By Dr Ghayur Ayub
Army has played two important roles in the history of Pakistan; a unified disciplined force; and a strong politicised unit. America accepted both roles from early 1950s. Within a few years, the army created a strong liaison with its American counterpart and the political elite based on its professional capabilities. The politicians, on other hand, did not build such a bond and the relationship between Karachi (the then capital) and Washington started on a shaky ground. Reason?
The centuries-old slave-master system of British Raj which was so deeply entrenched in our society that the civilian leaders accepted the slave mindset and the generals took on the role of masters. This position was reflected by a foreign office dispatch No 105, dated December 23, 1952 sent from Karachi by the American Consul General, A Gibson. He wrote, “He (Ayub) stated that the Pakistan Army will not allow the political leaders to get out of hand, and the same is true regarding the people of Pakistan.” In another dispatch in 1953, Mr. Gibson wrote, “The Pakistan Army would not allow either politicians or the public to ruin the country”. This was the 'master' mindset of army generals and had been perceived by the Americans five years after independence.
This perception was reinforced in the following years after Sikandar Mirza became the president. According to one dispatch, “by May 19, 1958, five months before the first Martial Law, President Sikandar Mirza and Gen. Ayub Khan separately told the American Ambassador that only dictatorship would work in Pakistan.” In another dispatch the High Commissioner wrote, “The president if he can help it will not allow elections to be held, and he has in mind a personal coup with army support.” What Sikandar Mirza didn’t know was that General Ayub had something else up his sleeves, known to the Americans and clarified by yet another dispatch of October 9, 1958. It stated, “at present he (Ayub) is finding his feet but when he does so and understands more clearly the power of his command and opportunity before him, the strain on his loyalty to the president might be put to the test.” And that strain was put to the test within twenty days after the coup when he exiled Mirza and himself became the President. Earlier, the President of America endorsed the military coup through a letter sent to Sikandar Mirza on October 11, 1958.
The bickering between slave-minded political leaders and crafty manipulation by master-minded generals in the1950s became a benchmark for future politics of Pakistan. Robert E. Goodin described this relationship correctly when he wrote, “there are two themes related to the role of Pakistan military in politics. To work in the background as catalytic intrigues and keep the incumbent government weak and unstable or help bringing it down through martial law with announcement that it would bring a sustainable democracy and improved economic situation to the country.” This rhetoric was bellowed by General Ayub, Gen Zia and Gen Musharaf.
Slaves, by nature, develop a deep inferiority complex and lose the principles of uprightness. When such people achieve higher positions, they become prey to self-projection, unethical nepotism and a desire for unending financial gain. They treat people working for them as their slaves and bow down before those whom they consider their masters. Our politicians inherited this mentality which became a recipe for corruption and allowed it to trickle down to the gross roots. No wonder corruption has invaded the fabric of our society, breeding like a virus in our minds. It has become greed-based among the rich and need-based among the poor, splitting the public into 'haves' and 'have-nots'. It has also infiltrated civilian institutions, breaking their structure and making the poor, poorer and the rich, richer. Today, people who are not corrupt in civilian institutions are sidelined and treated as lepers.
It is not that the armed forces escaped corruption. No; but corruption remained among the top hierarchy making them financially sound during their service and after retirement. Thus 1958 coup showered them with unprecedented perks and privileges and 1977 coup extended their jobs to civil service and semi-autonomous bodies by introducing 10% quota. To avoid the trickledown effect of corrupt practices down to bottom, they kept the well-being of the soldiers in their mind and provided them with all the facilities at subsidised rates in purpose-built shopping centres in the cantonments. This was equivalent to the ''Roti, Kapra aur Makan' motto of Zulifqar Ali Bhutto which never came to fruition under the politicians.
To strengthen the army as an institution immediately after the defeat in 1971, National Defence College was built which became the hub of character building. In an interview, the chief of the college once spoke more like a politician than an army professional on socio-political environment, state of economy, building up national security and structuring nation building. What was taught in the college came out in the shape of the 'Green Book 2000.' The book concentrates on nation building and military contribution in political, social and economic spheres. Some compare it with the 'Red Book' of Mao. The words in the book were reflected by the acts of the generals who worked like members of a close-knit family and steered ahead in the fields of banking, insurance, construction, security, pharmaceuticals, industry, agriculture and social services primarily for the benefit of retired military personnel. They showed by practice, how to keep the military institution safe, sound, united and progressive. Someone might not agree with the notion by saying “over the years the interests have narrowed down from the greater benefit of the institution to personal welfare of the generals.” But how can one explain the visible difference in surroundings as he steps in a cantonment from a civilian area? It cannot be contributed to the work of the generals with narrow interest.
Against this background, how can we explain the gradual destruction of civilian institutions and spiraling corruption? Can we put the blame squarely on the army and for that matter on the Americans? Not really. They might have acted as catalysts to some extant but major responsibility falls on the shoulders of the politicians. A vast majority of the public certainly think so. They accuse them that instead of putting their house in order to curb corruption and rebuild institutions the politicians keep strolling on the path which leads to more corruption and institutional destruction. This is the sad story of our society led by the political leaders with slave mentality who shoot blank shots in the air to kill the demons that spread corruption and destroy the institutions knowing full well that those demons actually reside in their hearts.