Then We made you their successors in the land, to see how you conduct yourselves
(The Koran, Surah Yunus 10, verse 14)
When we lowered the boat of our existence
Into the river run with pain
How powerful our arms were,
How crimson the blood in our veins!
We were sure that after just a few strokes of the oars
Our boat would enter its haven.
That’s not how it happened.
Every current was treacherous with unseen maelstroms;
We foundered because the boatmen were unskilled;
Nor had the oars been properly tested.
Whatever investigations you conduct;
Whatever charges you bring,
The river is still there; the same boat too.
Now you tell us what can be done.
You tell us how to manage a safe landing.
(Faiz Ahmed Faiz)1
This chapter is not intended to provide a history of the territory of what is now Pakistan – something that would take several books (a chronology of the main events of Pakistan’s history is, however, included as an appendix to this book). Rather, this chapter will try to draw from the history of the region, and of Islam in South Asia, those events and elements which are of greatest relevance to the situation in which Pakistan finds itself today: notably, the intermittent but recurrent history of Islamist mobilization against Western forces in the region; recurrent attempts by different administrations radically to change Pakistan; and an equally recurrent pattern of governmental failure which is common to both civilian and military regimes, and results from a combination of state weakness and entrenched kinship loyalties, religious allegiances and local power structures.
‘ISLAM IN DANGER’
As with the Muslim world more widely, the single most important thing to understand about patterns both of Muslim history and of Muslim consciousness in South Asia is the tremendous rise of Muslim power up to the seventeenth century, and its steep decline thereafter. Before 1947, the glorious history of Muslim rule and cultural achievement in South Asia helped make it impossible for Muslims to accept a subordinate position in what they saw as a future Hindu-dominated India. By the same token, for a long time after independence and to a degree even today, Pakistanis have felt that they not only must compete with India, but must compete on an equal footing; and that to accept anything less would be a humiliating betrayal.
This history also contributes to the fact that, in the words of Iqbal Akhund,
The Pakistani Muslim thinks of himself as heir to the Muslim empire, descended from a race of conquerors and rulers. There is therefore a streak of militarism in Pakistan’s ethos, even at the popular level.2
By 1682, when Ottoman Muslim troops were battering the walls of Vienna, the Mughal empire ruled (albeit often very loosely) almost the whole of South Asia. The Mughals built on previous Muslim sultanates of Delhi that had ruled most of north India since the thirteenth century. Even after the Mughal empire began to fall to pieces in the first half of the eighteenth century, great Muslim successor dynasties in Awadh, Bengal, Bhopal, Hyderabad and Mysore continued to rule over most of what is now India.
While Muslim soldiers conquered, Muslim missionaries converted – but much more slowly. Outside what is now Pakistan, only in Bengal was a majority of the population over a large area converted to Islam. A central tragedy of modern Muslim history in South Asia has been that, as a result, the greatest centres of Muslim civilization in South Asia were established in the midst of Hindu populations, far from the areas of Muslim majority population. The decline of Muslim power, and the partition of 1947, left almost all the greatest Muslim cities, monuments and institutions of South Asia as islands in an Indian sea, towards which Pakistanis look as if from a distant shore towards a lost Atlantis.3
The old Muslim dynasties of South Asia were as a rule not severely oppressive towards their Hindu subjects. They could not afford to be, given Hindu numerical predominance and the continued existence of innumerable local Hindu princes. At the popular level, Hindu and Muslim religious practice often merged, just as in Europe Christianity took on many traditions from local pagan religions. At the highest level, the Mughal Emperor Akbar (1542 – 1605) founded the Din-i-Ilahi (Divine Faith), a syncretic cult containing elements of Islam, Hinduism and Christianity.
Nonetheless, in the Muslim kingdoms there was no doubt which religion was foremost in the state, as the great mosques which dominate the old Muslim capitals testify, and were meant to testify. The Din-i-Ilahi cult failed completely to root itself, while – like all attempts to dilute or syncretize Islam – provoking a severe backlash from orthodox Muslim clerics, which undermined Akbar’s authority. The last great Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb (1618 – 1707), responded to the increasing problems of his empire with a programme of strict religious orthodoxy.
As elsewhere in the Muslim world, the decline of Muslim power from the early eighteenth century on produced a complex set of religious and cultural responses – the great majority of which, however, had the same ultimate goal, namely to strengthen the power of Muslims in the face of their enemies, and to strengthen Muslim unity in the face of the Muslims’ own divisions.4 From the later eighteenth century, Muslim fears were focused above all on the rise of the British (in 1803 the Mughal emperor became a British pensionary).
Since those days, religious forms of Muslim resistance to Western power have been a constant in South Asian history, ebbing and flowing but never disappearing. From the mid-nineteenth century on, they have been joined by a very different response, that of Westernization. It is important to note, however, that the great majority of Westernizers have justified their programmes in public by arguing that they were necessary in order to strengthen their communities, their countries or the Muslim world in general against their non-Muslim enemies. In other words, these figures were no more necessarily pro-Western in geopolitical terms than were the Westernizers of Japan. This is something that the West would do well to remember, given our congenital illusion that anyone who shares aspects of our culture must necessarily agree with our foreign policy.
The Muslim religious response to Western power has always been a highly complex mixture of conservative and radical elements. Many of these have been reformist – but reformist in the sense of the Protestant Reformation in Europe, not of modern Western ‘reform’. They have also shared the ‘fundamentalism’ of parts of the Protestant tradition, in the sense of a return to the ‘fundamentals’ of the original religious scriptures. All have stressed the need for Muslims to wage the ‘greater jihad’ of spiritual struggle and personal and social purification as well as the ‘lesser jihad’ of war against Islam’s enemies.
Underpinning intellectual and political responses by Muslim elites has been a diffuse but widespread sense among the Muslim masses of ‘Islam in danger’. This has contributed to episodes both of mass mobilization and of savage local violence against non-Muslims (or other Muslims portrayed as non-Muslims). These combined in the developments leading to the creation of Pakistan in 1947.
This sense of an endangered Islam has long been fuelled not only by local or even regional events but by developments in the wider Muslim world (for example, in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the fall of the Ottoman empire in the face of attack from Christian powers). The role of the Ummah in the minds of most South Asians therefore might be seen as vaguely analogous to that of ‘Christendom’ in the European Middle Ages: not something that could ever trump local powers and allegiances and lead to a universal state, but nonetheless a potent idea with important cultural, intellectual, emotional, political and international consequences – not least in the form of the Crusades.
With the disappearance of France and Britain as ruling powers in the Muslim world, the focus of Muslim fears concerning Western threats to the wider Muslim world naturally shifted to the new state of Israel (in occupation of Islam’s third holiest shrine, as Pakistanis are continually reminded by both their mosques and their media) and Israel’s sponsor, the United States.
In Pakistan, however, hostility to the US was for a long time damped down by the fact that Pakistan was facing far more pressing dangers, against which the US provided at least a measure of security: India and the Soviet Union. Thus, in the 1980s, President Zia’s Islamization programme contained no hint of anti-Americanism, for the obvious reason that the US was both an essential ally in fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and an essential financial sponsor of Pakistan and Zia’s administration. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made considerable play with anti-American sentiment and with the idea of Pakistan as a leader of the Muslim world (including his rhetoric of a Pakistani ‘Islamic bomb’), but his own anti-Americanism owed more to the fashionable left-wing thought of the time. The collapse of left-wing nationalism in the Muslim world in the last quarter of the twentieth century has left the Islamists as the last political homeland of anti-American (and anti-colonial) sentiment.
After 1989, a series of developments shattered the previous obstacles to anti-Americanism in Pakistan. First, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union itself removed Pakistan’s value to the US as an ally. Instead, free rein was given to groups in Washington that feared Pakistan’s nuclear programme to press for sanctions on the country. The prominent role of the Israel lobby and pro-Israeli politicians such as Congressman Stephen Solarz in these moves helped increase existing anti-Israeli feeling in Pakistan, and focus attention on the US – Israel alliance. The anger this caused in Pakistan was exacerbated by the way in which the US abandoned all responsibility for the consequences of a war in Afghanistan which it had done so much to fuel, leaving Pakistan facing a civil war on its borders and a continuing refugee problem.
Of even greater importance has been Washington’s increasing ‘tilt to India’, replacing the mutual hostility that characterized most of the period from 1947 to 1991. Seen from Pakistan, this was reflected first in Washington’s willingness to punish Pakistan as well as India for the nuclear race in South Asia, despite the fact that in both 1974 and 1998 it was actually India which first exploded nuclear devices. Moreover, because of its far smaller economy and greater dependence on exports to the West, the US sanctions of the 1990s hit Pakistan much worse than India, and were in fact largely responsible for the economic stagnation of that decade.
Since 9/11, the US has sought a quasi-alliance with India, amid much talk in the US of building up India as a force against both China and Islamist extremism. The US has abandoned any pretence at parity in its approach to the Indian and Pakistani nuclear programmes, and has sought active nuclear partnership (albeit with qualifications concerning security) with India. The US has put immense pressure on Pakistan concerning sponsorship of militant and terrorist groups in India and Indian-controlled Kashmir, but has repeatedly backed away from any attempt to put pressure on India to reach a settlement of the Kashmir conflict – notably when, in early 2009, pressure from India and the Indian lobby in the US led to India being swiftly dropped from the responsibilities of the Obama administration’s regional special envoy, Richard Holbrooke.
