21 December 2011

"Myths and Facts: Bangladesh Liberation War" by B Z Khasru

The recent declassification of US Government archives has provided a rich mine of information on US behavior during the1971 war between India and Pakistan that liberated Bangladesh.

B Z Khasru, a US based journalist, has done extensive research of this newly declassified data to bring additional information about the 1971 events.

It was Bhutto, not Mujib, who broke Pakistan, says General Yahya Khan in an affidavit issued just before his death.  All that Mujib-ur-Rahman wanted was for Bengal to have its fair share of growth, jobs, public purse and foreign aid; and the opportunity to grow through trade with India.  Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had a tacit preference to let East Pakistan secede (and leave the West to be governed by Bhutto) than be subject to a weak federation ruled by Bengalis.  Bhutto preferred power than Pakistan.

Yahya was no angel either.  His motivation to conduct elections was the probability of getting to stay in power for a long period of time since his Intelligence officers advised him that the elections might not result in a clear majority and the framing of a new constitution within 120 days after the elections is unlikely.  His allusion to Mujib as the future PM of Pakistan was more to scare the politicians in the West and the army to unite.

However, Khasru’s book is more about how US misplaced its principles and misread the tea leaves.

Nixon and Kissinger saw the entire problem through the narrow prism of securing friendship with China through the benevolence of Yahya Khan.

1.     The aspirations of 75 million people in the East and the genocide unleashed on them were not important.  When US Consul at Dacca, Archer Blood, accused the US Government of “moral bankruptcy” for its “posture of pretending to believe Pakistan Government’s false assertions”, Nixon recalled Blood and transferred him to Personnel.

2.     The focus was on keeping Yahya Khan pleased since he was the conduit to the secret parley with China.   US would continue to publicly support Yahya’s unified Pakistan; if East Pakistan requires US support, US would decline to give such a support “based on the premise that in US opinion West Pakistan would not use force to bring a solution”.

Nixon and Kissinger were amazingly consistent in “misreading” the tea leaves:

1.     Kissinger theorized that India would not want an independent Bangladesh since that would induce India’s West Bengal province to secede from India and unite with Bangladesh!

2.     Nixon preferred to support Pakistan wherever possible because “Yahya was more decent to US than Indira Gandhi was”.  Kissinger agreed, “Yahya was decent and reasonable if not politically smart”.

3.     Kissinger felt Indian occupation of Bangladesh would be even more violent and would make Pakistan’s occupation look like child play.  When Indian army entered Dacca, Nixon was surprised to see locals welcoming the liberating army and asked: “You see those people welcoming the Indian troops.  Why then are we going through this agony?” Kissinger replied:  “To prevent the West Pakistan army from being destroyed; to retain our Chinese arm; to preserve balance of power with the Soviet Union”.

Nixon had a strong bias against India.  In his private conversations with Kissinger, Indians were referred to as “cowards” and “savages”.  Nixon tried to support Pakistan in several ways:

1.     When his State department disagreed with Kissinger that US owed arms support to Pakistan (when Pakistan invoked the bilateral agreement with US and sought arms), Nixon orchestrated provision through intermediary countries.  Jordan did provide aircrafts and pilots to Pakistan.  Iran agreed to but rescinded in the last minute.  Kissinger admitted in 1972 to China that US supplied arms via third countries.  The augmentation did not have an impact.

2.     Nixon urged China to move troops to the Indian border saying “The Indians have got to get a little scared”. China did not oblige because of its concerns about Soviet intervention under the Indo Soviet treaty.

3.     Nixon moved US Seventh fleet to Bay of Bengal to increase threat perceptions though this did not have any impact on the war.

4.     Nixon warned Soviet Union that any help to India would leave a scar in US-Soviet relationship for many years after the war ended.  Nixon told a visiting Soviet minister: “The Indians are cowards.  They are raping and murdering.  They are pretty vicious”.  (Historians would consider this to be a Presidential lie).  Kissinger felt Nixon’s statement would make Soviets reduce their support to India.  They did not.

