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Transcript of Pakistan: Courting the Abyss - باور کتابتون Courting the Abyss.pdf hurtling towards the...

  • PAKISTAN Courting the Abyss


  • To the memory of

    my mother Late Smt Kantaa Devasher,

    my father Late Air Vice Marshal C.G. Devasher PVSM, AVSM,

    and my brother Late Shri Vijay (‘Duke’) Devasher, IAS

    ‘Press on… Regardless’

  • Contents

    Preface Introduction

    I The Foundations

    1 The Pakistan Movement 2 The Legacy

    II The Building Blocks

    3 A Question of Identity and Ideology 4 The Provincial Dilemma

    III The Framework

    5 The Army Has a Nation 6 Civil–Military Relations

    IV The Superstructure

    7 Islamization and Growth of Sectarianism 8 Madrasas 9 Terrorism

    V The WEEP Analysis

    10 Water: Running Dry 11 Education: An Emergency 12 Economy: Structural Weaknesses 13 Population: Reaping the Dividend

    VI Windows to the World

    14 India: The Quest for Parity

  • 15 Afghanistan: The Quest for Domination 16 China: The Quest for Succour 17 The United States: The Quest for Dependence

    VII Looking Inwards

    18 Looking Inwards

    Conclusion Notes Index About the Book About the Author Copyright

  • M


    Y fascination with Pakistan is not because I belong to a Partition family (though my wife’s family does); it is not even because of being a Punjabi. My interest in Pakistan was first aroused when, as

    a child, I used to hear stories from my late father, an air force officer, about two Pakistan air force officers. In undivided India they had been his flight commanders in the Royal Indian Air Force. They and my father had fought in World War II together, flying Hurricanes and Spitfires over Burma and also after the war. Both these officers later went on to head the Pakistan Air Force. Though still in my teens, the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971 further heightened my interest in Pakistan. In college and university I studied the history of the freedom movement and the Partition of India. And I was hooked. My curiosity grew at every twist and turn in Pakistan. The sophistication of Pakistani plays like Dhoop

    Kinare and Tanhaiyaan that two generations of Indians still rave about, the excellence of the Pakistani cricket teams and the brilliance of its squash players contrasted harshly with the trajectory of its political, economic and religious development. The difference between the democratic journey of India and the military dictatorships in Pakistan provoked questions as to why the two countries have developed so differently. The growth of intolerance and radicalization on the one hand and terrorism directed against India resulting in the deaths of hundreds of innocent Indian civilians on the other lent an ominous dimension to my questions. I was determined to understand what made Pakistan such a violent and inhospitable place, on the verge of being declared a terrorist state and the worst nuclear proliferator in the world. In short, why was Pakistan courting the abyss? Two couplets by Pakistan’s greatest poets, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib, helped me narrow my

    quest. While the couplet from Faiz expressed anguish at the circumstances of the birth of Pakistan, Jalib’s articulated what the rulers of Pakistan had done to the country. Combined, the two couplets expressed the ongoing tragedy of Pakistan.

    Faiz: ‘Subh-e-Azadi’/‘Dawn of Freedom’:

    Ye daagh daagh ujala, ye shab-guzida sehr Woh intezar tha jiska, ye woh sehr to nahin

    This tainted light, this night-bitten dawn This is not the dawn we waited for

    Jalib on the army crackdown in East Pakistan:

    Mohabbat goliyon se bo rahe ho, Watan ka chehra khoon se dho rahe ho

  • Gumaan tumko ke raasta kat raha hei, Yaqeen mujhko ke manzil kho rahe ho.

    You are sowing love through violence, smearing the face of the nation in blood; You think your journey is being completed, I am certain you are losing your destiny.

