fast Forward to 2018:

  1. The security establishment plays the most important overt and covert role in ruling this country. It also defines the contours of national interest.
  2. The security establishment is in full control of our economic, defence and foreign policy. The political government is in no position to make organic changes in policy formulation.
  3. Actual annual defence budget exceeding rupees 1100 billion (some estimates exceed rupees 2000 billion) is allocated on direction from the military and there is no parliamentary oversight.
  4. According to human rights groups, more than 5000 persons are missing in Pakistan and nobody has any access to them.
  5. Wiki leaks reports that in March 2009 the Chief of the Army Staff considered removing the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and replacing him with the leader of ANP.

The elected Prime Minister and his daughter are in jail after a trial which has lost its credibility after the statement of a judge of the High Court that the army and the ISI manipulated the trial and influenced the courts. Drastic censorship, harassment and intimidation is the order of the day, may it be media, civil society or political leadership. The entire world media including China have termed the 2018 elections as a farce. The country is split on pro and anti-establishment camps which is most stark in the province of Punjab. Terrorist organizations have been allowed to contest elections and sectarian outfits are running political campaigns. Terrorists, whose backbone was claimed to have been broken are back in business and scores have been killed in recent terrorist attacks. First time in the history of Punjab, anti-army slogans have been raised on roads.

How long can this country survive in its present form is the million-dollar question?

Courtesy of:

The Aftermath by Waseem Altaf

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Decision Points

Excerpts

Afghanistan

As I knew from my visits during Dad’s time in office, Camp David is one of the greatest privileges afforded to the president. Nestled in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains, about seventy miles from Washington, the 200-acre site is a thirty-minute ride from the White House. It feels much more removed than that. The retreat is run by the Navy and protected by the Marines. It consists of rustic cabins, a gym and swimming pool, a bowling alley, a chipping green, and scenic trails through the woods for hiking and biking. The atmosphere fosters reflection and clear thinking.

The presidential cabin is known as Aspen. Its interior is simple but comfortable. The wooden structure has three bedrooms, a perfect size for our family; a sunlit living room where I watched football with my brother Marvin and friends; and a stone fireplace beside which Laura and I liked to read at night.

About a quarter mile down the hill is Laurel, a large lodge with a spacious dining area, a small presidential office, and a wood- panelled conference room that Jimmy Carter used when he negotiated the Camp David Peace Accords.

That was where my national security team gathered on Saturday morning, September 15, to start developing the battle plan for Afghanistan. The mood was sombre, serious and focused. With me at the big oak table were the top national security officials from across the government*. Together they had decades of crisis management experience.
*
• Vice President Dick Cheney
• Secretary of State Colin Powell
• Defence Secretary Don Rumsfeld
• Deputy Secretary Defence Paul Wolfowitz
• Attorney General John Ashcroft
• FBI Director Bob Mueller
• Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill
• CIA Director George Tenet
• Deputy Director CIA John McLaughlin
• Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Hugh Shelton
• Vice Chairman Dick Myers
• White House Chief of Staff Andy Card;
• National Security Adviser Condi Rice
• Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley
• White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales
• Chief of Staff to the Vice President I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

The first key presentation that morning came from CIA Director George Tenet. Six months earlier, at my direction, George and the National Security Council had started developing a comprehensive strategy to destroy the al Qaeda network. In the four days between 9/11 and the Camp David meeting, the CIA team had beefed up their plan. George proposed that I grant broader authority for covert actions, including permission for CIA to kill or capture al Qaeda operatives without asking for my sign-off each time. I decided to grant the request.

The heart of the CIA plan was a new offensive in Afghanistan, where 9/11 had been planned. The roots of the terrorist presence in Afghanistan traced back to 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded and installed a communist puppet regime. Afghan tribes, along with a band of hard core Islamic fighters known as the Mujahideen, rose up against the foreign occupation. With assistance from the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the rebels inflicted fifteen thousand casualties and drove out the Soviets in 1989. Two years later, the super power collapsed.

Free of the communist occupiers, the Afghan people had a chance to rebuild their country. But the U.S. government no longer saw a national interest in Afghanistan, so it cut off support. America’s non-involvement helped create a vacuum. Tribal warriors who had defeated the Soviets turned their guns on one another. Ultimately the Taliban, a group of Islamic fundamentalists, seized power. They imposed a fanatical, barbaric brand of Islam that prohibited girls from going to school, required men to grow beards of a certain length, and forbade women from leaving their homes without a male relative a an escort. The simplest pleasures-singing, clapping and flying kites-were banned.

The Taliban‘s rules were enforced by brutal religious police. A 1998 State Department report described a woman struggling to carry two small children and a load of groceries on a street in Mazar-i-Sharif. When her body length burqa slipped from her face, she was beaten with a car antenna. Petty thieves were taken to the national soccer stadium to have their limbs hacked off.

Homosexuals were stoned to death, as anyone suspected of adultery. Shortly after the Taliban seized Kabul, they kidnapped the former president of Afghanistan from his UN compound. After beating and castrating him, they hung his body from a lamppost. In Bamiyan province, home to the minority Hazaras, the Taliban massacred at least 170 innocent civilians in January 2001. Later that year they dynamited two cherished 1500-year-old Buddha sculptures.

There were some who received warm hospitality from the Taliban. Shortly after taking power, the radical mullahs offered sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, the founder of al Qaeda. Between 1996 and 2001, bin Laden established camps in Afghanistan that trained an estimated ten thousand terrorists. In return, bin Laden drew on his personal fortune to fund the Taliban. By 9/11, Afghanistan was not only a state sponsor of terror, but a state sponsored by terror.

While the Taliban’s ideology was rigid, its control of the country was not. In a small section of northern Afghanistan, a group of tribal commanders called the Northern Alliance held the allegiance of the local population. On September 9, 2001, bin Laden operatives assassinated the Northern Alliance’s beloved leader, Ahmad Shah Masoud. His murder galvanised the Alliance to cooperate with America. We shared an enemy and a determination to end Taliban rule.

George’s plan called for deploying CIA teams to arm, fund and join forces with the Northern Alliance. Together they would form the initial thrust of the attack. By mating up our forces with the local opposition, we would avoid looking like a conqueror or occupier. America would help the Afghan people liberate themselves.

We would not act alone. Colin Powell had done an impressive job rallying countries to our coalition. Some, such as Great Britain and Australia, offered to deploy forces. Others, including Japan and South Korea, pledged humanitarian aid and logistical support. South Korea later sent troops. Key Arab partners, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, shared sensitive intelligence on al Qaeda operations.

The most pivotal nation we recruited was Pakistan. No country wielded more influence in Afghanistan than its eastern neighbour. On 9/11, Pakistan was one of only three countries that recognised the Taliban. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the other two,

Some in Pakistan may have sympathised with the Taliban’s ideology. But the primary motive was to counterbalance India. Pakistan’s bitter archival. So long as Pakistan held the loyalty of Afghanistan’s government, it would never be encircled.

Pakistan had a troubled history with the United States. After our close cooperation in the Cold War, Congress suspended aid to Pakistan-including coveted F-16s America had promised to sell them–out of concern over the government’s nuclear weapons program. In 1998, Pakistan conducted a secret nuclear test, incurring further sanctions. A year later General Pervez Musharraf overthrew the democratically elected government in a coup. By 2001, America had cut off virtually all aid to Pakistan.

On September 13, Colin Powell called President Musharraf and made clear he had to decide whose side he was on. He presented a list of non-negotiable demands, including condemning the 9/11 attacks, denying al Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan, sharing intelligence, granting us overflight rights and breaking diplomatic relations with the Taliban.

Musharraf faced intense internal pressure. Turning against the Taliban was unthinkable for hardliners in his government and intelligence service. I called Musharraf from Camp David during a break in the war council meeting. I want to thank you for listening to our sad nation’s requests, and I look forward to working with you to bring these people to justice, I said.

The stakes are high, Musharraf told me. We are with you.

Our relationship with Pakistan would prove complex. But in four days we had turned Afghanistan’s pivotal neighbour from a supporter of the Taliban to a partner in removing them from power.

In the fall of 2006, I ordered a troop increase that would boost our force levels from twenty-one thousand to thirty-one thousand over the next two years. I called the 50% increase a silent surge. to help the Afghan government extend its reach and effectiveness, we more than doubled funding for construction. We increased the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which brought together military personnel and civilian experts to ensure that security gains were translated into meaningful improvements in everyday life. We also increased the size of the Afghan National Army, expanded our counter narcotics effort, improved intelligence efforts along the Pakistan border, and sent civilian experts from the U.S. government to help Afghan ministries strengthen their capacity and reduce corruption.

I urged our NATO allies to match our commitment by dropping caveats on their troops and adding more forces. Several leaders responded, including Stephen Harper of Canada, Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark, Nicolas Sarkozy of France, the British and Canadians fought especially bravely and suffered significant casualties, America was fortunate to have them at our side and we honour their sacrifice as our own.

Other leaders told me bluntly that their parliaments would never go along. It was maddening. Afghanistan was supposed to be a war the world had agreed was necessary and just. And yet many countries were sending troops so heavily restricted that our generals complained they just took up space. NATO had turned into a two-tiered alliance, with some countries willing to fight and many not.

The adjustments in our strategy improved our ability to take on the insurgents. Yet the violence continued. The primary cause of the trouble did not originate in Afghanistan, or, as some suggested. In Iraq. It came from Pakistan.

For most of my presidency, Pakistan was led by President Pervez Musharraf. I admired his decision to side with America after 9/11. He held parliamentary elections in 2002, which his party won, and spoke about enlightened moderation as an alternative to Islamic extremism. He took serious risks to battle al Qaeda. Terrorists tried to assassinate him at least four times.

