Punjabi Generals and Martial Law in Pakistan.
- Dear All,
It was not unexpected but it still came as a shock
that Pakistan has been adjudged among the top ten
failed states. It is difficult to find fault with the
Another more ominous news was shown on BBC America on
5/2/06. 57% of the children under five in the third
world are under weight. Half of these children are in
the Indo-Pak-BD subcontinent. The number of the ill
fed have increased in the last five decades. China has
halved the number of its mal-nourished children in the
last quarter of a century.
I have always felt instinctively that the wonted
economic development of India is an illusion. They
have sold their soul to global capital. They can boast
of a dozen dollar billionaires. They do not notice a
billion half starved people. They can gloat over the
newly acquired atomic status. They gloss over the
multitude of the wretched.
Bangla Desh is the only one of the triumvirate which
despite paucity of resources has made valiant attempts
at amelioration of the lot of the poor.
Pakistan had wasted its resources on the army,
armaments, and the feudal class. It is now sliding
fast into the control of obscurantist and literalist
We talk of forgetting our past. They are busy
rewriting history. According to one official version
Muhammad Bin Qasim laid the foundations of Pakistan!
In the USA frequent attempts are made to brain wash
Pakistani expatriates with the concept that the
military have ruled Pakistan due to the preponderance
of Punjabi generals in the army. People are fobbed off
in this fashion in Pakistan too.
TRIVIALIZING THE RECURRENT MALADY of military
government IS A DISSERVICE TO PAKISTAN. It is an
attempt, at deflecting attention from the real issues.
Punjab, which historically included most of the
current NWFP, bore the brunt of all aggressive
assaults through the Khyber pass. the inhabitants of
the region had to deal with succession of marauders
starting, most likely with Aryans, who were followed
by Mongols, Huns, Greeks, Iranians, Afghans and sundry
other hungry tribes whose own habitat could not
sustain their lives.
People resisted the invaders, and if not successful,
had to accommodate them in other ways. Invaders would,
at times, be allowed to pass through the plains and
meet organized resistance at the Punjab-Dehli border
town of Panipat. Denizens of of the area would join
hands with the resistance and provide invaluable
logistic support too.
For these historic and geographic reasons Punjab lost
its ancient civilizations. Only the relics at Taxilla
and similar places remind us of the past glory of the
region. For the same reasons it remained out of the
main stream of the Northern Indian Empires.
Ranjeet Singh took advantage of the chaos attendant
upon the decline of the Moghal Empire and established
a kingdom not known for its equitable treatment of the
other communities. For a large majority of the people
of Punjab, British take over of the kingdom came as
emancipation from the depredations of Ranjeet's
minions. They supported the British in the "war of
independence" of 1857.
Soldiers for the Moghal and other Northern rulers had
previously been recruited from the UP, Bihar and
Bengal. They had rebelled against the British and were
assiduously excluded from the army. Bengalis bore the
brunt of British wrath. The colonists rewarded the
Punjab by recruiting the soldiers from the region and
declaring the people a Martial race. That explains the
preponderance of Punjabis and Pathans in Pakistan
army. That also explains why the Punjabis dominated
the officer corp of the Indian army, till Indra Gandhi
and her successors drastically reduced their numbers,
after the Khalistan insurgency.
Remember greater Punjab was not the only region which
supported the British. Troops to fight along side the
British came from Hyderabad and other Indian states
The British won, not just because of the support of a
section of the natives, but because they were
desperate and uncivilized. Indians would and did
survive a defeat. The former had no recourse. Back
home they did not have enough to eat. An uncivilized
person fights better. Five gangsters, even though not
better armed or physically endowed, would easily
overcome ten university graduates in physical combat.
Military recruitment was not the only reward the
supporters of the British got. They were given lands,
and some became big feudal lords. The story of
Tiwanas, though in part anecdotal, is axiomatic. The
founder of the house, a poor peasant, had given
shelter to a wounded British officer. The officer died
but left his blood soaked shirt and a note that all
loyal citizens should give his benefactor two annas.
The man made the rounds of the lanes of Delhi,
collecting the tribute. It soon became a scandal. A
few well heeled Indians, in order to embarrass the
rulers, told him that there were many more British
people in London, he would collect much more there.
They paid his passage, and sent him to England.
The man made his way to Britain and did good business
in London town. It was a much bigger public scandal
too. Police tried to stop him. He screamed and waved
the shirt. The public told the police to let the man
be. Queen Victoria heard of the commotion. She called
the man and gave him a Jagir, in exchange for the
shirt and the note.