Also of great importance in creating anti-American feeling in Pakistan has been the belief that Washington has supported authoritarian governments in Pakistan against their own people. In the past, this belief was stimulated by US aid to Generals Ayub, Zia and Musharraf. Today, it is focused on US help to President Zardari – which just goes to show that US administrations have no preference for military government or indeed any kind of government in Pakistan as long as that government does what the US wants.
Pakistanis also tend greatly to exaggerate the degree of hands-on control that the US can exert over Pakistani governments. In fact, the relationship with the US has always been one of mutual exploitation heavily flavoured with mutual suspicion. Ayub went to war with India and cultivated relations with China against US wishes; Zia diverted US aid to Pakistan’s particular allies among the Afghan Mujahidin; successive Pakistani administrations developed a nuclear deterrent in the face of strong pressure from Washington; and since 9/11 Pakistani governments have only very partially acceded to US wishes in the ‘war on terror’. However, in Pakistan facts are rarely allowed to get in the way of a good conspiracy theory, and the widespread belief among Pakistanis is that the US runs their country as a neo-colonial client state.
As a conclusive blow to pro-US sentiment in Pakistan came the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In the immediate wake of 9/11, to judge by my researches in Pakistan in 2001 – 2, the US move into Afghanistan was accepted with surprisingly little protest by most Pakistanis, and there was some willingness to accept Al Qaeda’s responsibility. The invasion of Iraq, however, and the mendacious arguments used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion, appeared to confirm every Muslim fear about the American threat to the Muslim world.
The disastrous impact of this invasion in Pakistan is reflected in the fact that it retrospectively destroyed the justification for the Afghan war as well, as far as most Pakistanis are concerned. This shift is reflected in the fact that, to judge by my own interviews and those of other Western colleagues, an absolutely overwhelming majority not just of the Pakistani masses but of the Pakistani elites believe that 9/11 was not in fact carried out by Al Qaeda but was a plot by the Bush administration, Israel, or both, intended to provide a pretext for the US invasion of Afghanistan as part of the US strategy of dominating the Muslim world.
Whenever a Westerner (or, more rarely, a sensible Pakistani) attempts to argue with this poisonous rubbish, we are immediately countered by the ‘argument’ that ‘Bush lied over Iraq, so why are you saying he couldn’t have lied about 9/11?’5 The US invasion of Iraq, coming on top of US support for Israel and growing ties to India, greatly strengthened the vague and inchoate but pervasive feeling among Pakistanis that ‘Islam is in danger’ at the hands of the US.
The effects of all this on the desire of Pakistanis to make sacrifices in order to help the US in the ‘war on terror’ should hardly need emphasis. Instead, from the widespread hostility to the Afghan Taleban in 2001 – 2, by 2007 – 9 the perception of them on the part of the vast majority of ordinary Pakistanis with whom I spoke at that time had become close to their view of the Afghan Mujahidin during my time in Pakistan in the late 1980s: not nice people, or ones they would wish to see ruling Pakistan – but nonetheless brave men waging a legitimate war of resistance, or defensive jihad, against an alien and infidel occupation of their country.
Naturally, therefore, there has been intense opposition within Pakistan to the Pakistani military helping the US by attacking the Afghan Taleban in Pakistan’s border areas. For a long time, this opposition extended to the Pakistani militants in the region, who were seen as simply attempting to help their Afghan brethren carry on their legitimate struggle. This opposition diminished somewhat as the extent of the militant threat to Pakistan became apparent in 2008 – 10, and the Pakistani media became much more hostile to the Pakistani Taleban. It remains, however, a very powerful strain of public opinion, and opposition to the military campaign against the Pakistani Taleban, and hostility to the US alliance in general, have done terrible damage to the administrations of both President Musharraf and his successor President Zardari.
RELIGIOUS AND SECULAR RESPONSES
The specific religious forms that resistance to the West has taken have of course changed considerably over time, while nonetheless preserving an organic continuity. In the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth centuries, a prominent part was played by Sufi orders and local religious leaders belonging to those orders – just as in the resistance of the Muslim Caucasians to Russian conquest under Imam Shamil, and that of the Algerians to French conquest under Abdul Qadir. Today, the Wahabiinfluenced Taleban and their like are attacking the shrines of the very saints who formerly fought against the British, French and Russians – but nonetheless they are their heirs as far as anti-Western action is concerned.
Shah Waliullah (1703 – 62), the most significant intellectual Muslim figure of the era, was an Islamist reformist who preached the use of independent reasoning (ijtihad), but directed towards a return to a purer form of Islam based on the Koran, and towards the strengthening of Muslim states and mobilization for armed jihad to restore Muslim power in South Asia; a jihad which he and his followers – like their successors today – saw as ‘defensive’. Jihad against the British was declared and implemented by the great Muslim ruler of Mysore in southern India, Tipu Sultan.
Shah Waliullah’s teaching inspired both the Deobandi tradition which in recent years has inspired political Islamism in Pakistan, and more immediately Syed Ahmed Barelvi (1786 – 1831), who tried to lead a jihad against growing Sikh rule in the Punjab. Interestingly, he and his 600 followers became the first of a number of figures – of whom Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are the latest – to move from elsewhere to the Pathan tribal areas, both because the absence of government provided what we would now call a ‘safe haven’, and because the legendary fighting qualities of the Pathan tribes seemed to make them prime recruits for jihad.
Like many of his successors, however, Syed Ahmed Barelvi discovered that the tribes also have their own traditions and their own agendas. He was abandoned by most of his local Pathan allies after he tried to replace the traditions of the Pathan ethnic code of pashtunwali with strict adherence to the Koran, and, together with his closest disciples, was killed in battle by the Sikhs at Balakot. He is remembered by jihadi Islamists in the region as the greatest progenitor of their tradition, though the precise circumstances of his end tend to be glossed over. Following Shah Waliullah’s defeat and death, his grandson Muhammad Ishaq quit India in disgust for Arabia.
Because of their radical fundamentalism and Arabian links, Syed Ahmed, his followers and descendants were given a name by the British which also has profound echoes in the present day: that of ‘Wahabi’, after the ferociously puritanical fundamentalist movement founded by Muhammad Abdul Wahab in Arabia in the late eighteenth century, and adopted by the House of Saud as their religion. As with the attribution of ‘Wahabism’ to the Taleban today, this was only partly accurate. Shah Waliullah had studied in Arabia, in part under teachers who taught Wahab; but his teaching and that of his descendants differed from Wahabism in significant respects.
However, the Wahabis’ capture and savage purging of Mecca and Medina (including the destruction of ‘heretical’ shrines and even that of the Prophet himself) had made them a name that was useful for both supporters and opponents of jihad: supporters because of their reputation for courage and religious rigour, enemies because of their reputation for barbarism and their ferocious attacks on Muslims from other traditions. As in South Asia and the former Soviet Union today, the term ‘Wahabi’ therefore came to be thrown about with abandon to describe a variety of supporters of jihad and advocates of fundamentalist reform of Islam. All the same, those fighting against the Taleban and Al Qaeda today would do well to remember that, though new movements in themselves, they have roots going back hundreds of years in Arabia and South Asia, and 180 years among the Pathan tribes.
The critical moment in the Muslim response to British rule came with the great revolt of 1857, known to the British as ‘the Indian Mutiny’. This revolt itself stemmed in part from the British abolition the previous year of Awadh, the last major semi-independent Muslim state in north India. In Lucknow, mutinous soldiers proclaimed the restoration of the Awadh monarchy, and, in Delhi, they made the last Mughal emperor their figurehead. Across much of north India, radical Muslim clerics preached jihad against the British.
In consequence, although a great many Hindus took part in the revolt, the British identified Muslims as the principal force behind it, and British repression fell especially heavily on Muslims and Muslim institutions. The two greatest Muslim cities of north India, Delhi and Lucknow, were ferociously sacked and largely destroyed by the British army and its Punjabi auxiliaries, with many of their leading citizens killed. The last vestiges of the Mughal empire were wound up, and many Muslims dismissed from the British service.
In the decades following the revolt, the Muslim elites, as the former ruling class of much of India, suffered especially from changes introduced by the new British administration which replaced the East India Company. English replaced Persian as the language of administration, and English-language universities increasingly replaced traditional Muslim centres of education.
Intentionally or unintentionally, British rule also came to favour the Hindu upper castes above the old Muslim elites. Hindus moved with greater ease into the British educational institutions, and hence came to dominate the lower ranks of the civil service. The growth of Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and Karachi as commercial entrepôts favoured the Hindu trading castes. Most disastrously of all, the gradual introduction of representative institutions from the 1880s on revealed just how heavily Muslims were outnumbered by Hindus across most of India.
Muslim responses to these challenges continue to shape the Pakistani state, and Pakistani public debate of today. Some of the responses centred on secular education and mobilization, some on different forms of religious renewal. Different movements – or the same movements at different times – emphasized competition with Hindus, or co-operation with them against British rule. As for the idea of a separate Muslim state in South Asia, this emerged only at the very end of British rule, and in a very ambiguous form. However, whatever approach they adopted, the vast majority of Muslims who became politically engaged did so in separate organizations from the Hindus. In the early days of the Indian Congress, some of its more radical Hindu leaders opposed Muslim membership.