In the months after we liberated Afghanistan, I told Musharraf I was troubled by reports of al Qaeda, Taliban forces fleeing into the loosely governed, tribal provinces of Pakistan-an area often compared to the Wild West. I’d be more than willing to send our Special Forces across the border to clear out the areas, I said. He told me that sending American troops into combat in Pakistan would be viewed as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. A revolt would likely ensue. His government would probably fall. The extremists could take over the country, including its nuclear arsenal.

In that case, I told him, his soldiers needed to take the lead. For several years, the arrangement worked. Pakistani forces netted hundreds of terrorists, including al Qaeda leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Abu Faraj al Libbi. Musharraf also arrested A.Q. Khan, the revered father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, for selling components from the country’s program on the black market. As Musharraf often reminded me, Pakistani forces paid a high price for taking on the extremists. More than fourteen hundred were killed in the war on terror.

In return for Pakistan’s cooperation, we lifted the sanctions, designated Pakistan a major non-NATO ally, and helped fund its counterterrorism operations. We also worked with Congress to provide $3 billion in economic aid and opened markets to more Pakistani goods and services,

Over time it became clear that Musharraf either would not or could not fulfil all his promises. Part of the problem was Pakistan’s obsession with India. In almost every conversation we had, Musharraf accused India of wrongdoing. Four days after 9/11, he told me the Indians trying to equate us with terrorists and trying to influence your mind. As a result, the Pakistan military spent most of its resources preparing for war with India. Its troops were trained to wage a conventional battle with its neighbour, not counterterrorism operations in the tribal areas. The fight against the extremists came second.

A related problem was that Pakistani forces pursued the Taliban much less aggressively than they pursued al Qaeda. Some in the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, retained close ties to Taliban officials. Others wanted an insurance policy in case America abandoned Afghanistan and India tried to gain influence there. Whatever the reason, Taliban fighters who fled Afghanistan took refuge in Pakistan’s tribal regions and populated cities like Peshawar and Quetta. In 2005 and 2006, these sanctuaries aided the rise of the insurgency.

In March 2006, I visited President Musharraf in Islamabad. Our meeting followed a stop in India, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and I signed an agreement clearing the way for nuclear cooperation between the two countries. The deal was the culmination o our efforts to improve relations between the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy. I believe India, home to roughly a billion people and an educated middle-class, has the potential to be one of America’s closest partners. The nuclear agreement was a historic step because it signalled the country’s new role on the world stage.

The nuclear deal naturally raised concerns in Pakistan. Our ambassador, a remarkable veteran Foreign Service officer named Ryan Crocker, argued strongly that we should spend the night in Islamabad as a sign of respect. No president had done that since Richard Nixon thirty-seven years earlier. The Secret Service was anxious, especially after a bombing near the U.S. consulate in Karachi the day before we arrived. But symbolism matters in diplomacy, and I wanted to signal that I valued our relationship. At the airport, a decoy motorcade drove to the embassy, mostly empty. My chief of protocol, Ambassador Don Ensenat, took my place in the presidential limo, while Laura and I flew secretly via Black Hawk helicopter.

In contrast to the rigid security precautions, President Musharraf organised a relaxed and enjoyable visit. He and his wife Sehba, received us warmly at their version of the White House, known as Aiwan-e-Sadr. We met with survivors of the previous October’s 7.6 magnitude earthquake in northern Pakistan, which killed more than seventy-three thousand people. America had provided $500 million in relief. Our Chinook helicopters became known as angels of mercy. The experience reinforced a lesson: one of the most effective forms of diplomacy is to show the good heart of America to the world.

Later in the day, I went to the embassy courtyard to watch some cricket, Pakistan’s national pastime. There I met national team captain Inzaman-ul-Haq, the Pakistani equivalent of Michael Jordan. To the delight of school children at hand, I took a few whacks with the cricket bat. I didn’t master the game but did pick up some of the lingo. At the elegant state dinner that night, I opened my toast by saying, I was fooled by a googly,* otherwise I would have been a better batsman.

*A spinning pitch that is hard to hit, similar to a screwball in baseball.

My meetings with President Musharraf focused on two overriding priorities. One was his insistence on serving as both president and top general, a violation of the Pakistan constitution. I pushed him to shed his military affiliation and govern as a civilian. He promised to do it. But he wasn’t in much of a hurry.

I also stressed the importance of the fight against extremists. We’ve got to keep these guys from slipping into your country and back into Afghanistan, I said.

I give you our assurances that we will cooperate with you against terrorism, Musharraf said. We are totally on board.

The violence continued to grow. As the insurgency worsened, Hamid Karzai became furious with Musharraf. He accused the Pakistani president of destabilising Afghanistan. Musharraf was insulted by the allegation. By the fall of 2006, the two were barely on speaking terms. I decided to step in with some serious personal diplomacy. I invited Karzai and Musharraf to dinner at the White House in September 2006. When I welcomed them in the Rose Garden, they refused to shake hands or even look at each other. The mood did not improve when we sat down for dinner in the Old Family Dining Room. Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Steve Hadley, and I watched as Karzai and Musharraf traded barbs. At one point, Karzai accused Musharraf of harbouring the Taliban.

Tell me where they are, Musharraf responded testily.
You know where they are! Karzai fired back.
If I did, I would get them, said Musharraf.
Go do it! Karzai persisted.

I started to wonder whether this dinner had been a mistake.

I told Musharraf and Karzai that the stakes were too high for personal bickering. I kept the dinner going for two and a half hours, trying to help them find common ground. After a while, the venting stopped, and the meeting turned out to be productive. The two leaders agreed to share more intelligence, meet with tribes on both sides of the border to urge peace, and stop bad-mouthing each other in public.

As a way to staunch the flow of Taliban fighters, Musharraf informed us that he had recently struck a series of deals with tribes in the border region. Under the agreements, Pakistani forces would leave the areas alone, while tribal leaders would commit to stopping the Taliban from recruiting operatives or infiltrating into Afghanistan.

While well intentioned, the strategy failed. The tribes did not have the will or the capacity to control the extremists. Some estimates indicated that the flow of Taliban fighters into Afghanistan increased fourfold.

Musharraf had promised Karzai and me-both sceptics of the strategy-that he would send troops back into the tribal areas if the deals failed. But instead of focusing on that problem, Musharraf and the Pakistani military were increasingly distracted by a political crisis. In March 2007, Musharraf suspended the chief justice of the Supreme Court, who he feared would rule that he was violating the law by continuing to serve as both president and army chief of staff. Lawyers and democracy advocated marched in the streets. Musharraf responded by:

• declaring a state of emergency
• suspending the constitution
• removing more judges, and
• arresting thousands of political opponents.

Pressure mounted on me to cut ties with Musharraf. I worried that throwing him overboard would add to the chaos. I had a series of frank conversations with him in the fall of 2007.

It looks ugly from here. The image here is that you have lawyers being beaten and thrown into jail, I said. I am troubled by the fact that there is no apparent way forward. I strongly suggested one:

• set a date for free elections,
• resign from the army, and
• lift the state of emergency.

Musharraf made each of these commitments, and kept them. When he scheduled parliamentary elections, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto returned from exile to compete. She ran on a pro-democracy platform, which made her a target of the extremists. Tragically, she was assassinated on December 27, 2007 at a political rally in Rawalpindi. In February 2008, her followers won the elections soundly. They formed a government, and Musharraf stepped down peacefully. Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower, took his place as President. Pakistan’s democracy had survived the crisis.

Over time, the Pakistani government learned the lesson of the Bhutto assassination. Pakistani forces returned to the fight in the tribal areas-not just against al Qaeda but against the Taliban and other extremists as well. Yet more than a year had been lost, as Pakistan’s attention had been focused on its internal political crisis. The Taliban and other extremist exploited that window of opportunity to increase their tempo of operations in Afghanistan, which drove up the violence and led many Afghans to turn against their government and our coalition. It was essential that we find a way to retake the offensive.

By the middle of 2008, I was tired of reading intelligence reports about extremist sanctuaries in Pakistan. I thought back to a meeting I’d had with Special Forces in Afghanistan in 2006.

Are you guys getting everything you need? I asked.
One SEAL raised his hand and said, No sir.

I wondered what his problem might be.

Mr. President, he said, we need permission to go kick some ass inside Pakistan.
I understood the urgency of the threat and wanted to do something about it. But on this issue, Musharraf’s judgement had been well-founded. When our forces encountered unexpected resistance, they got into a firefight and made international news. U.S. Commandos Attack Pakistan’s Sovereignty, one Pakistani headline said. Islamabad exploded with outrage. Both houses of Parliament passed unanimous resolutions condemning our action. No democracy can tolerate violations of its sovereignty.

I looked for ways to reach into the tribal areas. The Predator, an unmanned aerial vehicle was capable of conducting video surveillance and firing laser-guided bombs. I authorised the intelligence community to turn up the pressure on the extremists. Many of the details of our actions remain classified. But soon after I gave the order, the press started reporting more Predator strikes. Al Qaeda’s number-four man, Khalid al-Habib turned up dead. So did al Qaeda leaders responsible for propaganda, recruitment, religious affairs and planning attack overseas. One of the last reports I received described al Qaeda as embattled and eroding in the border region.

We also stepped up our support for Pakistan’s democratic government. We provided money, training, and equipment, and proposed joint counterterrorism operations-all aimed at helping increase Pakistani capabilities. When the financial crisis hit in the fall of 2008, we took steps to make sure Pakistan received the assistance it needed to mitigate the effects of the recession and stay focused on fighting the extremists.

