M Saeed Khalid*
*The author of this book review is a former Ambassador of Pakistan.
December 16, 2015 marked one year of the terrible attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that shook the Pakistani nation to the core with the monstrous butchering of 122 children in cold blood. Forty-four years earlier, on the same day, the country faced shock and humiliation as Pakistani troops surrendered, not to a Bengali officer, but a Sikh general of the Indian army. We do not know if the self-styled jihadis deliberately chose the date of an earlier tragedy to hurt Pakistan even deeper. What is important, however, is whether we learnt adequate lessons from the happenings of December 16, though forty-three years apart but raising critical questions about our state policies and behaviour as a society and a nation.
This is where the Autobiography of Lt-Gen Abdul Majid Malik, published this year at the age of 95, becomes relevant as the firsthand account of the high and low points of his life that are interwoven with Pakistan’s history. The son of a Havaldar Major who had seen action in WWI, Abdul Majid grew up in a remote village of Chakwal in the Potohar region, walking several kilometres to school each day, joining the British Indian army at the start of World War II, fighting against the Japanese on the Burma front and escorting Muslim convoys fleeing the 1947 massacres at the time of partition.
Recruited in the British Indian Army in 1939, the young man from Chakwal won approbation of his seniors and received, in recognition of his bravery in Burma, a call for an entry test to the rank of officer. Commissioned in 1943, Malik was posted back to Burma and with the Japanese retreating, on to Singapore and Malaya. He was among the Indian troops dispatched to Indonesia in aid of the Dutch colonial army, something he did ‘half heartedly’. Though professional soldiers, many Indians used to feel happy learning about German victories over British forces as that sent subtle signals of the British wrapping up from India one day.
Hum bhi wahan maujood thai – I was also there, is the first hand account in Urdu of a valiant soldier, a master planner, an astute political player and a humanitarian who never gave up hope. In writing and publishing his life story, Gen Malik has also sought to pen down how a majority of the political class and military rulers went wrong, landing the nation where it finds itself after almost seventy years of independence from British colonial rule and a Hindu dominated India.
He is particularly harsh on the tendency to find easy solutions to complex nation building issues through military takeovers, ending up co-opting for the same discredited politicians or worse, their B-teams to prolong military rule after their ‘best before’ date had elapsed.
Looking back at 1947, the author recalls that the newly assembled Pakistan army was not well organized. He received three posting orders within a few days asking him to report at Quetta, Jhelum and Kakul. He took the decision to proceed to Kakul where Pakistan’s first military academy was being established from scratch. The conditions prevailing in the just born PMA can be judged from Malik’s account of his journey to Lahore to bring some basic necessities like blackboards/chalks and file covers from DAV Hindu College, rendered non-operational after the migration of Lahore’s Hindus.
The lack of resources at Pakistan’s premier military training institution described by Gen Malik also applied to most organs of the state of Pakistan in 1947. This state of affairs coupled with India’s non-cooperation in transferring common assets led among others, to a protest by Mahatma Gandhi who was consequently assassinated by a Hindu extremist.
It may be recalled that facing the enormous task of running a country without financial resources led to a request by the Pakistani leadership for a hefty package of economic assistance from the US which had launched its Marshal Plan for the reconstruction of Europe devastated in WWII. Washington was non-committal, only to come back at the onset of the Cold war to contain the Soviet Union. It was then that Pakistan signed a defence agreement with the US, joined the Baghdad Pact – later renamed as CENTO and SEATO that was meant to contain communist China. In exchange, Pakistan received long term economic, technical and military assistance and emerged as a strong ally of the US and the West in general.
Pakistan’s vulnerability in military and economic spheres at the time of independence was largely responsible for a policy of excessive recourse to foreign assistance. This was to tie the country to the dominant power, the United States and its system of alliances. As military relations became all important in line with America’s strategic interests, the army became far too powerful in the national power equation. With each new US arrangement for Pakistan’s military cooperation starting with the containment policy, through Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the war on terror after 9/11, Washington developed a direct working relationship with the army, weakening political structures.
The author served at the PMA for three years and was sent for further training at the Kingston Military Academy in Canada. On his return, he was posted at Kotli (Azad Kashmir) and Comilla in East Pakistan. He remembers that as early as 1955, the Bengali people perceived the Pak Army as an occupation force. The two wings lacked harmony. Those from West Pakistan felt superior physically but Malik saw the East Pakistanis as better educated and politically more aware. No efforts were undertaken to bridge the gap as differences on how the country was run continued to grow.
There were telltale symbols of alienation. The Dacca Club where the Bengali elite used to gather was gradually dominated by the army and the locals began to avoid the club in those hours. The Chief Secretary Aziz Ahmad conveyed to his East Pakistani neighbour not to dry their laundry towards his house. The seeds of hatred were planted in many ways. In general, the Bengali way of living, dress, food etc were different from the West Pakistani people.
Malik got further exposure to the Western world when he was sent to France for language training while living with a French family. Following an exam for language proficiency conducted by Gen Yakub Khan, he was given the position of French Interpreter of the Pakistan Army. Going through the usual cycle of military postings, the officer from Chakwal must have been unaware that his next assignment was to take him not only to a ringside view of major events of Pakistan’s history but to even participate in them.
On reaching the General Headquarters – GHQ – in Rawalpindi in 1958, Malik was told that he was to work with the team preparing paperwork including the proclamation for dismissal of the civilian government and imposition of martial law. The plan included the abrogation of the country’s constitution adopted in 1956. This would put an end to the musical chairs being played since Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan’s assassination in 1951. Six prime ministers came in quick succession: Khwaja Nazimuddin, Mohammad Ali Bogra, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, I. I. Chundrigar, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali and Feroz Khan Noon.