In Khasru's book, Indira Gandhi emerges as a good leader.  She worked on domestic opinion before supporting Mukti Bahini.  She worked on international opinion before invading East Pakistan.  She read the geopolitical scenario rightly and concluded a treaty with the Soviet Union to ensure China does not start any conflict to step up pressure against India.  She was firm in declining to conform to UN resolution (orchestrated by Nixon) to ceasefire and withdraw from each other’s territories (the usual end for every India Pakistan war in the past). 

In the end it came down to Nixon and Kissinger not reading an important import of that amazing document, the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, which read: “Whenever any government becomes destructive of man’s inalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, it was the right of the people to alter or abolish it”.

18 December 2011

"The last days of United Pakistan" by G W Choudhury

Pakistan started as a homeland for the Muslims of Indian subcontinent in 1947.  That credential was lost in 1971 when Bangladesh separated from Pakistan after a genocide that took 0.4 million to 3.6 million lives (depending on whose narrative you believe).

G W Choudhury provides a unique perspective of the events surrounding the birth of Bangladesh.  His perspective is unique because:  One, GWC is a scholar (he taught political science at Dacca University and later at Duke University).   Two, he is of Bengali origin and has a better understanding of the Bengali point of view.  Three, he was a Minister in General Yahya Khan’s military dictatorship and has unquestionable allegiance to the idea of Pakistan.

Why did Pakistan fail to keep all Muslims united under one flag and face secessionist pressure from a sub set of its Muslims within 24 years?  Why did the Bengali Muslim get alienated from the Pakistan idea?

GWC cites several reasons:
  1. Though religion was a unifying factor, language and culture were divisive factors.  The Bengalis in East Pakistan had greater affinity to the Hindu Bengalis of India than fellow Muslims in Pakistan.  Pakistan failed to play the unifying card and alienated Bengalis by attempting to make Urdu spoken in West Pakistan as the national language.  The alienation was so strong that in a provincial election, Muslim League, the national party won just 9 out of 304 seats! 
  2. Bengalis did not have a role in national politics despite constituting 55% of Pakistan’s population.  People from Punjab and Sindh in the western half dominated national politics.  (Pakistan’s politics did not provide a role for people in the western half either; it was ruled by military dictatorship or by a sham democracy that did not hold one general election at national level until 1970!). 
  3. Bengalis did not have a role in provincial government either.  Most of the top jobs in civil service went to people originating from West Pakistan.
  4. Bengalis had a different view on international relations.  Bengalis depended upon trade with India and nursed no animosity against India. (When Mujib was egged by GWC to accept Chinese friendship, Mujib retorted: “Friendship against whom?  I have no dispute with India.  Why should I need China’s help and assistance?”)  National leadership, dominated by the western half, nursed an animosity against India because of its stronger affinity to Kashmir.  GWC concedes in his book that “Pakistan’s hands were not clean in Kashmir or in the Mizo unrest in Assam”. 
  5. Bengalis did not enjoy a fair share of public revenue, foreign aid or government jobs.  Most of these went to West Pakistan.  (To be fair, most of the revenue/aid went to the army; not West Pakistan; however that is a technical detail for the average Bengali).
  6. The Bengalis did not have their fair share of economic growth as a result. In 1960 West’s GDP was 32% bigger than East’s.  In 1970, West’s GDP was 61% bigger than East’s.

General Yahya Khan decided to transfer power to a government elected by people.  The Eastern half (with 55% population) was fully united behind Awami League party.  The Western half was split amongst various regional factions.  In normal circumstances, Mujib-ur-Rahman, the Bengali leader would have become the Prime Minister of Pakistan.  According to GWC, the people in the western half and the army would have accepted Mujib-ur-Rahman as PM.  

But there were stumbling blocks:
  1. Politicians from West Pakistan were not willing to let power go to Bengalis. 
  2. Mujib-ur-Rahman’s intentions were not clear.  Though he proposed a six point agenda demanding provincial autonomy, and was not talking of secession there was widespread suspicion that his real intent was secession.

Yahya Khan had to make some tough choices.  Could he trust Mujib to form a government?  Could he pressure Bhutto to accept Mujib’s leadership?  Would Mujib consider the electoral results a mandate for secession and demand secession after becoming PM?  Yahya made his choices and conducted the elections in Dec 1970. 

