Pakistan: Birth Defects and Stunted Development: 2 Ayub Takeover, Basic Democracy, Miss Jinnah Challenge, War with India
Ayub had prudently and with Machiavellian finesse refused to take over without a Presidential proclamation. Ayub was not sure of his hand. He was to reveal his inner thoughts later in his book “Friends And Masters”, that he had been planning a take over ever since he had tasted blood when in 1954 Ghulam Muhammad had appointed him Defense Minister and had allowed him to hold his job as Army chief simultaneously.
Ayub addressed the nation over the radio. He spoke eloquently, and with martial thrust and precision. He would clean the house thoroughly and completely. Mercifully, he did not declare that Islam was in danger, and it was his mission to save the faith too. To his credit, he availed of the opportunity to sideline Mullahs.
The public took to Ayub as a drowning man does to straw. Muslims have always have had a penchant for the man on the white charger. Even the much-venerated Miss Fatima Jinnah endorsed the takeover.
A lawsuit against the dissolution of the parliament and suspension of the constitution was filed in the Supreme Court. The court, which had caved in when hearing a case against the much weaker Ghulam Muhammad regime, could not possibly stand up to the military.
The early performance of the regime was all one could desire. Streets were cleaned, garbage collected, and polluters were punished on the spot. Trains ran on time, mail was delivered regularly and government servants arrived in offices punctually and spent time on actual work rather than on socializing. Adulteration of food stopped, black marketeers offered products at a fair price, hoarders let go of stocks, and smugglers and racketeers were jailed.
Ayub announced land reforms with a lot of fanfare. A new organization was set up to look into the productivity of land in different regions. But bureaucracy found new ways to fill slots with their favorites. Legal advisers found means to insert an extravagant number of loopholes in the ordinance. Feudal landowners wriggled through the gaps and distributed land among their relatives and faithful retainers. Some barren land was given away to favorite peasants [iv]. It was all done with the active connivance of the administration.
Beyond making pious noises nothing was achieved.
Ayub’s basic failure was that he did not develop a durable base of institutional support for his regime.
A brusque general Azam Khan, the martial Law administrator in Lahore after Anti-Qadiani riots, was assigned the charge of East Pakistan. He turned out to be a closet populist and opened the Governor's house to the public. Soon many a person was heard boasting that “hum governor ke sath Chai pia” I had tea with the governor [v].
Politicians were jailed on flimsy and trumped-up charges. Hasan Nasir, an avowed communist and a man of indomitable courage had gone ‘underground’ after the imposition of martial law. He was reportedly picked up from the house of a ‘communist’ journalist and a suspect collaborator. He would not divulge the names of the members of the party and was tortured to death in the Lahore Fort.
Trade and student unions were proscribed, press gagged, and journalists were dismissed.
Faiz, the doyen of Pakistani intellectuals, formerly professor of English, arguably the most admired Urdu poet of the twentieth century and unarguably the most respected progressive muse of the era, was the chief editor of the only progressive publishing house, which brought out Pakistan Times and Imroze. Yet another leftist Sibte Hasan edited Lail o Nahar. The publishing house was taken over by the government.
Not content with proscribing newspapers and magazines the regime banned Progressive Writers Association (PWA) [vi]. It was replaced with Pakistan Writers Guild run by a banker-writer Jamiluddin Aali. It naturally initiated a campaign of unabashed hagiography of the government.
The critical mistake, though, that Ayub made was to mistake transient adoration for permanent fealty. Like courtiers all over, they helped inflate Ayub’s already prodigious ego that he was a man of destiny charged with revitalizing Pakistan. His brightest acquisition Zulfiqar Bhutto also called him uncle and fawned on him.
He went through the charade of appointing a constitution commission headed by a Supreme Court judge. They presented a report, proposing a bicameral legislature, an executive and a judiciary all balancing each other. The draft was hastily shelved. A constitution in the image of Ayub’s vision incorporating a provision of electing eighty thousand Basic Democrats (BD) through unrestricted adult franchise, was promulgated through ordnance in 1962. BDs were to run municipal and local affairs under the supervision of District officers and their assistants. They would serve as the Electoral College for provincial and central assemblies as well as for the office of the President.
