Friday, 28 February 2014

Keeping up with our Blunders, Bakhtiar Qayyum

Keeping up with our Blunders
Bakhtiar Qayyum
Every year on 14 August, we celebrate Independence Day of Pakistan although Pakistan did not earn independence on this date 66 years ago. It was India which got independence from the British Raj; Pakistan was created as a new country on the face of the earth. It is also worth mentioning that our holy forefathers who were engaged in the struggle for a separate homeland did not expect their demand to be accepted so soon. It was probably the avidity of the British to leave India after they suffered heavy losses in the Second World War that prompted the creation of Pakistan. This is evident from the ineptness and incompetence of those who held the reins of authority during the first few years. There was no preparedness to defend or any preparation to run the new country. They had neither prepared a constitution or legal framework for the new-found-land nor trained the manpower to run the country. This non-preparedness and lack of resourcefulness compelled the rulers of this new country to commit blunders, which caused irreparable losses to the country. The human endeavor is to learn from our mistakes and try not to repeat them. Our national dilemma is that as a nation we neither accepted to have committed the blunders nor tried to make corrections. Resultantly, we commit the same mistakes again and again and always expect to get different results. This had been the vicious cycle we had been going round and round for 66 years of our existence.

The first and the foremost blunder was the decision of the first Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan to align with USA and forgo the independent and non-aligned posture of Pakistan. This action alienated us from our neighbors and other countries in the region by creating a suspicion and mistrust in their dealing with Pakistan. Besides we aligned with a new traditional and ideological rival of states located in our region. It was the beginning of cold war between US and Soviet Union and we tried making friends with USA which was located on the other side of the globe, thus arousing enmity with Soviet Union and its allied states, which were our immediate neighbors. We also gave up the non-aligned and independent status of Pakistan by joining US sponsored defense pacts like CETO and CENTO. Thus we were isolated in our region and even failed to get any benefit from the new alliance. Pakistan still licks the wounds of that unhappy experience.

As said earlier Muslim leadership was not prepared to efficiently run the newly born state as they had done no homework for it. The father of the nation constituted a Constituent Assembly after the creation of Pakistan with the sole responsibility to devise a constitution for the newly born state. The Constituent Assembly wasted lot of time in unnecessary details and got stuck up in controversial issues relating to Islamic tenets. The only significant document prepared by it was the Objectives Resolution, which was adopted on March 12, 1949. It proclaimed that the future constitution of Pakistan would not be modeled entirely on a European pattern, but on the ideology of Islam. After remaining functional for seven years and without completing its task the Constituent Assembly was suspended by the Governor General Ghulam Muhammad, on 24 October 1954. This was the second big blunder committed without regrets. The dissolution was challenged by Speaker, Molvi Tameezuddin in Sindh Chief Court, where the dissolution was declared illegal and void. But the Governor General went into appeal to the Federal Court. The Federal Court under the Chief Justice Muhammad Munir gave the famous judgment in favor of Governor General and held the dissolution of the Constitution Assembly valid based on the law of necessity. This decision of the Federal Court, which later became the Supreme Court of Pakistan, validating the illegal dissolution of the Constituent Assembly was another blunder which in the coming years provided precedence for all dissolutions of assemblies and governments by military generals. Soon after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, the then Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Bogra through a notification declared the four provinces of Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and NWFP, Federal Administered Tribal Areas and the princely states into one province as one administrative unit. The step was aimed at removing disparity and creating administrative balance between the eastern and western wings of the country (the present Bangladesh was East Pakistan then) but it created more dissent and disharmony among various ethnic and linguistic groups in present Pakistan. This was another big blunder. Although the decision was reversed by General Muhammad Yahya Khan, the Chief Martial Law Administrator on 1July 1970 but it had done the damage and the hatred-mistrust among provinces persist even to this date. The separation of Eastern wing of the country and creation of Bangladesh is also attributed to it as one of the not-too-remote causes.

