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Mistakes & Accomplishments of Gen Pervez Musharraf Asif Haroon Raja









Mistakes & Accomplishments of Gen Pervez Musharraf

Asif Haroon Raja

The Army, paramilitary forces and the police are fighting the US dictated war on terror since 2003 but have yet not been able to completely root out terrorism. I will be frank in stating that the Army was not mentally prepared, trained, equipped, acclimatized and motivated when it was suddenly launched to conduct irregular warfare in South Waziristan (SW). As a result, its performance for the first five years was not up to the mark and it suffered reverses. The Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) took advantage of it and managed to gain influence over 18 administrative units in the northwest and became a powerful force to reckon with. A state within state was created in Swat while SW became the main base of operation with its tentacles in other six tribal agencies. Another important factor behind not so good performance of security forces was the double game played by the so-called friends of Pakistan that were on the quiet supporting and creating space for the very terrorists Pakistan was asked to fight. 

Gen Pervez Musharraf was appointed Army chief on October 6, 1998 and soon after he ventured into Dras-Kargil inside Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), which is quite intriguing and raises many questions. It strained civil-military relations and led to the downfall of Nawaz Sharif. As DGMO under Gen Jahangir Karamat, in his operational briefing to the then PM Benazir Bhutto in 1996, he had presented Kargil plan and was keen to execute it. (1). She trashed it realizing its consequences.

Commenting on Kargil conflict in 1999 which had brought the two nuclear rivals close to war with nuclear overtones, Musharraf proudly proclaims, “Our maneuver was conducted flawlessly, a tactical marvel of military professionalism; a plan for plugging gaps between our positions was formally presented and approved towards the middle of January 1999. (2).

According to Lt-Gen (retd) Shahid Aziz who was heading ‘Analysis Wing’ of ISI during the conflict: “The Kargil war was an unsound military plan based on invalid assumptions, launched with little preparation and in total disregard of the  regional and international environment”. (3). Late ex-DG ISI Gen Hamid Gul was also of the view that a military operation without a clear political purpose was like shot in the dark and Musharraf should have faced court martial for his harebrained adventure.

Kargil operation was undoubtedly a brilliant tactical maneuver which caused paralytic effects on the Indian military, but it failed in achieving the objective of de-freezing and internationalizing the Kashmir issue as had been contemplated. It should have been planned in entirety and not as a piecemeal operation. Helped by the US and G-8, India converted its tactical defeat into victory on the media plane.    


Musharraf took over the reins of the country on October 12, 1999 after dethroning the elected government of Nawaz Sharif through a military coup. He wore the hats of President, Army chief and CJCSC and remained in full power till October 2007 after which he shed off his military hats and finally abdicated his President seat in August 2008 and went into exile under an agreement in April 2009. He made a political party All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) and returned home to take part in May 2013 general elections. Not only he was put under house arrest and on Exit Control List, he was debarred from contesting elections. He was charged with several cases which included Benazir Bhutto murder case, Nawab Akbar Bugti murder case, Lal Masjid case and subversion of constitution on November 3, 2007. The last case has been termed as an act of treason and comes under Article 6 of the Constitution. He underwent the embarrassment of media trial and also suffered the stings of hate from his opponents.

After about three years of ordeal, he proceeded to Dubai for medical treatment of his backache and the Supreme Court and the federal government facilitated his exit. The media has been highlighting his wealth in foreign banks/offshore companies and people are asking questions as to how he could amass so much of wealth. Courts are pressing his lawyers to produce him and have issued non-bail-able arrest warrants. He is often seen on the TV channels and known for his power of arguments, he keeps telling his side of the story in reply to number of accusations made against him.  

Mistakes made by Musharraf. Taking stock of his nine years tenure, Musharraf had committed mistakes but he also had done good things. It will be in fitness of things to first dispassionately have a look at those accusations that exist in public memory. Just to recapitulate, I am tabulating these here. First the accusations made against him:

  1. He and his team had no plausible reason to oust a democratically elected government and takeover power.
  2. He should not have accepted all the seven demands of the US after 9/11 and that too without consulting others. He gave in to the US demands too quickly, and cheaply, which set into motion a slippery path for Pakistan, its social fabric, politics and institutions and because of which we are still suffering.
  3. His reason to succumb to US pressure and accept all the demands was that he had been threatened that in case he decided not to side with the US, Pakistan will be bombed to ‘Stone Age’ has triggered a controversy. In his autobiography, “In the Line of Fire” on page 201 he writes: “When I was back in Islamabad the next day, our DG ISI, who happened to be in Washington, told me on the phone about his meeting with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage. In what has to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made, Armitage added to what Colin Powell had said to me and told the DG not only that we had to decide whether we were with America or with the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age. This was a shockingly barefaced threat, but it was obvious that the US had decided to hit back hard”. (4).

But apparently, both of these statements are not correct. There is now enough evidence to prove that there was no direct military threat made to Pakistan. George Bush, Colin Powell and Richard Armitage have all denied in their separate memoirs that they ever threatened Pakistan with military action, let alone the threat of bombing it back to the Stone Age. (5). In his book “Bush at War” at page 59, Bob Woodward writes: “at I: 30 P.M. on 13th September 2001, Powell called Musharraf” and “Musharraf to Powell’s surprise said that Pakistan would support the US with each of the seven actions”.

In 2006, when Bush was asked about the threat made against Pakistan, he claimed that the first time he had ever heard of it was when he had read a report of Musharraf’s remarks in that day’s newspaper. “I guess I was taken aback by the harshness of the words,” said Bush. “All I can tell you is that shortly after 9/11, Colin Powell came in and said, President Musharraf understands the stakes and he wants to join and help root out an enemy that has come and killed 3,000 of our citizens. I don’t know of any conversation that was reported in the newspaper like that. I just don’t know about it”. (6).

