Pakistan and World Affairs

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Shamshad Ahmad[1]

Preface by the Author:

“The book ‘Pakistan and World Affairs’  is meant to facilitate the Pakistani mind not only to comprehend the historic evolution of political, economic and governmental processes in our own country but also to understand the course of “world affairs” through a practitioner’s prism. Academic inquiry has to be objective enough not to leave the readers’ minds with unanswered questions. This book is not intended to fill any void in academic minds but is only a modest attempt by a practitioner of diplomacy and international relations, who spent his professional lifetime in dealing with relations between and among states, to contribute to a more focused and clearer understanding of the domestic as well as global perspectives.”

Chapter One: (History and Historical Background)

A Cradle of Ancient Civilization: “PAKISTAN emerged as an independent country on 14 August 1947, but it has a history of over five thousand years. When British archeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler was commissioned in 1947 by the Government of Pakistan to give a historical account of the then new country, he entitled his work Five Thousand Years of Pakistan. [i] Indeed, the land of Pakistan has been a cradle of ancient civilizations.”

“With well-developed cities, Indus Valley Civilization (ca 2500-1600 BC), the principal sites of which lay in Pakistan’s present day Sindh and Punjab provinces, was contemporary of the Nile, Mesopotamian and Yellow River civilizations.  Over two thousand years ago, Gandhara Buddhist Civilization also flourished in areas now part of northern Pakistan with Taxila as a seat of Buddhist culture and learning….But one thing is clear. The Indus Valley Civilization existed in the Western part of the subcontinent, almost exclusively on the banks of the Indus River (current day Pakistan). Therefore, the assertion that the current day Pakistanis are inheritors of the Indus Valley Civilization is not an exaggeration. This makes Pakistan the real inheritor of one of the oldest civilizations of the world.”

Advent of Islam in India: “Trade relations between Arabia and the Sub-continent dated back to ancient times. Long before the advent of Islam in Arabia, the Arabs used to visit the coast of Southern India, which then provided the link between the ports of South and South East Asia. After the Arab traders became Muslim, they brought Islam to South Asia. A number of local Indians living in the coastal areas embraced Islam. However, it was the Muslim conquests in Persia, including the provinces of Kirman and Makran, which brought the Arabs face to face with the then ruler of Sindh, who had allied with the ruler of Makran against the Muslims.”

Mahmud Ghaznavi (971-1030): “According to most historians, Mahmud invaded India seventeen times to crush the power of the Hindu Rajas and Maharajas who were always busy planning conspiracies against him. After defeating Tarnochalpal in 1021, Mahmud formally annexed Punjab. After the fall of Punjab, the Hindu think tank assembled at Somnath – which was more of a political center than a temple – to plan a big war against Mahmud. He took all the Rajas and Maharajas by surprise when he attacked Somnath and crushed the Hindu headquarter of political intrigue.”

The Sultanate (1206-1526): “The Sultanate era was a unique epoch of Muslim achievements. Firstly, because a small minority which was just the ratio of one to thousands conquered, established control and administered the vast Indian land in a very brief period of time. Secondly, the young Sultanate dynasty successfully checked the Mongol attacks which had ruined older, stable empires from Central Asia to borders of Egypt and Crimea. Thirdly, the efficient system of administration proved to be the foundation for the great Mughal Empire. They built great buildings that motivate an aesthetic sense and inspire imagination up till now. The era produced great men of letters, poets, musicians, artists, architects and craftsmen that added to the cultural richness of the subcontinent.[ii]

The Mughal Era (1526-1858): “India in the sixteenth century presented a fragmented picture of rulers, both Muslim and Hindu, who lacked concern for their subjects and who failed to create a common body of laws or institutions. Outside developments also played a role in shaping events. The circumnavigation of Africa by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498 allowed Europeans to challenge Arab control of the trading routes between Europe and Asia.  In Central Asia and Afghanistan, shifts in power pushed Babur of Ferghana (in present-day Uzbekistan) southward, first to Kabul and then to India. The dynasty he founded endured for more than three centuries.”[iii]

Sher Shah Suri (1540-1545): “Sher Shah ruled for a short period of five years in which he not only consolidated his power but also brought about important reforms. He was a practical and farsighted ruler who was way ahead of his contemporaries. He is remembered in history for the numerous reforms that he undertook to strengthen the government. He was indeed the greatest ruler that sat upon the throne of Delhi….A brilliant strategist, Sher Shah proved himself a gifted administrator as well as an able general.”