The second Constituent Assembly created on 28 May 1955 through Governor General’s order managed to give a Constitution (Constitution of Pakistan 1956). It was enforced with effect from 23rd March 1956 and Pakistan became an Islamic Republic but the political instability perpetually ensued. It was partially due to the attitude of Maj Gen Sikander Mirza, who first became Governor General succeeding Ghulam Muhammad and then became President of Pakistan in accordance with the Constitution of 1956. But he could not pull along with the civilian government and changed four Prime Ministers within a span of two years. Although first general elections on the basis of adult franchise were scheduled to be held in early 1959, once again the National and Provincial Assemblies were dissolved, the newly enforced Constitution was abrogated and Martial Law was imposed by the President of Pakistan Maj Gen Sikandar Mirza on 7th October 1958. General Muhammad Ayub Khan, Commander-in-Chief of the Army was appointed the Chief Martial Law Administrator. Ten days later Ayub Khan deposed Sikandar Mirza and himself became President. All political processes in the country were stopped, political institutions prorogued, civilian government removed and military personal deputed on all positions of the government. This was the first successful coup in the history of Pakistan, bringing to power a military regime under Ayub Khan. The political disorder in the country fostered the view within the military and in the public that Pakistani politicians were too weak and corrupt to govern effectively, and that the parliamentary system was flawed. So the first military takeover was generally welcomed by the masses but it has proved to be one of the blunders committed by our ruling elite.

Next on the blunder’s list is the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965. A lot has been said and written about the causes of the war including the military exercises named “Operation Gibraltar” which led to the war in disputed Kashmir region. The details of the 17-days war and its culmination with the Tashkent Declaration have also been commented upon extensively. We will suffice to a neutral assessment of the consequences and the aftermath of the war. About the losses sustained by Pakistan, an independent source, Library of Congress Country Studies conducted by the Federal Research Division of the United States stated that “The war was militarily inconclusive; each side held prisoners and some territory belonging to the other. Losses were relatively heavy—on the Pakistani side, twenty aircraft, 200 tanks, and 3,800 troops. Pakistan's army had been able to withstand Indian pressure, but a continuation of the fighting would only have led to further losses and ultimate defeat for Pakistan.”  TIME magazine reported that India held 1112 square kilometers of Pakistan territory while Pakistan held 403 square kilometers of Indian territory in Kashmir and Rajasthan. Additionally, Pakistan had lost almost half its armor temporarily. Some Pakistani analysis might not agree to the above figures but one thing is very clear; Pakistan failed to achieve any of her objectives from the 1965 war. Encyclopedia Wikipedia in its note on the consequences of 1965 war states that “One of the most far reaching consequences of the war was the wide-scale economic slowdown in Pakistan. The cost of the 1965 war put an end to the impressive period economic growth Pakistan had experienced during early 1960s. Between 1964 and 1966, Pakistan's defence spending rose from 4.82% to 9.86% of GDP, putting tremendous strain on Pakistan's economy. By 1970–71, defence spending comprised a whopping 55.66% of government expenditure. According to veterans of the war, the war had greatly cost Pakistan economically, politically, and militarily. Nuclear theorist Feroze Khan maintained that the 1965 war was a last conventional attempt to snatch Kashmir by military forces, and Pakistan's own position in international community, especially with the United States, began to deteriorate from the point the war started, while on the other hand, the alliance with China was indeed improved.” After the war resentment among people and government of East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh) against West Pakistan (today’s Pakistan) became more intense as they had a feeling that Kashmir was the obsession of West Pakistan and they were spending on the war from the funds meant for East Pakistan. Moreover, during the war it was alleged that East Pakistan was not guarded against the possible attack from India to divide Pakistan’s attention from west to east.  The race for nuclear arsenal also initiated as a consequence of 1965 Indo-Pak war and Pakistan started diverting sizable chunk of its GDP towards a discreet nuclear program.

First general elections in Pakistan were held on 7 December 1970 for 300 seats in the National Assembly; 162 for East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh) and 138 for West Pakistan (today’s Pakistan). The outcome of the elections was 160 seats from the Eastern wing won by Awami League of Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rehman and 81 seats in West Pakistan won by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Although Awami League got a clear mandate from these elections, they were not offered to form the government. This was another big blunder committed by General Muhammad Yahya Khan who ruled the country as Chief Martial Law Administrator at that time. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who was a lofty aspirant to become Prime Minister instigated Yahya Khan not to invite Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rehman to form the government because he alleged that he would break the country. Bhutto also hurled threats to elected members from West Pakistan not to attend any session of the National Assembly if held in Dhaka (capital of East Pakistan). Resultantly, mass uprising was triggered in East Pakistan followed by the Bangladesh Liberation War and the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, and the ultimate secession of East Pakistan into Bangladesh. The Indian troops had entered East Pakistan to support the separatist movement and bring an end to war. The separation of East Pakistan at the end of the Bangladesh Liberation War was one of the biggest events in the history of this country. It shook the very foundation of Pakistan, which was said to be created on the ideology of Islam but Islam could not hold the country together beyond 24 years. There could be many reasons given for the humiliating defeat and surrender of the Pakistan army at the hands of Indian troops in East Pakistan where almost 93000 members of the Pakistan Armed Forces including paramilitary personnel were taken as Prisoners of War by the Indian Army. The whole nation was stunned at the disaster. The Army quietly stepped down in what remained of Pakistan and handed over the rein of power to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto became the Chief Martial Law Administrator, then the President and finally the Prime Minister. His dreams had come true, no matter at what cost.

