Pakistan between Mullas and Generals

Book: Pakistan: between mosque and military   
Author:  Hussian Haqqani
Publisher: Penguin-Viking Books
Publication year: 2016
Pages:  464
Price: Rs 559 p/b
Zaboor Ahmad

Hussian Haqqani’s book Pakistan: between mosque and military is a straightforward insider’s account of Pakistan which tries to see how the military and religious groups are acting in tandem to put each other’s shoulders and explores the nation’s quest for identity and security. From the outset Pakistan has used religion as a instrument for strengthening Pakistani identity. During the demand for Pakistan as well after its formation religion was anticipated to act as a unifying force between diverse people which it failed to play. No doubt the bigwigs of Pakistan movement acted with missionary zeal but the leaders never gave an iota of thought to the blueprints of a future state. Given the dilly dallying of leadership up to 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 a few months before partition that neither he nor any one in Muslim League knew what Pakistan meant. Armed and unarmed religious groups that have gradually become assertive and able to challenge the writ of the state have created their own catchment areas.  Many Muslims followed as they thought they would be better off in Pakistan.  Interprovincial rivalry, ethnic and language differences, diverse political interests of the elite, which were silence during the movement for its creation, acted as stumbling blocks in Constitution making. Partition, accompanied by religious frenzy, economic dislocation, capital flight and refusal of India to hand over the cash balance due to it, caused economic strangulation for the newly-born state, which required immediate attention. Civilian leadership, sections of which have worked at cross purposes, finally made the way smooth for military takeover. Had civilian leadership failed to craft a Constitution at the outset, the dominance of military would have followed sooner. Pakistan was conditioned to believe that its nationhood was under siege. Thus protecting it by military means was a priority.

When the political cauldron began to boil over Islam was used to subsume all identities. India was painted as enemy of Islam to bolster Pakistan’s self image as a bastion of faith. Maulana Mawdoodi spoke in language similar to Golwalkar’s. While speaking on Pakistan radio, he characterised socialists, ethnic nationalists, leftists as anti-Islam unbelievers. Intelligence agencies fabricated evidence of communist threat to get into the orbit of the US, ensuring economic and military wherewithal. Refusal of the US to support Pakistan in any of the wars it fought with India generated anti-Americanism which is as old as the Pakistani state itself. It increased exponentially with the drone attacks of recent past.

Continued confrontation with India was hurting East Pakistan. Being secular, demanding autonomy within Pakistan and better relationship with India they were characterised as anti-Pakistani elements. Fazlul Haq, the mover of Lahore Resolution, was accused of collusion with India. India did provide succor to Bengalis, but sliding into civil war was the result of Pakistan’s internal folly. The publication of book The Turkish art of love by an Indian Jewish author, which allegedly desecrated Islam, brought Islamic parties to centre stage as political haggling was going on between Z A Bhutto, Yahiya Khan, Awami League and the military regime. A white paper published on the crisis in East Pakistan acknowledged that Bengali atrocities followed, rather than instigated, violence by Pakistani military.

Yahiya Khan received Mujeeb-ur-Rehman in Pakistan with a whisky glass in hand and grotesquely remarked, “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 cadre functioned as intelligence networks. While Bhutto maintained a hand in glove relationship with the military so that his chances of returning to power remained intact, the US declared East Pakistan crisis as Pakistan’s internal affair. Unrealistic expectations from the hopes in US and China led Pakistani rulers into rejecting political options and persist with military adventure. The fact is that Islam, which is a religious doctrine, has been made a political device to keep the state glued together. It has not worked. Otherwise, all Islamic states should have been together. Z A Bhutto, after assuming power in Pakistan colluded with the army by pursuing hard ball game with India, which enabled the continuation of defence spending. It failed to publish the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report to make public what went wrong in the Bangladesh war in which Bhutto himself was implicated. Jamaat-i Islami started Bangladesh Namanzoor (Bangladesh not acceptable) campaign, which squarely put the blame on Bhutto but absolved the military.

The dismissal of National Awami Party in Baluchistan on false pretext of finding weapons in Iraqi embassy meant for Baluch rebels and resignation of NWFP government in protest, engendered  the protracted uprising  which provided a pretext for use of military against them, as a if they were its saviors.

Bhutto had always been a poor learner and he wasted considerable capital of Ahamadi sect by declaring them as non Muslims on the instigation of Islamists, which boosted his confidence. Religious construction was connected with the boom in oil prices. He could gain from it only by playing up the Islamic identity. Bhutto began to doubt all and sundry and created a federal security service (FSS) as a force to intervene in case of emergency and made Gen. Zia ul Haq chief of army staff as he was supposedly from a “non-martial” race. However, both Zia and FSS turned their guns on him. The FSS chief provided evidence in court against Bhutto while Zia gave orders to execute him.  A white paper on Bhutto was prepared by Zia even before his conviction by the court.

