Pakistan Language, Population, Migration

Language and Identity

Tariq Rahman has engagingly traced the history of the ‘upstart’ Urdu language, involving its gradual displacement of Persian from the middle of the nineteenth century to its blossoming as a ‘badge of identity, a mark of sophistication and refinement’ for elite Muslims. Its journey was to culminate in it being accorded the status of Pakistan’s national language, although at the time of independence only around 7% of the population spoke it as a mother tongue. The initial refusal to accord a similar status to Bengali, the language spoken by most Pakistanis in 1947, was a factor in the growing tensions between the country’s eastern and western wings.

From the 1900 foundation of the Urdu Defence Association onwards, Urdu was a major symbol of Muslim political identity in colonial India. The association owed its birth to the success of partisans of Hindi, securing its recognition alongside Urdu as an official language in the United Provinces (UP). Urdu had been adopted as the official language of UP in 1858, but Hindi language activists mounted increasingly vociferous public campaigns to change this government decision. Altogether 118 memorials signed by 67,000 persons submitted in favour of Hindi as the medium of instruction when the Commission on National Education sat in 1882. The Hindi-Urdu controversy really intensified, however, at the beginning of the next century, arising from the anti-Urdu stance of the Lieutenant Governor of the North-Western Provinces, Sir A.P. MacDonnell. During its course, both Urdu and Hindi became identified as the language of essentialized ‘Muslim’ and ‘Hindu’ religious communities. In this respect language advocacy intersected with the growing impact of socio-religious reform in North India.

Urdu was not only the mother tongue of the UP Muslim elite, but was spoken by members of the Muslim upper classes throughout India. The mass of the Muslim population, however, spoke a variety of other languages, with Punjabi and Bengali having the greatest number of users. The British had made Urdu, however, the official vernacular language in Punjab from 1854 onwards, thereby marginalizing the Punjabi mother tongue. The decision, partly taken for administrative convenience and resting on official prejudices against the ‘rustic’ Punjabi language, possessed profound long-term significance.

Attachment to Urdu became a key component of the Muslim separatist platform in colonial India. Nonetheless, Urdu has proved much less effective in promoting a national Pakistani identity than have regional languages in articulating ethnic identity. Centralization around one language has strengthened the role of regional languages in identity politics. This is especially marked in Sindh, where the language movement emerged in resistance to the local influx of Urdu-speaking Mohajirs as well as to the national domination by the ruling Mohajir and later Punjabi elites. It is present in most parts of Pakistan, although it is muted in Punjab, outside of its Seraiki-speaking belt. This arises from the colonial tradition of subsuming Punjabi to Urdu. It also reflects the fact that the Punjab has been the core of the Pakistan state. Influentials segments of its inhabitants have largely been prepared to eschew cultural nationalism in favour of physical control of state political and economic power.

The rapid social mobility arising from internal migration has certainly strengthened Urdu as a common lingua franca. The process has its limitations, however, because of the politicization of language in smaller provinces of Pakistan. Urdu itself became the focus of an ethnic identity, rather than of Pakistan nationalism with the emergence of a Mohajir political identity in urban Sindh early in the 1980s.

Sindhi has long been an important element in identity politics along with other community markers relating to dress (wearing of the ajrak shawl), poetry and Sufism. Indeed, it was Sufi poems (kafi) which helped to establish Sindhi linguistic traditions, despite their ancient origins. The nationalist politician and writer G.M. Syed drew on these ancient cultural traditions to support the demand for an independent Sindhi homeland, Sindhu Desh, in the 1970s, although the driving force of his separatist stance was the ‘Punjabi-‘ political domination. Syed had warned even in the early 1940s that Pakistan was likely to be a Punjabi-dominated state. There was considerable resentment the influx of Punjabi agriculturists following the completion of the Sukkur Barrage irrigation scheme in 1932. This was nothing compared with the flood of Urdu-speaking refugees from India in 1947.

During the colonial era, Sindhi was standardized in the Arabic script, formerly having also been written in Nagri and Gurumukhi. Since independence, Sindhi language activists have been engaged in clashes with the state. A strong sense of Sindhi cultural identity lay behind the resistance to the centralizing and Islamizing policies of Zia, as can be glimpsed in such poems as Naz Hamayooni’s ‘Love for Homeland’. G.M. Syed, despite his long-term resistance to the Pakistan state, stood aloof from this movement, however, in the main because of his hostility to the PPP. Ironically, Karachi’s Urdu-speakers celebrated the veteran Sindhi nationalist 81st birthday in January 1984.

Pashto from the colonial era onwards has become an important component of Pakhtun ethnic identity, although before this Persian was the ‘language of sophisticated discourse’ and the moral code of Pakhtunwali undergirded identity. The British imposition of Urdu as the official vernacular language encouraged the promotion of Pashto as a symbol of anti-colonial resistance by Red Shirt movement of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. Whilst the use of Pashto thereafter became central to the Pakhtun identity, along with Pakhtunwali and Islam, it met with resistance from both Hindko-speaking Muslims and the Hindu-Sikh population. The Pakistan state viewed Pashto with similar suspicion as did their colonial forebears, because of Afghanistan’s irredentist claims and the Afghan state’s promotion of Pashto over Dari as symbol of Pakhtun domination. During the 1950s and 1960s, the issue of Pashto was central to the aspirations of Pakhtunistan secessionists. More recently, the integration of Pakhtuns into the Pakistan state has seen the rise in Urdu use, although Pashto retains its symbolic significance in identity politics and demands for greater autonomy, which culminated in the renaming of the North West Frontier Province as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Tribal social structures have been more important in framing Baloch political identity than language, as Balochistan’s multilingualism has limited such possibilities. Its linguistic mix resulted not only from the presence of a sizeable Pashto-speaking Pakhtun population in such areas as Sibi, Zhob and Pishin, but also from the prevalence of a Brahvi-speaking Baloch ethnic group. Indeed, the Khan of Kalat’s family were Brahvi-speaking, but inspite of this Baloch nationalists have looked to Mir Nisar Khan, who had forged the Kalat state in the second half of the eighteenth century, as an inspiration for independent statehood. Seraiki-speaking tribes such as the Jamalis also identify themselves as Baloch. Urdu was the recognised vernacular language of the British administered Balochistan. Since independence, the Pakistan state has promoted Urdu as a vehicle for national integration. Its prevalence among the Baloch elite, the underdeveloped nature of Balochi as a written language and the divide between it and Brahvi have led to tribal loyalties and economic and political grievances, rather than language driving nationalist resistance to the Pakistan state.

Modernising states’ reactions to ‘sub-national’ political identities based on ethnicity, language and religion have been a major factor in encouraging authoritarianism not only in South Asia but throughout the developing world. Superficially, Pakistan’s limited range of politically-conscious ethnic groups in comparison with India’s appear less of a threat to democratic consolidation. A number of scholars have argued conversely, however, that India’s complex ethnic structure has worked as an enabling factor for democracy by for example preventing the state from being captured by a single dominant ethnic group.


In any other region of the world, a state of Pakistan’s size with a population of around 175 million, an army of around 500,000 and a GDP of over $160 billion would be a significant power. India, however, with its 1 billion plus population, 1 million of which are in arms, and GDP eight times higher than Pakistan’s, dwarfs it and in doing so perpetuates the sense of insecurity which has dogged Pakistan’s history.

While Pakistan cannot match India’s size, military and economic might, its population and economy have grown rapidly since 1947. According to the 1951 census the population for what now includes Bangladesh as well as Pakistan was just 73 million. Today’s truncated Pakistan, with an estimated population of 185 million, is the sixth largest country in the world in terms of its population. The rate of increase is still around 2.2% per annum; this compares with 1.4% and 0.6% respectively for its Indian and Chinese neighbours. Around half of Pakistan’s people are under the age of 15. Some estimates put the population under the age of 25 as high as 100 million, making this one of the largest youth populations in the world. This youthful dynamism is a factor in the state’s resilience. The youth bulge could either prove a demographic dividend, helping to drive forward economic growth, or it could prove to be a time-bomb, if the state is unable to educate and utilize it.

Rapid population has been a contributory factor to Pakistan’s poor achievements in educational provision for its citizens, although they are primarily a result of the state’s historically low tax levels and the privileging of defence expenditure over that on both health and education. Literacy stands at around 55% of the population, although this masks significant regional and gender imbalances. Only around a third of adult women are literate, while little more than a fifth participate in the labour force. Women made up only 10.96 million out of a total labour force 51.78 million in 2007-8. Pakistan in 2007-8 stood 125 out of 138 countries in terms of the Gender-related Development Index, and ranked 82 out of 93 in the Gender Empowerment Measure. The following year, the increasing security crisis in the Malakand division and parts of the NWFP kept girls especially from education. According to one report perhaps as many as 80,000 girls in Swat were deprived of education. Scandalously high rates of female illiteracy in the more conservative areas of Pakistan such as the Frontier and the Tribal Areas (with just 18% female literacy in the former and 3% in the latter) have exacerbated the failures of half-hearted government programmes of family planning. A recent report revealed that only 18% of the women in the countryside use the modern method of family planning. Around 200,000 women are admitted to hospital each year because of unsafe abortions, at a conservatively estimated cost of $22 million. A dramatic expansion of female education is essential, not only in terms of addressing gender inequalities, but because if its historical connection with the slowing of population increase. Bangladesh’s better record than Pakistan in reducing fertility rates is directly attributable not only to its more effective family planning policies, which have been largely provided by NGO (in Pakistan they account for around 13% of family planning services), but to its policies designed to educate and economically empower women. According to some accounts, there is a gap of 25% between the demand and supply of contraceptive services in Pakistan. Its consequences are revealed by the slow pace in the decline if fertility and the chilling statistic that 1 in 7 pregnancies end in induced abortion.

Population growth continuing at its current rate of over 2% per annum could in future reach crisis proportions. Some demographers project that this will result in a population of around 335 million by the mid twenty-first century, this would make Pakistan the fourth populous country in the world. More immediate high levels of population increase poverty in the absence of policies of economic redistribution; around 1 in 5 Pakistanis continue to live beneath the poverty line. About 60% of Pakistan’s population subsist on less than $2 a day.

There are again marked regional differences in this exposure to poverty, with the poorest populations being found in the Tribal Areas, the interior of Sindh and Balochistan. It is significant to note that the areas which were most developed in the colonial era have retained their advantage since independence. There are parallels with India with respect to the former Princely States, in that there were pockets of deep poverty in some of the Princely States which acceded, while other states were ‘progressive’ (e.g. Mysore in the Indian context) and had similar standards of living to those of neighbouring British India districts. Khairpur and Bahawalpur were the most developed states that acceded to Pakistan, as they shared in the irrigation (the Sutlej Valley Project) and communication developments of the adjacent British provinces. The Frontier Princely States of Amb, Chitral and Dir lagged far behind the settled districts of the Frontier. Swat had a literacy rate of just 1.75% in 1951. Education was banned by the Nawab of Dir in case it undermined his autocratic rule by which he owned all the land in his state. However, the Balochistan states with their poor communications and nomadic inhabitants were the most backward of all the states that acceded to Pakistan. Kharan and Lasbela had only one middle school each for boys by 1949. The disparity of socio-economic development between the Princely States and the former British provinces, together with their strategic location, complicated their integration in Pakistan. With the notable exception of Kalat, extremely low levels of political consciousness accompanied the poor social development indicators.

Even in the most prosperous areas of Pakistan such as the Punjab, the rural areas lag behind their urban counterparts. The absence of amenities and life chances in rural Pakistan has contributed to another marked feature of the country’s economic profile: that of high levels of migration. Rural-urban migration has resulted in Karachi and to a lesser extent Lahore as emerging mega cities. Future migration trends will increase their size and those of other urban combinations, so that by 2030 it is estimated that half of the population will live in urban centres. Nonetheless, Pakistan continues at present to have a large rural population. Agriculture still accounts for around 20% of the annual GDP and provides employment for over 40% of the country’s labour force. The extensive production of rice and wheat is possible because of the existence of one of the largest irrigation networks in the world, which waters around 16 million hectares of land.


Pakistan is a society on the move. Its birth was accompanied by by the Partition of the subcontinent and the division of the two Muslim major priory provinces of Punjab and Bengal. The Partition-related violence sparked the largest uprooting people in the twentieth century. While the two way transfer of 9 million Punjabis in the short period of August-December 1947 forms the iconic representation of this upheaval, migration of Muslims into Sindh continued well into the1950s. By 1951, the Urdu-speaking UP migrants (mohajirs) numbered around 50% of Karachi’s population. The creation of a UP Urdu speaking enclave in the sands if Sindh was to have profound consequences for Pakistan’s politics. The cultural and political assimilation of Punjabi-speaking migrants, unlike their Urdu counterparts in Sindh, has obscured the fact that the greatest number of migrants from India (over 5 million) came from East Punjab. They settled on the agricultural land abandoned by the outgoing Sikh farmers in the Canal Colony areas and in the towns and cities of West Punjab, where they frequently accounted for over 50% of the population. The Punjabi migrants have formed a constituency for Islamists and extremist sectarian movements as well as for the mainstream factions of e Muslim League. They are also staunch upholders of the Kashmir cause, reflecting the fact that there was not only a significant influx of Kashmiri refugees into Pakistan in 1947, but the experiences of upheaval by ethnic Punjabis led them to an anti-Indian stance. The Punjabi refugee element in Pakistan’s politics has been overlooked, but in fact has formed another of the longer-term shaping factors which are not always recognized in contemporary security driven analyses.

Since independence, internal migration has formed an important feature of Pakistan’s experience and helped shape its political developments. There has been outright rural-urban migration, but also movement from countryside to small towns, sometimes as a staging post in the migration process, while the overall population increased by 250% in the period 1947-81, urban population growth was close to 400%. Karachi’s population had risen from under half a million in 1947 to 13 million in 2007. Lahore’s population stood at 5 million, with six other cities having a population of over 1 million. By 2025 it is projected that Pakistan’s urban population will total over 100 million, with Karachi and Lahore, both forming mega-cities of around 19 and 10 million respectively. The presence of large migrant communities in towns and cities has sustained outlooks and community networks from the rural setting rather than resulting in the emergence of a new ‘modern’ urban class. Small towns especially represent more of a village environment than is expected by the Western conception of an urban society. The migration of Pakhtuns throughout Pakistan, alongside the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, may be seen as a factor in introducing tribal cultural mores and norms into a growing ‘orthodox’ expression of Islam.

It is impossible to understand Karachi’s political turmoil in the 1990s (which by 2010 had shown dangerous signs of resurgence) without acknowledging the fact that this is not only the city of Indian migrants (mohajirs) but is the third largest Pakhtun city in the world and has a greater Baloch population than Quetta. Ethnic struggles for power and control over resources, in which criminal mafias play a role, have been contributory factors in the city’s reputation for violence. While Karachi is the melting pot par excellence, no area of Pakistan is homogenous, although provincial politics are frequently discussed in these terms. Around 40% of e population of Balochistan is, for example Pakhtun. There are significant Kashmiri populations in such Punjabi cities as Lahore and Sialkot. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan brought an influx of 3 million Afghans. Internal displacement of populations has been a feature of the military operations in the Tribal Areas. Indeed one aspect behind the resurgence of violence in Karachi in 2010 was the growing number of Pakhtuns who had moved to the city from the Tribal Areas. Alongside economic migrants and victims of military conflict, the natural disaster of the 2010 floods was another factor in internal displacement. Finally, there is little reported movement of perhaps as many 100,000 Punjabi settlers from Balochistan as a result of the growing number of targeted killings of Punjabis in the current phase of insurgency in the province.

Overseas migration has also impacted both on Pakistan’s economy and its international image. During the colonial era there was considerable migration from the Punjab future heartland of Pakistan; this included Muslim Rajputs from the poorer northern areas of the province as well as Sikh Jats from its central districts. Military service was a common feature for both areas, providing exposure to lands well beyond the native home (Desh) and creating a culture of international migration. There was also a tradition of migration from the Sylhet region of Assam ( now part of Bangladesh) based on the poorer sections of its population turning to careers as lascars (sailors) which led them to life overseas. Independence continued the earlier pattern of migration in that most international migrations were from Punjab and East Bengal. One discontinuity was provided by the push to overseas migration for the population of Mirpur in Azad Kashmir, following the displacement created by the construction of the Mangla Dam.

North America, Europe and the UK were the main centres of permanent migration, although large number of workers also moved for short-term contracts to the Middle-East from the 1970s and 1980s. This has undoubtedly increased the size and scale of middle-class wealth in Pakistan. The psychological reactions arising from the frustrations of newly enriched returnees has been dubbed the Dubai chalo (Let’s go to Dubai) theme in Pakistani society. Overseas Pakistanis in UAE and Saudi Arabia provide the largest inflows of remittances. In the period July 2010 to January 2011, for example, almost half of the $5.3 billion in remittances came from Pakistanis in these two areas.

However, Pakistanis living permanently in the West also provide large sums for their homeland’s foreign exchange reserves. The cultural impact of overseas migration is much less quantifiable than its economic consequences. The growing religious orthodoxy coincided with the increase of labour migration to the Gulf and Saudi Arabia in the 1970s. Assessments of the ‘Arabization’ of Pakistani Islam tend to focus on the Saudi export of Wahhabism in the political context of the Iranian revolution and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In doing so, they overlook the influence of growing numbers of migrant oil and construction workers who returned home to Pakistan,not only with increased prosperity, but commitment to a scriptural Islam in opposition to popular ‘folk Islam’.

The UK received the largest number of migrants, with the 2001 Census revealing a population of over 1 million persons with Pakistani or Bangladeshi origins. The growing South Asian diaspora in the US from 1965 onwards was dominated by Indian migrants, although there also the emergence of a professional Pakistani class, comprising engineers, academics, and especially medical practitioners. The size of the Pakistani population in the US is disputed, as US Census figures which put it around 200,000 do not include college students or second and third generation members, if they are accounted the numbers can increase to 700,000. While the Pakistani diaspora has not played a pivotal role in national politics as have, for example, overseas Tamils through their support for LTTE, all parties have overseas branches. London and Dubai were twin poles of the PPP during the years of exile of its leader Benazir Bhutto. London has also been the residence of Baloch nationalists. The MQM is run by Altaf Hussain from its London Secretariat. Former President Musharraf launched his All Pakistan Muslim League in London at the beginning of October 2010. Within the UK, , Birmingham because of its large diaspora community is another centre of intense political activity.

The diaspora represents an important economic resource through remittances, support for the major parties and for humanitarian aid, as at the time of the 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods. The US community is the wealthiest Pakistani diaspora and provides the most in remittances (around $1.73 billion 2007-8). Indeed periods of Pakistan’s rapid economic growth in the early 1980 and again two decades later appear to have been driven in part by overseas remittances which increased consumer demand for housing and transport. The involvement in the 7 July 2005 London bombings of the British-born young Muslims of Pakistani descent who had visited radical mosques in Pakistan, followed by the failed Times Square bombing in New York in May 2010, represented a more disturbing element in the ongoing diaspora-homeland connection. Further evidence came from the fact that the grey-bearded Swat Taliban spokesman, Muslim Khan, was a returned former painter and decorator from the Boston area.

Courtesy of:

Pakistan: Social Structure and Organization

Pakistani society is marked by vast disparities of wealth and access to basic goods and services, such as health, education and sanitation. These remain limited in an environment in which just 1% of the population is directly taxed. Western donors in the wake of the 2010 floods have urged that Pakistan address this issue and mobilize more of its own resources. Much of the funding for social welfare programmes is at present dependent on international aid. To provide just one example, US AID provides around $45 million for family planning programmes which have been chronically underfunded from government sources. The political power of big landowners continues to block the introduction of an agricultural income tax and thereby improve Pakistan’s woeful tax to GDP ratio of 9%. In a country of some 190 million people, there are only 2.7 million registered tax payers. Significantly, agriculture, which accounts for nearly a quarter of Pakistan’s GDP, provides only 1% of its tax revenues. Its favouring is to the detriment of industry, which has a tax share three times its contribution to GDP.

The failure to bring the wealthy into the tax net has undermined the consolidation of democracy and is a factor in encouraging the notion that Islamization would bring greater social justice in its wake. State-sponsored Islamization in the 1980s concentrated, however, on the punitive aspects of Islamic law rather than on the encouragement of egalitarianism. Periods of rapid economic growth in the 1980s and in the early years of the twenty-first century have seen some trickle down effects, with a concomitant rise in life expectancy and lifting of sections of the population out of poverty. Nonetheless, grinding poverty affects rural populations in Sindh and Balochistan.

Estimates of the incidence of poverty in Pakistan are difficult not only because of faulty survey design, but inaccuracies in the raw official data. The World Bank estimated that 28.3% of the population were living below the poverty line in 2004-5. This global figure masks trends across the provinces and between urban and rural settings. The Social Policy Development Centre produced the breakdown for 2001-2 shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Poverty incidence by province (%)

province overall/rural/provincial capital/large cities/small cities and towns

Punjab: 26/24/18/22/43

Sindh: 31/38/10/23/40

NWFP: 29/27/28-41

Balochistan: 48/51/14-44

Source: Safiya Aftab, Journal of Conflict and Peace Studies 1, 1 (October-December 2008) p.70.

