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Pakistan - How Did It All Go Wrong? (Part II)


SK Mujib

General Ayub Khan showed some initial progress, which even the people of East Pakistan appreciated. But the novelty of martial law did not last long and predictably became corrupted by vested interests.  He was President of Pakistan for most of the 1960s, but by the end of the decade, popular resentment had boiled over against him. Pakistan had fallen into a state of disarray, and on 25 March 1969 he handed over power to General Yahya Khan. In his first nationwide address, Yahya Khan re-imposed martial law, and ordered everybody to maintain law and order. Soon he set up a framework for elections that were held in December 1970. In East Pakistan, the Awami League (led by SK. Mujibur Rahman) held almost all the seats, but none in West Pakistan. In West Pakistan, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto) won the lion's share of the seats, but none in East Pakistan. SK Mujib won 162 seats in the National Assembly and Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party mastered only 88. When Bhutto refused to concede the leadership of Pakistan to Mujib, to resolve the impasse he proposed the ‘six-point formula’, but it was not acceptable either to Bhutto or to the people of West Pakistan. The six-point formula would have safeguarded several key rights of the Bengali people who may have gone on to remain in Pakistan.

The Bengali public did not forget the incident of 1952 when they had to pay in blood to retain their mother tongue Bengali. I had the opportunity to talk to Mujib in a gathering of Bengali Diaspora in Bayswater, when he was in London in 1969. He described how senior civil servants at the centre regularly flouted his orders or instructions by refusing to carry them out, when he became a minister under the Suhrawardy Government. It is reported in several sources that when Mujib was in London he secretly held talks with Indian diplomats about the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan.

After the six-point formula failed, on March 7, 1971, Mujib asked the people to launch a major campaign of civil disobedience, and organised armed resistance at a mass gathering of people at the Race Course Ground in Dhaka; this was a de-facto declaration of Independence. Mujib was arrested by the military governor and transported to West Pakistan and imprisoned. Army clampdown, arrests, rampant murderous attacks on Bengalis, rape of Bengali women by Pakistani soldiers led to the emigration of millions of ordinary people, both Hindus and Muslims to India. Mujib’s deputies of the Awami League set up a government in exile in India. India exploited this golden opportunity by arming the freedom fighters and creating conditions which led to the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Pakistan was badly defeated. The generals of Pakistan had to suffer the ignominy of surrendering to the Indian generals who were their friends and colleagues in the days when they were in the British Army together. The exiled Awami league leadership and most of the refugees returned to East Bengal which they called the Independent state of Bangladesh. Later many non-Bengalis suffered torture and murder at the hands of Nationalistic Bengalis who had the chance to take revenge.

General Yahya Khan became the highest-ranking casualty of the war. To forestall the ensuing unrest in Pakistan on 20 December 1971, he handed over power to ambitious and mercurial Mr.Bhutto, age 43, who became the Prime Minister. In July 1972, Bhutto had to go to India, sign the Simla Agreement drawn up by India, to recover 93,000 prisoners of war and 5,000 square miles of territory captured by India. He strengthened ties with China and Saudi Arabia, and recognised Bangladesh. He also released Mujib who became known as Desh-Bandhu, Friend of the Nation of Bangladesh. Bhutto ran the country until 1977 by winning the parliamentary election of that year. However, the opposition alleged widespread vote rigging, and violence escalated across the country. On 5 July 1977, in a bloodless coup Bhutto was deposed by his appointed army chief General Zia-ul-Haq; he was controversially tried on murder charges and was executed in 1979 by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Zia ul-Haq ran his martial law administration until August 1988 when he himself was killed in a helicopter crash. The American Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Lewis Raphael and General Herbert M. Wassom, the head of the U.S. Military aid mission to Pakistan, were also killed in the same crash. After Bhutto’s  death his daughter Benazir was elected as the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan which lasted from November 1988 to October 1990. But when Benazir was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1990 on corruption charges, Nawaz Sharif secured the nomination. He successfully campaigned for the office of Prime Minister. Nawaz Sharif, a right-wing conservative politician, served as the 12th Prime Minister of Pakistan from November 1990 to July 1993.

Benazir served again as PM from 1993 until her final dismissal on November 1996 and was again removed from the post by President Farooq Leghari on corruption charges in which her husband Asif Ali Zardari was also deeply implicated. Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister again from February 1997. On 12 October 1999 he attempted to remove Musharraf from the post of Chief of Army, but was out manoeuvred by the crafty Army Chief Musharraf. Sharif was exiled to Saudi Arabia. Under US pressure Musharraf became involved in the war with the Talibans; this has brought all sorts of trouble causing the catastrophic condition Pakistan now finds herself in. Gradually he himself became so unpopular that he could not continue to stay in power.

