THE UNRAVELING (Chapter One)1. An Improbable State
Pakistan is an improbable country. The forefathers of the people who now dominate it politically and militarily were bystanders in the movement to create the Pakistani state. The people actually responsible for its creation were outsiders. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League and founder of the nation, was a Bombay lawyer who wanted a separate homeland for the subcontinent's Muslims because he feared they would become a political underclass in a unified India dominated by Hindus. His vision was secular, not religious, similar to the one that drove the founding of Israel as a place where Jews could live free from persecution. It had not always been this way. Early in his political career, Jinnah had been a member of the Congress Party of Gandhi and Nehru, and had worked with them in pursuing Indian independence from Britain. But he had moved on to join the Muslim League and parted final company with his former colleagues because of their conflicting views on the status of Muslims in an independent India. Jinnah believed that Muslims constituted a distinctive community--he used the term nation--entitled to parallel status with the Hindu majority, while Congress insisted on a unitary state with no special status accorded on religious grounds. These differences proved unbridgeable, and at a mass meeting of the Muslim League in Lahore in 1940, Jinnah appeared to take matters one step further, calling not simply for special status for Muslims in an independent India but also for some sort of division along communal lines.
Here matters stood until the end of World War II. At that time, a Britain vastly weakened by the war began moving the subcontinent rapidly toward independence. In the negotiations that ensued, Jinnah played his cards very close to the vest. Some historians have argued that he did not really favor a separate Muslim state at all but preferred a form of confederation in which a Muslim component composed of the Muslim majority provinces of the British Raj would share power at the center as an equal partner with a similarly constituted Hindu entity. Central to his conception was the status of Punjab and Bengal. These were far and away the most populous and politically important of the Muslim-majority provinces, although the majority in each case was a slender one. Jinnah wanted them included in the Muslim entity, not simply because of their Muslim majorities but also because, unlike the other Muslim-majority provinces, they had substantial Hindu populations. This Hindu presence in the Muslim entity would help ensure fair treatment for the significant Muslim minority destined to remain behind in the Hindu-majority provinces. Jinnah adamantly opposed any suggestions that Punjab and Bengal, due to their balanced populations, themselves be partitioned along communal lines, arguing that this would result in "a mutilated and moth-eaten" Muslim entity whose very viability would be in question.
Congress, for its part, would have none of this. It was unprepared to grant equal status to a Muslim population that was outnumbered by the Hindu community four to one, and it insisted that an independent India have a strong central government representing all Indians regardless of religious affiliation. If push came to shove and the British decided to inflict a separate Muslim entity on them, they demanded that Punjab and Bengal also be partitioned. Forced to choose between these incompatible demands, the British tried to steer a middle course. Rather than give Congress the undivided unitary state it wanted, they decided to partition the Raj along communal lines. Jinnah ended up with his Muslim entity, but as a completely independent state, not the equal pillar of a confederated India that would have given him a platform to speak on behalf of all Indian Muslims. Equally troubling for Jinnah, the British acquiesced in Congress's insistence that Punjab and Bengal themselves be partitioned, leaving Jinnah with his "mutilated and moth-eaten" state. It would consist of what was left of these two partitioned provinces, along with three other indisputably Muslim majority provinces, all of which were located on the western periphery of the Raj: Sindh, the Northwest Frontier Province, and Baluchistan. Pakistan, such as it was, had been born.
Contrary to most expectations, which proved to be naive, partition turned out to be a bloody affair. This was particularly true in the Punjab, where Hindus and Sikhs living in the Pakistani west fled eastward, while Muslims living in the Indian east fled west. Along the way each group was set upon by the other in thousands of separate encounters that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The Pakistani state that resulted from the division of British India consisted of western and eastern halves separated by a thousand miles of Indian territory. As Jinnah both knew and lamented, both halves had existed on the extreme periphery of the Raj and were relative backwaters. The area that became West Pakistan and was to later morph into the Pakistan of today following the breakaway of Bangladesh was a latecomer to British India. The Punjab, which despite having been cut in two formed the heart of West Pakistan and was by far its most populous province, had been an integral part of the Moghul empire. Its capital, Lahore, is the site of some of the greatest monuments of Moghul architecture. When the empire began to crumble in the early part of the eighteenth century, the Punjab fell under a succession of lesser rulers, eventually becoming the centerpiece of a Sikh empire formed in the early nineteenth century. The other areas that constituted West Pakistan--Sindh, Baluchistan, and the Northwest Frontier Province--suffered similar fates, significant portions of the latter also falling under Sikh control.