We shall be noting later the extent to which uneven development has played a role in undermining nation-building. Certainly, the sense of Punjabi domination of Pakistan has been generated not only by the region’s association with the military, but because it is more highly developed than elsewhere, with the exception of Karachi. More recently attention has been turned to the link between poverty and Islamic militancy. Attention has been drawn to the fact that FATA, which is the most backward region of Pakistan with 60% of the population living below the poverty line, a literacy rate of only 17% and a per capita public expenditure of a third of the national average, have been the focus of insurgencies. Another major area of militant recruitment, however, is southern Punjab. While its poorest districts, such as Dera Ghazi Khan and Muzaffargarh, lag far behind its richest, the incidence of poverty is not as great as in for example the interior of Sindh and Balochistan. Yet neither of these areas are centres for radicalization and militancy. Muzaffargarh, the lowest ranked Punjabi district in terms of human development index, still in 2003, stood only at 59 out of 91 districts in Pakistan. While poverty and unemployment may feed militancy, this can only be fully understood in terms of a complex mix of religious, sectarian, social and historical factors.

Despite the existence of much poverty and inequality, it would nevertheless be wrong to portray Pakistan as an unchanging society. Despite major failings of governance, economic growth during the past decade has resulted in the emergence of a youthful and dynamic middle-class. According to some assessments there are now as many as 35 million people with a per capita income of up to $1,900. There is no monolithic middle stratum of society; it is differentiated by

• occupation,

• income,

• family antecedents,

• language and

• gender.

The middle classes contain both modernist and traditionalist elements and are as a result not necessarily more Westernized in outlook and lifestyle than the urban younger generation drawn from feudal elites. Indeed, one if the most striking developments of the past decade has been the spread of the orthodox Al-Huda movement amongst educated middle-class Pakistani women. This has promoted the Arab dress code of the full-size abaya. Perhaps the most unifying element of the middle classes is consumerism, as seen in the surge in sales of cars, televisions and mobile phones. One in two Pakistanis is a mobile phone subscriber, one of the highest rates in the region. Civil society groups have established a telemedicine network (Jaroka Telehealthcare) that enables health workers in remote areas to connect to connect with doctors in major cities. In addition to expenditure on electronic durables, the middle classes have become the main users of the burgeoning private educational establishments and privately run poly clinics which have become a marked feature of the urban landscape. According to one estimate, around three-quarters of all health care is provided by the private sector.

The rise of the middle class has also contributed to the growth of electronic media transmissions, which is another marked feature of contemporary Pakistan. The days have long passed when recourse to the BBC World Service and grainy images from the Indian Doordarshan television network were the only alternatives to the strictly controlled state broadcasting. Ease in dealing with an increasingly independent and intrusive media is becoming as much a political requirement in Pakistan as elsewhere in the media-driven world. The new cable networks have, however, strengthened existing orthodoxies in many instances, rather than interrogating them, and in the eyes of some critics have contributed to the powerful anti-Western discourse in contemporary Pakistan. Increased media access has in fact provided new opportunities for the spread of conspiracy theories, which are a marked feature of Pakistani public life. According to some commentators, they reflect a widespread national malaise which, by denying the root causes of Pakistan’s problems, prevent any attempts to address them. Symptomatic of the delusional world of conspiracy theories in Pakistan was the revelation by an international opinion pollster that two-thirds of Pakistanis surveyed believed that the person killed in the US operation in Abbotabad was not Osama bin Laden but a double. The former army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg not only concurred with this view, but maintained that Osama had been killed sometime before in Afghanistan and the 2 May 2011 episode was a US plot to defame Pakistan. Another widely believed conspiracy theory was that the raid on bin Laden was a practice run for the US seizure of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. When Hilary Clinton visited Pakistan towards the end of the month, she pointedly remarked that anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories will not make problems disappear.

With respect to politics, the inchoate character of the middle classes mean that no single party has benefited from their development. In Lahore, middle-class voters are likely to support the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N). In Karachi, they divide on ethnic lines, with Pakhtun businessmen, for example, supporting the Awami National Party (ANP), and mohajirs the Muttahida Qaumi Mahaz (MQM) or United National Movement), formerly the Mohajir Qaumi Movement. More traditionalist members of the middle classes throughout Pakistan are likely to vote for the Islamist Party Jamaat-i-Islami (JI or Islamic Society) or the Deobandi party the Jamiat-ulUlama-e-Islam (JUI). Although tiny by Indian standards, the middle classes in Pakistan are beginning to become an important social and economic actor, even if they lack national political power because of the continued grip of the feudal elites and biraderi (kinship group) heads.

It is widely argued in Pakistan that the feudals’ political influence has been a major factor in undermining democracy. The term feudal is used loosely to include the landed and tribal elites, many of whom may have interests not only in capitalist farming, but in agri-businesses and urban real estate development. Moreover, not all feudals’ can rely on the coercive localism described by critics to ensure the votes of their tenants. Socio-economic changes in parts of Punjab, for example, have created circumstances not that dissimilar from India, where elites must constantly rejuvenate their ties with their clients through the provision of patronage, and voters can remove incumbents in order to maximize the benefits they receive from political elites.

The Sindhi waderos symbolize Pakistan’s feudal class. They are seen as using their power to veto socio-economic reforms, including education in their localities. They are also blamed for blocking land reform and rural taxation and for cornering development aid. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s foes argued that he had never outgrown the arbitrariness and cruelty (zulm) of his Sindhi feudal background. Concentration on the waderos ignores the fact that a new landholding class has emerged in parts of Sindh as well as in Punjab in recent decades, drawn from the higher echelons of the bureaucracy and the army. It is also important to recognize that landowning alone is not the sole basis of political power in the countryside. In order to be really effective it needs to be combined with tribal and biraderi (kinship group) leadership and with the notion of reputation. This helps to explain why controls on female sexuality which could bring family dishonour are frequently so savage in tribal communities. Religious sanctity is another source of rural power. The connection between Sufi shrines and power has been traced in the colonial era in the works of such writers as David Gilmartin and Sarah Ansari. At the outset of the post-2008 PPP-led government both the Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, and the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi hailed from leading Sufi families of Multan. Recent studies have pointed to the fact that Islamists are increasingly challenging the pirs‘ influence not just on the long-established grounds of orthodox resistance to shrine worship, but by presenting themselves as opponents of the feudal structures in which the Sufi order are enmeshed.

Two points need to be made regarding tribal and biraderi leadership. It is well known that the tribal heads (sardars) in Balochistan wield far more power than their counterparts in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. There are large tribal heads in south Punjab who are originally of Baloch descent: the Legharis represent a good example. Outside Balochistan, the greatest tribal influence is wielded by the waderos of the interior of Sindh. The strongest biraderi networks are found amongst the smaller-scale land holding communities of the central Punjab. Biraderi networks are also important in some towns and cities. Politics in Lahore for example are dominated by the factional struggles amongst members the Arian and Kashmiri biraderis.

Four major impacts of Pakistani feudalism which have encouraged political authoritarianism have been identified by the critics.

1. First, the vast economic and social gulf between the landholding elite and the rural masses has effectively depoliticized the latter. Votes are sought in an atmosphere of coercive localism. The rural poor dare not oppose their landlord patrons.

2. Second, the perpetuation of feudal power relations has contributed to a political culture of violence and combativeness rather than cooperation.

3. Third, the parochial and personalized character of Pakistan politics is rooted in the landlords’ predominance; this is a factor in the weak political institutionalization which has hindered democratic consolidation.

4. Fourth, the landlords are concerned primarily with bolstering the local prestige rather than with pursuing a political agenda. This means that a significant fraction of the rural elite will always be prepared to lend legitimacy ton authoritarian rulers. Along with a section of the ulama, landlords are on hand to join what has been derisively termed the Martial Law B Team.

Mohammad Waseem has recently argued, however, that it is the rightist middle class rather than the feudals who undermine democracy. He maintains that the absolute majority of the middle class is rightist, although lawyers, writers and intellectuals comprise a small pro-democracy element within it. The rightist element is made up of military officers and bureaucrats, engineers, architects, corporate managers, information technologists and businessmen, all of whom are intensely conservative in outlook. While he acknowledges the combative and patronage-driven characteristics of the feudals’ political involvement, he sees traditional landed elites as more reflective of plural ethnolinguistic ties and as being prepared to build alliances across communities and regions. This class is attached to the Islam of pir and shrine, rather than that of the mosque and madrasa. The middle class on the other hand is driven by the twin ideologies of Pakistan nationalism, with its strong anti-Indian sentiment, and scriptural Islam, which is Pan-Islamic and anti-Western sentiment. The rightist middle class shares the state-centric, rather than people-centred vision held by the military and bureaucrat establishment. With the exception of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Waseem maintains that Pakistan’s authoritarian rulers have been drawn from the middle classes. Their stock in trade is that democracy has been hijacked by the feudals, politicians are corrupt and Pakistan society is not yet fit for democracy. Waseem’s views provide a useful counterpoint to the more widely held belief that the rise of the middle class in Pakistan will go hand in hand with democratization and liberalism. Indeed it could be argued that Wahhabi and Deobandi puritanical interpretations of Islam especially appeal to an emerging middle class locked out of power by feudals with their rhetoric of equality, brotherhood of Muslims, and claim that the implementation of the shari’ah will ensure social justice. As Mathew Nelson has so expertly revealed, for the landholding classes, however, a major preoccupation has been to use a combination of coercion, legal delay and political influence to circumvent the shari’ah’s impact on patrilineal customs of female disinheritance. For Nelson, political influence in the Punjabi rural setting lies in the ability to to circumvent existing post-colonial laws which have undermined the British enhancement of tribal custom. He sees the resulting informal patterns of extra-legal political accountability as possessing deleterious consequences for democratic consolidation. His understanding not only challenges Waseem’s, but those who adopt a less nuanced understanding of the lack of efficiency of the district courts and sees the colonial legacies for contemporary Pakistan only in narrow institutional inheritances.

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

Living out the legacy of his mentor

The Epoch 1990-1993/1997-1999 Going Nuclear


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

Prime Minister

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

Chief of Army Staff

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

Chief Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through courtesy:

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

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

Dawn Nov.18, 2017

The September War and the Tashkent Declaration; The Kashmir Dispute; Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir 1965

The September War and the Tashkent Declaration

Kashmir lies at the heart of the long and bitter conflict between India and Pakistan. Both nations have invested immense stakes in this territory, the last unsolved problem of the partition of India. For Pakistan, the denial of self-determination to Muslims in a Muslim- majority region contiguous to West Punjab cut at the root of the ‘two nation theory.’ The absence of Kashmir in the Pakistan dominions was a constant reminder to Pakistanis that their nation was still incomplete. To accede to the absorption of Kashmir into India would, for Pakistan, cast ‘doubt upon the legitimacy and permanence of the national homeland.’ For India, apart from the enormous strategic and economic value of the province, ‘to concede the validity of the two-nation theory would be a denial of the secular basis of the Congress Movement and a threat to the Muslim minority remaining in India. India has thus asserted the finality of her sovereignty in Kashmir, gained by the accession of a Hindu Maharajah. Despite Nehru’s original commitment to self-determination for Kashmir, India has backed away from a plebiscite which, as Krishna Menon admitted, ‘we would lose . . .’ Pakistani diplomacy has kept the dispute alive before the U.N. and other international forums, so much so that perhaps only India believes the problem is finally settled. In 1962 and 1964 Pakistan mounted major diplomatic offensives in the U.N. Security Council on the Kashmir problem, the latter personally led. by Z.A. Bhutto, but in neither case were any gains made in moving the dispute away from the stalemate. It is difficult to exaggerate the intensity of Pakistan’s sense of grievance on Kashmir, its belief in the justice of its cause, or its frustration at the failure of diplomatic methods to secure self-determination for Kashmir.
Pakistan had, in the past, considered and employed other than diplomatic methods in the Kashmir dispute, but these efforts had either been choked off by India’s effective intelligence network in Kashmir, or fallen afoul of the internal political situation in that province. The idea of supporting an insurrection in the Valley of Kashmir had been urged as early as 1949 by Major-General Akbar Khan, the commander of Pakistani forces in the 1948 hostilities in Kashmir.
In the early 1960s a number of factors began to converge that renewed the attractiveness of promoting an insurrection in and around the city of Srinagar. The first of these factors was the growth of civil unrest there and the resulting perception in Pakistan that the social and political conditions might now be ripe for a violent uprising. This unrest, having found a negative focus in the October 1963 announcement of constitutional moves to integrate Kashmir more fully into the Indian Union, exploded into major rioting when a relic of Prophet Muhammad was reported stolen from the Hazratbal Shrine near Srinagar in late 1963. Demands for a plebiscite and union with Pakistan were openly voiced during these disturbances. The release of Sheikh Abdullah, the ‘Lion of Kashmir’ and his dispatch by Nehru to negotiate a settlement of the Kashmir question with Ayub contained the unrest for a time. But these negotiations were hardly underway when they were cut off by the death of Nehru in May 1964. Kashmir suffered another period of disturbances and police firings in January 1965, after the post-Nehru leadership went ahead with th constitutional change.
The second factor in Pakistani calculations was the blossoming China-Pakistan relationship. During Chou En lai’ s visit to Pakistan in February 1964, China heretofore neutral on Kashmir, openly sided with Pakistan’s  position. We do not know what other, if any, agreements or understandings might have been arrived at on this occasion or later during Ayub Khan’s trip to Peking in May 1965. China, it seems clear, stood to make important strategic gains in Pakistan held Kashmir, particularly in the vital Aksai Chin area where it might be assumed Pakistan would not contest China’s claim. For its part, Pakistan might well have believed that, should it gain physical control of the Valley of Kashmir by some of combination of internal insurrection and military action , China would not permit any future Indian attempt to reverse such a fait accompli.
The third aspect that must have concerned Pakistan’s leaders was the situation in India. Again, from Pakistan’s point of view, the indications were favourable. India, at the death of Nehru, appeared to be on the verge of serious regional and linguistic strains, prompting some to speculate on the future ‘balkanization’ of India. One of the latter was Z.A. Bhutto, who, about this time, asked: ‘How long will the memory of a dead Nehru, inspire his countrymen to keep alive a polyglot India, that vast land of mysterious and frightening contradictions, darned together by the finest threads?’ The post Nehru leadership was seen as weak, divided by party factionalism and facing severe economic problems. Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, lacking the immense authority and political acumen of his illustrious predecessor, impressed Ayub as a small, ‘inconsequential fellow who could not be expected to meet the challenge of a crisis.’
Fourthly, in Pakistan the 1965 elections had ‘illuminated many of the mistakes and venalities of Ayub Khan’s government,’ and ‘greatly undermined, if not wholly discredited,’ him as a national leader. Though he won the election-with considerable help from the police and administration-Ayub ‘needed a spectacular success of some sort, and events in Kashmir in 1965 suggested that he might be able to gain it by reopening the issue through a localized military operation.’
Finally there were military considerations. By the early 1960s, having been reorganized, rearmed and retrained along the Korean War models, the Pakistani armed forces stood at the peak of their combat strength. In contrast, the Indian Army was still essentially a World War II force, having yet to complete the extensive reorganization and major build up begun after the debacle of 1962. The fact that Pakistan’s armoured forces were believed quantitatively equal and qualitatively superior to India’s, gave Pakistan’s officers the sense that they possessed the decisive breakthrough punch in a war with India. But, this was a temporary advantage for Pakistan and would disappear as India absorbed her new weaponry and completed training several new mountain divisions, which could be used in Kashmir as well as along the Sino-Indian boundary.
Optimistic Pakistani assessments of the relative military capabilities of India and Pakistan seemed to be confirmed in the Rann of Kutch hostilities in the spring of 1965. Begun in clashes between border police over disputed territory in February, the fighting escalated to brigade-sized actions between regular army units in April. Pakistani forces clearly bested their Indian counterparts in most of the actions and by late April Pakistan’s 8th Division under Major-General Tikka Khan was poised to defeat a comparable Indian force in the northern Rann. At this point, Prime Minister Shastri, under the most intense domestic pressure, told Lok Sahba that India would open hostilities on a battlefield more advantageous to itself, should Pakistan persist in advance in the Rann. At this time also, India’s divisions in the Punjab were gathered into offensive formations and her armoured division was ordered from the peace-time base at Jhansi to Jullundur. In the Rann, much against the urgings of his Foreign Minister, Ayub halted the Pakistani advance and, after a lull, permitted the dispute to go to negotiation and eventually international arbitration.
In the light of the September War, both sides looked back at the Rann hostilities as a probing action to test the other’s military and political reactions, and as a kind of proxy war for Kashmir. Inside the Government of Pakistan, Bhutto led a confrontationist group that pressed for a clear victory in the Rann in the belief that such a defeat would limit india’s military responses in the coming Kashmir conflict. As he later argued:
. . . the restraint exercised in not pressing these military advantages encouraged the Indians to believe that Pakistan would refrain from military action in retaliation to India’s plan to annex Jammu and Kashmir. At the same time, realizing that there would come an end to Pakistan’s restraint . . ., India took the precaution of simultaneously attacking Lahore to foreclose the Kashmir issue by the use of force . . . if Pakistan had taken advantage of its military successes in the Rann of Kutch . . .Indian Army would have regained her senses and not participated in another conflict only five months later.
To any neutral observer, however, these were not the lessons of the Rann hostilities. India always made clear its intention of attacking across the Punjab border if Pakistan made any military move against her vulnerable supply line ( the Jammu-Srinagar-Leh Road) into Kashmir. Pakistani planners among whom Bhutto had a pivotal role, evidently discounted such warnings and concluded that India would not risk an attack across a settled international boundary in response to conflict in a disputed region. On 6 September 1965, when India opened the Lahore front in reaction to Pakistan’s armoured thrust toward Chhamb in Jammu, Lahore was virtually undefended and managed to avoid capture largely because the Indian commander fearing a trap, failed to follow up his initial success. The other lesson of the Rann was that the weak Shastri Government was vulnerable to jingoistic public opinion and, even against its better judgment, might be forced to respond with massive force in the event an anticipated defeat in Kashmir or elsewhere. Shastri had expended virtually all of his political capital in trying to keep the Rann conflict limited and localized. When fighting erupted in Kashmir several months later, he had no option military or political, but to seek a wider war.
Bhutto’s comments on the Rann hostilities made when he was in the political wilderness, are shrewdly designed to to bolster his own activist role in the September War and to separate himself, as early as possible in the sequence of events from the overly cautious decisions that ended in Tashkent. There is little question that Z.A. Bhutto had the leading part in planning Pakistan ‘forward policy’ in Kashmir, indeed some have maintained it was he who revived Akbar Khan’s idea for an insurrection in the Valley of Kashmir. The policy envisioned the use of ‘controlled military power to produce political changes in India’s position on Kashmir, since all the diplomatic methods had failed. Central to the forward policy group’s plan was the internal insurrection, to be set off by para-military forces trained and armed by Pakistan and given political direction by radio station purporting to be broadcasting from liberated territory inside Indian-held Kashmir. Azad Kashmir and regular Pakistan forces would stand by to assist the insurrectionists, either by diversionary attacks along the cease- fire line (1948) or by moves against strategic points, and be prepared to exploit any major opportunities that developed. Certainly, the forward policy planners were prepared to accept the risk of a wider war with India because, even then, Pakistan’s minimal objective of getting serious negotiations underway on a plebiscite could still, it was calculated, be forced by international pressure and by Pakistan’s projected battlefield success. For the most part, the forward policy group believed India would confine its military response to Kashmir. In such an event, should all else go well for Pakistan, Kashmir could possibly be physically wrested from India.
In the spring of 1964, reportedly after Chou En-Lai’s visit, the forward policy planning was begun. This was kept within a small group of political (Bhutto), civil and military officials. Decisions were made without the customary practice of war gaming by adversary group of staff officers, a lapse Ayub Khan would later deeply regret. The first para-military units were formed in the fall of that year, with a projected two-year training period for complete readiness. The disturbances in Kashmir of January 1965 encouraged the planners, Bhutto in the main, to advance the operational timetable by a full year, much to the dismay of the general officer in charge of para-military training, who believed his men were yet too few and inadequately prepared. In early August, the first para-military mujahids ( freedom fighters) were sent to Kashmir- often, as it turned out, into the hands of Indian intelligence units. Serious political disturbances were reported from Srinagar in August, and later in October, but these evidently did not ‘take off’ into the Algerian type of sustained insurrection so crucial to the forward policy. Clashes along the cease-fire line increased in numbers and intensity, throughout August as Pakistan and India competed for advantageous positions along the infiltration routes. In September the conflict escalated rapidly. An armoured thurst by Pakistan toward Chhamb and Akhnur threatened the vital supply lines to Punch and Srinagar and was Indian aircraft. On 6 September, India generalized the conflict by attacking towards Lahore and Sialkot. India’s main armoured thrust was broken in the Battle of Chawinda, while Pakkistan’s vaunted armoured, slowed on ground flooded by breached canals, was mauled near Khem Karan by prepared anti-tank defenses. Thereafter, with neither side holding an hope of forcing the other to capitulate, the conflict settled into a war of skirmishing and limited assaults to gain territorial advantage. The generalized hostilities lasted seventeen days and all but exhausted the arsenals of both nations. Both sides made exaggerated claims, but most neutral observers agree the war was a draw.
On the diplomatic front, Pakistan diplomacy all but succeeded in isolating India. Turkey, Iran, and Indonesia provided substantial diplomatic and some logistical aid. Among the major powers, however, it was not the United States, Pakistan’s ally, that came to her aid, but China. On 8 September while the US was declaring its neutrality and cutting off all military supplies to both belligerents, China was obliquely , injecting itself into the dispute by formally protesting ‘successive violations of China’s territory and sovereignty by Indian troops,’ and by linking this ‘aggression’ with that against Pakistan. Bhutto would later tell Pakistan’s National Assembly that China’s veiled threat to take action on the Sikkim border near East Pakistan kept the eastern province free from Indian attack. On 17 September, China turned its protest into a three-day ultimatum, demanding the dismantling of Indian military structures on the Chinese side of th China-Sikkim border. The threat of Chinese military intervention though interpreted as a ploy by India, invigorated US and Soviet efforts to get a standstill cease-fire resolution in the Security Council. This was accomplished on 20 September.
In the diplomatic maneuvering to end the fighting, ‘Pakistan could win nothing from the war . . .unless she could attach the strongest possible political qualifications to a ceasefire.’ In mid-September President Ayub represented that a ‘purposeful ceasefire’ must provide for a self- executing arrangement for the final settlement of the Kashmir dispute which was the ‘root cause’ of the Indo-Pakistani conflict. India on the other hand, had the advantage in the maneuvering in that ‘its minimum requirements was an unconditional, non-political ceasefire which restored the status-quo ante.’ U.N. efforts tended to coincide with India’s requirements and Pakistan was extremely disappointed that none of the U. N. resolutions on the conflict ‘contained any promise that an effort would be made to solve the Kashmir problem in terms of the past resolutions of the United Nations. In the end, much to the surprise of its supporters, Pakistan accepted a standstill ceasefire, based on the resolution of 20 September which gave no promise of any real settlement of the Kashmir question. Bhutto arrived in New York to convey Pakistan’s acceptance on 22 September.