The poet Habib Jalib aptly caught the mood of the public. In his inimitable style, he wrote a poem
“Aisai Dastoor ko Subhe Be noor Ko,
Main Nahin Manta, Main Nahin Janta”
I do not recognize, nor do I accept such a constitution. It is like a morning without light.
First elections under the system were held in 1960. Some ideas can be had from the person who stood against Bhutto, the rising star of the regime, from their common hometown. A second rate lawyer filed his nomination papers for the seat Bhutto was contesting. He got the man to withdraw his papers and as quid pro quo sent him as the country’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Now nearly all the ministers raked it in. The institution of kick-backs on any contracts, licenses and any sort of government approval, which developed into an art form under Bhutto and later dictators, and quasi-democratic setups, was founded under Ayub.
Virtual absence of representation in the Civil Service, judiciary and the army was one of the major factors in the alienation of Bengalis from Pakistan. This combined with far lower investment in, lack of the safety valve of representative government, and contempt of the better built West Pakistanis far Bengalis of slighter physique eventually led to the demise of United Pakistan. Ayub in his book “Friends and not Masters” expressed the opinion that Bengalis were the progeny of the original Dravidian Indians. This is a very unflattering description for a north Indian.
The biggest curse of Ayub’s dictatorship was the suppression of all forms of political activity; freedom of expression and organization, political parties, students and trade unions had been proscribed for a while. Strikes had been banned. Intellectual development, level of social consciousness, the concept of civic rights had all been stunted. Judiciary had been thoroughly cowed.
But the single most important, one may say the defining aberration was the racketeering of Ayub’s son Captain Gohar Ayb. On ascension of his father to the “throne”, he resigned his commission and started spreading out, junketing around in luxury limousines, consorting with film stars, carousing in expensive night clubs, and abducting women in the style taken to an art form much later by Saddam’s sons.
This was, however, not all. Very soon he launched Gandhara industries, an umbrella group, which worked mines, dug oil wells, founded car assembly plants and owned many other enterprises.
Ayub had the mentality of a small peasant. He hankered after acceptance among top feudal landowners. He had given Bhutto a seat in his cabinet. Bhutto had turned out to be not a bad choice when compared to the cruel, repressive and murderous feudal, the Nawab of Kalabagh Ayub had installed as Governor of West Pakistan. Habib Jalib used the literal meaning of his title- Kala Bagh means black Garden- and wrote a poem
“Jab Se Kale Baghon Ne Ghera Hai”,
“Since the country has been under the siege of Black Gardens”. Kala Bagh met an appropriately gruesome end. His own son murdered him for sexually molesting his friend
As governor of West Pakistan, Kalabagh was the chancellor of all universities in West Pakistan. He was invited to the degree awarding ceremony of the University of Karachi.
There had been no convocations for several years. There were so many candidates that non-professional graduates (a simple BA, BSc-tens of hundreds) were not allowed to the stage. They hooted Kalabagh ferociously.
Soon after this event, Ayub announced that he would shift the capital from Karachi [vii] to a purpose-built town to be called Islamabad
in the hills conveniently not too far from Rawalpindi, the town which housed the Army General Headquarters (GHQ).
Shifting the capital had a demoralizing effect on Bengalis who had gotten used to Karachi. The hot and humid climate and proximity to the sea were as near as they could hope to get to their home environment. They had settled in large numbers in Karachi.
Sindhis were ambivalent. Karachi would, they hoped, be restored to the province. They were not certain though, that the federal government would not hold on to the city as a federal preserve. Baluchis and Pathans were indifferent; Islamabad would be as alien to them as Karachi was. Only Punjabis were happy, and in the corridors of power, they mattered the most. They overwhelmingly dominated the army and bureaucracy and comprised the bulk of feudal landowners.
Turmoil, hitherto under the surface was erupting with unsettling frequency. Ayub had been noticeably weakened. Azam had kept a lid on the Eastern wing by virtue of his transparent honesty, palpable sincerity, gruff affability and easy accessibility. People gave him the benefit of the doubt. With his departure, Bengal also started erupting.