The British move into the region took place in the middle of the nineteenth century, many decades, and in some cases more than a century, after they had brought the heartland areas of the subcontinent under their control. Their motive for coming was not strictly territorial gain but rather to use these territories as a barrier against Russian penetration into the region, as part of what became known as the Great Game. Sindh was taken over in 1843. Punjab and large parts of what came to be known as the Northwest Frontier Province were wrested from the Sikhs in 1849. Most of Baluchistan was incorporated during the following decade. British passage into the region was not always easy. The British fought two bloody wars with the Sikhs. Attempts to conquer Afghanistan failed utterly, and the entire British garrison of Kabul suffered annihilation at the hands of Pashtun tribal warriors during a horrific retreat from the Afghan capital in 1842.
Britain's desire to use these territories primarily as a buffer against Russian expansion was reflected in the way they were governed. Although the region was heavily garrisoned as a hedge against Russian penetration, the British footprint was considerably lighter here than elsewhere in the Raj. In the Punjab, the British left the landed Muslim feudal aristocracy, which had managed to weather the era of Sikh rule relatively intact, essentially in charge of their own affairs. At the beginning of the twentieth century, its western border areas, populated largely by Pashtuns, along with additional territory extracted from Afghanistan, were consolidated into the Northwest Frontier Province, adding yet another layer of buffer. As a final buffer, the British had established the frontier tribal areas to the west of the NWFP between the Raj and Afghan territory, whose ruler was obliged to agree to a border between the two that became known as the Durand Line. The Baluch lands were similarly left to manage their own affairs, while for the better part of a century Sindh, as something of an exception, was governed from neighboring Bombay.
This heavily garrisoned, largely self-governing buffer on the western extremity of the Raj was far from the political ferment in the center of British rule that would lead in time to independence and partition. Unlike Bengal, where the Muslim League of Mohammed Ali Jinnah had a substantial following, the areas that were destined to become West Pakistan were dominated by local notables. In Punjab and Sindh, the Muslim leadership was drawn from the rural agricultural elites popularly known as "feudals." Their politics, based on patron-client relationships that had long dominated the region, were alien to the urban-centered Muslim League, with its own single-minded fixation on promoting Muslim civil and political rights. In Punjab, feudal landlords running under the banner of the local Unionist Party drubbed Muslim League candidates in the 1937 provincial elections held by the British under the recently enacted Government of India Act. The results were similar in Sindh. The leaders of the Muslim League had no idea how to play at feudal politics and would never learn. Nonetheless, with independence looming at the end of World War II, they managed to co-opt these local worthies, who swept into office in the 1946 provincial elections under a Muslim League banner, while campaigning in the same old feudal way.
The men who would actually govern the new nation were not from there. Mohammed Ali Jinnah was born in Karachi but had been educated at the Inns of Court in London and made his career in Bombay. Most of the Muslim League leadership came from similar backgrounds, hailing from the great population centers of northern and western India, such as New Delhi, Calcutta, and Bombay. This was where their natural political constituency and potential vote banks lay. But relatively few of their political supporters chose to follow them into the new country. Most were either too poor to afford the long journey or unwilling to risk starting over in a new and foreign land. Fully one-third of the Muslim population of British India, numbering thirty-five million people, remained behind. The great majority of the more than six million Muslims who did move west made the much shorter journey from eastern to western Punjab in the bloody population exchange that occurred at the time of partition. Only a relatively small number, comprising only 3 percent of the population of the new state, migrated from the urban heartland of British India into the nascent state, most of them settling in the new capital of Karachi.
