ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 01

Ayub's obiter dicta and Pakistan's jaundiced policy on India

Across the Palk Straits By Kuldip Nayar

I do not know whom General Ayub hated more, Hindus or Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Both come in for maximum derision in his Diaries from 1966 to 1972. He suspected the bona fides of Hindus and did not think them possessing any worthwhile quality. In his book, Friends, Not Masters, Ayub was contemptuous of Hindus. But the Diaries beat all the earlier references. As for Bhutto, Ayub ran him down all the time. A typical observation by the General in the Diaries after dismissing Bhutto was: "Demagogy became his (Bhutto) stock in trade. Several warnings went unheeded. So there was no alternative but to tell him to go. Besides, he started drinking himself into a stupor and led a very loose life."

Ayub's noting in his Diaries is like obiter dicta. He makes pronouncements, off the cuff, without realizing the effect they can have. He has preconceived notions and interprets events and situations accordingly. In fact, this has been the problem with military dictators all over the world. They have a simplistic and naïve approach to politics. For them, there are no shades; there is only black and white, friend or foe.

The manner in which Ayub presents his views as policy statements leaves you cold. He was the man who guided the destiny of Pakistan for almost a decade. Some in his country still remember him as the ruler who gave them stability. Writing on India on September 8, 1967, Ayub says, "…the real trouble is that India has no ideology (curious), this is exactly what I told Nehru when he came to Pakistan in 1962, to act as a force for integration and cohesion. Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence was supplemented by Nehru's secularism and non-alignment. Both have met their doom because how can Hindu society be turned secular and non-belligerent? It is in any case in a shambles because of changed world circumstances. It is now an empty slogan with no relevance to realities."

The Pakistan High Commissioner in Delhi at that time was equally out of depth when it came to analyzing Indian political scene. He says in a dispatch which Ayub quotes: "The rightists and Hindu bigots, all parties, are getting together. Chances are that they will throw out Indira (Mrs Indira Gandhi) and put a man like (Y.B.) Chavan in her place. The anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim feelings will grow. They will seek to undo Pakistan and settle Kashmir by military means. So, security problems will assume much more serious dimensions as turmoil and instability increases in India and, bigoted and narrow-minded Hindus assume power."

Ayub quotes in his support one Dr Berg, the head of a German TV organisation, as saying: "Nehru is largely to blame for India's misfortune. He ruled India as a private property; history will never forgive him for not coming to terms with Pakistan and even China. Any chance for revival of India is out of the question."

Perhaps, these kinds of analyses have been the bane of Pakistan's jaundiced policy on India. Islamabad would depend on some nit-wit and the clueless high commission which collected yarns and passed them on as the thinking in the country. That is why Islamabad lived in a make-believe world as far as India was concerned and seldom differentiated between the facts and the bazaar gossips.

I believe there is a better appreciation of the situation in India now than before. In fact, it has been so for the past few years. A democratic society may look chaotic and disorderly and, for that matter, every democratic polity is so in a way. What holds it together is its indiscipline and its disdain for dos and don'ts the nation is supposed to observe. Institutions are the backbone of a democratic structure, not a set of rules or stern warnings.

Ayub believed that India would fall apart. The same view was aired by his son Gohar Ayub as far back as in 1984, when I met him at Abottebad, nearly 18 years after his father's foreboding. Gohar said that Pakistan was waiting for India to disintegrate into six parts before holding any serious talks with it. The basic unity of India remains intact.

A country like Pakistan which has been ruled by the military for more than 45 years has developed a different kind of ethos. It does not mean that people have ceased to believe in democracy. It means that they have come to reconcile to a situation which they believe they cannot change. It is an act of resignation, not renunciation. That is the reason you see at times a glimpse of the fire burning within people's heart.

The lawyers' movement over the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary indicates that unquenchable spirit. Man, however long he remains shackled, asserts himself in one way or the other. India itself lost democracy for nearly two years, from 1975 to 1977, when the emergency was imposed. Dissent was smothered, the press gagged and arbitrary arrests were made in thousands. A nation inured to free, democratic living was initially in a state of shock unable to realise the directions and implications of actions by the government and its functionaries. The rulers did not assess the people's anger. When it came to assertion, even Ms. Gandhi, the architect of the emergency, was defeated at the polls.

Ayub also did not appreciate the volcano rumbling in East Pakistan. Instead, he had contempt for its people and all those who wanted to rule themselves. This is what he wrote on August 14, a few months before Bangladesh liberated itself:

"Today is the 27th anniversary of Pakistan. Normally it should be a day of rejoicing but I wonder how many people feel that way. The idea that had brought Pakistan into being can never lose validity, but its spirit has lost attraction, certainly for the generation below the age of 30 who form the bulk of the population. Regionalism and provincialism have supplanted it, specially so in East Pakistan. We have no constitution and there is no consensus as to what it should be like. East Pakistan is on the point of breaking off. What will happen in West Pakistan remains to be seen."

Ayub's panacea like that of any dictator was the use of force. He said: "The only binding force left is the army. It has the formidable task of holding the country together and meeting the threat of Indian aggression, which is getting over louder and provocative."
No wonder, President General Pervez Musharraf believes that he is providing cohesion and order to Pakistan as he goes on justifying the parallel rally against the lawyers and their supporters in Karachi the other day. Certain things are simply not defendable.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.