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Old Tuesday, August 07, 2012
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Dismemberment of Pakistan


“Learning from experience is a faculty almost never practiced.”

Introduction: Remembrance of national tragedies is as important as celebrating victories. In short but tremulous history of our beloved homeland, we have often found ourselves pitched against mighty challenges – in both scope and scale, sometimes by chance and sometimes by design. We managed to negotiate many of them fairly, if not with perfection like achievement of Nuclear capability as a minimum deterrent despite inordinate global pressure and offsetting Brass tacks crisis (1986-87). Butone such instance has become a perpetual source of torment and shame for us – Dismemberment of Pakistan. The purpose of writing this article is to review the catechism of this tragedy and to evaluate our post debacle national performance to understand whether or not we have learnt any lessons from it and to trace its relevance with our contemporary socio-politics.Separation of East Pakistan was a tremendous loss and unbearable tragedy. Cocktail of various factors generated, directed and expedited the flow of unfortunate events towards this debacle. It was the outcome of perpetual deficit of good governance which created an unbridgeable hiatus between the two wings of Pakistan. The bruised sentiments of National unity and the constant conflict between them dramatically erupted into mass civil disorder that was blatantly and shamefully fuelled by India, which tragically resulted in the brutal and violent amputation of Pakistan’s Eastern Wing.

It is a rebuke to our political sagacity that we failed to mature the dream of our founding fathers right from the first step i.e. we miserably failed in framing a unanimously agreed upon constitution. Whereas in India, passed by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, the constitution came into effect on January 26, 1950.

Political factors

i. Delay in Framing Constitution: It is a rebuke to our political sagacity that we failed to mature the dream of our founding fathers right from the first step i.e. we miserably failed in framing a unanimously agreed upon constitution. Whereas in India, passed by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, the constitution came into effect on January 26, 1950.

“The delay in producing a constitutional framework made the reconciliation of these two dialectically different inheritances a far more difficult and almost hopeless task.”
-Lawrence Ziring


ii. Flawed ‘One Unit’ system: Though in theory one Unit system was in vogue but practically West Pakistan enjoyed the superiority because had it not been the case, Awami league would have been allowed by the west Pakistan’s administrative elite to form the government after its blazing victory in 1970’s elections.

iii. Dysfunctional Democracy:

“Our history of dysfunctional democracy has caused us great grief, most hauntingly in the separation of East Pakistan in 1971…”
-President Musharraf
In the Line of Fire


iv. The war of 1965 and flawed military strategy: Ayub Khan had developed the fatal theory that the defence of East Pakistan lay in the West. Therefore the East Pakistanis were left undefended and completely abandoned to their fate. This policy only added to the feeling of isolation and alienation in East Pakistan.

v. Role of Mujeeb Ur Rehman: Mujeeb, in the words of Yahya khan, was “an unreliable and immature person” who thrived on publicity and mass hysteria, could only gesticulate and shout and was incapable of analyzing and thinking. His uncompromising insistence on his infamous 6-points agenda and equally rigid response of Mr. Bhutto made reconciliation, virtually, an impossible task.
“Awami league demanded nothing less than the break-up of Pakistan.”
-Lawrence Ziring


vi. Role of Ayub Khan: Three of the Prime Ministers hailing from East Pakistan – Khawaja Nazimuddin, Mohammad Ali Bogra and Suhrawardy – were manoeuvred out of office by the west Pakistani elite. Ayub Khan’s martial law proved to be the proverbial last straw.

vii. Hostility of India and Mukti Bahni: It was a regional sectarian force, created and trained by BSF, to challenge the authority of Pakistan Army. It escalated the violence into a full-fledged civil war.

viii. Imposition of Marital law: Ayub khan’s decision to hand over the power to the then army chief Gen. Yahya instead of politicians, as a quid to escape a public trial further worsened the already tensed environment.

ix. Negative attitude of leaders of East Pakistan: Taj-ud-din Ahmad, General Secretary Awami League said in 1970 that

“A class of exploiters belonging to western region had sucked east Pakistan for the last 23 years. History of Pakistan is the history of conspiracy and a history of continued oppression.”

2. Economic Factor


i. Economic inequality of both the wings: It was widely and pervasively shared thought – though not without some substance – that more funds were allocated to West Pakistan and the development of the other half was altogether neglected.

ii. Larger share of West Pakistanis in administration and Army: The medium built Bengalis found it quite difficult to finesse their way to Army as compared to the strong built Punjabis and Pathans. Though there was no discrimination in recruitment process but unfortunately it was interpreted with the mindset of narrow nationalism.

