The Left in Pakistan - 4
By Dr S. Akhtar Ehtisham
Bath, NY


But the Evil Quad struck; the bureaucratic wing handed over the power to the army wing.

Ayub had prudently and with Machiavellian finesse refused to take over without a Presidential proclamation. Ayub was not sure of his hand. He was to reveal his inner thoughts later in his book “Friends Not Masters”, that he had been planning a takeover ever since he had tasted blood when in 1954 Ghulam Muhammad had appointed him Defense Minister and had allowed to hold his job as Army chief simultaneously.

Ayub addressed the nation over the radio. He spoke eloquently, and with martial thrust and precision. He would clean the house thoroughly and completely.

Mercifully, he did not declare that Islam was in danger, and it was his mission to save the faith too. To his credit he availed of the opportunity to sideline mullahs.

The public took to Ayub like a drowning man does to straw. Muslims have always have had a penchant for the man on the white charger. Even the much-venerated Miss Fatima Jinnah endorsed the takeover.

A lawsuit against dissolution of the parliament and suspension of the constitution was filed in the Supreme Court. The court, which had caved in when hearing a case against the much weaker Ghulam Muhammad regime, could not possibly stand up to the military. 

The early performance of the regime was all one could desire. Streets were cleaned, garbage collected, and polluters were punished on the spot. Trains ran on time, mail was delivered regularly and government servants arrived in offices punctually and spent time on actual work rather than on socializing. Adulteration of food stopped, black marketeers offered products at fair price, hoarders let go of stocks, and smugglers and racketeers were jailed.

Ayub announced land reforms with a lot of fanfare. A new organization was set up to look into the productivity of land in different regions. But bureaucracy found new ways to fill slots with their favorites. Legal advisers found means to insert an extravagant number of loopholes in the ordinance. Feudal landowners wriggled through the gaps and distributed land among their relatives and faithful retainers. Some barren land was given away to favorite peasants. It was all done with active connivance of the administration.             Beyond making pious noises nothing was achieved. 

Ayub’s basic failure was that he did not develop durable base of institutional support for his regime.

A brusque general Azam Khan,the marlia administrator in Lahore after anti-Qadiani riots, was assigned charge of East Pakistan. He turned out to be a closet populist and opened the Governor House to the public. Soon many a person was heard boasting that “hum governor ke sath chai pia” I had tea with the governor.

Politicians were jailed on flimsy and trumped up charges. Hasan Nasir, an avowed communist and a man of indomitable courage, had gone ‘underground’ after imposition of martial law. He was reportedly picked up from the house of a ‘communist’ journalist and a suspect collaborator. He would not divulge the names of the members of the party and was tortured to death in the Lahore Fort.

Trade and students unions were proscribed, press gagged, and journalists dismissed.

Faiz, the doyen of Pakistani intellectuals, formerly professor of English, arguably the most admired Urdu poet of the twentieth century and unarguably the most respected progressive muse of the era, was the chief editor of the only progressive publishing house, which brought out Pakistan Times and Imroze. Yet another leftist Sibte Hasan edited Lail o Nahar. The publishing house was taken over by the government.

Not content with proscribing newspapers and magazines the regime banned Progressive Writers Association (PWA). It was replaced with Pakistan Writers Guild run by a banker-writer Jamiluddin Aali. It naturally initiated a campaign of unabashed hagiography of the government.

The critical mistake, though, that Ayub made was to mistake transient adoration for permanent fealty. Like courtiers all over, they helped inflate Ayub’s already prodigious ego that he was a man of destiny charged with revitalizing Pakistan. His brightest acquisition Zulfiqar Bhutto also called him uncle and fawned on him.

He went through the charade of appointing a constitution commission headed by a Supreme Court judge. They presented a report, proposing a bicameral legislature, an executive and a judiciary all balancing each other. The draft was hastily shelved. A constitution in the image of Ayub’s vision incorporating a provision of electing eighty thousand Basic Democrats (BD) through unrestricted adult franchise, was promulgated through ordnance in 1962. BDs were to run municipal and local affairs under the supervision of District officers and their assistants. They would serve as the Electoral College for provincial and central assemblies as well as for the office of the President.

The poet Habib Jalib aptly caught the mood of the public. In his inimitable style he wrote a poem

“Aisai Dastoor ko Subhe Be noor Ko,

  Main Nahin Manta, Main Nahin Janta”

  I do not recognize, nor do I accept such a constitution. It is like a morning without light.

First elections under the system were held in 1960. Some idea can be had from the person who stood against Bhutto, the rising star of the regime, from their common hometown. A second rate lawyer filed his nomination papers for the seat Bhutto was contesting. He got the man to withdraw his papers and as quid pro quo sent him as the country’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Now nearly all the ministers raked it in. The institution of kick-backs on any contracts, licenses and any sort of government approval, which developed into an art form under Bhutto and later dictators, and quasi-democratic setups, was founded under Ayub.

Virtual absence of representation in the Civil Service, judiciary and the army was one of the major factors in alienation of Bengalis from Pakistan. This combined with far lower investment in, lack of the safety valve of representative government, and contempt of the better built West Pakistanis for Bengalis of slighter physique   eventually led to the demise of United Pakistan. Ayub in his book “Friends and not Masters” expressed the opinion that Bengalis were the progeny of the original Dravidian Indians. This is a very unflattering description for a north Indian.

The biggest curse of Ayub’s dictatorship was suppression of all forms of political activity; freedom of expression and organization, political parties, students and trade unions had been proscribed for a while. Strikes had been banned. Intellectual development, level of social consciousness, concept of civic rights had all been stunted. Judiciary had been thoroughly cowed.

But the single most important, one may say the defining aberration, was the racketeering of Ayub’s son Captain Gohar Ayub. On ascension of his father to the “throne” he resigned his commission and started spreading out, junketing around in luxury limousines, consorting with film stars, carousing in expensive night clubs, and abducting women in the style taken to art form much later by Saddam’s sons.

This was, however, not all. Very soon he launched Gandhara Industries, an umbrella group, which worked mines, dug oil wells, founded car assembly plants and owned many other enterprises.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.