These mohajirs (Arabic for "emigrant"), as they came to be called, were outsiders from the start. The one advantage they possessed, and it was considerable, was their predominance in the upper reaches of the Muslim League and in the civil service. So long as Mohammed Ali Jinnah dominated the political landscape, their sparse numbers and outsider status made little difference. But Jinnah was already wasting away from tuberculosis when independence came, looking the part of a cadaver long before he became one. His death barely a year after partition left a vacuum that his political heirs, none of whom enjoyed anything approaching his stature, found increasingly difficult to fill. The assassination of his trusted deputy and anointed successor, Liaquat Ali Khan, three years later, left relative nonentities in charge of the government of Pakistan. Names such as Khawaja Nazimuddin, Ghulam Mohammed, and Iskander Mirza do not echo down the corridors of history, even within Pakistan itself. Overwhelmed by the difficulties inherent in building a new nation from scratch, and with no experience in managing the affairs of state, the surviving Muslim Leaguers turned increasingly to senior civil servants, many of them also mohajirs, who had opted for Pakistan at independence after serving in the British colonial administration. With no natural political constituency on Pakistani soil, neither group had any real interest in putting their hold on power to the vote.
A constituent assembly, tasked with promulgating a constitution, did exist, peopled in West Pakistan by many of the same feudal landlords who had flocked to the Muslim League banner during the 1946 provincial elections. But it was largely ignored and in 1954 summarily dismissed. In fact, no constitution would emerge until 1956, almost a decade after independence, when a reconstituted assembly finally managed the deed. The closest the first parliamentary Pakistanis had come previously to agreeing on one was in the Objectives Resolution passed in 1949, which takes up less than half a page. This suited the mohajir politicians and civil servants who dominated the executive branch of government, since it enabled them to run the country more or less as they saw fit. But whether they realized it at the time or not, their command of the highest offices of government was a rapidly wasting asset, since they had neither the personal stature nor the political base to maintain it. The mohajirs were already doomed to devolve into a purely regional political force centered on Karachi, led by former student radicals with a penchant for street fighting. But the instrument of their demise would not be the disputatious feudal landlords who had filled the West Pakistan seats in the original constituent assembly. Their rise to political power would have to await the ascent of the Sindhi landlord Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the aftermath of the breakaway of Bangladesh. But that event still lay more than a decade in the future.
The instrument that ended the mohajir grip on power and hastened the final disintegration of the original Muslim League was the Pakistan army. Unlike the mohajirs, the army was largely an indigenous force. Punjabi soldiers from the so-called army triangle of Rawalpindi, Attock, and Jhelum in northern Punjab had dominated the ranks of the Indian army under British rule. At the time of partition, however, the newly constituted Pakistan army was sufficiently bereft of senior officers that Jinnah asked British officers to stay on to fill out the senior ranks. The first two army chiefs were British; the third was Ayub Khan, who would become the first military dictator of Pakistan. It was Ayub, educated in the British way at Sandhurst and dismayed at the squabbling of the politicians and government officials around him, who moved in to fill the gap left by the mohajir decline. But he might never have had the chance had it not been for the dispute with India over control of Kashmir that broke out at the time of partition.
Jammu and Kashmir, to give it its full name, was a princely state with an overwhelmingly Muslim population ruled over by a Hindu maharaja. There were hundreds of such entities under the Raj, each nominally sovereign but in fact fully subordinate to British rule. At the time of independence, the British preserved this fiction of special status by giving each princely sovereign the right to opt for either India or Pakistan. In almost every instance this posed no threat to the basic principle guiding partition that Muslim majority areas would pass to Pakistan and majority Hindu areas to India. But there were three exceptions. Two princely states, those of Hyderabad and Junagadh, had heavily Hindu majority populations but were ruled by Muslims. The third was Kashmir. The Muslim ruler of Junagadh opted for Pakistan but was forced to flee under Indian pressure. His Hyderabad counterpart temporized for a year before an Indian invasion obliged him to accede to India, thus bringing this largest of princely states under Indian control. But events in Kashmir were to play out somewhat differently.
The ruler of Kashmir was a Hindu by the name of Hari Singh. The Muslim heartland of the princely state, centered on the beautiful Vale of Kashmir, had been in Hindu hands for only a century. Singh's enterprising great-grandfather Gulab, who was ruler of the much smaller majority Hindu state of Jammu just to the south of Kashmir, had agreed to indemnify the British for the costs they had incurred in fighting the First Sikh War in return for British help in securing the throne of Kashmir. The Vale at this time was still a part of the Sikh empire the British had just defeated and was headed by an appointed Muslim governor. The British, eager for the cash, sent a force of ten thousand men into the area, removed the governor, and installed Gulab Singh on the throne.
