Dismemberment of Pakistan was not Inevitable

The inevitable catastrophe could be averted

The primary task of a multi ethnic country such as Pakistan was to create national consensus and working order among all the ethnic elites of the country. Unfortunately Pakistan was denied that by the power hungry unscrupulous ruling elites and forced the course of history towards the inevitable catastrophe.

Based upon the notion of consensus collaboration was needed to develop a strategy program emphasizing the following: –

1) The creation of representative government composed of all ethnic elites of the country.

2) The creation of a national consensus and a working order among different ethnicities.

3) The introduction and promotion of integrative national institutions to which all have an easy access.

4) The mobilization of the masses by the various ethnic elites for the goals and aspirations of the country.

5) To ‘nip in the bud ‘ any secessionist moves of ethnic groups. However this should not be accomplished by the force but through positive sanction.

6) To make sure that the economic trickle down to the masses, all ethnic groups should benefit on equal leve from economic development and modernization. The distribution of wealth and benefits within the various ethnic groups should be the responsibility of their respective elites.

This Strategy program was by no means a panacea. But it could leave us with the hope that inclusion and not exclusion of the ethnic groups within the national political structure was the key to unity of a multi-ethnic country. One may even assume with some justification that for justice the masses and the different ethnic groups could even tolerate for a certain time, a slow industrial growth rate and a rather hesitant pace of modernization. It seems to be easier than for an individual to be poor in a ‘just’ society where this neighbor does not constantly and conspicuously boasts about his ill-gotten gains. A State can only go up together. If it stands divided, it may give birth to a new nation or nations, which, it seems, make everybody or at least the concerned majorities poorer and the losers. Thus ethnic elites in multi-ethnic state should work together for their own good and that of the country. They may fight at certain times for advancing their particular ethnic interests, yet they should never loose faith in each other’s capabilities of tolerance, mutual understanding and compromise. Otherwise, the road to secession would definitely open as a bumpy and rather dangerous one-way street.

The custodians of ‘Islam and the ” Islamic State”, namely the Punjab-Muhajir dominated central governments from the very beginning looked upon the Bengalis as-trodden, backward people who had to be seen as a ‘special burden’ for the west Pakistan. They were convinced that Pakistani nationalism and its conspicuous penchant for economic development were secession would definitely open as a bumpy and rather dangerous one-way street.

However, it can’t be ignored that the economic policies of the Ayub government were instrumental in increasing the number of the incipient industrial entrepreneurs in East Pakistan. These fledging industrialists found the competition with the well entrenched and favored West Pakistani enterprises too hard, suffered from an acute sense of insecurity and inferiority, and therefore, they quickly joined hands with the vernacular Bengali politicians in their fight for more political autonomy for that region. Their fight for autonomy was some- what transformed by the Bengali industrialist into an effective instrument to put pressure on the central government to grant more economic concessions. In the struggle the cry for regional autonomy helped the diverse elements of Bengali populace to agree to converge to a single political platform.

The ruling elites unduly classified their Bengali compatriots as backward race with Hindu leaning. Such persistent attitude made substantial contributions towards the secessionist tendencies, yet to put Sheikh Mujib on trial was like signing the death warrant of an already moth-eaten fragile unity.

It has to be pointed out again that there was nothing new about Mujib’s six points program. Bengali members of the National Assembly on the floor of the House had expressed similar and virtually identical views many a time before. Only the timing of the announcement of the Agartala Conspiracy was important. It came at a time when the country was in the grip of a serious political crisis. People revolted everywhere in Pakistan against Ayub’s oppressive leadership and his dictatorial rule. President Ayub, far from rectifying the glaring ethnic disparities, had maintained and fortified the supremacy of the Punjabi-Muhajir elites. During the martial law era the Bengalis were hardly represented in the key positions of the central government. In the late 1960’s when the patience of the Bengalis began to wear thin. Worse was to come their leaders were being described by the central government as traitors and collaborators with an enemy power that is India. This was not certainly the kind of privilege the Bengalis had in mind when they had unequivocally opted for Pakistan in 1947. After all, and easily forgotten by the West Pakistani ruling class, the Bengalis had played the most significant role in the creation of Pakistan. Despite the apparently extreme nature of Sheikh Mujib’s demands, Pakistan was still dear to the hearts of the Bengalis. The Bengalis only wanted a bigger say in the running of the country. They longed for a political system, which emphasized the notion of equality and solidarity. They preferred, by all means, a parliamentary democracy to an absolute dictatorial rule, which strongly reminded them of Hindu domination and colonial exploitations. Therefore, it will be safe to suggest that in essence the Bengali struggle was for a well thought of objectives and not for an independent state of their own. It should be emphasized however, that at the time of Ayub’s departure, the secession of East Pakistan was not a foregone conclusion. In denying the Bengalis to fully participate in the economic and political life of the nation, the ruling coterie unknowingly pushed the Bengali elites towards their own masses and led them to revitalize their ethnic culture and language at the expense of national unity. Thus we can conclude that uneven development forced the Bengali elites to forge alliances with their mass against the central government and to replace nationalism by a vibrant ethnicity making that ethnicity the glue which holds the elites and the masses together. These phenomena: – uneven development, exploitation, deprivation and ethnicity are like leeches of the greediest kind- feed upon one another until the point of no-return is reached that is armed confrontation and insurrection.

Finally, the military junta decided to resolve the political crisis through the bullets and the guns. As a result, came the dreadful night of 25th march 1971. The Pakistan army launched its operation on the Bengalis to crush their political movement with unparalleled brutality. Thus the parting of ways became inevitable.

by Major Dalim