ATP Quiz: Echoes of Ayub Khan Linger in Pakistan

Posted on August 7, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, ATP Quiz, Books, People, Politics
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Adil Najam

I was, indeed, surprised by the comments on our last ATP Quiz. Maybe I am too much of an academic and think that everyone has also read the things I have. Or, maybe, my text was misleading because I had suggested that the quiz was too easy. Anyway, it was not until comment no. 24 that anyone suggested the right name and, by their own admission, it was “just to be different.”

Ayub Khan of PakistanAyub Khan of Pakistan

The right answer, as many suggested towards the end (after my ‘hint‘) is Field Marshall Mohammad Ayub Khan. But even those who eventually guessed this thought it was from Gohar Ayub’s new book – Glimpses from the Corridors of Power – or from Ayub Khan’s recently released Personal Diaries. It is, in fact, from Ayub Khan’s famous memoirs and biography – Friends, Not Masters.

Interestingly, all sorts of names were thrown around. Many seem utterly convinced that it was Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Others were equally certain that it was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Yet others felt that it coudl have been anyone from Gen. Zia-ul-Haq to Gen. Yahya Khan to Nawaz Sahrif to Shaukat Aziz … and one seemed to even hint that it might be Benazir Bhutto!

It seems to me that this says something about Pakistan politics. All the ‘leaders‘ we have been ‘blessed’ with have been so similar that it is difficult to differentiate between them…. Sabb aik he chakki kay… Indeed, it is an important insight to consider that such a statement could have very plausibly come from so many different – and different types of – leaders!

First, a word about the context of the two paragraphs quoted in the original ATP Quiz. It is, as mentioned, from Ayub Khan’s biography, “Friends, Not Masters.” The context is his discussion about his own election as President and his discussion on why Fatima Jinnah was less ‘qualified’ than him. He certainly saw himself as ‘elected.’ Even as ‘democratic.’ In choosing the paragrpahs (page 218 in my dog-eared copy of the book; published 1967) I thought they were pertinent not only because his Ayub Khan’s rhetoric of how he had given ‘freedom’ to the press and how everyone was against him and how he was, in fact, so popular were all very much liek what we hear from gen. Musharraf today. The parallels seemed so striking that they were worth highlighting.

Now a word about the post itself. I had first planned to write this way back in September 2006 when Gen. Musharraf’s book, In the Line of Fire, had first come out (ATP post here). At that time, I dusted out my old copy (I had bought and read it in FSc, I think) of Friends Not Masters and decided to re-read it before I read Gen. Musharraf’s In the Line of Fire.

There was good reason to do so. Apart from all the similarities in their careers, their confidence in their own destiny, their belief that they were the best thing ever to happen to Pakistan, it was also that each of them had written the biography while still in office; each had really targetted tehir book as much towards USA as towards Pakistanis, and – interestingly – Ayub’s book was ghost-edited by Altaf Gauhar while Musharraf’s book was ghost edited by Humayun Gauhar (son of Altaf Gauhar).

It was a good decision to read the two books back to back. I would recommend others to do the same. There was much in Ayub Khan’s book that made me dislike him intensely. Especially his attitude towards (then) East Pakistanis. It only reconfirmed my belief that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto gets overly blamed for the 1971 debacle. Things had been set in stone well before either he or Yahya Khan came on the scene. The biggest blame goes to Ayub’s personal and viceral views on this and may even go back to much earlier leaders. But all that is for another time.

For now, let me leave you with a few more excerpts from Ayub Khan’s Friends Not Masters, including the ones in the original post (they are worth reading again, now that you know who they are from).

Ayub Khan of Pakistan… It is easy to talk about removing the inhibiting effects of history: it is a different thing dealing with them in practical life. How can you run a parliamentary democracy when you have big landlords in the country who can influence thousands of votes? How can you run a parliamentary democracy when you have pirs and faqirs who can influence the people indirectly? How can you have parliamentary democracy or stability when you have ten or fifteen or more political parties in the country without any programme whatsoever? How can you have parliamentary democracy when you have not even reached the level of universal primary education?