Thanks to this event, a seemingly minor incident in the annals of the Great Game, Hari Singh had to choose between Pakistan and India as the time of partition drew near. He proceeded cautiously, negotiating a standstill agreement with the nascent Pakistani government, giving Pakistan responsibility for maintaining Kashmir's postal and communications systems. Such agreements generally served as precursors to accession, and this led the Pakistanis, who regarded Kashmir with its heavy Muslim majority as theirs by right, to believe that events were moving in their direction. But at this point, unanticipated developments intervened. Muslims in the Poonch area of Kashmir suddenly rose in what appears to have been a spontaneous insurrection against taxes recently imposed by the local Hindu authorities. The new Pakistani government, fearing this might upset the applecart, decided to take Kashmir by force, hastily arranging to send Pashtun irregulars from the NWFP into the princely state. As this unruly ragtag army marched toward the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar, a panicked Hari Singh called on the Indians for support. They obliged in return for his signature on the Instrument of Accession to India and immediately began flying Indian troops into Srinagar airport.
These forces succeeded in stopping the Pashtuns in their tracks and eventually began pushing them back. Regular Pakistan army forces soon entered the fray but were able to produce only a stalemate. After more than a year of fighting between the two increasingly exhausted fledgling armies, the two sides agreed to a cease-fire. The main prize, the heavily Muslim Vale of Kashmir, remained in Indian hands. Pakistan had to content itself with a narrow sliver of Kashmiri territory to the southwest, which it named Azad (free) Kashmir, as well as a large but sparsely settled area in the Karakorum mountains to the north. But the issue of who should finally rule Kashmir was far from settled. Pakistan and India agreed to refer the matter to the UN, which mandated a plebiscite. The chief sticking point was the requirement that Pakistan remove its forces from the areas under its control. The Pakistanis refused out of fear that India would move its own forces into them, which the Indians strongly implied they had the right to do. As a result, no plebiscite was ever held.
Both sides have continued to maintain their own separate claims to the princely state. India asserts that all of Jammu and Kashmir passed into Indian possession once Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession. Pakistan claims that UN involvement and the fact that India had at one time agreed in principle to a plebiscite demonstrate that this cannot be so. But Pakistani claims go beyond legal niceties. They argue that, since the basic principle underlying partition was that majority Muslim areas should become part of Pakistan, Kashmir is by right theirs. They point to Indian hypocrisy in incorporating the Hindumajority princely states of Hyderabad and Junagadh despite their Muslim rulers, while denying Pakistan the same right in Kashmir. As far as most Pakistanis are concerned, the Indian seizure of Kashmir was a landgrab pure and simple, and they have never been able to reconcile themselves to the unfairness of it. Regardless of who is right or wrong, legally or morally, the fact of the matter is that the Kashmir dispute poisoned relations between Pakistan and India from the very beginning. The fact that India delayed, and in some cases reneged on, transferring some of the material and financial assets owed to Pakistan under the terms of the partition agreement did not help matters. Most Pakistanis concluded that India could not be trusted and suspected that it did not really accept the legitimacy of a separate Muslim state. Consequently, they would need to remain vigilant and cultivate a powerful army.
From that time forward, a disproportionate share of scarce Pakistani resources began to flow to the army. Ayub Khan, the first native Pakistani chief of army staff, soon took his place beside the civilian successors of Jinnah and Liaquat at the apex of political power. Like Jinnah and the other early leaders of the Pakistan movement, Ayub was a man of secular tastes and ambitions. Despite his Sandhurst education and its preachment that the military should stay out of politics, he grew increasingly frustrated with what he saw as the selfish and shortsighted behavior of his civilian colleagues. His memoirs are replete with descriptions of their venality. His disgust only increased when squabbling politicians from West and East Pakistan proved unable to agree on a formula for national elections under the terms of the 1956 constitution they had recently approved. He must also have noticed that, although his civilian colleagues carried impressive political titles such as president and prime minister, they had no popular political following. And he, moreover, had all the guns. In October 1958, he conspired with the president, Iskander Mirza, who was a civil servant, not a politician, to declare martial law. Only three weeks later, Ayub had Mirza dumped and seized the reins of power for himself. The army had made it all the way to the top and would never stray far from it again.