  1. Musharraf’s sudden U-turn on Afghanistan and betrayal of Muslim brothers of Afghanistan was flawed and Pakistan is still paying a heavy price for it through blood and flesh. Even now, a resurgent Taliban don’t trust us.
  2. Sending regular troops into South Waziristan (SW) in 2003 at the behest of USA to flush out Al-Qaeda and its sympathizers was in violation of the 1948 Agreement with the tribesmen, and it triggered insurgency in FATA.
  3. He shouldn’t have given a free hand to the CIA and FBI from 2006 onward to track Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. It gave a free hand to the foreign and regional agencies to establish their inter-connected network in Pakistan amongst the aggrieved tribal elements and religious groups. CIA got office space in the ISI headquarters, Pakistani civilians were bombed with drones, and Blackwater agents roamed freely all over Pakistan until Musharraf was replaced by Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. It was this ‘network of agencies’ that subsequently played havoc with Pakistani lives and targeted key institutions.
  4. Allowing CIA to use Shamsi airbase in Baluchistan for drone strikes helped CIA to bolster BLA, BRA and BLF in Baluchistan and to create space for the launch of TTP in FATA.
  5. Rather than working on his 7 point agenda which had germs of success, his option to create a King’s party comprising of turn coats from other political parties and who were tagged with National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cases was selfish and politically motivated – and eroded whatever good work NAB had been doing. His much trumpeted across the board accountability, both horizontal and vertical went for a six.
  6. Change of policy on Kashmir was a blunder which gave a severe blow to liberation movement in occupied Kashmir. APHC was divided into two factions and Pakistan’s age-old stance based on UN Resolutions was compromised. It antagonized the Kashmir focused Jihadi groups and they chose to join hands with TTP.
  7. Pak military gave a befitting response to Indian aggressive posturing after carrying out a false flag operation on Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001 and carrying out biggest troop deployment along the border after 1971 followed by a military standoff for next ten months.
  8. Indian military withdrew without achieving any objective, but Musharraf caved in on political/diplomatic front under the US pressure. He banned six Kashmiri Jihadi groups and froze their accounts, ceased firing in Kashmir, and gave a written unilateral commitment that Pakistan will not allow its space for use for cross border terrorism. He agreed to allow India to fence the entire length of Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir.
  9. In response, Vajpayee signed peace treaty with Pakistan in January 2004 and assured that all outstanding issues including Kashmir will be resolved through composite dialogue. This was in fact a big trap and Musharraf fell into it.
  10. India quietened the eastern front but on the quiet opened western front and used Afghan soil for carrying out massive covert operations to destabilize, denuclearize and balkanize Pakistan. Additionally, it used eastern front for people-to-people contact but in reality was meant to launch Indian cultural invasion and rob the youth of its fighting spirit and sink it in the pool of fun and frolic.
  11. Rather than making a change in strategy on Kashmir, Musharraf unilaterally changed the Kashmir policy by announcing out of box solution and depriving Pakistan of its principled stance based on UN resolutions. He thus gave a severe blow to freedom movement in Kashmir which in that timeframe had peaked.
  12. While he kept doing more and more, he never realized that USA, India and Afghanistan were not friends but playing a double game; and that Pakistan was not an ally but a target. His yielding to ‘do more’ policy to please the US – often acting in cahoots with India – was detrimental to Pakistan’s interests.
  13. Musharraf’s “Concept of Enlightened Moderation” (apparently drafted by Henry Kissinger Associates) was in contravention to Objectives Resolution and Quaid-e-Azam’s dream of making Pakistan an Islamic welfare state. In his apparent bid to show soft face of Pakistan to the world, he strove to make Pakistan a secular state. This open declaration of secularism hurt the aspirations of the people of Pakistan and ended up igniting storm of religious extremism
  14. Sacking of Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry in March 2007 was a wrong move which triggered lawyers’ movement and led to his fall.
  15. The other mistake he made was going out of the way to politically strengthen MQM about which I am sure the ISI and MI Directorate would have given sufficient information about its linkage with RAW since 1989. It was a miscalculation which he thought was in his own self-interest, but it was his worst sin, which caused grievous harm to Karachi, Pakistan’s economy and jolted Pakistan.
  16. National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) was his biggest blunder which cleansed the entire leadership of PPP involved in mega corruption and 8000 leaders and activists of MQM involved in heinous crimes. Condeela Rice was the moving force behind NRO which envisaged Musharraf-Benazir sharing power for next five years. It enabled the US and the UK to empower their dream team of PPP-MQM-ANP from which it was to execute the final phase of their gory plan of making Pakistan a compliant state.
  17. Musharraf paid no heed to the emerging energy crisis and despite holding all the levers of power and repeatedly pledging that he will construct the Kalabagh dam, he didn’t do so. Answering a question of Dr. Moeed Pirzada on 11th September 2016, Dunya News, he stated about Kalabagh dam: “We couldn’t construct Kalabagh dam due to political situation”. Factually, he aborted the decision to construct Kalabagh Dam after receiving a call from MQM chief Altaf Hussain. The latter is of course remote controlled by foreign agencies and India not wanting Kalabagh dam at any cost must have twisted his arm. But Musharraf oblivious of all that continuously nurtured Altaf Hussain’s MQM during 9 years of his regime.
  18. Although he claims that the Americans never interfered in high rank military postings during his regime, George Bush disclosed in his autobiography that Musharraf resigned from the post of chief of army staff, lifted the emergency and held free elections upon his strong suggestion”in the fall of 2007.( 7 ).
  19. He took official jets to set out on tours of Europe and America on promotional campaigns for boosting the sale of his book “In the Line of Fire”.
  20. Musharraf’s disclosure in the book that the US had paid millions of dollars to Pakistan for capturing Al Qaeda operatives was a humiliation for the country. Under the US law, they cannot give prize money to any government or institution, and the Govt of Pakistan has denied receiving any such payments.
  21. He couldn’t be more wrong when he tried to drag ethnicity as one the key factor for his selection as Army chief. On page 136 of his book he writes “It could be that such affronts on my part made the prime minister realize his folly in selecting me for my position. He had probably thought that being the son of immigrant parents, I would acquiesce in his demands ___ that I would feel insecure and vulnerable and do his bidding.”

Musharraf’s Achievements

He broke the isolation of Pakistan and made it relevant. He strengthened state corporations. After a long time the Railway and PIA became profitable organizations and the Steel Mills for the first time in its history earned largest profit. Inflation and prices remained within limits and value of dollar didn’t cross Rs 60. GDP was above 7% and foreign exchange reserves were increased from $ 3 million to $ 14 billion. Pakistan for the first time in its history came out of the noose of IMF and foreign debts decreased from $ 38 billion to $ 34 billion. Foundation of Diamer Bhasha dam was laid in his time, which was not pursued by the successor political regime. Ghazi Barotha project was completed during his time. There was no shortage of gas and load shedding was minimal. There was boom in property and stocks were bullish.

Al-Khalid tank was developed into a main battle tank and joint manufacture of JF-17 Thunders was undertaken which was quite an accomplishment. He established Strategic Plans Division (SPD) and placed all nuclear/missile related setups under it, which formulated comprehensive nuclear doctrine and gave the concept of minimum nuclear deterrence. Surface to surface, air to air and air to surface missiles were radically improved and work on cruise missiles and drones was initiated. Three Agosta submarines were upgraded and given capability to fire nuclear warheads while remaining 400 feet submerged in sea, giving Pakistan second strike capability. All nuclear facilities were made safe and secure under foolproof multi-layered security system compatible with international standards. Despite the fact that Dr. AQ Khan had passed on designs of old centrifuge to Iran, Libya and North Korea, Musharraf handled the crisis well and disallowed the IAEA to inspect our nuclear arsenal or to interview AQ Khan.

With regard to the oft repeated charge that Musharraf buckled under pressure and cheaply gave in to Colin Powel’s demands, in hindsight I may dare to say that it was not altogether a sellout as generally perceived. Had he refused, the US that had made up its mind to attack Afghanistan and the whole world including the UN was supportive of the military venture, would have taken on Afghanistan and Pakistan in one swipe with its air power as was suggested by India and Israel. Pakistan air force with 700 to 800 aircraft was in no position to counter the aerial cum cruise missile threat of US-NATO having 30,000 warplanes and sophisticated technology. The US-NATO airpower was in good position to destroy our communication, economic, defence infrastructures and nuclear plants.  

