Pakistan Quo Vadis
By Sreeram Chaulia

A Review of S.K.Mazari's A Journey to Disillusionment Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN: 0195790766 Price US$ 45. 650 Pages.

[Editor's Note: Kashmir Herald takes General Musharraf's sham general elections to be held in few days to be another grand exercise in fraud and mockery of democratic values. The history of Pakistan is circular and shows that no decent popular representation can ever happen in that failed state."]

In Sara Suleri's evocative memoir, Meatless Days, a chapter is devoted to 'Papa and Pakistan' describing her journalist father's obsession with grandiose post-colonial 'Whither' questions: Whither Democracy, Whither Civil Liberties, Whither Accountability etc. Sherbaz Khan Mazari's best-selling autobiography fits into this quintessential 'Whither' mould which often haunts Pakistan watchers and commentators. It is an insider's first-hand expose of the complete failure and corruption of governance in Pakistan since independence and a painfully stark reminder that among the ills that plague the country, political venality stands tallest and starkest. Even as psycho-analysis, 'national proclivities', socio-economic explanations and political science paradigms are regularly employed to account for the hyperinflationary rise in criminalisation, malpractices and graft among the ruling elite of South Asia, Mazari adds to the mountainous pile of incriminating evidence corroborating the old maxim, 'Politics is the last refuge of the scoundrel'.

As a callow seventeen-year-old, Mazari the scion of a leading Baloch tribe, decided to participate in the 'liberation' of Kashmir in 1948, spurred by propaganda about the Hindu king Hari Singh's oppression of the valley's Muslims. His first disillusionment came on finding that Pakistan-backed Afridi tribesmen invaded the disputed territory and indulged in a "frenzy of looting and rapine" in the name of Mal-I-Ghanimat (October 1948), causing Kashmiri Muslims to turn against Pakistan well until 1989. "Chastened and disillusioned, I made my way quietly back.", says a Mazari whom reality was kicking barely a few months after he had campaigned for his native Dera Ghazi Khan region joining Jinnah's Pakistan.

In the 1950s, Mazari witnessed more disastrous intrigues. The original Muslim League leadership (primarily mohajirs) had no political base in what became Pakistan, thus allowing the bureaucracy and the army to grab real power and also setting ugly precedents of Unitarianism through arbitrary imposition of Governor's rule on provinces. "As early as Liaqat Ali Khan's time, democracy had been doomed in Pakistan", what with conspiratorial coteries of Punjabi and Bengali bureaucrats (led respectively by Ghulam Muhammad and Khwaja Nazimuddin) striking succession deals to "impose their will on a hapless country and avoid all proper constitutional procedure". The infamous 'One Unit Scheme' of unifying West Pakistan was coercively pushed through provincial assemblies by force of summary dismissals and Ayub Khan's support in 1954, involving inter alia Governor-General Ghulam browbeating even the Supreme Court Chief Justice into acquiescence ("a most unfortunate day in the judicial history of our country"). Urdu imposition on East Pakistan also proceeded with dismissal of Fazlul Haq's democratically elected government. Adding to latent mistrust of West Paksitan among Bengalis was the duumvirate's (Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan) removal of Khwaja Nazimuddin from Prime Ministership (October 1957). Clearly, the 1956 Constitution was impotent to curb Executive interventions in provinces and dictation of political successions.

Ayub Khan's reforms and 'Decade of Development' were farces of the first order. As if vindicating Lord Acton's statement, "All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely", the military-bureaucratic elite arrogated land redistribution benefits (1959) and the 'Export Bonus Scheme' ensured that all wealth became concentrated in "two dozen families", narrowing the already narrow Punjabi feudal order. 'Basic Democracies' stifled political activity by bureaucratising power further (tehsildars and Deputy Commissioners controlled people's representatives!). Personally shocking Mazari, numerous Baloch leaders and literati were incarcerated for opposing One Unit, completing 'Punjabisation' of the country. Ayub's eminence grise, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, carried out his muddled 'Operation Gibraltar' scheme on miscalculated premises that ended up causing an unwarranted war with India in 1965 (Bhutto interestingly betrayed plans of fighting India in a personal conversation with Mazari two months before 'Gibraltar'). Although Ayub realised Bhutto's vaingloriousness after the war (calling him a "madman" who will lead the country "astray" and "get you into trouble"), it came too late in the day to save the President's skin. Mazari traces his fall in 1969 to the rigged election of 1965 (against Fatima Jinnah) and the Indian misadventure.