The encouragement for what Malik calls the ‘father of all martial laws’, came from the civilians beginning with Governor General Ghulam Muhammad and decisively by his successor, Iskanadar Mirza. The final winner of the scheme would be none other than the Commander-in-Chief of the army, General Muhammad Ayub Khan. It should, however, be noted that Mirza, as Secretary of the Ministry of Defence was instrumental in getting Ayub the coveted job. He cleverly fudged Ayub’s unsatisfactory record as Pakistan’s member of the Punjab Boundary Commission. A carefully selected version of Ayub’s military career was put up to Premier Liaqat with an all important recommendation in his favour.
Mirza’s friendship with Ayub played an important part in shaping Pakistan’s history. After serving a four year term as C-in-C, Ayub was granted a second tenure as the political turmoil set in. Malik points out that Mirza plotted the Martial Law with Gen Ayub thinking that he would rule the country with the military’s support.
The special group preparing detailed plans for the imposition of Martial Law carried the documents to Karachi on 3rd October, 1958 in utmost secrecy.
As President Mirza proclaimed Martial Law on 7th October, the Prime Minister’s office was converted into the Martial Law Headquarters. Sitting in one of the rooms, Malik looked at thousands of congratulatory cables and letters. In this extraordinary situation where it was becoming impossible to open every cable, one informing Malik about his mother’s death got dumped among others for twenty four hours. Malik missed her funeral in the Chakwal village.
The declaration of Martial Law was widely greeted with cheer and with the country going into a festive mood. Essential commodities resurfaced and their prices tumbled to the relief of the general public. Those congratulating Ayub included many champions of democracy.
Problems began immediately as Mirza tried to exercise power. This was met with refusal from the generals close to Ayub. In utter desperation, Mirza plotted to have Ayub arrested by the Air Force on his return from Dacca. He also wanted to lift Martial Law and call elections in three months. All this became known to the generals as Mirza’s phone was bugged. It was decided to remove Mirza and send him into exile.
Three generals namely Azam Khan, K M Shaikh and Wajid Burki carried the resignation letter to be signed by the president close to midnight, with Malik accompanying them. Mirza met the generals with a cigar in his hand, to get the shocking order to sign his resignation and transfer all powers to the Chief Martial Law Administrator(CMLA). Mirza remained silent for ten minutes and then signed the paper as his wife, Nahid appeared on the scene. Realizing what had just happened, she sighed, what will happen to my cats?
Brigadier Sher Bahadur accompanied Mirza to Quetta. The three generals who were hoping to be part of the ruling council were asked to return to the GHQ. Malik also returned to the GHQ to take up duties as In-Charge of Martial Law Affairs in the Military Operations Directorate. Among others, he came to know Major Zia ul Haq, newly appointed to the MO Directorate. This acquaintance would turn into a long relationship. Years later, six senior generals including Malik would be bypassed as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto chose Zia to be the army chief in 1976.
According to Malik, the economy as well as the army were developed during Ayub’s rule. Large dams were also built but despite all the development, his Martial Law cannot be supported because it caused irreparable damage to the democratic process. Unfortunately, it led to the emergence of a coterie of yes-men around every military ruler convincing him to prolong his rule. Some went to the extent of urging Ayub to declare Pakistan a monarchy. The military rulers ended up flouting all norms and principles leading eventually to their decline and disgraceful exit from power.
Malik was assigned to the Special Services Group being organized along the lines of the US Special Force and with help of US instructors. After serving as deputy to the Commandant SSG, he was promoted as Lt-Col and posted as instructor at the Staff College, Quetta, a prestigious appointment. The Staff College alumni included renowned generals like Montgomery and Auchinlek. It was under the command of Lt. Gen Yakub Khan. Zia ul Haq too was an instructor there and a neighbour of the writer in Quetta.
Reflecting on the 1965 Pakistan-India war, Malik feels that both sides were responsible for the conflict. Pakistan’s plan of incursion leading to a popular uprising did not work because the Kashmiris were not organized for that. Foreign Minister Zulfilar Ali Bhutto and Commander 12 Division at Murree, Gen Akhtar Malik were behind the idea of sending fighters in civilian clothes to incite the uprising. Ayub Khan did not agree to the plan initially as he feared that would lead to war between the two countries. He was later persuaded that India would not cross the international boundary.
Operation Gibraltar, based on the participation of some retired Kashmiri officers with untrained mujahideen had little chance of success. Malik writes that the operation was “badly conceived, badly planned and badly executed”. There was some success in the beginning but progress stalled. ‘Operation Grand Slam’ was then launched to advance through Chamb Jaurian and occupy Akhnoor to cut off the Indian Army in Kashmir. However, just as Akhnoor was within reach, Gen Akhtar was replaced by Gen Yahya Khan disregarding the custom of not changing horses in the middle. The change of command during the operation delayed the operation by 24 to 48 hours, enabling the Indian Army to consolidate its positions across the River Tavi.
Malik believes that Ayub replaced Akhtar, fearing his popularity as a victorious general, could undermine Ayub’s position. In a sudden move, the Indians, as warned by Prime Minister Shastri, chose the next battleground by advancing in Wagah(Lahore) and Sialkot sectors on September 6, 1965. Malik was appointed commandant of the SSG and his unit excecuted extraordinary operations behind enemy lines. The Pakistan Air Force performed with great valour under Air Marshal Nur Khan. Pakistan was successful in halting the Indian advance towards Lahore. Neither side won but the war weakened Ayub’s position marking the onset of his decline.
In my view, the majority of Pakistanis were living their Age of Innocence between 1958 and 1965. They were told that Pakistan’s economy was about to take off. That the country had been saved from the clutches of incompetent, corrupt and feuding politicians most of whom had been banned from politics. The 65 war itself was presented as a heroic effort to wrest Kashmir from India and the goal could not be achieved because India had decided to attack across the international border.
As Malik writes, the years of Ayub’s rule from 1958 to 1969 had registered important achievements like the construction of Mangla and Tarbela dams, agricultural progress, land reforms, family laws and development of the Army. However, the tailor made constitution to prolong his rule by introducing presidential election through an electoral college, and a presidential system especially against Fatima Jinnah in 1965 led to growing discontent that would eventually unify the opposition to his rule.