Our missile technology was not potent enough to do any damage particularly when the US had satellite jamming and imagery capability. Indian military for certain would have activated the eastern front to engage our ground forces once the PAF, tanks and strategic assets had been taken care of by the US B-52s, Daisy cutters, stealth helicopters and cruise missiles.

As regard the accusation that Musharraf ditched the Taliban at the behest of Washington, the Taliban had no choice but to withdraw and abandon Afghanistan in the face of systematic carpet bombing. They had no means to fight against air power. Had Pakistan been bombed and pushed to Stone Age, the Taliban could not have taken shelter in FATA/Baluchistan, regrouped and then waged a resistance war. It was simply impossible for the Taliban who had been forsaken by the world to carryout sustained struggle for 14 years without receiving training, weapons, equipment, funds and guidance and safe havens for the leaders. Haqqani network in North Waziristan and Quetta Shura could not have functioned at their own. Had it been otherwise, how come Pakistan handed over more than 3 dozens Taliban leaders to Afghan government in 2013 and 2014? It was not possible for Mulla Omar to remain off the radar all these years. He died in April 2013 but these news were learnt in July 2015.

Another accusation against him is that he antagonized the tribesmen by sending regular troops to FATA. Had he not done so, the ISAF troops would have certainly barged into SW to hunt Al-Qaeda as was being threatened. Such a move could have jeopardized the regrouping of Afghan Taliban to wage resistance movement against occupying forces.

Musharraf was also accused of hobnobbing with Israel and holding a meeting with Israeli PM In Turkey, but at the end of the day he neither recognized Israel nor opened up diplomatic relations despite lingering rumors.  But this statement of former and late Israeli President Shimon Peres cannot also be disregarded. “As a good Jewish boy, I would have never dreamed that I would pray for the safety of Musharraf, the president of Pakistan. That is a most unexpected experience.”(8).

I guess Musharraf’s best move was to push forward the Gwadar project with the help of China in 2002, which FM Ayub Khan wanted to develop as a port after he had purchased it from Oman in 1959, but Shah of Iran requested him not to do so. One reason of triggering an armed insurgency in Baluchistan by USA was Gwadar seaport.

His next best move was to sign Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project agreement. Commissioning of this project would have provided India its 40% gas need. India walked out of it not only because of the US pressure and the lure of civil nuclear deal with USA, but also because of the fact that it would have effectively neutralized India’s blackmail through water terrorism. In case of India blocking Pakistan’s water in the three rivers, Pakistan could have retaliated by blocking the vitally needed gas.   

In hindsight, weighing the mistakes and achievements of Gen Musharraf, I leave it to your judgement as to who played a better double game and who had the last laugh.


(1).Interview with “Third Eye Television” 2003

(2). In the Line of Fire, Page 90

(3). Daily Mail 2013, Qaswar Abbas

(4). In the Line of Fire, p 201.

(5). Bush at War by Bob Woodward, p 59.

(6). US threatened to bomb Pakistan back to “the Stone Age” By Kranti Kumara and Keith Jones, September 2006

(7). Decision Points, Autobiography by G.W Bush.

(8). Newsweek magazine, 5 November 2001, Washington

The writer is a war veteran, retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Director Measac Research Centre, Director Board of Governors Thinkers Forum Pakistan. He regularly takes part in TV talk shows and seminars and delivers lectures. asifharoonraja@gmail.com 

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Pakistan’s Founding Fathers 1940. What were they thinking?



What were they thinking?

Dr.Adil Najam

March 1940: What were the Founding Fathers of Pakistan thinking about the minorities 

Tomorrow we will go through the motions of celebrating Pakistan Day. With song, slogan and sincere banality we will commemorate the single most important founding document of our republic.  
A document that too many of us have never read. A document that too many others believe they know so well that they do not need to read. A document whose eventual impact its drafters could not have imagined. A document whose intent seems lost on those whose lives it transformed.

Today, let us (re-)read that document. 

March 22, is not a bad day to do so. The 27th Annual Session of the All-India Muslim League actually began in Lahore on March 22, 1940, at what was then called Minto Park and has since been renamed Iqbal Park. 

Although we celebrate Pakistan Day on March 23, formal discussion on what was originally called the Qarardad-e-Lahore (Lahore Resolution) began on March 22, it was formally proposed by Sher-e-Bengal (Lion of Bengal) Fazlul Haq on March 23, and was not officially adopted until March 24. Newspapers of the time dubbed it the “Pakistan Resolution” (Qarardad-e-Pakistan), and from then onwards that is what it became.

The resolution itself is not very long: a little more than 400 words, five paragraphs. Ambiguous as it was designed to be, it is remarkably well-crafted.

The first paragraph sets the context by “approving and endorsing” decisions already taken by the Muslim League’s Council and Working Committee. Importantly, it “emphatically reiterates that the scheme of federation embodied in the Government of India Act 1935, is totally unsuited to, and unworkable in the peculiar conditions of this country and is altogether unacceptable to Muslim India.”

The second paragraph is also about context. It very strategically reminds the viceroy that he has already agreed to reconsider the 1935 Act and goes on to very clearly assert that “Muslim India will not be satisfied unless the whole constitutional plan is reconsidered de novo and that no revised plan would be acceptable to Muslims unless it is framed with their approval and consent.” 

It is the third paragraph that lays out the substance of what today’s Pakistan has come to see as the gist of the resolution. It deserves to be quoted in full: 

“Resolved that it is the considered view of this Session of the All-India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to the Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principles, viz., that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.”

Much, of course, has been written about this part. Stanley Wolpert (Jinnah of Pakistan, 1984) points out that “Pakistan was not explicitly mentioned; nor was it clear from the language of the resolution whether a single Muslim state of both “zones” had been envisioned or two separate “autonomous” independent states.” Also ambiguous was the role of the ‘centre’ and whether these states were to be part of a larger federation or not. 

But all of that was to come much later as history overtook events as well as intent. We were still, then, in 1940; 1947 had not yet been imagined; and 2014 was unimaginable.

To me, however, the fourth paragraph is equally insightful about what was on the minds of our founding fathers on that spring day in Lahore as they debated the resolution amidst a crowd of over 100,000. This paragraph – which remains poignant in terms of today’s Pakistan – also deserves to be quoted in full: 

“That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in these units in the regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultations with them and in other parts of India where the Mussalmans are in a majority adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards shall be specifically provided in constitution for them and other minorities for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them.”

The final paragraph – in carefully crafted language – gave authority of the League’s working committee to settle the details of whatever was to happen within the “basic principles” of the resolution. 

It seems to me that there were only two ‘basic principles’ in this founding document (as contained in the third and fourth paragraphs).

First, independence – whether of a single or multiple states; whether within or outside of a federation – of the Muslim nation. Indeed, this principle of ‘nationhood’ – and a total rejection of wanting to be seen as a religious or communal minority – was the centrepiece of Jinnah’s long and powerful presidential address on March 22, 1940; exactly 74 years ago, today. 