… My opponents sometimes say: ‘This man is a dictator; he has all the power in his hands.’ How? I do not know. After all, there always has to be someone finally in charge whatever the system, be it parliamentary or presidential, a monarchy or a dictatorship. There are many to assist but, in the ultimate analysis, one man has to take the final decision. This has been the case throughout history, and it is so even today all the world over. If the man is chosen by the people and if he is a good man, he has to be trusted and given full co-operation.

… To my knowledge there has never been so much freedom in this country as there is today. ‘On a number of occasions I have been accused, abused, and vilified, subjected to all kinds of rumours and slanders, all thoroughly unjustified and untrue, by some of the biggest blackguards in the country, and I have swallowed it. I have put up with it for the simple reason that I want to nurse and protect the system. I will not allow it to be demolished.

… In the light of past experience, I had provided certain built-in safeguards in the Constitution to enable the executive to withstand home pressures without in any way hindering the working of the legislature. The opposition, conveniently forgetting the mandate which the people had given me, have continued to say that this Constitution has been thrust down their throats. Now, they can go to the people’s representatives and ask them to change the Constitution: there is a clear provision in the Constitution that if there is anything which does not meet with the wishes of the people the members of the legislature can amend it. They have the powers even to impeach the President.

… I must refer to a phenomenon whcih has been the cause of considerable tension and misunderstanding between the two Provinces. This is the slogan of ‘disparity’, which has assumed considerable social significance and usually refers to an assumed lack of equality between the twp Provinces of the country [ATP: he means ‘East’ and ‘West’ Pakistan under One-Unit]. It is a much-abused word and covers a wide variety of complaints and grievances, very often of a personal character. If a candidate does not have the requisite qualifications and is, therefore, not selected for a job, he dubs it ‘disparity’. So does a shopkeeper who cannot collect enough capital to set up a jute mill. The jute mill-owner, too, claims himself to be a victim of disparity because he cannot expand into synthetics and chemicals. The politician has seized on this general impatience for a personal advancement and turned it into a popular political slogan. He bases his whole campaign against the central government and West Pakistan on disparity…. It is inconceivanle that any government should be able to compel people in one region to work at less than their capacity till others build up an equal capacity…. The problem of regional disparities in West Pakistan has been solved to a large extent by the integration of the former provinces into One Unit…. While the government recognizes the principle of parity, the people, too, have to discharge their responsibility. It is not enough to claim parity of resources and parity of opportunities; it is equally important to recognize parity of endeavour. Equality in progress can be guaranteed only by equality in effort. So the slogan of disparity should not be used as an excuse for personal inadequancies.

… In September 1964 the Combined Opposition Parties (COP) agreed to nominate Miss Fatima Jinnah as their candidate for the office of President. Now Miss Jinnah had nothing in common with teh various opposition parties yet she did not hesitate to come into the field, having obtained from them a unanimous pledge of support…. I do not know what considerations weighed with Miss Jinnah. She was leading a solitary life and had shown little interest in politics except for issuing periodical statements to the Press on days of national importance. Since the death of the Quaid-e-Azam she had maintained a consistent posture of opposition and criticism towards every government. Even during the days of Liaquat Ali Khan she was running an opposition of her own, never missing an opportunity of creating a sense of depression and distress among the people and undermining their confidence in the government of the day. In her seclusion and under the protection of the memory of the Quaid-e-Azam, she set herself up as an arbiter and a mentor. When Martial Law was promulgated she welcomed the change but soon after reverted to her customary role. One one occasion, I wrote to her that she might acquaint herself with the full facts of government policies before pronouncing judgement on them. I think she never forgave me for offering this advice.

These are but a few segments from the last chapters of the book. There is much more there that is worth reading. Not necessarily because it is good (much is not), nor because it is correct (even more is not), but because it is a part of our history. Amongst the many many tragedies of Pakistan is that we have converted not only our politics but our history into a string of slogans. What goes for analysis is mere slogans and naara baazi. I am always amazed at just how few of even our analysts ever quote from book. Merely looking at the title of a book seems enough for most people to convince themselves that they already know what must be inside the book!