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Courtesy of : Decision Points by George W. Bush, Crown Publishers, New York November 2010

Losing East Pakistan

East Pakistan’s possible secession had always troubled Pakistan’s first military ruler. Ayub Khan’s worst fears came true when the radical Bengali leader Maulana Bhashani, after sitting out the 1970 elections, upped the ante by calling for an independent and sovereign state of East Bengal as envisaged in the Muslim League’s Lahore Resolution of March 1940. The general pondered whether he was witnessing the beginning of the end.

This was what most Bengali nationalists always meant when they talked of complete provincial autonomy. The fiery left-leaning Maulana may have been venting his fury against West Pakistani callousness towards the recent cyclone victims and, by the same token, cashing in on an opportunity to take some of the shine off the Awami League. Even before the results of the 1970 elections were out, Ayub suspected that Bhashani’s firecracker would spur Mujib into lighting the bonfire of Pakistani unity. The Sheikh seemed to have been waiting for such an opportunitymaking independence a common cry of Bengal and turning it into an irresistible movement. Several of Ayub’s visitors, including former as well as serving members of the federal cabinet, agreed with him that it was now only a matter of time before the eastern wing separated from the rest of Pakistan. With the Awami League’s landslide victory, Mujib was no longer a free agent but a prisoner of his vast support. Bhutto, too, would be loath to make any compromise that would allow his opponents to accuse him of selling West Pakistan down the drain.

As the architect of a political system that was threatening to fall apart, Ayub’s forebodings offer a poignant insight into his reading of history. On January 4, 1971, he recorded the strange irony of fate that had seen Pakistan escaping the tyranny of an inflexible and hostile Hindu majority, only to end up facing an untenable situation where one wing was about to establish its permanent majority without bearing a proportionally higher burden or higher liability. The alternative to this artificial alliance was independence or a loose confederation. Ayub thought that Bhashani’s call for independence, if premature, was more representative of the inner feelings of his people. The President was unimpressed by the fact that Mujib was not asking for independence but wanted complete autonomy for the eastern wing within a federal arrangement. From Ayub’s angle of vision, Mujib was stalling for time in a calculated attempt to milk Punjab and Sindh of their surpluses before opting out. Although in the 1970 elections, Punjab and Sindh sold themselves to Bhutto and had no choice of their own left, Ayub wondered whether they would not rebel against such an idea. He surmised that the demand for separation may well start in these provinces once the reality dawns, as it was bound to in course of time, that they are being robbed.*

*Italics are diary entries of Ayub

Ayub had put his finger on the crux of the 1971 crisis. Who was liable to secede from whom, the majority in the eastern wing or sections of minority in the west? If Pakistan was to remain united, by what democratic or federal principle could anyone prevent the majority population in the eastern wing from redressing past injustices by diverting resources from the western wing to develop its own economy? Mujib interpreted the Awami League’s absolute majority as a validation of his six-point program for provincial autonomy. But the program had not formed part of the electorate debate in West Pakistan, where the Awami League did not win a single seat. Bhutto had taken the PPP into the 1970 elections on a socialist platform. The PPP leader told the commission investigating the causes of Pakistan’s military defeat in 1971 that he had refrained from attacking the Awami League’s program at public meetings because they were venues for emotional outbursts, not reasoned arguments about the political and constitutional niceties of the six points. Bhutto had criticized the Awami League’s provincial autonomy demands at small gatherings of lawyers and intellectuals in West Pakistan, arguing that they were not in the best interests of the country and could lead to secession.

In the run-up to the 1970 elections, right-wing parties opposed to the PPP in the western wing were more vocal in criticizing the Awami League’s six points, which they often equated with the breakup of the country. After the elections, the PPP reaffirmed its commitment to a constitutional settlement within the framework of Pakistan. Because Pakistan was a federal and not a unitary state, Bhutto argued , it was vital to secure the consensus of the federations units. He never explained how a consensus was to be obtained after the elections. Though it emerged as the majority party in West Pakistan, the PPP’s support base was confined to the Punjab and Sindh. In the NWFP and Baluchistan, the Deobandi-oriented Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) fared better at the polls. Along with the defeated parties and politicians of West Pakistan, the JUI led by Maulana Mufti Mahmud could not be shut out of discussions on the future constitutional arrangements.

This made Bhutto’s claim to speak on behalf of West Pakistan indefensible and hints at the essence of his dilemma. On the threshold of a historic opportunity, the PPP chairman found himself between a rock and a hard place. The PPP had done well but not well enough. Although the party’s radical program accounted for its electoral success in central Punjab, where the Green Revolution coupled with the Ayub’s regime irrigation projects had made the most impact , Bhutto’s controversial decision to enlist the support of conservative landlords in south Punjab and Sindh had played an equally important part in the PPP’s victory.

Tensions within the left and right wings of the PPP threatened to split the party even before Bhutto had succeeded in registering his claim to power. To make matters worse, in cutting a deal with Mujib, Bhutto ran the risk of being denounced as a traitor in West Pakistan. Wary of becoming the butt of West Pakistani criticism if he compromised with Mujib, Bhutto miscalculated his ability to withstand the ill effects of becoming a willing pawn in the regime’s game plan to thwart the Awami League’s bid for power. If he wanted to avoid being called a traitor to West Pakistan at all costs, Bhutto was equally determined not be cast in the role of arch-conspirator in the breakup of Pakistan. Bhutto’s role in the post- 1970 election crisis has to be assessed in the light of the positions taken by Mujib and Yahya Khan, not to mention the structural obstacles in the way of a smooth transfer of power from military to civilian rule in Pakistan.

The basic democracies system had been designed to safeguard the centre from challenges mounted by political parties with broad-based support at the provincial level. instead, opposition to Ayub’s exclusionary political system crystallized in East Pakistan in the form of six points, which for all practical purposes, made the centre redundant. Most political parties in the western wing wanted an effective, if not a strong centre that could lend credence to the existence of Pakistan as a sovereign independent state. There was scope for discussions between the representatives of the two wings, leading to a narrowing of differences on the question of centre-province relations. But the localization of political horizons under the basic democracies system had prevented the forging of meaningful alliances between political parties both within and between the two wings. This in large part explains why the six points elicited such different responses in East and West Pakistan.

The main bone of contention between the two wings was the powers of the federal centre. The Awami League’s vision of a limited centre was a red flag for the gendarmes of the Pakistani State.

1. The first of the six points called for the creation of a federation of Pakistan in the true spirit of the Lahore Resolution with a parliamentary form of government based on the supremacy of a legislature directly elected on the basis of universal adult franchise.

2. The second point confined the powers of the federal government to defence and foreign affairs and vested all the residual subjects in the constituent units.

3. According to the third point, there were to be two separate but freely convertible currencies for the two wings and, if that proved unworkable, a single currency for the whole country with constitutional safeguards to prevent the flight of capital from East to West Pakistan. Moreover, the eastern wing was to have its own reserve bank and a separate fiscal and monetary policy.

4. The fourth point stripped the federal centre of its powers of taxation and revenue collection and handed them to the federation units. Turning the twenty-four year logic of military fiscalism in Pakistan on its head, the fourth point made the federal centre dependent on handouts from states taxes to meet its expenditures.

5. If this did not raise the hackles of the military brass, the fifth point certainly did. It envisaged separate accounts for the foreign exchange earnings of the two wings, with the federal centre getting an agreed percentage of their financial resources. Indigenous products were to move free of duty between the two wings. But this gesture to federalism was offset by the provision empowering the constituent units to establish trade links with foreign countries.

6. The sixth point’s demand for a separate militia or paramilitary force in East Pakistan was anodyne by comparison to the drastic readjustment that was being proposed in the apportioning of finances between the federal centre and the federating units.

Yet for all the clouds darkening the political horizon, there was also an element of creative ambiguity in the post electoral context. It was evident that Mujib’s six points were negotiable, and he was not thinking of secession. His conception of a free Bengali nation was not incompatible with something less than a fully separate and sovereign state. If the military junta had seized this opening to negotiate the terms for a transfer of power with the newly elected representatives of the people, the course of Pakistani history might have been different. Stung by election results that were completely contrary to the intelligence reports, Yahya delayed announcing a date for the meeting of the National Assembly, which was to function as both the legislature and the constitution- making body. This aroused Bengali suspicions, prompting Mujib to take a more rigid stance on the six points. On January 3, 1971, at a mass meeting of a million people at the Dhaka Race Course ground, all the Awami League members of the national and provincial assemblies took an oath of allegiance to the six points. Most telling was Mujib’s assertion that the six points were the property of the people of Bangladesh and there could be no question of a compromise on them.

Yet when he met Yahya Khan in the second week of January 1971, Mujib was a paragon of moderation. As the general had not bothered studying the six points, Mujib explained them to him and asked whether he had any objections. Yahya said he had none but noted that the Awami League would have to carry the West Pakistani political parties, the PPP in particular. Mujib urged him to convene the National Assembly by February 15 and predicted that he would obtain not only a simple majority but almost 2/3 majority. Admiral Ahsan, who was then still governor of East Pakistan, noted that with its absolute majority, the Awami League could bulldoze their constitution through without bothering about West Pakistan’s interest. Mujib was quick to the defence: No, I am a democrat and the majority leader of all Pakistan. I cannot ignore the interests of West Pakistan. I am not only responsible to the people of East and West Pakistan but also to world opinion. I shall do everything on democratic principles. Mujib wanted to invite Yahya to Dhaka three or four days before the assembly session to see the draft constitution. If you find objections, Mujib told Yahya, I will try to accommodate your wishes. Towards that end he promised to seek cooperation of the PPP as well as other parties in West Pakistan. The Awami League realized that the western wing did not need the same measure of autonomy as East Pakistan. In a telling statement of the inner thinking of the Awami League leadership, Mujib said that although he was prepared to be of help, he did not wish to interfere in any arrangements that the West Pakistani leadership may wish to make. Looking forward, Mujib talked of about drafting Yahya’s address to the National Assembly, which he wanted convened no later than February 15, and went so far as to say that the Awami League intended to elect the general as its presidential candidate. Mujib spoke of a democratic parliament and discussions on issues to find acceptable formulas inside and outside the Assembly. The meeting ended with Yahya flattering Mujib by calling him the next prime minister of Pakistan.*

*The Report of the Hamoodur Rahman Commission of Inquiry into the 1971 War (as declassified by the Government of Pakistan) (Lahore Vanguard).

