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Pakistan: A Historical Analysis - Part 1

Updated on November 5, 2015

Pre-partition Voilence

Formative Phase

Pakistan is one of the countries, besides Israel, to have come into being in the name of a religion. The country faced many challenges after its independence - the Jinnah founder of the state aptly remarked that we have been given, "........truncated or mutilated moth-eaten Pakistan". It was not just about the lack of resources and a hostile neighbor that a nascent country of Pakistan was going to face with. However, issues were going to be much deeper than those that a newly independent country could grapple. In case of Pakistan issues very basic in nature dealing with the foundation of country itself. Of those formulating the ideology is one issue that perhaps has not been resolved until this day; and keeps haunting Pakistan to this day.

In this way no one knew at the time of independence as to what an extent should the religion play a role into politics of the country. Consequently in the formative phase of the country - religious controversy started off unstoppable debate. Ironically religious parties which opposed the very partition plan came on the forefront championing the cause of giving religion a major role into political system of the country. Those parties wanted to make it a theoretical state, whereas civil, military and industrial elite wanted to permit a limited role in the polity. While masses in general dreamt of a country where they can live independently; preserve their cultural heritage and live according to their own wishes and aspirations - free from fear and assertiveness of dominant Hindu majority in united British India.

Divergences of such a magnitude could only have been appeased through a democratic experience of the people of Pakistan. Muslim League which was a founding party of Pakistan found little appeal in Muslim masses, and it was seen to have lost support of middle class landed elite quickly after the partition. It was concluded by historians of the time that league witnessed to have lost raison d’état of its existence after partition. Therefore, to gain support of Muslim masses religious appeal was used. Elite, however not surprisingly shunned the idea of a theocratic state as it never had the intention to do so.

Quad-e-Azam the founder of Pakistan, who himself became first Governor General of Pakistan.
Quad-e-Azam the founder of Pakistan, who himself became first Governor General of Pakistan.

Solve Kashmir First: New Thinking on South Asia's Longest Conflict

Kashmir Dispute and Pakistan’s Ideological Conflicts

Kashmir dispute believed to have surfaced as a result of evil designs of the then Viceroy Lord Mountbatten; who purportedly had a predilection for India and was a good friend of Nehru. It was one issue that has proved a thorn in the relationships of India and Pakistan after partition. India being the larger of two has been able to bear defense budget of its army with relative comfort in comparison with Pakistan. Pakistan historically is compelled by virtue of its geography to devise India obsessed foreign policy.

Thus, Pakistan unfortunately inherited inferiority complex vis-à-vis its bigger neighbor India, as latter had to be faced aggressively militarily, diplomatically at all forums, such a state tendency transformed Pakistan into security state where by inhabitants of the county were never going to be any topmost responsibility of the state. In contrast security of the state became number one priority and whole national security establishment has kept itself busy in countering India ever since partition. In fact anti-India narrative was manufactured, resulting in deformation of ideology; which was so crucial to be formulated correctly for a new nation such as Pakistan.

Islamic state which it was partially made by introduction of objective resolution and its Islamic provisions into the subsequent constitutions, hinted for a welfare state and not the security state. Thus Pakistan inherited two conflicting fault lines since its foundation as a state. In this regard, the debate about the extent of role of a religion in to politics severed and delayed constitution making process. As East Pakistan - now the Bangladesh - had numerous minority non Muslim Bengalis and low cast communities, therefore quite understandably they preferred a secular state. Whereas, some religious stratum belonging to both wings wanted to make it a theocratic state. Moreover, the founder of nation died a year after independence but luckily, there was a Joshua to replace Moses. He was liaquat Ali Khan, who tried to speed up the process of constitution making and steer country into an era of stability but as ill luck would have it - He was assassinated after few years on 16th of October 1951. Hence, there was no more Joshua after Him.

Foreign Policy

Pakistan joined western backed military alliances of SEATO and CENTO to address its perceived Indian threat. However signing into those alliances and becoming a member state allowed for the era of a one dimensional foreign policy titling in huge favor of countries of West - USA in particular. Since then there was no looking back, until recently. One of reason of Pakistan's obvious tilt to western countries was its elite's romance with USA and Britain in particular. The ever undeniable fact of elite’s illegal money and other assets being kept in those countries and their kith and kin being nationals of those countries are few of congenital defects that Pakistan took right from its inception. So long as such a foreign policy served their interests, all is well and fine, giving national interest a second priority. In contrast India under Nehru preferred the policy of non alignment to either block of USA and USSR.

Federation vs. Federating units and Provincial Autonomy

Both civil and military bureaucracies took over the reins of the country in wake of a juvenile and vulnerable political system. In comparison, however India was a viable state administratively and politically, as it was already a functioning country before partition. Whereas Pakistan had to start a destiny from very scratch. Thus, in case of Pakistan an obvious political vacuum was filled up by civil and military bureaucracy. Both form of bureaucracies, by its very nature and preference thought it best to give Pakistan a good administration and a strong centralized system. Therefore, a viable political and democratic system was a remote possibility any time during an immediate future. Such an authoritative mindset prevented democratic aspirations of the people of Pakistan and over ever increasing centralization impeded demand for the provincial autonomy of the smaller provinces in light of the resolution of the 1940.

Military of Pakistan has always been in the fore front as regards the important decisions concerning national interest. Not long after the promulgation of first constitution; which made the country as Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the beloved country suffered its first martial law. That was mainly result of the failure of parliamentary democracy. There were many reasons for the failure of Parliamentary democracy, apart from General Ayub finally deciding against democracy being ill-suited for a developing country such as Pakistan. One of main reason of its failure was a growing rift for provincial autonomy between East and West Pakistan (Bengal) and among Punjab and smaller Provinces of West Pakistan.