As Malik states, the Ayub era was characterized by personal rule at the cost of permanent damage to civil and military institutions. Ayub showed a lack of understanding about the dynamics of war by agreeing to Operation Gibraltar. With the passage of time, he had become so used to ruling within a culture of sycophancy that he showed weak judgment and even weaker resolve and ended up handing power to the then Army Chief.
Malik recalls that things deteriorated rapidly after the Tashkent Declaration in 1966. Bhutto tried to exploit the Tashkent episode and was removed from the cabinet. Ayub suffered a heart attack rendering him more vulnerable. A country-wide agitation was launched by the combined opposition. Ayub was ready to hand over power to the Speaker of the National Assembly but elements within the Army sabotaged the plan, forcing Ayub to hand over power to the Army chief, General Yahya Khan.
Malik is of the opinion that Ayub laid the foundation of military dictatorship in Pakistan that would prove to be highly detrimental to the country’s future. Ayub’s successors followed in his footsteps, prolonging their rule and like him, they had to withdraw in disgrace.
Malik, promoted to the rank of brigadier, was once again close to the Centre of power as he was posted as Director Military Operations (the post was later upgraded to DG MO )from 1969 to 1971 at the GHQ. He recalls that the 1970 General Elections produced results no one – including the ISI – had foreseen. A powerful cyclone had hit East Pakistan before the election resulting in colossal damage of life and property. The government tried its best to assist those affected but the sentiment of discontent about the Centre’s lack of interest in East Pakistan was further aggravated.
The suffering from the cyclone added to the persistent complaints of East Pakistan like the one contending that the foreign exchange earned from jute exports was spent on West Pakistan. A leader from the Eastern wing was reported to have said that he could smell their jute in Islamabad’s roads. They resented the rule by non-Bengali bureaucrats while the Army that ruled from 1958 was dominated by Punjabis and Pathans. They saw West Pakistan developing at a faster pace as the Eastern wing was ignored in development projects.
There were a host of other issues increasing the divide between the two parts of Pakistan. The West Pakistanis carried an air of superiority vis-à-vis East Pakistanis. Quaid’s declaration about Urdu being the national language of Pakistan had led to riots in East Pakistan.
The elections held in December, 1970 following the devastating cyclone produced unexpected results as the Awami League of Shaikh Mujibur Rahman captured 160 of the total of 300 National Assembly seats. The Pakistan People’s Party of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto won 81 seats in West Pakistan. Neither party won a single seat in the other wing. Mujib became adamant on his 6 Point Manifesto that was perceived in West Pakistan as a plan to secede from the Federation.
Bhutto accompanied Yahya in the difficult talks with Mujib. It was agreed to convene the National Assembly to meet in Dacca but Bhutto sank the plan by his famous words “udhar tum idher hum”- you are there and we are here, thereby refusing to attend the Assembly to meet in East Pakistan.
According to Malik, the Army Commander in East Pakistan, Gen Yakub Khan pleaded for acceptance of East Pakistan’s demands. He disagreed with the military action being planned and resigned. Gen Niazi was sent to launch military action but was not up to the task. He also lacked resources. Malik, then Director Military Operations was ending his visit to Dacca when he saw from a helicopter, burning houses and advancing troops. Meanwhile Mujib had been detained and flown to West Pakistan. India had launched a massive propaganda campaign against Pakistan while training and heavily arming the secessionist militia named Mukti Bahini.
Firing on protesting students in Dacca University added to the rising alienation of the East Pakistanis. Indira Gandhi led the campaign against atrocities as Indian forces massed on East Pakistan’s border, closing its air space to Pakistan at the same time forcing all flights to take the longer route via Sri Lanka. Indian troops moved into East Pakistan on November 21, 1971.
Malik had been promoted in April, 1971 as Major-General and given command of 11 Div at Lahore. He felt that had Pakistan retaliated on the western front by capturing Indian territory, it could have been in a better bargaining position. However, Yahya was incapable of taking such decisions. When action started on the western front on 3rd December, 1971, it was too late. Malik was informed that the Pakistan Air Force would cross into India that night. He ordered his troops to advance in Hussaini Wala sector and capture an Indian fort in the area, giving the Pakistan army a much needed boost.
Yahya, meanwhile was waiting for some help from the United Nations where he had sent Bhutto to defend Pakistan’s case. A resolution at the Security Council calling for cessation of hostilities and return of forces was vetoed by the Soviet Union on December 4. The famous Polish Resolution if approved on 15 December would have changed the status of East Pakistan and the surrender of 90,000 POWs could have been avoided. Malik rebuts the common perception that the US prevailed upon India not to attack West Pakistan because India was not in a position to fight on two fronts.
Malik’s stand that India was not in a position to fight on two fronts would have lost its validity, had the war continued. Within days, the Indian army could have moved units to the western front thus increasing pressure on Pakistan. This was the point where Washington swung into action, by ordering the 6th fleet to move and asked Moscow to use its influence on New Delhi to abandon the idea of attacking West Pakistan.
According to some accounts, Indira Gandhi was irritated by US intervention and made up her mind to speed up India’s nuclear programme, leading to its first nuclear test in 1974 that in turn forced Bhutto to accelerate work on Pakistan’s nuclear project.
Malik was deeply affected by the humiliation suffered in East Pakistan especially over the 90,000 taken as POWs including 55,000 military personnel by the Indian forces. He calls the defeat in East Pakistan as the greatest shock of his life and December 16, 1971 would stay in his memory as the darkest day of the country‘s history. It was extremely difficult for him to address troops to console them. On his return to the Div Headquarter, he cried bitterly and dared not to look at the Quaid’s portrait. As a personal affront, Malik was not awarded for his extraordinary victory in Hussaini Wala because his corps commander, Gen Bahadur Sher was opposed to the operation.
