The Left in Pakistan - 5
By Dr S. Akhtar Ehtisham
Ayub had the mentality of a small peasant. He hankered after acceptance among top feudal landowners. He had given Bhutto a seat in his cabinet. Bhutto had turned out to be not a bad choice when compared to the cruel, repressive and murderous feudal, the Nawab of Kalabagh Ayub had installed as Governor of West Pakistan. Habib Jalib used the literal meaning of his title - Kala Bagh means black Garden - and wrote a poem
“Jab Se Kale Baghon Ne Ghera Hai”,
“Since the country has been under the siege of Black Gardens”. Kala Bagh met an appropriately gruesome end. His own son murdered him for sexually molesting his friend.
As governor of West Pakistan, Kalabagh was the chancellor of all universities in West Pakistan. He was invited to a degree awarding ceremony of the University of Karachi.
There had been no convocations for several years. There were so many candidates that non-professional graduates (a simple BA, BSc-tens of hundreds) were not allowed to the stage. They hooted Kalabagh ferociously.
Soon after this event Ayub announced that he would shift the capital from Karachi [i] to a purpose built town to be called Islamabad in the hills conveniently not too far from Rawalpindi, the town which housed the Army General Headquarters (GHQ).
Shifting the capital had a demoralizing effect on Bengalis who had gotten used to Karachi. The hot and humid climate and proximity to the sea was as near as they could hope to get to their home environment. They had had settled in large number in Karachi. Sindhis were ambivalent. Karachi would, they hoped, be restored to the province. They were not certain though, that the federal government would not hold on to the city as a federal preserve. Baluchis and Pathans were indifferent; Islamabad would be as alien to them as Karachi was. Only Punjabis were happy, and in the corridors of power they mattered the most. They overwhelmingly dominated the army and bureaucracy and comprised the bulk of feudal land owners.
Turmoil, hitherto under the surface was erupting with unsettling frequency. Ayub had been noticeably weakened. Azam had kept a lid on the Eastern wing by virtue of his transparent honesty, palpable sincerity, gruff affability and easy accessibility. People gave him the benefit of the doubt. With his departure Bengal also started erupting.
Ayub decided to hold an election in 1964. He was confident that in spite of all the setbacks he would win easily as all the politicians had tarnished reputation and would not command public support.
But he had reckoned without the wily Red Mullah, Maulana Bhashani. He went to Miss Jinnah and reportedly told her, “Tumhara Bhai Pakistan Banaya, Tumhara Marzi Hai Usko Bachao Ya Na Bachaao”- your brother made Pakistan, it is up to you to save it or not. Not a procrastinator, Miss Jinnah agreed to don the mantle of the savior instantly.
The news spread like the proverbial wild fire. Public came out on the streets in untold numbers. Opposition set aside all their differences. They found willing and ready volunteers and funds for the campaign poured in.
Ayub was visibly shaken. He was hamstrung. He dare not publicly go on the offensive and engage in slandering the revered mother of the nation. Privately though he was reported to froth at the mouth at the mention of her name.
In the ensuing campaign, initially for electing Basic Democrats, nearly all candidates all over the country, had to pledge allegiance to her.
Miss Jinnah addressed mammoth crowds in all the major cities of the country.
When she flew to Dhaka airport, East Pakistanis set aside all the resentment at being treated like a poor relation by the West. Her motorcade could not leave the airport. There was such a crush of bodies that she had to be flown on a helicopter to Paltan Maidan, the time haloed public meeting ground in Dhaka. The size of the crowd exceeded even the ones her brother used to address.
In an election based on universal franchise, Ayub would have lost his shirt. But the Electoral College was restricted to 80,000 Basic Democrats. They now were vulnerable to all the repressive and coercive forces under the command of government functionaries. Some were not averse to favors, bribes and other blandishments. One enterprising candidate for national assembly had collected all the electors in his constituency in the compound of the college he had founded, and had locked them up for the night preceding the Election Day, with plenty of food, wine and women. They were let go after they had cast their votes for the official ticket with Ayub at the top of the list.
The establishment also resorted to large-scale rigging, and ballot stuffing. The election was widely regarded at home and abroad as tainted and the desired result obtained fraudulently.
In spite of all the chicanery, they could not keep Miss Jinnah winning in Karachi and Dhaka divisions.
