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

Southasia - - CONTENTS - Re­viewed by Bri­gadier (R) A.R.Sid­diqi

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

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