34 responses to “ATP Quiz: Echoes of Ayub Khan Linger in Pakistan”

  1. Watan Aziz says:

    Ayub, Zulifkar Ali, Zia and now Musharraf have few thread in common.

    1. Their best years were the first 3 in power. That is when they did the most and created (or tried to) better than what they started with. (I am not entirely convinced about Zia, but will give him benefit of the doubt.)
    2. They all believed that the country will not run without them.
    3. They all made sure no clear political successor (rival) emerges. Though Ayub had Yahya in mind, just not that soon and in that manner: ‘Sir, it is my turn now.’
    4. They all spoke in terms of ‘I’ but not us or we. (Someone else mentioned this elsewhere on ATP.)
    5. They all exercised full command over all resources and moved people and materials as if Pakistan is their property.
    6. They all were good men in their hearts and really truly believed they are doing the nation good. (And arguably, they did many things good.)
    7. They were all helped out. Some more reluctantly.
    8. They all assumed they were somewhere else and in another era. Ayub thought himself as de Gaulle, ZAB as the inheritor of Tito + Nehru of non aligned movement, Zia as Amir-ul-Momineen, and Musharraf as Ataturk. Pakistan was a useful idea for their dreams.
    9. They all were ultimately undone due to their own arrogance and poor advice of sycophants they themselves surrounded with.
    10. They all sidelined the true believers who brought them into power.
    11. They were all creative thinkers and did things outside the box (Zia being exception, really.)

    While I am not high on anyone of them, I am not low on any either. They did their part and for better or worse, the nation has been served better. In the end, Pakistan has moved forward. Perhaps, not what we would like it to be, perhaps not at a pace we can expect. But Pakistan is better today for each one of them (Again, I will never be too sure of my opinions of Zia).

    For rankings of Pakistani leaders, I put
    Ayub, ZAB, Musharraf
    Zia, Liquat Ali
    and the rest of the meadicore gang follows.
    and Yahya (poor guy, honest to core (perhaps the most honest after Jinnah), just did not get it and wrong place and wrong time.)

    And yes, Friends Not Masters is a worthy read.

    Pakistan Zindabad
    Pakistan Pa’indabad

  2. Rafay Kashmiri says:

    Many of us might have seen Field Marshall, I remember him very well when he took power from Iskandar Mirza.

    F. M. Ayub was the most handsome, quiet, reserved and dignified, respectable of Sandhurstist conduct dictator, all the others uptill now are not even his cheville .

    When the ruling class elitist colonial zurriat (FM) realized that it was finished , he anounced like a Mard da putar, Yes I will not stand for election and I am resigning. Have you got a mard like him now anywhere ?? Its a misfortune that he was forced to give power to a drunkard mujraybaz “next in line prey to the cunning Bhutto son of traitor Diwan who invited Indian Army to occupy Junahgarh and Manawadar.

    We were educated in a politics where no one was supposed to be called a traitor. But this moral disappeared with the wind, now we have a variety of traitors.

  3. Adnan Ahmad says:

    PMA, Perhaps I am not as good a student of history as you but this is the first time I ever heard anything negative about Liaqat Ali Khan, a man better known for his principals. Altaf and Co’s conspiracy theories about his murder then may carry some weight.

  4. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:

    MQ: I bought my copy of ‘Friends Not Masters’ four decades ago and brought it with me to the USA. It is on my desk as we speak. I do not intend to wrap fish or ‘paan’ with its pages, neither it is on sale as a second hand book. Even if one disagrees with the contents of it, I agree with Adil that it is a good source of reference. History will draw many parallels between Ayub and Musharraf. I hope the latter has wisdom to step aside gracefully and allow peaceful transition to civilian rule. Nation could hardly afford another ‘1969’.

  5. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:

    faraz: Nepotism is part of our culture and socio-political system. That is how we get blessed with generations of inept functionaries; may that be governmental or non-governmental service. In Pakistan we have a word for it. It is called ‘safarash’. And about ‘politics of ethnicity’. Ayub did not start it. It was already there. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was known to favor a certain ethnic group over all others. Some saw that as nepotism too. Almost every head of government in the past sixty years could be accused of nepotism and favoritism. That is simply us.

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