Stanley Wolpert has described the speech as “truly a stellar performance, worthy of the lead role he alone could command” and the Times of India reported that “such was the dominance of his personality that, despite the improbability of more than a fraction of his audience understanding English, he held his hearers and played with palpable effects on their emotions.” 

However, it is not his style but the substance of what he said that is of import today: the rejection of a communal minority status and the demand for nationhood: “The Musalmans are not a minority. The Musalmans are a nation by any definition. The problem in India is not of an inter-communal but manifestly international character, and it must be treated as such… the only course open to us all is to allow the major nations separate homelands.”

The second principle – an emphasis on minority rights – may surprise the modern Pakistani reader of the resolution but flowed directly from the first even though it was more difficult to reconcile. Historian Ayesha Jalal explains these “contradictions between Muslim interests in majority and minority provinces” at length in her very elegant analysis (The Sole Spokesman, 1985). Indeed, the resolution did not fully reconcile this contradiction and history went on to play its hand as it did. 

But let us return now to 2014. Reading the text today, one finds an implied promise our founding fathers had made on our behalf: that the rights of minorities would be safeguarded. They were concerned, quite clearly, about the rights of Muslims in what would eventually become India, but in reaction to that concern they had explicitly made a promise in this founding document about the rights of non-Muslims in what is now Pakistan. It is a promise that remains unfulfilled.

So, what was it that our founding fathers were thinking of as they met in Lahore 74 years ago? A desire for independence so that our sense of nationhood could flourish. And an attention of the rights of minorities as only those who have been minorities themselves can appreciate.

Divided, torn, scarred, untrusting, angered and gnawing at each other as we are today, maybe we should be thinking of the very same things again.

The writer has taught international relations and public policy at Boston University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and was the vice chancellor of LUMS.

Twitter: @adilnajam 

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It is High Time for India to Discard the Pernicious Myth of its Medieval Muslim Rulers as ‘Villains’- By Audrey Truschke







Aurangzeb Alamgir














The Great Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir-Muslim History Distortions by Hindus in India

It is High Time for India to Discard the Pernicious Myth of its Medieval Muslim Rulers as ‘Villains’

Audrey Truschke

Whatever happened in the past, religious-based violence is real in modern India, and Muslims are frequent targets. It is thus disingenuous to single out Indian Muslim rulers for condemnation without owning up to the modern valences of that focus.
The idea that medieval Muslim rulers wreaked havoc on Indian culture and society – deliberately and due to religious bigotry – is a ubiquitous notion in 21st century India. Few people seem to realise that the historical basis for such claims is shaky to non-existent. Fewer openly recognise the threat that such a misreading of the past poses for modern India.
Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal Emperor (r. 1658-1707), is perhaps the most despised of India’s medieval Muslim rulers. People cite various alleged “facts” about Aurangzeb’s reign to support their contemporary condemnation, few of which are true. For instance, contrary to widespread belief, Aurangzeb did not destroy thousands of Hindu temples. He did not perpetrate anything approximating a genocide of Hindus. He did not instigate a large-scale conversion program that offered millions of Hindu the choice of Islam or the sword.
In short, Aurangzeb was not the Hindu-hating, Islamist tyrant that many today imagine him to have been. And yet the myth of malevolent Aurangzeb is seemingly irresistible and has captured politicians, everyday people, and even scholars in its net. The damage that this idea has done is significant. It is time to break this mythologized caricature of the past wide open and lay bare the modern biases, politics, and interests that have fuelled such a misguided interpretation of India’s Islamic history.
A recent article on this website cites a series of inflammatory claims about Indo-Muslim kings destroying premodern India’s Hindu culture and population. The article admits that “these figures are drawn from the air” and historians give them no credence. After acknowledging that the relevant “facts” are false, however, the article nonetheless posits that precolonial India was populated by “religious chauvinists,” like Aurangzeb, who perpetrated religiously-motivated violence and thus instigated “historical injustices” to which Hindus can rightly object today. This illogical leap from a confessed lack of reliable information to maligning specific rulers is the antithesis of proper history, which is based on facts and analysis rather than unfounded assumptions about the endemic, unchanging nature of a society.
A core aspect of the historian’s craft is precisely that we cannot assume things about the past. Historians aim to recover the past and to understand historical figures and events on their own terms, as products of their time and place. That does not mean that historians sanitize prior events. Rather we refrain from judging the past by the standards of the present, at least long enough to allow ourselves to glimpse the logic and dynamics of a historical period that may be radically different from our own.
Going back more than a millennium earlier, Hindu rulers were the first to come up with the idea of sacking one another’s temples, before Muslims even entered the Indian subcontinent. But one hears little about these “historical wrongs”
In the case of Indian Muslim history, a core notion that is hard for modern people to wrap our heads around is as follows: It was not all about religion.
Aurangzeb, for instance, acted in ways that are rarely adequately explained by religious bigotry. For example, he ordered the destruction of select Hindu temples (perhaps a few dozen, at most, over his 49-year reign) but not because he despised Hindus. Rather, Aurangzeb generally ordered temples demolished in the aftermath of political rebellions or to forestall future uprisings. Highlighting this causality does not serve to vindicate Aurangzeb or justify his actions but rather to explain why he targeted select temples while leaving most untouched. Moreover, Aurangzeb also issued numerous orders protecting Hindu temples and communities from harassment, and he incorporated more Hindus into his imperial administration than any Mughal ruler before him by a fair margin. These actions collectively make sense if we understand Aurangzeb’s actions within the context of state interests, rather than by ascribing suspiciously modern-sounding religious biases to him.
Regardless of the historical motivations for events such as premodern temple destructions, a certain percentage of modern Indians nonetheless feel wronged by their Islamic past. What is problematic, they ask, about recognising historical injustices enacted by Muslim figures? In this regard, the contemporaneity of debates over Indian history is crucial to understanding why the Indo-Islamic past is singled out.
For many people, condemnations of Aurangzeb and other medieval Indian rulers stem not from a serious assessment of the past but rather from anxieties over India’s present and future, especially vis-à-vis its Muslim minority population. After all, one might ask: If we are recognising injustices in Indian history, why are we not also talking about Hindu rulers? When judged according to modern standards, medieval rulers the world over measure up poorly, and Hindu kings are no exception. Medieval Hindu political leaders destroyed mosques periodically, for instance, including in Aurangzeb’s India. Going back more than a millennium earlier, Hindu rulers were the first to come up with the idea of sacking one another’s temples, before Muslims even entered the Indian subcontinent. But one hears little about these “historical wrongs” for one reason: They were perpetrated by Hindus rather than Muslims.
Religious bigotry may not have been an overarching problem in India’s medieval past, but it is a crucial dynamic in India’s present. Religious-based violence is real in modern India, and Muslims are frequent targets. Non-lethal forms of discrimination and harassment are common. Fear is part of everyday life for many Indian Muslims.  Thus, when scholars compare medieval Islamic rulers like Aurangzeb to South Africa’s twentieth-century apartheid leaders, for example, they not only display a surprising lack of commitment to the historical method but also provide fodder for modern communal fires.
It is high time we discarded the pernicious myth of India’s medieval Muslim villains. This poisonous notion imperils the tolerant foundations of modern India by erroneously positing religious-based conflict and Islamic extremism as constant features of life on the subcontinent. Moreover, it is simply bad history. India has a complicated and messy past, and we do it and ourselves no justice by flattening its nuances to reflect the religious tensions of the present.