Many of the troops in East Pakistan had fought valiantly but had to surrender in the end. Those in West Pakistan were crestfallen and the younger officers/ranks held the Generals responsible for the debacle. On December 16, a group of officers staged a protest in Gujranwala Cantonment. Some among them delivered speeches against the high command, asking for immediate resignation of Yahya Khan and his colleagues. Yahya’s deputy, Gen Hamid tried to address officers in the GHQ but some of them stood up and began speaking against the high command. Hamid retreated through the back door. The anger in the military against them was also reflected in popular sentiment.
Malik recalls that Gen Gul Hassan and Air Marshal Rahim Khan flew to Rome to meet Bhutto who was on his way to Pakistan from the United Nations. Bhutto rejected Yahya’s idea of continuing as President. Yahya and Hamid had to quit as Bhutto took charge as President and Chief Martial Law Administrator. Gul Hassan became the new Army Chief. Yahya was placed under house arrest till he died.
Bhutto visited Malik’s command and troops in Hussaini Wala area. The two had “good chemistry” in their first meeting. Six months later, Malik was posted to 12 Div in Murree where he mounted an operation to recapture three mountainous posts occupied by the Indians in violation of the Line of Control. Bhutto informed Malik of his appointment as Chief of the General Staff. Soon after, the US ambassador called on him and hinted about ‘working together”. Malik replied that his services were devoted to the Pak Army.
Malik was promoted to Lieutenant-General in 1975 and given the task of establishing 11 Corps to defend the western border. By then, speculation had begun about the successor of the Army Chief. Gen Tikka Khan was due to retire in March, 1976. Bhutto, then Prime Minister, called Malik to Lahore where in Governor Khar’s presence, he expressed the desire to appoint Malik as the Army Chief. This would, however, remain a promise as Lt-Gen Zia ul Haq was manoeuvring assiduously to cultivate Bhutto while heading the Court Martial trying the officers accused of plotting a mutiny. In order to win Bhutto’s favour, Zia, heading the Armoured Corps, in an unprecedented move made Bhutto, a civilian as Colonel-In-Chief of the corps.
Narrating details of the Army Chief’s selection towards the end 1975, Malik has included, in his book, the list of the seven senior Lt-Generals at the time. Malik is at number 6, ahead of Zia at No. 7. Zia’s name was not included in the panel of three generals by the retiring Chief, Tikka Khan for Bhutto’s consideration. Meanwhile, Khar had incurred Bhutto’s wrath and was no longer Governor, Punjab. Malik was invited to attend the walima reception hosted by President Fazal Elahi Chaudhry as part of his son’s wedding celebrations. Malik met Khar at the reception and the latter advised him to stay away so as not to be seen by Bhutto in Khar’s company. However, Malik dismissed the idea and kept talking to Khar as Bhutto met them with a quizzical look.
Malik does not say whether this encounter helped Bhutto to make up his mind in favour of Zia. However, he states that the agencies were clearly supporting Zia. He quotes from “Bhutto and Pakistan” by Rafi Raza, a close adviser to Bhutto, noting that Bhutto had ruled out Malik as Army Chief for “reasons of questionable loyalty to him”. Raza goes on to say that for similar reasons, Prime Minister Bhutto eliminated six generals, all senior to Zia. In Malik’s view, in naming Zia to succeed Tikka, Bhutto made a most fateful decision.
Of the six generals passed over to appoint Zia as the new army chief, only Malik and Akbar decided to resign from the army.
Bhutto was concerned about their popularity in the Army and kept watch on them through intelligence agencies. He had a meeting with Malik to ask him about his selection of Zia and Malik’s own resignation. Bhutto offered to send both Akbar and Malik as envoys abroad. Gen Akbar accepted the offer to serve in Mexico. Malik refused to go as Ambassador to Libya or the UAE. He was then offered ambassadorship to Morocco, an Arab country where French is widely spoken, a language Malik spoke fluently.
Sensing Gen Malik’s hesitation, Gen Raza, Secretary (Administration) in the Foreign Ministry, invited Malik for a meeting and warned him, “Don’t be a fool. Get out of this country otherwise your life, your family’s and friends’ life will be made hell.” Malik understood the message and left for Morocco in July, 1976.
A year later, everything changed with Zia ul Haq’s coup against Bhutto. Malik was increasingly concerned about Zia going back on his commitment to hold fresh elections in 90 days. There were indications on the one hand of military rule being prolonged and on the other of eliminating Bhutto through judicial process. He was convicted and sentenced to death on the charge of conspiracy to commit murder in the case of Nawab Muhammad Ahmad Khan of Kasur.
As Ambassador in Morocco, Gen Malik had started a Muslim Ambassadors’ Club in Rabat which met every month to exchange views informally on important current affairs. Attention increasingly turned to Pakistan with Bhutto’s death sentence. As a former Army colleague, Malik decided to write a detailed letter to Zia making recommendations on Bhutto’s fate and a suitable roadmap for the military regime to restore an elected government. Copies of this letter were sent to all members of the Military Council including the Air Force and Naval Chiefs.
This extraordinary letter from a former colleague to an all powerful military ruler can be seen in full as an annexure in Gen Malik’s autobiography. He writes that Iftikhar Murshed, a career diplomat serving in the Rabat mission as First Secretary (later Ambassador to Russia and now Publisher of Criterion) helped in drafting the letter.
Malik made the following recommendations:
- Bhutto should be given a punishment below death penalty or sent into exile, international reaction to his sentence be kept in view;
- Zia should stand by his commitment to call fresh election and return the Army to the barracks.
Zia ignored these recommendations and paid no heed to appeals for clemency for Bhutto pouring in from all over the world.