3. Geographical factors

i. Geographical discontinuity:.

“The integration of the nation, split at its birth into two segments separated from one another by a thousand miles of India territory, was a daunting exercise.”
-Lawrence Ziring


ii. Flood of 1970: Government acted quite late to carry out the relief operation during the heavy flood of 1970 that caused havoc in East Pakistan and the sheer enormity of the disaster attracted worldwide attention. Sheikh Mujeeb cashed the opportunity and ignited the sentiments of sedition of general populace by labelling it as a deliberate delay on the part of West Pakistan because it was least concerned by the sufferings and plight of the East.

“When the Pakistan government finally acted, its assistance was only a fraction of that provided by international agencies…”
-Lawrence Ziring


4. Social Factors

i. Language and emotive issues: This was the first schism in the Centre-East Pakistan relationship and developed immediately after the Quaid declared in a speech in Dhaka on March 24, 1948, that Urdu alone would be the official language of Pakistan. This took an ugly turn when 3 students of Dhaka University were killed by the riot police when they were protesting against the announcement.

ii. No attempt for cultural unity of both the wings: No attempts were made to develop common cultural ties and solidarity between both the blocs. Bengalis resented that even though they were learning the Urdu language yet there was no desire amongst the Western half to learn Bangla language.

5. Administrative Factors

i. Issue of the Capital: East Pakistan, that was culturally homogenised, politically sensitive and socially united, wanted to have Dhaka as the capital of Pakistan but instead of negotiating a mutually agreed upon solution to this problem, unilaterally, Karachi was declared capital of Pakistan, a decision that was greatly resented by East Pakistan.

ii. Military Operation: Instead of following a proper course to develop political reconciliation through negotiations with the spirit of mutual accommodation, the Government resorted to the easy-looking but fateful option of launching military operation “Search Light”. Atrocities were committed in the name of national interest further polarising the eastern wing.

“Pakistan’s failure to strengthen her political institutions and her political frailty were an invitation to disaster. If the politicians blundered…..the military harmed the country no less with its repeated intervention in civil affairs. Both are at fault, and both accuse each other for causing greater disservice to the state.”
- Gen. K. M. Arif (Khakhi Shadows)


iii. Role of State Controlled Media: The state controlled media was feeding the Pakistanis with the news of imaginary victories and resultantly when the reality surfaced, the people of Pakistan were not mentally prepared to accept the magnitude of defeat.

6. Military Surrender:

After a lacklustre military performance, on 16 December 1971, Lieutenant-General A. A. K. Niazi, supreme commander of Pakistani Army in East Pakistan, surrendered to the Allied Forces (Mitro Bahini) represented by Lieutenant General Arora of Indian Army at the surrender.

7. Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission Report:

A half-hearted attempt was made to surface the facts that caused the debacle but unfortunately that report was not published by Mr. Bhutto ostensibly to save the army from further demoralisation. The crux of this report is:
i. It accused the army of carrying out wanton arson killings in the countryside in the name of quelling rebellion.
ii. Moreover, the orders emanated from the GHQ were studiously ambiguous.
iii. It asserts that the political turmoil and the power struggle between Bhutto and Mujeeb along with the flawed military strategy and poor leadership hastened the dismemberment of Pakistan.

“While many others share the blame for this monumental tragedy, neither President Yahya Khan nor the military can escape responsibility.”
- Khaki Shadows (Gen. K. M. Arif)


8. Critical Analysis:

What would have happened had there been good governance and political stability; had there been a logical and a mature approach of our brain dead politicians and ear jammed bureaucracy towards simmering domestic issues; had Mr. Bhutto, instead of insisting on power sharing, decided to sit in the parliament as the opposition leader? - is a realm of speculation. But there is an intellectual consensus that had it been so, the situation would not have come to such a shameful denouement. Today East Pakistan debacle still offer us many lessons to learn such as:

i. Federalism can only work if each of the units is a willing and an equal partner.
ii. Resource distribution formula must be transparent and mutually agreed upon. It cannot be and must not be tilted by force in favour of any single unit.
iii. Political stability and good governance is the only way to survive as a nation state and to rise among the comity of nations with dignity and respect.
iv. Finally yet importantly, Military option must be carefully planned and executed and must be backed by a profound political vision.

Courtesy: currentaffairspk.com AND World Times Magazine (I think originally the article was published by World Times)
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Ahmad Shakeel Babar
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"If you really want to achieve something the whole universe conspires for you to get your dream realized."

Last edited by Shooting Star; Tuesday, August 07, 2012 at 04:20 PM. Reason: Do not use red colour.
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