Audrey Truschke is a historian at Stanford University and Rutgers University-Newark. Her first book, Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court will be published by Columbia University Press and Penguin India in 2016. She is currently working on a book on Aurangzeb that will published by Juggernaut Books.


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Note on Gen Sahibzada Yaqub Ali ​Khan ​by Col (Retd) ABDUL QAYYUM

The Sahabzada never stooped to conquer












Note on Gen Sahibzada Yaqub Ali ​Khan 




Part III: Perception

Having observed the Sahabzada over many years and in a variety of situations, my own understanding of the man having grown over the years without any bias toward unwarranted adulation or contempt, I like to think I know the Sahabzada better than many. My summary perception of the man follows.

Yaqub Khan has been the most outstanding general the Pakistan Army has produced, including those who rose higher than him in formal rank or official authority. It is no particular honour to be associated in any way with the Pakistan of our times but I do believe that the quality of his generalship would have won wider recognition had he served in say the British, the French or the German Army. His style of leadership was essentially insular and English, its intellectual content essentially occidental and continental. His legacy to the Pakistan Army, although widely acknowledged and admired, is clearly on its way out. Little understood and even less absorbed, it has been instinctively rejected as alien to the native mould. The transplant has failed. The fault is as much ours as his, the loss more ours than his. If the legacy does survive in some minuscule and mutilated form, say at the National Defence College, it will continue as an isolated annex of the native’s residential palace.

The style and the intellectual content of the Sahabzada’s generalship was suited to the higher direction of war. Since we never had a war, not really, and the vision of our generals seldom went beyond the range of regimental command, it was a death foretold. Now, not far from his rocking chair, I wonder what the Sahabzada makes of it all. He will find some consolation though in the diplomatic phase of his illustrious career. The debacle in East Pakistan (1971), in the twilight zone of his own transition from the military to the diplomatic, will continue to rankle not only because of the bravado of those who sought a military solution to a political and psychosocial problem, but also because of his failure to dissuade them, and having failed not to resign earlier than he did as a conscientious objector. Once again it was a death foretold and the Sahabzada was trapped among the lemmings rushing to the sea. And yet, he may console himself over the fact that he did not order the military action in March 1970, nor did he preside over the surrender to a foreign army in 1971.

Like a revolution, an army devours its own geniuses. This is particularly true of countries in the Third World. On the individual plane every Napoleon marches steadily to his own Waterloo, but we may focus our attention for the while on the institution itself. It is the army which helped the Sahabzada become what he had it in him to be. It sent him to the Ecole de Guerre and when he came out of it as the Ecole wanted him to be, it scoffed at him for having gone there It groomed him, without knowing it, to be the commander of an armoured division and then stared at him in derision when he talked of “launching pads”, of the many nuances of the operational environment in the Sialkot sector, of the chain of command and the importance of staff duties in the conduct of operations, divisional level and above. As an institution, the army understood only the battle at the battalion level. This was war, real war, the rest was humbug. Of operations at the divisional and corps level, and the conduct of war at the apex, it knew little and did not care to know more.

Since the Sahabzada insisted, they sent him to the National Defence College. When he asked his star-studded students to leave the Staff College (Quetta) behind as he had done, they smiled. When they left, they reverted to their battle at the battalion level. The army which prized its gladiators found a clever and easy way to get rid of the Sahabzada. It made him the commander of a corps and then shoved him out to distant East Pakistan as GOC Eastern Command.

There the Sahabzada blew his lungs out: this is not war, this is civil war. There must be stringent limits to the use of force as an instrument of policy and he warned of the dangers of force once unleashed careening out of control. I told you, said the top brass: he is no warrior, only a paper tiger! The gladiators not far below applauded. When the tigers were unleashed, they inflicted on East Pakistan (in 1970 already Bangladesh) a wound that will never heal, not even the scar that we would now be content with. Equally horrendous, they forced a fourth class army to its knees before a third class adversary. Even now they continue to exult over gallantry at the battalion level.

When Yaqub Khan entered the field of diplomacy, honed and chastened by many years of the rigours of high command, his intellectual and cultural accomplishments made him at home in many capitals of the world, particularly those of consequence in our day. Our genius at the top (1972) and his minions in the Foreign Office were glad to have him out where he was – in Paris, Washington or Moscow.

They were suspicious of his military background and the respect that he still evoked in the army that discarded him. The few who applauded, applauded his English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, a smattering of Arabic and Bengali. I forgot, also his mother tongue. Things changed when the genius was out (LBW and hit-wicket) and Zia-ul-Haq sauntered in, bat in hand (1977). It took a Zia-ul-Haq (“of all people”, I have heard it said) to bring the Sahabzada home and make him the Foreign Minister.

As minister, the Sahabzada taught our boys to read, write and, above all, to think. Many in the Foreign Office even today will bear witness to my assertion. The Sahabzada not only formulated and conducted our foreign policy well, he groomed others to do likewise, come their day. The Sahabzada had an eye for men. He knew how to pick, choose and polish. Go ask an Ashraf Qazi or a Rafat Mahdi, and they will tell you what I mean.

When the Sahabzada stood up in the Senate to explain our foreign policy, most of his audience yawned. Not surprising, but surely painful. The Sahabzada was always better understood abroad than at home, in the halls of Montezuma or simply chatting with Henry Kissinger. His frequent flights abroad were, I suspect, as much an escape as a compulsion to return. Like Jonathon Livingston Seagull, he loved his boys in the Foreign Office.

When the Sahabzada called it a day as Foreign Minister, he had the wisdom not to become a politician, not here, so help us God! Just as he knew the limits of force (1971), so also he knew the limits of power (1988), and his own limitations in this sorry scheme of things entire.

I have seen the Sahabzada long enough and from close enough to admire him both as a military commander and as our Foreign Minister. At one stage I wondered how he could possibly serve under Zia-ul-Haq. Now I know. For one thing, he knew Zia-ul-Haq better than most and he did not quarrel with destiny when his GSO-I became the CMLA/COAS/President. For another, Zia-ul-Haq knew the Sahabzada better than many and he never ceased to pay him the respect that was his due. When an equation is well balanced, the entities may switch sides. They remain the same, only the signs change as the law ordains. No entity runs out of the equation. If it is cricket you play, captain one day and only bowler or batsman the next, you play on. Many I know will say they were not playing cricket at all. I have very good reasons to disagree.