Hostility towards Musharraf increased from all quarters. Under pressure he agreed to restore democracy. Bhutto, her husband Zardari and Sharif all returned home to take part in the election. Bhutto was killed in a bomb-blast during an election campaign on 27 December 2007 by whom no one knows. Her husband Asif Ali Zardari inherited the leadership of the People’s Party. He and Sharif of the Muslim League Party ran an interim coalition government but by skilful political manoeuvre and dominance of the PPP consolidated his power and became the President on September 2008. Musharraf was compelled to resign previously. Sharif was gradually sidelined by Zardari as he managed to exercise power with the help of the Prime Minister Gillani. In the 2013 general election Sharif became Prime Minister for the third time. Because of the continued Taliban/Al- Qaeda problems and regular drone strikes by the Americans he has been finding it very difficult to run the country with full authority and ease.

Failure of foreign policy

Since independence Pakistan has been following suicidal foreign policies. Pakistani politicians gave the impression that they were cleverer and smarter than the Indians. By becoming members of strong international alliances such as CENTO and SEATO they felt secure from attacks by foreign powers, particularly India. Alas! During the many wars with India, Pakistan never received any direct help from its allies. That frustration made her angrier towards the Indians and anti-Indian terrorist activity increased further.

I realised later what the well-attired gentleman in his forties, mentioned in the second paragraph of Part I of this essay, implied. The US and not India is the cause of Pakistan’s misfortunes. Pakistan is now a sport, a tool, a useful ally whom the US in her own interest employs willy-nilly when she needs, and discards each time once her purpose is achieved, leaving Pakistan in a worse situation than before. Due to lack of any foresight and/or desperate need of aid Pakistan has embroiled herself twice in an Afghan war, once during the Russian invasion and later during the current American fight with the Taliban. “A leading US expert on South Asia said the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) worked in tandem with Pakistan to create the "monster" that is today Afghanistan's ruling Taliban”. They were friends of the Pakistanis until the US compelled them to fight their friends.

Recent drone attacks on Pakistani territories killing ordinary men, women and children show utter helplessness on her part and erosion of her sovereignty. As if she is a prey in the paws of a wild animal. The results have been catastrophic creating the dismal lawlessness, economic hardship, inability to employ resources to civilian works and the dire condition they find themselves in now. These two wars have caused Pakistan untold social, political and economic destruction from which rebuilding the country will be a long, painstaking and at times seemingly impossible process. The bipartisan foreign policy to satisfy the two enemies, the US and the Al-Qaeda/Taleban ally, has been disastrous for Pakistan. Will the toxic mixture of Al-Qaeda and Taliban be the Sword of Damocles for Pakistan which she cannot escape?

Pakistan - Is this A Civilian State or A Business Run By Junta?

The future of Pakistan depends to a large extent on the answer to this question. It is clear that since the junta became involved in the politics of Pakistan they have become so dominant that civilian governments could only run if they had their blessing. Most of the foreign aids, mainly from the US, are channeled through the military that enjoyed the lion’s share. It is also clear that the US prefers the military rulers who can serve their interests when they are bribed in the guise of aids. This is a clear hypocrisy on the part of the Americans who always talk about democracy, human right etc.

Incompetent and weak civilian governments did not have the chance to be replaced by other elected civilian governments because of the interventions of the junta. When one compares the situation with India (the only comparison I have made with India), people outside the country hardly know the names of the chiefs of Indian army, air force or the navy. India had many bad governments but they have always been replaced by another elected government. No junta intervened to threaten the democratic governments in India. Most of the Pakistan’s wars with India have always been instigated by the junta.

Rivalry with India

I am aware that Pakistan has a good reason to bear a grudge against India. This is because she could not inherit or capture Kashmir in its entirety. But the jealousy harboured by the leaders of Pakistan created their shortsightedness. So they fought several wars with the Indians under one pretext or another. Pakistan came second best every time losing face and causing economic hardship for her people. There have been several terrorist attacks against India originating in Pakistan. The1971 war with India and the inability to offer democratic rights to the people of East Pakistan proved the shortsightedness of the leaders of Pakistan. This had been evidenced time and again previously. The ignominy suffered by Bhutto and the military hegemony diminished the image of Pakistan further. Jingoism inevitably permeated among the populace as a result - hatred and contempt for India kept on increasing among the unsuspecting masses. It makes me wonder if these people are the progenies of the sturdy and heavily built person in his fifties pouring scorn and venom towards the Indians.

This has also badly damaged the relationship between these two countries whose common cultural heritage is deep rooted. I felt very sad when the film “Postcards from Pakistan” was shown in the evening of 26 November 2012 at the Pakistan High Commission. They were fragments of the heritage of the bygone Muslim Era. I felt sad because most of the Pakistanis present there had no idea what Muslim heritage they left in India from which they are permanently deprived of and how others are taking care of them and reaping the benefits by publicising them abroad as Indian heritage.

Click here to read Pakistan - How Did It All Go Wrong? (Part I)

Mohammad Soukat Ali was educated in the sciences and embarked upon a career in agricultural economics in West Bengal, India, before working in the UK civil service. He writes articles and essays on Islamic reform and history.