Despite his personal history with Bhutto, Malik writes that he was greatly pained by Bhutto’s hanging. He discusses how various rulers including Ayub depended on the (perceived?) loyalty of Generals to appoint them as Army Chief only to be bitten. Those considered harmless became sworn adversaries. No one learned from history, he regrets. Ayub had promoted Yahya over senior Generals only to be betrayed. Leghari, the handpicked president of Benazir, sacked her government. Nawaz went over Ali Kuli and Khalid Nawaz to name Musharraf as Army Chief and got overthrown by him.
Malik lost interest in the Ambassadorship after Bhutto’s hanging and returned to Pakistan in 1979. He was called by Zia along with another retired General Shafiq and asked to give their recommendations to the military government. Malik, as before, advised him to end Martial Law and restore democracy. Zia replied that he had plans to make Pakistan an Islamic State. Malik proceeded to Lahore and began farming. He later joined the private sector as adviser to a glass industry Toyo Nasic for two years. With Zia still in power and having called party-less elections in 1985, Malik returned to his native Chakwal to contest for the National Assembly which would mark the beginning of a long and successful political career.
Malik’s entry into feudal dominated Pakistani politics was not assured of success. Nonetheless, he took on the sardars of Chakwal. He ran the election campaign as meticulously as a military operation but did not hesitate to use ploys like rebellious poetry against the oppressive hold of the sardars. He won a seat in the Assembly and never looked back.
Once in Parliament, Malik asked for lifting of the Martial Law. Zia wanted to share but not handover power. He proposed Khawaja Safdar as Speaker of the Assembly that provided the opposition to unite and successfully campaign for the candidature of Fakhr Imam. Malik who had joined their ranks recalls the speaker’s election as the first setback to Zia’s authoritarian rule.
More upsets were to follow. Zia’s favourite for Premiership was Elahi Bux Soomro but the Pir of Pagara intervened in favour of his disciple Mohammad Khan Junejo whose name was also among those short listed for the Prime Minister’s post. Junejo was seen as a modest and harmless person. Junejo, after his oath-taking sent a list of Cabinet ministers that included Malik’s name but Zia cleverly eliminated Malik by telling the Prime Minister that he had some other important assignment for him in mind.
As Prime Minister, Junejo’s principal aim was to have the Martial Law lifted which made Zia increasingly uncomfortable. Junejo also wanted to pursue a different policy on the war in Afghanistan to make a quick settlement for Soviet withdrawal. He sent his own representative to the Geneva talks. An All Parties Conference was convened to have a consensus on Afghanistan that included Benazir Bhutto, to the dismay of Zia ul Haq.
Junejo-Zia differences touched a dangerous level as the Premier had the blast at the Ojhri military depot investigated, that placed the blame on the ISI Chief and some other Generals. The prospect of a trial sent shockwaves in the top brass who were already upset over austerity measures forcing the Generals to use small cars.
Junejo understood that Zia’s reason for keeping Malik out of the Cabinet was a ruse and appointed him as Chairman of the Federal Anti-corruption Team. On Malik’s recommendation, Junejo removed three Ministers, the first Prime Minister to sack his cabinet colleagues on charges of corruption.
Zia and the military saw Junejo’s government as defying their authority. Using his own constitutional amendment, Zia dismissed the government and dissolved the Assembly on 29 May, 1988. Barely three months later, Zia died in a crash while returning from a tank demonstration in Bahawalpur. Malik notes that no official report has been published about the crash, just like the assassination of Liaqat Ali Khan and Benazir Bhutto or the Hamoodur Rahman Commission’s report on the war in East Pakistan.
In hindsight, it can be said that from the military junta’s perspective, Junejo was to act under their control and not act as an all- powerful Prime Minister. History repeated itself in so far as the humble and loyal Zia ul Haq overthrew Bhutto and an underrated Junejo defied the Army hold on power. The power struggle between Zia and Junejo came to a head with Zia’s dismissal of Junejo, and the scheduling fresh elections in ninety days.
The Pakistan of today has been largely shaped by Bhutto and Zia. The former took steps to make the masses aware of their rights in an age old system of exploitation and servitude. However, Bhutto’s failure in running the economy led to a deep economic decline and put an end to fresh private investment. The PPP instituted a system of patronage, nepotism and corruption further damaging the social fabric. Zia thought he had been sent on some divine mission to Islamize Pakistan and ended up enforcing the ritual and punitive aspects of religion while ignoring its core values. Pakistan suffered from Zia and Bhutto and both died unnatural deaths.
Malik would have further successes in elections by getting re-elected to the National Assembly in 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1996 on the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz’ ticket. He is proud of making Chakwal a district in an effort to bring the government closer to the people of the area. He was able to get large areas electrified and schooling and health facilities upgraded.
Reminiscing about Benazir Bhutto’s dismissal in 1990, Malik is critical of the Army’s role in the politics of Pakistan. He laments that in other countries, the Army is under civilian authority but the opposite is true for Pakistan. After Benazir’s dismissal, the Army and the ISI ensured her defeat in the polls by setting up and funding an alliance of rightist parties for the 1990 election.
Malik writes that having exercised power over a long period of time, the Army’s mindset became an obstacle in developing smooth relations with civilian governments. After two years of troubled relations with President Ghulam Ishaq and the Army Chief Aslam Beg, Benazir’s government was removed on charges of corruption.
Malik was appointed Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources in the caretaker government of Prime Minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi. Pakistan’s oil supplies were disrupted due to the Iran-Iraq war. Malik traveled to Saudi Arabia to make alternate arrangements to meet the urgent needs of Pakistan. Following the 1990 elections, Malik was appointed Minister for Food and Agriculture in Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet.
Sharif had difficult relations with President Ishaq on one side and with the Army on the other. Ishaq wanted to exercise control over government and also felt that Sharif owed Benazir’s dismissal and early elections to him. Sharif wanted the freedom to launch his pet projects like the Motorway and the Yellow Cab Scheme. He declared his intention to undo Article 58-2 B, that gave the President excessive powers. He showed no sign of supporting a second five-year term for Ishaq as President. The two disagreed on the appointment of a new Army Chief following the sudden death of Gen Asif Nawaz. Ishaq appointed Gen Wahid Kakar as Chief sidelining the Prime Minister. Ishaq then struck by sacking Sharif but his government was restored by the Supreme Court.