While still on the Sahabzada’s professional performance, how would he have fared if destiny had steered him into another profession? As a catholic priest he would have risen to be a cardinal, sonorous of speech and resplendent in his crimson and black robes. As an actor on stage, he would merit his place of honour in Stratford – on – Avon. As a professor of philosophy in Cambridge or Harvard, he would have been as abstract and abstruse as he appeared to our Senate. That should have taken him to professor emeritus. A politician? No, for God’s sake, no. I have said that before! A Senator? Well, that he was, but alas, not in the days of imperial Rome! A trouble-shooter? With Kissinger, yes; to the Polisario, yes; with Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, no! What about a few lectures on national security? To King Hasan II of Morocco, yes; to Mirza Aslam Beg and his friends, no! I could go on, but more is not necessary.

I find it instructive to contemplate that the Sahabzada’s formal academic qualification was matriculation, ‘O’ level to be precise. By that count, he would barely qualify as a Naib Qasid, just as surely as Mr. Catchpole would have refused many of our present day Ph.Ds, admission into class VI. What are we to make of this, except to observe how far a man may go if he is ready to educate himself. I have met few men in Pakistan as erudite as the Sahabzada. His library, where he sips tea with his friends, is a joy to be in. The range of the books is vast – from history, philosophy, metaphysics, logic and mysticism to strategy and tactics, science, fiction, travelogue, biography, the fine arts and architecture. My enumeration does not presume to be complete. His selection is rigorous, the layout is in his mind. The last time I was there (1997) we talked about Ibn Arabi and Zen Buddhism. I was also glad, and proud of my contribution (not financial), to see the Great books of the Western World (54 volumes) add splendour to his already illustrious collection. At the RIMC reunion the other day (March 1998), so cosily arranged by Brigadier Mukhtar Karim at the Adventure Inn (Islamabad), I talked to him about Nirad C. Chaudhri’s Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse and he said he would get a copy. We also talked about Pakistan, the land of our day and the horsemen, more precisely the donkey-riders who go galloping on their donkeys, down a motorway into the wide blue yonder.

The Sahabzada is a great conversationalist, cast in the classical mould which rejects the idea of flitting from flower to flower without sipping the honey. He can sip long, and he expects the others to sip when he is talking. When he talks he is expansive, exhaustive, with precision no bar to eloquence, loud and clear. Sometimes it is a voice from very far away, sometimes from very near. Some think he is pompous. I disagree, his Stratford-on-Avon notwithstanding. It takes at least two to make a conversation and the Sahabzada shuts up soon enough when there is no one to talk to, attendance without presence or presence without preparation! Alas, there are not too many Henry Kissingers around. Some say the Sahabzada is boring. Of course he is, if you go to him expecting to hear more about cabbages than kings. He wont say it, but I know he does not like cabbages. Muzaffar Malik, who derived much of his vocabulary from the Sahabzada, called everyone who appeared a little dense to him a Kaddu. A very distant derivation that, because when the Sahabzada spoke he spoke mostly in English, except when talking to JCOs and J


wans. When I told Muzaffar that Cabbage would be the more appropriate word, he insisted on calling me a Kaddu.

The trouble with the Sahabzada, among other troubles, is that he speaks English. In the Pakistan of our day that language evokes either stupefaction or contempt, or both. You then have the sorry spectacle of a versatile linguist not being understood, or being misunderstood, even in the language that we commonly speak. Talking in French, Russian or German would not help. Were the Sahabzada to speak in Urdu, which he infrequently does, I know of many who would be mystified to hear the language as it was originally spoken in homes where language mattered. English or Urdu, the trouble is not with the language or the Sahabzada, but the sorry pass to which linguistic competence has come in a land which has given up on thinking. It had to be so, because the two are inseparably interlinked: no thought, no language; no language, no thought. Each stunting the other, we remain stunted in both. Urdu has the advantage, particularly in its vulgar form, of striking a chord with the common crowd and even the intelligentsia in our land. So, why wont the Sahabzada switch to Urdu? I suspect he finds English the more appropriate medium of communication, for both perception and expression, when the ideas to be communicated are subtle, lofty or deep, scientific or cold, not too warm or elusive, very far or just too close. The Sahabzada knows we can be very warm and very elusive in Urdu, and he will go with us to a Mushaira any day, but that is about all. When the rational intellect is in operation, the Sahabzada sticks to English. It helps him to be precise, clear, disciplined, intense in his focus on an idea, clinical in its exposition. This hankering after precision, clarity and discipline makes the Sahabzada so difficult to swallow. We like it woolly and warm, he likes it cold and straight. No snuggling with the Sahabzada, when the rational intellect is in operation! The trouble is it is so often, so long, so intensely in operation.

The Sahabzada runs the risk of being dubbed as another intellectual in a land where so few think. We forget that as rational animals we are all expected to think, an activity not as uncommon as it has become. What distinguishes the Sahabzada, however, from the rest of us who also think is his exaltation of the rational intellect to a point where it becomes the supreme controlling authority in the mental make-up of a man. It leads to what George Santayana called “the life reason”. The Sahabzada is not the only one in this category of men, not even in Pakistan. Unlike Zia-ul-Haq, he has seldom found it possible to act contrary to reason. The less said about Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the better, his many intellectual accomplishments notwithstanding. What makes the Sahabzada a true representative of “the life of reason” is a decent blend of rational activity and a solid moral purpose which is universal in its content. Whether he learnt this “in the sand-pile at Sunday school” I do not know but this is how David Fulghum sums it up (All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten, Random House (Ballantine Books), New York):-

“Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take thinks that aren’t yours.
Say sorry when you hurt somebody
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life: learn some and think some,
and draw and paint, and sing and dance and
play and work everyday, some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.
Be aware of wonder……”







Except for warm cookies and a nap every afternoon, the Sahabzada I have known seldom faltered in his observance of these basic rules. Look at our men at the top. With very few exceptions, they have shared nothing, seldom played fair, hit people all over the place. They have seldom put things back where they found them, never cleaned up their own mess. They have taken, shamelessly and voraciously, things that were never theirs. They did not even wash their hands before they ate what their hands never earned. They have never been good at flushing, either their own potty or that of previous governments. They have slept not just of an afternoon but at a stretch for fifty years. I do not have to go on and you do not have to be a research scholar to confirm the veracity of what I have said.

The Sahabzada has always been a stickler for punctuality: unlike Zia-ul-Haq who was always running late, unlike Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who thought it was his privilege to keep others waiting. When the Sahabzada called you at 10. O’clock, he meant 10 O’clock, period. If you came a minute too early, you ran the risk of catching him with his pants down. If you came a minute late, you found him waiting for you staring at the clock. The Sahabzada never kept anyone waiting. It was the same with the submission of returns to a higher authority, replying to a letter regardless of whom it came from, appearing at a conference, a lecture or a dinner, calling on a friend or catching him on a stroll at the appointed time and place. The Sahabzada never kept anyone waiting.

The Sahabzada has always been fussy, even fastidious, in matters of personal cleanliness and dress. I have seen him wash his hands more often than he needed to, change his dress like an actor for every new scene. He has always been correctly dressed, often exasperatingly so, with an eye for sartorial elegance too exalted for me to comprehend. Sometimes I have been amused, but I always took care to conceal my amusement. Better though than Zulfikar Ali Bhutto tearing his shirt at a public meeting; several notches lower than Zia-ul-Haq in his simple Shalwar and Kurta half an hour before sundown and the call to prayer.