In the very broadest terms, the main tendencies of Muslim response to British colonialism can be divided into three: that stemming from or related to Shah Waliullah and his preaching of religious renewal and resistance; that epitomized by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817 – 98); and that of the mass of the Muslim population, including the local rural elites.
These latter basically got on with their lives and with extracting whatever benefits they could from British rule (notably, in northern Punjab, in the form of military service and settlement in the new canal colonies), while at the same time being subject to occasional waves of unrest when fears as to the safety of their Muslim identity were aroused. Local factors also sometimes produced armed revolts by specific Muslim groups – chiefly in the Pathan areas, but also in the 1920s on the part of the Moplahs of the Carnatic in southern India, and in the 1940s on the part of the Hurs, religious followers of the Pir Pagaro, a hereditary saint in Sindh.
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was a Mughal aristocrat who sided with the British in 1857, though he also bitterly criticized their policies. Although himself a deeply religious man, Sir Syed advocated the need for Indian Muslims to collaborate with the British, and to learn the ways of Western modernity in order to develop as a people and compete successfully with the ascendant Hindus. Sir Syed founded what he intended to be ‘the Muslim Cambridge’, the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, at Aligarh – another of those key Muslim institutions now left behind in India.
In 1888, Sir Syed laid down the basic principle on which Pakistan was created – though without at that stage dreaming of territorial separation. He stated that ‘India is inhabited by two different nations’, which would inevitably struggle for power if the British left:
Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations – the Mohammadan and the Hindu – could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other and thrust it down. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable.6
The founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and his closest associates, therefore stood in the direct tradition of Sir Syed; a tradition which saw the Muslims of the subcontinent as a kind of nationality defined by language (Urdu) and religiously influenced culture, rather than by religion as such. The priority given to fear of the Hindus naturally inclined this tradition to oppose the Hindu-led Indian independence movement, and to ally with the British against it.
In Pakistan, this tradition of nationalist modernization has been followed by two of Pakistan’s military leaders, Ayub Khan and Pervez Musharraf, and by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Ayub could also be seen to have replaced Britain with America as the Muslims’ inevitable (if unfortunate) ally in their struggle with ‘Hindu’ India.
In a vaguer sense, Sir Syed’s programme of broadly Western modernization remains the ideology of the Pakistani civil service and of the educated wealthy classes – though their commitment actually to do much about this is another matter. Some members of this tradition decided in 1947 to throw in their lot with India rather than Pakistan, and are now to be found scattered through the worlds of Indian politics, administration, the universities and especially the arts.
Under British rule, the Islamist tradition of Shah Waliullah naturally opposed collaboration with the British and stood for anti-colonial resistance – though, given the realities of British power, this was inevitably mostly by peaceful means. This led to the paradoxical result that some of the most fervent proponents of jihad – like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (1888 – 1958) – were also advocates of close co-operation with Hindu Indian nationalists against British rule (Azad ended as an Indian National Congress leader and independent India’s first Minister of Education). This tradition therefore opposed the partition of India and the creation of a separate Pakistani state, in part because they were attached to the idea of a universal Muslim Ummah and opposed any move to divide it further along national lines.
It is entirely logical therefore that Pakistan’s largest Islamist party, the Jamaat Islami, should have opposed the creation of Pakistan in the name of loyalty to the Ummah; and today should be especially committed to Muslim causes in the wider world, including the ‘jihads’ in Palestine, Chechnya and Kashmir – also in the name of defending the universal Ummah, rather than narrow Pakistani national interests. President Musharraf, by contrast, explicitly condemned this approach in his speeches after 9/11, emphasizing the need for Pakistanis to put Pakistan first.
THE GENESIS OF PAKISTAN
The last generation of British rule saw two Muslim mass political movements in South Asia, the Muslim League and the Khilafat movement. The Muslim League, founded in 1906 and heavily influenced by Sir Syed’s tradition, began as an elite movement to defend Muslim interests, extract concessions from the British, and either oppose or co-operate with the Indian National Congress as tactical advantage dictated. It only became a true mass movement in the last years of British rule.
Though founded in Dhaka, in what is now Bangladesh, by far the strongest support of the Muslim League was in the heartland of Muslim Urdu-speaking culture, in the United Provinces between Delhi and Allahabad (now the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh). A key moment in its foundation came in 1900 when the British agreed that Hindi (Hindustani in the ‘Hindu’ Devanagari script) should be placed on an equal footing with Urdu (Hindustani in the ‘Muslim’ Arabic script) as an official language, with the clear implication that given Hindu numerical preponderance, Urdu would eventually be edged out of government altogether.
The other great Muslim movement under British rule was much more in the tradition of Shah Waliullah, being both explicitly religious and much more radical. This was the Khilafat (Caliphate) movement, from 1919 to 1924, one of whose leaders was Maulana A. K. Azad, mentioned above. This took place in alliance with the Indian National Congress, now led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, and was the chief Muslim aspect of the unrest which gripped India after the end of the First World War. However, as its name suggests, the formal catalyst of the movement was a purely Muslim one, and reflected allegiance to no South Asian cause, but to the universal Ummah.
South Asian Muslims rallied behind the movement in protest against the impending abolition of the Caliphate, or titular leadership of the Muslim world, which the Ottoman sultans had claimed. The Caliphate issue became the rallying cry for protest against the British and French subjugation of the entire Middle East and destruction of the last Muslim great power, as well as of course against British colonial rule in India, and a range of local Muslim grievances. The Jamaat and other Islamist groups in Pakistan today see their hostility to the US today as directly descended from this Islamist anti-colonial tradition. As Mahatma Gandhi himself wrote in 1922:
The great majority of Hindus and Muslims have joined the [anti-British] struggle believing it to be religious. The masses have come in because they want to save the khilafat and the cow. Deprive the Mussulman of the hope of helping the khilafat, and he will shun the Congress. Tell the Hindu he cannot save the cow if he joins the Congress and he will, to a man, leave it.7
The Khilafat movement was led by two clerics, the brothers Maulana Mohamad Ali Jauhar and Maulana Shaukat Ali, and generated a wave of religious enthusiasm among South Asian Muslims. For that reason it was disliked by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who stood in Sir Syed Ahmed’s tradition of tactical co-operation with the British, and to whom religious fanaticism was deeply antipathetic. So great was this religious enthusiasm that in 1920 some 20,000 Indian Muslims attempted to emigrate to Afghanistan, as the last independent Muslim state left standing in the region. They were eventually expelled by the Afghan authorities after having been robbed of many of their possessions – not the first or the last time that the hopes of South Asian Islamists concerning the Afghans have been disappointed.
The rhetoric of the Khilafat movement was heavily influenced by that of jihad, and the movement’s violent edge led to increasing tension with Gandhi and the Congress. The movement finally collapsed in the face of British repression, and the Caliphate was eventually abolished not by the colonial powers but by Kemal Ataturk and the new Turkish secular republic.
The mass religious enthusiasm which powered the Khilafat movement eventually flowed into the very different strategy of the Muslim League, led in the 1920s by Sir Muhammad Iqbal (1877 – 1938) and from 1936 by Jinnah. A radically simplified account of League strategy in these years would be that it involved selective co-operation with the Congress to put pressure on the British to grant more extensive powers of legislation and self-government to India and the Indian provinces, and selective co-operation with the British to limit Congress’s power and ensure Muslims a guaranteed share of the new legislatures and governments.
The idea of creating a separate state for Muslims in South Asia came only very late. It was first raised by Iqbal in 1930 – and he still envisaged that this state would be part of a wider Indian Confederation. Shortly afterwards, the name ‘Pakistan’ was coined for this proposed state. The so-called ‘Two Nation Theory’ had in a way been implicit in Muslim League ideology from the beginning. This theory holds that Indian Hindus and Muslims have the characteristics of two different ethno-cultural nations. As the example of Lebanon, Northern Ireland and other countries where what are in effect different nations live in one country under a set of arrangements for coexistence, this does not however necessarily dictate territorial separation.
The decisive moment for the demand for Pakistan as a slogan came with the Government of India Act of 1935 and the elections of 1937 which followed. Prior to the elections, Congress had made informal promises to the League that the two parties would form coalition governments in provinces with substantial Muslim minorities. As it turned out, however, Congress’s victories were so overwhelming that – most unwisely – the Congress leadership decided that it did not need to share government with the League, and reneged on its promise.
This Congress ‘treachery’ convinced Jinnah and the other leaders of the League that Muslim parties would be excluded from power in a Congress-ruled independent India, and Muslims reduced to a wholly subordinated community. In the background to all these moves and counter-moves were recurrent ‘communal riots’, in which local issues and religious prejudice led Hindus and Muslims to attack each other, often resulting in heavy casualties.
The eventual result was the Lahore Resolution of 1940, in which, at Jinnah’s call, the Muslim League set out the demand for an independent Muslim state. However, Jinah still spoke not of full separation but rather of ‘dividing India into autonomous national states’ (my italics); and as the distinguished South Asian historian Ayesha Jalal has convincingly demonstrated, this demand was not quite what it seemed.8 As late as 1939, Jinnah was stating that although Hindus and Muslims were separate nations, ‘they both must share the governance of their common homeland’.