Results were as below:




Bhutto declined to cede power to Mujib saying “majority rule does not apply in view of geographic distance between East and West Pakistan”.  Mujib was pressing for greater provincial autonomy in a set up where the federal government was virtually powerless.  GWC tried to broker peace with a half way house arrangement.  The negotiations did not yield any result.

After this, the narrative varies based on who you ask.

GWC “concedes” that Pakistan Army (on the fateful day of 25 Mar 1971) unleashed violence on its own people in the East that can never be condoned or justified; but carefully avoids the word “genocide”.  He does say that “foreign newspapers did not exaggerate and in fact people’s agony, suffering and humiliation had not been fully exposed”.  (Neutral observers estimate the number of dead to be around 3.6 million and the number of refugees into India to be 10 million).  Pakistan army brought the peace of the graveyard to the Eastern half.

Burdened by the inflow of refugees, India started providing tacit assistance to Mukti Bahini (the freedom fighters of Bangladesh).  Pakistan started air action against India at the Western border (based on the premise that this would keep Indian army busy and deter any intrusion in the Eastern border; and China/US would prevent escalation).  GWC concedes this strategy was not fruitful.  India invaded East Pakistan and liberated Bangladesh.  The war that Bhutto vowed would last a thousand years lasted just 14 days resulting in decimation of Pakistan army in the East and capture of 93,000 prisoners of war (who were later sent to Pakistan under Simla Accord).

However, GWC’s analysis is not sufficient:

1.     GWC carefully avoids discussion of the loss of 3.6 million lives in East Pakistan under a genocide orchestrated by Pakistan army. 
2.     GWC ignores the fact that Pakistan started the war at the Western front for which India responded by invading East Pakistan.
3.     GWC says India’s victory “with little cost” was due to the full backing (ie moral support) of Russia while US/China did not provide military support (though they provided moral support) to Pakistan.  He misses the asymmetry of his analogy.  He also misses the power of a million aspirations.
4.     GWC laments for Pakistan army’s defeat without air support and “surrounded by a hostile population”.  Very funny.

Anyone interested in the story of Bangladesh should read this book for the insight; but should read at least one more book to get a better perspective of the price paid for “Amar Sona Bangla”.

11 December 2011

"The Remains of the day" by James Ivory & Ismail Merchant

Yaghan language (spoken in Tierra del Fuego - the archipelago off the southern tip of South America) has  a word that is considered to be the most succinct (and most difficult to translate to English):  "mamihlapinatapai".  It means the look shared by two people, each hoping that the other will initiate something that both desire but neither is willing to initiate.  Whew.

This 1993 Merchant Ivory movie (of course scripted by Ruth Jhabvala) is an excellent epitome of the "mamihlapinatapai" feeling.  The movie is based on Kazuo Ishiguro's book about the ambiguous relationship between a stoic perfectionist English butler (Anthony Hopkins) and a warm housekeeper (Emma Thompson).  One can sense the love between them; their reluctance to express it first; and their keen desire that the other should express first.  The housekeeper leaves to marry someone else.  Fortune offers another chance twenty years later only to be lost again.  

Anthony Hopkins' Mr Stevens is the perfect butler a master could hope for.  He runs the house with dedication and commitment; is laconic and polite with his master and with his staff.  He manages everything for his master and yet "vanishes into the wall paper" even as leaders of the era visit his master's house to  architect a European unity between the first and the second world war.  He sees nothing; hears nothing and talks nothing and offers no opinion even when the house guests seek his opinion on worldly issues.  Quite a contrast to Isaac Asimov's Henry (the butler serving the Black Widowers) who "engages" with impressive intelligence in the affairs of his guests.    

Emma Thompson's Miss Kenton is a polite and proper lady.  She is slightly warmer than Stevens; slightly less repressed and very subtle in expressing her emotions (be it love or be it anger).  She lets her emotions get through on two occasions: one, when she teases Stevens by enquiring whether he is reading a scandalous book that could hurt her character; another when she cries in her room after announcing her decision to marry Tom.  On both occasions, Stevens "misses the bus" in understanding and reciprocating the feelings.

You feel like intervening into the movie to break the ice.  That is the feeling Kazuo Ishiguro, Ruth Jhabvala, Ismail Merchant and James Ivory wanted you to be left with.

I would rather regret doing something than regret not having done something.  Excellent movie.

