Home > 2016 > Lucid Account of Pakistan’s Existence and Future

Mainstream, VOL LIV No 22 New Delhi May 21, 2016

Lucid Account of Pakistan’s Existence and Future

Monday 23 May 2016



Aejaz Ahmad and Zaboor Ahmad

Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military by Hussain Haqqani; Penguin Viking Books; 2016; pages 464.

Hussain Haqqani’s book, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military is a straightforward insider’s account of Pakistan that traces how the military and religious groups are acting in tandem to rub each other’s shoulders and explores the nation’s quest for identity and security. From the outset Pakistan has used religion as an instrument for strengthening the Pakistani identity. In what follows are some of the crucial excerpted events discussed in the book.

During its demand for Pakistan as well after its formation, religion has been anticipated to act as a unifying force between diverse people which it failed to pacify. No doubt the bigwigs of the Pakistan movement acted with missionary zeal but the leaders never gave an iota of thought to the blueprint of the future state. Given the dilly-dallying of the leadership up to the last moment of its creation, the state of Pakistan was going to land in trouble. As Nazimuddin, who became the second Governor General of Pakistan, remarked few months before partition, neither he nor anyone in the Muslim League knew what Pakistan means. The fallout has been that armed and unarmed religious groups have gradually become assertive and are able to challenge the writ of the state and have created their own catchment areas. Muslim masses followed as they thought they would be better-off in Pakistan. Interprovincial rivalry, ethnic and language differences, diverse political interests of the elite class, who were silenced during the movement for the sake of its creation, acted as stumbling blocks in the Constitution-making process. Partition accompanied by religious frenzy, economic dislocation, capital flight, refusal of India to hand over the cash balance due to it engendered economic strangulation for the newly-born state that required immediate attention. Before the buck for the dominance of Pakistan is passed to the military, the blame must be put on the shoulders of the civilian leadership which worked at cross-purposes, finally making the way for a smooth military supremacy.

Haqqani doubts that had the civilian leadership crafted a Constitution at the outset, the dominance of the military would still have followed. Pakistan was conditioned to believe that its nationhood has been under siege; thus protecting it by military means took priority. When the political cauldron of issues reached the tipping-point, Islam was used to subsume all identities. India was painted as the enemy of Islam to bolster Pakistan’s self-image as a bastion of Islam. Maulana Maudoodi spoke in the same language of hatred, as Golwalkar; while speaking on Pakistan radio, he characterised socialists, ethnic nationalists, Leftists as anti-Islam and unbelievers. Intelligence agencies fabricated evidence of the communist threat to get into the orbit of the USA ensuring economic and military wherewithal. Refusal of the USA to support Pakistan in any of the wars which it fought with India generated anti-Americanism which is as old in Pakistan as the state itself. It increased exponentially only with the drone attacks.

Continued confrontation with India was hurting East Pakistan, but being secular, demanding autonomy within Pakistan and better relationship with India they were characterised as anti-Pakistani elements. Fazlul Haq, the mover of the Lahore Resolution, was charged of collusion with India. India did provide succour to the Bengalis but sliding into civil war was the result of Pakistan’s internal folly. The publication of the book, The Turkish Art of Love, by an Indian Jewish author alleged to desecrate Islam brought Islamic parties to the centre-stage when political haggling was going on between and among Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Yahya Khan, Awami League and the military regime. The White Paper, published on the crisis in East Pakistan, acknowledged that Bengali atrocities followed rather than instigated the violence by the Pakistani military. Yahya Khan received Mujibur Rahman in Pakistan with a whisky in hand and remarked that you should work for the glory of Islam. People in West Pakistan were made to believe through propaganda that they were fighting the enemies of Islam. Jamaat-e-Islami cadres functioned as intelligence networks.

While Bhutto maintained hand-in-glove relationship with the military so that his chances of returning to power remained intact, the USA declared the East Pakistan crisis as its internal affair, and unrealistic hopes in the USA and China led the Pakistan rulers into rejecting political options and persist with the military adventure. The matter of the fact is that Islam as a religious doctrine has been made a political device to keep the state glued which it has utterly failed; otherwise all the Islamic states should have been together. Bhutto, after assuming power in a consolidated Pakistan, reciprocated to the Army by pursuing a hard-ball game with India which enabled the continuation of defence spending while simultaneously failing to publish the Hamooodur Rehman Commission Report in 1972 to make public what went wrong, how and where, in which he himself would surely have been implicated. The Jamaat-e-Islami started the ‘Bangladesh Namanzoor’ (Bangladesh not acceptable) campaign which squarely put the blame on Bhutto but absolved the military.

Later, the dismissal of the National Awami Party in Baluchistan on the false pretext of finding weapons in the Iraqi embassy meant for the Baloch rebels and resignation of the NWFP Government in protest, engendered the protracted uprising which provided a pretext for use of the military against them, as if they were its ‘saviours’. Haqqani remarks that Bhutto had always been a poor learner and he wasted the considerable capital of the Ahmadi sect, who fought for Pak independence, by declaring them as non-Muslims at the instigation of Islamic forces which boosted his confidence. Religious construction was connected with the boom of oil prices; he could gain from it only by playing up the Islamic identity. Bhutto began to doubt all and sundry and created the Federal Security Service as a force to intervene in the domain of state in case of emergency situations and placed Zia-ul-Haq as the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) as he was from a non-martial race but both turned their guns towards him. FSS chief provided evidence in court against Bhutto, while Zia gave the order to execute him. The White Paper on Bhutto was prepared by Zia even before his conviction by the court.