Zia liberalised the visa regime which made Pakistan the den of religious leaders who played the card of pan-Islamism. This aggravated the sectarian environment of Pakistan. The Islamisation project ended up accentuating sectarian differences, plunged Pakistani society into theological debates over trivial issues. Shais and Sunnis looked up for economic and ideological support to Iran and Saudi Arabia respectively, which made Pakistan a battle ground for sectarian ideas and rival armed groups. Islam had never been in danger, but this politically motivated half-baked truth has been used to pursue ulterior ends. Zia packed the educational institutions and courts with his own henchmen.

Pakistan underscored its Islamic ideology in hope of blunting the challenge of ethnic nationalism supported by Afghanistan. Pakistan has pursued strategic depth in Afghanistan since its inception. Ashiya Siddique argues that all invasions have been through Afghanistan. Therefore, it is essential that Pakistan has a degree of control in Afghanistan. Pakistan acted as a conduit for Islamic parties to counter the communist influence of groups supporting Pushtuns and Balochis in Pakistan. Pakistan created an Afghan cell in ISI to coordinate resistance to communist rule and secure international support for Pakistan. US President Jimmy Carter authorised help to Muhajideen covertly on 3 July, 1979, six months before Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

When the Jamaat-e Islami students wing burnt down American embassy in Islamabad allegedly in protest against seizure of the Grand Mosque in Makkah Zia told the US to channelise the religious fervour in Pakistan  against the Soviets, instead of allowing it to run against the US.

People from different parts of the world poured into Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight against the Soviets and were bankrolled by the Saudi-based Rabita al Alam al Islami.  Pakistani Islamist 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 a causality. The question of who should rule Afghanistan after the USSR  was not clearly answered. The outcome was infighting among different Pakistani groups. Fortunately for Pakistan, Zia died before he could further damage Pakistan.

 The September 11 attack on the US changed much in Pakistan, but the dominance of military and mosque in Pakistan was far from over. Pakistan sacrificed the Afghan front to keep alive the Kashmir front to prevent it from being bombed to Stone Age. Pakistan’s religious parties felt not only alienated, but also banned only to resurrect in a new avtar. The arms supplied by US to Pakistan, instead of fighting the militants were used against the Baluch nationalists. The US expended considerable capital to fight the terrorists in Afghanistan, but the roots were always in Pakistan. George Bush found that Pakistan used most of the weapons supplied by America to prepare for a war against India. Pakistan cooperated only in arresting the foreign terrorists while locals were let off. Groups like Haqqani and Afghan Taliban were forced back into Afghanistan while foreigners were eliminated.

Pakistan has become a major centre of radical Islamic ideas and groups largely because of its past policies of support for militants fighting Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir as well as 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 and radicalise key segments of the population. This dominance has weakened the social and economic parameters of Pakistan.

Over 40 percent can’t read and write while two third live on less than 2 dollars a day and fifty five percent women are illiterate. Low investment in education has hampered the Pakistani technology base. A majority of Pakistan’s ethnically disparate population has traditionally identified with secular politicians. But such huge majority has failed to determine direction of Pakistan’s policies. Highly centralised and unrepresentative government has created grievances among ethnic groups.

Violent vigilantism of some Islamist groups has undermined civil society and promoted sectarian terrorism. Pakistan’s small scale economy has grown occasionally and is undermined by terrorism. India spends a small part of its GDP on defence, still outspends Pakistan, which has to cut development spending to pay for armed forces. On 4th of February 2004, general Mushraf told newspaper editors in Islamabad that Pakistan had two vital interests: a nuclear state and Kashmir cause. It was to placate the military and religious conservatives that alliance with US did not take a U-turn as it appears. The semblance of good relationship with India has become a pre-requisite for Pakistan’s security relationship with the US.

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 part. Hence India can break up like Pakistan in Kashmir; Khalistan etc. Pakistani plan for liberation has two parts: first make Kashmir ungovernable for India, and raise the cost of continued Indian rule to unbearable levels and, secondly, internationalise 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 US to Mujahedeen in Afghanistan could also be given to those fighting in Kashmir without considering the fact that the US applied double standards everywhere. Pakistan has to change its national objective to a focus on economic development and popular participation in government.

Pakistan was created in a hurry. Everyone has a stake to transform it into a functional, rather than ideological, state so as to ensure development of people.

 In its new edition the book has two new chapters, but it falls short of deep analysis. The book discuss its important internal and external dynamics of Pakistan like the Kargil episode, mobilisation of troops along borders in 2002, the failure of Agra summit etc. It seems as if the  new chapters in the book have been written aimlessly. No Westphalian state has failed so far, but the interesting thing to underscore is that the constituency of Pakistani writers who are against the system is growing. The book is engaging and written in simple and lucid language.