Pakistanis had united on one platform for the last time and were robbed of victory. Bhashani’s words were destined to be prophetic. Ayub’s victory, brazenly dishonest as it was, would slowly but surely lead to dismemberment of Pakistan.
Ayub’s son Gohar, incensed at les majeste of Karachites, in not voting for his father, unleashed a reign of terror on the helpless populace. He personally led a group of armed marauders looting, pillaging, maiming and killing. Scores were killed, hundreds injured, presaging more gruesome bloodletting under a future dictator. Police looked on as uninterested on lookers as they would in later years too.
Ayub had lost what little legitimacy he had.
He hit upon a reckless plan. He will wrest control of Kashmir from Indian hands and will go down in history as Nadir Shah Abdali who had saved Dehli for Muslims from the infidel Marathas.
Egged on by fawning sycophants, he deluded himself into believing that the Indian Army would melt away against the might of Ghazis (holy victors, those who die are Shaheeds, martyrs) Had not they fled, with tail between their legs, before the Chinese [ii] , who though possessed of stronger spines were nevertheless infidels, with no hope of eternal bliss? [iii] Kashmiris would rise in exemplary unison to welcome Pakistani liberators. Indian PM Shastri was new. He came from a poor family. He had had to swim a river to get to school every day. He will surely lose his nerve and sue for peace.
All these spurious arguments were presented to him most cogently by the latter day Machiavelli, ZA.Bhutto and are in the domain of public knowledge. Much later he was to call the 1965 misadventure Bhutto’s war.
Ayub decided to test waters before taking a plunge. He ordered his army to challenge the Indians across Runn of Kutch, an impenetrable swamp of little importance on Pakistani Sindh/Indian Rajhastan border. Pakistan controlled the high ground. They fell back.
Emboldened by the victory he let his “volunteers”- paramilitary personnel out of uniform - loose to infiltrate the Vale of Kashmir across the line of control [iv] .
With his back to the wall, Shastri gave an ultimatum. Cease and desist or we will attack across the international border. Ayub, kept in a state of delusion by Bhutto that Indians will respect the international border, had left the Lahore border relatively undefended. The Indians actually marched into the outskirts of Lahore. Surprised at finding no resistance and fearing an ambush, Indian troops halted in their tracks.
The city did not fall though I heard BBC announce that it had. Indian soldiers had abducted a Pakistani bus and had shown it to a credulous BBC reporter as proof of Lahore’s capture [v] . They had to retract the statement half an hour later.
Pitched battles followed with grievous loss of life and material on both sides. Both sides claimed victory.
But in the end, it all came to nothing. Within two weeks of start of hostilities both sides ran out of bullets. A cease-fire was mandated by the UN Security Council and accepted by India and Pakistan
[i] Ayub when told of the humiliation of the governor literally frothed at his mouth and literally and threatened to have the Mohajirs thrown into the sea.
[ii] The Chinese leadership cognizant of the disparity in the resources of India and Pakistan had advised Ayub to conduct a people’s war in Kashmir, as they had Chiang Kai Shek. Ayub did not have the training, intelligence or vision to accept the advice.
[iii] I have always been intrigued by the sway the paradise with nubile Houris, streams of fresh cool water and wine, all kinds of fruit and food and eternal leisure holds over the Muslim mind. I can understand that medieval Arabs would be enchanted with the offer of water, wine and fruits, but why would S. Asian Muslims succumb to it? And why would otherwise intelligent and educated women fall for it? A young friend volunteered that Muslim women had little choice. But the second and third generation in the West is further regressing into fundamentalism. Perhaps it is socialization.
[iv] Line of control was the no man’s land where Indian and Pakistani armies were at the time of cease-fire in 1948. It was not as sacrosanct as an actual international boundary.
. [v] I was, at the time, working in a hospital in Guildford, England. An East Pakistani doctor, who was, unusually for people hailing from the region, well built, threatened a rather frail South Indian doctor that if the news of fall of Lahore were correct, he, the East Pakistani, would beat the h… out of the Indian. The Indian doctor, a pacifist, more I guess due to his physique, than from temperament or belief, protested that he was from the south, not from the northern “cow belt”(South Indians not so sold out on the sanctity of Gau Mata-Cow the mother- gave derogatory title to North Indians). To no avail, my East Pakistani compatriot rolled up his sleeves fully prepared for mayhem. In, the event, the hapless Indian was saved by the BBC apology for misreporting.