Jinnah in the end was bitterly disappointed with the ‘moth-eaten’ Pakistan that he eventually received. Not merely did this exclude almost all the great historic Muslim centres of India, but it left out those areas of north India where support for the Muslim League and the demand for Pakistan had been strongest; and yet for demographic and geographical reasons, there was no way that an independent Pakistan could ever have included these areas. Furthermore, all the evidence suggests that Jinnah and the League leadership were completely unprepared for the realities of complete separation from India. This was to have tragic consequences when Pakistan was created.
Rather, it seems, Jinnah was using the slogan of Pakistan for two purposes: to consolidate his own control over the League, and as a threat to force Congress to concede what he – and most Muslims – really wanted. This was a united India in which Muslims would be guaranteed a share of power, which in turn would guarantee their rights. On the one hand, this would be a highly decentralized India in which the provinces (including the Muslim-majority provinces) would hold most of the power – a goal shared by the Muslim and indeed Hindu elites of Punjab and Sindh. On the other hand, Muslims would be constitutionally guaranteed a 50 per cent share of positions in the central government, and a large enough share of the central legislature to block any attempts to change the constitution or introduce policies hostile to Muslim interests.
In 2010, such goals may not seem particularly outrageous. In the cases of Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Lebanon and parts of Africa we have become accustomed in recent decades to constitutional arrangements guaranteeing ‘power-sharing’ between different ethno-religious groups, and heavily qualifying strict majoritarian democracy. However, these demands proved unacceptable to the Congress. They threatened Congress’s power, Hindu jobs and the plans of Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru for state-led economic development, something which depended on a strong centralized state. There was also a well-based fear that a loose Indian confederation would soon collapse into appalling civil war. In the end, therefore, Congress preferred – however unwillingly – a smaller but strong and united Congress-dominated India to a larger but weak, decentralized and endangered Indian confederation.
In 1947, with British rule disintegrating and Hindu – Muslim violence increasing, the British agreed with Congress and the League on independence and partition. Pakistan was to consist of two halves separated by almost 1,000 miles of Indian territory: in the east, the Muslim-majority areas of the province of Bengal; in the west, the Muslim-majority areas of the province of Punjab, together with Sindh, the North West Frontier Province and adjoining tribal and princely territories.
To some extent, the movement for Pakistan may have escaped from Jinnah’s hands. As his famous speech to the Pakistani constituent assembly had it, in Pakistan,
Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of every individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.
This passage makes clear that Jinnah expected Pakistan to be a Muslim-majority but essentially secular country in which Muslims would be the ‘people of state’, but large Hindu and Sikh minorities would exist and would have a share of power. Pakistan would also therefore still be part of a wider South Asian unity, in cultural, social and economic terms, with the possibility of some form of confederation between equal partners emerging later.9
However, since Muslim numerical weakness meant that Jinnah and the League could not block Congress’s plans by democratic and constitutional means, they were critically dependent on Muslim street power; and this street power was largely mobilized using the rhetoric of Islam (with strong jihadi overtones harking back to the Khilafat movement) and of communal fear. This then collided head-on with Hindu and especially Sikh street power mobilized in the name of their respective fears and visions.
Jinnah spoke of a secular Pakistan, but on the streets the cry was the Muslim profession of faith:
Pakistan ka naaraah kya?
La illaha illallah
(What is the slogan of Pakistan?
There is no God but God)
This is still the slogan of the Islamist parties in Pakistan concerning the country’s identity. The wave of mass religious enthusiasm that powered the Muslim League in the last years before partition led Peter Hardy to describe it as ‘a chiliastic movement rather than a pragmatic political party’.10The Pakistan movement therefore was one in which a secularminded leadership in the tradition of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan coexisted uneasily with mass support motivated above all by the cry of ‘Islam in danger’, and by vague dreams of creating a model Islamic society.
A combination of this religious fervour with Jinnah’s original plan to balance against the Hindus in an Indian confederation was responsible for the most disastrous aspect of the new Pakistan, namely the uniting of West Pakistan (the present Pakistan) with Muslim East Bengal. This union made absolutely no geographical, historical, economic or strategic sense, and was bound to collapse sooner or later. Apart from anything else, East Pakistan was indefensible in the face of serious Indian attack, as the war of 1971 proved.
The union of West and East Pakistan was dictated in the first instance by the need to keep all Muslims together so as to form the largest possible block against the Hindus within an Indian confederation. Thereafter, the quite different idea of independent Pakistan as the homeland of all the Muslims of South Asia, and the source of their safety and progress, meant that enormous political and emotional capital was invested in trying to maintain Pakistan as one state – when two friendly allied states would have made so much more sense.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the need to balance, conciliate or suppress the Bengalis of East Pakistan exerted a malign influence on Pakistan’s development. The first protests in the East were in defence of the Bengali language, and in opposition to the extension of Urdu as the state language. From there, opposition turned into demands for greater autonomy, and finally into a programme of de facto separation.
The fact that East Pakistan, though much smaller geographically and economically, held a small majority of Pakistan’s population helped make democracy impossible, as it would have implied a Bengali domination which most of the West Pakistanis simply would not accept. This contributed to the breakdown of Pakistani democracy in the 1950s, and the military coup by General Ayub Khan in 1958. Ayub then tried to prevent Bengali domination by abolishing the provinces of West Pakistan and lumping them together in ‘one unit’, alongside the other ‘unit’ of East Pakistan. This in turn greatly increased local discontent in West Pakistan.
Ayub’s successor, General Yahya Khan (who took power in 1969), reduced tension in West Pakistan by abolishing ‘one unit’ and restoring the provinces, but failed altogether to conciliate East Pakistan. The West Pakistani establishment – including Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founder of the Pakistani People’s Party (PPP) – were prepared to accept neither a loose confederation with East Pakistan, nor the democratic domination of the Bengali majority in a united Pakistan.
During the years of protest against Ayub’s rule, Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman had emerged as leader of the Awami League, representing Muslim Bengali nationalism. Mujib’s ‘Six Point’ programme was a return to the original platform of the Muslim League in British India, demanding maximum autonomy for East Pakistan and reducing Pakistan to a loose confederation. Bengali radicalism had been increased by repeated clashes in East Pakistan between demonstrators and troops, and a catastrophic cyclone in November 1970 in which up to 1 million people died and the government was accused of negligence.
In the December 1970 national elections, the Awami League won 160 out of 162 seats in East Pakistan, and an absolute majority in the national parliament. The PPP won 81 seats out of 138 in West Pakistan. Mujib therefore demanded the right to form the national government, with confederation the inevitable result. This was acceptable neither to Yahya Khan and the army, nor to the Punjabi elites, nor to Bhutto, who demanded an equal share in government on the basis of his party’s majority in West Pakistan, and who forged an alliance with hardline military elements in Yahya’s administration to resist Bengali demands.
A series of moves and counter-moves took place in the following months, accompanied by increasingly violent mass protests and clashes with the military in East Pakistan. Then at midnight at the end of 25 March 1971, the military launched a savage campaign of repression in East Pakistan (Operation Searchlight). Thousands of students, professionals, Awami League leaders and activists and East Pakistani police were killed, amid dreadful scenes of carnage and rape.
This revolting campaign was the most terrible blot on the entire record of the Pakistani army, and was made possible by old and deepseated racial contempt by the Punjabi and Pathan soldiery for the Bengalis, whom they also regarded as not true Muslims but crypto-Hindus. It is worth noting that, despite recurrent episodes of military repression, nothing remotely as bad as this has ever happened in West Pakistan, where this racial and racist tension between army and people does not exist to anything like the same degree. Indeed, unwillingness to fire on their own people has been one factor in undermining the will of the soldiers to confront the Taleban.
Memory of the March 1971 massacres in East Pakistan has been largely suppressed in the Pakistan of today, since for obvious reasons neither the military nor the political parties (including the PPP, which after the death of Bhutto was headed for a while by General Tikka Khan, who as commander in East Pakistan launched the campaign of killing there) nor the newspapers, which justified or ignored the killings, have any desire to recall them.
The campaign led to the mutiny of East Pakistani troops (the Bengal Regiment) and a mass uprising in the countryside. Millions of refugees fled from East Pakistan to India with dreadful tales of the Pakistani army’s behaviour. Eight months later, with international opinion now ranged against Pakistan, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India ordered the Indian army to invade East Pakistan, and in two weeks 96,000 hopelessly outnumbered Pakistani troops there were forced to surrender. An attempt to save the situation by invading India from West Pakistan was beaten off with ease. East Pakistan became the independent state of Bangladesh, and was recognized by the international community.
Because of the vision of Pakistan as both a united Muslim homeland and an ideal Muslim state, the loss of Bangladesh has been seen by most West Pakistanis as a catastrophe which called into question the ‘two nation theory’ of Muslims as a South Asian nation equal to ‘Hindu’ India, and therefore the very meaning of their country.
In actual fact, it was only the terrible circumstances of the end of united Pakistan that were a catastrophe. Separation itself was inevitable sooner or later, and left West Pakistan a geographically coherent state whose peoples were also much more closely linked by ethnicity and culture. Pakistan has indeed demonstrated this by surviving, despite so many predictions to the contrary, and by the fact that despite a variety of local uprisings, until the rise of the Taleban it has never faced a challenge remotely on the scale of East Bengali nationalism.