Yahya Khan (1969-'71) is portrayed by Mazari as a well intentioned but weak-kneed General. By eschewing One Unit and committing Pakistan to the 'one-man-one-vote' principle, he recognised minority aspirations both in the Western and Eastern wings. However, Mujibur Rehman chicaned out of his promised flexibility on his famous 'Six Points' after the fateful 1970 elections, thus turning one-man-one-vote into a vehicle for independence of Bangladesh. Mazari ascribes Yahya's outdoing by Mujib also to the Marshall's reliance on "army cronies" who encouraged him to "take major decisions in an alcoholic haze". Bhutto played a sinister role following his 1970 "victory" in the Western wing (PPP won only 14% and 2% of the votes in NWFP and Balochistan and only 38% of the total in West Pakistan), motivated by "a devouring appetite for political power". Having been refused posts of Deputy prime Minister, President or even Foreign Minister by Mujib, he adopted a recalcitrant anti-Bengali posture and scuttled all negotiable settlement. Mazari also alleges that Bhutto joined ranks with 'Hawk' generals, Peerzada, Umar and Hamid, and expedited strong-arm tactics that earned him the title: "Number One Killer of Bengalis". While the recently published 'Hamoodur Rehman Report' on army atrocities in East Pakistan indicts Tikka Khan and Niazi, Mazari feels that the political blame lies squarely on a Bhutto "fixated on his own ambitions". Mazari admits the falsity of a subsequent national Myth by stating, "it would be futile to blame India for the final aftermath", when such callous brutality was committed through the junta's military crackdown.

Mazari cogitates on the great irony that Bhutto who "played a leading role in the instigation of two disastrous wars" reaped the benefits of their fall-outs to his own advantage. His six-year stint (1971-'77) as Civilian Martial Law Administrator and then Prime Minister were to make Mazari's worst fears for Pakistan come true. Displaying "undisguised totalitarianism", "Adolf Bhutto" muzzled freedoms of press, opposition and judiciary. He fomented Sindhi- Mohajir fratricide that echoes to this day through the MQM. His dismissal and victimisation of Baloch and Frontier leaders knew no civilised bounds (including death-threats to "old friend, Sherbaz Mazari"!), taking criminalisation of politics to its acme. Bhutto's notorious FSF personal bodyguard was the nearest Pakistan ever got to Hitler's SS. Bhutto was also avaricious like Ayub, accumulating vast personal wealth (aircraft kick-backs and siphons from Libyan earthquake relief aid). As one of the leading lights of the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), Mazari was at the receiving end of PPP's arm-twisting and unprecedented rigging of the 1977 elections ('Operation Victory').

When the self-proclaimed "political genius" over-reached his ego with the arrogance of a concocted victory, the army stepped in. Zia-ul-Haq began by promising a "solemn assurance" of conducting elections in a few months and then maintained martial law for 12 intolerable years! Mazari disagreed with Bhutto's assassination unlike other partners in the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) and remained a staunch opponent of Zia's 'Islamic state', rampant nepotism and corruption (segments of American aid to Afghan mujahideen was pocketed by Zia and ISI Chief Akhtar). When the generals attempted a mock legitimisation of the regime through a puppet government, Mazari flatly rebuffed the offer of Prime Ministership (later taken by M.K.Junejo). MRD's internal problems also disenchanted the author (Farooq Leghari and the Bhutto ladies entered into secret agreements with the authorities), although it picked momentum on Benazir's spectacular return from London in 1986. Zia was finally assassinated by a clique comprising Ghulam Ishaq Khan, General Aslam Beg and Akhtar in a "surgical coup" (pp.588-595), even as the author discounts other possible perpetrators of the plane-crash (Murtaza Bhutto's Al-Zulfikar, Afghan intelligence Khad, CIA, KGB and India's RAW).

That President Ishaq Khan and General Beg controlled Benazir's first term (1988-'90) and circumscribed her Prime Ministerial authority is the author's conviction. Mazari's hopes of a new democratic beginning were overshadowed by fears of ISI domination of the government and hence his refusal to stay out of the cabinet despite Benazir's repeated pleas and offers. Nawaz Sharif is described as a product of Zia's "crony capitalism" that destroyed Pakistan's banking system and concentrated misappropriated wealth in families like the Sharif's of Lahore. In Mazari's last years in public life, both Benazir and Nawaz flouted the powers of their mandates through "undisguised hostility towards institutions", be they the President, the Supreme Court, the Press or the Army. Though mutually antagonistic, Benazir and Nawaz had little difference when it came to violating rule of law ("a case of tweedledum and tweedledee"). 'Accountability' was disposable for both as Zardari ("Mr.10 percent") and the Sharifs have bled the country sore.

Journey to Disillusionment is a testimony of the Augean stables directly from the horse's mouth. Redolent with tit-bits- Ayub's mission of eradicating "corrupt sharks and leeches" and subsequent accumulation of wealth, Bhutto's early sycophantic rise (pp.74-78), Benazir's backdoor entry into Radcliffe College (p.164), Zia's death will worth $250 million (p.619)- Mazari's is revelatory prose that cannot get any better. As a chronicle of misdeeds, it will rank supreme in Pakistan's half-century of publications by reopening a Pandora's box indicting virtually every personality that has dominated politics in this country. As an honest patriotic heart's anguish at the plight of the people of Pakistan, "leaderless and betrayed", it ultimately conveys that 'systems' never go wrong unless the people who devise and sustain it are at serious fault. Popularly mooted 'Governance Reform' in the South Asian subcontinent should appositely commence from the leadership ranks.

[Sreeram Sundar Chaulia studied History at St.Stephen’s College, Delhi, and took a Second BA in Modern History at University College, Oxford. He researched the BJP’s foreign policy at the London School of Economics and is currently analyzing the impact of conflict on Afghan refugees at the Maxwell School of Citizenship, Syracuse, NY.]