– Brigadier F.B. Ali (Retd.), who fought in the ’71 war, gives his account of the events that resulted in the dismemberment of Pakistan and left behind a legacy of shame. The Supplementary Report of the 1971 War Inquiry Commission (headed by Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman) has recently been published in the magazine India Today. There is little doubt that this is a genuine document. It is unfortunate that, even though 30 years have passed, the Commission’s report has not been made public in Pakistan, and we are forced to depend on foreign sources to learn of its contents in dribs and drabs.
The basic socio-political mindset of the Pakistani society is the outcome of various faith-based experiments conducted by the state and the armed forces.
In 1995, sometime in May, an uncle of mine (an ex-army man), was invited to a party of sorts.
The invitation came from a former top-ranking military officer who had also worked for the Pakistan intelligence agency, the ISI. He was in the army with my uncle (who now resides abroad) during the 1960s.
My uncle, who was visiting Pakistan, asked if I was interested in going with him. I agreed.
The event was at a military officer’s posh bungalow in Karachi’s Clifton area. Most of the guests (if not all) were former military men. All were articulate, spoke fluent English and wore modern, western clothes.
I was not surprised by this but what did surprise me was a rather schizophrenic aura about the surroundings. Though modern-looking and modern-sounding, the gathering turned out to be a segregated affair.
The men’s wives were placed in a separate room, while the men gathered in a wider sitting area.
By now it become clear to me that I wouldn’t be getting served anything stronger than Pepsi on the rocks!
I scratched my head, thinking that even though I was at a ‘party’ in a posh, stylish bungalow in the posh, stylish Clifton area with all these posh stylish military men and their wives and yet, somehow I felt there very little that was ‘modern’ about the situation.
By modern, I also mean the thinking that was reflected by the male guests on politics, society and religion. Most of the men were also clean-shaven and reeking of expensive cologne, but even while talking about cars, horses and their vacations in Europe, they kept using Arabic expressions such as mashallah, alhamdullila, inshallah, etc.
I tried to strike up some political conversations with a few gentlemen but they expected me to agree with them about how civilian politicians were corrupt, how democracy can be a threat to Pakistan, how civilian leaders do not understand India’s nefarious designs, et al. …
The Pakistan Army was once a staunchly secular beast. All across the 1950s and 1960s it was steeped in secular (albeit conservative) traditions and so were its sociological aspects.
In fact, until the late 1960s, Pakistani military men were asked to keep religion a private matter and religious exhibitionism was scorned at as well as reprimanded – mostly during Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s dictatorship (1959-69).
Foreign policy is everywhere and always a continuation of domestic policy, for it is conducted by the same ruling class and pursues the same historic goals”. — The Revolution Betrayed, Leon Trotsky
In his 1983 masterpiece, Can Pakistan survive? The death of a state, Tariq Ali opens the section on Pakistan’s foreign policy during the Z A Bhutto days with the above quote from Trotsky. After duly recognising the limitations of generalising this aphorism, Tariq Ali had noted that many third-world capitals pursue a foreign policy closely mirroring their domestic economic and political policies but perhaps none has done so more grotesquely than Islamabad. Tariq Ali had written:
“One of the commodities exported was labour, and the remittances sent back by migrant workers provided nearly 20 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. It was also reported that 10,000 Pakistani prostitutes had been dispatched to the Gulf states by the United Bank Limited (UBL), to strengthen its reserves of foreign currency. Soldiers and officers were also leased out as mercenaries to a number of states in that region. In some ways it was telling indictment of the Pakistani state that it can only survive by selling itself to the oil-rich sheikhs.”
The Pakistani military establishment’s cooperation with Arab dictators obviously dates back to the Ayub Khan era and the UK and US-sponsored Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) or Baghdad Pact of 1955. However, the surge in the export of mercenaries that Tariq Ali was alluding to was not because of the western sponsorship of such legions but because Pakistan, in 1971, had declared a moratorium on repayment of its foreign debt and had to look for financial aid elsewhere while the IMF would again agree to a loan (which it eventually did). While one cannot confirm the veracity of the claim about the UBL’s venture, the events of the last several months show that somehow the grotesque mediocrity of the Pakistani establishment keeps repeating its antics, as far as the export of the mercenaries goes.