Ayub governed as a pro-Western, pro-business leader who shared the largely secular views of the mohajir class he had brushed aside. His secular orientation was sufficiently strong that at one point he even tried to drop the word Islamic from the official title of the state. His distaste for politicians was reflected in a new constitution he pushed through creating a political system he called Basic Democracies, in which direct elections were held at only the lowest, most local units of government. Pervez Musharraf, a general of similar disposition, would institute a similar scheme for similar reasons some forty years later. Ayub also remembered the Pakistani claim to Kashmir and managed to involve Pakistan in another war with India over it. Events in the former princely state since the first war ended had precipitated increasing disenchantment with Indian rule. At first, Sheikh Abdullah, the unchallenged leader of the Kashmir Muslim community, had worked cooperatively with the Indian authorities. Called the Lion of Kashmir, he had been a friend of Nehru's and was sympathetic to the Congress Party. His land redistribution program had made him wildly popular among his Muslim constituents, and he managed to secure virtually full autonomy for Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. By 1953, however, this began to strike him as too little. Overly impressed, perhaps, by his own star power, he began moving toward advocacy of full independence, proposing that this be one of the options included in any future plebiscite, in addition to the Pakistan-or-India choice set out in the UN mandate. Alarmed by this turn of events, the Indian government helped engineer his removal by ambitious subordinates and he was subsequently imprisoned as a security threat.
There matters stood for another decade. In late 1963, the most venerated religious relic in Kashmir, a strand of hair reputed to be from the beard of the Prophet Mohammed, disappeared from its shrine in a Srinagar mosque. This provoked mass demonstrations by angry Muslims in the Kashmir valley as well as attacks against Hindus, in Kashmir and other parts of India. A panicked Indian government released Sheikh Abdullah in an effort to calm the waters and even allowed him to travel to Pakistan for discussions with Ayub aimed at defusing the crisis. The relic was eventually returned to its shrine, but an unrepentant Abdullah continued to stoke unrest, prompting the Indians to return him to prison in May 1965. The Pakistanis, meanwhile, drew conclusions from these events that would soon lead to war. Ayub and his army colleagues had been encouraged by the trouncing India had suffered at the hands of China in their 1962 border war and impressed by their own prowess in besting Indian forces in skirmishes in the disputed Rann of Kutch border area early in 1965. They conceived the idea of sending irregular forces into Kashmir to foment a general Muslim uprising. The young Pakistani foreign minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was one of the biggest supporters of the plan. The idea was not a new one. During the previous decade, the Pakistan army had begun studying low-intensity guerrilla warfare as a possible weapon to use against India in Kashmir. They had gotten their inspiration from studying a number of successful insurgencies elsewhere. Algeria, Yugoslavia, North Korea, and, especially, China headed the list.
But the gambit, launched in August 1965, was a flop. Many of the infiltrators were intercepted on their way in and the rest failed miserably in their efforts to spark a Muslim insurrection. A follow-up attack by regular Pakistan army forces made little headway, and the Pakistanis were caught napping when Indian forces invaded Pakistan farther to the south near the Punjabi capital of Lahore. The result was a political debacle for Ayub, who was forced to accept a punitive cease-fire after the United States imposed an arms embargo that left Pakistani forces critically short of spare parts. The 1965 war marked the second time Pakistan and India had fought over Kashmir and it was also the second time that Pakistan had sent irregular forces into the disputed territory, following in the footsteps of the ragtag Pashtuns they had used in 1947. But its particular importance for our story lies in the fact that it seems to have been the first time Pakistanis used the term mujahideen to refer to irregular forces fighting for a Pakistani cause.