An uncompromising public posture contrasted with private reassurances exchanged by the main actors and complicates the story of the tripartite negotiations that preceded the military action in East Pakistan. As far as Mujib was concerned, a formula could be worked out to save the unity of Pakistan even while pursuing legitimate Bengali demands. Soon after the elections, Mujib is said to have conveyed to Bhutto through a personal emissary that he could have the big job in return for accepting the six points and joining hands with the Awami League to force the military back into the barracks. Taken aback but excited about the idea, Bhutto declared that he was personally not opposed to the six points but had to carry the party with him. Secure in his knowledge of his powers under the LFO, Yahya Khan exploited Bhutto’s uncertainty about the PPP’s reaction to striking a deal with the Awami League. On his return to West Pakistan, Yahya stopped off in Larkana to visit Bhutto at his ancestral home. There is no record of what transpired at the meeting but the president would almost certainly have mentioned his conversation with Mujib, though he did not tell Bhutto about the Awami League leader’s readiness to discuss the outstanding constitutional issues both inside and outside the National Assembly. Yahya might also have hinted at the limits to which the regime was prepared to accommodate the Awami League’s demands. Any reference to the LFO and Pakistan’s national interest would have alerted Bhutto to the military establishment’s distaste for the six points.

The junta downplayed the meeting between Yahya and Bhutto, describing it as coincidental. There were several subsequent consultations between the two men that were far from incidental. The existence of a secret channel of communication between the PPP chairman and the martial law administrator pointed to a collusion, generating a rash of negative speculation in the eastern wing. Bhutto was already held in high suspicion when he arrived in Dhaka on January 27 for the first round of talks with the Awami League leader. Bengali doubts about Bhutto’s intentions were strengthened when, after eight hours of being holed up alone in a room with Mujib, the PPP leader did not go beyond seeking clarification on the six points. There was no mention of joining hands to oust the military regime. Mujib was understandably disappointed and puzzled by these tactics.

Upon returning from East Pakistan, Bhutto denied any differences with Mujib and said that their talks had been exploratory in nature. Before these statements could have a salutary effect, two Kashmiris hijacked a Indian Airlines Fokker on January 25, 1971, and forced it to land in Lahore. While Mujib condemned the hijacking on principle, Bhutto rushed to Lahore airport to greet the freedom fighters who were granted asylum by Pakistan. That the regime and the PPP chairman had been ensnared soon became apparent when the hijackers blew up the plane two days later and New Delhi reacted by banning all Pakistani connecting flights from using Indian airspace. This increased the distance between East and West Pakistan from 1,000 to 3,000 miles around the coast of Sri Lanka. The hijacking widened the gulf between Bhutto and Mujib and brought Indo-Pakistan relations to an all-time low, especially once the tribunal set up to investigate the incident concluded that the hijackers were not heroes but Indian agents. Mujib’s stance on the hijacking intensified Punjabi hostility towards him, making it more difficult for Bhutto to compromise. On February 21 a PPP convention vowed to abide by the chairman’s decision not to attend the session of the National Assembly scheduled for March 3.

Yahya Khan used the excuse of a deteriorating political situation and the Indian threat looming on the borders to dismiss his civilian cabinet and invest the governors with martial law powers, a first step to clearing any hurdles in the way of a military action. The decision indicated the president’s semi-isolation and made him more dependent on the military hawks in the National Security Council (NSC). On the evening of February 22, he presided over a conference in Rawalpindi attended by the governors, martial law administrators, and intelligence officials where a decision was taken in principle to deploy force in East Pakistan. An operational plan was discussed that envisaged the deployment of troops and the mass arrest of Awami League leaders on charges of sedition.* 

  • Brigadier A.R. Siddiqi, East Pakistan, the End Game 1969-71 Karachi Oxford University Press

The governor of East Pakistan, Admiral Ahsan was the only one to raise his voice in objection. Along with Sahibzada Yaqui Ali Khan, the commander of the eastern forces, the governor insisted on the imperative of finding a political solution and openly expressed dismay at the unthinking jingoism of West Pakistani officials who regarded the people of East Pakistan as a vast colonial population waiting to be proselytized.** Until the third week of February, Yahya had appeared to endorse his views, but now the tide had turned. On arriving in the capital from Dhaka, Ahsan was alarmed to notice a high tide of militarism flowing turbulently. There was open talk at the conference of a military solution according to plan. Ahsan’s refusal to endorse such a course of action made him unpopular with his colleagues, who thought he had sold out to the Bengalis.

**Admiral S.M. Ahsan in his testimony to the Hamoodur Rahman Commission

There is no indication that Bhutto was privy to the regime’s plans to clamp down on the Awami League leaders. Publicly, he persisted in calling for a political solution acceptable to both wings. Signs of the military leaning on Bhutto, albeit for its own institutional reasons, created the impression of complicity. The election results had blown Yahya’s cover under the LFO. A counter foil was needed to stop Mujib’s thunderous march to power. In his narrative of the events, Brigadier A. R. Siddiqi, the head of the military’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) wing, maintains that after the elections, General Gul Hassan, the chief of the general staff, told him, Let’s back Bhutto. In his memoir, Gul Hassan holds both Bhutto and Mujib in contempt and refers to them as creative liars whose ambition and vindictiveness made them prone to fabrications if that served their political purpose. What is undeniable is that the army had a clear self-interest in the outcome of the post electoral negotiations. According to Siddiqi, the right of a provincial-cum-regional party to frame the national constitution and run the national government for the next five years was not acceptable to the military high command. Bhutto was preferred not because he was more worthy of trust than Mujib. The generals knew that the Awami League leader was no friend of theirs and feared he might try to seek a drastic cut in the army’s size and power. Circumstantially, Bhutto had better credentials. The PPP’s biggest majority was in Punjab, home to 75% of the army’s rank and file. This would force Bhutto to be “more reasonable and not touch the army.

Encouraged by the regular exchange of missives with Yahya Khan and his contact with other top generals in the regime, Bhutto became more insistent on not attending the National Assembly. While denying any fundamental opposition to the six points, he charged the Awami League with wanting to impose its preferred constitution on West Pakistan. Letting the majority frame the constitution of its choosing would make sense if Pakistan was a unitary state. In a country split in two parts that lacked any semblance off political cohesion, the federal constitution had to be based on the consensus of all the federations units. In the interest of national unity, Bhutto agreed to the six points barring the second and the fifth relating to currency, taxation, international trade, and foreign assistance. When push came to shove, he was prepared to accept all the points except the one pertaining to foreign trade and aid. If these were adjusted in favour of the centre, the PPP was prepared to cooperate with the Awami League in formulating the constitution.

The more ruthless of Bhutto’s critics have persisted in accusing him of stalling for time at Yahya’s behest. There is no question that Bhutto over estimated his ability to get the better of the general. Spurning Mujib’s offer to help eject the military from the political arena was an error for which history cannot absolve Bhutto. Like any politician, Bhutto needed the support of his party leadership. Notwithstanding the PPP’s studied public silence on the Awami League’s demands, Bhutto remained remarkably consistent in his stance on the six points. Raising the PPP’s objections to the conception of federation in the six points, he noted that there was no federation in the world without a second House of Parliament, a proposition Mujib had rejected. Equally objectionable was the fact that although some of the points upheld the principles of federalism, others implied a confederal arrangement between the two wings. The Awami League wanted West Pakistan to assume responsibility for the bulk of the external debt of the federal government. East Pakistan was to contribute only 24% of the centre’s running costs, and even this sum was to be set against “reparations” due from West Pakistan for its past exploitation of the eastern wing. On this basis, the entire central levy would have to be borne by the western wing for several years to come.

For a West Pakistani politician, let alone a Sindhi, to agree to such an arrangement was political suicide. Right-wing parties considered the six points blasphemous and would invariably denounce Bhutto for being opportunistic and, worse still, a traitor. His own ideologically divided party cadres were liable to revolt, certainly in Punjab, where the PPP had received strong electoral support in military cantonments. Leery of the Awami League’s absolute majority, Bhutto stuck to his guns about discussing the main points of difference before the meeting of the National Assembly. If Mujib had wanted Yahya to call the National Assembly by mid-February, Bhutto wanted the meeting postponed until the end of March so that the two parties could thrash out all the contentious issues. Ignoring Bhutto’s arguments but also falling short of accepting Mujib’s, Yahya had announced on February 13 that the National Assembly would meet on March 3, 1971. Bhutto said his party would not attend unless assurances were given that it would be heard. The PPP was not boycotting the Assembly but asking the Awami League to reciprocate its gesture of accepting four out of the six points. Likening the constitution to an essay, Bhutto said we accept the essay written in East Pakistan—but we want to write some concluding paragraphs which are of vital national importance. We have gone a mile to accommodate the Six Points, he continued, and request our East Pakistani friends to move at least an inch to accommodate our views. In a deliberate act of omission, Yahya Khan did not tell Bhutto about Mujib’s readiness to engage in discussions outside the Assembly. This implies that far from colluding with Bhutto, or for that matter with Mujib, as the PPP claimed, Yahya was looking to extend his regime’s continuation in office by pitting the two main parties against each other.