The Arab spring has created unique geopolitical scenarios where old alliances are falling apart — or at least are no longer trustworthy — while new realities are taking shape much to the discontent of regional autocrats. I have repeatedly stated that Barack Obama’s instinct is to side with the democratic movements in the Middle East and North Africa, without intervening directly, even though cliques within his administration have been able to drag him into the Libyan morass. Obama’s handling of Hosni Mubarak’s fall did not go well with Saudi king Abdullah and the bitter exchange between the two, during a phone conversation, is rather well known. The wily Saudi monarch subsequently concluded that if there were to be an uprising in his courtyard, the Americans would not come to his rescue. And unless a smoking gun can be traced to Tehran, Abdullah is right. With Obama getting re-elected — yes I said it — in 2012, the Saudis have chosen to exercise other options that they have heavily invested in, for decades, to protect their courtyard and backyard.
The Saudis know that it is nearly impossible for any political uprising there to physically coalesce, due to the population centres being geographically far apart, to cause direct threat to Riyadh. But they also know that the democratic contagion can spread at the periphery of the Kingdom, with the oil-rich Eastern province slipping out of control quickly or the disquiet at the Yemeni border keeping Riyadh distracted (the latter was tested by both Gamal Nasser and Iran). The Saudi plan, just as in the 1969 bombing of Yemen by Pakistani pilots flying Saudi planes, is to use the trusted Pakistani troops to bolster the defence of not only the Saudi regime but of its client states like Bahrain.
It is not a surprise then that before Saudi Arabia invaded Bahrain on March 13, 2011, the chief of Saudi Land Forces, General Abdul Rahman Murshid visited Pakistan and before that, on March 9, met General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Bahrain had already requested and received assurance for military help from Pakistan in late February 2011. In fact, a leading Urdu paper carried an advertisement from the Fauji Foundation Pakistan on February 25 and March 1, seeking men for recruitment to the Bahrain National Guard. The qualifications sought were the following: age 20-25, height of six-feet or taller and military/security service background especially in riot control, which suggest that enrolment was not exactly for the Manama Red Crescent Society.
After the Saudi army brutally crushed the uprising in Bahrain, the Foreign Minister of Bahrain, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, met with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the State Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. While the Bahraini media splashed pictures of the handshake between Ms Khar and Sheikh Khalid, announcing Pakistani support to Bahrain, the actual backing had been pledged by the Chief of General Staff, General Khalid Shamim Wayne, whom the Bahraini minster met on March 29.
In her article titled ‘Bahrain or bust?’, Miranda Husain writes: “Chomsky believes Pakistani presence in Bahrain can be seen as part of a US-backed alliance to safeguard western access to the region’s oil …The US has counted on Pakistan to help control the Arab world and safeguard Arab rulers from their own populations… Pakistan was one of the ‘cops on the beat’ that the Nixon administration had in mind when outlining their doctrine for controlling the Arab world.” Ms Husain and the American Baba-e-Socialism (Father of Socialism), Chomsky, conclude with the hope that Pakistan should not meddle in the Middle East.
I believe that Chomsky’s reading of the situation in the Persian Gulf is dead wrong. It is the divergence — not confluence — of US-Saudi-Pakistani interests that is the trigger for potential Pakistani involvement there. The Pakistani brass’ handling of the Raymond Davis affair and now its insistence — through bravado, not subtlety — on redefining the redlines with the US indicates that just like the 1971 situation, an alternative funding source to the IMF has been secured. The Pasha-Panetta meeting has raised more issues than it has solved. Pakistani-Saudi interests are at odds with the US and are confluent with each other.
From the Kerry-Lugar Bill to the Raymond Davis saga, the mullahs have been deployed swiftly to create an impression of public support for the establishment’s designs. Last Friday’s mobilisation of the religious parties in favour of the Saudis is the establishment’s standard drill and will be repeated as needed. The Pakistani deep state apparently has decided to keep selling itself to the oil-rich sheikhs. The domestic policy of coercion and chaos will be continued in foreign lands too.
Courtesy: Daily Times
– Zulfiqar Halepoto
Despite lot of differences and disagreements with their politics, style of governance and ideology, Sindh has an inimitable relationship with BHUTTOs.
It is either BB (Benazir) Shaheed or Mir (Murtaza) Shaheed; Sindh still enjoys a sentimental and emotional attachment with Bhutto’s, who has buried 4 martyrs in the graveyard of Garhi Khuda Bux.
Have you ever heard from any other political leader of Pakistan, who says that s/he would love to be known as martyr instead of living an illusory life? It is only Bhutto family (whether we like it or not but it is a fact and a great reality).
Last year during my Indian visit, a communist leader of Bengal told me that “lot of revolutionary groups and political parties of sub continent has a long history of martyrs in their struggle against different colonial and dictatorial powers….But Bhutto’s are the only family who has offered 4 martyrs from one compound wall…. This brave example has no match…..”