27 November 2011

"Controversially yours" by Shoaib Akhtar

Shoaib, the Rawalpindi express, is one of the best players of cricket in the game.  He entertained spectators with an exceptionally high quality pace bowling (on occasions exceeding 100 miles per hour).  

Shoaib had the “in your face” and “never say die” attitudes that took him to commanding heights of glory even as the same traits threw several challenges into the journey.

Shoaib had a tough time emerging from his lower middle class youth to pursue a high risk career in cricket; had a tough time in dealing with an unfair employer, a politicized cricket administration, seemingly uninspiring and often hostile coaches, captains and fellow players.  Shoaib had a tough time dealing with his own fitness and his penchant for parties/girls.  However, Shoaib did not have a tough time at all with just one part of his ecosystem:  support and adulation from the countless number of fans not just in Pakistan but also in India and every other country that loves/plays cricket.

Shoaib provides us a lovely glimpse of middle class Pakistan in the chapters dealing with his childhood.  Dad worked in a job that does not pay much but takes care of most aspects of life including education and healthcare.  Mom managed the household within the limited means with dignity.  Education ranked a high priority.  The young boys gauged how “rich” the family was on any day by looking at the size of the knot at the end of their mother’s duppatta (she stored the money in her dress!).  Shoaib aspires to conform to his family ethos and yet seeks to be "free".  Shoaib, by speaking from his heart, enkindles the nostalgia in most of us and inspires renewal of faith in future.  

Shoaib attempts to set the record straight but is not entirely successful:
  1. Yes, he tampered balls. His excuse: everyone did it and winning is important.  Not cricket.
  2. Yes, he partied a lot.  Yes, there were girls.  No he did not rape. 
  3. No, he did not fake injuries.  He genuinely suffered.  His commitment to play bearing his pain with fortitude has not been appreciated.
  4. No, Pakistan cricket administration was not supportive.  One was not assured of one’s place in the team unless the non-playing administrators were pampered.
  5. Yes, the team knitted well during good days.  No, the team did not knit well during bad days.  On balance, there was more internal strife and hostility than esprit de corps.
  6. Yes, there was match fixing.  He did not indulge in one though he was approached.

Shoaib does not have one unkind word for India; recognizes that several of the Pakistan players (including Shoaib and Afridi) enjoy immense popularity in India and is joyous at the support his Kolkatta fans (he played for KKR in Indian Premier League) gave him.  

Shoaib has been candid in commenting about fellow players in Pakistan and elsewhere. His comment about some Indian batsmen playing for their records instead of for winning the game cannot be dismissed as a biased observation.  Whether unfair or not, it comes from his heart.

The one thing that I expected but did not find in the book is his state of mind, the tactical options he considered and executed and their success/failure in crucial match winning moments.  He probably wanted to save it for a private briefing to aspiring pace bowlers in Pakistan so that some day when his record is broken it is done by a Pakistani for the Pakistan team. 

16 September 2011

"Hang gliding" at Interlaken, Switzerland

The toughest moment is when you are atop the Alpine cliff awaiting a friendly breeze before running down the brief slope toward crisp clean air far above the beautiful town with hope that nature gives you a nice lift. After that it is pure joy.

Radhika did it too. With a dive and a loop.

13 June 2011

"Matters of discretion" by Inder Kumar Gujral

Autobiographies of Prime Ministers (especially ex diplomats) tend to be discreet to the point of being bland. Autobiographies of intellectuals tend to be profound and insightful in their analyses.

Inder Gujral, Prime Minister of India, top diplomat prior to that and an intellectual surprises us twice: One, Gujral expresses his views in a refreshingly honest way; does not hold back. Two, Gujral stays away from discussing any substantive issue India faced/faces.

Gujral's candid biography provides an insider view of the main actors and the games they played in Indian politics for 33 years between 1966 and 1999:

1. Indira Gandhi, to Gujral, cannot be counted upon. Gujral (along with Dinesh Singh and Uma Shankar Dixit) was part of the coterie that helped Indira Gandhi become PM in 1966. Yet she dumped them quite quickly. Gujral had to “fight” to get a ministerial birth in her 1967 administration.