The tactic worked. Sensing the army’s reluctance to transfer power, Bhutto went on a verbal rampage through the populist alleyways of the historic city of Lahore. In a stormy speech to a mammoth crowd at Lahore’s Mochi Gate on February 28, he reiterated his line that Mujib had decided on the constitution and wanted the PPP to rubber-stamp the document. Bhutto demanded a postponement of the National Assembly or an extension of the 120 day-period for the formulation of the constitution. Getting carried away by the force of his own words, he threatened to break the legs of anyone, whether from the PPP or any other West Pakistani Party, who attended the National Assembly session in Dhaka. This was provocative in the extreme. The die had been cast; the Awami League leadership’s distrust of Bhutto was complete. Egged on by the intelligence agencies, most political parties in West Pakistan refused to attend the assembly session. On March 1, Yahya used the excuse to postpone the National Assembly and aggravated matters by not announcing an alternative e date for its meeting. While this sparked disappointment in West Pakistani political circles, the eastern wing exploded in violent frenzy. In clear evidence of serious differences in higher military circles, both Admiral Ahsan and General Yaqub resigned from their positions. With the removal of the two senior most West Pakistani officials who still believed in the need for a political solution, the military gunned down several demonstrations in East Pakistan on March 2 and 3 before returning to the barracks.

From March 1 until the fateful moment on March 25, 1971, when a crackle of gunfire disrupted the silence of the night in Dhaka, Bengali antipathy for the Pakistani military presence in East Pakistan soared. Food sellers refused to supply meat and fresh produce to the army while West Pakistanis and pro-government Urdu speaking Biharis were targeted by the Awami League muscle men. Despite clear and present provocation, the army desisted from taking action, purportedly to allow the political negotiations to succeed. Yet since a decision to resort to military action had been taken in principle, the lack of any remedial measure on the part of the military can equally well be seen as marking time to fly in troop reinforcements from West Pakistan. The state’s inaction after a vicious display of its coercive power emboldened Awami League workers to begin taking over state institutions. After March 2, Mujib popularly known as Bangabandhu (friend of Bengal) was running the civilian administration in East Pakistan from his unassuming two-storied home at 32 Dhanmandi. The three-member Hamoodur Rahman Commission set up to investigate the causes of the military defeat in East Pakistan chastised the military regime for letting the situation get out of hand, with the result that much greater use of force was needed later to regain control. There was no reason why keeping the door open for negotiations with Mujib was inconsistent with maintaining law and order. As far as the Commission could discern, the majority of the people of East Pakistan were not in favour of secession. But with the government doing nothing to stop the violence, it was difficult to prevent people from thinking that it was making ready to pack up and go. Even those who may have wished to oppose the Awami League were deflected from doing so.

By the time Yahya came around to announcing that the National Assembly would meet on March 25, Mujib’s stance had stiffened. Mindful of the extreme views in the Awami League cadres, who considered the six-points non-negotiable, he now demanded the immediate withdrawal of martial law and a return of all military personnel to the barracks, an inquiry into the loss of life, and an immediate transfer of power to the representatives of the people. Reluctant to transfer power, Yahya could not agree to these demands prior to the completion of the constitution making process. But he was prepared to ask the army to hold their fire until he had gone through the motions of trying to make Mujib see sense. Banking on the inability of the two main political parties to agree, Yahya Khan had eased into a life of excess in wine, women, and song. Yet the Hamoodur Rahman Commission did not attribute the general’s dereliction of duty to his heavy drinking. The supreme commander of the armed forces held his drink, though his mental reflexes had evidently slowed down. The information garnered by the Commission indicated that Yahya Khan, flanked by a close circle of military officials, played out a game in which no clear cut decision could be reached.

Such a game was played out in the vitiated atmosphere of the negotiations. Yahya had set the tone on March 6 while announcing a new date for the National Assembly. Slamming the Awami League for misunderstanding his reasons for postponing the meeting of the National Assembly, he had said: I will not allow a handful of people to destroy the homeland of millions of innocent Pakistanis. It was the duty of the Pakistan Armed Forces to ensure the integrity, solidarity and security of Pakistan, and it was a duty in which they never failed. With Bhutto demanding time out at the decisive moment in the match, and the junta cloaking the threat of force in the flighty language of national unity, the Bangabandhu had few options. Mujib was now even more of a captive of his Awami League supporters who, realizing that the regime had no real intention of either sharing or transferring power, wanted Bengali to fight and take what was theirs by right.

On March 7, 1971, Mujib addressed a massive political rally at the Ramna Race Course in Dhaka. A skilled public orator in Bengali, the Bangabandhu delivered a stirring speech that reflected the mood of his people. He called for every Bengali home to be turned into a fortress. As blood had already been shed, he was prepared to offer more blood to free the people of his country. The struggle this time is a struggle for freedom. The struggle this time is a struggle for independence, he proclaimed passionately, before concluding with the slogan Jai Bangla ( Victory to Bengal). A virtual declaration of independence, Mujib ‘s March 7 speech did not, however, completely shut the door on further talks.

The negotiations that got underway in Dhaka in mid-March 1971 were peculiar in many respects. The presidential team closely choreographed the meetings. No minutes were kept, making it impossible to cross-check and verify either Yahya’s or Bhutto’s testimony to the Hamoodur Rahman Commission. Mujib did not appear before the Commission. He was assassinated in 1975, and the report was not declassified until 2001. Whatever the limitations of the inquiry commission’s findings, they do make it possible to piece together a proximate account of what transpired at the negotiations. At his first meeting with Yahya, Mujib demanded the immediate lifting of martial law and convening of the National Assembly. There was to be a simultaneous transfer of power at the centre and the provinces. Yahya accepted all the demands except the lifting of martial law on the rather lame excuse that this would create a legal lacuna. By the time the two men met again on March 20, their aides had worked out the modalities for ending martial law. Power was to be transferred to all five provinces but not for the time being at the centre, where Yahya was to remain in office. The National Assembly was to be divided into two committees, one for each wing. These committees were to meet together to frame a constitution on the basis of their respective reports.

This was a circuitous way to keep a divided country united. But, then, Pakistan was no ordinary country. Considering the Lahore Resolution of 1940, the idea of a confederation was not nearly so far-fetched. On arriving in Dhaka on March 21, 1971, Bhutto rejected the proposal to divide the assembly into two parts on the grounds that it pointed to a confederation and paved the way for secession. This was in line with Yahya’s own thinking. That night Bhutto consulted other PPP leaders, who concurred with the assessment. The next morning when the three protagonists met together for the first and only time, Yahya said that the PPP’s agreement was required for the Awami League’s proposals. Mujib bluntly told Yahya that it was up to him to persuade Bhutto. The discussions ended with the two politicians saying nothing to each other in the president’s presence. Outside the presidential salon, Mujib took Bhutto aside and asked for his help to overcome an increasingly grave situation. Afraid that the conversation might be tapped, the two walked out into the verandah and sat in the portico, where Yahya saw them, honeymooning with each other,  as he snidely commented later. Mujib told Bhutto to become prime minister of West Pakistan and leave the eastern wing to the Awami League, warning him not to trust the military, as it would destroy both of them. Bhutto replied that he would rather be destroyed by the military than by history. While agreeing to consider the Awami League’s proposals, the PPP leader urged Mujib to place them before the National Assembly, as he was not prepared to give a personal pledge on such a serious matter. According to Bhutto, Mujib rejected the idea of the National Assembly being convened even briefly.

The only direct exchange between Mujib and Bhutto in the tripartite talks ended in a stalemate, though the two had planned on meeting again in secret. For a second time within a matter of months, Mujibur Rahman had solicited Bhutto’s help in dislodging the military regime. That the effort failed is not surprising once the haze is lifted from the moves and countermoves in the final days of a united Pakistan. Recourse to thick narrative detail reveals that the principle hurdle in the way of a united Pakistan was not disagreement on constitutional matters but the transfer of power from military to civilian hands.

More concerned with perpetuating himself in office, Yahya Khan was strikingly nonchalant about the six points. He left that to the West Pakistani politicians, in particular Bhutto, who, contrary to the impression in some quarters, was more of a fall guy for the military junta than a partner in crime. In his testimony to the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, Yahya blamed Bhutto for the failure of negotiations to make headway. What he did not reveal was that the policy of divide and rule had survived colonialism and become the preferred policy instrument of the post colonial state in handling an intractable and increasingly violent polity. It was a recipe for disaster at the service of a drunken and dissolute ruler, more capable of dividing than ruling according to any known norms of governance.

Given the historical evidence, the verdict on apportioning responsibility for the 1971 debacle in East Pakistan must go decisively against Yahya Khan and his senior military associates in the NSC.*

*The associates included, most notably:

  • General Abdul Hamid Khan
  • Lt. General S.G.M.M. Pirzada
  • Lt. General Gul Hassan
  • Major General Umar
  • Major General Mitha.