Ayub decided to hold an election in 1964. He was confident that in spite of all the setbacks he would win easily as all the politicians had tarnished reputation and would not command public support.
But he had reckoned without the wily Red Mullah, Maulana Bhashani. He went to Miss Jinnah and reportedly told her, “Tumhara Bhai Pakistan Banaya, Tumhara Marzi Hai Usko Bachao Ya Na Bachaao”- your brother made Pakistan, it is up to you to save it or not. Not a procrastinator, Miss Jinnah agreed to don the mantle of the savior instantly.
The news spread like the proverbial wildfire. The public came out on the streets in untold numbers. Opposition set aside all their differences. They found willing and ready volunteers and funds for the campaign poured in.
Ayub was visibly shaken. He was hamstrung. He dare not publicly go on the offensive and engage in slandering the revered mother of the nation. Privately though he was reported to froth at the mouth at the mention of her name.
In the ensuing campaign, initially for electing Basic Democrats, nearly all candidates all over the country had to pledge allegiance to her.
Miss Jinnah addressed mammoth crowds in all the major cities of the country.
When she flew to Dhaka airport, East Pakistanis set aside all the resentment at being treated like a poor relation by the West. Her motorcade could not leave the airport. There was such a crush of bodies that she had to be flown on a helicopter to Paltan Maidan, the time haloed public meeting ground in Dhaka. The size of the crowd exceeded even the ones her brother used to address.
In an election based on the universal franchise, Ayub would have lost his shirt. But Electoral College was restricted to 80,000 Basic Democrats. They were now vulnerable to all the repressive and coercive forces under the command of government functionaries. Some were not averse to favors, bribes and other blandishments. One enterprising candidate for national assembly had collected all the electors in his constituency in the compound of the college he had founded and had locked them up for the night preceding Election Day, with plenty of food, wine and women. They were let go after they had cast their votes for the official ticket with Ayub at the top of the list.
The establishment also resorted to large-scale rigging, and ballot stuffing. The election was widely regarded at home and abroad as tainted and the desired result obtained fraudulently.
In spite of all the chicanery, they could not keep Miss Jinnah winning in Karachi and Dhaka divisions.
Pakistanis had united on one platform for the last time and were robbed of victory. Bhashani’s words were destined to be prophetic. Ayub’s victory, brazenly dishonest as it was, would slowly but surely lead to the dismemberment of Pakistan.
Ayub’s son Gohar, incensed at les majeste of Karachites, in not voting for his father, unleashed a reign of terror on the helpless populace. He personally led a group of armed marauders looting, pillaging, maiming and killing. Scores were killed, hundreds injured, presaging more gruesome bloodletting under a future dictator. Police looked on as uninterested onlookers as they would in later years too.
Ayub had lost what little legitimacy he had.
He hit upon a reckless plan. He will wrest control of Kashmir from Indian hands and will go down in history as Nadir Shah Abdali who had saved Dehli for Muslims from the infidel Marathas.
Egged on by fawning sycophants, he deluded himself into believing that the Indian Army would melt away against the might of Ghazis (holy victors, those who die are Shaheeds, martyrs). Had not they fled, with tail between their legs, before the Chinese [viii], who though possessed of stronger spines were nevertheless infidels, with no hope of eternal bliss? [ix] Kashmiris would rise in exemplary unison to welcome Pakistani liberators. Indian PM Shastri was new. He came from a poor family. He had had to swim a river to get to school every day. He will surely lose his nerve and sue for peace.
All these spurious arguments were presented to him most cogently by the latter-day Machiavelli, Z.A.Bhutto and are in the domain of public knowledge. Much later the 1965 misadventure was called Bhutto’s war.
Ayub decided to test waters before taking a plunge. He ordered his army to challenge the Indians across Runn of Kutch, an impenetrable swamp was an area of little importance on Pakistani Sindh/Indian Rajhastan border. Pakistan controlled the high ground. Indians fell back.
Emboldened by the victory he let his “volunteers”- paramilitary personnel out of uniform- loose to infiltrate the Vale of Kashmir across the line of control [x].