It was by no means a satisfied Bhutto who reached the U.N. As he later wrote, ‘Serious differences arose between me and the President during and after the 1965 war and subsequently at Tashkent.’ The forward policy group, along with a younger group of young army officers, had opposed the ceasefire and sought to continue the war with the Chinese material aid proffered during Ayub’s secret wartime trip to Peking. China’s renewal of the ultimatum to India on 19 September appears designed to bolster the Bhutto group within the counsels of the Pakistan Government. Ayub, however, still very much the master of the internal situation ( though there were rumours of a possible coup attempt), was under intense Anglo-American pressure to agree to the ceasefire. He was also well aware that the resolution of 20 September could be ‘read as a joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. warning to China not to widen the war by joining Pakistan.’ Moreover, the Ayub Regime, with its narrow political base, could not afford a drawn-out war and the mass politicization it would inevitably bring. For the Bhutto group, these considerations were not crucial. They viewed mass politicization not only as inevitable, but as a future political opportunity. They were particular angered by Ayub’s decision to accept a cease-fire without preconditions on Kashmir, believing that thereby Pakistan had thrown away its strongest card. They argued against accepting the offer of Soviet mediation and were bitterly critical of the Tashkent Declaration, which effectively restored the status-quo ante and meant that Pakistan had gained nothing from the war. With this result the forward policy was in shambles and a discouraged Bhutto ‘offered my resignation three times, once before the signing of the Declaration and twice after it, but was told that my leaving office would amounts desertion at a time when Pakistan was in the throes of a serious crisis and foreign troops were on our soil, and that solidarity was essential in the hour of crisis.’
The events of 1965 effectively ended the bond of trust between Ayub Khan and his Foreign Minister. Ayub believed he had been ‘greatly misled’ by the forward policy group and the Foreign Ministry came under severe criticism for its ‘grand miscalculation.’ Bhutto and Aziz Ahmad, then foreign secretary, and later Foreign Minister in the Bhutto Regime, it was felt would have to be removed once the situation stabilized. Bhutto’s removal was supported by the CSP moguls, Ayub’s ‘in- house’ intellectuals and his circle in the army. Prominent in this grouping was Altaf Gauhar, CSP, who would replace Bhutto in Ayub’s inner circle and who was thought to have ambitions to be Ayub’s successor. According to one account, Ayub conveyed this decision to his Foreign Minister at Larkana in February 1966, after which Bhutto supported by sections in the Army, made several unsuccessful attempts to have Ayub change his mind. For his part, a disillusioned Bhutto felt there had been no ‘grand miscalculation’ but an excessive ‘timidity’ on the part of Ayub in not pressing the conflict over Kashmir to a point of clear advantage for Pakistan. At Tashkent, moreover, Ayub had ‘unnecessarily capitulated’ national interests to international pressure. The President, as Bhutto observed to this writer,

was a master of half measures. He didn’t follow through on policies. He would start something at breakfast, and change his mind at dinner. In internal affairs this was all right, but it’s consequences were too severe in our foreign affairs.

Bhutto’s political position after Tashkent became extremely delicate, particularly after his opposition to the Declaration became public knowledge. Supremely conscious of the fact that he stood out as a politician in cabinet of technocrats, Bhutto was determined not to lose politically from the war. As early as in the spring of 1965, he had intimidated to a political confidant of the events shaping up in Kashmir and seemed to feel he could not lose from the situation:

If my policy wins in Kashmir, I will be respected more than Ayub Khan, if we lose, Ayub Khan and the army will be disgraced and I will emerge as the next man.’

Things did not turn out in exactly this fashion. The prestige of the armed forces was greatly enhanced by the war, which the public believed Pakistan had won. The war was the beginning of the end for Ayub Khan, though it would take several years for the political and economic consequences of the conflict, and the loss of the army’s confidence, to build up into his overthrow. For Bhutto, if the war did not bring him to power as the ‘next man’ it did give him an important base of support in the army, as well as the issue of Tashkent, which he would use to build a credible opposition.
During the month after Tashkent, Bhutto entered a period of political maneuver, both within and without the Government. He understood the depth of public shock and disillusionment with the diplomatic outcome of the war. Disbelief and riots had greeted both the cease-fire and the Tashkent Declaration in Lahore an Karachi. Unlike most of his colleagues, Bhutto had always maintained some friendly contacts with opposition leaders and appears to have had a hand from behind the scenes, in encouraging them to form an anti-Tashkent front of opposition parties. According to Malik Ghulam Jilani Khan, then President of the West Pakistan Awami League, Bhutto contacted him, and told him the cease-fire had been unnecessary-the army had been advancing and help was coming from China, – and that Tashkent had been a sell out to India. At this time, also, ‘he confided that there were secret clauses signed at Tashkent, and we believed him.’ Jilani is also adamant that he had Bhutto’s promise to join a front of opposition parties: ‘You arrange it and I’ll tender my resignation and join you.’ Jilani was a key figure in organizing a national conference of opposition parties, which met in Lahore on 5 and 6 of February 1966 in an effort to organize an anti-Tashkent front. Along with the Council Muslim League, the West Pakistan Awami League proposed the launching of a civil disobedience campaign to gain the abrogation of the Tashkent Declaration, but these proposals were rejected by the more conservative Islamic parties. After a feeble resolution on Tashkent, the conference broke up over the ‘Six Points’ demand of the East Pakistan Awami League, put, for the first time in a national forum, by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Not surprisingly, Bhutto made no appearance.
On the question of his leaving the cabinet, Bhutto appears to have been somewhat ambivalent. Few politicians in Pakistan have willingly given up political position, for, to do so puts one outside the system of privilege and protection, results in pressure to join opposition forces, and usually thereby brings one into an antagonistic relationship with the state organs. Bhutto had not always agreed with the President’s decisions in the past-on his handling of the 1962 student demonstrations and on the concentration of industrial wealth in a few families. On these issues, out of ‘good faith’ and as a ‘responsible cabinet member,’ he put his views to Ayub Khan. Of his service in the Ayub’s Government, Bhutto noted:

At this time there was no political process outside the government system . . . Under the Basic Democracies system there were no other productive political avenues to which one could turn. I though I could do better by being in th Government.I was successful to some extent.

Nonetheless, after the September War, his differences with the President ‘assumed a different complexion’ and he began to ‘actively oppose’ Ayub’s foreign policy decisions inside the Government. As early as the 22 September 1965 Security Council meeting, he was aware that this opposition, and the expected public reaction to the cease-fire might require him to leave the cabinet. In the first weeks after the Tashkent Declaration of 10 January 1966, Bhutto was close to forcing his resignation, but Ayub, who was not about to give the students the leader who could impart momentum to the anti-Tashkent disturbances, was adamant that Bhutto stay on. It is unlikely that the President was aware, through the domestic intelligence services, of Bhutto’s contacts at this time with the opposition. It was in late January that the shooting incident occurred outside the home of Malik Ghulam Jilani Khan in Gulberg (Lahore), in which a prominent journalist, Zamir Qureshi was killed while standing in the dust beside two vocal opponents of the Regime, Mir Baqi Baloch and the aforementioned Jilani. Though this murder was never ‘solved,’ it was carried out much in the Kalabagh style and was interpreted b Jilani, among others, as the kind of message Bhutto would understand.

Insofar as his public behavior was concerned, Bhutto retired to Larkana immediately after Tashkent. Here, he issued two press statements which ostensibly supported the Tashkent Declaration, but which contained enough ambiguous language to be seen as a form of subtle criticism of Ayub’s policies. The second of this statement coming after the suppression of the disturbances and the failure of the opposition conference, was critical of the opposition leaders and stressed the need for a non-partisan foreign policy. Some have seen this as an indication that Bhutto now saw the wisdom of remaining in the cabinet and of working to reinsure himself with Ayub Khan. Even if this is the case, Bhutto was still not happy with Tashkent. On 16 March 1966, when he spoke in support of Tashkent in the National Assembly, he began by pointedly noting the Declaration was ‘a declaration of intent’ to settle outstanding Indo-Pakistan disputes, including Kashmir, not ‘a contractual obligation’ to do these things.
Whether or not Bhutto made efforts to keep his post, Ayub Khan, still very much in charge of his government, was determined upon his eventual removal. The. first public sign that Bhutto had fallen from favour came in April when he was removed as Secretary-General of the Convention Muslim League. This occurred after Bhutto had advocated-policy of debate and negotiations with the Six Points Movement in East Pakistan in direct opposition to Ayub’s hard line approach. This clash, which took place at the CVML meetings in Dhaka, further strained relation between th two men. Ayub’s policy had wider ramifications. His threat to ‘use the language of weapons’ in East Pakistan was widely interpreted as an attempt to distract West Pakistan from Tashkent. Another element in Bhutto’s removal as Secretary-General was the re-organization of the CVML, just getting started under a new party constitution. Many of those around the President had no desire to see Bhutto retained in a position from which he could turn the government party into his own power base.
Some dispute had arisen in Pakistani political circles over the circumstances of Bhutto’s departure from the Ayub’s cabinet. His detractors have stressed that he was dropped even as he sought to cling to power; his supporters assert that he left the government on an issue of principle. This is a conflict of emphasis, rather than of fact, as there is truth in both views. According to Bhutto’s version of events, he and Ayub had their last meeting on 16 June. After declining the blandishments of an ambassadorship and an industrial permit, Bhutto claims he was told to keep out of politics and warned by Ayub ‘that if I incurred his enmity, he would ‘follow me to the grave.’ On his refusal to be intimidated-‘my decision to take part in politics would be influenced by national interest and not by threats’-Bhutto maintains the meeting ended almost amicably and Ayub suggested a further discussion when Bhutto returned from his forthcoming private trip to Mecca and Europe. We do not have Ayub’s version of this meeting, though he did later deny ever having threatened Bhutto. On 18 June 1966, the public was informed that the Foreign Minister had been granted a two months leave ‘for reasons of health’ and that the President was assuming the Foreign Affairs portfolio. With this announcement, which came after several weeks of rumours about Bhutto’s impending resignation, few had any doubts that Bhutto and Ayub had come to a final parting of the ways.

Motivations in political disputes can often be complex. There is little question that Ayub and Bhutto had come to hold fundamentally opposite views on the course of Pakistan’s foreign policy and that in the normal course of things Bhutto should have resigned, perhaps earlier than he did. It is possible that more than foreign policy matters were involved, that Bhutto had come to doubt the fulfillment of his ultimate political ambitions if he stayed in the Regime. For some years he had been regarded as the most obvious successor to Ayub Khan, but in the aftermath of the war and Tashkent, his influence in the Cabinet and at the President’s House had ebbed rapidly. Speaking at Khairpur (Sindh) on 19 May 1970, Bhutto is reported to have said that he resigned when he learned that President Ayub had decided to bring his own son in as the next President of Pakistan. This report which does not seem to have been publicly denied by Bhutto, puts another angle on Bhutto’s resignation. It suggests that the Foreign Minister left the Regime when he saw his own inside track to the presidency being blocked. This does not really surprise one, nor does it necessarily conflict with other reasons, such as the conflict over policy. What it does do is to weaken the claims of Bhutto partisans that the Foreign Minister resigned purely on matters of principle, but then, in politics, one always had to be skeptical of claims to purity.

Conclusion: We have delved into Pakistan’s foreign affairs during the Ayub period because foreign and domestic affairs have never been far apart in the perceptions of most Pakistanis, including Bhutto. Indeed, the degree to which educated Pakistanis begin with international power politics in order to explain domestic policies takes the foreign observer by some surprise. Though this kind of approach is more prevalent on the left, it does indicate how much developing nations feel the pressures of international politics and the dominance of the super powers. What prior tendencies in this direction may have existed were enormously enhanced by the September War and its diplomatic outcome, in which, most Pakistanis fervently believe, great power intervention deprived them of the diplomatic fruits of their legitimate military victory. Among the educated and the common man, the prestige of both the Soviet Union and the United States sank out of sight, while that of China, the only major power to aid Pakistan in any way, rose to dizzying heights. The Soviet Union was able to recoup some of its influence- it had never been great in Pakistan- through limited arms aid in 1967 and 1968. Relations between the United States and Pakistan, improved during the last two years of Ayub’s administration and, at the official level, warmed considerably after President Yahya Khan served as an intermediary between the United States and China to help set up Kissinger’s breakthrough trip to Peking on 9 June 1971. But for more than a decade after the September War, the United States was the particular villain of the post-Tashkent generation in Pakistan.

Writers an spokesmen on the left skillfully used the Vietnam War and the impact of US aid policies on Pakistan’s domestic social and political structures to interweave anti-American themes almost indelibly into the consciousness of the newly politicized generation and the Pakistan People’s Party would be its first political home.

It is important to note that Bhutto came to domestic politics by way of foreign affairs. His experiences in the international arena deeply affected his perceptions of Pakistan’s domestic politics. It is certainly of interest that both the Chairman and the first Secretary-General of the Pakistan People’ Party (Z.A. Bhutto and J.A. Rahim) were men whose careers thus far had been spent in foreign affairs. Bhutto’s concept of limited or partial sovereignty was not confined only to the sphere of power politics, but included the area of international trade and aid relationships. Here, Bhutto early defined himself as an economic nationalist and proponent of ‘third world’ perspectives. He was sceptical of the value of foreign aid, particularly on the terms given by the western powers, asking the National Assembly in late 1962: ‘What is he good of economic or any other aid if Pakistan’s sovereignty is to be bartered away in the bargain?’ Once he was out of the Government, Bhutto’s criticism of foreign aid became more radical and he began to insist that the Aid- to-Pakistan Consortium be dismantled and the Government negotiate bilateral aid and trade agreements. He also began to note the domestic impact of aid- it was a tool to build up a indigenous capitalist class in Pakistan that would be subservient to outside interests and it burdened- indeed, enslaved- the nation with huge debts.
These perspectives linked Bhutto with important domestic constituencies and social groups, including elements of the bureaucracy, that had begun to question the whole system of aid at a time when aid inputs had begun to decline and the problem of debt servicing assume major proportions. One project tha aroused major criticism on the left was that of the huge Mangla Dam Project, a multi- purpose facility ( flood control, irrigation, and hydro- electricity) built between 1962 and 1967 at a cost of about Rs 400 cores on the Jhelum River in Punjab. It was largely financed through foreign loans and built by foreign contractors, who employed hundreds of foreign technicians and engineers. This required the creation of a small, temporary foreign enclave at Mangla with the overflow o foreign residents from this and other projects being absorbed by major cities like Rawalpindi and Lahore. Foreign residents became a significant and highly visible element in Lahore. Their numbers put pressure on the availability of housing and, more importantly, their demands were said to have had a distinct impact on food prices. It is not difficult to see how resentment would build up over these issues, particularly when many in the university and media communities pointed out that Pakistanis were really paying for the high salaries and expensive life styles of foreign experts. The critics of this project asked why Pakistan could no follow labour-intensive rather than capital-intensive planning models. Mangla Dam, he insisted, could have been built for a quarter of the cost by using the Chinese method of mass labour, rather than expensive earth-moving machinery, and by employing more Pakistani engineers, among whom there was a serious problem of unemployment. At the very least, this would have put wages into the pockets of many Pakistanis, rather than a few foreigners. They also insisted that the benefits of the Dam had been oversold to the Pakistani public, that the promised industrial development has not occurred and that Pakistan would be repaying the Mangla Dam loans for the next forty years, rather than the ten years originally estimated.

Certainly Bhutto agreed with most of these suppositions. It is interesting that engineers would organize as an interest group in the anti-Ayub Movement of November 1968 to March 1969, and that they would be an early entrant group in the Pakistan People’s Party. One of the most important founder members of the PPP would be Mubashar Hasan, a civil engineer with a Ph.D from Iowa State University. He was a strong voice for third world perspectives in the party and later in the PPP Government, where he served a Central Finance Minster. He supported Bhutto’s efforts to make Pakistan a leading nation in the Group of 77 and, at one point, delivered a widely acclaimed speech at the United Nations which demanded a total restructuring of world trade and aid relationships.

By courtesy: The Pakistan People’s Party by Philip E. Jones, Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, 2003


 The Kashmir Dispute


The Kashmir dispute has bedevilled Pakistan-India relations for over five decades and no end appears in sight. Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan once, in 1948, said that he will not give up our struggle for Kashmir even if it takes ten to fifteen years. It has now taken us fifty-six years, and the dispute has not been settled. It would be well to examine its causes and mistakes that we have made, and to make a realistic appraisal of the situation as it exists today.

It is on record that Vallabhbhai Patel, the powerful minister in Jawaharlal Nehru’s government had offered to Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan in 1947 that Pakistan should keep Kashmir and let India have Hyderabad. This offer was rejected. Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, and presumably Mr Jinnah, felt that we could have both-Kashmir, because it had a Muslim majority and Hyderabad, because it had a Muslim ruler. It is also known that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the chief minister of Kashmir, asked to see Jinnah in 1947, but was not given an interview. It is also known that the Maharaja of Kashmir was indecisive about acceding to India or to Pakistan. Without making any efforts to make contact with him, Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan, the chief minister of NWFP, was allowed to unleash a tribal invasion of the state.

With the approval of the Pakistan government, regular Pakistan army officers and men were allowed to join the government sponsored tribal attack on the valley. When the tribesmen reached the valley, they began to loot and plunder, and after filling their vehicles, returned to the tribal area of the North West Frontier, leaving the small number of regular Pakistan army officers and men and a few tribesmen to mount an attack on Srinagar. Since the attack was delayed for about a week, and because of the return of a large number of tribesmen to their homes, the Indian army got the opportunity to rush troops to Srinagar and save the city from the tribal hordes. The Maharaja fled the city and acceded to India. The fifty-six years that followed have been spent in futile political debates and equally futile diplomatic efforts to convince the world that India should be forced to honour its commitment to hold a free and impartial plebiscite in the state, according to the UN Security Council’s resolution. By now, we should have been convinced that no plebiscite will ever be held.

General Ziaul Haq annexed the northern areas of the state into Pakistan and declared that these no longer formed a part of Jammu and Kashmir. By separating a hundred per cent Muslim area from Jammu and Kashmir, we in fact acknowledged that there was no possibility of the United Nations-controlled plebiscite in the state.

Fifty-six years after Partition, the position is that at least 80,000 people have lost their lives in Indian-occupied Kashmir, no meaningful progress has been made in solving this dispute, and the positions of the two countries have become harder. Pakistan’s official position remains that the Security Council resolution of holding a plebiscite should be implemented, and although India claims ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ to be a part of Indian territory, it appears to be willing to recognize the cease-fire line as an international border. The various possibilities that have been talked about do not offer any real solution to the problem. The suggestion that the cease-fire line be converted to an international border is no solution, and no government in Pakistan could consider such a suggestion.