What clinched the issue for the military high command was the law-and-order situation in East Pakistan, where the Awami League was running a parallel government with bruising effect on the morale of the armed forces. Irritated by the daily abuse levied at the military presence by the Bengali press, they were incensed to find that India was actively supporting the dissidents. What the military’s eastern command did not gauge, thanks to a linguistically impaired intelligence network, was that its own Bengali troops strongly supported the Awami League miscreants. Although the decision to use military force in East Pakistan was taken only on February 22, plans had been put in place much earlier. As early as December 1970, East Pakistan’s martial law administrator, General Yaqub Khan, had worked out the operational aspects of imposing law and order in what was code named Operation Blitz. Yaqub subsequently resigned, warning against taking military action in a situation that required a political resolution. The alarm bells went off on March 23 when the Awami League marked Pakistan Day by hoisting Bangladeshi flags but fell short of declaring independence. There were reports of Jinnah’s portraits being defaced. More seriously from a military point of view, fighting broke out in Chittagong that day, with the East Pakistan Rifles and East Bengal Regiment joining hands with the dissidents against West Pakistani forces, completely paralyzing the port city. Faced with supply difficulties, the eastern command under General Tikka Khan was implementing the first stages of its Operation Searchlight Plan, while Yahya Khan and his aides continued their talks with Mujib and Bhutto.

It is commonly held that military action followed the breakdown of negotiations. But the talks never actually broke down; they were unilaterally abandoned on the orders of the president acting in unison with his inner military circle in Rawalpindi. A transfer of power acceptable to Mujib and Bhutto was still not outside the realm of possibility. The PPP leaders saw the Awami League’s revised proposals on March 25. These called for a confederation of Pakistan and two constitutional conventions, instead of the separate committees in the earlier version, which were to frame the constitution for each wing. The conventions would then meet to frame a constitution for the confederation. In shifting from a vaguely federal to a clearly confederal arrangement, the Awami League addressed the PPP’s main objection that the six points said contradictory things about the future constitutional structure. Separate constitutions for the two wings, followed by one for the confederation of Pakistan, accommodated the PPP leader’s fear of being diddled out of power by the Awami League. On March 14, he had made a similar demand at a public rally in Karachi’s Nishtar Park. Remembered in Pakistan as his udhar tum, idhar hum (you there, us here) speech, Bhutto had maintained that power ought to be transferred to the Awami League in the east and the PPP in the west. He was widely condemned in West Pakistan for sanctioning the division of the country. Dismissing accusations of colluding with Yahya Khan and being responsible for the political gridlock, Bhutto spoke of one Pakistan. The rule of majority for the whole country could become applicable only if the six-point demand with its secessionist overtones was dropped. As that was not being done, the rationale and logic of the six-point demand necessitated agreement of the majority parties of both the wings.

Bhutto’s two-majority thesis was conceded in the final version of the Awami League’s constitutional proposals. However, the notion of a confederation was wholly alien to the thinking of the military command in Pakistan. Having run Pakistan as a quasi-unitary state despite its federal configuration, the guardians of military privilege were not about to concede ground to those they saw as traitors. Instead of trying to bring the situation under control by disarming the East Pakistan Rifles and the East Bengal Regiment, the army gave vent to its rage by unleashing a reign of terror. Dhaka University was stormed and many students, faculty and staff killed. There was indiscriminate killing of civilians, with Hindus and intellectuals serving as main targets. The sheer ferocity of the military action ensured that Dhaka was quickly subdued, but fighting continued to rage in Chittagong and other key cities while the countryside remained in ferment. In a glaring instance of strategic oversight, Yahya and his aides moved to pummel the Awami League without fully considering India’s or, for that matter the world’s, likely reaction. The Pakistan Foreign Office should have had no difficulty anticipating India’s likely response. But the merrymaking general and his inner coterie of military generals in their ineptitude cut themselves off from the thinking of the Foreign Office. They also had made no clear plans on how to deal with East Pakistan after the objectives of the crackdown were achieved. Yahya Khan left for West Pakistan a few hours before the start of the military operation. From his room in the Intercontinental Hotel, Bhutto watched the army setting ablaze the horizon with breathtaking ruthlessness. Punitive action without any thought to reopening the political dialogue made no sense. Yet at no time after the first shots were fired in the barricaded streets of Dhaka on March 25,1971 did Yahya Khan restart negotiations with the Awami League. While most of the top Bengali leadership fled across the border to West Bengal, Mujib was promptly arrested and transported to a West Pakistani jail. Apart from a facetious trial in which he was given a death sentence, the regime made no effort to initiate dialogue with the Awami League leader.

With the international media flush with harrowing tales of the army’s atrocities and the plight of millions of refugees who had fled to India, Pakistan ‘s stocks slumped internationally. Archer Blood, the American consul general in Dhaka, thought it unconscionable for the United States to turn a blind eye to the reality of the oppression Bengalis were facing and to which the overworked term genocide is applicable. The only likely outcome of the conflict was a Bengali victory and the consequent establishment of an independent Bangladesh. It was foolish to give one sided support to the likely loser. In contrast to 1965, China politely distanced itself from a regime charged with genocide. Washington was a bit more forthcoming because the Pakistani government had recently helped the Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, to make contact with Beijing. But American support was more symbolic than real— a morale-boosting assurance that India would not be permitted to rip through West Pakistan. It did not extend to absolving the Pakistani regime of its crimes and misdemeanours. The story of the junta’s botched international diplomacy is a trifle less appalling than its abysmal failure on the military front. A brutal military crackdown in late March and April may have resulted in a semblance of order in key urban centres and around the cantonments. Once the monsoon set in, however, the army was constantly harried by the Bangladesh Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) resorting to guerrilla tactics in the watery terrain of the Bengal delta. In late August 1971, India, which was actively training the Bangladesh liberation forces, buttressed its international position by entering into a treaty of friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union. The Pakistani Army’s strategic doctrine of defending East Pakistan from the western wing exploded in its face when India launched a full-scale attack on the eastern front. There were no effective lines of communications between key players in the regime and an internally divided GHQ, far less between them and the eastern command. Pakistani troops did fight the advancing Indian troops effectively in key sectors. The United States sent its nuclear carrier USS Enterprise from the Seventh Fleet into the Bay of Bengal to hover on the edges of Indian territorial waters. But the surrender of 93,000 soldiers without a whimper on December 16, 1971, highlighted the magnitude of the defeat suffered by the Pakistani Army at the hands of its primary rival. General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, then in command of the eastern front alleged that the ignominy of surrender, which is a death warrant for a soldier was imposed on him and his men by our selfish rulers and selfish officers sitting in GHQ in order to save West Pakistan. We accepted humiliation to save our homeland, the disgraced general claimed in his memoir.

Strategic blundering and political ineptitude combined to create a horrific nightmare for a military high command that was ill equipped to handle the situation. Once orders had been given to put boots on the ground and enforce law and order, pent-up frustrations shredded the last remnants of humanity still adorning the hearts of the West Pakistani troops. The ethical dilemma of killing fellow Muslims was quickly overcome. Bengalis were not just black men; they were Muslims in name only and had to be purged of their infidelity. Whatever the reasoning of the perpetrators, nothing can justify the horrendous crimes committed in the name of a false sense of nationalism. As in any war, there was violence on both sides against unarmed men, women, and children. But there was a world of difference between organized state coercion against a largely unarmed populace and the targeted violence of armed dissidents against known collaborators of the military regime.

A blackout on national and international news from East Pakistan kept the majority of the people of West Pakistan in a state of blissful ignorance. Some accounts of the massacre of civilians and rape of women in East Pakistan by the national army and its hastily raised Islamist militias known as razakars did filter through. Some West Pakistanis registered their protest. But few in the western wing were listening, convinced that the armed forces were performing their duty to protect the national integrity of the country against Indian machinations. This makes the words and actions of those brave souls from the western wing who did speak out that much more significant. Habib Jalib bewailed the savagery that had ravished East Pakistan. For whom should I sing my songs of love, he asked, when the garden is a bloody mess, when they were battered flower buds and blood drenched leaves everywhere despite an unstoppable rain of tears. Jalib had sensed that nothing could wash away the sins of the cabal of generals who had presided over the most inglorious moment in the history of Pakistan. The noted Urdu poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz also wrote poems in 1971 lamenting that events in East Pakistan had shaken his faith in humanity. Three years later when he visited Dhaka, Faiz felt a strange kind of estrangement upon meeting with intimate Bengali friends. After how many more meetings, he wondered, will we be that close once again? How many monsoons would it take to usher in a spring of unstained green in east Bengal?

The end of love has been so cruel and pitiless that the crushed heart longed in vain just to quarrel once again with old friends. Faiz had gone to Bangladesh, ready to offer everything, even the gift of his own life. Such was the distance between him and his closest friends that these healing words remained unspoken after all else had been said.

More than four decades after the bloody separation, the gulf between the erstwhile wings of Pakistan has grown wider in the absence of any remedial measure. Unable to forget, the people of Bangladesh might at least try and forgive if presented with a formal apology by their tormentors, Unwilling to learn the lessons of their own history, successive rulers of what remained of Pakistan in the west avoided owning up to the crimes committed by their defeated and disgraced predecessors. The tragedy of East Pakistan had been partially foretold by the wilful manipulation of centre-province relations in the 1950s and 1960s by a military dominated state. Yet a fully separate and sovereign state was an option of the last resort in the spring of 1971 once the military junta shut down all prospects of realizing Bengali national aspirations within a federal or confederal framework. What came in the wake of 1971 promised to be an endless trial by fire for the constituent units of a Pakistani federation that the military in league with the central bureaucracy insisted on governing as a quasi-unitary state.

By courtesy of: The Struggle for Pakistan by Ayesha Jalal, Harvard University Press 2014

The Promise of Democracy

The Triumph of Populism 1971-1973
Like Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam, before him, 24 years later, Bhutto, the Quaid-e-Awam, was building a new country.