    Being a student of history, I was not satisfied with just skimming the surface, trying to understand Pakistan through current events and reporting. I wanted to dig deeper to know more about how Pakistan was created and the impact of those developments on the trajectory that Pakistan had adopted. I also wanted to understand what was behind the façade of a hostile neighbour, what were the real issues that plagued the country and its people. So much was being written on ‘exciting’ issues like the Pakistan Army, the nuclear programme, terrorism, and, of course, Indo-Pak relations, that scant attention seems to have been paid to what was happening inside the country. Seemingly ‘boring’ issues like identity, the situation in the provinces, water, education, economy, population, etc., seem to have been largely ignored, though they are critical to the survival and understanding of any country. I, therefore, decided to write a holistic book on Pakistan that would encompass the ‘exciting’ issues and the ‘boring’ ones, to analyse why Pakistan was hurtling towards the abyss. This is a book about Pakistan. It is not about a comparison between India and Pakistan. In fact, I have

    tried to minimize comparisons with India as much as possible. It is equally not about Indo–Pak relations. There is already vast literature on the subject. Of course, no book on Pakistan is complete without India because Pakistan’s perception of India is central to its identity, its ethos, its world view and policies. Thus, there is a separate chapter on India and India does figure in various other chapters too. But, the book is essentially about Pakistan.

    I would like to express my gratitude to a few people who in their own ways have helped me in the writing of this book. To my wife Anjali for her patience in allowing me to spend hours, days and months in my ‘bat-cave’

    (my study) reading, researching and writing this book instead of doing what normal civil servants do – take up a post-retirement job. To my son for his wit and amazing sense of humour and my daughter-in-law for her courage and quiet

    strength in the face of life-changing adversity, both of whom helped me retain a sense of proportion. To my daughter, for suggesting and digging up material that I was unable to locate, for being my

    staunchest critic as also a pillar of strength and with whom I had engaging discussions on several chapters of the book. To Dr Ajai Sahni for encouraging me to write a book in the first place and for accessing some of the

    comparative indices. To my editors Karthika V.K. and Antony Thomas at HarperCollins for all their effort in bringing out

    this book. Despite the help, all the shortcoming and errors in this book are mine.

  • T


    HE contrast between the two flights could not have been sharper. When Mohammad Ali Jinnah (henceforth Jinnah) boarded the viceroy’s shining silver Dakota from

    Delhi to Karachi on 7 August 1947, he looked back towards the city and said: ‘I suppose this is the last time I’ll be looking at Delhi’.1 As the plane was taxiing, Jinnah said enigmatically, ‘that’s the end of that’. He spoke only once on the four-hour flight to Karachi when he leaned over to his ADC, Flight Lieutenant Ata Rabbani, and offered him some newspapers and said, ‘Would you like to read these?’2 Jinnah received a tumultuous welcome in Karachi. In the words of the British high commissioner, ‘Mr Jinnah found in the city of his birth an enthusiastic welcome. Tens of thousands of people thronged the airport, breaking through the police cordons; and hundreds of cars followed him to Government House…’3

    A little over a year later, on 11 September 1948, Jinnah, weighing barely 70 pounds and suffering from consumption, compounded by cancer of the lungs, was carried on a stretcher aboard the governor general’s Viking for the flight from Quetta to Karachi.4 He was in no position to read newspapers or talk. Despite his condition, however, he found the energy to return, from his stretcher, the salute given by the flight crew.5 There was no one to receive him at Mauripur airport (Karachi’s military airport) barring his military secretary Colonel Geoffrey Knowles and an army ambulance, sans any nurse. The diplomatic corps had not been informed about his arrival, which was the norm whenever Jinnah landed in Karachi so that he was received in the approved official way.6 The ambulance would break down halfway to his residence and it took Col. Knowles two hours to fetch another, from the local Red Cross.7 Meanwhile, Jinnah was stranded on the road for two hours in an ‘oppressive’ ambulance that completely exhausted him. No one knew that that Jinnah was in the stranded ambulance. His pulse was weak and irregular.8

    Jinnah was to die later that night. The tragic manner of his death was compounded by his last rites. A Twelver Shia, following his conversion from the Ismaili sect, Jinnah had to have two separate funerals – one according to the Sunni rituals in the open and the other before that according to Shia norms in his home.9

    The poignancy and the depressing contrast between the two journeys symbolically captures the tragedy of Pakistan – from the blood-soaked yet enthusiastic creation in 1947 to the present-day exhaustion and gloom-and-doom scenarios. It is this journey from Faiz’s tainted dawn to Jalib’s tragic destiny that is the subject matter of this