Whenever he wanted a drink other than water, the Sahabzada asked for Cidrex (apple juice, that is, for the curious among the defenders of Islam). But that was long ago, when 11 Cavalry (FF) was 11 Cavalry (FF). Now, he puts up with 7-Up. He continues to be frugal in the substance of his meals, with just a shade (or some shades) of relaxation in style. He remains a stickler for discipline, good order, decorum, decency – all those qualities of self-restraint which have been for so long part and parcel of his unwritten inner constitution. He was, unlike Zia-ul-Haq, incapable of launching a coup; unlike Benazir, incapable of screaming in revolt. He always stood in awe before the majesty of the law, howsoever dilapidated its condition of a given moment in time. Unlike Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, he went by the rules and never manipulated the law. Unlike Zia-ul-Haq, he never rolled up his sleeves in support of a friend in need or in pursuit of a foe in flight. Admirable in some ways and not so admirable in some, particularly when you consider the good among your friends (the bad have no business to be within the circle) and when the foes in flight are among the supreme rascals of the time. The Sahabzada always refused to make a wider mess of things. In the process, he failed to clear the mess from before, added very little of his own and went away content with clearing his own little mess. The Sahabzada is, in my estimate, precisely the kind of man we need as a constitutional president. But we have got what we deserve: Rafiq Ahmad Tarar.

Far from the madding crowd, on top of the hill – that is where the Sahabzada deserved a habitation and a name. But it was not to be, because the crowd was just too big, the ratio of rascals to good men highly unfavourable, the proportion of Muslims to the peddlers of Islam fatally adverse. It could not have become the acropolis, it would have remained the Aiwan-e-Sadar. I suspect the Sahabzada is glad he never got there, the triumph of reason over blind enterprise: better the Foreign Minister that he was, not the silly and sorry president that he might have become. The Sahabzada is no angel, but he instinctively withdrew from where even angels fear to tread. Not so with Zia-ul-Haq, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir, Nawaz Sharif. They raced in with Iblis for company and Iblis rejoiced when his minions gave even Zia-ul-Haq the slip.

Much as I know the construction of the Sahabzada’s mind and much as I have observed him over the years, there is one area that remains totally dark. I know nothing about the emotional life of the man and it is dangerous to speculate without a minimal level of observation and immediate knowledge. Mediate inference, Sir Francis Bacon observed, without an adequate base of empirical data, is an unwarranted enterprise. I shall not speculate. I shall only observe that the Sahabzada was an intensely private man, discreet, wanted no stranger in his bedroom, not even to gaze on a Renoir. The Begum remained inscrutable, her talk giving me no clue to the structure of either her mind or her experience. One of their boys took some lessons from me in English composition, but he went out as breezily as he came in, with God knows what on his mind.

I know the Sahabzada was well-versed in human psychology and had a profound interest in mysticism, from Zen to Talmudic to Theravadan, Christian and Islamic. Where he went from there I do not know and I never asked. Unknown are the ways of the spirit, even to the man lying awake in the dark.

On a more mundane level, I do not know whether the Sahabzada picked up the baby and allowed it to wet his three-piece suit from Saville Row. Once again, I do not know. What I do know is I never saw the Sahabzada even in a night gown, let alone anything more brief. Very different from my father, who could talk to a university professor or the janitor, clad in whatever he was in: a Sherwani or just a lungi (no ganji, no sandals). Like the Sahabzada, he kept no one waiting. But he was no Sahabzada.


Part IV: Epilogue

Contrary to common practice, I am not going to show this manuscript to the Sahabzada. He will read it after it has been published, as I hope he will. This will assure me and all who read it that this assessment is mine, not a doctored one nor a command performance. Whether I am right or wrong does not bother me, because I have been genuine, hopefully not dumb, hopefully also clear and forthright. I do not have to talk to the Sahabzada any more, I do not have to “interview” him as they say. I have talked to him often and long enough, from 1953 to 1998.

Talking to other people is another matter, for a clearer perception of one’s own perceptions. The procedure is valid so long as there is no preconceived purpose, no desire to arrive at modifications one way or the other except in stringent pursuit of the truth. This is more difficult than we usually think, particularly when the object of our enquiry is a man or a woman, not an event or an issue. Talking about Zia-ul-Haq or the Sahabzada is a more exacting exercise than talking about the Indian Ocean and national security. It is also more interesting.

Only yesterday I was out on just such an exercise, called to lunch by my sister-in-law. Also present were her daughter and an amiable gentleman by the name of Abbas. The younger woman was not too young, an observation to assure you that she was mature. She was also good looking, well groomed, intelligent, successful, a woman on the trot in Pakistan’s rough polo-ground. I add the good looking bit, because you know how it is with women who have been denied destiny’s first compliment to womanhood. I expected her, quite rightly, to be neither bitter nor sour, objective and candid in her comments on the topic foremost on my mind these days.

Before lunch Parveen took a back-seat and I squatted on the floor next to my sister-in-law to read aloud the anecdotes of my encounter with the Sahabzada. There were peals of laughter, squeals of delight (thank God for intelligent female company) and some exclamation of wonder and disbelief. I screeched to a halt when the anecdotes were over. I had no intention of going on to my own estimate of the man. It was time for lunch, time for the younger woman to talk, time for me to listen.

She said she was drawn to the Sahabzada by tales of his intellectual eminence and cultural splendour. She said she was disappointed. She found him, in a word, shallow. As I munched my rice, which was good, I did some elaboration within myself: pompous, windy, expansive, ornate, high pressure with nothing to compress. She cited examples from lectures she had attended, conferences she had attended, board meetings where the Sahabzada spoke from his place of eminence and even Mahboob-ul-Haq listened in respectful silence. The Sahabzada never stooped to conquer; and without any desire to be conquered, she found him intolerable. She said she had never met a man who could speak so eloquently for so long, and end up saying nothing. She quoted several phrases, several turns of speech and flocks of words in flight which I readily recognized as vintage Sahabzada. She recalled a meeting on the empowerment of women at which the Sahabzada devoted the longer part of his address to the philosophy of the quintessential woman, her psyche, her soma, her needs and her aspirations in a cruelly male-dominated society. Such deprivation, said the Sahabzada, was intolerable. The younger woman at lunch found him even more so.

So, I said to myself: a man much too preoccupied with himself, with no clue as to how to tame the shrew, making much ado about nothing, prolonging the agony for others. The woman at lunch was visibly distressed. He goes round and round, she complained, round and round without a centre to his circle. My mind strayed to the whirling dervishes of Konya and Jalaluddin Rumi’s beautiful poem quoted in part by A.J. Arberry in his ‘Sufism’ (George Allen and Unwin, London). I was jolted out of my reverie when the woman at lunch suddenly stopped: “I told you, he is shallow. Thank you very much. I have to go now for a conference at 3.30 P.M.” Woman on the trot, thank you for your comments.