Haqqani notes that Zia liberalised the visa regime which made Pakistan the den of religious leaders, as it falsely played the card of pan-Islamism. This dented the already sectarian environment of Pakistan. The Islamisation project ended up accentuating sectarian differences, plunged Pakistani society into theological debates over various issues. Shias and Sunnis looked up for economic and ideological support to Iran and Saudi Arabia respectively which made Pakistan a battleground of ideas and rival armed groups. Islam has never been in danger but this politically motivated half-backed truth has been used to pursue such ends. Zia packed the educational institutions, courts with his own henchmen.

Haqqani subsequently takes up the Pakistan-Afghanistan equation. He writes that Pakistan underscored its Islamic ideology in the hope of blunting the challenge of ethnic nationalism supported by Afghanistan. Pakistan has pursued strategic depth in Afghanistan since the inception, Ayesha Siddiqa argues that all invasions have been through Afghanistan, therefore, for its own protection, it is essential that Pakistan has a degree of control in Afghanistan. Pakistan acted as a conduit for Islamic parties to counter the influence of communist groups supporting the Pushtuns and Balochs in Pakistan. Pakistan created the Afghan Cell in the ISI to coordinate resistance to communist rule and secure international support for Pakistan. Jimmy Carter authorised help to the Mujahedeen covertly on July 3, 1979, six months before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. When Jamaat-e-Islami students wing burnt down the American embassy in Islamabad for seizure of the grand mosque in Mecca, Zia told the USA to channelise the religious fervour of Pakistan against the Soviets instead of allowing it to run against the USA. People from different parts of world poured in to fight against the Soviets and were bankrolled by the Saudi-based Rabita Alam-i-Islami. Pakistani Islamic parties were getting their cadre trained along with Afghans leading to their flexing of muscles in political clashes on college campuses, with law and order becoming the causality. The question of who should rule Afghanistan after the USSR’s withdrawal continued in the fighting among different groups. It was good that Zia died; otherwise he would have done the same to Pakistan as happened to his plane in which he died.

Hussain Haqqani then attempts to map the changes in Pakistan after the September 2001 attack. The September 11 attacks on the USA changed much in Pakistan but the dominance of the military and mosque in Pakistan is far from over. Pakistan sacrificed the Afghan front to keep alive the Kashmir front to prevent it from being bombed. Pakistani religious parties felt not alienated, and were banned only to resurrect in new avatars. The arms supplied by the USA to Pakistan, instead of fighting the militants, were used against the Baloch nationalists. The USA expended considerable capital to fight the ‘terrorists’ in Afghanistan, but the roots were always in Pakistan. George Bush found that most of the weapons supplied by America to Pakistan were used to prepare a war against India. Pakistan cooperated only in arresting the foreign terrorists while the locals were let free. Groups like Haqqani, Afghan Taliban were forced back to Afghanistan while the foreigners were eliminated.

For Haqqani, Pakistan has become a major centre of radical Islamic ideas and groups largely because of its past policies of support to militants fighting Indian rule in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir as well as the Taliban in its quest of putting in place a client regime in Afghanistan. The historic alliance between religious groups and the military has the potential to frustrate anti-terror operations, radicalise the key segments of the population. This dominance has weakened the social and economic parameters of Pakistan. Over forty per cent can’t read and write while two-thirds live on less than $ 2 dollars a day and fiftyfive per cent women are simply illiterate. Low investment in education has hampered the Pakistani technology base. A majority of Pakistan’s ethnically disparate population has traditionally identified themselves with secular politicians; but such a huge majority has failed to determine the direction of Pakistan’s policies. A highly centralised and unrepresentative government has caused unpre-cedented grievances among its ethnic groups. Violent vigilantism of some Islamic groups has undermined the civil society and promoted sectarian terrorism. Pakistan’s small economy has grown occasionally and is undermined by terrorism. India spends a small part of its GDP on defence but still outspends Pakistan, which has to cut development spending to pay for its armed forces.

On February 4, 2004, General Musharraf told newspaper editors in Islamabad that Pakistan has two vital interests—nuclear state and Kashmir cause. It was to placate the military and religious conservatives that the alliance with the US was not a U-turn as it appeared to be. The semblance of good relationship with India has become a pre-requisite for Pakistan’s security relationship with the USA. In Pakistan, the military is told that India is hostage to centrifugal traditions and has a historic inability to exist as a single state. It is justified on the basis of history of which Pakistan is a part. Hence India can break up like Pakistan in Kashmir; Khalistan within India. The Pakistani plan for liberation has two parts: first make Kashmir ungovernable for India, and raise the cost of continued Indian occupation to unbearable levels, the other being internationaliseation of the Kashmir issue. Participation by different religious groups from around the world would ensure support from Islamic countries. The status of freedom fighters given by the USA to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan could also be given to those fighting in Kashmir without knowing that the USA applies double-standards everywhere. Haqqani concludes that Pakistan has to change its national objectives of being focused on economic development and popular participation in government. Pakistan was created in a hurry. Everyone has a stake to transform Pakistan into functional rather than ideological state so as to ensure the development of its people.

In its new edition, the book has two new chapters but fall short of acute analysis in that the book does not shower light on important internal and external dynamics of Pakistan like the Kargil episode, mobilisation of troops along borders in 2002, and failure of the Agra Summit and so on. It seems as if the new chapters in the book have been written aimlessly. No Westphalian state has failed so far, but it is worth noticing that the constituency of Pakistani writers who are against the system is growing. The book is engaging and is written in simple and lucid language.

Aejaz Ahmad studied Political Science at the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi. He is the contributing author of the book, Political Process in India. His forthcoming book, Modern South Asian Thinkers, is being published by Sage. He has contributed earlier to Economic and Political Weekly and Mainstream.

Zaboor Ahmad is a Lecturer of Political Science in Kashmir; his papers have been published in South Asian Review, and he regularly contributes opinion pieces to various newspapers in Kashmir.