2. Indira Gandhi, to Gujral, was a split and complex personality. Gujral says "She could be mean, petty and vicious; and large hearted, gracious and charming”

3. Indira’s ethics, to Gujral, is suspect. Her Yoga Guru Dhirendra Brahmachari applied pressure on Gujral to get a prime property in Delhi from the Government. Gujral declined. Indira Gandhi demoted Gujral and got the land transferred to Brahmachari. Additionally, Gujral thinks the untimely death of L N Mishra ("the man who knew too much") in a bomb blast raised a few suspicions.

4. Indira Gandhi’s suspension of democracy in India in 1975 was, to Gujral, her worst blunder. “Small men with small minds captured power, and well equipped demolition squads were destroying democratic institutions and suppress or even get rid of Individuals with moral stature and ethical values”. The misadventure was traceable to her affection for son Sanjay Gandhi, unwise advisers such as P N Haksar and sycophants such as N D Tiwari and Shyama Charan Shukla. Soviet Union’s Nikolai M Pegoy regretted to Gujral that “Indira Gandhi must understand that she is a leader first and a mother second”. Her reinvigoration of democracy by calling for elections was because of a misjudgment that she had “smothered opposition and Sanjay has been accepted by a prostrate electorate”. As late as 1984, Pranab Mukherjee and Vasant Sathe in Indira’s cabinet were working on amending the Constitution to a Presidential system with strong limits on the role of opposition!

5. Indira Gandhi’s ordering troops into the Golden Temple was, to Gujral, her second biggest blunder. Congressmen, under Indira Gandhi, created Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to play one faction against another for electoral purposes; in the end Bhindranwale went out of control. Indira paid with her life. Her son Rajiv’s era began with an anti-Sikh riot that haunts the nation even today.

6. Gujral's deposition to Shah Commission investigating Emergency excesses was a tussle between loyalty and honesty. Arun Shourie best described it as “Gujral trying to please both his present and past masters”.

7. President Sanjiva Reddy, in a visit to Soviet Union (during the days Gujral was India’s diplomat in Moscow), was not keen on discussing any political or economic issue with Soviet leaders. He was keen to take his family out shopping!

8. Ramakrishna Hegde, Chandrasekar and V P Singh deserve credit, according to Gujral, for the formation of Janata Dal in 1988. Hegde lost his parity because of (as Gujral so nicely articulates) “his proclivity for sybaritic comfort and affinity for glitter and glamour” ruptured his image!

9. V P Singh, to Gujral, was “stubborn in not heeding the advice of his colleagues and indecisive till a situation went out of control; he easily played into the hands of sectarian leaders who alienated him from his support base and the media”. Singh’s support to expand quota of “other” backward castes in Government jobs from 22% to 49% (based on recommendations of Mandal Commission) was one such incident that led to the fall of the government within a year.

10. Chandrasekar formed his government in Nov 1990 (with unreliable support from Congress party) that made “the Hindujas, the Ambanis and the Birlas jubilant”. Gujral declined to join Chandrasekar’s cabinet. The Government did not last long.

11. Janata Dal which lost the 1991 elections to Narasimha Rao was dysfunctional; state bosses without any moral compunction gained power over national leaders. Gujral contested this election from Bihar and was shocked to get an offer for “polling booth services” to ensure victory for a price of Rs 150,000 and 50 bullets! Gujral declined. Nor was Gujral impressed by V P Singh asking Gujral to not contest elections and look after a “large sum donated by an unnamed source” to Janata Dal. He declined that offer too.

12. The United Front, a coalition led by dark horse candidate Deve Gowda was beset by unreliable support from Congress party. During this period, Lalu Prasad Yadav loses his seat in Bihar State Legislature thanks to a “fodder scam scandal”. Gujral seems to have helped Lalu to run the state by proxy by helping Lalu’s wife succeed him as CM!

Gujral became Prime Minister in 1997 when Sitaram Kesri (“the old man in a hurry”) withdrew Congress support to Deve Gowda). However, within a short period, Gujral faced significant pressure from Congress party to drop coalition partner DMK from Government (because of allegations against them in Jain Commission investigation of Rajiv Gandhi assassination). Gujral refused to oblige and preferred to resign; in a rare display of timber in Indian politics.