THE NEW PAKISTANI STATE
In West Pakistan, however, despite the cynicism instilled by the later decades of Pakistani history, the initial idealism of the Pakistan movement, and its real achievements, should not be underestimated. Without them, Pakistan might not have survived at all. In Pakistan’s first years, despite political turmoil, many Pakistanis displayed a level of energy and public service that they have never since recovered. These qualities were largely responsible for their country’s success in overcoming the quite appalling problems generated by partition, the disruption of trade and the transport network, millions of refugees and growing tension with India. As Ian Talbot writes:
[M]any of the refugees regarded their journey to Pakistan as a true hijrat, an opportunity for a renewal of their faith ... Those who have grown cynical over the passage of time in Pakistan will be surprised by the widespread manifestations of social solidarity and improvisation, reminiscent of Britain during the Blitz in the Second World War, which marked the early days of the state’s existence.11
The late Akhtar Hamid Khan (a former British Indian civil servant and founder of the famous Orangi urban regeneration project, who moved to Pakistan after partition), told me in 1989 that ‘ridiculous though that may sound now’, he and many younger educated Muslims had genuinely believed that Pakistan could be turned into a sort of ideal Muslim socialist state, drawing on Islamic traditions of justice and egalitarianism as well as on Western socialist thought. In the lines of the Punjabi poet and Muslim Leaguer Chiragh Din Joneka:
The Quaid-e-Azam will get Pakistan soon,
Everyone will have freedom and peace.
No one will suffer injustice.
All will enjoy their rights.12
In fact, however, as with later attempts at radical reform, the first years of West Pakistan also turned into the story of the digestion of the Pakistan movement by local political society and culture, based on ‘feudalism’, kinship and conservative religion – an experience that was to be repeated under the administrations of Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf. All, in their different ways, tried to bring about radical changes in Pakistan. All were defeated by the weakness of the Pakistani state and the tremendous undertow of local kinship networks, power structures and religious traditions.
Any hope in the immediate aftermath of independence that reformist elements in the Muslim League might prevail against these traditions was destroyed by the premature deaths of Jinnah (barely a year after independence) and his prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan.13 Without them, the Muslim League quickly disintegrated. This marks a critically important difference with India, which helps explain why these two offspring of the British Indian empire have had such different political histories.
In India, the charismatic leader of the independence movement, Jawaharlal Nehru, survived in power until 1964, and founded a dynasty which dominates Indian politics to this day. Thanks largely to Nehru, the Congress Party also survived as a powerful force. Indeed, although a ‘democracy’, until the 1960s India was in some respects (like Japan for more than five decades after the Second World War) a de facto one-party state. In Pakistan, no such party existed.
Even had Jinnah lived, however, it is questionable whether the Muslim League could have continued to succeed politically as the Congress did. The League had its origins, its heart, and by far the greatest part of its support in the north of what was now India. Until shortly before independence, Punjab and Sindh were ruled by local parties dominated by great landowners, in alliance with their Hindu and Sikh equivalents (in Punjab) and with Hindu businessmen (in Sindh). The North West Frontier Province was ruled by a local Pathan nationalist party in alliance with Congress, and Balochistan by its own local chieftains, several of whom opposed joining Pakistan.
The leaders of the new Pakistani state and army were acutely aware of the thinness of loyalty to the new state across most of its territory; and this too helped create the mentality of a national security state, distrustful of its own people, heavily reliant on its intelligence services, and dependent ultimately on the army to hold the country together.
The Muslim League was only able to supplant the local Sindhi, Punjabi and Pathan parties towards the very end of British rule, when the imminent prospect of an independent Hindu-dominated India stirred up profound fears in the Muslim masses of the region. And even then, the League was only able to prevail because it was joined by large sections of the local landowning elites – the first of the compromises between reformist parties and traditional local elites which has been one of the dominant themes of Pakistani history. In consequence, the hopes of more radical elements of the League for land reform were soon buried.
All the same, at the start the top ranks both of the Muslim League and of the bureaucracy were dominated by men from what was now India. This included Jinnah and Liaquat, and a large proportion of the senior ranks of the civil service. This added an additional degree of distance from local society to what were in any case not an indigenous state structure and legal system, but ones bequeathed by the British empire.
One might almost say that the composition and the achievements of the Pakistani state in its first twenty years were mostly non-Pakistani: a state structure created by the British and largely staffed by officials who had moved from the old Muslim territories in India, outside the new Pakistan; a British-created and British-trained army; and an industrial class mainly made up of Gujaratis, also from India. In the decades since, this state has been brought into conformity with the societies over which it rules.
In language too, the new state created a double distance between itself and the population. The new national language, inevitably, was supposed to be Urdu, the language of the Mughal court and army, and of the Muslim elites and population in north India. It was not, however, the language of any of the indigenous peoples of West Pakistan, let alone the Bengalis of East Pakistan.
The strategy of forcing these populations to go to school in Urdu spurred local nationalist resentments in Sindh and the NWFP; all the more so as Urdu was not in fact the language of the top elites. These had come, under British rule, to speak English, and in Pakistan English – of a kind – has remained the language of the senior ranks of government, of high society and of higher education. The baleful effects of this on the legal system will be examined in the next chapter; while the idea that an Urdu education confers social prestige does not long survive any conversation with young upper-class Pakistanis, whose snobbish contempt for Urdu-medium pupils is sometimes quite sickening. So Urdu found itself squeezed from both above and below.
ATTEMPTS AT CHANGE FROM ABOVE
Since the disintegration of the Muslim League in the early 1950s, Pakistan has seen four attempts at radical transformation, three of them in the secular tradition of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, and one in the Islamist tradition stretching back to Shah Waliullah. Three of these attempts have been by military administrations, and one by a civilian administration.
However, in a sign that Pakistani history cannot be divided neatly into periods of ‘democracy’ and ‘dictatorship’, the civilian administration of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was in many ways more dictatorial than the military administrations of Generals Ayub Khan and Pervez Musharraf, just as for most of his time in power Musharraf’s rule was if anything milder than the ‘democratic’ government of Nawaz Sharif that he overthrew in 1999.
Both main ‘democratic’ parties when in power have used illegal and dictatorial methods against their opponents – sometimes in order to suppress ethnic and sectarian violence, and sometimes to try to maintain their own power in the face of multiple challenges from political rivals, ethnic separatists and the military. In the gloomy words of a Pakistani businessman:
One of the main problems for Pakistan is that our democrats have tried to be dictators and our dictators have tried to be democrats. So the democratic governments have not developed democracy and the dictatorships have not developed the country. That would in fact have required them to be much more dictatorial.
But whether civilian or military, and more or less authoritarian, as pointed out in the introduction all Pakistani governments have failed radically to reform Pakistan – in consequence of which, Pakistan, which was ahead of South Korea in development in the early 1960s, is dreadfully far behind it today. However, it is also worth pointing out that they did not fail completely: Generals Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf presided over periods of fairly successful economic growth, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s rule, though economically disastrous, freed many Pakistanis from their previous position of complete subservience to the rural elites, and gave them a degree of pride and independence which they have never since wholly lost. In consequence of these achievements, if Pakistan is not South Korea, it is also not the Congo – which is saying something, after all.
Two Pakistani military governments tried to change and develop Pakistan in the general spirit of the Westernizing traditions of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. I therefore have grouped the administrations of General Ayub Khan (1958 – 69) and General Pervez Musharraf (1999 – 2008) in one section. Ayub Khan came from a background that to some extent exemplifies the ethnic complexity of Pakistan: born in the NWFP, from a Pathan tribe but a Hindko-speaking Hazara family of small landowners. In a way, however, this was irrelevant. Coming from a military family (his father had been a Rissaldar-Major in the British Indian army), and having spent almost his whole adult life in the British Indian and then the Pakistani military, like Musharraf and a great many Pakistani officers his personal identity was completely bound up with his professional one as a soldier.
While Ayub’s family had been in the British military service, Musharraf’s had served the British as administrators. Like Musharraf’s father, Ayub had studied briefly at Aligarh University, which Sir Syed founded. Both men derived from this tradition a strong dislike of Islamist politics, and from their military backgrounds a loathing of politicians in general; yet both found that, in order to maintain their power, they had to rely on parliamentary coalitions made up of some of the most opportunist politicians in the country. In contrast to other military and civilian rulers of Pakistan, both men were personally kindly and tolerant, yet both headed increasingly repressive regimes.
In striking contrast to most successful civilian politicians in Pakistan and throughout South Asia, neither they nor Zia-ul-Haq founded political dynasties or tried to do so. This was in fact impossible, above all because, although they ran what were in certain respects personal dictatorships, they were none of them personal leaders of what has been called the ‘sultanistic’ kind, and did not personally control the institution that brought them to power.
Rather, they came to power as the CEOs of that great meritocratic corporation, the Pakistan army; and the board of directors of that corporation – in other words the senior generals – retained the ultimate say over their administration’s fate. This marks the degree of the army’s ‘modernity’ compared to the political parties. Both Ayub and Musharraf left office when the other generals decided it was time for them to go. As to Zia, no one knows who was responsible for his assassination.