Mughal Downfall: “The main cause of the Mughal downfall, however, was the absence of worthy and competent successors after Aurangzeb. The character of Mughal kings had deteriorated over a period of time. The successive rulers after Aurangzeb, in particular, were weak and lacked the character, motivation and commitment to rule the empire strongly. They had not only become lazy and cowardly but also totally disregarded their state duties and were unable to detain the declining empire from its fall.”


British arrival in India: “The British arrived in India as traders. In 1583, Queen Elizabeth I dispatched the ship Tyger to the Sub-continent to exploit trade opportunities. Sixteen years later on October 31, 1600, a group of merchants incorporated themselves into the East India Company which was given monopoly rights on all trade with India…In 1614, the British East India Company opened its first office in Bombay….After minimizing the major threats, the British systematically expanded their control and by 1823 had become masters of two-thirds of India. They were then able to proudly claim: “The sun never sets on the British Empire”

War of Independence (1857): “The War of Independence broke out in January and March 1857. This eruption in which both Hindus and Muslims rebelled against the British did not occur as a result of one specific event or cause; it was an accumulation of several events, involving diverse political, economic, military, religious and social causes over time resulting in its eventual outbreak… The last Mughal emperor was Bahadur Shah Zafar (1837-1858) who after the 1857 War of Independence was deposed by the British in 1858 and exiled to Rangoon in Burma where he died in obscurity in 1862.”

The British Raj: “In November 1858, the East India Company was abolished and the British Government took direct control of India. The British control over the Sub-continent grew in the next 50 years and culminated in the British Raj. The Governor-General of India gained a new title Viceroy of India…In 1877 Queen Victoria took the title of Empress of India. Her Indian empire’s realm continued to expand, until Hunza, the remote kingdom bordering China, fell into British hands in 1891, bringing the expansion to its zenith.”

“The developmental changes brought about by the British were the best thing they did for the people of the subcontinent. The expansion of a vast irrigation network in Punjab led to the development of canal colonies, settled mainly by Sikhs and Muslims, and the designation of Punjab as the granary of India. Law and order guaranteed a high rate of return on British, and later Indian, investment in these enterprises. Unfortunately, the native successors after the independence, at least in Pakistan, have failed to preserve and maintain the infrastructures left behind by the British. The roads, railway system, bridges, and canals have all been suffering worst neglect.”


Muslim Political Awakening in India: “After 1857, The Muslims kept themselves aloof from western education as well as government service whereas their compatriots, the Hindus, did not do so and accepted the new rulers without reservation. They acquired western education, imbibed the new culture and captured positions hitherto filled in by the Muslims.  If this situation had prolonged, it would have done the Muslims an irreparable damage….The man to realise the impending peril was Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1889).”

“Sir Syed’s first and foremost objective was to acquaint the British with the Indian mind; his next goal was to open the minds of Indian Muslims to modern education including science and technology. Therefore, in order to attain these goals, Sir Syed launched the Aligarh Movement of which Aligarh was the center. In 1875, he founded an educational institution called Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College (M.A.O. College) at Aligarh on the pattern of English public school system to impart education on western lines.”

Chapter Two: (Post-Independence Pakistan)

A Chequered History: “Our Quaid did not live long to personally steer Pakistan to be what he thought would be “one of the greatest nations of the world.” No doubt, we have had a chequered history after independence. But it has been a failure of governance, not of the nationhood…Successive rulers, elected or unelected, inspired no hope for a democratic and progressive state that could reorder national priorities to provide socio-economic justice and good governance.”


Journey of hope & disillusionment: “Pakistan’s creation was, no doubt, the finest hour of our history. Our people saw in it the promise of long-cherished freedom, democracy and prosperity…Many of us who belong to the first generation that saw and experienced the formative phase of Pakistan and its creation as a dream of its founding fathers, are indeed discomfited at the thought of what Quaid-e-Azam had envisioned this country to be and where we actually stand today as a nation and as a state.”