Soon after assuming powers, Bhutto set up a high power judicial commission to inquire into and find out "the circumstances in which the Commander, Eastern command, surrendered and the members of the Armed Forces of Pakistan under his command laid down their arms and a cease-fire was ordered along the borders of West Pakistan and India and along the cease-fire line in the State of Jammu and Kashmir." The six member commission was headed by the then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Hamoodur Rehman. Other members of the Commission included Justice Anwarul Haq, Chief Justice of Sindh High Court and two senor judges of Balochistan High court. A retired Lt Gen was included as a military advisor. After six months deliberations the commission presented an interim report to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, President of Pakistan in July 1972 as the commission could not take into account the interviews and statements of some senior civil and military officers, who were still prisoners of war in India. Twelve copies of the initially report were prepared. It is said that one copy was given to Bhutto and the rest were either destroyed or were stolen. In 1974 the commission restarted proceedings after the return of prisoners of war. The final report or the supplementary report as it was called was submitted on 23 October 1974 to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who had become Prime Minister according to the new constitution of 1973.The report contained detailed analysis how political, administrative, military and moral failings were responsible for the surrender of Pakistani forces in East Pakistan.  Bhutto classified the entire report as he was afraid that if made public, it would further demoralize and humiliate the Pakistan Armed Forces. The Report's findings accuse the Pakistani Army of carrying out killings in the countryside, killing of intellectuals and professionals and burying them in mass graves, killing of Bengali Officers and soldiers on the pretence of quelling their rebellion, killing East Pakistani civilian officers, businessmen and industrialists, raping a large number of East Pakistani women as a deliberate act of revenge, retaliation and torture, and deliberate killing of members of the Hindu minority. It has also been alleged that the report contained a chapter highlighting the aspirations of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to grab powers, which contributed to the separatist stance of Bengalis. Bhutto is said to have changed that portion of the report and got it rewritten. The report was, however, published in the year 2000 after it was leaked in Indian newspapers. The non-publishing of the report in time was another big blunder because it snatched away the opportunity of learning from our follies and failures. We failed miserably to make amends to our mistakes which led to the breaking up of the country.

The nationalization policy of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto during the 70s also proved to be another national blunder. Without any long term planning or assessing the consequences he tried to restore the economic order that was badly shaken by war through acquisition of property and businesses owned and run by private concerns. It was perhaps the hardest test nothing short of  vengeance which Bhutto put this nation go through by taking over banks, schools, factories, vehicle manufacturing and assembly units, cement factories,  electricity gas and oil refining units. Even the exports and imports were taken control of by the government through trading corporation. Perhaps, Bhutto wanted to ensure the distribution of wealth and the prosperity of lay man. However the policy of nationalization had many defects. It caused a great damage to the private sector. Investment in the private sector was almost finished. The managements of those nationalized concerns made personal gains at the cost of the progress and wellbeing of the institutions they worked in. They were taken as personal fiefdoms and government used them to oblige friends and family members of high and mighty. Resultantly, with the passage of time these governments owned enterprises, which were once profit making machines turned into garbage dumps. Today around 200 of such enterprises lose more than Rupees 500 billion a year; that is roughly Rupees 1.5 billion a day, every day of the year; when the treasury is almost empty. Despite the fact that banks, educational institutions and few other manufacturing units had been restored to private sector.

Declaring Ahamdi sect as non-Muslims by Bhutto was probably another blunder in our checkered history of 66 years. It gave rise to sectarianism and boosted the radical Islam. We still reap the fruit of that forced decision. The Ahmadi factor had since been used to avenge personal grievances as well. It is very simple to label someone as Ahmadi to shun all doors of well-being and prosperity for him and invite the wrath of the guardians of faith to make life a living hell for him.