The Power struggle restarted after Sharif’s return to power. Malik and Soomro tried to mediate but the clash between Sharif and Ishaq had reached a point of no return. Gen Kakar was greatly disturbed over the unseemly tug of war and prevailed upon both to resign and clear the way for fresh polls. Malik was elected to the National Assembly for the fourth time but belonged to the opposition, to the Benazir government.
A fierce power struggle began at the centre and in the provinces of Punjab and the NWFP, now Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Benazir’s government was seen as incompetent and corrupt with Asif Zardari given the name of Mr. 10 per cent for demanding commissions on all projects and business ventures. The situation became more complicated with differences between Benazir and President Leghari over the appointment of senior judges. Benazir, like Sharif, wanted to limit the President’s powers.
In 1996, Nawaz Sharif stepped up pressure against the PPP government and appointed Gen Malik as head of the Tehreek e Nejaat train march against Benazir. Following the murder of her brother Murtaza in Karachi by police in which Asif Zardari was believed to be implicated, Leghari dismissed Benazir on 5th November, 1996. Elections held on 3rd February, 1997 marked the return of Nawaz Sharif to Premiership with a clear majority. It saw Malik’s fifth straight victory in the elections to the National Assembly with the greatest margin ever.
By virtue of his heavy mandate, Nawaz was determined to repeal Article 58-2 B that gave the President the power to dissolve the Assembly and remove the government. Malik says that when Nawaz makes up his mind, he wants to do things quickly. Together, they flew by helicopter to Leghari’s native village Choti in Dera Ghazi Khan where Nawaz told the President that his powers would be cut back as under the 1973 Constitution. President Leghari resigned and was replaced by Sharif’s handpicked candidate, Rafiq Tarar, a former judge who took office as a ceremonial President as provided in the original Constitution, before it was drastically amended by Zia to get extraordinary powers.
Sharif’s irrepressible desire to become all powerful led to new problems with the military high command and the judiciary. He was charged with contempt of court and was called to appear and defend himself. The situation worsened as Sharif’s diehard supporters stormed the Supreme Court. The tension was so high that the Chief Justice wrote to the Army Chief for protection. In the end, the Chief Justice resigned.
In the same period, Pakistan became a declared nuclear power by carrying out nuclear explosions in response to India’s atomic tests in May, 1998. Malik writes that the nuclear tests by Pakistan restored the balance of power in South Asia as a nuclear deterrent is the guarantee of Pakistan’s security.
Although Nawaz never tires of claiming credit for ordering Pakistan’s tests, he really had little choice in the matter. Looking back at those days of extreme anxiety after India’s nuclear explosions, any delay or sign of vacillation would have meant that the Prime Minister had buckled under US pressure and bartered away the country’s sovereignty. President Clinton’s repeated calls to Nawaz, offering a huge aid package if Pakistan exercised restraint perhaps helped the country’s civil and military establishment to firm up their resolve by responding to India’s challenge.
On the domestic front, there was a great deal of resentment to Sharif’s move for amending the Constitution under the garb of the Shariat Bill that would have given him extraordinary powers. Sharif showed zero tolerance for the Army Chief Gen Karamat’s call for setting up a National Security Council to deal with important national and security related matters. Karamat resigned clearing the way for Sharif to handpick the new Army Chief.
In his autobiography, Malik states that Ch. Nisar and Shahbaz Sharif played an important role in the promotion of Pervez Musharraf as Army Chief, bypassing three senior generals viz. Ali Kuli, Khalid Iqbal and Tirimzi. Their reason for favoring Musharraf was his origin as a migrant from India and being without any constituency and hence harmless.
Malik recounts in details, Sharif’s interest in improving ties with India something that made the Army uneasy because of its past experience. The Pakistan-India moves for rapprochement reached a high point with Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore in February 1999 that culminated in the signing of a number of texts aimed at moving forward to improve relations.
General Musharraf had quietly embarked on a military adventure by sending fighters to occupy the strategically important area of Kargil at a height of 18,000 feet that Indian troops vacated every winter to return as the weather conditions improved. Kargil, overlooking an important supply line from Srinagar to Ladakh and had been under Pakistan’s control but was occupied by the Indians during the 1971 war.
The Kargil operation was planned by Musharraf and a small group that included generals Mehmood, Javed, Aziz and Tauqeer. The idea was to gain a tactical advantage forcing India to negotiate over the Kashmir dispute. Eventually, an Indian shepherd informed the Indian Army of the presence of fighters. Indians reacted furiously on the military as well as diplomatic front accusing Pakistan of violating the LoC while Pakistan claimed those were Kashmiri freedom fighters.
A serious discord arose with Gen Musharraf claiming that Prime Minister Sharif knew about the Kargil move while the latter denied knowledge of the operation. Gen Kayani, GOC 12 Div was also unaware and opposed the adventure once he knew about it. Malik holds Musharraf responsible for the “Kargil fiasco” as any action across the LoC should have been cleared by the Cabinet. Malik was present in the briefing as Minister for Kashmir Affairs along with the Prime Minister when the details of the operation were shared in May, 1999.
Malik goes on to say that the Generals kept disowning the Kargil operation. However, the Indians released a taped conversation of Gen Aziz informing his Chief, Musharraf visiting China about a briefing on Kargil at the PM House. Musharraf asked if all participants were satisfied and all including Aziz saying yes, except Malik. The seeds of a showdown between Musharraf and Sharif were planted by the Kargil episode which was brought to an end with a hurried trip by Sharif to meet President Clinton on 4th July, 1999 resulting in the withdrawal of Pakistani personnel from Kargil.