Framing and then subsequently promulgating first constitution of 1956 was seen with suspicion by the people of East Pakistan. In which Bengali majority was not accepted; in fact constitution was so framed on parity basis between the two wings. Moreover, suspicions and lack of trust were magnified as a result of first martial law of General Ayub Khan, which was met with abhorrence by especially by people of East Pakistan. It became thus convinced more than ever that they wouldn't able to pursue their rights in absence of a viable and just democratic dispensation. In other words first martial law was the step towards secession of East Pakistan.

Book Event: Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971

First Page of Dawn on 7th of October 1958

Martial Laws and Secession of East Pakistan

Secession of East Pakistan was just a matter of time according to many observers; they posit further that first seed of secession was sown when martial law was imposed on 7th of October 1958. It was believed to be a huge below to the democratic rights of the Bengalis in particular, further, they had minuscule representation in the then Army. At worst they were dubbed and mocked as dwarfs to serve in army. Economic policies of General Ayub just aggravated already strained relations between both wings and were cause of an ever wider gulf. In the sense that majority of the developmental projects were undertaken in West Pakistan.

Similarly war of 1965 with India delivered a crushing blow to the economy of Pakistan and popularity of General Ayub khan, which ultimately became causes for his resignation. General Yahya Khan was handed over the power in an unconstitutional manner as Chairman of the Senate was supposed to be the President as a result of resignation of outgoing President. Soon after Yahya Khan also imposed martial law and announced the general elections to be conducted in the country.

Awami league of Sheikh Mujeeb u Rehman won a thumping majority in East Pakistan while PPP of ZA Bhutto in west Pakistan. Election results of 1971 bore the testament of the fact that the rift between east and west wing is greater than ever where by neither mainstream party of any wing won any seat in other wing, while founding party of the country - Pakistan Muslim League was completely routed out.

Sheikh Mujeeb had fought election on his famous six points’ agenda; of which absolute provincial autonomy was top most of all entailing leaving federation with only defense, currency and foreign policy. Common sense didn't prevail back then; so the mujeeb’s six points were not accepted. Meantime the Army action was announced to crush the dissent by brute force of iron hand. What turned out as an outcome was not at all a surprise to any sane people, India as expected took advantage of what was a internal problem of Pakistan and went on to attack Pakistan army in Bengal and back, train dissidents in Bengal. It did not take long and Pakistan consequently became the first unfortunate country to disintegrate after Second World War.

Z.A Bhutto




Nawaz Sharif


Return of the Politicians - Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif

Z.A Bhutto along with other leaders of various political parties gave the country constitution of 1973. That was one of the landmark events to have happened in the constitutional history of the country. To guide the future of economy of the country; Mr. Bhutto solely decided to nationalize big corporations, such a decision was deemed to be based on capricious desires. It is been presumed now that, perhaps, Bonaparte Bhutto tried to appear larger than life and assumed a role of an economic, social and political reformer.

In reality and politically, He was not given a mandate of undertaking such radical steps but Pakistan has been a different country wherein such experiments have been done over the course of seventy years of its history. The state of affairs have been such that the so called democrats such as Z.A Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto have ruled the country with autocracy while Dictators of the likes of Ayub and Musharraf seemingly ruled with democratic facade.

The enigmatic fact has been that every ruler has invariably come up with something novel and alien to which people of Pakistan have no psychological, historical, social and political connection. In this regard, General Ayub emerged to teach people democracy by a vile concept of a basic democracy; He was reported to have said that western democratic model is not suited for people of Pakistan. Therefore, they have to be trained first up in relation with what the democracy is? The so called Caliph of Islam: General Zia started off the process of Islamization in a country where 98% of the population was largely Muslims, so according to him we should all be good Muslims first and then better Pakistanis. Whereas Greek philosopher: General Musharaf who was completely an antithetical to Zia’s process of Islamization went on to introduce his own version. After, certainly understanding the psyche of people of Pakistan by coming up with liberal concept of ‘enlightened moderation’. It so appears that no one really understood or ever tried as to what do the people of Pakistan want or what they have predilection for?

Bhutto’s dictatorial rule did not last long as Zia imposed third martial law in the country and reversed almost everything that Bhutto did in his tenure. General Zia needed legitimacy of his rule and was lucky to have got the opportunity to do so in wake of called Afghan jihad. He went on to bid American led western war between two superpowers. Pakistan’s soil was used against USSR’S invasion of Afghan - religious youth of the country was told to fight the enemy and serve Islam. Moreover, radicalism was funded with American money. Paradoxically,USA came back a decade later to fight same mujahedeen that it once patronized, such can be the agenda of a imperialist empire.

Restoration of a controlled Democracy

After the demise of General Zia of an air crash; perhaps that was only way possible to end his worst dictatorial rule. Benazir Bhutto came to power for the first time with big hopes of the people of Pakistan and of the international observers. However, no one did know that she had the corruption as a massive agenda in running the country. Professor Cohen rightly remarked in his book that Pakistan’s democratic aspirations shattered a huge below as a result of the failure of Benazir Bhutto as she was a revered leader of the masses. Thereafter, her opponent: Nawaz Sharif, who did not equal B.B in popularity, he too ruled the country twice in 90s. But failed both times, so the power chair swung between these two leaders throughout 90’s, while Army being real possessor of the power and eventually was a beneficiary of fight between Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto.


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