Another alternative is that the River Chenab be converted into an international border, and the territory of Leh on its right bank with the adjoining non-Muslim areas, as well as all the territory on its left bank should be part of India. This suggestion, talked about by some well meaning on both sides does not offer any real solution to the problem. Even by making the River Chenab the dividing line, some Muslim majority areas will still remain on the left bank of the river, and these will be a source of potential instability.  The struggle for their ‘liberation’ is, therefore likely to continue and this will bedevil relations between the two nuclear powers. Infiltration of the so-called Mujahideen will continue, and the river separating the two, although a less porous border, will not be able to solve the problem.

A third, and in my view, the only solution to the problem, is to recognize the state of Jammu & Kashmir as an independent country. The borders are contiguous with China, India and Pakistan. China’s border is virtually impassable, and China now has no claim to any part Jammu &Kashmir. India and Pakistan can jointly guarantee the inviolability of the borders of the new state, and Jammu and Kashmir would not then be required to have any armed forces of its own. Its internal security problems could be served by police force. This would save it the back-breaking expenditure of maintaining its own defence forces, giving it an opportunity to use its considerable resources for the welfare of the people and for the promotion of tourism- for which I has unrivaled potential.

India can argue that if Kashmir is granted freedom, it will open up a Pandora’s box for India and the demand of other people who are seeking separation from India will be strengthened. There is, however, no parallel between Jammu & Kashmir and other territories such as Nagaland or Mizoram. None of these involve any other country, and India has no dispute with its neighboring countries, such as China or Myanmar (Burma), regarding these territories. The narrow parochial interests of politicians and political parties, which exploit human weaknesses to gather electoral support, is likely, however, to come in the way of this entirely workable solution, indeed, it will be a test of leadership p both countries. If they can rise above their narrow interests, their place in history will be assured, and they will have given hope to over a billion people in the subcontinent.

The alternative is grim: continuous strife between the two countries and a rising tide of killings and massacres, with both countries in an unending arms race, and both spending billions in purchasing aircraft, ships, missiles and expensive arms from the United States and other Western powers, thus enriching these already rich countries and impoverishing themselves. The majority of the people of South Asia, whose population is likely to double in twenty five years, are already short of the bare minimum for survival, and at the present galloping rate of poverty, they will soon face starvation like millions in Africa. The chances are that if we persist in our folly, we, the people of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, will before long destroy ourselves, either by self-inflicted misery and hunger, and if not by these, then by the use of nuclear weapons, accidentally or intentionally, in which we appear to take so much pride.

By kind courtesy: We’ve learnt nothing from History by M. Asghar Khan, Oxford University Press Pakistan 2005


Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir 1965


While Pakistan sought to broaden the international debate over Kashmir, it also undertook an internal review of military options based on the assumption that India would shortly have an enhanced domestic ordnance capacity with new production facilities and new Western equipment and mountain troops that would give it greater forces to thwart any military moves by Pakistan in the future. Key players in the review of options were Bhutto (Foreign Minister), Aziz Ahmed (Foreign Secretary), Brigadier Riaz Husain (Director ISI), and Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik  (GOC of 12 Division and responsible for much of the Kashmir sector). Others who were involved in the thinking about Kashmir were Brigadier Irshad Ahmed Khan (Director Military Intelligence) and Brigadier Gul Hassan Khan (Director Military Operations).

A Kashmir cell had been established after Sheikh Abdullah’s visit to Pakistan in 1964 involving the secretary of the Foreign Ministry, Aziz Ahmed, the secretary of defence, director of Intelligence Bureau (a civilian body), the CGS, and the DMO of the Pakistan Army. Its remit was to “defreeze the Kashmir issue,” in terms of fomenting popular uprising and providing support for those activities from Pakistan, including the infiltration of irregulars. The commander of 12 Division, Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik was designated to prepare plans to this effect and train personnel to be infiltrated into Indian-held Kashmir.  A second plan named “Grand Slam” was to follow up on the success of Gibraltar, when Pakistani forces would cross the cease fire line and head towards Akhnur in the south with a view to cutting off Indian forces in Kashmir from overland contact with India.

Gibraltar was based on the infiltration of trained guerrillas under Pakistan Army officers into Indian-held Kashmir to help foment local dissent and uprising. The operation began around July 24 with the forces making their way to, and then across, the cease fire line over a four day period.

Pakistan’s underlying assumptions were based on the action in Kashmir staying within the boundaries of the disputed state. It had made all efforts not to provoke India to retaliate across the international border. Behind the very subjective reasoning on the part of the Pakistan policy- makers was their contention that there three types of boundaries that lay between Kashmir and parts of West Pakistan:

  •  the cease fire line,
  • a working boundary starting at a place called Abial Dogran (under dispute, because of the original partition of India that lay between  parts of Sialkot and Kashmir in the south-western tip of Kashmir),
  • the international boundary between India and Pakistan which ran south from Abial Dogran (that had a designated Boundary Post number 1) near Sialkot to the Arabian Sea.

Bhutto assured Ayub that India was not in a position “to risk a general war of unlimited duration.” Pakistan did not wish to cross the international boundary but they wrongly assumed that India agreed with their definition of the working boundary not being an international border.

It was clear that the army high command would not oppose any plan that Ayub had approved. However, the army did not take it upon itself to ensure that Gibraltar and then Grand Slam would have all the support it needed. “The Chief (Musa) and the CGS, General Sher Bahadur, had from its inception viewed Gibraltar as a bastard child, born of a liaison between the Foreign Minister (Bhutto) and General Malik.”–Gul Hassan

No wonder then that the ground was not prepared adequately for the “uprising” within Kashmir. An ill-conceived propaganda war against India and its “puppet government” in Kashmir was launched over the air waves, through Azad Kashmir Radio (that shared offices with Radio Pakistan), and through Sadaa-e-Kashmir, the so called Voice of Kashmir, a pirate radio station ostensibly operating out of Indian-held Kashmir, but in fact located in Race Course Ground, Rawalpindi. In the interest of secrecy there was no contact with Kashmiri leaders even in the part that was under Pakistan control. They were not alone in their ignorance. Even senior officers at the army headquarters were kept in the dark, as were formation commanders. No prior ground work had been done in Kashmir–leaders and ordinary people–would all rise up spontaneously.

Gibraltar had some serious flaws. Most of the commanders of the infiltrators, if not all, did not speak Kashmiri. Their local contacts had not been established, the assumption being that anyone whom they approached would be anti-India and pro-Pakistan. Even minor details such as the conversion of weights and measures had escaped them, so they would stand out when they approached anyone to make purchases with the Indian currency they carried for their operations. Many Kashmir peasants fearful of Indian reactions, turned in the infiltrators. Other guerrillas found themselves on the run from day one. Officers were captured and “spilt the beans”–in the words of Brigadier Irshad,  Director Military Intelligence.

By courtesy: Crossed Swords by Shuja Nawaz Oxford University Press  London 2008








Kashmir 1947-48

Matters came to a head in August 1948 after the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) proposed the withdrawal of Pakistani troops that had entered Kashmir (which would include Pakistani withdrawal from Gilgit also). This proposal was against British policy. However the Americans continued to support a Pakistani withdrawal on the ground that the State’s accession to India could not be questioned until India lost the proposed plebiscite.

It was at that stage that Ernst Bevin the British foreign secretary, decided to talk frankly to George Marshall, the American secretary of state. Bevin spoke to Marshall on 27 October 1948 when the two were present in Pais for the UN General Assembly meeting. After observing “that Nehru since he was a Kashmiri Hindu was very emotional and intransigent on the subject,” Bevin added:

The main issue was who would control the main artery leading into Central Asia. The Indian proposal would leave that in their hands . . .

Bevin had let the cat out of the bag: that the issue concerning Gilgit was strategic and not one of the legality or the presence or otherwise of the Pakistani forces there. The ‘main artery’ into Central Asia that Bevin had referred to was the British-built track from Gilgit to Kashgar in Sinkiang, via the 4709-meter high Mintaka Pass, across the mighty Karakoram Range. (This artery had been an important link for them with their consulate general in Kashgar which maintained a British presence north of the Karakoram).

From the internal telegrams exchanged between the State Department in Washington and the US delegation to the UN in Paris it is evident that Bevin failed to carry the Americans along. Simple cease-fire order (as the Briish were insisting on) without provisions for truce and plebiscite would imply sanctioning of Pakistani troops (italics added) and would not only be inconsistent with the provision of the SC (Security Council) and UNCIP approach but would (also) be highly unacceptable to GOI (Government of India)– From Washington to its delegation in Paris on 11 November 1948:

Accordingly the US delegate to the UN, John Foster Dulles, on 10 November 1948, told Sir Alexander Cadogan, the British delegate to the UN:  ‘Difficulties involved in immediate cease-fire remain substantial without overall political settlement and in the light of India’s claim to the area (Gilgit).’

Let us now for a moment look at India’s policy towards Gilgit. Nehru first briefed Mountbatten on J&K through a note on 17 June 1947: the state consists of roughly three parts: Kashmir Proper, Jammu and Ladakh (Baltistan, Skardu, Kargil). The note omitted to describe Gilgit as part of the state. Such a document coming from the future prime minister could have created the impression in London that the Indian leaders had ceased to consider Gilgit as part of J&K (possibly because of the lease). It could have emboldened those planning Brown’s coup.

However on 25 October 1947, after Pakistan attempted to seize J&K through the tribal invasion, Nehru wrote to Attlee as follows: Kashmir’s northern frontiers, as you aware, run in common with those of three countries, Afghanistan, the USSR and China. Security of Kashmir . . . is vital to the security of India especially that part of the northern boundary of Kashmir and India is crucial. Helping Kashmir, therefore, is an obligation of national interest of India.

Yet, some four months later, i.e., on 20 February 1948 the prime minister wrote to Krishna Menon, the Indian high commissioner in the UK, as follows: Even Mountbatten ‘has hinted a partition of Kashmir’, Jammu for India, and the rest including lovely Vale of Kashmir to Pakistan. This is totally unacceptable to us . . . Although if the worst comes to the worst I am prepared to accept Poonch and Gilgit being partitioned off (italics added).

Lord Mountbatten was anxious to settle the Kashmir dispute before he relinquished the governor-generalship in June 1948. At his behest, V.P. Menon and Sir Gopalswami Iyengar, the minister without portfolio, drew up a plan for the partition of the state, complete with maps (which left Gilgit to Pakistan). It is difficult to believe that the Indian ministers remained ignorant of this exercise. Nothing came out of it but the proposal was not kept confidential. V.P. Menon on 31 July 1948, told the charge d’ affairs of the US Embassy in Delhi that the ‘Government of India will accept a settlement based on accession of Mirpur, Poonch, Muzaffarabad and Gilgit to Pakistan’.  Such a statement cut the ground from under the US’s stand that to leave the occupied areas in Pakistan’s control ‘would be highly unacceptable to GOI.’

Joseph Korbel was a member of the UNCIP which visited Delhi in July 1948. He has written that Sir Girja Shanker Bajpai, secretary general of he Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while talking to UNCIP members on 13 July 1948, sought the withdrawal of Pakistani forces from J&K (which would include Gilgit) before all else and said,  ‘ . .the sands of time are running out. If the problem is not resolved by reason, the sword will find the solution’. This was in line with India’s complaint to the Security Council.

However, Korbel goes on to say that, a few days later, the Indian prime minister told him: ‘He would not be opposed to the idea of dividing the country between India and Pakistan.’ this meant leaving Gilgit to Pakistan.

Lars Blinkenberg, a Danish diplomat, has recorded that: On 20 August 1948, Nehru in a separate letter to the UNCIP Chairman stated ‘that the authority over the region (the Northern Areas) as a whole has not been challenged or disturbed, except by roving bands of hostile or, in some places, by irregulars or by Pakistani troops . . .we desire that after Pakistani troops and irregulars have withdrawn from the territory, the responsibility for the administration of the evacuated areas should revert to the Government of Kashmir and that for defense to us . . . We must be free to maintain garrisons at selected points in this area.’

The chairman in his reply, fudged the issue. ‘the question raised in your letter could be considered in the implementation of the resolution.’

However, the question was never pressed diligently afterwards. On 4 November 1948, a Pakistan Air Force Dakota on a supply-dropping flight to Gilgit was attacked by Indian planes. As a result the Pakistan Cabinet decided that fighter escorts would be provided for supply-dropping missions to Gilgit that was cut off in winter from Pakistan. Whitehall was worried that if this was done, India may then try to take on the Pakistan Air Force and attack airfields in Pakistan. After consulting the UK high commissioner in Delhi, Air Marshall Thomas Elmherst, the chief of the Indian Air Force, then called on the prime minister and held an hour-long discussion on the subject with him. During this discussion he succeeded in persuading Nehru to ignore the Pakistani aircraft supply-dropping missions to Gilgit. Besides abandoning the simplest way to cut off Gilgit from Pakistan in the coming winter months, the decision amounted to recognizing Pakistan’s presence in the Northern Areas.

It may be noted that no offensive was ever planned to regain Gilgit. Admittedly, the Army had constraints in reaching the Northern Areas during 1948 but the matter was never raised at any relevant or Joint Defence Committee meeting.

In view of the erratic positions adopted by India on Gilgit it is not surprising that he UNCIP proposals of August 1948 and amended by interests parties in Pakistan’s favour, so that the Pakistan vacation of Gilgit (and other occupied areas) did not remain unconditional. India failed to exploit the US support for its juridical position; indeed, it made statements that undermined the favorable stand taken by the Americans. After India accepted, in December 1948, a ceasefire on UNCIP terms that left Gilgit in Pakistani control, the US dropped its insistence on a Pakistani withdrawal from Gilgit. The US State Department had sought the opinion of John Hall Paxton, it’s counsel in Tihwa in Sinkiang on the feelings of the Muslims there on the issue. The consul replied that the Sinkiang Muslims felt closer affinities with the Muslims than the Hindus of the subcontinent. He also reported that most of the trade between India and Sinkiang was in the hands of Muslims. This information also possibly persuaded the US to accept the status quo.

The other area of J&K that Britain definitely wanted to go to Pakistan was the western strip of territory from Naushera to Muzaffarabad lying along Pakistan Punjab. The reason why Britain felt that his area had to go to Pakistan is best told in the words of General Douglas Gracey, the Briish commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army: Its (this area) going to India would (mean facing) ‘the Indian Army on the long Pakistan border within 30 miles of the strategic railway leading from Peshawar through West Punjab to Lahore’. . . Occupation of Bhimber and Mirpur (two important places in that area) will give India the strategic advantage of . . . sitting on our doorsteps, threatening the Jhelum bridge which is so vital to us. It will also give them control of the Mangla Headworks,  placing the irrigation in Jhelum and other districts at their mercy. . . Furthermore, loss of Muzaffarabad- Kohala (a strategically located place) would have the most far reaching effect on the security of Pakistan. It would enable the Indian Army to secure the rear gateway to Pakistan through which it can march at any time it wishes. . . it will encourage subversive elements such as Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his party, (the Fakir of ) Ipi and (those in) Afghanistan. If Pakistan is not to face another serious refugee problem . . . If civilian and military morale is not be affected to a dangerous extent; and if subversive political forces are not to be encouraged and let loose in Pakistan itself,  it is imperative that the Indian Army is not allowed to advance beyond the general line, Uri-Poonch-Naoshera. To make Pakistan a confident and willing member of the Briish team, it had to be made to feel secure.

Unlike Gilgit, India and Pakistan fought for over a year to take control of this belt along the Pakistan part of the Punjab. This matter presented a very complicated diplomatic tangle. Before we proceed to deal with this story, let us take a quick look at J&K’s topography, its relevant past and the events leading to the crisis and subsequent war. Nearly the size of France (J&K), the state extended from the subcontinental plains to the Pamirs. Three great mountain ranges ran across it, east to west, and their spurs, north to south, cut up the vast area into different segments, so that people of different racial stocks and different cultures, who spoke different languages and professed different faiths, were found in this patchwork.

The Karakoram range separated the state from Central Asia. This range contained glaciers larger than any seen beyond the Poles and massive mountains-K2 (8610 meters), the second tallest peak in the world, and a host of other giants over 7600 meters. The Himalayan range ran through its middle, with the massif of the Nanga Parbat (8126meters) at its western extremity. The Pir Panjal range separated these highlands from the southern foothills, akin the Dogra stronghold of Jammu was situated. The Kashmir Valley, or Kashmir Proper, was situated in the western reaches of the mountains with the ancient city of Srinagar on the Dal Lake. The valley occupied less than ten percent of the total area of the state though it contained well over half the state’s population of about four million. The only all-weather road from this isolated but beautiful valley ran along the Jhelum River to the west towards Pakistan. From Srinagar to Jammu there existed a fair-weather road through the Banihal Pass (2700 meters), closed during winter.

The Northern Areas were inhabited by Shia Muslims including Ismailis; eastern Ladakh along Tibet with Leh as its capital by Lamaistic Buddhists, Jammu Province by Dogras and other stock as the Punjabi Muslims across the border. The Kashmir Valley had 80% Sunni Muslims, the rest being Sikhs and Kashmiri Pandits (the last, because of their talents having spread to occupy important posts throughout India). The valley enjoyed a distinct cultural identity (Kashmiriyat), the main characteristics of which was a tolerant form of Islam–thanks to the Sufis who had proselytized there in the Middle Ages and to its relative isolation. Or was it because rare is the union of beauty and purity?

Till the fourteenth.century, the Kashmir Valley and some of the areas of the present state were ruled by a series of Buddhists and Hindu dynasties, which later were supplanted by Muslim rulers. In the sixteenth century, Akbar the Great started to spend the summer months in Srinagar. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the area passed into the grasp of the Afghans, from whom the Sikh King, Ranjit Singh wrested in 1819. The origin of the state dated from 1846. After the British defeated the Sikhs decisively and annexed the Punjab that year, they handed the mountainous territory to the north of the Punjab to Gulab Singh, the Dogra chieftain of Jammu- for a monetary consideration.

Gulab Singh and his generals extended Dogra sovereignty up to the Pamirs and Tibet. They united and held together this fragmentary land, the maharaja providing the focal point and a certain razzmatazz. The Briish were content to let the Dogras enlarge the territories of the Empire up to Central Asia, cost free. As the Russians started moving southwards in the 1860s and the Great Game began, the viceroy assumed greater control over the territory by stationing political agents in it. In the 1880s the British built the track from Gilgit to Kashgar in Sinkiang via the Mintaka Pass in the Karakoram. Kashmir became even more important for Britain after the Bolsheviks took hold of Russia in the 1929s and started to penetrate the frontiers ‘with the invisible force of ideology,’ sending communist agents and literature into India. They used the unfrequented Kashmir passes, including the 5575-meter high Karakoram Pass on the track from Leh to Yarkand*. Agents of both sides used Kashmir rather than the more exposed routes via Afghanistan. Colonel F.M. Bailey, on his famous mission to Tashkent in 1918, left via Kashmir.

* both the towns, Kashgar and Yarkand in Sinkiang lay on the old silk route between Europe and China.

Till March 1947, it was expected that the rulers of some of the bigger princely states, such as J&K, might choose independence and remain associated with Britain, particularly in the vital sphere of defence. However, British policy in April 1947 suddenly changed, and the princely states were advised to accede to one or the other dominion. As soon as the agreement on partition was reached, Lord Mountbatten himself, on 17 June 1947, travelled to Srinagar to discuss the future of this strategically placed area with the ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh. They were old acquaintances, having served together as aides-de-camp to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) during his fairly lengthy tour of India in 1921. Mountbatten broached the subject with the maharaja, during a car drive, with Hari Singh at the wheel of his Bentley. Mountbatten told me many years later:

I explained to HH (His Highness) that his choice was between acceding to India or Pakistan and made it clear that I had assurances from the Indian leaders that if he acceded to Pakistan they would not take it amiss.  According to V.P. Menon, ‘these assurances had been given by Sardar Patel, the Home Minister himself* * before the ‘basket of princes’ promised by Mountbatten had been delivered to him, which happened around 15 August 1947.

**Patel was more flexible on Kashmir. The viceroy was helping to place in the Indian dominion an area spread over 500,000 square miles with a population of 86.5 million, comprising the princely states. Patel was more concerned with them and also in obtaining Mountbatten’s help to discourage the Nizam of Hyderabad from seeking independence for his state. It was after Pakistan tried to seize J&K by force through a barbaric attack that Patel became the most indefatigable crusader against Pakistan on Kashmir.

H.V. Hodson who was given permission to see the Mountbatten papers that are not available to others, has written that that the viceroy also told Hari Singh not to take a decision till the Pakistan Constituent Assembly had been convened. While briefing Jinnah on 1 November 1947 at Lahore, Mountbatten maintained that he had advised the maharaja ‘to ascertain the will of the people and then accede to the Dominion of the people’s choice.’