Both Ayub and Musharraf were committed secular reformers. Ayub in particular was bitterly hostile to the Islamists, and removed the ‘Islamic’ label from the official name of the Republic of Pakistan. He promoted women’s education and rights, and was the only ruler in Pakistan’s history to have made a really serious attempt to promote birth control, correctly identifying runaway population growth as one of the biggest threats to the country’s long-term progress. Like his reformist successors, however, Ayub was forced to retreat from much of his reformist programme in the face of the Islamists’ ability to mobilize much of the population in protest at interference with their values and traditions, and the traditional landed elite’s ability to block any moves that threatened their local dominance.
Like Musharraf and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Ayub Khan expressed great admiration for the reformist secular policies of Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Turkish republic; but all three of them failed to implement anything like Atatürk’s programme, for all the reasons that have made Pakistan since independence so different from Turkey since the fall of the Ottoman empire.
Apart from anything else, Atatürk and his movement rode to power on the back of military victory against the Greek, Armenian and French troops which had invaded Asia Minor at the end of the First World War. Ayub’s attempt at military victory over India in 1965 ended in failure, and the wave of nationalist fervour that he had aroused then blamed him for the inevitable compromise peace, and contributed greatly to his downfall. In the process, Ayub discovered the severe limits to America’s alliance with Pakistan, to which he had committed his administration. Musharraf’s experience in this regard was even harsher.
Both Ayub and Musharraf followed strongly free-market economic policies, though, compared to Musharraf’s, Ayub’s administration did far more to build up the industry and infrastructure of the country. In one respect, Ayub went further than Musharraf, and further than any other government except that of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s. Ayub’s administration introduced a land reform in 1959 which, if it fell far short of India’s and was largely frustrated by the big landlords, nonetheless contributed to the break-up of the biggest ‘feudal’ estates, and their transformation in northern Punjab (though barely elsewhere) into smaller-scale commercial holdings.
Ayub’s land reform in turn helped spur the successful ‘Green Revolution’ in the area. However, this commercialization of agriculture, and the spread of mechanized farming, also led to new unemployment and dispossession among agricultural workers and marginal tenants. These moved to the cities and swelled mass unrest against Ayub.
In 1962, Ayub created the Convention Muslim League as a political party to prop up his rule in the face of political pressure that he could not crush through repression (because of his own character, the weakness of the Pakistani state, and the fact that the opposition adoped as its presidential candidate the iconic figure of the Qaid-e-Azam’s sister, Fatima Jinnah). Ayub’s ‘party’ was an alliance of independent local notables and bosses, and in no sense either a mass movement or a modern political party staffed by full-time professional officials and volunteers.
The Convention Muslim League was therefore part of the familiar pattern whereby would-be reformist administrations have to depend on traditional – and strongly anti-reformist – power-holders to maintain their rule. This has always inevitably involved turning a blind eye to their corruption, and rewarding them with patronage which has undermined good government and the state budget. This was just the same with the Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid-e-Azam), or PML(Q), the ‘King’s Party’ that Musharraf put together to support his rule and contest the elections of 2002. This party was made up chiefly of defectors from Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League (N), and was a typical grouping of opportunist landowners and local bosses. Musharraf was therefore also forced to follow the old pattern.
Thus in his first years in power Musharraf pursued anti-corruption and revenue-raising strategies which won praise from Transparency International and international financial institutions. In advance of the parliamentary elections of 2002, however, a whole string of cases for corruption, non-repayment of loans and tax evasion were dropped against politicians whose support Musharraf needed.
In consequence, tax collection, which had edged up to 11.4 per cent of GDP in 2001, fell again to its historic rate of around 10.5 per cent – low even by the standards of the developing world. Given Musharraf’s need for the courts to legitimize him and elected politicians to support him, it seems questionable whether he should really be called a military dictator at all. He was certainly a very weak one by international and historical standards.
Musharraf followed Ayub in attempting to increase the power of local municipal bodies elected on a non-party basis. In both cases, this strategy had both an opportunistic and an honourable side. The opportunistic element was the desire to weaken the opposition political parties by reducing the powers of the national and provincial parliaments, and reducing their access to local patronage.
However, these moves also addressed a very real problem, which exists in India as well as Pakistan. This is that in both countries local elected bodies have traditionally had very weak powers. Real local authority has remained where it was established in British colonial days, in the hands of unelected civil servants whose powers are vastly more sweeping than those of their Western equivalents (including not just powers that in the West belong to elected municipalities, but some of those of the judiciary as well). Even under ‘democracy’, as far as most of their citizens are concerned, the Pakistani and Indian states therefore function more like ‘elected authoritarianisms’. The weakness of local government is especially damaging in the cities, where it hinders the development of new kinds of reformist urban politics.
On the other hand, whereas in British days these civil servants were at least independent of politics and in a position to guarantee minimally honest administration, today they are not just responsible to the national and provincial governments, but are subject to endless pressure from elected politicians at the national and provincial levels. This gives tremendous powers of patronage and harassment to these politicians and their parties, but is extremely bad for honest and effective administration. One consequence is the constant transfers of officials on political grounds, meaning that very few have the chance ever to get to know their districts or areas of responsibility properly.
Ayub’s ‘Basic Democracy’ scheme, and Musharraf’s ‘Devolution’ were both meant to address these problems by giving real power to local elected bodies. In Musharraf’s case, he also tried to strengthen the position of women by reserving a third of elected municipal seats for them. However, in both Ayub’s case and Musharraf’s, after they fell from power their civilian successors simply swept away these reforms, with no attempt to distinguish the good from the bad sides, in order to restore their own power and patronage.
In Musharraf’s case, however, his devolution was also widely criticized because he had weakened the police, contributing to several embarrassing collapses of local police forces in the face of Taleban attack. Musharraf had done this by removing the police from the authority of the District Commissioner (the old British ‘Burra Sahib’, now renamed in rather politically correct Blairite fashion the ‘District Coordinating Officer’), and placing them under the elected councils.
This was meant to address a terrible problem in Pakistan (and still more in India): the extreme unaccountability of the local police, which has contributed to so many ghastly atrocities against ordinary people. The problem was that the local councils proved wholly incapable of taking responsibility for the police. In consequence the latter, with no one to force them to take action, developed a strong tendency when faced with any crisis simply to do nothing – not only because of natural somnolence, but out of fear that they would have to take the responsibility if something went wrong. In other fields of administration, too, the newly elected politicians proved too weak and inexperienced to exercise their powers properly – though they might have learned to do so given more time.
There is something therefore both strange and tragic about Musharraf’s devolution and its abolition: strange that a ‘military dictator’ should actually have weakened the state’s powers of repression; tragic that elected ‘democratic’ governments should have undermined democratic progress by weakening local democracy; but above all tragic that a reform with some truly positive democratic and modern aspects should have foundered on the traditional hard realities of South Asian society. Local government reform was therefore part of Musharraf’s declared spirit of ‘Enlightened Moderation’, which, though never systematically developed or implemented, nonetheless stood in the direct tradition of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Some of Zia’s Islamization measures were rolled back, and, as noted, a strong attempt was made to improve the political role of women.
Until 9/11 Musharraf continued to support Islamist militants fighting in Kashmir against India, but at the same time confirmed his secular credentials by taking tough action against Sunni extremist groups which in previous years had conducted a savage campaign of sectarian terrorism against Pakistan’s Shia minority. In 2008 – 9 these groups allied with the Pakistani Taleban, and extended their terrorism from the Shia and Ismailis to Sunni Muslims from the Barelvi and Sufi traditions, as well as attacking state targets.
Musharraf’s administration differed from Ayub’s in two ways – one good, one bad. The good one was that – once again, very surprisingly for a military dictatorship – Musharraf introduced a radical liberalization of the media, something that he was to pay for heavily when the media turned against him in 2007. This reflected the fact that, as a great many senior Pakistanis who dealt with him personally have told me, until things began to fall apart towards the end of his rule, Musharraf was a far more open personality than either Ms Bhutto or Mr Sharif, and was genuinely committed to a form of liberal progress.
The bad difference from Ayub lay in the field of economic policy, and was perhaps a matter of Western influence as much as bad judgement on the part of Musharraf and his economic team. In Ayub’s day, Western development thinking was focused on the need to build a country’s industrial base; and Ayub responded with a very successful programme of industrial growth. By Musharraf’s time, however, the Washington Consensus and the capitalist triumphalism that followed the fall of Communism had shifted Western attitudes to a blind faith in market liberalization and an increase in mass consumption. So while Musharraf’s economic boom did lead to real growth in the economy and a real rise in state revenues, it was also much more shallow than growth under Ayub and left a much smaller legacy.
Musharraf’s finance minister and (from 2004) prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, nonetheless conducted for several years what seemed to be a strikingly successful economic policy. GDP growth, which when Musharraf took over had stood at 3.9 per cent (only a percentage point or so over the rate of population growth), from 2003 to 2008 stood between 6.6 per cent and 9 per cent. Shaukat Aziz’s strategy, however, failed to deal with the underlying problems of the Pakistani economy.14 In 2008, the advent of the world economic crisis led to a sharp drop in the economy, while acute electricity shortages revealed not only incompetence by the new PPP government but also the failure of the Musharraf administration to develop the country’s energy infrastructure.
Given Musharraf’s personal honesty (in marked contrast to most of his predecessors) and progressive credentials, it is in fact depressing to note how little his administration achieved in nine years in terms of changing Pakistan; though perhaps just helping to keep the country afloat in such times should be considered an achievement in itself.