This attribution, which seems to have originated with Bhutto, is significant because of its religious connotations. In Islamic parlance, mujahideen are warriors seeking to spread the cause of Islam through jihad, or holy war. But this does not really fit the events of 1965. There is no evidence that the irregular forces that infiltrated Kashmir harbored radical Islamic views or were otherwise driven by Islamic ideology, any more than the secular Ayub himself was. By most accounts, the infiltrators were Kashmiris who had ended up living on the Pakistani side of the original cease-fire line and were motivated not by religious zeal but by a more secular desire to reunite their homeland and liberate their fellow Kashmiris from Indian rule. In referring to them as mujahideen, Pakistani officials may have been trying to wrap them in the Islamic equivalent of the flag, suggesting that even at this relatively early date, jihadist motivations were regarded as virtuous and praiseworthy, even by Pakistanis such as Ayub and Bhutto, who were decidedly secular in their own management of the affairs of state. It also provided them with deniability by creating the impression that these were religiously motivated individuals acting according to their own lights.
Although the 1965 war dealt Ayub a politically fatal blow, it electrified the career of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who argued that Pakistan should have fought on no matter what. He would resign as foreign minister the following year, and a year later form the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The other major casualty of the 1965 war was the already imperiled relationship between West and East Pakistan. These two entities had been strange bedfellows from the beginning, separated by the entire breadth of India, with little in common beyond the fact of their Muslim majorities. Preindependence Bengal had been one of the founding territories of the British Raj and its dominant city, Calcutta, had served as the British capital until 1911. Jinnah had wanted Calcutta badly, proclaiming at one point that without it Pakistan would be like a man without a heart. But the British had given it to India, along with the western half of Bengal, even while conceding that the remainder, centered on Dacca, was little more than a "rural slum." This attitude carried over into the new Pakistani state, where political power quickly gravitated westward. In part, this reflected the closer cultural affinities between the northern and western areas of India, from which the mohajirs had come, and the neighboring areas of Punjab and Sindh, which lay immediately to the west. It also reflected the overwhelming predominance of West Pakistanis in the army and in the growing civil service bureaucracy that emerged after independence. Even in a purely Pakistani context, East Pakistan was regarded as a backwater.
This did not go unnoticed by the Bengalis. They were unhappy early on at the refusal of the ruling mohajir elite in Karachi to accord Bengali the status of an official language alongside Urdu. This had led to strikes and violent demonstrations in Dacca in 1952. A new political party, the Awami League, had emerged in 1950 to represent Bengali interests and had quickly consigned the local Muslim League to oblivion. But it had been unable to substantially improve the lot of the East Pakistanis, who failed to benefit from the economic development and strong economic growth that characterized the Ayub era. During the 1965 war with India over Kashmir, East Pakistan was left virtually undefended, a fact not lost on its inhabitants. This proved to be a watershed event that stoked growing Bengali desires to manage their own affairs. These desires were given full expression a year later when the Awami League leader, Sheikh Mujib, promulgated his Six Points, calling for the granting of complete autonomy to the East. This event was to set the stage for the final unraveling of the original Pakistani state.
Beset from all sides, a sick and dispirited Ayub Khan resigned in 1968, and his Basic Democracies scheme collapsed almost immediately thereafter. His replacement, a nondescript general named Yahya Khan, attempted to calm the situation in East Pakistan by steering the country toward its first nationwide elections. He also decided that the distribution of seats in the new national assembly would be based on population. This represented a potential opportunity for the Bengalis since East Pakistan at the time had a slightly larger population than West. Since the first major task of the assembly would be to formulate a new constitution to replace the discredited Ayub version, a good deal was riding on the outcome. Despite the East Pakistani advantage in seats, Yahya and the West Pakistani politicians contesting the election, now dominated by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, expected mixed results that would favor neither East nor West. But when the elections were finally held at the end of 1970, the Awami League of Sheikh Mujib ended up winning all but two of the seats contested in Bengal, giving it an absolute majority in the new assembly.