The loss of the option of independence came as a shock to Hari Singh. He shut himself up like an oyster, avoiding thereby further discussions with the viceroy. He probably felt that his friend wanted him to join Pakistan. This he was absolutely unwilling to do. It would enrage his entire Dogra base and could lead to his elimination by the Muslim fanatics gathering in Pakistan. If he acceded to India, he risked alienating a large section of his Muslim subjects. Besides there was no safety for him in India either. Sheikh Abdullah the leader of the National Conference-then the strongest party in the Kashmir Valley-posed a major threat to his throne and Dogra rule, against which Abdullah and his followers had been agitating since 1938. The fact that Abdullah’s party was allied to the Indian National Congress and that he himself was admired by Nehru presented a double danger. Hari Singh had been compelled to take the future prime minister into custody in 1946 when he had tried to enter Kashmir to agitate for Abdullah’s release from prison. The fact that a majority of the 80% of the Muslims of he Kashmir Valley acknowledged Abdullah as their leader excited Nehru greatly. Here was a Muslim leader who rejected Jinnah’s two nation theory; who could serve as a bridge between Kashmir and India, who would help to make his ancestral home a symbol of Indian secularism.

Karan Singh, Hari Singh’s heir apparent, has observed: I suspect that in his heart of hearts my father still did not believe that the British would actually leave . . . Independence could perhaps have been an attractive proposition but to carry that off would have required careful preparations and prolonged negotiations and diplomatic ability. . . Instead of taking advantage of Mountbatten’s visit to discuss the whole situation meaningfully and trying to arrive at a rational decision, he first sent the viceroy out on a prolonged fishing trip to Thricker (where Mountbatten shocked our staff by sun-bathing in the nude) and then-and having fixed a meeting just before his departure-got out of it on the plea that he had suddenly developed a severe attack of colic. . . thus the last real chance of working out a viable political settlement was lost.

Mountbatten reached out to the maharaja again at the time of India’s independence. Lord Ismay visited Srinagar on a ‘holiday’ during the Independence Day celebrations in India and met him there. According to Phillip Zeigler, he applied pressure on the maharaja. When Ismay referred to the Muslim population of Kashmir, the maharaja replied that the Kashmir Valley’s Muslims (where two-third of the Muslims of Kashmir lived) were very different from Punjabi Muslims. ‘All he would talk was about polo in Cheltenham in 1935 (Ismay was then military secretary to the viceroy, Lord Willingdon), and the prospect of his colt in the Indian Derby.’

The Maharaja of Kashmir had not been invited to the last meeting of the Chamber of Princes on 25 July 1947, in which Mountbatten launched his operation to rope in the princes.V.P. Menon, who was then the secretary dealing with the princely states, has written: ‘If truth must be told, I for one had simply no time to think of Kashmir,’ an amazing statement from a live wire like him, unless Mountbatten, whose closest advisor he was, had infected him with apathy for building up a Kashmir connection.

In his personal report to the secretary of state (of July 1947) while enumerating the states that might join Pakistan, Mountbatten mentioned ‘the possibility of Kashmir joining Pakistan’.  His report was sent after he had seen Hari Singh. On 10 October 1947, Mountbatten saw the Diwan of Kashmir and told him that there was no legal objection to Kashmir acceding to India, if it did so against the wishes of the majority of the population, such a step would not only mean immense trouble for Kashmir but might also lead to trouble for the dominion of India. Whatever the future of Kashmir, a plebiscite must be the first step. Mountbatten while reporting the above to London, said that he had informed Nehru and Patel of the discussions ‘and they both accepted what I said.’

Jinnah and the Muslim League from the very start believed that J&K should come to them and that Britain would assist them in the acquisition if for no other reason, then for strategic considerations. The acquisition of Kashmir was the least that the Muslim League could expect after having being handed out a ‘moth-eaten’ and truncated Pakistan, one-fifth the size of India. The Kashmiris of the western belt of the state were of the same stock and faith as the Punjabi Muslims. Admittedly, those of the valley were different, less communal and under a political spell of Abdullah. But in the end, they were likely to harken to the call of Islam. There was a security angle as well as explained in General Gracey’s words. It is a matter of speculation whether it ever occurred to Jinnah that the acquisition of the Northern Areas might one day help Pakistan develop ties with China.

Jinnah had commissioned an architect to design a house for himself in the Kashmir Valley. The matter seemed straightforward. Srinagar was just 135 miles from the Pakistan border. The only proper all-weather road into it was from Pakistan. If Pakistan could take Srinagar in a lightning strike, no help could possibly reach the maharaja from anywhere. But there were constraints. The first was the British attitude. Although London favoured Kashmir’s attachment to Pakistan, it wished this ‘on agreed terms’ with India. Therefore, if the Pakistanis wished to jump the gun, they evidently could not take HMG into confidence. There is, however, some circumstantial evidence that certain people in the Commonwealth Relations Office (CRO) were aware of Pakistan’s designs, the principal staff officer to the secretary of state, General Geoffrey Scoones (an ardent supporter of Pakistan) as we shall see, amongst them. The matter had to be kept hush-hush, especially from Mountbatten in Delhi, whom Jinnah did not trust.

Secondly the situation in the valley-Kashmir ‘Proper’ was not promising for Pakistan. There, the National Conference led by Sheikh Abdullah had the upper hand over the Muslim conference allied to the Muslim League. According to a report of the British resident, W.O. Webb, Agha Shaukat Ali of the Muslim conference had threatened ‘direct action’ in Kashmir in 1946 but failed to unite the warring factions of the Muslim Conference proving there was no communal feeling. This was the main reason why Jinnah had hummed and hawed over a plebiscite when one under UN auspices was suggested to him by Mountbatten on 1 November 1947 in Lahore. O the other hand, a forcible seizure- a daring display of dash- might break Abdullah’s spell on the valley’s Muslims. Even in the west, along the Punjab border, there was no massive spontaneous revolt against the maharaja to justify an incursion by Pakistan to save the Muslims. According to H.V. Hodson, the trouble that broke out in Poonch was ‘sporadic for most part’ and there was some evidence of Pakistan taking part.’ he says: ‘the above was nothing surprising or pretentious view of Punjab happenings . . . To justify action (by Pakistan) in Kashmir on the above basis would be incorrect.’ The reports of Webb, the British resident in J&K and of the British, commander-in -chief of the Kashmir State Forces, General Victor Scott, confirm Hodson’s assessment. According to Webb, ‘relations between Hindus and Muslims began to grow uneasy and in some areas strained as communal violence flared up in the plains around the State’. Kashmir remained free from communal disturbances. The unease was more confined to Jammu and along the frontier areas adjoining Pathan Tribal Agencies. General Scott reported in September 1947 that : ‘the State troops had escorted one lakh Muslims through Jammu territory on their way to Pakistan and an equal number of Sikhs and Hindus going the other way’, signifying that the communal situation in J&K was totally different from that in Punjab. Lars Blinkenberg, the Danish diplomat has pointed out: ‘The Maharaja with Mehr Chand Mahajan (his prime minister) toured the western part of Jammu from 18 to 23 October 1947. The local revolt in the areas of Poonch and Jammu made most by Pakistan was therefore not sufficiently powerful to obstruct the Maharaja’s circulation.’

The most formidable obstacle in Pakistan’s path was Maharaja Hari Singh. He had absolutely no desire to accede to Pakistan. It was no secret to Jinnah that the replacement of Pandit Ram Chandra Kak as the prime minister of J&K by Mahajan in the middle of September 1947 signified that Hari Singh had decided to accede to India. The Pandit detested Sheikh Abdullah like his master and had kept playing a diplomatic game with Pakistan to counterbalance the Abdullah-Nehru pressure. For his part, Kak hoped to work for J&K’s independence with guarantees from both India and Pakistan to uphold the same.* *

**The British resident in J&K had reported from Srinagar on 1 November 1946: ‘I am inclined to think that the Maharaja and Kak (prime minister of J&K from 1945 onwards) are seriously considering the possibility of Kashmir not joining the . . .(Indian) Union if it is formed . . .The Maharaja’s attitude is, I suspect, that once Paramountcy disappears, Kashmir will have to stand off its own feet, and that the question of loyalty to the British Government will not arise and that Kashmir will be free to ally herself with any power – not excluding Russia – if she chooses.’

His hopes were dashed as a result of the change in British policy in April 1947 that the princely states should accede to one or the other dominion. In July 1947, Mountbatten had introduced Kak to Jinnah in Delhi to discuss the possibility of J&K’s accession to Pakistan and Jinnah had sent his private secretary to Srinagar on a long sojourn to keep in touch with the situation there. After Kak’s fall, despite the existence of a Standstill Agreement between Pakistan and J&K, Pakistan started to pressurize the state, starting with an economic blockade. Meanwhile, the matter of the state’ accession to India was being delayed only because of Prime Minister Nehru’s insistence that the maharaja hand over power to Sheikh Abdullah and install a fully representative government before any further steps could be contemplated. Hari Singh was unwilling to do so.

On 27 September 1947, Nehru wrote to Sardar Patel, who was keeping in touch with the maharaja, as follows: I understand that the Pakistan strategy is to infiltrate into Kashmir now and to take some big action as soon as Kashmir is more or less isolated because of the coming winter. . .it becomes important therefore that the Maharaja should make friends with the National Conference so that there may be this popular support against Pakistan. . .Once the State accedes to India,  it will become very difficult for Pakistan to invade it officially or unofficially without coming into conflict with the Indian Union . . .It seems to me urgently necessary therefore that the accession to the Indian Union should take place early.

Patel Singh wrote to Hari Singh on 2 October: I need hardly say how pleased we all are at the general amnesty which your Highness has proclaimed (meaning the release of Sheikh Abdullah). I have no doubt that this would rally round you the men who might otherwise have been a thorn in your side. I can assure your Highness of abiding sympathy with you in your difficulties nor need I hide the instinctive response I feel for ensuring the safety and integrity of your State . . .In the meantime I am expediting as much as possible the link-up of the State with the Indian Dominion by means of telegraph, telephone, wireless and radio.

Time was obviously running out for Jinnah. To avoid an open conflict with India, pro-Muslim League tribesmen from the frontier areas (Masoods, Afridis and Hazarras) would be used as privates enticed with the promise of loot and more. They would be recruited by Pakistani officers of the old Indian Political Service who had vast knowledge of the tribes and armed and transported by Pakistan and led by Pakistani officers. (We have seen, the confidence Jinnah And Liaquat Ali reposed in some senior Muslim members of the Political Service in the episode related by Humayun Mirza, the son of Iskander Mirza; the father was at this time the defence secretary in the Pakistan Government.

Mohammed Yunus, the nephew of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi, has narrated an interesting anecdote in his memoirs. Yunus recounts that one day his unclereceived a message from George Cunningham, governor of the NWFP, that one way to rehabilitate himself with Jinnah would be for Ghaffar Khan to lead a tribal lashkar (militia) into Kashmir. Yunus says that he passed on this information to Pandit Brij Kishen Mohan, the teacher of Yurav Karan Singh, who conveyed it to his mother, the maharani. According to Yunus, the maharaja sent for him to get more details but Prime Minister Kak convinced Hari Singh that Yunus was acting for the Congress Party and was trying to frighten him into acceding to India apart from releasing and making up with Sheikh Abdullah.

Much later, when I enquired from Dr Karan Singh about the veracity of this episode, he replied (on 13 December 2002) as follows: I do recollect that such a message was in fact pased on to Pt. Brij Kishen Mohan and then to my mother who mentioned it to my father. If I remember correctly Yunus and one of his cousins did call upon my father at the Gulab Bhawan although I am not sure what transpired at the meeting.

Colonel (later major general) Akbar Khan of the Pakistan Army has described in his book how the ‘tribal operation’ was planned under the direct supervision of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. Akbar Khan was the military member of the Liberation Committee. He has written in his book:

Upon my seeking a clarification of our military objective, the Prime Minister said that all he wanted was to keep the fight going for three months which would be enough time to achieve our political objective by negotiations and other means.

Did Liaqat Ali Khan expect that Pakistan’s occupation of the Kashmir Valley would force India to accept a settlement in J&K, satisfactory to Pakistan, under British aegis?

It is not my purpose to follow the course of the war in any detail. The Pakistani attempt to seize Srinagar failed. The Dogra commander of the J&K Forces, Rajinder Singh* held back the tribal hordes (the first attack was by about 5000 tribesmen) for three days at the entrance of the valley, till he was killed.

* Rajinder Singh was the first Indian to be awarded the Mahavir Chakra (posthumously) after India’s independence.

Then two days were lost by the invaders in pillage and rapine in Baramullah, at the entrance of the valley. Moreover, according to one source, ‘the rapidity with which Indians flew into Kashmir was outside Jinnah’s calculations.’ for carrying out this operation, almost all the commercial planes flying in India were commandeered.

On 14 November 1947 Akbar Khan found himself in Uri, 100 kilometers on the road to Srinagar with the tribesmen retreating from the valley after their clash with the Indian forces at the gates of Srinagar at Shelatang. They had suffered 600 casualties. He was attempting to reason with them not to abandon the battle:

‘Some had held out,  hope of cooperating. Some had even got into their lorries and started towards the enemy, but then changed their minds and turned back . . . at 9 pm the taillights of the last departing vehicle disappeared in the distance. Taking stock of what was left, I discovered that in the rush my Staff Officer, Captain Taskin-ud-din and the wireless set had also gone. Barring about a dozen people, nothing remained. The volunteers, the tribesmen, and other Pathans, had all gone . . . My mission had ended in complete failure . . . But I did not think that I could go back yet. I had already, as it were, burnt my boats behind me by adopting the name of General Tariq. I had no pretensions to that great name but I felt it would provide an inspiration, as well as conceal my identity. Tariq, twelve centuries earlier, upon landing on the coast of Spain, had burnt his boats, and when told that it unwise to have abandoned their only means of going back to their own country had replied, in the words of (Mohammad) Iqbal: ‘Every country is our country because it is our God’s country.’

Akbar Khan continues: ‘In India, in the absence of homogeneity, a penetration in any direction can result in separation of different units geographically as well as morally because there is no basic unity among the Shudras (low castes), Brahmins, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims who will follow their own different interests. At present, and for a long time to come, India is in the same position as she was centuries ago, exposed to disintegration in emergencies.’

This analysis has to be juxtaposed with what V.P. Menon has written:

Personally when I recommended to the Government of India the acceptance of accession of the Maharaja of Kashmir, I had in mind one consideration and one consideration alone, viz., that the invasion of Kashmir by the raiders was a great threat to the integrity of india. Ever since the times of Mahmud Ghazni, that is to say, for nearly eight centuries . . . India has been subjected to periodical invasions from the north-west . . . And within less than ten weeks of the establishment of the new State of Pakistan, its very first act was to let loose a tribal invasion through the north-west. Srinagar today, Delhi tomorrow. * *

**The Kashmir dispute started life as a contest over rights to a territory, not to establish the wishes of people’, remarks historian Alistair Lamb in his work, Incomplete Partition: The Genesis of the Kashmir Dispute 1947-1948 (Roxford Books, Hertingfordbury, 1997).

Uri (where we found Akbar Khan stranded), Naoshera to Uri’s south on the southern side of the Pir Panjal range and Tithwal to Uri’s north were approximately at the eastern extremities of the belt of territory which General Douglas Gracey had argued was necessary for Pakistan’s security. Pakistani raiders advancing in early November 1947 had occupied a large portion of this area. After the tribal lashkar had fled from the Kashmir Valley and Uri had been recaptured on 14 November 1947, India considered the question of recovering all of this territory, including the Jhelum Valley road from Uri to Domel, situated on the Pakistan border.

Before we proceed further, let us focus on two factors that played a significant role in the struggle for the above territory. The first was Mountbatten’s metamorphosis. From being ‘almost neutral’ with even a slight pro-Indian edge, by the end of October, following the directions received from London, he began to tilt towards Pakistan. On learning of the tribal invasion of J&K, his first thought was to somehow avoid an inter dominion war, which would undo all the good work he had done for Britain in the subcontinent in the past six months.

He explained the dilemma to the King as follows: It would still be legally correct to send troops at (its) request to a friendly neighboring country even if it did not accede but the risk of Pakistan also sending troops would be considerable. The accession would fully regularized the position, and reduce the risk of an armed clash with Pakistan forces to a minimum because then they will be entering a foreign country.

India was committed to holding plebiscites in the princely state which became disputed. Mountbatten was confident that he could subsequently arrange matters, with Indian agreement, to Pakistan’s satisfaction, through either a plebiscite or a partition of the state of J&K. In his report to the King, he continued that ‘forming an Interim Government under Sheikh Abdullah had . . .increased India’s chances of retaining Kashmir in the ultimate plebiscite . . . though I still think that a country with so large a Muslim population will finally vote for Pakistan’.

Mountbatten had accepted the maharaja’s accession in his capacity as governor-general. With the cabinet’s approval, he simultaneously wrote a personal letter to the maharaja in which he declared: As soon as law and order have been restored in Kashmir and her soil cleared of the invaders, the question of the State’s accession should be settled by reference to the people. This letter was not the legal acceptance of the Instrument of Accession. Such an acceptance had been given on the instrument itself in accordance with the Government of India Act, 1935, as amended and in force on 15 August 1947; the letter was a supplementary written due to the extraordinary situation in which the accession was sought. Its contents would later form the background of the basic conflict between India and Pakistan.* *

**Almost all non-Pakistani writers have come to the conclusion that the accession of J&K was legally complete when the governor-general had signed the Instrument of Accession on 27 October 1947.

The US Government recognized the accession.

For a discussion on this issue see Lars Blikenberg, India and Pakistan: the History of Unsolved Conflicts, Vol I (Odense University Press, Odense, Denmark, 1998, pp.79-82).

A few writers believe the accession did not come in force because of the letter written by Mountbatten; its coming into force is conditional on an approval by the population of Kashmir. In this controversy, the intention of the man who accepted the Instrument of Accession is important. Mountbatten in an aide memoirs, to Lord Ismay after he had left India explained: ‘ this discussion to hold a plebiscite in no way invalidated the legality of the accession of Kashmir to India. The position then was that Kashmir was legally part of the Dominion of India and the voluntary, unilateral, decision to hold (a) plebiscite to confirm this was only intended to be held after the tribesmen had been withdrawn and peaceful conditions had been restored throughout Kashmir.’

A factor that had weighed with Mountbatten was the necessity to save British residents living in and around Srinagar from the fate that had befallen the nuns from the Convent of Jesus and Mary in Baramullah at the Pathans’ hands. General Claude Auchinleck, the supreme commander, wanted to send British troops to escort the residents out of J&K. Mountbatten, however, prohibited this. ‘Blood will be on your hands’, Auchinleck had protested.

Mountbatten’s metamorphosis started on 31 October 1947. On that day a policy directive on J&K issued by the Commonwealth Relations Office was brought to Mountbatten’s notice by the British high commissioner. Besides stating that Kashmir had to go to Pakistan, though ‘on agreed teems’, this directive went on: On the one hand Pakistan has connived at the tribal invasion into Kashmir, ‘supplied artillery and transport’ for the same and on the other India has made ‘provocative mistakes’ in accepting Kashmir’s accession since that was not really required for sending military help (to prevent tribal depredations) . . . ‘had not consulted Pakistan and (had) used Sikh troops’.

Prime Minister Attlee was obviously not sure that the accession could be so easily made to ‘vanish’ by the Mountbatten magic in Delhi, as the governor-general believed. Other means would, therefore, have to employed to offset the advantage gained by India through this legal process. The first of these would be to establish Pakistan’s locus standi in J&K, using the presence of the Pakistani tribals and volunteers inside Kashmir for the purpose. The second would be to bring in the weight of international, particularly US, opinion, to pressurize India to make concessions.

This explains Attlee’s icy blast directed at Nehru when the latter explained to him the reasons for his government accepting Kashmir’s accession to India: I do not think it would be helpful if I were to comment on the action your government has taken. Side by side Noel-Baker wired to Lord Ismay: ‘Prime Minister is . . . unwilling to send a message to Jinnah (drawing his attention to the help the tribals had obtained from Pakistan) which, in fact, charges him (Jinnah) with responsibility.’

On the same day, Attlee wired Liaquat Ali Khan: ‘if in the talks with the Indians (scheduled for the next day) there was agreement that accession ‘is not to prejudice in any way the ultimate decision of the future of Kashmir’ (Attlee trusted) he (Liaquat) and Jinnah would make such an appeal in the way you will know best to ensure those not immediately under your control may fully weigh your counsel to them.’ this was an extraordinarily convoluted way of referring to the tribesmen in order to absolve Pakistan of blame for the invasion. But the message was clear: if there was no agreement and if India used the Instrument of Accession to justify its position in Kashmir, you will stay put (do not pull back the tribals).

Attlee had disapproved Mountbatten’s action on accession. Like the good soldier he was, Mountbatten immediately fell in step with HMG. On the very next day (1 November) on meeting Jinnah at Lahore (for nearly four hours), he launched, together with Ismay, a far-reaching initiative taking into account Attlee’s objectives: It is the sincere desire of the Government of India that a plebiscite should be held in Kashmir at the earliest date and in the fairest possible way. . . They suggest that UN might be asked to provide supervisors for this plebiscite, and they are prepared to agree that a joint India-Pakistan force should hold the ring while the plebiscite is being held. Mountbatten had no authority from the Government of India to suggest a reference to the UN or for the induction of Pakistan’s forces into J&K. His hope was that if Jinnah gave a nod to the proposal, he would try and get India to agree to it. Jinnah refused for reasons mentioned earlier; he was not confident of winning the plebiscite. It was during this conversation that Jinnah suggested ‘both sides should withdraw simultaneously’. When Mountbatten asked him: ‘How the tribesmen (who, Pakistan maintained, were acting independently) were to be called off? Jinnah replied (in the oft-quoted remark):’All he had to do was to give them an order to come out.’