The most shocking (but not surprising) revelation: Karunanidhi sent Minister Aladi Aruna to pressurize Gujral to appoint a preferred candidate as the head of Chennai's port (a lucrative job if one is corrupt) but told the public in TN that the trip was to lobby for TN interests in Kaveri river water dispute between TN and Karnataka! The shock is not about corruption in DMK; the shock is about trivialisation of the fortune of TN farmers!

Gujral may not have intended it; but ends up highlighting the darker side of Indian politicians quite vividly.

12 April 2011

"Dairy milk Ad" by Cadbury

A sixer that barely escaped a catch. A century. A young girl in love. A woman who is not inhibited. A cricketer who can hit. A man who is not afraid to be shy and embarrassed. Cadbury daily milk chocolate. Seven things that create the "joie de vivere" mood.

Yes. It is official. This is my favorite ad.

19 March 2011

"Liberty or death: India's journey to independence & division" by Patrick French

This book by UK politician Patrick French is junk.

Two examples:

One, the author says India's independence movement would not have worked under Stalin's Russia since Gandhi/Nehru would have been summarily executed. By this logic, Britain would not have had magna carta if Attila the Hun was its King at Runnymede!

Two, the author says that a few "volunteers" and not Pakistan Army invaded Kashmir in 1948. Is this still in dispute? Really? So passe.

Unfortunately I bought Patrick French's 2010 book on India last week; allegedly a history of a billion people. Now, am apprehensive. What is the focus this time? Two billion arm pits?

13 March 2011

"Tinderbox, the past and future of Pakistan" by M J Akbar

Pakistan is an idea that was born out of pride in the past and fear of the future; it would neither stabilize nor disintegrate but remain in its current toxic state says M J Akbar, renown author and newsmagazine editor in his book tracing the fascinating story of the birth and growth of Pakistan.

Akbar quotes Maulana Abul Kalam Azad from an interview given to a Lahore magazine in 1946: "After the initial euphoria dies down, divisive pressures would become assertive in Pakistan; the two wings will separate; and regional identities, fueled by outside interference, will result in balkanization. Incompetent political leadership will pave way for military rule; neo rich will loot national wealth and Pakistan will end up being controlled by international conspirators". Quiet a prescient man, Azad was.

What gave rise to Pakistan? Muslim pride and Muslim fear.

The pride of the Indian Muslim is justified. Muslims wielded power in India for 665 years from 1192 to 1857 AD. Though the rulers were Muslim, it was not an Islamic rule. Both the Delhi Sultans and the Moghuls (except an odd Aurangazeb) kept their faith away from statecraft and co-opted Hindu nobility and warriors to add depth and sustainability to their rule. The Muslim population in India too was significantly influenced by the tolerant and compassionate Sufi philosophy.

The fear set in with the gradual weakening and eventual decline of Moghul empire.

Muslim response to this fear of insecurity differed: the Deoband Madrassa, the Barelvis and the Jamat-i-Islami wanted the British out and were willing to live in peace with Hindus in a untied India; the Aligarh Muslim University set up by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan sought to co-operate with the British to carve out special treatment for Muslims including special electorates in provincial and central legislatures.

Muslim politics had five swivel moments eventually leading to the birth of Pakistan:

One, in 1916 Muslims under Jinnah leadership secured Congress agreement for separate electorates (and a united fight against the British)

Two, in 1919 Muslims were outraged by British taking away Islam’s holy mosques from the Ottoman caliph, trusted Gandhi to lead the jihad against the British (only to be disillusioned by Gandhi’s abandonment of the Khilafat movement after a violent incident in Chauri Chaura).

Three, in 1927 Jinnah failed to bridge the gap with Congress when an opportunity arose to draft a Constitution for India. After this the British kept deepening the wedge between Hindus and Muslims.

Four, in 1937 Muslim fear of Hindu domination arose after a provincial election when the victorious Congress declined to form a coalition with the defeated Muslim League. Jinnah swore to convert the dispersed provincial identities and regional leaderships into a “national minority”.

Five, in 1946 Muslims were disappointed at Congress, fearful of balkanization, reversing its decision to adopt a federal structure constitution for a united India. This resulted in partition and the birth of Pakistan unavoidable and in the best interest of everyone.