With his back to the wall, Shastri gave an ultimatum. Cease and desist or we will attack across the international border. Ayub, kept in a state of delusion by Bhutto that Indians will respect the international border, had left Lahore border relatively undefended. Indians actually marched into the outskirts of Lahore. Surprised at finding no resistance and fearing an ambush, Indian troops halted in their tracks.
The city did not fall though I saw the BBC announce that it had. Indian soldiers had abducted a Pakistani bus and had shown it to a credulous BBC reporter as proof of Lahore’s capture [xi]. They had to retract the statement half an hour later.
Pitched battles followed with a grievous loss of life and material on both sides. Both sides claimed victory.
But in the end, it all came to nothing. Within two weeks of the start of hostilities, both sides ran out of bullets. A cease-fire was mandated by the UNO Security Council and accepted by India and Pakistan.
East Pakistanis were never very worked up about Kashmir, which they correctly perceived as a lifeline for the outsized army. The obscene expenditure on defense establishment benefited only those west Pakistanis whose relatives were members of the armed forces, and the contractors and suppliers at best. They felt that if Kashmir were ever to come into possession of Pakistan, its population would suffer the same fate they themselves and other second class citizens of the country did.
One sorry fall out of the war was that Pakistan had provided Indians with a good excuse to whittle away at Kashmir’s autonomy and added to the misery of its people who had kept their counsel through the duration of the war.
Another side effect, which was to have far-reaching consequences, was that East Pakistanis loudly voiced the opinion that they had been left undefended, at the mercy of Indians. The fact is well documented that the two wings had lost all communication with each other for the duration of active hostilities [xii]. They scorned the patently spurious thesis of Pak top brass that East Pakistan would be defended on the plains of West Pakistan.
What was perhaps worse was that the blunder gave a lease of life to the orthodoxy in the country.
UN Security Council assigned the role of mediator/arbitrator in the dispute to Kosygin; the Soviet PM. Pakistan should never have accepted him as a mediator as the country had always favored India. The fact that the USA had acquiesced to the proposal indicated that they did not care much for Pakistan either. Ayub had in fact demurred. Johnson, it is believed, told him to fall in line or else.
Kosygin coaxed, coerced and browbeat the two parties, Pakistan more often, to agree to and sign an agreement to return to pre-war borders.
There was nary a mention of a plebiscite to determine the preferences of Kashmiri for which purpose Pakistan had gone to war. Ayub returned empty-handed. It was a clear victory for Indian diplomacy [xiii].
Scattered riots followed the agreement signed in January 1966. Two students died as a result of police firing in Lahore.
The war was to lead to disastrous consequences for Pakistan. It shot two demagogues to prominence, Bhutto on the western side and Mujib in the Eastern wing. Bhutto was entirely a creation of Ayub. But that did not stop him from castigating his mentor. Mujib was handed a live and burning issue he could and did use to inflame public opinion in the Eastern Wing.
Bhutto resigned from the office. Ayub dissuaded him. When he felt sure of his footing, he sacked his foreign minister. No body paid any attention to Bhutto. He assiduously courted audiences. Public, when it did deign to react to his strident statements that Ayub had betrayed the trust, reminded him that he was fully a party to the cease-fire agreement, it was his job as foreign minister to advise the President on diplomatic tangles and till lately he had fawned on Ayub calling him uncle etc.
He was still in his late thirties. His one imaginative move as foreign minister had been the opening to China. But Ayub, to Bhutto’s consternation, had claimed all the credit for the diplomatic coup.
Finding no support at home Bhutto went to, what appeared to be a well-deserved oblivion in England. He was frequently seen drowning his sorrows in a bottle and exhorting any Pakistani who would listen to him to return with him to Pakistan to launch a revolution. Tariq Ali [xiv] describes a meeting with him in Paris. Ali very sensibly and as a matter of principle, declined the invitation.
From the perspective of the integrity of the country, a somewhat different and worse situation obtained in East Pakistan. Mujib had been a bit more successful in exploiting the “abandonment” of Bengal.
Mujib had a track record as a student leader. He had been active in the language campaign. He had served as General Secretary of East Pakistan Awami League, but he had risen in the political arena as the field had been depleted due to depredations of the Ayub regime.