At the meeting Mountbatten upbraided Jinnah for making out that the accession ‘rested on fraud and violence’. He said that the accession was perfectly legal and that the tribesmen for whom Pakistan was responsible, had indulged in violence. On 28 October 1947 General Auchinleck, the supreme commander, had threatened to pull out all British troops from the Pakistan Army, which Pakistan could ill afford to allow to happen. This threat resulted in Jinnah canceling his order to General Douglas Gracey, the acting commander-in-chief, to send in regular troops into the Kashmir Valley to clear the Indian troops arriving there by air and to secure the Banihal Pass. London had welcomed Auchinleck’s intervention, which probably averted an inter dominion war. Mountbatten’s warning was part of the same British effort to restrain Pakistan from further adventures.

The British, throughout the crisis, supported Pakistan but restrained it from taking actions that might result in an Indian invasion of West Punjab and a full scale war. Another factor that significantly influenced the situation was Nehru’s offer to Mountbatten to chair the Defence Committee of the Indian Cabinet as a whole that made the decisions on Kashmir war policy. This position gave the governor-general enormous power to influence the course of fighting. After Mountbatten had lived up to to his bargain to place the princely states in the Indian Union in July and August 1947, Nehru (as well as Patel and Gandhiji) had come to trust his word. The Indian leaders were also moved by Lady Mountbatten’s indefatigable efforts to provide solace to the suffering by touring refugee camps and hospitals day in and day out. Nehru and the Mountbattens had come close to each other. The Indian was less able to separate affairs of state from personal feelings than the Englishman.

General Kulwant Singh, GOC, Kashmir Operations, had prepared a plan in November1947 to clear the invaders from the entire belt along the Pakistan border. General Roy Bucher, the acting British commander-in-chief of the Indian Army, with support from Mountbatten (chairing the Defence Committee), opposed Kulwant Singh’s plan as being too risky. And though Nehru and other ministers pressed for an attack, Kulwant Singh was instructed ‘not to take unnecessary risks’.

On 9 November Mountbatten left for London to attend the wedding of Princess Elizabeth with Prince Phillip.* Mountbatten’s absence gave Kulwant Singh an opportunity to interpret his chief Bucher’s order in his own way and, within fifteen days, his troops had relieved the towns of Kotli, Jhangar and Naoshera from tribal occupation and were able reinforce the besieged town of Poonch. He could not, however, take back Mirpur, Domel and Muzaffarabad, situated near the Pakistan border.

*Patel encouraged Mountbatten to go to England: ‘At the present juncture such a visit would be both tactically and politically wise.’

On returning from London on 14 November, Mountbatten wrote to Nehru as follows: ‘I have on several occasions repeated my views on the question of sending Indian troops into western areas . . . During my absence in London this object changed. It thus evidently became the purpose of the Government of India to impose their military will on the Poonch and Mirpur areas.’ Admittedly, some portions of the uncharacteristically stiff letter to Nehru were meant for Attlee’s eyes.

In London, he had been made wise to the alarming allegations being made against him for siding with India against Pakistan. The cheerleader of this campaign was none other than his former godfather, Winston Churchill:  ‘Muslims were Britain’s friends and that it was terrible that an Englishman and a cousin should now support Britain’s enemies against them.’ Mountbatten later said: ‘he accused me of having planned and organized the first victory of Hindustan against Pakistan by sending British-trained soldiers and British equipment to crush and suppress the Muslims in Kashmir.’

The Indian success in stemming the Pakistani advance by flying in troops into the state had resulted in the welling up of frustration in all those Englishmen who saw India and the Hindus as their enemy. Most of the British officers who had decided, at the time of withdrawal, to serve on in the subcontinent had opted for service in Pakistan. Over 500 British personnel held positions in the Pakistan Army, and many in the civil service and Political Department. The governors of Pakistan provinces such as Sir Francis Mudie in West Punjab and Sir George Cunningham in the NWFP were Britishers. Only some of them would fight for Pakistan in Kashmir, but most supported Pakistan’s efforts there. When the indians complained to London about British officers taking part in the Kashmir war, some of whom were killed, A.V. Alexander , the minister of Defence, agreed with Noel-Baker that: ‘it would be wise not to probe too deeply into the matter

C. Dasgupta: ‘The course and outcome of the first India-Pakistan war cannot be understood if we overlook the fact that the two contestants had yet to establish full national control over their respective armed forces . . . The international factor is particularly important in wars in the third world . . . Decisive results must be speedily achieved before major powers can intervene.’

The role of Mountbatten and British Service Chiefs made it virtually impossible for India to meet this requirement in 1947-48 . . . The British Government was kept informed at every stage and was thus enabled to take diplomatic steps to close India’s military options. The truth of these observations was proved time and again during the struggle for the possession of the western belt of Kashmir’ territory during 1947-48. In November 1947 Nehru proposed a ‘cordon sanitaire’, or a demilitarized zone, to be established along the frontier with West Punjab with orders that any observed movement within it should be attacked from the air after due notice.

According to H.V. Hodson: They Indians were so insistent that Lord Mountbatten had to temporized by getting the proposal referred to Joint Planning Staff. He made sure meanwhile that the report would be adverse and so it was. The ministers then gave up the idea without argument.

On 3 December 1947 Bucher made an effort to get the Defence Committee to accept the evacuation of Poonch, which, according to British thinking, had to be left with Pakistan. However, Nehru was able to shoot down this proposal despite the support Bucher received from Mountbatten. On the other hand, the commander-in-chief succeeded in getting shelved the push from Uri to Domel to clear the Jhelum Valley till the next spring. He also succeeded in getting dropped the plan to destroy the bridges across the Kishen Ganga river, which would have cut Muzaffarabad from Pakistan.

The struggle for control of the territory continued throughout 1948. During March that year, General K.M. Cariappa, the new GOC-in-C in the area, was able to reoccupy Jhangar and beat back a powerful attack on Naoshera. In April the Indian troops entered Rajouri town and thus the Jammu-Naoshera lines of communication were restored. Cariappa had taken care not to inform the Army Headquarters about his operational plans. According to his biographer, Cariappa had to fight ‘two enemies’, Army Headquarters headed by Roy Bucher, and the Pakistan Army headed by (Frank ) Messervy.

Bucher admitted to Gracey, the Pakistan C-in-C, that he had no control over Caiappa but hit upon an intriguing scheme to now stop the advance of his own army. Graffety Smith, British high commissioner in Karachi, reported to London the arrangements reached privately between the commander-in-chiefs of the two dominions. General Bucher indicated to General Gracey that ‘he had no wish to pursue an offensive into what is effectively Azad Kashmir-controlled territory, i.e., to Mirpur and Poonch sector . . .the object of these arrangements is to reach a situation in which each side will remain in undisputed military occupation of what are roughly their present positions . . . An essential part of the process. . . is that three battalions of the Pakistan army should be employed in Kashmir opposite the Indian forces at Jhangar in and around Poonch and at Uri (italics added). . . The Pakistan Prime Minister is aware of these exchanges I have reported above, but I understand he feels unable at present to endorse officially.’ Further, Bucher told that he would try to get Indian troops withdrawn from Poonch.

Sardar Mohammad Ibrahim Khan, the leader of the so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’ Government, spilled the beans on this secret pact. He was so delighted that the Indian side had referred to, and thus recognized, ‘Azad Kashmir’ that he issued a press statement on 31 March 1948 to proclaim the same. It said: ‘His Government had been approached by India for a ceasefire.’ the Indian repudiated Bucher’s initiative, but there is no record of his being pulled up. Mountbatten too wanted to neutralize Indian military initiatives. He told General Gracey, the Pakistan Army’s commander-in-chief, who visited Delhi on 2 May 1948: I pointed out (to Gracey) that, if we could get the two Governments to . . . feel themselves thoroughly militarily impotent, then this appeared to be the best chance of reducing the risk of war after my departure. Nehru and the Indian Cabinet had no such intention.

Terence Shone, the UK high commissioner in India, warned London on 14 May 1948 that the Indians intended to press ahead from Uri to Domel. The regular Pakistan Army had by now entered Kashmir. On 8 May 1948, the US military attaché in Delhi had cabled Washington: Pakistan has three regular . . . Army battalions in Kashmir now one vicinity Uri, one vicinity Poonch and one vicinity Mirpur . . . Pakistan on practical war footing along entire India-Pakistan border Bahawalpur State to Domel . . .Lack of supplies and reserves would mean short bloody aggression, with India certain and quick victor . . .

As a result of the Pakistani reinforcements, the indian two pronged attack to capture Domel and Muzaffarabad fizzled out. Tithwal, north of Uri was captured but the advance on the Jhelum Road did not proceed beyond 10 kilometers west of Uri. Soon thereafter, the members of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) arrived and India suspended operations for the duration of their stay in the subcontinent.

Excerpts “Shadow of the Great Game” by Narindra Singh Sarila

The Liberation of France June 1944

In this chapter from The History of the Second World War by B.H. Liddel Hart, I have tried to highlight something which is not very well known about General Montgomery’s attack on July 18 to capture the city of Caen, in Normandy near the French coast. The attack which had started with a heavy tank assault preceded by a two hour pounding by two thousand Allied  medium and heavy bombers, failed, and Monty denied,  that it was ever his intention to launch a breakout from here, it was a feint, or was it?

The D-Day landings occurred on June 6 and from that time till July 31 when the Americans eventually broke out,  west of General Montgomery’s position on the beach-head, two months had elapsed.

Also an assassination attempt took place on Hitler life on July 20 while the Allied armies were bogged down in the Normandy beach area.

Read on:

“Before its launching, the invasion of Normandy looked a most hazardous venture. The Allied troops had to disembark on a coast that the enemy had occupied during four years, with ample time to fortify it, cover it with obstacles and sow it with mines. For the defence, the Germans had fifty-eight divisions in the West, and ten of these were panzer divisions that might swiftly deliver a counterstroke. The Allies’ power to bring into action the large forces now assembled in England was limited by the fact that they had to cross the sea, and by the number of landing crafts available. They could disembark only six divisions in the first seaborne lift, together with three airborne, and a week would pass before they could double the number ashore.
So there was cause to feel anxious about the chances of storming what Hitler called the ‘Atlantic Wall’ – an awesome name – and about the risks of being thrown back in the sea. Yet, in the event, the first footholds were soon expanded into a large bridgehead, eighty miles wide. The enemy never managed to deliver any dangerous counterstroke before the Allied forces broke out from the bridgehead. The break-out was made in the way and at the place that Field-Marshall Montgomery had originally planned. The whole German position in France then quickly collapsed.

Looking back, the course of the invasion appears wonderfully easy and sure. But appearances are deceptive. It was an operation that eventually ‘went according to plan’, but not according to timetable. At the outset the margin between success and failure was narrow. The ultimate triumph has obscured the fact that the allies were in great danger at the outset, and had a very narrow shave.
The common idea that the invasion had a smooth and sure run was fostered by Montgomery’s subsequent emphasis that ‘the battle was fought exactly as planned before the invasion’, and the fact that the Allied armies reached the Seine within ninety days—the line shown on the forecast map, produced in April, as the line to be gained by ‘D + 90’. It was Monty’s way to talk as if any operation he had conducted had always proceeded exactly as he intended, with the certainty and precision of a machine—or of divine providence. That characteristic has often obscured his adaptability to circumstances, and thus ironically, deprived him of the credit due to him for his combination of flexibility with determination in generalship.
In the original plan, Caen was to be captured the first day of the landing, June 6. The start was good and the coastal defences were overcome by 9 a.m. But Montgomery’s account has covered up the fact that the advance inland to Caen did not start till the afternoon. That was due partly to a paralysing traffic jam on the beaches but also to the excessive caution of the commanders on the spot—at a time when there was hardly anything to stop them. When they eventually pushed on towards Caen, the keypoint of the invasion area, a panzer division—the only one in the whole invasion area of Normandy—arrived on the scene and produced a check. A second panzer division came up the next day. More than a month passed before Caen was at last secured and cleared, after much heavy fighting. Montgomery’s original intention, also, was that on the British right wing an armoured force would make an immediate drive inland to Villers-Bocage, twenty miles from the coast, and so cut the roads running west and south-west from Caen. But this is not mentioned in his story. The fact is that this push was very slow to get going, although opposition west of Caen was negligible once the coast defences had been penetrated. Prisoners subsequently revealed that until the third day a ten mile stretch of front was covered by one solitary German mobile unit, a reconnaissance battalion. A third panzer division then began to arrive on the scene and was put in here. Although the British managed to push into Villers-Bocage on the 13th, they were pushed out again. Then a fourth panzer division reinforced the block. Two months passed before Villers-Bocage was finally captured.
The original idea, too, was that the whole of the Contentin peninsula, along with the port of Cherbourg, would be captured within two weeks, and that the break-out would then be made, by ‘D+20’, on this western flank. But the advance inland from the American landing points, on this flank, also proved much slower than expected, although the larger part of the German forces, and later-arriving reinforcements, were absorbed in checking the British advance on the eastern flank near Caen—as indeed Montgomery had calculated
While the break-out ultimately came on the western flank as Montgomery had planned, it did not come until the end of July—‘D+56’. It had been clear beforehand that, if the allies could gain a bridgehead sufficiently wide and deep to build up their strength on the far side of the Channel, their total resources were so much greater than the enemy’s that the odds were heavily on a break-out sooner or later. No dam was likely to be strong enough to hold the invading flood in check permanently if the Allies gained enough space to pile up their massed power.
As things turned out the prolongation of the ‘Battle of the Bridgehead’ worked out to their advantage. It was the proverbial ‘blessing in disguise’. For the bulk of the German forces in the West was drawn there, while arriving bit by bit owing to divided views in their High Command and constant hindrance from the vast allied force that dominated the sky. The panzer divisions, arriving first and used to plug gaps, were ground down first—thus depriving the enemy of the mobile arm he needed when it came to fighting in the open country. The very toughness of the resistance that so much delayed the Allies’ break-out ensured them a clear path through France once they broke out.
The Allies would have had no chance of ever getting established ashore but for their complete supremacy in the air. They owed much to the support from naval gunfire, but the decisive factor was the paralysing effect of the Allied air forces, directed by Air Chief Marshall Tedder, Eisenhower’s deputy as Supreme Commander. By smashing most of the bridges over the Seine on the east and over the Loire on the south, they turned the Normandy battle-zone into a strategic isolation-zone. The German reserves had to make long detours, and were constantly harried on the march, that they suffered endless delays and only arrived in driblets.
But almost as much was owed to a conflict of ideas on the German side–between Hitler and his generals, and among the generals themselves. Initially, the German’s main handicap was that they had 3,000 miles of coastline to cover—from Holland,  round the shores of France to the Italian mountain frontier. Of their fifty-eight divisions, half were of a static type, and anchored to sectors of that long coastline. But the other half was field divisions, and of these, the ten panzer divisions were highly mobile. That provided the enemy with the possibility of concentrating an overwhelming superiority to throw the invaders back into the sea before they became established and grew too strong for eviction.
On D-Day the one panzer division that was in Normandy, and near the stretch where the Allies landed, succeeded in frustrating Montgomery’s hope of capturing the key-point of Caen that day. Part of it actually pierced the British front and drove through to the beach, but the thrust was too small to have a wide effect. If even the three panzer divisions, out of ten, that were on the scene by the fourth day had been at hand and able to intervene on D-Day, the Allied footholds could have been dislodged before they were joined up and consolidated. But any such strong and prompt counterstroke was frustrated by discord in the German Command, both about the probable site of the invasion and the method of meeting it.
Before the event, Hitler’s intuition proved better than his generals’ calculation in gauging where the Allies would land. After the landing, however, his continual interference and rigid control deprived them of the chance of retrieving the situation, and eventually led to disaster.
Field-Marshall von Rundstedt, the Commander-in-Chief in the West, thought the invasion would come across the narrower part of the Channel, between Calais and Dieppe. His view was based on a conviction that this course was the more correct strategy for the Allies to follow. But it was fostered by a lack of information. Nothing important leaked out from the tight-lipped island where the invasion armies were assembling.

Rundstedt’s Chief of Staff, General Blumentritt, later related in interrogation how badly baffled was the German Intelligence: Very little reliable news came out of England. (Intelligence) gave us reports of where, broadly, the British and American forces were assembling in Southern England—there were a small number of German agents in England who reported by wireless transmitting sets what they observed. But they found out very little beyond that . . . nothing we learnt gave us a definite clue where the invasion was actually coming.
Hitler, however, had a ‘hunch’ about Normandy. From March onwards he sent his generals repeated warnings about the possibility of a landing between Caen and Cherbourg. How did he arrive at that conclusion, which proved correct? General Warlimont, who was on his staff, said that it was inspired by the general lay-out of the troops in England—with the Americans in the south-west—along with his belief that the Allies would seek to capture a big port as early as possible, and that Cherbourg was the most likely for their purpose. His conclusion was strengthened by observers’ reports of a big invasion exercise in Devon where the troops disembarked on a stretch of flat and open coastline similar to the intended in Normandy.
Rommel, who was in executive charge of the forces on the Channel coast, came round to the same view as Hitler. In the last few months he made feverish efforts to hasten the construction of under-water obstacles, bomb-proof bunkers and minefields, and by June they were much denser than they had been in spring. But fortunately for the Allies, he had neither the time nor the resources to develop the defences in Normandy to the state he desired, or even to the state of that east of the Seine.

Rommel also found himself in disagreement with Rundstedt over the method of meeting an invasion. Rundstedt relied on a plan of delivering a powerful counteroffensive to crush the Allies after they had landed. Rommel considered that this would be too late, in face of Allies’ domination of the air and their capacity to delay the German reserves in concentrating for such a counteroffensive. He felt the best chance lay in defeating the invaders on the coast before they were properly ashore. Rommel’s staff said that ‘he was deeply influenced by the memory of how in Africa he had been nailed down for days on end by an air force not nearly so strong as that he now had to face’.

The actual plan became a compromise between these different ideas—and ‘fell between two stools’. Worse still, Hitler insisted on trying to control the battle from remote Berchtesgaden, and kept a tight hand on the use of reserves.
There was only one panzer division at Rommel’s disposal in Normandy, and he had brought this close up behind Caen. So it was able to check the British there on D-Day. He had begged in vain for a second one to place near St Lo—where it would have been close to the beaches where the Americans landed. On D-Day precious hours were wasted in argument on the German side. The nearest available part of the general reserve was the 1st S.S. Panzer Corps, which lay north-west of Paris, but Rundstedt could not move it without permission from Hitler’s headquarters.

Blumentritt stated: As early as 4 a.m. I telephoned them on behalf of Field-Marshall von Rundstedt and asked for the release of the Corps—to strengthen Rommel’s punch. But Jodl, speaking for Hitler, refused to do so. He doubted whether the landings in Normandy were more than a feint, and was sure that another landing was coming east of Seine. The battle of argument went on all day until 4p.m. when the Corps was at last released for our use.
Two other startling facts about the opening day are that Hitler himself did not hear of the landing until very late in the morning, and that Rommel was off the scene. But for these factors, action might have been more prompt and more forceful.
Hitler like Mr Churchill had a habit of staying up until long after midnight, a habit very exhausting to his staff, who could not sleep late but were often in a sleepy state when they dealt with affairs in the morning. Jodl, reluctant to disturb Hitler’s late morning sleep, took it upon himself to resist Rundstedt’s appeal for the release of the reserves.
They might have been released earlier if Rommel had not been absent from Normandy. For, unlike Rundstedt, he often telephoned Hitler direct and still had more influence with him than any other general. But Rommel had left his headquarters the day before on a trip to Germany. As the high wind and rough sea seemed to make invasion unlikely for the moment he had decided to combine a visit to Hitler, to urge the need for more panzer divisions in Normandy, with a visit to his home near Ulm for his wife’s birthday. Early next morning, before he could drive on to see Hitler, a telephone call told him that the invasion had begun. He did not get back to his headquarters until the evening—by which time the invaders were well established ashore.
The commander of the army in that part of Normandy was also away—directing an exercise in Brittany. The commander of the panzer corps that lay in reserve had gone on a visit to Belgium. Another key commander is said to have been away spending the night with a girl. Eisenhower’s decision to proceed with the landing despite the rough sea turned out greatly to the Allies advantage.

A strange feature of the weeks that followed was that, although Hitler had correctly guessed the site of the invasion, once it had taken place he became obsessed with the idea that it was only a preliminary to a second and larger landing east of the Seine. Hence he was reluctant to let the reserves be moved from that area to Normandy. The belief in the second landing was due to the Intelligence Staff’s gross overestimate of the number of Allied divisions still available on the other side of the Channel. That was partly due to the British deception plan. But it was also another result of, and testimony to, the way that Britain was ‘watertight’ against spying.

