Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Land of Generals

Land of Generals
Dr Shabir Choudhry 04 September 2006

In 1970s in England we used to see with interest a TV serial called ‘Land of giants’. Unlike houses of human beings houses of giants and other infrastructure was huge as it was built to suite needs of large creatures with tremendous power. A group of ordinary human beings unfortunately reached there to find themselves in huge houses.

In one episode while travelling through a thick forest (garden of giant) they came across a strange and massive object (gardening shoe of a giant). They started exploring this and with help of ropes climbed to the top; and during the process of exploring one of them fell inside. It took rest of the team many hours of hard work to rescue that man. Soon it was apparent that both creatures could not live side by side on the same planet, as both had different needs.

In south Asia in 1947 a new country came in to being with name of Pakistan- a land of pure- where people hoped to find peace, justice, economic prosperity and equality. Millions of people in hope of better future, left their homes and graves of their love ones and migrated to this new country. It was the biggest decision of their lives as it could have great impact on their lives, honour and dignity; and many hundred thousand of people perished, thousands lost their honour and dignity during this journey.

Uprooted, shattered and victimised people soon realised that the land of their dreams was taken over by landed aristocracy, bureaucracy and men in khaki. This land instead of becoming a land of pure became a land fit for generals, where generals rule and all the laws are made subservient to their whims. Like in a land of giants ordinary people here also find that shoe (military boot) is too big for them; and there appears to be no one to rescue them.

Dreams of millions were shattered, and those who questioned their wisdom were conveniently declared ‘anti state’, anti Pakistan and traitors. Uprooted, victimised, disappointed and frustrated people were let down by every one they trusted; and in this hopeless situation the last thing they wanted was a label of being a ‘traitor’. This authority to declare opponents ‘traitor’ proved very useful weapon in the hands of ruling elite; and many, against their conscience and natural urge decided to either look on the other side while wrongs were being committed or take side of the oppressor.

The ruling elite has been successful in establishing certain misconceptions that criticism on wrong doings of a general - even when he has invaded his own capitol and abrogated constitution - is a direct attack on the institution of an army and integrity of the state. Writers and so called intellectuals are ‘hired’ as day wagers to defend follies of the ruling junta and demonise politicians and other notables of the civil society.

In view of Islamabad based Pakistani thinking journalist, ‘Pakistani generals have really worked hard to break up Pakistan’. Different generals endowed different problems to Pakistan, and on their departure Pakistan and the ordinary people find themselves deeper in problems. If it was not for ‘deeds’ of anti democratic forces, and those who preach communalism and hatred, Pakistan could have survived as a stable and democratic state.

Those who promoted hatred and communalism were encouraged; and those who believed in liberal democracy, tolerance, and plural society were targeted and deliberately harassed and intimidated. After experimenting different people this elite chose General Ayub Khan as its head to pursue certain policies which suited this junta and their foreign God fathers.

Policies of this era created conditions in which a gulf between East Pakistan and West Pakistan dramatically increased; and a figure in a form of Sheikh Mujib Rehman to lead Bengali nationalism was established. As Ayub Khan’s hold on different leverages of power became week he was replaced by another general to continue with the agenda and plan of action which they worked out for Pakistan.

Qaaide Azam’s Pakistan could not stand these experiments and East Pakistan became Bangladesh; and instead of expressing remorse on lost of eastern wing many said ‘thank God we got rid off them’. Zulfqar Ali Bhutto, despite his many faults and role during these tragic years, brought some stability and unity to the remaining Pakistan. This did not suit interests of some powerful groups because if Pakistan gets stability and democracy then it empowers people, and they could benefit from fruits of democracy and pluralism.

This scenario was nightmare for some and another general was asked to pick up his gun and ‘serve’ the nation. General Zia Sahib not only created a martyr for Sindhi nationalists, but also established MQM not to mention millions of Afghans and gun culture and drug culture with drastic affects on the Pakistani civil society. Despite these ‘innovative’ efforts of General Zia Sahib and despite the experience of East Pakistan, still gun was considered as the best weapon to resolve political issues. But patriotic people of Pakistan, at least, vast majority of them thought it was better to stay with the rest of Pakistan.

Pakistan and its institutions were never allowed to stabilise, provide stability and serve people. It is debatable whether army generals in Pakistan are trained to defend frontiers of Pakistan or run affairs of the country. The military junta and military bureaucracy wrongly thinks that they are the best lot to rule and run all the institutions of Pakistan, and that is why apart from running the government more than 500 top civilian posts are occupied by retired army officers.

A famous Pakistani writer and journalist Hussain Haqqani, while commenting on the role of Pakistani army quoted General Muhammed Moosa, a former Pakistani army chief, as saying that ‘his training as a soldier was to locate and liquidate enemies. He felt uncomfortable in the world of politics with its complex issues and agendas and shifting allegiances and alliances. Soldiers are unsuited for politics because they treat those disagreeing with them as enemies’.

General Moosa has exposed thinking of the army officers. You don’t have many choices when dealing with army men: you either agree with them and join them whatever they are doing in name of ‘serving nation’; or say no or even question them and be declared ‘enemy’ of the state. Pakistani army might not be good at fighting at borders but they are good at ‘locating and liquidating’ perceived ‘enemy’ inside Pakistan and the Kashmiri territory Pakistan controls.

Head of states rarely speak. It is tradition that they only speak on certain occasions, and when they speak, people and other nations take note of what they say. But Pakistan has different traditions. Head of state here likes to keep a gun with him, and wastes no opportunity to speak to media people or public meeting. He frequently boasts that he is a commando and a fighter, and is willing to take on anyone. By this he probably means any Pakistani or a Kashmiri, otherwise we know how well he fought in Kargil and how strong his nerves were when he had one phone call from Washington.

Pakistan at present consists of four provinces and tribal areas. There is no nationalist movement going on in Punjab, as people want to remain part of Pakistan. But in provinces of Sind, Balochistan and NWFP there are groups which promote ‘nationalist’ politics, and want to have either greater autonomy or independence.

People of NWFP had Wali Khan, Sind had Zulfqar Ali Bhutto and Altaf Hussain, but people of Balochistan had no such figure to give them sense of provincial belonging. Balochistan has a tribal society in which tribal loyalty is stronger than provincial and national (Pakistani) loyalty. Pakistani government believes in ‘equality’, and they probably felt that people of Balochistan have no such figure around which they can unite.

This sense of being ‘deprived’ was creating uneasiness among the Balochi people so the caring and thinking government probably planned this mission to give people of this region a martyr. If you are a loyal Pakistani or even a pro Pakistan or ‘pro pocket Kashmiri’, you must not question intentions of the government. What they have done, terrible as it might look, some people can only see good in everything what government does.

Let us hope that people of Balochistan will benefit from the goodwill of federal government. People of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan do not get fair treatment when it comes to good governance and sharing out of rewards. Let us hope that we will get equal treatment when it comes to oppression, injustice and deprival of rights; and authorities will seriously think of providing a martyr to Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan.

Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at:

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