Today is December 3, 2016. On this day, 45 years ago, India openly launched aggression against East Pakistan to finally cut Pakistan to size. This foray now has a fresh start within a jigsaw of individual desires and international intrigues. This jigsaw is framed by a host of contending interests from political parties to India, Saudis, Qataris and the outgoing House of Democrats. 45 years hence, the only differences are that Pakistan is contiguous, has a stronger and battle-hardened army, nuclear capability and a corrupt self-serving democracy. The semblances are that the judicial system remains benign, politicians remain self-serving and a segment of media, much like the morning news of 1971, is vitriolic against the security establishment. It was a Pakistani journalist, Anthony Mascarenhas, who first depicted the massacre of Biharis at Santahar, Natore as Bengalis killed by Pakistan Army and set in motion a perception that caused Pakistan’s isolation.

Though Indian military forays into Pakistan had begun by November 22, 1971, December 3, was a declared act of war. Pakistan’s fighting force barely amounting to 30,000 combatants was littered all along the border. It had insignificant air and armour support. The local population, reinforced by the Tibetan Liberation Army in guise of Mukti Bahini was hostile. Most mass graves of atrocities blamed on Pakistan Army belong to Pro Pakistan Bengalis and Biharis. If and when DNA sampling is done, the truth will speak loud and clear and Sarmila Bose’s book ‘Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War’ will be vindicated and Mascarenhas titled a traitor.

There is no doubt that the internal environment inside Pakistan and international environment in general had been shaped for the division. Rather than open up political options for negotiations and settlements of Sheikh Mujib’s Six Points, a military establishment under pressure from Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto launched an ill-advised operation in March 1971; a flashpoint that conflagrated the situation beyond redemption. The most effective concentric circle that advised and pressurised decisions was led by Yaya’s martial law advisors and civil opportunists. With the liaison of Lt General Rahim and Major General Ghulam Umar, Bhutto became an integral part of this group advocating a bulwark approach. No wonder then, after landing in West Pakistan, Bhutto said, “Pakistan is saved”. It meant, ‘West Pakistan is rid of East Pakistan.’ The military was pushed into a political turmoil for which the military had no solution.

Theories that East Pakistan was a drain on the resources of the West have all proved wrong. In these intervening years, Bangladesh has fared much better in economic indices. The momentum of the economic juggernaut put together during Ayub Khans regime is slowly coming to a halt. Tangibly, Pakistan has no substantial progress to show after 1969. Ironically, some economic revival has only come during military regimes while the democrats have looted, plundered and decimated state institutions for personal gains. Pakistan of today bears many semblances to Pakistan of those shameful days of 1969 to 1971.

No one in West Pakistan granted that Bengalis were a politically awakened class with a history. The stigma of being less patriotic hit Bengali leaders the hardest. In 1969, the anti Ayub riots in East and West Pakistan had divergent logics. East was looking for autonomy as proposed by Suhrawardy in 1958, while Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto used the Tashkent card to agitate against his godfather. He used a leftist ideology he ironically had helped suppress in the 50s. East and West polarised around two new leaders; Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rehman of Awami League and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan People’s Party. These divergent movements led to different pathways not in control of leaders who formed them. Mujeeb got Soviet and Indian support while Bhutto was let down by the Soviets who betrothed him at Tashkent.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had lost the confidence of Ayub Khan during those days at Tashkent. There are suggestions by historians that Pakistan’s delegation in Tashkent had multiple centres that isolated Ayub Khan. There was visible warmth between Soviet Foreign Minister Kosygin and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. This warmth was manifested in 1969 when Bhutto launched his own left leaning political party. This was in sharp contrast to the Bhutto of 50s and 60s, who as a feudal politician, had played his role in curbing the liberal left on the beck and call of Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan. In 1969, Pakistan stood isolated from USA. Russia used this time to build its relationships with India that included the pact that reorganised Indian armed forces in 1970-71. His inflexibility with Sheikh Mujeeb in 1970 was a disaster. By December 1971, events went beyond what the ambitious Bhutto had perceived. The appearance of Soviet nuclear submarines in the Bay of Bengal scared away the Americans (7th Fleet). Bhutto felt betrayed. By 1973, he began edging out leftists and shifting gears towards an Islamic Block and capitalism. His self-serving politics from 1965 to 1971 had a very damaging effect on the federation. Post 1971, he reversed Pakistan’s economic development; till today it is beyond redemption.

45 years hence, the story is similar. USA is estranged. The lull in terrorism has more to do with geographical gains than winning hearts and minds. As corruption charges about the ruling Sharif and Zardari families increase, the inevitable conclusion is that both have exploited the state to make fortunes. Like March to November 1971, though the military has succeeded in gaining space in FATA, Balochistan and Karachi, the militant redoubts in Punjab remain ‘no go areas’ for the armed forces. The battle for hearts and minds in FATA and Balochistan has yet to begin. There are no plans to resuscitate Pakistan’s economic potential that can be infused into the pipedream of CPEC. The state itself has orchestrated an ill-conceived propaganda against the armed forces seen as a hindrance to their so called democratic designs.  No one seems to take note of what General David Petraeus said at RUSI to refute the Dawn’s planted story, “during his long association with his Pakistani counterparts and interaction with ISI as head of CIA, he could never find a convincing piece of evidence which supported the alleged double game by ISI or its explicit support to elements associated with terrorism.” The much-hyped NAP beyond napping, rests in shambles.

New plans are again afoot to create turmoil from Karachi to Quetta; the corridor that controls all approaches to Gwadar. Not only the far and few Baloch separatists, but also sub-nationalist parties like MQM (London) and PKMAP are on board. In view of the rising resistance in IHK, India has vociferously let known its intentions on Balochistan and all sub-nationalist movements in Pakistan. Along with Afghanistan, it also exercises control over dissident militant factions. Given the prevailing policies, resurgence of terrorism is a matter of time.

Like 1971, while the state faced challenges, PMLN and PPPP are following a dubious agenda in the name of the Charter of Democracy. The state can rot and stink so far as they achieve their collective objectives. They are cheered on by their minion parties in this dirty game of strange bedfellows.

LeJ, the main contention of Dawn Leaks, has made a comeback in Jhang with a different name. The courts are becoming notorious for giving reprieve to militant organisations. As events indicate, MQM London is set for revival.

Three events will shape the future.

First, will the apex courts live up to the cause of public interests and initiate a process for monetary accountability?

Secondly, will shredded NAP be reconciled to a new counter terrorism policy?

What influence will be exercised by General David Petraeus in the new establishment of Capitol Hill? My guess is positive and if this happens, events inside Pakistan will take a new direction.