Saturday, November 06, 2010

How can we keep Indo-Pak relations free from prejudices

Reproducing from my archive in the interest of a positive India-Pakistan relationship.


Review Article

A Khakhi version of Indo-Pak relations

Vidya Bhushan Rawat


Indo-Pak relations have been subject of intense discussion for many in the subcontinent including the ‘security hawks’ and hate mongering foreign ministry experts. General K.M.Arif held important positions in the Pakistan army under different presidents and was particularly closer to General Zia-ul-Haq. Like many Pakistanis he also think that the stories on the Indo-Pak wars had been a one sided affair so far as only Indian versions have come out and Pakistan government has unnecessarily put restrictions on such publication. This is a lament by no less than a general that Pakistan should be an open society and that military should better concentrate on its professional duties rather then meddling into the political affairs of the country on the regular basis. This will, he argues, affect military capability to fight the external enemy i.e. India.

It is interesting to note the different intrigues that Pakistan polity face and the reasons sited by the General to justify military rule in Pakistan, though he must be complimented to put the internal security situation in Pakistan in a very clear perspective but the general has really been parochial and conventionalist when writing about India. His entire thesis on India shows how military in Pakistan and India both the countries have prejudices and bias about each other. The Pakistan army therefore does not hide its communal leaning in terming India as a Hindu state while Pakistan as a Muslim country. The general terms Nehru as a Hindu leader who had a vision for the country while Pakistan after the first round of leadership of the likes of M.A.Jinnah, Liaqat Ali Khan lacked a second ranking leadership. We sitting in India when analyse the Pakistan situation and its reason of military leadership lack the understanding of internal intrigues of Pakistan army and so-called democracy.

The general says that the 1965 Indo-Pak war was an unintended war in which ‘each side reacted disproportionately to the perceived provocation by the other and in the end lost control’. But he nevertheless blames India for the aggression quoting an known Jansangh leader Mr U.M.Trivedi in the Lok Sabha that the Indian army must go to ‘ right up to Lahore to bring Pakistan to its senses.’ Even the socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia wanted India to over run Pakistan. Of course, many in Indian think the same way as the general says but such opinion exist the other side of the border and it would be better for saner people not to give legitimacy and justification to such rhetoric. The General then pat the novice Pakistan leadership under Ayub Khan and quotes him as saying: If Pakistan wanted to commit aggression it would have chosen a better area than the mud flats and also a better time when the Indian forces were on the run after their defeat at the hands of China.

The author then goes on comment on the crisis that erupted in East Pakistan now known as Bangladesh. Though unlike many other Pakistanis he admit the fault of Punjabi dominated bureaucracy and leadership to ignore the claims of Bengalis in Pakistan’s national-political life. He says that since most of the Punjabi’s and Sindhies were educated enough hence they had a major share in bureaucracy but unfortunately Bengalis did not have the ‘ trained manpower’ and most importantly they were culturally dominated by Hindus who had a grudge against Pakistan. There was a slanderous campaign about uneven treatment given to East Pakistanis. And according to General Khan, Pakistani leadership should have acted in a much-matured fashion to diffuse the crisis. It is interesting to note that the general blames the illiteracy and untrained Bengali leadership for their under representation in the services and leadership and feel that it was overreacted by the Awami League president Sheikh Mujeeb who was conspiring against the Pakistanis with clear support from the Indian ruling establishment.

The process of Bangladesh was very old and began with the opposition of Urdu language in East Bengal where students were adamant that Bangla should be their mother tongue. Here the learned General supports Jinnah for supporting Urdu as the link language of the country and relates Bengali as a clearly Hindu dominated language, which un-necessarily swayed the Bangla Muslims. In the 1970 elections held for Pakistan’s National Assembly, Awami League won 160 seats out of 162 reserved for East Pakistan while Pakistan People’s Party of Z.A.Bhutto won 81 seats from West Pakistan out of 138 seats reserved for them. Clear enough Awami League should have been allowed to form the government but larger than life ego of Bhutto never really allowed this to succeed. According to the General, since both the parties were regional hence they should have formed the government jointly but he did not say that if there was no consensus than the democratically elected largest political party i.e. Awami League should have been invited to form the government in Pakistan. But then the general only justified this by his earlier saying that though East Bengal has a majority of seats and population, it did not have a ‘merit’ like the Punjabis and Sindhies and hence could not be filled in the respective quota. This itself is an argument which many of our upper caste fellows in India gives regarding the Dalits on the grounds that they don’t have required merit and hence they should not be allowed to come up with the general category boys. The argument regarding Urdu language is the same as that we face here in India regarding Hindi when states like Tamilnadu could go the extent of threatening to secede from India but then Nehru has a greater vision to run India and the foundation of Pakistan was on a very dangerous precedent. If Islam were the only thing that united all the Muslims of the subcontinent then Pakistan would not have so many internal problems for which blame is given not to Indian establishment but Hindus. This is a dangerous theory like Islam being presented globally as a religion of sword. The fact presented here reflects clearly that every community wants to preserve its culture and language. Nothing could be far from the truth when we say that religion decide culture. The proximity between Bengali Muslim and Bengali Hindu is much more than a Bengali Muslim and a Punjabi Muslim. It is true for all other cases.