ZULFIKAR ALI BHUTTO
Bhutto’s government from 1971 to 1977 marked the only time a Pakistani civilian administration has sought to bring about radical changes in the country. His most enduring legacy was the creation of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), one of the dynastic parties (with populist trappings) that continue to dominate South Asian politics. By contrast, Bhutto’s attempts at radical reform largely met the same fate as those of his military counterparts – though with far more tragic personal consequences for Bhutto.
Bhutto’s combination of intense ‘feudal’ and familial pride with an often vindictive hatred of the Pakistani upper classes has been attributed by many to the fact that his mother, Sir Shah Nawaz’s second wife, was a convert from a Hindu family, inevitably – though probably wrongly – alleged by his enemies to have been a dancing girl. The miseries resulting from this for a sensitive child in an intensely snobbish and anti-Hindu milieu can easily be imagined. Later, the scurrilous and mendacious viciousness with which the anti-Bhutto press used his mother’s origins against him must surely have increased his own savagery towards his critics and opponents.
Bhutto was, however, also a child of his era, one in which left-wing nationalism was at its height in the ‘Third World’. When Bhutto founded the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in 1966, Nasser was in power in Egypt, Sukarno in Indonesia, Nkrumah in Ghana, and Mao was the darling of the left-wing intelligentsia in much of the world. In neighbouring India, Mrs Gandhi was preparing to break the hold of the old Congress bosses on her father’s party by a populist campaign much of which was very close to that of Bhutto. Bhutto’s slogan of ‘roti, kapra aur makan’ (‘bread, clothes and housing’) was echoed by Mrs Gandhi’s of ‘gharibi hatao’ (‘abolish poverty’). So Bhutto seemed to himself and others to be riding the wave of the future – though even before he took power Nkrumah had fallen and Nasser had been crushingly defeated by Israel.
The basic dynamics of Bhutto’s strategy were simple enough, and familiar enough from many such regimes elsewhere in the developing world. The intention was to bring about a socio-economic revolution from above in Pakistan, and to create rapid economic growth through the nationalization of industry and state-directed development. In the process, the support of the Pakistani masses for Bhutto and his party would be consolidated, and the PPP would become the permanent party of power, with Bhutto as the lifetime charismatic national leader who would then pass on this power to his descendants. Unlike the military rulers, Bhutto was therefore a would-be ‘sultanistic’ dictator, personal and dynastic rather than institutional.15 For Bhutto to achieve his goals, the grip of the existing elites on politics, the economy and the bureaucracy would have to be broken, when necessary by ruthless means.
It was highly unlikely that this programme could ever have worked in terms of developing the country – as so many other international examples demonstrate. However, as these examples also demonstrate, Bhutto’s approach might have worked much better when it came to consolidating his own power and that of his party; he could have ruled for a generation, instead of fewer than six years.
The two differences between Pakistan and more successful examples of authoritarian nationalist populism are that for such regimes to succeed in gaining a real, semi-permanent grip on power they have to create powerful, organized parties staffed by new men and not the old elites; and, even more importantly, they have to control their armies. Very often indeed, like Peron, the populist leaders come from the ranks of the army themselves. Bhutto did not come from the military and, as will be seen, the military itself does not allow personal dictators from its ranks to establish dynastic rule. Nor was Pakistani society capable of generating a true mass political party, independent of kinship loyalties and local power elites.
On the side of social and economic change, however, Bhutto acted rapidly and radically. In 1972, all major industries and banks were nationalized. This created a hostility to the PPP on the part of the capitalist classes which has continued long after the PPP abandoned every shred of real left-wing economics, and which largely explains business support for the PPP’s opponents in the new Muslim League.
Much more importantly, nationalization was economically disastrous. The move led to a flood of capital flight from Pakistan and a drastic fall in private investment for which the Pakistani state did not have the resources to compensate. Private investment in manufacturing dropped from an average of Rs992 million in 1960 – 65 to Rs682 million in 1971 – 6, while public investment rose only from Rs57 million to Rs115 million. By 1974 – 7, average economic growth per year had plunged to 2.7 per cent, less than the annual growth of population. This compared to average annual growth of 6.8 per cent in 1959 – 69, under Ayub Khan. Overall, Bhutto’s populist economic strategy was therefore a disaster from which it took Pakistan an entire generation to recover.
This was partly because state control of the large-scale commercial economy proved such a lucrative source of political patronage that for a long time it was continued in several areas by succeeding administrations. Direction of the state companies was handed over as patronage to PPP supporters from inside and outside the bureaucracy, a task at which they proved both incompetent and corrupt. Nationalization contained a provision for partial workers’ control in the form of workers’ committees which were supposed to work together with management. In practice these proved largely a dead letter. Over the succeeding decades, both trade union power and worker commitment to the PPP eroded, until by 2009 they were hardly visible in most sectors.
Despite the genuine radicalism of Bhutto’s measures in these areas, they did not go far enough for the left-wing radicals within the PPP. The socialist finance minister Mubashir Hasan had wanted the nationalization of urban land, and the collectivization of agriculture – something that would have led to counter-revolution and bloody civil war across the country. When Bhutto reformed his cabinet in October 1974, Dr Hasan and other left-wingers were excluded, and replaced by an influx of ‘feudal’ landowners who had rallied to the PPP in the hope of patronage, especially in the nationalized industries.
In the field of land reform, Bhutto was a good deal less radical than in the area of industry – but still more radical than any other Pakistani administration but Ayub’s. By a law of 1972, ceilings for landownership were reduced to 150 acres of irrigated land and to 300 acres of unirrigated land, from 500 and 1,000 acres, respectively, under Ayub’s land reform; still big farms by Pakistani standards, but nothing resembling the huge estates of Pakistan in the past, or indeed of Britain and America today.
This reform did indeed push agriculture in northern Punjab further in the direction of medium-sized commercial farming; and in Punjab and the NWFP, many of the great ‘feudal’ political families of today derive their wealth not from agricultural land, but from urban rentals; for many noble families either had patches of land around the edges of the old cities, with villas, orchards and pleasure gardens, or were wise enough to invest agricultural profits in urban land; and ten acres covered with houses and shops is easily worth a hundred times the same acreage in the countryside.
In much of Pakistan, however, Bhutto’s land reform was to a great extent subverted. Above all, great landowners would on paper distribute parts of their land to junior relatives and retainers, rewarding them with a share of the proceeds while in practice continuing to control them. Especially in Sindh and southern Punjab, the kinship system yet again worked as a critical element of what has wrongly been called ‘feudal’ power. Finally, and inevitably, Bhutto’s reform turned a blind eye to many of the holdings of Bhutto’s own landowning supporters, and own family. My travels with Bhutto’s cousin (and governor and later chief minister of Sindh under Bhutto), Sardar Mumtaz Ali Bhutto, will be described in Chapter 8. He is a magnificent figure, a splendid representative of his class and caste – and about as much of a radical agrarian reformer as the Earl of Northumberland c.1300 CE.
Land reform faltered still more towards the end of Bhutto’s administration, as his power crumbled, his party split, and he became more and more dependent on sections of the old landowning elites to keep him in power – a pattern which, as already argued, echoed the experience of Ayub and prefigured that of Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf. Growing reliance on the landowning elites reflected Bhutto’s failure to consolidate his power through the creation of a disciplined, organized mass party and an effective seizure of the mechanisms of state coercion. Instead, repression under Bhutto took the form of sporadic terror against individual opponents and their families – something that only succeeded in infuriating the state establishment and the other political parties, without breaking their power.
Bhutto was well aware of the need to create a disciplined cadre party. Ironically enough, he had given precisely this advice to Ayub Khan when he was serving in his government (and Bhutto’s plans for the PPP in some ways echoed Ayub’s hopes for Basic Democracy). But to create such a party across Pakistan it would have been necessary to pay and to motivate its local cadres in such a way as to make them a power in their own right, and independent of local social and economic power structures. That has never been possible in Pakistan, because the state is too poor and weak, and local bosses, kinship groups and religious affiliations are immensely strong. Moreover, no party in Pakistan has been able to generate the ideological fervour required to turn its cadres into purely obedient and disciplined servants.
The only exceptions are the Jamaat Islami and the Mohajir Qaumi Movement – and for reasons that will be explored in Chapters 6 and 8, they have only been able to do this on a local basis. Bhutto’s failure to create a disciplined party also meant that local PPP leaders used the breakdown of state authority to set up their own private armed groups and local fiefdoms, and to engage in violent turf battles with each other as well as with the PPP’s opponents.
Lacking an effective mass party with real control over society, Bhutto was forced back on instruments of state control. He managed to a great extent to bend the bureaucracy and judiciary to his will, though in the process causing personal hatred which contributed to his death. The police were another matter. As successive Pakistani leaders have found – including in the struggle against the Taleban – the Pakistani police, though often savage enough on an individual basis, are an extremely unreliable force when it comes to mass repression. One reason for this is sheer laziness, exacerbated by bad pay. ‘Would you risk your life and run around in this heat for the pay we get?’ was the response of many policemen to whom I suggested a more active approach to fighting crime, and, as in the rest of South Asia, it often seemed to me that ‘Brutality Tempered by Torpor’ wouldn’t be a bad motto for the force as a whole.
More importantly, from a force under the British which was to some extent independent of society and under state control, the Pakistani police at ground level had already become a force colonized by society; that is to say, whose officers and men as often as not were working in alliance with local kinship groups, landowners and urban bosses, classes which they naturally therefore were very unwilling to attack.