When the initial countermoves broke down, and had obviously failed to prevent the Allies’ continued build up in the bridgehead, Rundstedt and Rommel soon came to realise the hopelessness of trying to hold on to any line so far west.

Relating the sequel, Blumentritt said: In desperation, Field-Marshall von Rundstedt begged Hitler to come to France for a talk. He and Rommel together went to meet Hitler at Soissons on June 17, and tried to make him understand the situation. . . But Hitler insisted that there must be no withdrawal—‘You must stay where you are.’ He would not even agree to allow us any more freedom than before in moving the forces we thought best . . . As he would not modify his orders, the troops had to continue clinging on to their cracking line. There was no plan any longer. We were merely trying, without hope, to comply with Hitler’s order that the line Caen-Avranches must be held at all costs.
Hitler swept aside the field-marshals ‘warnings by assuring them that the new V weapon, the flying bomb, would soon have a decisive effect on the war. The field-marshalls then urged that, if this weapon was so effective, it should be turned against the invasion beaches—or, if that was technically difficult, against the invasion ports in southern England. Hitler insisted that the bombardment must be concentrated on London ‘so as to covert the English to peace.’ But the flying bombs did not produce the effect that Hitler had hoped, while Allied pressure in Normandy increased. When asked one day on the telephone from Hitler’s H.Q.: ‘What shall we do?’ Rundstedt retorted: ‘End the war! What else can you do.’ Hitler’s solution was to sack Rundstedt, and replace him by Kluge, who had been on the Eastern Front.
‘Field-Marshall von Kluge was a robust, aggressive type of soldier’, Blumentritt remarked. ‘At the start he was very cheerful and confident—like all newly appointed commanders . . . Within a few days he became very sober and quiet. Hitler did not like the changing tone of his reports.’
On July 17th Rommel was badly injured when his car crashed after being attacked on the road by Allied planes. Then three days later, on the 20th, came the attempt to kill Hitler at his headquarters in East Prussia. The conspirators’ bomb missed its chief target, but its ‘shock wave’ had terrific repercussions on the battle in the West at the critical moment.

Blumentritt recalled: When the Gestapo investigated the conspiracy . . . they found documents in which Field-Marshall von Kluge’s name was mentioned, so he came under grave suspicion. Then another incident made things worse. Shortly after General Patton’s break-out from Normandy, while the decisive battle at Avranches was in progress, Field-Marshall von Kluge was out of touch with his headquarters for more than twelve hours. The reason was that he had gone up to the front, and there been trapped in a heavy artillery bombardment . . . Meantime, we had been suffering ‘bombardment’ from the rear. For the Field-Marshall’s prolonged ‘absence’ excited Hitler’s suspicion immediately, in view of the documents that had been found. . . Hitler suspected that the Field-Marshall’s purpose in going right up to the front was to get in touch with the Allies and negotiate surrender. The Field-Marshall’s eventual return did not calm Hitler. From this date onward the orders which Hitler sent him were worded in a brusque and even insulting language. The Field-Marshall became very worried. He feared that he would be arrested at any moment—and at the same time realized more and more that he could not prove his loyalty by any battlefield success.
All this had a very bad effect on any chance that remained of preventing the Allies from breaking out. In the days of crisis Field-Marshall von Kluge gave only part of his attention to what was happening at the front. He was looking back over his shoulder anxiously—towards Hitler’s headquarters. He was not the only general who was in that state of worry for conspiracy in the plot against Hitler. Fear permeated and paralysed the higher commands in the weeks and months that followed.

On July 25, the U.S. First Army launched a fresh offensive, ‘Cobra’, while the recently landed Patton’s Third Army was ready to follow it up. The last German reserves had been thrown in to stop the British. On the 31st the American spearhead burst through the front at Avranches. Pouring through the gap, Patton’s tanks quickly flooded the open country beyond. On Hitler’s orders the remnants of the panzer forces were scrapped together, and used in a desperate effort to cut the bottleneck at Avranches. The effort failed—whereat Hitler caustically said: ‘It only failed because Kluge didn’t want to succeed.’ All that remained of the German armies now tried to escape from the trap in which they had been kept by Hitler’s ban on any timely withdrawal. A large part was trapped in the ‘Falaise Pocket’, and the survivors had to abandon most of their heavy arms and equipment in crossing back over the Seine.
Kluge was then sacked. On the way home he was found dead in his car, having swallowed a poison capsule—as his Chief of Staff explained, ‘he believed he would be arrested by the Gestapo as soon as he arrived home’.

It was not only on the German side that stormy recriminations arose within the High Command. Fortunately on the Allied side had no such serious consequences on the issue or to individuals although they left sore feelings that were of ill effect later. The biggest ‘blow up’ behind the scenes occurred over a near break-out by the British a fortnight before the Americans actually burst open the front at Avranches. The British blow, by the Second Army under Dempsey, was struck on the extreme opposite flank, east of Caen. It was the most massive tank attack of the whole campaign, delivered by three armoured divisions closely concentrated. They had been stealthily assembled in the small bridgehead over the Orne, and poured out from it on the morning of July 18, after an immense carpet of bombs had been dropped, for two hours, by two thousand heavy and medium bomber aircraft. The Germans on that sector were stunned, and most of the prisoners taken were so deafened by the roar of explosions that they could not be interrogated until at least twenty-four hours later.
But the defences were deeper than British Intelligence had thought. Rommel expecting such a blow, had hurried their deepening and reinforcement—until, on the eve of the attack, he was himself caught and knocked out by British aircraft, near the aptly named village of Sainte Foye de Montgomery. Moreover the enemy had heard the massive rumble of tanks as the British armour moved eastwards by night for the attack. Dietrich, the German Corps Commander, said that he was able to hear them over four miles away, despite diverting noises, by pressing his ear to the ground—a trick he had learned in Russia.
The brilliant opening prospect faded soon after passing through the forward layers of defence. The leading armoured division became entangled amid the village strongholds—instead of bypassing them. The others were delayed by traffic congestion, in getting out of the narrow bridgehead and the spearhead had come to a halt before they came on the scene. By the afternoon the great opportunity had slipped away.
This miscarriage has long been enshrouded in mystery. Eisenhower in his report spoke of it as an intended ‘breakthrough’, and as a ‘drive . . . exploiting in the direction of the Seine basin and Paris’. But all the British histories written after the war declare that it had no far-reaching aims, and that no breakthrough on this flank was ever contemplated.
They follow Montgomery’s own account, which insisted that this operation was merely ‘a battle of position’, designed to create a ‘threat’ in aid of the coming American break-out blow and secondly to secure ground on which major forces could be poised ready to strike out to the south and south-east, when the American break-out forces thrust eastwards to meet them’.

Eisenhower in his post-war memoirs tactfully glides over the matter by avoiding any mention of this battle, while Churchill makes only the barest reference to it. Yet anyone behind the scenes at the time was acutely aware of the violent storm that blew up. The air chiefs were very angry, especially Tedder. The state of temper is revealed in the diary of Captain Butcher, Eisenhower’s naval aide. ‘Around evening Tedder called Ike and said Monty had, in effect stopped his armour from going further. Ike was mad.’ According to Butcher, Tedder next day telephoned Eisenhower from London and conveyed that the British Chiefs of Staffs were ready to sack Montgomery if requested, although this is denied by Tedder in his own account of the affair.
It was thus natural that on Montgomery’s side the immediate reaction to such complaints should have been to assert that the idea of a break-out on this flank had never been in mind. That assertion soon became an article of belief, and has since come up to be accepted, without question by military chroniclers. Yet it did not tally with the racy note of the codename given to this attack—‘Operation Goodwood’, after the English racecourse. Nor with the term ‘broke through’ that Montgomery first used in his first announcement of the attack on the 18th. Moreover his remark that he was ‘well satisfied with the progress made’ on the first day seemed hard to reconcile with the absence of a renewed effort of similar scale on the second day. That infuriated the air chiefs, who would not have agreed to divert the heavy bomber armada to the aid of a ground operation had they not believed that the aim of ‘Goodwood’ was a mass break-out. Montgomery’s later assertion was a half-truth, and did himself an injustice. He had not planned to break-out on this flank, and was not banking on it. But he would have been foolish not to reckon with the possibility of a German collapse, under this massive blow, and exploit it if it occurred.

Dempsey, who commanded the Second Army, thought a speedy collapse was likely, and had up himself to the armoured corps H.Q. so as to be ready to exploit it: ’What I had in mind was to seize all the crossings of the Orne from Caen to Argentan’—that would establish a barricade across the German’s rear and trap them more effectively than any American break-out on the Western flank could do. Dempsey’s hope of a complete break-through was very close to fulfilment at midday on July 18. In view of his revelation of what he had in mind, it is amusing to note the many assertions that there was no idea of trying to reach Falaise—for Argentan, his prospective goal, was nearly twice as far. Dempsey, too, was shrewd enough to realise that the disappointment of his hopes might be turned to compensating advantage. When one of his staff urged him to protest against press criticism of the failure of ‘Goodwood’, he replied: ’Don’t worry—it will aid our purpose, and act as the best possible cover-plan.’ The American break-out on the opposite flank certainly owed much to the way that the enemy’ attention had been focused on the threat of a break-out near Caen. But the break-out at Avranches, far to the west, carried no such immediate chance of cutting off the German forces. Its prospect depended on making a very rapid sweep eastward, or on the enemy clinging onto his position until he could be trapped.

In the event when the breakout came at Avranches on July 31, only a few scattered German battalions lay in the ninety-mile wide corridor between that point and Loire. So American spearheads could have driven eastwards unopposed. But the Allied High Command threw away the best chance of exploiting this great opportunity by sticking to the outdated pre-invasion programme, in which a westward move to capture the Brittany ports was to be the next step.

Two weeks passed before the American forces pushed eastwards far enough to reach Argentan and come up level with the British left wing—which meanwhile was still held in check just beyond Caen. This caused fresh recriminations. For when Patton was told that he must not drive on northward to close the gap and bar the Germans’ escape route, for fear of a collision with the British, he exclaimed on the telephone: ‘Let me go on to Falaise and we’ll drive the British back into the sea for another Dunkirk.’”

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The Godfather of Pakistan

Ayub Khan and the military brass, still steeped in Sandhurst culture, made clear their dislike of Maududi and his sociopolitical agenda.  He dismissed the mullah as an enemy of modern education, and for him the success of Pakistan lay in its ability to modernize. In a famous speech to a gathering of Deoband Ulema who had migrated to Pakistan, he said that Islam had started as a dynamic and progressive movement, but now suffered from dogmatism: “Those who looked forward to progress and advancement came to be regarded as disbelievers and those who looked backward were considered devout Muslims. It is great injustice to both life and religion to impose on twentieth century man the condition that he must go back several centuries in order to prove his bona fides as a true Muslim.” The speech was included in an anthology of Ayub speeches published by the Pakistan government in 1961.

Ayub Khan tried to dilute theocratic elements in his 1962 Constitution, even going to the extent of removing ‘Islamic’ before the “Republic of Pakistan”. More significantly, he dropped the direct reference to the Quran and the Sunnah in the Repugnancy Clause and altered the phrase to an assertion that no law should be repugnant to Islam. His intentions were evident when the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance was promulgated on 15 July 1961. It created a referral body for arbitrary divorce through instant talaaq: anyone who remarried without permission from the Arbitration Council faced a years’ imprisonment plus a fine of Rs. 5000. Ayub Khan wrote in his autobiography that polygamy had caused “immense misery to innumerable tongue-tied women and innocent children” and ruined thousands of families by “the degenerate manner in which men have misused this permission,”to marry more than once.

Ayub Khan did not, or could not afford to, argue with the principle that the “ideology of Islam” was crucial to the survival of Pakistan, but Ayub Khan’s Islam was a mechanism for a social revolution, not tired dogma. When he proposed a six-point programme for his party, the Muslim League, in 1966, the purpose of Islam was defined thus: “Inculcate it and make it play a positive role in attaining unity, and higher spiritual and moral values. Also make it the prime mover in attaining our objective of progress, prosperity and social justice. Help the needy and poor personnel, organizations on government basis.”

Just two days later, on 6 September, he comments bitterly on the Jamaat-e-Islami’s campaign against him, centered on “the family law which has brought so much relief to the poor women, orphans and helpless people, and the family planning scheme. The idiots or rascals are calling these things anti-Islamic . . . they are the deadliest enemy of the educated Muslim. They cannot bear such people being the leaders and have the responsibility of running the country. In the name of Islam, they are dead against progress and society having the right to think for it. Their religion and philosophy has not the slightest affinity with the true spirit of Islam.”

On 5 September 1968, Ayub Khan notes, with regret, the resignation of the director of the Islamic Research Institute, Dr. Fazlur Rehman, whose scholarly work, Islam, published by the Oxford University Press, and written for an European audience, provoked Pakistan’s mullahs into calling him an enemy of the faith. Dr. Rehman held two press conferences to explain. Ayub Khan writes: “These clarifications would have satisfied any honest critic, but the mullah, who regards any original and objective thinking on Islam as his deadly enemy, was not going to be pacified. This sort of argument is just the grist he wants for his mill. Meanwhile, the administrators at the centre and the provinces got cold feet. Some of them must have persuaded the doctor to resign. He must have also got frightened. After all, it is not easy to stand up to criticism based on ignorance and prejudice. So I had to accept his resignation with great reluctance in the belief that he will be freer to attack the citadel of ignorance and fanaticism from outside the government sphere. Meanwhile, it is quite clear that any form of research on Islam which inevitably leads to new interpretations has no chance of acceptance in this priest ridden and ignorant society. These people will not allow Islam to become a vehicle of progress. What will be the future of such an Islam in the age of reason and science is not difficult to predict.”

Perhaps, in the context of what happened to Pakistan in the next three decades, the last few sentences need to be heavily underlined.

Maulana Maududi declared war against Ayub Khan’s Constitution the moment it was made public. He summoned the Markazi Majlis-e-Shura (Central Council) in the first week of august 1962 and passed resolutions against the government’s Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology, the family laws ordinance, the Pakistan Arts Council, the Girl Guides, cinema halls and the import of books deemed to be critical of Islam. Maududi’s anger against Ayub Khan persuaded him to join the National Democratic Front created by Suhrawardy on 4 October, merging the pro-democracy and pro-Islamic platforms. Ayub Khan retreated. ‘Islamic’ was restored to the name of the nation in 1963, and political parties permitted to function again.

The military regime soon discovered that ‘Islamic’ had one invaluable use, in the confrontation with ‘Hindu’ India. ‘Islamic Pakistan’ had an array of virtues, including true faith and martial prowess; India’s secularism was concocted by ‘Brahmins’ who used cunning to compensate for innate cowardice. India’s defeat in the 1962 war against China confirmed such timeless prejudice, and Ayub Khan could never resist asking any Indian he met after the war, with barely disguised pleasure, ‘What happened to the great Indian army?’

Courtesy: Tinderbox by M.J. Akbar, Harper Collins Publishers India, 2011

US and Pakistan Relations 1958-63

The downward trajectory of the US-Pakistan military relations started early in 1958, even though politically the US was encouraging Ayub as a counterweight to Iskander Mirza. American and Pakistani military officials met in Karachi on 28 Feb. 1958 to review Pakistan’s specific requests for increased aid at the instigation of the Pakistan Ministry of Defence. Pakistan had started pressing for a broad range of weapon systems from the US in 1958. The Pakistan Ambassador sought to make the argument that Pakistan needed these bombers (light bomber squadron) as a ‘deterrent to possible aggression by India’ which in the ambassador’s view would eventually ‘put the screws on Pakistan.’ This would happen, he felt, in the context of the Indus waters dispute. India using its superior military strength would ‘browbeat Pakistan.’ But William Rountree of the Near East Asia Division of the Department of State (and later US Ambassador to Pakistan) countered emphatically that US military aid to Pakistan ‘was not based on the premise that Pakistan was to be armed against India.’ Indeed, he stated that ‘such assumptions by the government of Pakistan and public statements by its leaders implying such premises were hurtful to US interests,’ Ambassador Ali immediately retorted that ‘Our arming is against any aggression; that has been our position all along.’

Badaber Base: Among the more concrete results of the US-Pakistan relationship at that time was the agreement to set up the Peshawar air station, about four and a half miles south of the city of Peshawar. It became operational in Dec. 1958 as the ‘6937th Communication Group’. Originally referred as Operation Sandbag, probably because of the surprise effect on the Soviet Union that was to be the target of eavesdropping and aerial spying by the Americans located in Pakistan, The base came under public scrutiny when Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet union on 7 May 1960 and the Soviets had established that he had taken off from Peshawar.

US Reviews Military Aid to Pakistan:  As 1959 rolled around, the US was in the middle of an internal review of military aid to Pakistan and recognized the criticisms within its own government of military aid as opposed to economic assistance. However, it also weighed military aid to Pakistan in favour of the creation of ‘stability in the broader area of the Middle East that included Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Turkey (members of the Baghdad Pact).

  • Is US’s main objective in Pakistan military or strategic?
  • Is Pakistan’s main value to the US represented by its airfields with their SAC (Strategic Air Command) potential as part of the essential ring of airfields around the USSR?
  • For what specific purpose the US needs Pakistan’s 5 ½ MAP-supported divisions?
  • Are we (US) assisting in this ground forces program for its own sake or primarily as a price for the related SAC air base potential?
  • Have we (US) sufficiently considered that the 5 ½ divisions now supported by the US would in all probability remain pinned down along the Indian and Kashmir borders ion case of hostilities?

The Americans came to the conclusion that ‘American assistance is necessary and will be required for some time to come if Pakistan is to continue to make bases and other military facilities available to the US.’

The 1960s also saw the emergence of strains in the relationship with the United States, fueled by much internal debate in Washington on its balance sheet with Pakistan. Also, the US was shifting attention to India as a potentially better partner—being a huge democracy, a counterweight to China, and a nascent market for US goods and services. A series of exchanges with Pakistan about the treaty obligations of the US aimed at providing cover for maintaining the status quo took place while the US forged a new approach to South Asia in general. Ayub, on his part, sought to assuage his critics at home b getting the Us to affirm its obligations to protect Pakistan. But he was savvy enough to know in the end he had to protect himself and his country by positioning Pakistan ore as a neutral entity rather than a cold warrior on the American side of the fence.

The Pakistanis were getting concerned about India’s aggressive posture in the region after the Indian invasion of Goa, Daman, and Diu, former Portuguese colonies on India’s west coast and the apparent friendship between the US president and the Indian Prime Minister. Ayub complained to Kennedy about tis posture and cautioned the US against changing its policies towards India. But a shift had started to appear in the US view of the subcontinent. Under the heading, ‘A New Look at Pakistani Tie,’ Robert W. Komer of the NSC staff wrote to his boss, McGeorge Bundy, President Kennedy’s special assistant for National Security Affairs, highlighting the basic differences between the Us and Pakistani view of regional issues in the subcontinent. While recognizing Pakistan’s insecurity as a smaller country in relation to India, Komer warned against letting Ayub push the US ‘into a position which runs contrary to our larger strategic interests in the area,’ adding that, ‘we have failed to get across to him the limitation, as well as in the benefits of our support. Instead he seems to have got the feeling that we are so attached to him as an ally that he can pursue his aims with renewed vigor, and to drag us along with him.’ Acknowledging the provision of facilities to the US by Pakistan, Komer wrote ‘I’m not sure we’ve gotten a lot . . . except paper commitment to SEATO and CENTO.’ Strategically, Komer suggested that if the US were to choose between India and Pakistan, its best bet would be to go with the larger India. He suggested, therefore, that the US take a new tack against Pakistan and not treat Ayub ‘with kid gloves,’ since Ayub needed the US’s help and had few other options of external aid.

Ayub had other ideas though, and upped the ante by taking Kashmir issue once more to the UN Security Council, provoking Kennedy to ask Ayub to suspend the action to which Ayub responded firmly but clearly with a reminder that India had massed 85% of its forces, including armoured formations, ‘within striking distance of our borders.’ A high level meeting in May 1962 was convened under Philip Talbot at the State Department to discuss the ‘current unsatisfactory state of US-Pakistan-Indian relations’ and noted ‘the drift apart of the US and Pakistan. Noting the importance to SEATO and CENTO and the danger of equal treatment of India and Pakistan as being seen unfavorably in Pakistan, the meeting concluded that ‘the US would gain little or nothing by a major shift of our Pakistan policy and a great deal could be lost.’

It was against this background that the Sino-Indian conflict took place and the US rushed to take the lead in providing India with armaments ostensibly to help fend off an onslaught from the Chinese, down the glaciers of the Himalayas and on to the Gangetic plains. Kennedy already keen to win Indian friendship, wrote to Ayub to inform him that the US intended ‘to give the Indians such help as we can for their immediate needs. We will ensure of course that whatever help we give will be used only against the Chinese. The letter then proceeded to ask if Ayub could send a private message to Nehru to allay any concerns of Nehru that Pakistan might take this opportunity (of India’s conflict with China)to create problems on India’s frontiers with Pakistan. Ayub confided to US Ambassador, McConaughy, that he had no intention of taking advantage of India’s preoccupation with China but registered nevertheless his barely concealed anger at the fact that Kennedy had proceeded to aid India without the promised prior consultation with Ayub.