Post partition, Pakistan lived up to Azad’s predictions.

The ruling class co-opted faith into politics; sabotaged weak attempts at land reform; and left people in poverty. Jinnah’s dream of a secular state with muslim majority was ignored. Instead, as dreamt by Maulana Maudidi, theocratic urges were patched into legislative framework.

The emergence of Pakistan as an Islamic state was gradual. In 1949 the Constitutional Assembly subjected the young state to principles of Islamic faith. In 1956 the new Constitution made the country an Islamic republic. In 1962 General Ayub Khan added the Islamiyat curriculum that distorted history glorifying Arab invaders and identifying Pakistan with the invaders. In 1973/74 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto introduced a new constitution that reaffirmed Pakistan as an Islamic republic; reserved President and PM positions to Muslims, reinforced teaching Islamiyat in schools, set up an initiative to ensure every law was in harmony with the faith; paid government salaries to imams of mosques; moved weekends to Fridays; banned night clubs, gambling and liquor; triggered movement to Sharia and declared Ahmadiyas as non-Muslims although none of this eventually won him popular support. In 1977-85 General Zia completed Islamisation process. He passed Hudood laws; imposed Zakat and made blasphemy a crime punishable with death. Finally a new constitution was adopted in 1985 that enshrined supremacy for Islam in the governance of Pakistan.

Pakistan went on to become a frontline warrior state for Islam. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto held the first Islamic summit in 1974 setting up the Organization of Islamic States; started a nuclear program that had tacit funding and support from Arab states; nurtured and funded Burhanuddin Rabani’s mujahideen in Afghanistan as early as 1972. Zia funded/supported jihadi warriors against Soviet rule in Afghanistan and Indian rule in Kashmir. Musharraf's "running with the hare and hunting with the hound" policy turned the jihadists against Pakistan.

The erosion of political framework was also gradual: In 1953 Governor General Ghulam Mohammed dismissed an elected government; installed a puppet government; and dismissed the puppet government too. An obliging Chief Justice Munir upheld Ghulam’s actions by inventing the dubious “doctrine of necessity” that would eventually destroy Pakistan’s democracy. In 1956 President Iskander Mirza (an erstwhile General) weakened civil government by dismissing elected governments four times in 30 months with power shifting slowly and firmly to the army. In 1958 General Ayub Khan set up the first military rule. In 1974 Bhutto turned to army to maintain law and order. General Zia-ul-Haq declined to help; set up the second military rule and moved Bhutto to prison/death. In 1999 Pervez Musharraf removed Nawaz Sharif and set up the third military coup and dictatorship. Pakistan alternated between military dictatorships and corrupt civil governments.

End result: Pakistan became a military dictatorship financed by US (and Saudi Arabia) administering a theology based law, pursuing terrorism as a state policy, in possession of a nuclear device, and an infrastructure that creates a large pool of terrorists with designs to take over the State.

Akbar thinks Pakistan will not disintegrate. However, the odds seem to favour Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.

10 March 2011

“பாடாத பாட்டெல்லாம்” by Kannadasan

One song that I keep humming often is this melody written by Kannadasan; composed by Viswanathan & Ramamurthy and sung by P B Srinivas and Janaki in the 1962 movie Veera Thirumagan.

Reason: Soothing emotions expressed in awesome lyrics. Kannadasan’s imagination, choice of words and ability to express emotions are awesome.

The plot is simple: He tells us of the progress of his love for her through various phases: Attraction, Expectation, Hesitation, Consummation and yearning for the union of souls not just body.

Here goes my understanding of what I consider to be one of the best songs ever written in Tamil:

பாடாத பாட்டெல்லாம் பாட வந்தாள்
காணாத கண்களைக் காண வந்தாள்

She came to sing tunes that she never sang before; implying that this is a first for her. She came to see eyes that have never seen before; implying she expects this to be my puppy love too.

பேசாத மொழியெல்லாம் பேச வந்தாள்
பெண் பாவை நெஞ்சிலே ஆடி நின்றாள்

Yet she came to say stuff she never said before; implying an intention to cross the rubicon! I am hooked!

மேலாடை தென்றலில் ஆ ஆ ஆ
பூவாடை வந்ததே ம் ம் ம்

Her upper garment. Gentle breeze. Wow!
And, I was close enough to smell her fragrance. Ahem!