Next on our list of blunders is the execution of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto as result of the verdict by trial court, which in his case was the Lahore High Court and rejection of appeal by the Supreme Court. General Ziaul Haq, who was the man in the saddle at that time, did not adhere to any clemency appeals made by world leaders to spare the life of former Prime Minister. The hanging of Bhutto gave rise to a new political culture in the country – that of dynasties, political martyrs and the ascendancy of violent political rivalry. His sons and daughters overnight ascended to the throne of political leadership without having any notable political achievement to their credit. Besides, the country lost a political personality, which was termed as the leader of the masses, the man who gave the 1973 constitution and a feudal who chanted the slogan of “food, clothes and shelter” for the poor and downtrodden people of the country. The nation still feels the crunch of the events and the trial sheds a cloud on the reputation of our higher judiciary. The Adjudicators who handed down the judgment admitted later on that they were under tremendous pressure to pronounce the death sentence. The court verdict had been termed as “judicial murder” by some of the most prominent jurists.

The invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet Troops in late December 1979 to support the communist government against the Islamist insurgents marked the beginning of a new type of proxy war between old rivals, Soviet Union and the USA. For the proxy war, Americans chose to launch the Islamic Jihadists from Pakistan. Religious seminaries were converted into military training camps and the ill-trained radical enthusiasts were sent into Afghanistan to fight alongside the local Islamic insurgents against the invading Soviet troops. It opened up an all new vistas of the Islamic holy war against the communist infidels. Muslims from the Middle Eastern Islamic states started pouring into Pakistan to participate in Jihad, an Islamic tenet. Thus in Pakistan guns, war, military training, weaponry and a plethora of motivational material to wage holy war became a common street affair. This waging of Jihad from the Pakistani soil against foreign invaders in Afghanistan can be marked another big blunder which had long lasting consequences on the peace and security situation of the country. Today Pakistan faces the greatest internal threat from the radical Islamists called the Taliban, who can be regarded the descendants of Jihadists of the 80s. And their tirade against the Nation is the aftermath of the Jihad, they were trained and indoctrinated for.

General Ziaul Haq exploited the Jihadist saga to prolong his own rule and introduced the process of Islamization in the country. He tried imposition of his own understanding of the Quran and Islam. Ziaul Haq was himself affiliated with the Hanfi sect, which is one of the many schools of thought in Islam, but he undertook to implement the same without taking into account the teachings of other sects. Curriculum was changed, new laws were enacted and strict Islamic code was implemented. In schools as well as offices dress code was altered and all rules to rise up the ladder of ranks and grades were written afresh. Strict adherence to the Islamic rituals was made mandatory for promotions or making advancements. Bank accounts of general public were frozen for compulsory deduction of Zakaat. People were publically flogged for not adhering to strict Islamic tenets. Dance parties in hotels and clubs and the use of liquor was completely banned. All restaurants and eating outlets were forcibly closed during the month of fasting and offering afternoon prayers in offices were declared mandatory. The enforced imposition of one Islamic view in the country was another blunder which infested the Pakistani society with intolerance and use of violent tactics for religious purposes.

Next on our blunders list is the Kargil war of 1999. Apart from the strategic significance of the war from a Pakistani prospective it was an aimless endeavor.  The Pakistani troops in the guise of Kashmiri freedom fighters crossed the line of control (LOC) near Kargil and occupied Indian military posts overlooking Indian National Highway connecting Srinagar to Leh.  The LOC had been demarcated by the UN Mission after the 1948 war to mark the temporary boundary between Indian and Pakistani controlled territories. The objective of the intruding Pakistani troops was to sever the military logistics supply on the Srinagar-Leh Highway. But crossing the LOC, occupying Indian controlled territory and threatening the military supply route amounts to border violation and waging war on India. There should have been no doubt that the Indians will retaliate fearlessly and the International community would not appreciate the move. When Indian troops retaliated, Pakistan military suffered heavy losses and had to retreat. Pakistan had to make request to USA to help stop the war from spreading to other areas. The international community condemned and criticized the Pakistani move. As a consequence of war, the peace efforts initiated between the two countries after Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpai visited Lahore came to a halt, mistrust and suspicion between the two countries reached new heights; hostilities got escalated and military standoff continued for several years.

