The 75 years of Life in Freedom, As a conscious citizen of this country, I have traversed a stream of jolting events and violent turns of history in my country that, over years, have caused me disillusionment and reinvigorated too my hopes in the resilience of this land. Many countries have survived more tumultuous and tragic histories than that of Pakistan and achieved stability and prosperity. Their successive leaders toiled in sweat and blood to steer those countries to safe shores. We didn’t have that stock of leaders, unfortunately.
I dimly remember the imposition of the infamous scheme of One-Unit and later the Martial Law of October 1958 and the relatively stable period that followed. However, the veneer of stability and development that was trumpeted without any letup began disappearing with the advent of the presidential elections of 1964 in which the autocratic rule of Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan was challenged by Mohtarma Fatima rallying the political forces of the country around her lean and fragile figure for the restoration of plural democracy.
The democratic movement was overtaken by the mindless adventure of 1965 and the Tashkent Treaty. The Field Marshal emerged as a weak leader from the Tashkent parleys gradually losing his grip on the levers of power. The agitational politics that ensued forced him to hand over power to his drunkard Commander in Chief, General Yahya Khan in March 1969. However, his authoritative rule and myopic policies from October 1958 to March 1969 coalescing with the political blunders of the past leadership had already alienated the Bengali population of Pakistan and heightened the sense of deprivation in the smaller provinces of West Pakistan.
The so-called fair and transparent general elections held on the basis of adult franchise in the country in December 1970 brought a bigger tragedy in their wake culminating in the violent secession of the eastern wing of the country leaving the western part in a thick fog of chaos and uncertainty. The death of the Jinnah’s Pakistan left the nation in a sombre and despairing mood. No one was confident of the survival of the remainder of Pakistan as a country. This was the first time, many Pakistanis cried like helpless children over the defeat and breakage of the country. Later, we realised that the cumulative consequences of the senseless political and economic policies pursued by the ruling clique combined with the condescension and hauteur with which the Bengalis were treated since the inception of the country had contributed more to the secession of the eastern wing and the defeat of Pakistan than the military intervention of our enemy. Our elite did not learn a lesson from this disgrace and continued to persevere in their political and economic shenanigans strengthening their grip on the state resources to the peril of the common man.
We started with a renewed energy to rebuild our new Pakistan. Sooner than later, we came across the political incorrigibility of our political class. The democratic governments of the National Awami Party in Balochistan and KP were dismissed in July 1973. Again, a military operation was ordered to subdue the ensuing violent Baloch protests. This is recorded in our short history as the third security operation against the Baloch. The earlier two operations (1948 and 1954) in which Baloch leaders were imprisoned and executed were still fresh in the Baloch mind. Later, the National Awami Party was banned and its veteran Baloch and Pashtun leaders were charged with sedition and imprisoned in Hyderabad to be tried by a Special Tribunal. The most saddening thing was that all this happened under a democratic government.
Lo and behold, we were well back on our beaten track of political machinations, palace intrigues and strained civil-military relationships with our able and wise politicians undermining each other. Nobody thought of the Constitution, democracy, political tolerance, human rights and the abject poverty engulfing the masses. This provided a God-send opportunity to a meek, cunning and scheming General to outfox the fractious political clan. The tyranny unleashed by the new Martial Law Administrator shamed all the contemporary dictators in the world. Religion was ruthlessly exploited and abused to serve his political ends. The Judiciary was reduced to a shamble; the media gagged; the political workers were jailed, lashed and executed. The architect of the new democratic Pakistan was executed through a dubious judicial decision.
The military intervention of the erstwhile Soviet Union in Afghanistan brought into play a new Great Game which would be fulfilling the dream of the British Imperialist Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli to push the Muscovites into the Caspian Sea. The US ganged up with its western and Middle Eastern allies to inflict a harder blow this time that brought down the moth-eaten structure of the Soviet Union.
We consented to be the springboard for the US-led Western war against the Soviets in Afghanistan presenting our land as the launching pad for the ragtag forces of the Mujahideen in exchange for sacks of US dollars. The sword and the pulpit coalesced to legitimise our blind plunge into this war. Our cities were teeming with Afghans, their leaders and fighters. There was the unprecedented dispersal of dollars passing through the hands of our able intelligence officers. Nobody looked beyond this momentous adventure. What would be the result of this reckless push to destroy the Godless Soviets was the business of none. Our eyes were blinkered by the shine of the US dollars and weapons. We were basking in our momentary strategic success.
The massive US aid did not bring about any change in the life of the common man though it filled the coffers of a few religious political and military leaders. The economy continued to be strained by the millions of Afghan refugees; the society was weaponised; the so-called Mujahideen had the laissez passé to roam about in the northern hilly tracks of our land. We would soon reap what we were sowing. TW