Pakistan: Jinnah’s Sparta?
Book Title: Pakistan The Garrison State Origins, Evolution, Consequences 1947-2011 Author: Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed Publisher: Oxford University Press Pages: 508, Hardback Price: Rs.1295 ISBN: 9780199066360
Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmad’s book
‘Pakistan The Garrison State’
makes an invaluable addition to our meager literature on the origins and evolution of the state of Pakistan. The bulk of the available literature on the subject falls into the category of historiography, worse still, sort of a hagiography, marked by an emotive, personalized and preferred account of the author.
In fact, before Partition, each cantonment had been a mini-garrison state quite apart from the rest of the area. The cantonments had their own laws, housing societies, grocery stores, places of entertainment and even graveyards well away from the civilian areas.
Cantonment-based troops would debouch out of their barracks and crush the great uprising of May 1857; the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar (April 1919) and resort to the unrestrained use of force during the Quit India Movement of October 1942. The above are just a few examples of use of force in the long inventory of the British who used the military as and when required according to the will of the British area commander.
That the entire pre-partition India had been virtually a garrison state could be seen in the sprawling network of cantonments across the subcontinent that served as the centre of the British military muscle.
The book remains refreshingly free of technical jargon – such scientific works are generally noted for killing much of their value and interest for a general reader. The text flows smoothly to carry the reader along without making him scratch his head. It’s an excellent example of ‘righteousness made readable’.
Thus was laid the cornerstone in the arch of a military-dominated (militarist) garrison state that has remained practically unchanged since the birth of Pakistan. Democracy continues to exist in letter rather than in spirit. Something as ordinary as a recent media foul-up reflecting on the character of the country’s premier intelligence agency drove democracy to the brink of an abyss.
The emergence of Pakistan as a garrison state was not exactly a post-Partition phenomenon. Chinese political scientist, Tan Tai Yong argues that British rule was mediated through a garrison state. (Pg12)
Dr. Ahmed delves deftly into the origins of Pakistan to discuss its status as a free country and state. Born as a dominion of the British Commonwealth like India, its Siamese Twin, Pakistan would slide deeper into the abyss with the passage of time to reaffirm its status as a subordinate entity.
The Kashmir war drove Pakistan inescapably into a military cul-de-sac permanently. Churchill, with his rare strategic vision, was supposed to be the first to foresee the geo-strategic importance of the future Pakistan as the state on the pivot of Central and West Asia and the need to retain it on the side of the West. In May 1947, at a Chiefs of Staff Committee meeting in London, he strongly supported his assumption that it’d be ‘good’ for Britain to retain Pakistan.
The meeting was attended by the senior military and civil officers – RAF Marshal Lord Tedder (in the chair), Admiral Sir John H.D. Cunningham, Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, Lieutenant General Sir Leslie C. Hollis, Minister of Defence A.V. Alexander, Chief of the Viceroy Staff Lord Ismay and Major General R.E. Laycock. A memorandum prepared at the meeting of the Chiefs of Staff Committee in London on May 12, 1947 strongly supported the assumption that it would be good for Britain if Pakistan remained in the Commonwealth.” (Pg37)
How would the architect of Pakistan have liked and envisioned Pakistan to develop? As a warring Sparta or a Castilian, enlightened Athens? Did he ever have the freedom to choose between the two extremes?
Despite his likely natural preference to see Pakistan, his territorial protégé, grow into a modern-day Athens, he all but lost his only chance to choose freely when a hostile India imposed a war on its jugular, the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Kashmir war sealed the fate of Jinnah’s fond dream to create an Athens in Pakistan. The Kashmir war all but destroyed Jinnah’s one wish for lasting peace to turn Pakistan into a functional, modern state.
Jinnah projected his Pakistan as the Indian Muslims’ Utopia – the Promised Land. However, the unforeseen mayhem and massive dislocations accompanying the birth of Pakistan cast