“Within the first year of our independence which woefully happened to be the last of his life, Quaid-e-Azam had presciently foreseen the coming events. He was disillusioned with the scarcity of calibre and character in the country’s political hierarchy which was no more than a bunch of self-serving, feudalist and opportunistic politicians who were to manage the newly independent Pakistan. Political ineptitude was writ large on the country’s horizon. Quaid’s worries were not unwarranted.”

Unpalatable Legacy:  “But for us it is not sufficient only to attribute Pakistan’s failure in democracy to its tradition of military take-overs. There are in fact deep-rooted historical, socio-cultural and geo-political factors that have hampered the post-independence democratic tradition in Pakistan. Since independence, the politics and governments in Pakistan have remained hostage to the feudalised elite classes which have been inimical to any change in the country.”

Chapter Three: (The State & Governmnet)


Military’s Role:  “As the most disciplined and organised entity, the military establishment thus not only provided alternative political leadership in the country but also played an influential role in mainstream politics throughout Pakistan’s political history. However, a question always asked is whether military interventions in Pakistan could have been avoided had the political system and the civilian governments been functioning in accordance with universally observed norms of democracy and good governance”

“If our civilian rulers, with rare exceptions, had been steadfast in their own commitment to constitutional supremacy, rule of law, independence of judiciary, separation of powers and institutional integrity, no military dictator would have had dared a breach of his own constitutional oath. Perhaps, there would have been no military take-overs.”

Chapter Four: (Domestic Challenges)

Flawed Education: “Also the very concept of privilege-based new schools in the name of excellence has no relevance to the needed systemic reform in our country. We don’t need any more elite schools to expand the “islands of privilege” that only symbolize the anachronistic culture of elitism in our society. We need genuine structural reform in our education system. The resources allocated to elitist schools would be best utilized for improving the existing government-owned schools.”

Corruption: “Where corruption is present, society at large suffers. It debilitates the judicial and political systems that should be working for the public good by weakening the rule of law and silencing the voice of the people. A corrupt judiciary cripples a society’s ability to curb corruption. As a result, citizens’ trust in government officials and national institutions dwindles. Corruption is not a natural calamity or disaster; it is simply the cold, calculated theft of opportunity from the men, women and children who are least able to protect themselves.”

Terrorism: ““Terrorism will neither flourish nor survive in a democratic, progressive, moderate, educated and prosperous Pakistan. The government must promote the rule of law, tolerance and mutual respect in the country to overcome the sense of desperation which pushes certain segments of society towards extremism. We need strengthening of the capacity of our law enforcing agencies to detect and control terrorist groups and their supporters and streamlining our efforts towards influencing the groups that  directly or indirectly support terrorism through political intermediaries and civil society organizations.”

Representation of Women: “In our privilege-based political system, women mostly come into political limelight riding only on their ancestry or political influence and connection, and are inevitably tempted to brandish their affluence while in public gaze. Most of them are there not because they are qualified to be in that position but only because of the flawed system of election to the seats reserved for women. The system itself smacks of discriminatory gender inequality. Reserving seats for women in our elected assemblies and filling them by nomination is one of those blatant distortions that need to be revisited sooner rather than later. This systemic circumvention has repeatedly been challenged in superior courts but a definitive actionable ruling on the issue is still awaited.”

Chapter Five: Foreign Policy & External Relations

Role of Military in Foreign Policy: “Given Pakistan’s peculiar geo-political environment and its volatile neighbourhood, most of the foreign policy issues involving vital national security interests have to be addressed through a larger consultative process with the involvement of all relevant governmental agencies and stakeholders including military and intelligence agencies. There is nothing unusual in this process which is followed in every state burdened with national security issues. No foreign office is equipped with intelligence gathering and analyzing capabilities and cannot function in a vacuum of intelligence and security information relevant to the foreign policy goals that it is supposed to be pursuing.”

“Even in the United States, their State Department cannot and does not operate without the support of their intelligence network. For that matter, America too has a so-called ‘establishment’ represented by Pentagon and CIA which are playing a dominant role in their foreign policy issues involving America’s ‘national security’ interests in the context of its regional and global power outreach.  In our case, there is another bleak reality. If there are instances of military dominance in foreign policy issues, it is only because our civilian set-ups are invariably devoid of any strategic vision or talent in their political cadres. They lack the requisite technocratic capability and comprehension of national security issues.”