Ayub’s regime was tottering. The huge outlay of resources on the war had negated all the economic gains of the previous seven years. People wanted jobs, food and shelter, education, health care and clean water.The statement by an economist Mahbbob-ul-Haque, that twenty-two families owned all the wealth of the country was given wide currency.
Ayub resorted to desperate measures. His Government announced, with great fanfare, that they had unearthed a conspiracy against Pakistan. It incriminated a few junior Bengali officers in the army and the civil service and Mujib who was most probably attracted more by free whiskey than any idea of a coup.
The participants had divulged their grandiose plan while in their cups. It was named Agartala, after the town where the whole thing was supposed to start. The conspirators were tried in a Kangaroo court and duly sentenced to long terms of jail sentence. Mujib became an authentic hero.
During his exile, Bhutto made frequent trips to Paris and had detailed discussions with J.A.Rahim, at the time the ambassador of Pakistan to France. Rahim was a senior and exceptionally talented civil servant. He was Bhutto’s mentor, guide and philosopher and had helped Bhutto navigate through the minefield of the bureaucratic establishment when Ayub had taken the latter into his cabinet and was to become the secretary-general of the party Bhutto founded and wrote its constitution.
Fed up of the life of an exile in London, he returned to Pakistan and started a furious campaign to gather support and did manage to attract a few left-wing intellectuals and lawyers. But they were political nonentities. He was getting nowhere fast.
Then he struck a gold mine. A student leader, whom the Intelligence agents running the communist party in Pakistan had managed to run out of Karachi, threw his support behind Bhutto. Leftist and progressive elements [xv] veterans of innumerable insurgencies against the Ayub dictatorship, though weakened by the internecine warfare of Soviet/China ideological divide, as a group they were still a force to reckon with. They had found a helmsman.
Bhutto was [xvi] still not able to catch the imagination of the people of Pakistan at large.
Ayub came to his rescue and put him in jail.
Putting Bhutto behind bars was quite unnecessary. He was widely despised for his perceived penchant for opportunism. Ayub managed to create a hero in the Western Wing too. Public mind accepted the fiction that Bhutto must have been telling the truth that Ayub did not listen to the latter’s advice and caved in under American-Soviet pressure.
Ayub’s minions now came up with an extremely outlandish idea [xvii]. They advised him to celebrate ten years of his rule, dubbing it “Decade of Development”.
The catalyst to the upheaval was a scuffle between the police and students in Lahore. The students had apprehended a purse-snatcher and the police wanted to let them go. That incident led to a conflagration. Demonstrations, processions and public protests broke out all over the country. In Karachi, Dacca and Lahore administration fell apart completely. East Pakistan had already been simmering. The unrest had reverberated to the Western wing. Led by students both exploded simultaneously. There was a spate of student/ industrial workers strikes and other disturbances.
I happened to be visiting Pakistan at the time. Ayub addressed the nation on national TV, a nascent medium in the country at the time. He looked like a dog that had been kicked by its master. "Ayub kutta Hai Hai” [dog Ayub shame shame] was actually a popular refrain.
Ayub had to withdraw all cases against Mujib, release him and invite him to an all parties’ conference with a view to forming a national government. He had to accord the same honors to Bhutto. Shrewder of the two Bhutto declined the invitation [xviii].
The conference ended in expected failure, but Mujib had gained “face”. Bhutto could finally put behind him the record of public and private sycophancy to Ayub. His craven letter of flattery to Iskander Mirza [xix] was not in the realm of public knowledge.
His minions were able to claim that Bhutto had genuinely believed in Ayub’s sincerity and integrity, but Tashkent had opened his eyes and he had promptly cut his links with the regime.
Bhutto got his first break in government and politics when Iskander Mirza, the then President of Pakistan named him the leader of the country’s delegation to a maritime conference in Geneva. He was picked up because he was the legal counsel to the shipping concern of Cowasjee family. Bhutto sent Mirza an absolutely slavish letter of thanks. Even in a country awash with toadies and sycophants, it will be difficult to emulate, much less exceed this exhibition of flattery.
Dr. S. Akhtar Ehtisham
All religions try to take over the establishment and if they fail, they collaborate with it, be it feudal or capitalist.