Personal antipathy between the Premier and the Army Chief kept growing. Sensing the danger of an ugly denouement, Mian Sharif Sr. asked his son to improve ties with the General. Nawaz had a meeting with Musharraf, gave him the additional charge of Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and invited the General to accompany him for Umra. In the end, nothing helped as the two began planning to oust the other. By virtue of phone tapping, the Generals were aware of Sharif’s intentions. The Army top brass, apprehensive of a repeat of Gen Karamat’s ouster, prepared a contingency plan to retaliate if Sharif tried to dismiss Musharraf.
The top Generals advised Musharraf not to travel out of the country but he insisted on going to Sri Lanka where he had been invited to attend the country’s Independence Day celebrations. The day of Musharraf’s return from Colombo, Sharif signed orders terminating Musharraf’s tenure as Army Chief and appointing Gen Ziauddin Butt in his place. The Army’s reaction begun swiftly as Butt was not allowed to enter the GHQ where he had gone to assume charge.
The pilot of the PIA aircraft with Musharraf on board was directed not to land in Pakistan to prevent his return. However, following the army’s contingency plan, troops took control of sensitive buildings and took the Sharif brothers into custody. Sharif’s Cabinet members too were confined to their homes. Malik, who was away on a visit to Gilgit was detained on arrival in Islamabad. He writes that Sharif had not learnt any lesson from his earlier mistakes. His choice of the new Army Chief was also questionable as Gen Butt did not possess enough experience of commanding troops. Surprisingly, though heading the ISI, Butt was unaware of the Army’s counter-plan.
Musharraf’s takeover was different from earlier military interventions as he did not impose Martial Law and designated himself as Chief Executive while remaining the Army Chief. Three years later, he floated PML-Q with the help of Mian Azhar and Ch Shujaat. Malik was persuaded by them to join the PML-Q. He left the PML-N reluctantly in what he calls the only controversial matter of his life, inviting criticism for betraying his party. Malik writes that had Nawaz appointed Zafarul Haq as acting President of the party while he was in exile, it would have been welcomed but his choice of Javed Hashmi was not universally accepted.
Gen Malik’s regret at having joined Musharraf’s camp became poignant as the requirement of a university degree for the 2002 election prevented him from contesting the polls marking it the first time that he would be absent from the Assembly since joining politics in 1985. His bid for elections as district nazim(chairman) was unsuccessful but his nephew Tahir Iqbal won the National Assembly seat and was appointed minister for Kashmir and Northern Areas thus carrying the mantle.
Malik dwells on the all important matter of selection of the Army Chief. One of the world’s great armies, having met all kinds of dangers, fell into a tendency to rule, occasioned by the incompetence of (civilian) rulers. Expressing his opposition to military rule, Malik stresses that the criteria of seniority and professionalism should determine the Army Chief’s selection. By tracing the history of various Army Chiefs’ selection he demonstrated that these criteria were not followed in the past.
Gen Frank Messervy was appointed the first Commander-in-Chief as no Pakistani officer of requisite seniority was available. Messervy was removed after he dilly-dallied over the Quaid’s order to invade Kashmir. He was replaced by Douglas Gracey who served as Army Chief from 1948 to 1951. Gen Iftikhar Khan who was selected to succeed Gracey died in a helicopter crash before taking the post. This marked a turning point as Iskanadar Mirza, Secretary of the Defence Ministry presented a friendly general, Ayub Khan in a favorable light to Prime Minister Liaqat Ali, overlooking accusations that he had not served ably in the Punjab Boundary Commission. In recommending Ayub, Mirza bypassed his seniors viz. Akbar Khan and N A M Raza.
The criteria of seniority and professionalism were again disregarded when Ayub appointed Gen Muhammad Musa as Chief over Habibullah, Sher Ali and Latif Khan. Time and again, the rulers resorted to ‘safe’ choices. Musa remained the Army Chief from 1958 to 1966 and was then appointed Governor, West Pakistan. Ayub chose Yahya Khan as Chief in 1966; bypassing Altaf Qadir and Bakhtiar Rana.
The sixth Army Chief, Gen Gul Hassan was appointed by Bhutto after the 1971 war, bypassing Gen Tikka Khan then the senior most general. This choice was generally appreciated but Bhutto removed Gul after two months as he would not brook any interference in Army matters. Bhutto then named Tikka Khan as the new Chief who served till March, 1976. He entered politics post retirement and joined the People’s Party.
Bhutto was anxious to appoint another loyal general to succeed Tikka, not concerned about seniority or professionalism. Malik describes Bhutto’s choice of Gen Zia ul Haq, bypassing six senior generals as fateful, having long term effects on the Army and the country. In a departure from the usual practice, Zia appointed a Vice Chief of Army Staff. This took care of his succession as on Zia’s death on August 17, 1988, the Vice Chief, Gen Aslam Beg took over as the Chief for a term of three years.
President Ishaq, who by virtue of the 8th Amendment had the power to name the Army Chief, appointed Gen Asif Nawaz as Beg’ s successor. He died suddenly on 8th January, 1993 of cardiac arrest while exercising at home. This led to a contention between Ishaq and Nawaz. The former wanted to appoint Gen Farrukh which was strongly opposed by Nawaz, ending eventually in the nomination of Gen Kakar as Army Chief. His selection bypassed generals Farrukh, Bhatti, Ashraf and Bangash. Gen Karamat’s appointment in January, 1996 was a rare example of the senior most General being appointed as the Army Chief. It took place while Benazir was the Prime Minister and Leghari the President.
Four months prior to his retirement due in January, 1999, General Karamat had a falling out with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, for openly advocating the creation of a National Security Council. General Musharraf, though junior to General Ali Kuli and General Khalid Nawaz was appointed as Army Chief because of his origin of having migrating from India in 1947 and lacking a local constituency. The country’s 13th Army Chief proved unlucky for those who appointed him.