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

With the surrender of Pakistani troops on December 16, 1971, in Dhaka, Bangladesh came into being, and with that, the end of the Pakistan that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had originally created. It also resulted in the end of 13 years of military rule in what remained of the country. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was in New York at the time, flew in to Rawalpindi on December 20, and, with the assistance of a group of the military’s general officers who had been dismayed by Gen Yahya Khan and his core group over the defeat, forcing Yahya out, became the president of Pakistan as well as its only civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator.

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

Within a matter of days, Bhutto began to put into effect his mandate of the people, based on his electoral manifesto which had won him a majority in the elections in West Pakistan a year earlier. While economic and social reform was a key plank of the Bhutto promise, what needed pressing attention, among numerous things, was the return of the 93,000, mostly military, prisoners of war (POWs) in India.
In 1971, Pakistan had lost not just East Pakistan, but half its navy, one-third of its army, and a quarter of its air force. India occupied 5,000 square miles of West Pakistani territory. The military stood humiliated after the surrender, and this was the first of only two opportunities (the other was in 2008) when elected leaders could have established long-lasting democratic rule in Pakistan.
Bhutto even initiated a judicial commission, under chief justice Hamoodur Rahman, “to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the atrocities and 1971 war”, including the “circumstances in which the Commander of the Eastern Military Command surrendered the Eastern contingent forces under his command who laid down their arms”.
Bhutto outdid himself when he met Indira Gandhi at Simla in July 1972 and got the better of her through his persuasive negotiating skills, and secured the release of Pakistani POWs (who came home in 1974), with India returning Pakistan’s territory, and both countries accepting the ceasefire line in Kashmir as the Line of Control. Bhutto returned a hero, yet again, to Pakistan, not just for the people, but also for sections of the military.
On a parallel track, Bhutto’s leftist economic team was implementing promises that had been made during the election campaign of 1970. With roti, kapra aur makaan the key slogans of Bhutto’s electoral commitment of his notion of Islamic Socialism and social justice, the manifesto of his Pakistan People’s Party had promised the nationalisation of all basic industries and financial institutions.
It had stated that “those means of production that are the generators of industrial advance or on which depend other industries must not be allowed to be vested in private hands; secondly, that all enterprises that constitute the infrastructure of the national economy must be in public ownership; thirdly, that institutions dealing with the medium of exchange, that is banking and insurance, must be nationalised”.

Economic Agenda

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

The economic policies of the Bhutto government rested on the premise that the control of the leading enterprises was to be in the hands of the state. It ought to be pointed out that while this policy of nationalisation has been much maligned by critics of Bhutto, his policies were a reflection of the times and of the age in which they were implemented.
Since Bhutto’s rise to electoral success was based on his populist critique of Ayub Khan’s economic policies of functional inequality resulting in the infamous ‘22 families’, issues of redistribution, nationalisation and social-sector development were fundamental to his economic programme. Literally within days of taking over power, in January 1972, Bhutto had nationalised 30 major firms in 10 key industries in the large-scale manufacturing sector, essentially in the capital and intermediate goods industry.
In March 1972, his government had nationalised insurance companies, and banks were to follow in 1974, as were other industrial concerns in 1976. In addition to nationalisation, extensive labour reforms were also initiated by the Bhutto government, giving labour far greater rights than they had had in the past.
With the need to break the industrial-financial nexus a pillar of Bhutto’s populist social agenda, in a country which at that time was predominantly rural and agricultural, the ownership of land determined economic, social and political power. Bhutto had promised to break the hold of the feudals (notwithstanding the fact that he himself owned much land) and undertook extensive land reforms in March 1972.
In a speech, he said his land reforms would “effectively break up the iniquitous concentrations of landed wealth, reduce income disparities, increase production, reduce unemployment, streamline the administration of land revenue and agricultural taxation, and truly lay down the foundations of a relationship of honour and mutual benefit between the landowner and tenant”.
The PPP manifesto laid the premise for this action by stating that “the breakup of the large estates to destroy the feudal landowners is a national necessity that will have to be carried through by practical measures”. The government had decided that the land resumed from landowners would not receive any compensation unlike the Ayub Khan reforms of 1959, and this land was to be distributed free to landless tenants. The ceilings for owning land were also cut from 500 acres of irrigated land to 150 acres in 1972.
Although a lot of propaganda was churned out about the success of the 1972 reforms, the resumed land was far less than was the case in 1959, and only one per cent of the landless tenants and small owners benefited from these measures. Nevertheless, like labour reforms, tenancy reforms for agricultural workers and for landless labour did give those cultivating land far greater usufruct and legal rights to the land than they previously had.
Along with these structural interventions in the economy which changed ownership patterns and property rights, an ambitious social-sector programme, consisting, among other things, of the nationalisation of schools and initiating a people’s health scheme providing free healthcare to all, was also initiated.
However, while economic and social reform was a key plank of the Bhutto promise and his energies were also consumed by the process of getting the POWs released, giving Pakistan its first democratic constitution was also high on his agenda.

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

Although 125 of the 135 members of the National Assembly voted for Pakistan’s Constitution on April 10, 1973, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is given, and deservedly so, credit for making a large, discordant group of nationalists and Islamists to agree to the draft.
To get leaders like Wali Khan, who was the parliamentary leader of the opposition, Mir Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo, the sardars of Balochistan, Mufti Mahmud, and Mian Tufail, who had replaced Maulana Maudoodi as the Jamaat-e-Islami Amir, to build a consensus on a document that would determine Pakistan’s democratic trajectory was a major feat.

The Constitution came into effect on August 14, 1973, setting out a parliamentary form of government, with Bhutto as Pakistan’s first democratically elected prime minister. Since Bhutto ruled the Punjab and Sindh, he had made concessions to the nationalists in order to make them agree to his terms. Ayesha Jalal quotes Bhutto as saying that while Wali Khan “vehemently opposed” the Constitution, he skilfully manoeuvred the Khan and “smashed him into becoming a Pakistani”.

A key clause in the 1973 Constitution required members of the armed forces to take an oath promising not to take part in political activities and making it illegal for the military to intervene in politics. Clearly, the military did not read or care for the Constitution either in 1977 or in 1999.

Nationalists and Military

While the PPP had its governments in the Punjab and Sindh, the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan were ruled by coalition governments formed by the National Awami Party (NAP) and the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI) which gave a voice to Baloch and Pashtun nationalisms of the 1970s variety.
In February 1973, weapons were found in the Iraqi embassy in Islamabad that were supposedly meant for armed insurrection by the nationalists in Balochistan. On February 14, Sardar Attaullah Khan Mengal’s government in Balochistan was dismissed, and the next day, the NAP-JUI government in the NWFP resigned, while Bhutto’s governor in Balochistan, Sardar Akbar Khan Bugti, resigned in October 1973 as a political crisis emerged and grew stronger by the day.
Many of the sardars and their tribesmen had started a militant movement for a Greater Balochistan, joined in by many Cambridge-educated scions of elite households, largely from the Punjab. Bhutto called in the military, with General Tikka Khan, dubbed by many as the ‘butcher of East Pakistan’, to curb the armed uprising and for Tikka Khan to add another accolade to his titles, that of the ‘butcher of Balochistan’.
So soon after having lost political and public support, once again, a constitutional crisis slowly brought in the military into a position of increasing prestige and prominence. The lessons of just a few years ago, of giving nationalists their rights and accepting electoral outcomes, were once again being brushed aside by the same democratically-elected leader, and, indeed, by the military.

Early Signs of Authoritarianism

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

As his rule progressed, we see clear signs of hubris and authoritarianism emerging in the political practices of Bhutto, but there were early signs which may have suggested what was to come, with Shuja Nawaz and many other authors seeing the rise of an eventual “civilian dictatorship”. One example of this was the decision to set up the Federal Security Force (FSF), a paramilitary organisation, so as not to rely on the military, as early as September 1972. The FSF, whose head later became a state witness in the infamous Bhutto trial, was once seen as ‘Bhutto’s private military arm’.
Furthermore, it is ironic that while Bhutto was a social democrat, giving numerous rights and powers to the downtrodden, to the labourers and to the peasants and landless workers, he also used the power of the state to undermine the force of the street, particularly in Karachi. In the summer of 1972, organised trade unions in Karachi took to the streets and initiated industrial action in the form of strikes, but were met by a brutal police force resulting in the death of a number of workers. Organised labour, which had supported Bhutto’s rise, was dealt a harsh blow about the reality of incumbent politics.

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

Like Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam, before him, 24 years later, Bhutto, the Quaid-e-Awam, was building a new country. Both had dismissed provincial governments and showed signs of an incipient authoritarianism and desire for centralisation and control. We do not know what Jinnah would have done had he lived, but Bhutto’s democratic and socialist credentials were soon to come undone.
Arrogance and clear signs of intolerance of dissent were emerging in the Pakistan of 1972-73. Many of the promises made in the late 1960s and the early 1970s by Bhutto were to be played out between 1974 and 1977, setting a stage for Bhutto’s regional and global aspirations and ambitions.
However, perhaps it was the same ambition and confidence that had led him to an electoral victory in 1970 which was to become a cause for his eventual downfall in 1977, and then death in 1979. He had also made far too many enemies along the way, and many of them were just waiting for their opportunity to settle scores. Between 1974 and 1977, Bhutto was to give them many such opportunities.

The promise of democracy by S. Akbar Zaidi. The writer is a political economist based in Karachi. He has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge, and teaches at Columbia University in New York and at the IBA in Karachi.

Courtesy of :

 

Elections and Massacre

The Breakup of Pakistan 1969-1971

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elections and massacre by S. Akbar Zaidi. The writer is a political economist based in Karachi. He has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge, and teaches at Columbia University in New York and at the IBA in Karachi.