At this the West balked. Yahya, egged on by Bhutto, refused to convene the new body without assurances from Mujib that he would not seek to insert his Six Points into the new constitution. This Mujib was not prepared to do, and events quickly deteriorated from there, leading to open revolt in the East and a bloody crackdown by the Pakistan army, which drove millions of East Pakistanis across the border into India. Beset with refugees and sensing an opportunity to mortally wound its troublesome foe, the Indians decided to intervene. In the ensuing conflict, the third between the two countries since partition, the Indians made short work of the isolated Pakistan army forces in Bengal, forcing the entire garrison of more than ninety thousand to surrender. They also managed to fight off a hastily assembled Pakistani assault in Kashmir aimed at drawing Indian forces away from the east. As a result of these events, the new nation of Bangladesh came into being. The Pakistan army found itself discredited for the very first time, and Yahya was forced to resign, both as army chief and leader of Pakistan. Into this vacuum stepped the leading civilian politician in the newly downsized nation, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
Bhutto, whose PPP had dominated the election results in the West, was the first member of the indigenous landed feudal aristocracy to reach the apex of political power in Pakistan. He entered government through the foreign ministry and moved up quickly to head several ministries before becoming foreign minister. His rise to prominence symbolized that of his class as a whole, as his mentor, Ayub, turned increasingly to native West Pakistanis for political support during his years in office. Many had joined the Convention Muslim League party that Ayub established as a pro-army successor to the moribund original. Although Bhutto was a feudal, he was also a man of his times. Where Ayub had been pro-business, Bhutto was a third-world socialist. Where Ayub had been pro-American, Bhutto was pro-Chinese and proceeded to lead Pakistan into the Non-Aligned Movement. Charismatic and ruthless by turns, he was as authoritarian in temperament as any military dictator. He consciously tried to marginalize or subordinate the other centers of power in the newly downsized country but discovered to his chagrin that he could not easily function without them. He reorganized and downgraded the civil service, firing many of its senior members, but discovered he needed bureaucrats to manage the industries and financial institutions he had insisted on nationalizing. He tried to cut the recently humiliated army even further down to size by forming his own paramilitary force, but he found he needed army soldiers to put down a separatist rebellion in Baluchistan, an intervention that helped to restore both its confidence and its power. In 1972, he made the fateful decision to pursue a nuclear weapons program in order to keep pace with India. And while his socialist populism and mania for nationalization earned him the support of the poor and dispossessed, it dealt the Pakistani economy a blow from which it has never recovered.
In national elections held in 1977, six years after Bhutto came to power, his PPP won a victory far too overwhelming to be credible. This sparked a large and violent protest movement that spanned the political opposition and persuaded the army it needed to intervene. Bhutto was removed from power, imprisoned, and later hanged on a conveniently found murder charge. The instrument of his downfall was the ungrateful Zia ul-Haq, whom Bhutto had made army chief by jumping him over several more senior officers. Bhutto had reputedly appointed him because of his fawning behavior, which proved to be a fatal mistake. While Zia would take Pakistan in a decidedly different direction, Bhutto nonetheless left behind a substantial legacy of his own. Although his socialist policies proved anachronistic, he had already begun moving in directions more consistent with his feudal heritage. Beset by mounting opposition elsewhere, he fell back on the support of fellow landlords, who benefited from cheap loans provided by the newly nationalized banks. As in other third-world countries, the nationalization of industry brought substantial resources directly under government control, providing a rich source of political patronage, a commodity whose pursuit would become the cornerstone of Pakistani political life.
But Bhutto's most important legacy was not a policy or a program but the ascendency of his own socioeconomic class. His tenure represented the rise to power of the traditional landowning gentry of Punjab and Sindh, accompanied by a newly moneyed urban industrialist class whose leaders would absorb and espouse the very same feudal politics. His own party would shrug off his antiquated socialism under the leadership of his daughter, Benazir Bhutto, and take its place at the center of Pakistani politics, alongside the party of the Lahore industrialist Nawaz Sharif, who would appropriate the name Muslim League. But his Muslim League was not the party of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. That party and the Pakistan it once dominated were no more. The new Pakistan that was emerging was not the grand homeland for subcontinent Muslims that Jinnah had intended, but a strictly regional variation that would be dominated politically by two groups of players who were already firmly rooted in its soil.
One was a civilian political class consisting of wealthy landowners and their industrialist counterparts, who would pursue a distinctive form of politics derived directly from their feudal past. The other group, the army, whose leaders sprang from considerably more modest roots, would seek to keep their civilian betters on a short leash, while pursuing their self-anointed destiny as defenders of the nation against what they imagined to be an ever-present Indian threat. Rich in ambition but lacking in judgment, these two groups would carry Pakistan into the age of jihad.
THE UNRAVELING Copyright 2011 by John R. Schmidt