General Kayani was selected as the 14th Chief bypassing Gen Kidwai and would serve two terms finally retiring in November, 2013. Malik notes that the new Army Chief, Raheel Sharif’s younger brother of Major Shabbir Sharif, Nishan e Haider is a professional. His selection too was made over senior generals. He faces great challenges notably the fight against terrorist groups but is determined to overcome those.
Malik concludes that the Pakistani rulers did not choose Army Chiefs on merit and competence but to find suitable people key to prolonging their rule. This led to horrible consequences which could have been avoided by sticking to merit.
In the epilogue, Malik revisits the repeated spells of military rule in the country and demonstrates how those were imposed following a simplistic approach to extremely complex problems. The book incorporates Gen. Ayub’s address after imposing Martial Law in October, 1958, wherein he claimed that it had become necessary to “save the country from disintegration and ruination.” “History would not have forgiven us if the present chaotic conditions were allowed to go any further.”
Blaming the politicians, Ayub said that weak governments looked on with indifference and cowardice and allowed things to drift and deteriorate and discipline to go to pieces. Ayub was extremely harsh on the politicians for their “baseness, chicanery, deceit and degradation.”
He accused them of setting Pakistanis against each other on regional, religious and sectarian differences.
Malik recalls that the immediate effects of the first Martial Law were spectacular as hoarded essential goods resurfaced, bringing down their prices rendering the masses happy. But the new system, based on simple calculations lacked vision and a grasp of realities. The long term effects of military rule like derailing the political process turned the country into a laughing stock for the world at large.
In my view, the long term effects of the first Martial Law were particularly disastrous in East Pakistan. With the abrogation of consensus-based 1956 Constitution, the government was run by Punjabi dominated Army and bureaucracy. The presidential system based on indirect election virtually de-enfranchised East Pakistan, the majority province. Relocation of the capital from the business hub of Karachi, without consulting the Eastern Wing became another sore point with the East Pakistanis who resented the diversion of massive resources to build the new capital. By the time Ayub’s 11-year rule ended, East Pakistan had been “lost” and the process needed formalization that was completed by Yahya’s lack of understanding and indecision to meet the eastern wing’s genuine demands.
Serving as Ambassador to Morocco, Malik was increasingly concerned over Zia ul Haq’s manoeuvres to prolong his rule and moving to Bhutto’s elimination through the judicial process. In his letter to Zia ul Haq dated 17 May, 1978 reproduced in the book, Malik reminds him of the unfulfilled promise of holding elections in 90 days, causing anxiety among the people about the country’s future. The lack of a clear programme and Bhutto’s death sentence by the Lahore High Court was turning the international opinion increasingly negative. The situation was further aggravated by the arrest and flogging of journalists and introduction of harsh punishments.
Malik cautioned against the military remaining in power and running its affairs over a long period of time. He also warned against changes in the Constitution that had been unanimously adopted by the elected representatives. He wrote that any talk of the presidential system or giving the Army the role of guarantor of the Constitution would only further damage the military government’s image. He protested that rather than fulfilling its promise of early elections, the regime was trying to destroy Bhutto and thus turning him into a martyr. Malik suggested that if Bhutto’s death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court, the President/CMLA would have the foresight and vision not to have the execution implemented. Pleading that international opinion should not be ignored, Malik wrote that clemency for Bhutto would serve the best interests of Pakistan.
Gen Malik has been living mostly in his native Chakwal since retirement from active politics, devoting time to writing his autobiography that was published at the age of 95, in March, 2015. Since 2003, he has also devoted time and energy to welfare activities under the aegis of Malik Majid Foundation – MMF. The Foundation has focused on providing education, health care, clean water and women’s development. It has sponsored literacy and computer facilities, diagnostic centres, vocational training and awareness seminars.
Reflecting on Pakistan’s present and future, Malik has identified the country’s strengths and weaknesses. He highlights the significance of Pakistan’s geographic position, as a link between South and Central Asia and China. Pakistan possesses enormous human resources, acclimatized to all weather conditions and available as unskilled or skilled workers as well as highly qualified cadres.
The country has a rich landscape, endowed with sea, rivers, mountains, valleys, forests, lakes, with inexhaustible agricultural and mineral potential. It possesses a large Army that has fought wars against a much bigger enemy and is fighting the challenge of terrorism. Pakistan is also the Muslim world’s only nuclear power. However, the country is witnessing turmoil and despondency as institutions lack confidence and proper organization and suffer a poor standing among the people. The Army remains the only trustworthy and organized body. Even today, its soldiers and officers are laying down their lives to protect us.
Among the weaknesses, Malik points out, that barring some exceptions, most leaders after the Quaid failed to serve collective interests. As they pursued personal or party interests, Pakistan could not progress. In matters of religion, the people are close to religion on the surface but far from its practice, suffering from habits like lying, dishonesty, selfishness, jealousy, intolerance and sectarianism. There is lip service to Islam aplenty but not in terms of actions. They are unable to overcome divisions on sectarian, provincial and tribal and caste lines.
Malik bemoans Pakistan having become a battleground of proxy warfare through funding from abroad. He stresses the need to tackle the problem of population explosion. The tendency to delay census retards the process of determining the goals for progress and to move ahead as a nation. The country suffers from various other ills like the politicization of bureaucracy.
Pakistan has faced enormous challenges and crises including wars, floods, dismissal of civilian governments followed by long spells of military rule and more recently terrorism. He feels the present challenges can be met by following Islamic principles and giving preference to national rather than personal interests.
Though having mixed feelings about the present state of affairs, Malik is hopeful that with Allah’s blessings, hard work and sincere adherence to principles, the nation can find its way to joining the ranks of developed countries.
At age 96, Majid Malik is among the oldest living Generals of Pakistan, a legend in his own right. After six decades of a successful military and political career, Malik has done another service to the nation by sharing his experience and vision by penning his life story. He was very close to the centres of power in both, the army and politics, giving him a unique insight into the institutions and personalities of Pakistan.