Islamabad Diary-Of times lost Ayaz AmirFrom Print Edition
Back from a trip to Amritsar and Delhi on
Wednesday evening, and too tired to go on to Chakwal as I had meant to – PIA
never disappointing, the flight from Delhi late by three hours – I sought refuge
under the roof of the Avari, where my poverty usually takes me when in the
favoured city of the Emperor Jahangir.
And as I sat down to write this on Thursday
morning, from somewhere down below on the Mall – it will always be the Mall
whatever patriotic name we give it – came the ever-enchanting voice of Noor
Jahan the Second, the first being the royal consort of Jahangir. She was singing
that haunting song, “Rah-e-haq ke shaheedo...”, a tribute to the martyrs of the
1965 war, and it came suddenly to me that this was the Defence of Pakistan Day,
an anniversary remembered with less and less fervour as the years pass...not
because respect for our fighting soldiers has in any way diminished but because
the truth about that conflict is now more widely understood.
It was a war that Pakistan did not seek; it
was a war into which it stumbled. The hawks – the two leading ones being Foreign
Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the 12 Division Commander, Maj Gen Akhtar
Hussain Malik – forgot to make the little calculation that any adventure
undertaken in Kashmir would impel or tempt India to straighten out the balance
somewhere else, at a time and place of its choosing.
When our Kashmir adventure turned into a
serious threat to Indian forces in Kashmir, to no one’s surprise except ours
Indian forces crossed the international border on the front stretching from
Sialkot to Lahore. Our soldiers fought bravely, at places magnificently, as did
junior officers up to the level of battalion commanders. A few brigadiers too
distinguished themselves. (The Indian official account of the war, which can be
read on the net, generously mentions the performance of some of our fighting
units.) And of course the air force acquitted itself superbly. But if one looks
for Mansteins in the higher echelons of command one is likely to be
disappointed. There were none, not one strategic manoeuvre worth remembering.
self-appointed field marshal, Ayub Khan Tareen, lived to rue his blunder. After
the war he was no longer the same man and his grip on national affairs weakened.
The supreme irony of course was that Bhutto whose role in pushing the war was
second to none exploited the outcome, and the subsequent Tashkent agreement, to
spread the insinuation that had not Ayub chickened out our forces would have won
a signal triumph...which of course was complete nonsense. Premier Chou En-lai counselled a bewildered field marshal to
conduct a guerrilla war, vacating cities if they had to be vacated and
conducting a war from behind every bush and boulder. But he could have been
preaching to the mountains. The ceasefire when it came, with no little pushing
by the superpowers, came not a moment too soon for our exhausted high command.
But for years and years the mythology
persisted, and it was woven into a national legend, that India was out to
destroy Pakistan and would have succeeded but for our brave armed forces. The
Defence of Pakistan Day commemorates this historiography. This mythology would
not have mattered if it had not led to lasting, and baleful, consequences. We
had a fairly open relationship with India until then. But with the war the
barriers went up and all ties were cut; defence spending sharply increased; more
divisions were raised. The ramparts of the national security state rose higher.
And barriers went up in our minds as well. India was the enemy and this doctrine
superseded all others.
been doing fairly well economically, ahead then of such states as Malaysia and
South Korea. The war put us off the rails completely. (The only good to come of
it were the war songs of Noor Jahan, which are still a marvel to listen to.)
With the 1971 war the dogmas learned from the 1965 conflict were reinforced.
Strange, is it not, that the brightest
politician of his age should have been the prime carrier of this policy of
revanchism and hate? We will fight for a thousand years, was one of his clarion
calls, anti-Indianism a plank – nay, an essential component – of his
extraordinary success in Punjab in the 1970 elections. And it was Punjab which catapulted him to national
power, not Sindh. Think again...Punjab dyed in the hues of chauvinism, the
country as a whole wedded to the notion of undying hostility towards India...the
high priest of this doctrine was the secular, de luxe whisky-sipping
(occasionally guzzling) Bhutto. Who listens to the boring lectures, or
the stale oratory, of the custodians of the two-nation theory headquartered
permanently in Lahore? Bhutto’s oratory had a mesmeric effect on the Punjabi
mind. And his oratory had two key
components: pseudo-revolutionism and jingoistic nationalism.
Only now are the barriers raised then coming down
slowly, not because of any fresh dawn of enlightenment but the pressure of cruel
circumstances. Our army is engaged in no fake adventure on the eastern front. It
is caught in a real and brutal war on our western marches, battling an enemy all
the more sinister because the strength and staying power of that enemy comes not
from evil Jew or conniving Hindu but from within our own ranks.
wars, no matter the causes, were simple, black-and-white affairs. We knew who
the army was and Noor Jahan had no trouble singing the glories of our valour,
real or imaginary. The war we are now engaged
in is so much more complex because the enemy is not only the visible enemy we
see, cutting the throats of our soldiers in the name of Islam. The enemy is also
our own confusion which still cannot make out what is at stake. At stake is the
nation’s soul, its direction.
emerge from the smoke and fire of this conflict and we can hope for national
salvation. We lose, or remain victims of confusion, and we might as well seek a
confederation with Somalia or the Sudan (with apologies to both these nations).
A Pakistan which has forsaken the tolerance
sought to be inculcated by its founding fathers, a Pakistan losing no sleep at
the persecution of its minorities and the killing of Shias, a country which can
countenance the victimisation of an Aasia Bibi or a Rimsha Masih, is a country
in dire need of asking some hard questions of itself. All injustice is bad; injustice perpetrated in the
name of religion is infinitely worse. We can be such hypocrites. Are the
lives of the Caliphs dead pieces of parchment or living examples to follow? What
would the great Omar have done if after a short absence from Makkah he had come
to know of the plight of a young Christian girl, Rimsha Masih?
There and then he would have fired the
interior minister, the Rehman Malik of his time, and asked the inspector general
of police, the kotwal, to run round the city walls with a knapsack on his back.
And he would have carried the girl Rimsha on his shoulders to her house and
asked her mother if they had enough to eat, and if anything was found wanting,
on bended knee he would have cried for Allah’s forgiveness. For was it not Omar
who said that if a dog went hungry by the banks of the Euphrates he, the Caliph,
would be asked about it on the Day of Judgment?
The Islam which spread
so fast from the sands of the Hejaz was a thing of achievement and glory. And to
think what we have made of it in this republic founded in the name of Islam?