Courtesy of :

HBL has been an indelible part of the nation’s fabric since independence, enabling the dreams of millions of Pakistanis. At HBL, we salute the dreamers and dedicate the nation’s 70th anniversary to you. Jahan Khwab, Wahan HBL

 

The Misunderstood Premier

 

Liaquat Ali Khan (1895-1951)

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

Liaquat Ali Khan was as pivotal to the consolidation of Pakistan as the Quaid-i-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was central to the creation of Pakistan. He became the country’s first prime minister not simply because he was a trusted lieutenant of Jinnah, but by his proven leadership skills in having led the Muslim League bloc in the interim government before partition. Liaquat, having left all his property in India, refused to file a claim to which he was entitled as a ‘refugee’. The Nawabzada reduced his standard of life and set about building institutions in the new country. Such was the stuff the man was made of.

 

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

The course of Pakistan’s journey can be seen meandering its way from a prime minister proverbial for his probity and down to his successors who every now and then faced investigations related to their wealth. It is no wonder, then, that after Pakistan had turned the corner in terms of consolidation, questions began to be raised regarding the constituency of Liaquat in Pakistan.

His tenure as prime minister is seen by certain quarters as having set a controversial path for the nation to follow. There have been two basic contentions. The first one relates to his decision to move away from what used to be the Soviet Union. The decision also had its reverberations in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy case.

The first step in this direction was taken on May 3, 1948, when it was announced that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Pakistan were to exchange ambassadors. On the occasion, Liaquat stated: “It has been the desire of Pakistan to have friendly relations with all the nations of the world, and the decision to exchange ambassadors with Russia is in consequence of that policy.”

The invitation for Liaquat to visit Moscow came a year later, on June 2, 1949, through the Soviet ambassador to Iran. Russia thereafter insisted that ambassadors be exchanged prior to Liaquat’s visit. Although on June 9, Sir Zafrullah Khan tried to stall the move, Liaquat proceeded regardless. The Pakistani ambassador was appointed on December 31, 1949, while the Soviet ambassador was appointed on March 22, 1950.

In June 1949, the USSR ‘advanced’ the date of the invitation, from August 20 to August 14. Liaquat could not agree to the date as it happened to be the first Independence Day of Pakistan after the Quaid-i-Azam’s demise. Subsequently came an invitation from the US and Liaquat proceeded there in May 1950.

Liaquat mentioned the Soviet invitation when leaving for the US, while he was on the US soil, and on his return home. A year later, Liaquat, while addressing a press conference in Karachi, explained the position thus:

I cannot go [to Moscow] until those people who invited me fix a date and ask me to go on such date … The invitation came. Later, they suggested August 14, 1949. I replied that this is our Independence Day. I can come on any day after that; after that they have not replied”.

I am not the first to challenge the ‘myth’ of the Moscow invitation. Others, including Irtiza Husain, Mansur Alam and Shahid Amin, have preceded me. Syed Ashfaque Husain Naqvi, a diplomat based in Tehran at the time, rejected the allegation that Liaquat had cadged an invitation.

And this is what Dr. Samiullah Koreshi, who was posted at Moscow, related in his book ‘Diplomats and Diplomacy’: “Mr. Shuaib Qureshi was the first ambassador to USSR [in 1949] … He called on Andre Gromyko, then deputy foreign minister, to tell him that the prime minister had dispatched him post haste so that he could make all arrangements for his visit to Moscow in response to their invitation.

[Gromyko replied] ‘Our invitation to your prime minister? Oh, you mean your proposal that he come here’.”

Thereafter, the Soviet government did not revert to the subject.

The point is that the change of date having been made by the Soviets and Liaquat having conveyed his reservations clearly, Pakistan cannot be accused of having tried to pit one world power against the other, or of having picked up any of the two. He simply went ahead with the invitation that was valid and cannot be charged with failure to make use of the one that was not there on the table.

The other controversy regarding Liaquat’s tenure relates to the Objectives Resolution which is blamed for having opened the door for the subsequent Islamisation of General Ziaul Haq. Regardless of if Pakistan was to be an Islamic state, the Pakistan movement clearly shows that it was not meant to be a territory with an ideology, but an ideology with a territory. Securing human rights and survival for a community suffering from religious discrimination is of ideological, and not of territorial, import.

 

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

The Objectives Resolution moved by Liaquat is denounced as a regressive document by which he allegedly sought to nullify the secular vision of the Quaid-i-Azam. To determine the veracity of the charge, we need to see three documents.

The first is the draft by the religious parties’ alliance. It read:

“The Sovereignty of Pakistan belongs to Allah alone, and the Government of Pakistan has no right other than to enforce the will of Allah. The basic law of Pakistan is the Shariah of Islam. All those laws repugnant to Islam are to be revoked, and, in future, no such laws can be passed. The Government of Pakistan shall exercise its authority within the limits prescribed by Islamic Shariah.”

Now compare this draft with the one presented by Liaquat. It read:

“Whereas the sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust. This Constituent Assembly representing the people of Pakistan, resolves to frame a constitution of the sovereign independent state of Pakistan wherein the state shall exercise its power and authority through the chosen representatives of the people.”

What is the difference between the two drafts? The one presented by the ulema negates democracy, while Liaquat’s draft asserts it. Without democracy, even a minority sect can rule over a majority sect; a situation that has thrown the whole of the Middle East into confusion today.

The third document is the speech of Liaquat in the Constituent Assembly that he delivered on March 7, 1949, on the subject.

“I assure the minorities that we are fully conscious of the fact that if the minorities are able to contribute to the sum total of human knowledge and thought, it will redound to the credit of Pakistan and will enrich the life of the nation. Therefore, the minorities may look forward, not only to a period of the fullest freedom, but also to an understanding and appreciation on the part of the majority … Sir, there are many interests for which the minorities desire protection. This protection this Resolution seeks to provide. We are fully conscious of the fact that they do not find themselves in their present plight for any fault of their own. It is also true that we are not responsible by any means for their present position. But now that they are our citizens, it will be our special effort to bring them up to the level of other citizens so that they may bear the responsibilities imposed by their being citizens of a free and progressive State …”

It is true that members of the Pakistan National Congress had raised objections to the Resolution, but, among many others, it had the support of Sir Zafrullah Khan and Mian Ifthikharuddin who represented two divergent schools of thought and became part of religious and political minority in later years. And this is a proof of Liaquat’s sincere intentions in moving the Objectives Resolution and of the tinkering that the Resolution suffered afterwards.

Besides, Liaquat had held out the assurance that the Objectives Resolution would not become a substantive part of the Constitution. This, and other linguistic jugglery, was done much later by General Ziaul Haq. Therefore, it is unjustifiable to blame Liaquat for the excesses caused by the dictator that opened the door for even more abuse than he himself probably thought of.

Whatever the critics might say, Liaquat was what he was. It was a real achievement on his part that he could set Pakistan on the course to industrialization. Western countries, seeking to ensure Pakistan’s demise, refused to supply even on payment, machinery and parts. They wanted Pakistan to be subservient to India. Liaquat nevertheless could procure the necessary equipment from East European countries in return for hard cash. Sishir Chandra Chattopadhaya had stated on the floor of the Constituent Assembly that the link between East Bengal and Calcutta could not be broken. Liaquat broke the link.

He refused to devalue currency when Britain and India did so. In the face of the Indian threat not to lift jute at the new price, Liaquat went to the growers, directly pleading with them not to sell at the old rate. If need be, the government of Pakistan would lift the entire stock, he assured the growers. The jute mills of Calcutta could not run without jute from East Bengal and, ultimately, the owners purchased at the new rate. This single decision enabled Liaquat to derive full benefit from the boom created by the Korean War, and the country, which had been written off as nonviable, became more than solvent.

The British, since 1857, had imposed certain standards for the recruitment of soldiers. Liaquat removed them and started the induction of Bengalis in Pakistan Army. Similarly, there was only one ICS officer from East Pakistan, Nurun-Nabi Choudhry. Liaquat immediately fixed a 50 per cent quota for East Bengal civil servants to generate parity.

 

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

The critics of Liaquat survived, but Liaquat did not. And he died in circumstances that have never allowed anyone to pinpoint the actual killer … or killers. Liaquat’s life and actions generated controversies when there should have been none, and his death remains a controversy that failed to generate much interest where it mattered. Liaquat deserved better.

Featured Image: Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan signing his assent after having been sworn in as Pakistan’s first Prime Minister on August 15, 1947, in the presence of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (right) on the grounds of the Governor General House in Karachi. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

Courtesy:

Dawn: The misunderstood Premier, Liaquat Ali Khan (1895-1951) by Dr. Muhammad Reza Kazimi.” The writer is a historian and biographer of Liaquat Ali Khan.

 

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HBL has been an indelible part of the nation’s fabric since independence, enabling the dreams of millions of Pakistanis. At HBL, we salute the dreamers and dedicate the nation’s 70th anniversary to you. Jahan Khwab, Wahan HBL

 

Lessons we have learnt in the last 70 years

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.

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Ayub Khan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Fatima Jinnah in Dhaka Cantonment on March 20, 1948 | White Star

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.

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General Ziaul Haq administers the oath of office of Federal Shariat Court chairman to Justice Salahuddin Ahmed on May 20, 1980 | White Star

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.

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General Pervez Musharraf | White Star

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.

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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is welcomed at Gilgit Airport on August 23, 1972 | White Star

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.

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Nawaz Sharif speaks at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal on June 18, 2009 | White Star

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.

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Asif Ali Zardari at Benazir Bhutto’s funeral in 2007 | White Star

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.

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Benazir Bhutto at a press conference in 2007 | White Star

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.

By courtesy Dawn.