Regarding the events of recent times, the stand taken by Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks on American targets are still considered controversial. There are conflicting views about the response shown by the Government of General Pervez Musharraf. His facilitating US forces to strike on Al-Qaida including Afghan civilians and militants targets, the Taliban and the Arab nationals fighting Jihad in Afghanistan are still being condemned by political and military circles. The critics claim that the error of judgment has plunged Pakistan into an unending war against the unforeseen enemy. It is also said that the war which was initially being fought in Afghnistan has been acclaimed to be our war and extended to the streets and cities of Pakistan. But the objectives and targets of the said war are still ambiguous and we are with each passing day loosing space.  The war on terror which has been sponsored and financed by ISAF countries is still a long way from being conclusive while the country is being torn apart by the ensuing terrorist activities. This is the third civilian government facing the upshots of the war on terror but we have yet not constituted any commission to inquire the causes, consequences and the authenticity of our response to this war.

On the national front the promulgation of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) by General Pervez Musharraf through which all criminal and corruption cases against activists of PPP and MQM and against Asif Ali Zardari were withdrawn. It was a blunder of his government. Hundreds of hardened criminals and plunderers of national wealth were pardoned, even those in jails were released and all proceedings and investigations halted. It was not an amnesty, it was setting free the criminals and plunderers to do the same again. All were given a clean chit by the government so that they may launch once again to do more harm. Earning benefit from the NRO, Asif Ali Zarzari got elevated to the highest position in the country and became the President of Pakistan. It was the most humiliating blunder that the man who was so notorious for his corrupt practices, the nation had spent millions to bring him to books and cases of money laundering and corruption were pending against him in Switzerland, Spain and UK was suddenly made the President of the country and accepted by all at that position. He was neither acquitted nor exonerated from any case; they were all withdrawn due to promulgation of NRO. It brought a bad name for the country and for the people.

Furthermore, on March 9, 2007 the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry who was believed to be doing a good job was removed from his office by General Pervez Musharraf without following the due process given in the Constitution. The Chief Justice resisted his removal and the matter was taken up by the Supreme Judicial Counsel, where after exhaustive deliberations the matter was decided in favor of the Chief Justice. He was re-instated and all allegations leveled against him in the Presidential Reference were discarded. But he along with 60 other judges was removed again by the general in an extra-constitutional move on 3 November 2007 whereby the Constitution was held in abeyance and a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) issued. A street agitation was started by the lawyers’ community, civil society and the media to revive the pre-3 November Judiciary. The agitation took the shape of a regular movement and continued for more than a year. In the mean time General Pervez Musharraf doffed his uniform, resigned as President of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, PPP formed the government after winning elections, Asif Ali Zardari became President and the government of PML(N) in Punjab was removed. Nawaz Sharif set out from Lahore on a long march onto Islamabad. When the long march was midway, the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and all other judges were restored. However, it has not been determined yet, why the Chief Justice removed and what were gained from the year long lawyers movement.

Last on our count of blunders is the mysterious presence of the most wanted man, Osama Bin Laden in Abbattabad, the garrison city so close to the Federal Capital. The whole world, including our security agencies and Armed Forces were trying to hunt him down since he disappeared from Tora Bora in Afghanistan in 2001. As if the embarrassment of his hiding on our soil was not enough, it was the US who found him not our men. The US Naval Special Warfare Development Group and Central Intelligence Agency operatives ordered by U.S. President Barack Obama killed him in a covert operation at midnight 2 May 2011. There could be two plausible excuses for his being there. Either we or any of our agencies knew nothing about the presence of Osama bin Laden on our soil or someone knew it. Regrettably, if the first is true, we are stupid and dupe and if second is true, we are wicked and untrustworthy. The man had been there for eight years perhaps controlling and running his terror outfits around the world and our agencies knew nothing or were abetting him.

This was a concise premise of our blunders during the 66 years of our existence. Every nation commits mistakes and makes corrections to move forward. We should not be embarrassed of our follies of the past rather we should keep them alive so that we do not commit same mistakes again. The younger generation is desperate and hapless. They often ask why have Pakistan not progressed and prospered as have some countries in the far east, which came into existence much after us and have lesser resources. Our people are very hardworking and talented. They don’t know whether Pakistan should be graded with the industrial countries or with the agricultural countries. Even the deserts have bypassed us. In desperation and frustration a majority are looking to leave for a more prosperous career offshore. Maybe someone somewhere can learn something from our blunders and do not repeat the same.

About the author:
Bakhtiar Qayyum is a retired officer, who served for more than 30 years in a prime Government of Pakistan agency. He possesses a thorough knowledge of political, social, ideological and security related issues of Pakistan. He is currently running a NGO namely “PIFF”, which is trying to lessening the hate factor from amongst the youth. His email is and Fb address @Bakhtiar Qayyum

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