Geopolitics

Pakistan Armed Forces: The Other Pillar
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Issue Book Excerpt: Reassessing Pakistan | Date : 25 Apr , 2011

Ayub’s military takeover was intended to establish political and economic order in the country and he went about the tasks with a military man’s ethos of authority, discipline and hierarchy. The military became central to his administration. The bureaucracy felt obliged to co-operate, reversing the pecking order in which the two had functioned till then. The system Ayub created, the basic democracies, under his 1962 Constitution, was designed to establish a strong Presidency with “controlled democracy” in which political dialogue, process and participation were of secondary importance.

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Ayub Khan had been disillusioned by the political theatre enacting every now and then in the Constituent Assembly in the early 1950s and had come to believe that principles of Western style democracy were unsuitable to bring about social and economic development. His system too in the long run, failed to receive popular acceptability since it proved inadequate to deal with the political and economic aspirations of the different categories of general masses, such as the political parties, students, professionals, poor and unemployed. But in the meanwhile, the military had been able to establish a dominating voice in all the core policy and decision making mechanisms, especially in the strategic field.

The military had been the true strength of Ayub Khan, and he took care to ensure that it developed a stake in governance and became partial to the system being developed, turning a blind eye towards dissatisfaction in the civil society”¦

The military had been the true strength of Ayub Khan, and he took care to ensure that it developed a stake in governance and became partial to the system being developed, turning a blind eye towards dissatisfaction in the civil society as it started emerging from the inadequacies of the 1962 Constitution. The Constitution of 1962 provided that for the first 20 years after its commencement, the defence portfolio would always be held by a senior military officer who had been a lieutenant general or equivalent.

A system of permanent secondment of defence personnel to the Civil Service of Pakistan began in 1960. Though this practice was discontinued in 1963, another process of placing senior retiring officers from the three services in public corporations or autonomous bodies or in ambassadorial assignments was initiated. The system of granting agricultural land for service rendered was continued with greater vigour. The military was given a role in socio economic sectors through utilisation of their services and resources in five-year plan projects.

A Temporary Eclipse in 1969 in a Spate of Agitations

Ayub had to go because while he kept his supporters in uniform in good humour, he was unable to provide to the larger masses of the people distributive justice and free political participation and expression. His exit and succession amounted to another coup by the military. Under the 1962 Constitution, on the President’s resignation, the Speaker of the National Assembly took over temporarily as Acting President, with election of the new President being completed in 90 days.

Book_reassessing_PakistanThe Army Brass decided, in violation of the constitution, that General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan, the Army Chief should succeed Ayub as the President. Martial Law was back with Yahya Khan assuming the Presidency on 25 March 1969 and the military becoming the focus of power. Yahya Khan, abrogated the constitution, promised reforms and restoration of democratic and civilian rule, but the deep-seated alienation of Bengali East Pakistan proved to be his Waterloo.In the elections for the National Assembly held under the Legal Framework order of March 1970, the Awami League under Mujibur Rehman with its six-point formula had emerged with a clear majority (167 out of 313). The Bengalis of East Pakistan, though in a majority in Pakistan had been consistently deprived of political, economic and cultural rights by the West Wing, which had the reigns of power in its hands.

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The six-point formula was aimed at restoring the balance and removing the oppression by the West. The military wanted some modifications in this formula before transfer of power to Mujibur Rehman, who, as the new Prime Minister, would have also had a decisive voice in the framing of the new constitution. The military felt that if Mujibur did not agree to some accommodation, military power could be used against him.

Despite these factors, Bhutto was unable to minimise the role of the Armed Forces in the system.

Use of troops to tame the Bengalis converted their opposition into a full-fledged civil war, resulting in the emergence in 1971 of East Pakistan as an independent nation, Bangladesh. The debacle aroused resentment in the rank and file of the military, forcing Yahya Khan and the ruling clique of generals to quit. Power was transferred to Zulfiqar Ali Bhuuo whose Pakistan Peoples’ Party had swept the polls in West Pakistan in the elections to the National Assembly.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Anand K Verma

Former Chief of R&AW and author of Reassessing Pakistan.

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