Bhutto therefore set up his own paramilitary group, the Federal Security Force (FSF), staffed by PPP loyalists drawn from the most thuggish elements of the police and military; and by doing so, he can be said to have signed his own death warrant. It is not clear whether Bhutto gave specific orders to this force concerning the savage victimization of opponents and their families, but at the very least he played the role of Henry II concerning the murder of Thomas à Becket (‘Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?’).
On the other hand, just as the PPP was not the Soviet or Chinese Communist Party, so the FSF was not the NKVD. It was not remotely strong enough to terrorize Pakistani society as a whole into submission. It was, however, strong and vicious enough to raise hatred of Bhutto in sections of the elite to a degree not seen of any Pakistani ruler before or since. Hence in part the difference between Bhutto’s fate and that of Ayub, Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif when they were overthrown. Ayub was allowed to live on in peaceful retirement in Pakistan; Sharif was eventually permitted to go into exile with his family fortune intact, and later returned to politics.
Zia would have allowed Bhutto to take the same path into exile; but when the deposed leader made it clear that he was determined to return to power, and when mass rallies made it clear that he had a real chance of being re-elected, both Zia himself and all the leading figures who had helped bring Bhutto down knew very well what would happen to them, and more importantly their families, if he did in fact return to office. Bhutto’s execution removed that threat, and by its very uniqueness stands as a reminder to Pakistani leaders of Machiavelli’s lesson that in many societies men will far more easily forget an injury to their interests and even their persons than an assault on their honour.
It was easy for Bhutto’s executioner and successor Zia-ul-Haq to portray his administration as the antithesis of Bhutto’s, since he himself was Bhutto’s personal antithesis. Zia was Pakistan’s first ruler from the middle class, born into the family of a junior British civil servant from east Punjab. Zia himself entered the officer corps of the British Indian army in the Second World War. In 1947 his family became refugees from India, something that strongly marked his world view. In sharp contrast not only to Bhutto but to Pakistan’s other military rulers to date, he was a deeply pious Muslim.
Unlike both Bhutto and his military predecessor Ayub and successor Musharraf, Zia attempted to change Pakistan along Islamist lines. This reflected not only Zia’s own profound personal religious convictions, but also a nationalist belief (which has been shared by some more secular figures within the military and civilian establishment) that religion is the only force which can strengthen Pakistani nationalism and national identity, keep Pakistan from disintegrating, and motivate its people to give honest and dedicated service to the nation and society.
In most of his goals, however, Zia failed as completely as Bhutto and Musharraf, despite the harshly authoritarian character of much of his rule. He thereby demonstrated once more the underlying and perennial weakness of the Pakistani state, even at its most dictatorial. Pakistani political and social culture was not transformed along official Islamic lines; in fact, Zia’s Islamizing measures proved generally superficial (though intermittently very ugly, especially as far as women were concerned) and were eventually largely reversed by Musharraf.
Soon after Zia’s death in 1988, a woman lawyer in Lahore, Shireen Masoud, told me that, though she had loathed Zia’s regime, most of the Western coverage, reflecting in turn Pakistani liberal opinion, had greatly overestimated its impact on Pakistani society.
Zia changed a lot less than people think. After all, as far as ordinary people are concerned, this was already a very conservative society, and he didn’t make it more so. Feminists complain about the Hadood Ordinances, and rightly, but most people have always imposed such rules in their own families and villages. As to the elites, they have gone on living just as they always did, drinking whisky and going around unveiled. This isn’t Iran – Zia was a very religious man himself and also not from the elites so he probably would have liked to crack down on this kind of thing, but in the end he had to keep enough of the elites happy. The one area where he really did change things and force religion down our throats night and day was on state TV and radio – but that’s because it was the only place that he really could control.16
No new dedicated and religiously minded elite emerged. Instead, Zia, like his predecessors and successors, found himself making deals with the same old elites. Pakistani nationalism was not strengthened, and the state did not grow stronger.
Like the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which was responsible for distributing arms, money and training to the Mujahidin, the Islamist parties in Pakistan also profited enormously from the money directed to helping the Afghan jihad, a good deal of which was directed via them. In other ways, however, they were dissatisfied with Zia’s rule. They had hated Bhutto, and Zia’s Islamization programme ought to have made them his natural allies; but both the administration and the Islamists were too weak, and too different in their agendas, to be able to create a strong foundation for a new kind of Pakistani state.
General Zia declared Pakistan to be an Islamic state. He reversed Ayub’s measures limiting the role of Islam in the state, and greatly extended the formal Islamizing measures which Bhutto had adopted in a (vain) attempt to appeal to the Islamist parties. However, Zia conceived his Islamization programme as top-down, and almost entirely in terms of strengthening state power through an increase in the disciplinary aspects of Shariah law. Meanwhile, throughout the state services and society in general, honesty, morality and duty were to be strengthened through the preaching of religion. Islamic ideas of the promotion of social justice and social welfare, and of encouraging people to organize themselves to seek these goals – key to the success of Islamist politics elsewhere in the Muslim world – were almost entirely absent; inevitably so given the essentially authoritarian cast of Zia’s mind and strategy.
Zia’s approach therefore left the Islamist parties deeply unsatisfied. The Jamaat Islami in particular has also always had a certain real though complex belief in democracy, and became increasingly disillusioned with Zia’s dictatorship. On the other hand, for Zia to have formed an alliance with the Islamist parties successfully to transform Pakistani society would also have required them to have been far stronger and more deeply rooted across that society. This in turn would have required much larger, more developed and more confident middle classes in Pakistan.
As subsequent chapters will explore, the great variety of different kinds of Islam in Pakistan makes the creation of a real national Islamist movement extremely difficult. As they will also describe, Zia’s official Islamization wholly failed to overcome these differences, and in fact made them much worse. There were bitter disagreements even among Sunni clerics belonging to different theological schools as to which version of Islamic law should be adopted, and Shias rose in protest against what they saw as an attempt to turn Pakistan into a Sunni state. Coupled with fears created by the Shia Islamic revolution in Iran, this left another malignant legacy of Zia’s rule: enduring violence between Sunni and Shia militant groups.
So rather than the creation of a new state, Zia was left with the same strategy that all the rulers of Pakistan have sooner or later adopted: a combination of reliance on the state bureaucracy, army and police with handing out state patronage to the rural and urban elites in order to win their support. The economy recovered to a great extent from the disasters of Bhutto’s rule, but the boom of the 1980s under Zia proved as shallow as that under Musharraf – based above all on US aid and remittances from the Pakistani workers who flooded to the Gulf states in response to the oil boom. This was in contrast to Ayub, whose administration did build up Pakistan’s real economy, though at a high social cost.
Zia did, however, leave certain legacies. Within Pakistan, he created a new and enduring party, to which was given the glorious name of the old Muslim League (though apart from Pakistani nationalism there was no continuity). Initially just another patronage-based alliance of landowners and urban bosses created by the military for its own purposes, this party subsequently developed a real identity of its own, and has been central to Pakistani politics ever since. Like Bhutto, who developed his power base as a member of Ayub Khan’s administration before breaking with his mentor, so the man charged by Zia with leading the new Muslim League, Nawaz Sharif, later broke with the military that had created him.
Created to counter the Bhuttos’ PPP, the growth of the Muslim League has led since 1988 to the emergence of what is in effect a two-party political system at the national level (though only very rarely can either party win an absolute majority of seats) – a system which survived Musharraf’s attempt to eliminate both parties between 1999 and 2007.
But while this two-party balance – like those of India and Bangladesh – has demonstrated its resilience, neither party has demonstrated its ability to provide good government to the country, let alone radical reform. The ‘democratic’ period of the 1990s was a miserable episode from the point of view of governance, apart from the privatization and economic stabilization measures introduced by the second Muslim League administration from 1997 to 1999. Both PPP and Muslim League governments used illegal methods against political opponents, and savage (though perhaps unavoidable) ones to contain ethnic and sectarian violence.
The PPP’s economic and social populism remained at a level of pure rhetoric, with the government of 1988 – 90 distinguishing itself as the only Pakistani government not to pass a single piece of new legislation. The Muslim League’s Islamist policies also remained largely symbolic, contained no element of the social justice and progress which is the hallmark of such policies at their best (for example in Turkey), and often seemed designed mainly to boost the personal authority of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Both PPP and Muslim League governments were corrupt, owing chiefly to the perennial need to reward kinsfolk and supporters. For example, the PPP Speaker of the National Assembly from 1993 to 1997 (and prime minister after 2008), Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, created or freed no fewer than 500 jobs in various parliamentary services to give to his supporters. The PPP leadership under Benazir Bhutto (and her husband Asif Ali Zardari) went beyond patronage and limited corruption into outright kleptocracy.
Despite their high claims both main parties have been the prisoners of Pakistan’s political society and Pakistan’s political culture. As later chapters will analyse, the first has made them dependent on patronage systems necessary to reward local power-holders. The second has meant that, whatever their ‘democratic’ pretensions, both parties in fact function as dynastic autocracies, with no internal elections and all key decisions and appointments made by the head of the dynasty and his or her closest relatives and advisers. At the time of writing, there is no sign that either of these parties is capable of transcending these deeply ingrained patterns of Pakistani life.