In the White house, Komer clearly understood the depth of Pakistan’s anger but advised Kennedy that ‘there be no give in our position. We have no need to apologize. If we compensate Ayub for our actions vis-à-vis India, we will again be postponing the long needed clarification of our position.’ Ayub’s reply, after a considered pause and consultations with his colleagues was long and argumentative. He expressed surprise at Kennedy’s request about giving an assurance to Nehru at that time given his view that India had moved its formations to battle positions against Pakistan in the west. Ayub’s thrust was towards a resolution of the Kashmir dispute as the best way of creating peace India and Pakistan.

Ayub went to some lengths to keep the spigot of US aid open. In a long and candid exchange with Under Secretary Ball in Rawalpindi on 3 and 4 September, in the presence of Foreign Minister Bhutto, he assured Ball that ‘Pakistan wants to remain friends with the US unless the US drives it away.’ But he also warned that: ‘Should US policy change, and should we seek to squeeze Pakistan, there would be difficulties. . .

But the US-Pakistan relationship was unravelling steadily as other concerns intruded. The US was becoming embroiled in a draining conflict in South East Asia and was unhappy that Pakistan did not provide troops for the Vietnam war. It also found India to be a better prospect than Pakistan as an economic partner and a potential challenger to China.

Pakistan was focusing more on building economic and political ties with China, and Kashmir loomed large as an unfinished business from partition. It was unhappy with the lack of concrete US pressure on India to resolve this conflict. Its leadership was also aware of India’s growing military strength especially after the influx of Western arms in the wake of the Sino-Indian conflict.  Pakistan’s military had acquired new and improved weapon systems from the US and felt confident that it had a strong deterrent force, should India proceed to exert hegemony in the region. But the increased military force of the Indians created its own dynamic, militarily and politically in Pakistan.

Courtesy: Excerpts from Crossed Swords by Shuja Nawaz, Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, 2008.


Does History Repeat Itself?

The Crowe Memorandum
A number of commentators, including some in China, have revisited the example of the twentieth-century Anglo-German rivalry as an augury of what may await the United States and China in the twenty-first century. There are surely strategic comparisons to be made. At the most superficial level, China is, as was imperial Germany, a resurgent continental power; the United States, like Britain, is primarily a naval power with deep political and economic ties to the continent. China throughout its history, was more powerful than any of its plethora of neighbours, but they, when combined, could – and did – the security of the empire. As in the case of Germany’s unification in the nineteenth century, the calculations of all these countries are inevitably affected by the re-emergence of China as a strong, united state. Such a system has historically evolved into a balance of power based on equilibrating threats.

Can strategic trust replace a system of strategic threats? Strategic trust is treated by many as a contradiction in terms. Strategists rely on the intentions of the presumed adversary only to a limited extent. And the essence of sovereignty is the right to make decisions not subject to another authority. A certain amount of threat based on capabilities is therefore inseparable from the relations of sovereign states.
It is possible—though it rarely happens—that relations grow so close that strategic threats are excluded. In relations between states bordering the North Atlantic, strategic confrontations are not conceivable. The military establishments are not directed against each other. Strategic threats are perceived as arising outside the Atlantic region, to be dealt with in an alliance framework. Disputes between the North Atlantic states tend to focus on divergement assessments of international issues and the means of dealing with them; even at their most bitter, they retain the character of an interfamily dispute. Soft power and multilateral diplomacy are the dominant tools of foreign policy. And for some Western European states, military action is all but excluded as a legitimate instrument of policy.

In Asia, by contrast, the states consider themselves in potential confrontation with their neighbours. It is not that they necessarily plan on war; they simply do not exclude it. If they are too weak for self-defense, they seek to make themselves part of an alliance system that provides additional protection, as in the case with ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian nations. Sovereignty, in many cases regained relatively recently after periods of foreign colonization, has an absolute character. The principles of the Westphalian system prevail, more so than on their continent of origin. The concept of sovereignty is considered paramount. Aggression is defined as the movement of organized military units across borders. Non-interference in domestic affairs is taken as a fundamental principle of interstate relations. In a state system so organized, diplomacy seeks to preserve the key elements of the balance of power.
An international system is relatively stable if the level of reassurance required by its members is achievable by diplomacy. When diplomacy no longer functions, relationships become increasingly concentrated on military strategy—first in the form of arms race, then as a manoeuvring for strategic advantage even at the risk of confrontation, and, finally, in war itself.

A classic example of a self-propelling international mechanism is European diplomacy prior to World War I, at a time when world policy was European policy because much of the world was in colonial status by the second half of the nineteenth century; Europe had been without a major war since the Napoleonic period had ended in 1815. The European states were in rough strategic equilibrium, the conflicts between them did not involve their existence. No state considered another an irreconcilable enemy. This made shifting alliances feasible. No state was considered powerful enough to establish hegemony over the others. Any such effort triggered a coalition against it.

The unification of Germany in 1871 brought about a structured change. Until that time, Central Europe contained—it is hard to imagine today—thirty nine sovereign states of varying size. Only Prussia and Austria could be considered major powers within the European equilibrium. The multiple small states were organized within Germany in an institution that operated like the United Nations in the contemporary world, the so-called German Confederation. Like the United Nations, the German Confederation found it difficult to take initiatives but occasionally came together for joint action against what was perceived as overwhelming danger. Too divided for aggression, yet sufficiently strong for defense, the German Confederation made a major contribution to the European equilibrium.

But equilibrium was not what motivated the changes of the nineteenth century in Europe. Nationalism did. The unification of Germany reflected the aspirations of a century. It also led over time to a crisis atmosphere. The rise of Germany weakened the elasticity of the diplomatic process, and it increased the threat to the system. Where once there had been thirty-seven small states and two relatively major ones, a single political unit emerged uniting thirty-eight of them. Where previously European diplomacy had achieved certain flexibility through the shifting alignments of multiplicity of states, the unification of Germany reduced the possible combinations and led to the creation of a state stronger than each of its neighbours alone. This is why Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli of Britain called the unification of Germany an event more significant than the French revolution.

Germany was now so strong that it could defeat each of its neighbours singly, though it would be in grave peril if all the major European states combined against it. Since there were only five major states now, the combinations were limited. Germany’s neighbouring states had an incentive to form a coalition with each other—especially France and Russia, which did so in 1982—and Germany had a built-in incentive to break the alliances.

The crisis of the system was inherent in the structure. No single country could avoid it, least of all the rising power Germany. But they could avoid policies that exacerbated latent tensions. This no country did—least of all, once again, the German empire. The tactics chosen by Germany to break up hostile coalitions proved unwise as well as unfortunate. It sought to use international conferences to demonstratively impose its will on the participants. The German theory was that the humiliated target of German pressure would feel abandoned by its allies and, leaving the alliance, would seek security within the German orbit. The consequences proved the opposite of what was intended. The humiliated countries (France, in the Moroccan crisis in 1905, and Russia, over Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908) were reinforced in their determination not to accept subjugation, thereby tightening the alliance system that Germany had sought to weaken. The Franco-Russian alliance was, in 1904, joined (informally) by Britain, which Germany had offended by demonstratively sympathizing with Britain’s Dutch settler adversaries in the Boer war (1899-1902). In addition, Germany challenged Britain’s command of the seas by building a large navy to complement what was already the most powerful land army on the continent. Europe had slipped into, in effect, a bipolar system with no diplomatic flexibility. Foreign policy had become a zero-sum game.

Will history repeat itself? No doubt were the United States and China to fall into strategic conflict, a situation comparable to the pre-World War I European structure could develop in Asia, with the formations of blocs pitted against each other and with each seeking to undermine or at least limit the other’s influence and reach. But before we surrender to the presumed mechanism of history, let us consider how the United Kingdom and German rivalry actually operated.

In 1907, a senior official in the British Foreign Office, Eyre Crowe, wrote a brilliant analysis of the European political structure and Germany’s rise. The key question he raised, and which has acute relevance today, is whether the crisis which led to World War I was caused by Germany’s rise, evoking a kind of organic resistance to the emergence of a new and powerful force, or whether it was caused by specific and, hence, available German policies. Was the crisis caused by German capabilities or German conduct?

In his memorandum submitted on New Year’s Day in 1907, Crowe opted for the conflict being inherent in the relationship. He defined the issue as follows:
For England particularly, intellectual and moral kinship creates a sympathy and appreciation of what is best in the German mind, which has made her naturally predisposed to welcome, in the interest of the general progress of mankind, everything tending to strengthen the power and influence—on one condition there must be respect for the individualities of other nations, equally valuable coadjutors, in their way, in the work of human progress, equally entitled to full elbow room in which to contribute, in freedom, to the evolution of a higher civilization.

But what was Germany’s real goal? Was it natural evolution of German cultural and economic interests across Europe and the world, to which German diplomacy was giving traditional support? Or did Germany seek ‘a general political hegemony and maritime ascendancy, threatening the independence of her neighbours and ultimately the coexistence of England?

Crowe concluded that it made no difference what goal Germany avowed. Whichever course Germany was pursuing, ‘Germany would clearly be wise to build as powerful a navy as she can afford.’ And once Germany achieved naval supremacy, Crowe assessed, this in itself—regardless of German intentions—would be an objective threat to Britain, and ‘incompatible with the existence of the British Empire.’

Under those conditions, formal assurances were meaningless. No matter what the Germans government’s professions were, the result would be ‘as formidable a menace to the rest of the world as would be presented by any deliberate conquest of a similar position by ‘malice aforethought.’ Even if moderate German statesmen were to demonstrate their bona fides, moderate German foreign policy could ‘at any stage merge into’ a conscious scheme for hegemony.

Thus structural elements, in Crowe’s analysis, precluded cooperation or even trust. As Crowe wryly observed: ‘It would not be unjust to say that ambitious designs against one’s neighbours are not as a rule openly proclaimed, and that therefore the absence of such proclamation, and even the profession of unlimited and universal political benevolence, are not in themselves conclusive evidence for or against the existence of unpublished intentions.’ And since the stakes were so high, it was ‘not a matter in which England can safely run any risks.’ London was obliged to assume the worst, and act on the basis on its assumptions—at least so long as Germany was building a large challenging navy.

In other words, already in 1907 there was no longer any scope for diplomacy; the issue had become who would back down in a crisis, and whenever that condition was not fulfilled, war was nearly inevitable. It took seven years to reach the point of world war.

Were Crowe to analyse the contemporary scene, he might emerge with a judgement comparable in his 1907 report. I will sketch the interpretation, though it differs substantially from my own, because it approximates a view widely held on both sides of the Pacific. The United States and China have not been so much nation-states as continental expressions of cultural identities. Both have historically been driven to visions of universality by their economic and political achievements and their people3’s irrepressible energy and self-confidence. Both Chinese and American governments have frequently assumed a seamless identity between their national policies and the general interests of mankind. Crowe might warn that when two such entities encounter each other on the world stage significant tension is probable.

Whatever China’s intentions, the Crowe school of thought would treat a successful Chinese ‘rise’ as incompatible with America’s position in the Pacific and by extension the world. Any form of cooperation would be treated as simply giving china scope to build its capacities for an eventual crisis. Thus the entire Chinese debate recounted and the question of whether China might stop ‘hiding its brightness,’ would be immaterial for purposes of a Crowe-type analysis: someday it will (the analysis will posit), so America should act now as if it already had.

The American debate adds an ideological challenge to Crowe’s balance-of-power approach. Neoconservatives and other activists would argue that democratic institutions are the prerequisite to relations of trust and confidence. Nondemocratic societies, in this view, are inherently precarious and prone to the exercise of force. Therefore the United States is obliged to exercise its maximum influence (in its polite expression) or pressure to bring about more pluralistic institutions where they do not exist, and especially in countries capable of threatening American security. In these conceptions, regime change is the ultimate goal of American foreign policy in dealing with nondemocratic societies; peace with China is less a matter of strategy than of change in Chinese governance.

Nor is the analysis, interpreting international affairs as an unavoidable struggle for strategic pre-eminence, confined to Western strategists. Chinese ‘triumphalists’ apply almost identical reasoning. The principal difference is that their perspective is that of the rising power, while Crowe represented the United Kingdom, defending its patrimony as a status quo country. An example of this genre is Colonel Liu Mingfu’s China Dream. In Liu’s view, no matter how much china commits itself to a ‘peaceful rise,’ conflict is inherent in U.S. China relations. The relationship between China and the United States will be a ‘marathon contest’ and the ‘duel of the century.’ Moreover, the competition is essentially zero-sum; the only alternative to total success is humiliating failure: ‘If China in the 21st century cannot become world number one, cannot become the top power, then inevitably it will become a straggler that is cast aside.’

Neither the American version of the Crowe memorandum nor the more triumphalist Chinese analyses has been endorsed by either government, but they provide a subtext of much current thought. If the assumptions of these views were applied by either side—and it would take only one side to make it unavoidable—China and the United States could easily fall into this escalating tension. China would try to push American power as far away from its borders as it could, circumscribe the scope of American naval power, and reduce America’s weight in international diplomacy. The United States would try to organize China’s many neighbours into a counterweight to Chine3se dominance. Both sides would emphasize their ideological differences. The interaction would be even more complicated because the notions of deterrence and pre-emption are not symmetrical between these two sides. The United States is more focused on overwhelming military power, China on decisive psychological impact. Sooner or later, one side or the other would miscalculate.

Once such a pattern has congealed, it becomes increasingly difficult to overcome. The competing camps achieve identity by their definition of themselves. The essence of what Crowe described (and the Chinese triumphalists and some American neoconservatives embrace) is its seeming automaticity. Once the pattern was created and the alliances were formed, no escape was possible from its self-imposed requirements, especially not from its internal assumptions.

The reader of the Crowe Memorandum cannot fail to notice that the specific examples of mutual hostility being cited were relatively trivial compared to the conclusions drawn from them: incidents of colonial rivalry in Southern Africa, disputes about the conduct of civil servants. It was not what either side had already done that drove the rivalry. It was what it might do. Events had turned into symbols; symbols developed their own momentum. There was nothing left to settle because the system of alliances confronting each other had no margin for adjustment.

That must not happen in the relations of the United States and China insofar as American policy can prevent. Of course, was Chinese policy to insist on playing by Crowe Memorandum rules, the United States would be bound to resist. It would be an unfortunate outcome.

I have described the possible evolution at such length to show that I am aware of the realistic obstacles to the cooperative U.S. China relationship I consider essential to global stability and peace. A cold war between the two countries would arrest progress for a generation on both sides of the pacific. It would spread disputes into internal politics of every region at a time when global issues such as nuclear proliferation, the environment, energy security, and climate change impose global cooperation.
Historical parallels are by nature inexact. And even the most precise analogy does not oblige the present generation to repeat the mistakes of its predecessors. After all, the outcom3e was disaster for all involved, victors as well as defeated. Care must be taken lest both sides analyze themselves into self-fulfilling prophecies. This will not be an easy task. For, as the Crowe memorandum has shown, mere reassurances will not arrest the underlying dynamism. For were any nation determined to achieve dominance, would it be offering assurances of peaceful intent? A serious joint effort involving the continuous attention of top leaders is needed to develop a sense of genuine strategic trust and cooperation.

Relations between China and the United States need not—and should not—become zero-sum game. For the pre-World War I European leader, the challenge was that a gain for one side spelled a loss for the other, and compromise ran counter to an aroused public opinion. This is not the situation in the Sino-American relationship. Key issues on the international front are global in nature. Consensus may prove difficult, but confrontation on the issues is self-defeating.

Nor is the internal evolution of the principal players comparable to the situation before World War I. When China’s rise is projected, it is assumed that the extraordinary thrust of the last decades will be projected into the indefinite future and that the relative stagnation of America is fated. But no issue preoccupies Chinese leaders more than the preservation of national unity. It permeates the frequently proclaimed goal of social harmony, which is difficult in a country where its coastal regions are on the level of the advanced societies but whose interior contains some of the world’s most backward areas.

The Chinese leadership has put forward to its people a catalogue of tasks to be accomplished. These include combating corruption, which President Hu Jintao has called an ‘unprecedently grim task’ and in the fight against which Hu has been involved at various stages of his career. They involve as well a ‘Western development campaign,’ designed to lift up poor inland provinces, among them the three in which Hu once lived. Key proclaimed tasks also include establishing additional ties between the leadership and the peasantry, including fostering village-level democratic elections, and enhanced transparency of the political process as China evolves into an urbanized society. In his December 2010 article, Dai Bingguo outlined the scope of China’s domestic challenge.
According to the United Nations’ living standard of $1 per day, China today still has 150 million people living below the poverty line. Even based on poverty standard of per capita income of 1,200 Yuan, China still has more than 40 million people living in poverty. At present, there are still 10 million people without access to electricity and the issue of jobs for 24 million people has to be resolved every year. China has a huge population and a weak foundation, the development between the cities and the countryside is uneven, the industrial structure is not rational, and the underdeveloped state of the forces of production has not been fundamentally changed.

The Chinese domestic challenge is, by the description of its leaders, far more complex than can be encompassed in the invocation of the phrase ‘China inexorable rise.’
Amazing as Deng’s reforms were, part of China’s spectacular growth over the initial debacles was attributable to its good fortune that there existed a fairly easy correspondence between China’s huge pool of young, then largely unskilled labour—which had been ‘unnaturally’ cut off from the world economy during the Mao years—and the Western economies, which were on the whole wealthy, optimistic, and highly leveraged on credit, with cash to buy Chinese-made goods. Now the China labour force is becoming older and more skilled (causing some basic manufacturing jobs to move to lower-wage countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh) and the West is entering a period of austerity, the picture is far more complicated.

Demography will compound that task. Propelled by increasing standards of living and longevity combined with the distortions of the one-child policy, China has one of the world’s most rapidly aging populations. The country’s total working-age population is expected to peak in 2015. From this point on, a shrinking number of Chinese citizens aged fifteen to sixty-four need to support an increasingly large-elderly population. The demographic shifts will be stark by 2030, the number of rural workers between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine is estimated to be half its current level. By 2050, one-half of China’s population—roughly equivalent to the entire current population of the United States—sixty-five and older.

A country facing such large domestic tasks is not going to throw itself easily, much less automatically, into strategic confrontation or a quest for world domination. The existence of weapons of mass destruction and modern military technologies of unknowable ultimate consequences define a key distinction from the pre-World War I period. The leaders who started that war had no understanding of the consequences of the weapons at their disposal. Contemporary leaders can have no illusions about the destructive potential they are capable of unleashing.

The crucial competition between the United States and China is more likely to be economic and social than military. If present trends in the two countries’ economic growth, fiscal health, infrastructure spending, and educational infrastructure continue, a gap in development—and third party perceptions of relative influence—may take hold, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. But this is a prospect, it is in the capacity of the United States to arrest or perhaps reverse by its own efforts.
The United States bears the responsibility to retain its competitiveness and its world role. It should do this for its own traditional convictions, rather than as a contest with china. Building competitiveness is a largely American project, which we should not ask China to solve for us. China, fulfilling its own interpretation of its national destiny, will continue to develop its economy and pursue a broad range of interests in Asia and beyond. This is not a prospect that dictates the confrontation that led to the First World War. It suggests an evolution in many aspects of which China and the United States cooperate as much as they compete.

The issue of human rights will find its place in the total range of interaction. The United States cannot be true to itself without affirming its commitment to basic principles of human dignity and popular participation in government. Given the nature of modern technology, these principles will not be confined by national borders. But experience has shown that to seek to impose them by confrontation is likely to be self-defeating—especially in a country with such a historical vision of itself as china. A succession of American administrations, including the first two years of Obama’s has substantially balanced long-term moral convictions with case-to-case adaptations to requirements of national security. The basic approach remains valid; how to achieve the necessary balance is the challenge for each new generation of leaders on both sides.
The question ultimately comes down to what the United States and china can realistically ask of each other. An explicit American project to organize Asia on the basis of containing China or creating a bloc of democratic states for an ideological crusade is unlikely to succeed—in part because china is an indispensable trading partner for most of its neighbours. By the same token, a Chinese attempt to exclude America from Asian economic and security affairs will similarly meet serious resistance from almost all other Asian states, which fear the consequences of a region dominated by a single power.
The appropriate label for the Sino-American relationship is less partnership than co-evolution. It means that both countries pursue their domestic imperatives, cooperating where possible, and adjust their relations to minimize conflict. Neither side endorses all the aims of the other or presumes a total identity of interests, but both sides seek to identify and develop complimentary interests.

The United States and China owe it to their people and to global well-being to make the attempt. Each is too big to be dominated by the other. Therefore neither is capable of defining terms for victory in a war or in a Cold War type of conflict. They need to ask themselves the question apparently never formally posed at the time of the Crowe Memorandum: Where will a conflict take us? Was there a lack of vision on all sides, which turned the operation of the equilibrium into a mechanical process, without assessing where the world would be if the manoeuvring colossi missed a maneuver and collided? Which of the leaders who operated the international system that led to the First World War would not have recoiled had he known what the world would look like at its end.

On China by Henry Kissinger, published by Penguin Group, Toronto Canada 2011