Saturday, March 6, 2010

Catastrophic results

In continuation of last week’s article on the same topic, the first unfortunate episode I would like to mention here is a decision made by Field Marshal Ayub Khan. Right from the time he was made commander-in-chief of the Army, he was reported to have been conspiring to usurp government powers. Lord Cockcroft, head of the British Atomic Energy Commission and father of Britain’s nuclear weapons programme, mentions in his autobiography that once, while passing through Karachi in the early fifties on his way to Australia, he met Ayub Khan at a state banquet.

He wrote that he was shocked to hear Ayub Khan openly declaring that all the local politicians were incompetent and unfit to rule the country, and that he had no option but to do something about it. All the facts about his intrigues with Ghulam Mohammad and Iskander Mirza are now well-documented. His ungrateful and insulting treatment of his benefactor, Iskander Mirza, is given in detail in Shahabnama written by Qudratullah Shahab, one time ambassador to Holland (and my witness at our marriage at the Embassy in The Hague in March 1964). When Ayub Khan took over, the Army had its heyday and many persons became rich overnight.

The particular decision of long-lasting consequences to the history of our country that I am referring to happened in 1962 when India and China went to war in NEFA. China and India had previously been bosom buddies and members of the Non-Aligned Movement. Nehru’s arrogance (“I have asked the Army to throw out the Chinese from our territory”) led to full-scale war. The Indians were defeated and demoralised and fled. China occupied a large part of Assam, which it later peacefully vacated. It was at this point that Ayub Khan made a major mistake. Many people had asked him to grasp this golden opportunity, send troops into Kashmir and close that chapter once and for all by presenting a fait accompli.

Our Army was very strong at that time and we could have taken Kashmir in a week; but to do something like that you need a Bulent Ecevit of Turkey or a Khalid Bin Walid (RA) type of personality. Instead of taking immediate action, Ayub Khan is reported to have sent a message to Nehru asking him to withdraw Indian troops from our borders and promising not to take any hostile action in return. Pakistan lost the golden chance and would not get another one like it. Had there been a democratically elected government, things would have been different, as we saw during the decision on the nuclear tests. According to international analysts, we would then not have suffered defeat in 1965, would not have faced the ignominious defeat in East Pakistan and would not have been forced into surrender on Dec 16, 1971. When the Indians got a chance in 1971, they used it efficiently and ruthlessly, and inflicted the humiliating surrender of 92,000 troops. The Indians openly bragged that when Pakistan got a golden chance, they foolishly failed to utilise it, while when they got such a chance, they used it most efficiently and wisely.

The debacle of 1971 was a direct result of Ayub Khan’s follies, the appointment of Yahya Khan as his successor and the corrupting of the Army by bringing it into politics. Since then many adventurists have usurped power and got away with it without being held responsible. Ayub Khan was the son of a Subedar Major and was only a matriculate. Military training in England was just that – military training – it had nothing to do with wisdom and maturity. The results are there for everyone to see.

Equally unfortunate for democracy in Pakistan is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision, upon the advice of his close aids, to appoint Pervez Musharraf as COAS. When the topic came up with the father of Mr Nawaz Sharif and myself once while I was there, I even told him that it would be Mr Nawaz Sharif’s undoing. Mian Sahib had no plausible answer. Sorry to say, but my forecast came true and Mian Sahib paid heavily for that decision. The penalty was paid not only by him but by the whole country. The dictatorial rule that was subsequently enforced led to the disintegration of the national fabric, ever-growing corruption and nepotism. One telephone call from US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage was enough to lead to unilateral submission resulting in Pakistan becoming a partner in the death of almost two million Afghans and thousands of our own nationals.

Again we see the results of the background (the son of a clerk promoted to a section officer at the fag end of his career) and limited formal education (Intermediate) leading to lack of political acumen and wisdom. It is quite clear that there is no substitution for good, solid education. Field Marshal Ayub Khan, Gen Yahya Khan, Gen Zia-ul-Haq and Gen Musharraf, all confirmed the rule that army training is no substitute for a good university education. However, even university education is no substitute for wisdom, good character and a solid family background. Leadership, wisdom and foresight are gifts from Almighty Allah and good manners and good character come from family background.

One by one, personal decisions had devastating consequences, each in its own way, but all to the detriment of the country. Ayub Khan’s decision led to a missed opportunity to solve the Kashmir problem once and for all. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision led to the breakdown of democratic institutions and complete submission to the US. Unfortunately, we cannot always foresee what dire consequences our decisions might have. All the more reason for politicians to stop and think and take well-considered decisions for the benefit of the country.

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