கையோடு வளையலும் கல் கல் கல்
கண்ணோடு பேசவா சொல் சொல் சொல்

Physical proximity is nice but I yearn for proximity of minds where spoken word is not necessary; where one can communicate with eyes.

அச்சமா நாணமா இன்னும் வேண்டுமா
அஞ்சினால் நெஞ்சிலே காதல் தோன்றுமா 

I sense hesitation still. Is this due to fear (and therefore I need to go slow) or shyness (and therefore I need to hasten)? Can we ever make an omelette without cracking an egg? Will she open up?

மிச்சமா மீதமா இந்த நாடகம்
மென்மையே பெண்மையே வா வா வா

Is the residual hesitation a useless remainder (like food left in the plate) or useful remainder (like food left in the buffet)? Should I take a step back or a step forward? I don’t know. I would just make an appeal.

இரவிலே நிலவிலே சேதி வந்ததா
உறவிலே உறவிலே ஆசை வந்ததா

Oh yes. What made her move forward? Did the ambience trigger passion?

மறைவிலே மறைவிலே ஆடலாகுமா
அருகிலே அருகிலே வந்து பேசம்மா

Now that the physical union is consummated, I yearn for union of mind and soul. Come my friend, let us chat.

P B Srinivas, in his best years then, does full justice to Kannadaasan’s lyrics. S Janaki’s humming demonstrates how a composer adds to lyrics without writing a word.

In my younger days, there was no TV. We had to do with radios. We had the luxury of hearing a song and doing our own visualization. Nowadays when this song is telecast, I close my eyes (to not let the poor quality visual affect the excellent image I carry in my mind from childhood) and enjoy.

There is a far older poem in Tamil that goes:
செவ்விது செவ்விது பெண்மை ஆ
செவ்விது செவ்விது காதல்
A critic in that century said that the word that packed maximum meaning in the entire poem was the fourth one!

All I can say about Kannadasan's song is: "ஆ! ஆ! ஆ!"

13 February 2011

"Quiet diplomacy" by Jamsheed Marker

Taking you to far away places and letting you have a first hand insight into unfolding events and making you feel you are a part of the ambience is not something new to Jamsheed Marker. He was a cricket commentator in those TV less days when the spoken word was the only way to vicarious enjoyment of a match.

Jamsheed Marker had a long and colorful innings as a diplomat. He was Pakistan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union when Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan. He was ambassador to the United States when US sponsored Mujahideen fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

Jamsheed does not disappoint. His prose is entertaining and insight engaging.

Some interesting snippets:

One: When you move from Anglophone West Africa to Francophone West Africa, according to the author, the cuisine improves and plumbing worsens.

Two: The President of Cote d’Ivoire observed that when you send a young African to Paris he returns a Marxist; when you send him to Moscow, he returns a conservative!

Three: After inviting Sekou Toure of Guinea to speak, unaware that the microphone was still on, Indira Gandhi said in Hindi “Oh dear, this man is going to speak forever”!

Four: Desmond Tutu said that when the missionaries came to Africa, they had the bible and the Africans had the land. After the Africans joined the prayers and opened their eyes, the Africans had the bible and the missionaries had the land!

Five: Voltaire said that the best form of government is a benevolent despotism, tempered by the occasional assassination.

Six: Kissinger told Yahya Khan that for a military dictator, Yahya ran a lousy election!

Seven: When a translator conveyed Gromyko’s message to Pakistan’s ambassador to “please not take any action that would oblige us to fulfill our obligation to a country with whom we have a Treaty of Friendship”, Gromyko intervened and clarified that he did not use the word “Please”.

Eight: Helmut Schmidt said that “Moscow’s concept of settled frontiers was to have Soviet troops stationed on both sides of the border”.

However, the book suffers from two major deficiencies: One, it is too sanitized. All people appear nice, hold nice thoughts and say nice words. Two, Jamsheed steers clear of the strategic thinking behind Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Pakistan has had a good innings in international relations by positioning itself as the frontier for the free world in the past; and the trench line to protect Islam recently. The success and implied perils of such thinking merited some commentary from the pavilion but is missing.