In any event, a bye product of 1857 was the feudal
system which is still afflicting Pakistan. Another
consequence was that the British promoted the Hindus,
admittedly better situated already-remember they ran
the administration and finances for the Moghals-and
the community got better educated and developed skills
in commerce and industry. Muslims were left behind.
They either had feudal lords or the illiterate poor.
They drowned their sorrows in obscurantism.
Hindus dominated the fight for independence, and not
because of numbers alone. Threatened, the British
changed tactics and started supporting the Muslims-the
well known divide and rule. Progressive and
enlightened leaders like Jinnah, whose forebears were
businessmen, would have none of it. But Gandhi, with
his religious imagery, intervened. Jinnah was
marginalized. Disgusted and disillusioned after the
Congress leadership over played their hand and
repudiated the League-Congress agreement for securing
Muslim rights that he had painstakingly worked out, he
left for a self imposed exile in England.
Congress also exposed its hand prematurely in another
way. They pledged to abolish the feudal system. Now
the cat was properly among the pigeons. The Muslim
feudal lords of the Punjab, UP and Bihar, who had
,till lately, disdained Jinnah, took a delegation to
London and begged him to return and save the Muslims.
Jinnah returned and took up the cause of Muslim
rights. He warned the Muslim feudal lords that they
would have to stop living off the toil of their
peasants. He had despaired of the congress due their
overbearing attitude to difference of opinion, after
the 1937 elections in which they had won an
overwhelming number of Hindu as well as Muslim vote.
Jinnah had not had time to reorganize the league. Now
he had an issue as well.
The congress leadership were arrogant and would not
listen to reason. He, now pursued the dream of
Pakistan in earnest. But he had not given up on a
undivided India. As late as 1945, he accepted the
cabinet mission plan, which envisaged one Indian
central government with defense, foreign affairs and
currency and communications,and three regional
governments with full autonomy in other subjects. This
is speculation, but Jinnah had most likely seen the
writing on the wall. In Pakistan he would have to
leave the fate of his followers in the hands of
Muslim League won by a big margin in 1946. They
joined the interim cabinet and made life very
difficult for the congress ministers. They were still
willing to accept an undivided country. Liaquat and
Desai, the congress leader in the assembly agreed to
an arrangement for working together. The congress and
the League both repudiated the deal. It is
inconceivable that Liaquat would take a major decision
with out Jinnah's approval. It is equally unlikely
that Desai would do so with out the blessings of the
congress high command. Nehru and Patel thought
otherwise. They could not countenance inclusion of
Jinnah in any post independence dispensation. They
were terrified of him. They also thought that the
country would collapse, and they would accept it back
on their and not Jinnah's terms.
Fates continued to smile on the Congress. The British
government decided to replace Wavell, who was even
handed, with Mountbatten who was gay, and whose wife
Nehru slept with. The latter was much more confident
now. I am quoting Akbar S Ahmad that Sardar Abdur Rab
Nishtar had offered to take care of Mountbatten and
bend him towards the Muslim League, but Jinnah won't
For taking care of the Viceroy's wife Nehru was
rewarded with the division of the Punjab and Bengal.
The woman was homely, but the remuneration was worth
it. Pakistan was left with out the counter weight of
Hindus and Sikhs of the Punjab and Hindus of Bengal.
The worst fears of Jinnah came true. He had the choice
of accepting the "truncated and moth eaten" Pakistan
or surrender Muslims of India, in his opinion,to the
slavery of Hindus. He made his choice. Pakistan was
left to the mercy of the feudal class. The class would
sacrifice half the country in 1971, rather than permit
a representative government to take over and risk
curtailment of their privileges and property. Army is
their best guatantee for perpetual hegemony.
The above, in a nut shell, are the reasons for
continued military rule in Pakistan. It is not the
large number of Punjabi generals. Punjabis have
produced more than their share of progressive and
leftist leaders. Remember Faiz. Jalib, Mirza Ibrahim
and Mian Iftkharuddin-Pakistan Times, Imroze and
Lail-o-Nihar? Recall 1968. Students of Lahore shook
the entrenched regime of Ayub. Tariq Ali, a true blue
Punjabi was making life difficult for the capitalists
in Europe. Notice the resistance of peasants of Okara
whose lands the army would usurp. And for those who
are so inclined, two of the founding members of the
Communist Party of India, Dada Feroz and Dada Mansur
were Muslim Punjabis.
Dr. Syed Ehtisham
My BLOGSPOT is http://syedehtisham.blogspot.com/
"Martial law is akin to removing the lungs of a patient suffering from pneumonia."
"Power befuddles, absolute power befuddles absolutely".
"A capitalist economy is a sine qua non for Democracy, feudal system is incompatible with representative government"
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