So, what has gone wrong? Has my estimate of the Sahabzada been stupid or is the lady’s estimate altogether too harsh? Question not wrongly formulated, because it has led me to at least a tentative answer. The explanation may lie in the human condition of the observers, compounded by the condition of the object itself. I saw the Sahabzada when I was young and impressionable; what is more, when he was on the rise. The lady saw the Sahabzada when she herself was fully mature (over the edge from motherhood into grand-motherhood); what is more, she caught the Sahabzada on the decline. I have seen him also across a much wider range of activity. There is, of course, much more to a man than the manner of his speech. The lady’s observations are intense and acute, not wrong but limited. As for compassion, the lady may find it possible to forgive the Sahabzada say twenty years from now when she becomes, I pray, a great grandmother. It takes that long to understand why old men (and women) talk too much. The greater tragedy, as I see it, is when they become altogether silent, staring at the wall or rocking in their chair. I have never been a patient man myself, but now I tremble as I see it coming. We do not choose how long we live, God decides.

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The Shows goes on. By Mahfooz ur Rahman


The Shows goes on.

“ As flies to wanton boys are to the gods

They kill us for sport .” Shakespeare’s “ King Lear  “

Mahfooz ur Rahman







Writing on Pakistan’s politics is beginning to be a tedious affair . It is a play that has no plot , no beginning and no end . No excitement from the drab and dreary humdrum of everyday life . Winning or losing , the same old , tired and worn out faces are to be seen adorning the newspapers or the TV Channels . Even the daily newspapers are pictures of the gloomy atmosphere .

Each political party is a fiefdom of its own where the fiat of big or petty  ‘monarch’  is abided by or else the defiant ones are crushed . There is no notion of shadow governments or shadow  cabinets . That is a play that is going on since Mr. Jinnah departed from the scene in 1948 . Talking about reforms is an illusion .    

Imagine a scene in which you are trying to sleep during the day and a bird flits and begins to sing . Whatever you  do to make it fly away turns out to be  futile . You are really mad at the innocent creature . The world is seeing the discomfiture of the present Government . It is standing static unable to drive the ghosts of Imran Khan and Taher ul Qadri . It has been reduce to a passive mode , a reaction mode . Meanwhile the two are making further inroads into the interior of the country , into the cities and into various communities or eg . farmers , workers none the less  equipped legally to which the Government has no answer except to hurl abuses at them .

“ Never trust the wisdom of a slave “ is an oft quoted advice perhaps by Hazrat Ali ( May Allah be pleased with him) . Here I reproduce an incident  about which I wrote in my article “ Buttering “  . In a meeting held in Islamabad , a participant referred to the department’s newly announced policy and also to the Battle of Badr ,which was fought on 17th Ramazan and in which the Muslims were victorious by the Grace of Allah . He said , addressing the boss ,that the Battle of Badr was fought on 17thRamazan and he( the boss)  announced the country’s policy on 17th Ramazan . All the participants were dumbfounded at his audacity .

Thus Pakistan has been caught at a vortex . Democracy  in its present shape has failed in Pakistan . It has never delivered however its supporters otherwise  claim . It suits the robber barons , the landed aristocracy, the major and small capitalists who  plunder  the exchequer and exploit the under privileged ones . There was a time when twenty two families used to hold sway in the country . The twenty two have swelled to much more .   

During my four months stay in an European city  forty years back, a man who had features like a Pakistani or an Indian , used to cross my path both mornings and evenings . One day , I stopped him to question about his nationality . His reply “ does it matter “ put me off . He repeated his observation and went on to say that when the purpose of making Pakistan could not be fulfilled , it did not matter whether I was  a Pakistani or an Indian .

A solid advantage has been achieved  by the fifty two day sit in  by  the duo of Imran Khan and Taher ul Qadri . Apart from being unique in the 67 years history of Pakistan and , perhaps the world over  , the rest of the major political parties were clean bowled , the batsmen could only gape in awe . Never in the history of this unfortunate land , they met their equals who badly exposed them  ,  disrobed them and shown the rest of the people what they actually were by using the facilities of telecasting their views  provided by an army general , Pervez  Musharraf . They robbed the common people of their Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution . You may not like Imran Khan and Dr. Qadri  . But it is difficult to disagree whatever they had to say because both Imran and Dr. Qadri were speaking of the basic  rights and the   Constitution . And it was last year when the latter held a five day sit in in Islamabad to emphasize the futility of participating in the elections unless all candidates were screened through Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution .      

The ‘independent’ Election Commission of Pakistan has lost its trust from the rigged elections between Field Marshal Ayub Khan , the President ,and Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah , the sister of the Founder of Pakistan and  onwards . Henceforth , it was viewed as another arm of the Government . The 18th Amendment to the Constitution did not remove the impression . On the contrary , the reconstituted Commission was viewed as a part of the Charter of Democracy signed by Mrs . Benazir Bhutto , the leader of the Peoples Party , and Mian Nawaz Sharif , the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League in London during the “ oppressive days  of the dictator , General Musharraf“ .

Where do we go now ?

Both the Government and the people are confused and lacking in direction . We are rotten to the core horizontally and vertically ie from the top to the bottom .  Army intervention is not a permanent solution as we have seen in the past .  It breeds many evils for eg. flight of capital . Even then some well meaning people are suggesting a government of the Technocrats under the army’s umbrella  to replace the current government  and cleanse the  entire society . This experiment has been tried by every military regime .  Ayub Khan screened out 72 bureaucrats , General Yahya Khan 303 and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto 1300 . Some of the screened out officers were not corrupt . To cleanse the society of ills , the Hadood Ordinance was introduced but  never used after General Zia , the President , died . 

There is talk of mid term polls in the country .   The present government is unwilling to resign and call for fresh elections . However , if it does , which Election Commission would be willing to undertake the task when the present one  failed to hold free and fair elections the task of that Statutory organization . In its “ Post Election Review Report on General Elections 2013 “ , the Commission admitted its failure .

Under the 18th Amendment , the leader of the House  i.e. the Prime Minister , and the leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly are supposed to choose of the Chairman of the Election Commission . But the experiment failed  in the previous elections and with both the leader of  the House and the leader of the opposition under clouds . Both Imran Khan and Dr. Qadri and their supporters  will no longer trust them .

 Pakistan is ripe for  constitutional ( Fundamental Rights and Articles 62 and 63 ) and social reforms without which any elections will be meaningless .

In the end I will reproduce the views of Mr . Mumtaz Piracha of the Good Governance Forum  

“ Contrary to general perception, I believe the long march and the dharna by PTI, in particular, highlighted bad governance in Pakistan. Look at the foreign media and you will find that there is only passing reference to rigging allegations and the allegation on military to have backed Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri but there is tremendous focus on the way Nawaz Sharif governs, the Sharifs’ dynastic politics and the PMLN’s performance since last elections. The domestic media have been more focused on rigging allegations but bad governance also remained in focus “.

 Mahfooz ur Rahman


October 5, 2014


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