Durand Line: “After the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80), the British had established their authority by indirect rule up to the Durand Line, at the cost of a number of tribal wars; the Afghans left their side untouched. Subsequently, the future Anglo-Afghan treaties of 1905, 1919 and 1921 confirmed the agreed Durand Line through proper demarcation. In the Treaty of Kabul signed on November 22, 1921, Afghanistan formally reaffirmed its acceptance of the boundary west of the Khyber, subject to minor “re-alignment.”


“The acceptance of this line—which was named after Sir Mortimer Durand, who negotiated the agreement with Abdur Rahman Khan, Amir of Afghanistan is not only considered to have settled the Indo-Afghan frontier problem for the rest of the British period but also provided an internationally accepted legal framework to the boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan after the latter’s independence in August 1947.”


Pakistan’s Position: “For Pakistan, the Durand Line is a closed and settled issue between Pakistan and Afghanistan and is the recognised international border by the international community.”

Chapter Six: (India-Pakistan Gridlock)

Kashmir Issue: “The Kashmir dispute cannot be brushed aside as a case of separatism or terrorism, and will have to be resolved in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people as called for in UN Security Council resolutions. No matter what the Indians claim, there is but one fair, just, legal and moral solution to Kashmir which was provided by the United Nations, and which both India and Pakistan mutually accepted. This is the crux of the Kashmir issue. “

Chapter Eleven: (World Affairs & International Politics) )

War and Peace: “How to succeed in diplomacy is a question simply answered, though the answer is more easily stated than practiced: “maintain armed forces larger and heavier than those of your rival and well adapted to the service of your political purposes, and conclude alliances with other powers against your potential enemy, taking care to keep him isolated. But avoid allies far stronger or far weaker than yourself for the former will seek to rule you and the latter will bring you to ruin by proving liability in war and a constant drain on your resources in peace. One powerful and trustworthy ally is worth a dozen feeble and fickle allies.”[iv]

The Afghan War: “If history is any lesson, things never remain static. They keep changing as the world and its dynamics do, not magically, not providentially but by the inevitable process of change that is always inherent in the rise and fall of power. And historically, the rise and fall of power mostly followed long wars.  The twelve year-long war in Afghanistan is about to end. The process of change, it seems, is about to begin. The Afghan endgame would perhaps be the beginning of the change…But what kind of change do we expect at the end of this long war?”

“Again, if history is any lesson, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the World War I and World War II, it was the victors in each war that installed a peace to preserve the gains they had made. Do we have any idea who at the end of the Afghan war is going to be the victor? Not chaos, one hopes. An ominous uncertainty still looms large on the horizon, leaving us with no reason to be euphoric about the post-2014 scenario.”

Chapter Twelve: Non-Proliferation & Global Disarmament

South Asia’s Nuclear Saga: ““South Asia was overtly nuclearised 15 years ago. The region perhaps would have been far better off if the famous words uttered by Robert Oppenheimer after he witnessed the power of the Trinity Test, the first nuclear explosion in New Mexico in July 1945, had been given some credence. He was so moved by the spectacle as to spontaneously acclaim that the sight made him think of the lines from the Bhagavad Gita: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendour of the Mighty One: Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”[v]

“For the world community, it is important to understand and recognise the conceptual difference between the strategic policies of India and Pakistan. For India, it is global status, and for Pakistan it is its security and survival. While India’s tests destabilized the security environment in South Asia, Pakistan’s tests restored the nuclear and strategic balance, and also averted the risk of a disastrous conflict that could have resulted from any misadventure by India.”




[1] The author is a former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan.

[i] Five thousand years of Pakistan: an archaeological outline:  Mortimer Wheeler. Publisher, C. Johnson, London; 1950


[iii] A country study: Pakistan; US Library of Congress; 1994

[iv] International Politics: Frederick Schuman; McGraw Hill; 1958

[v] Oppenheimer spoke these words in the television documentary The Decision to Drop the Bomb (1965).  In the literature, the quote normally appears in the form shatterer of worlds, because this was the form in which it first appeared in print, in Time magazine on November 8, 1948. It later appeared in Robert Jungk’s Brighter than a Thousand Suns: A Personal History of the Atomic Scientists (1958), which was based on an interview with Oppenheimer.