Writing about Mohajir problem in Pakistan the author makes these points: “These people had settled in Pakistan but could not emotionally disengage themselves from the Ganga-Jamuni culture. Instead of merging themselves with the social and cultural environment of Sindh to create a new and enriched blend of distinticitve identity for Pakistan, they endeavored to practice their UP culture in the desert of Sindh and hoped that their cultural identity would also be adopted by the old Sindhis. This attitude brought them in conflict with the local nationalists power centers who were themselves no less possessive and proud of their own ancient language, distintictive dress and rich cultural heritage.” Interestingly, the general does not say that Pakistan itself became a victim of its own identity problem and that Muslim League a party of rich peasantry and migrants from UP had to ultimately bow to the pressure of local ethnic identities, though he suggest that Military interventions in Pakistan came because of a virtually corrupt and defunct political leadership and army being a nationalist organizations could not have allowed the country to go like this. Appreciably, the general still points out that Army is not the final answer for Pakistan’s problems but it is the democracy which will make Pakistan a strong nation and he lament how the vision of a democratic, plural and progressive Pakistan was lost due to the lure of power by the powerful feudal elite in Pakistan who usurped everything in the name of democracy. He says, “ Military dictators were not the sole spoilers of the democratic order. Many elected leaders in the country were in fact only democratic in name but autocratic in their conduct and behavior. They promoted a brand of sham democracy to further their personal interests and for reasons of political expediency. Such persons contributed no less in eroding Pakistan’s nascent democratic order.”

Paying tribute to Nehru as a great visionary, the General has made a post-mortem of Pakistan’s various military juntas who ruled the country under the pretext of democracy. In a remarkable show of clarity and sobriety he says: “ In their respective tenures in office Ayub, Yahya, Bhutto and Zia wore two hats each, one, that of the Chief martial law administrator, and the second, of the President of Pakistan. It was an administrative, legal and diplomatic requirement for the country to have a head of the state. However, in the spirit of law, this designation was misnomer. The four presidents of Pakistan were in reality about absolute military rulers who did not derive their authority either from the constitution, which was abrogated or suspended, or from the Parliament, which did not exist. They ruled by the gun and wielded absolute power without any institutional system of accountability.”

The author must be complimented for bringing out the most intriguing factors of Pakistan polity and its armed forces and he no doubt admits that in the power game it was West Pakistan, which dominated despite East Pakistan’s majority. Terming Z.A.Bhutto, former Pakistan prime minister as ‘ a feudal by birth, a socialist by his own declaration, but a capitalist at heart’, he says that Bhutto’s downfall was ultimately his own creation. The democratic institutions were considerably weakened during his period. That was a fact also in the cased of Nawaz Sharief which paved way for the intervention of army under General Parvez Musharraf. The general gives version of what Musharraf gave to Pakistan and does not try to give the other side of the story. He says that since the Institution of army was under threat hence Musharraf had to intervene. In an interesting inner revelation, the general says that General Zia was not interested to step in when Bhutto’s personalized cult touched a nadir in Pakistan. It was Bhutto, who wanted to divide the army and the army declined to fire on the protesters against the Bhutto administration which Zia feared would divide the only saved institution of Pakistan and that’s why he unwillingly imposed Martial Law in Pakistan. He however could not hide his military bias when he says that it was not military which gave death sentence to Bhutto but the courts and that Zia ultimately gave his consent for final hanging under public pressure. Given the cult of Bhutto in Pakistan, even today, one can only laugh at this that the president did not give pardon to a former prime minister because the people welcomed his persecution. The fact is that Zia went against a very large number of international appeals for an amnesty to Bhutto and hanged him so that he could rule Pakistan uninterruptedly because after Bhutto’s death Pakistan was plunged into a political crisis.


In the Epilogue of the book, the author speak about the Kargil war and how the ‘freedom fighters’ occupied the Kargil-Drass sector and surprised India’s military command. However, if this was the case of ‘freedom fighters’, then one wonder as the why the author is petting the Pakistan army for giving a run to India and finally Pakistan submitted because of the American Pressure.

This book has an interesting narration and many new things for the students of south Asian politics and army interventions in Pakistan. Perhaps, this is for the first time that a Pakistani general has openly given his viewpoint on the polity of the country. It is also good that a general of his caliber support democratic set up in the country and want the army to be out of the day-to-day politics of the country. However, there are many things which need to be introspected by the Indians and Pakistanis both, which is about our shared history and culture. It is here where the army men need more concentration, otherwise how could one justify comment from General Arif about Mohajir’s practicing
‘Ganga Jamuni’ culture in Pakistan was against the new identity of Pakistan. Why the general think that everything that Indian is dangerous for the identity of Pakistan. How could those who created Pakistan ( Mohazirs were in the forefront of it), forget about their culture and language. After all, the same general justify Urdu language as being declared as the national language of Pakistan despite the fact that it was not a language of any province in Pakistan. After all, Urdu itself is a ‘Gangajamnui’ language and has a great cultural legacy. Pakistan and India are two sovereign nation and have to remain neighbor for ever and it is therefore necessary as both work together to achieve peace and prosperity in the region and for this shared cultural legacy must be brought forward, rather than creating a fear psychosis of alien culture in the minds of our people which our political-military leadership had been doing in India and Pakistan. Ganga-Jamuni culture is not a bad culture and would definitely do better for Pakistan society than any other culture, which has divided the society. The hegimonistic Hindu India or Muslim evil Pakistan, as our army men would make us believe should now become a matter of past. This book must be read by all particularly Indians as it gives the ‘other’ side of story. It is an informative work and gives us ample scope to introspect and the author has full marks when he repeatedly speaks of a viable democracy in Pakistan free from religious fanaticism. Such thought gives us hope that military leadership in Pakistan will one day realize that ultimately it is democracy, which will bring laurels to Pakistan and not the army.

Name of the Book: Khaki Shadows: Pakistan (1947-1997)
Author: General K.M.Arif
Published by: Oxford University Press, Karachi
Year: 2001
Price: not mentioned
Pages: 450