Notwithstanding laurels, the military has to carry the scars for what it did wrong. In Pakistan’s chequered politics, it has controlled Pakistan for over five decades. This includes seven years of General Ayub Khan who as Commander in Chief of Pakistan Army acted as king maker in collaboration with the office of the governor general and bureaucrats. This also includes ten years of merry go round of elections from 1988-1999 whence the Presidents equipped with 59(2)B connived with various centers of power to dismiss elected governments.  It is only in the past eight years that military has resisted active intervention despite political governments failing to deliver on Pakistan’s true potential. Interestingly, Pakistan’s fiscal performance during military rules has been much better; perhaps because of military corporate culture of welfare that always trickles down to masses. But then Pakistan’s rapid growth during the tenure of Presidents Ayub Khan (decade of progress) and Musharraf (1999-2007) is a topic of intense debate between experts of trickledown effect and what came first; egg or the hen?

To frame this essay and others in the series, I stick to my hypothesis that the romantic notion of Pakistan and the singular leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah were superimposed by a layer of international geopolitics. USA and NATO needed a Muslim Pakistan to challenge godless communism. Consequently, only those centers of power were bred and strengthened that remained pliable to international pressures. Others were dispensed ruthlessly. Because the template was based on containing communism, an enduring nexus of bureaucrats, military, politicians and religious parties needed to be forged. The creation of Pakistan had support from the British security establishment who finally decided the manner and limits of partition. The plan that emerged in Radcliffe was identical to Wavell’s Boundary-Demarcation Plan of 7 February 1946. British officers in the interim would command Pakistan army and evolve a corporatism that suited them. They needed obedient successors.

To support this policy, Britain also had at least two top ICS officials in place that would serve their interests in the long run. Their names in Pakistani politics now invite fierce rebuke. Incidentally Prime Minister Liaqat Ali was instrumental in appointing these controversial self-seeking individuals. Perhaps some of them were also involved though all benefitted from the assassination of Liaqat Ali.

Sir Malik Ghulam Muhammad was Pakistan’s first finance minister appointed by Prime Minister Liaqat Ali in 1947. In 1951 Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin appointed him the governor general of Pakistan. He returned the thanks by sacking the government of his mentor in 1954. In line with the western containment strategy, he organised the International Islamic Economic Conference in 1949, calling for a pan-Islamic economic bloc. In Lahore in 1953, he declared Pakistan’s first civilian martial law. He was sacked by one he mentored.

Iskander Mirza, the expert in tribal areas was appointed Pakistan’s first defence secretary by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. His appointment meant that British forward policy in Afghanistan was in safe hands. In 1955, Mirza as acting governor general dismissed his mentor Sir Malik Ghulam Muhammad the then governor general of Pakistan. As first constitutional President of Pakistan, he imposed Pakistan’s second civilian Martial Law in 1958, only to be sacked by his blue eyed General Ayub Khan twenty days later. He influenced Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan to appoint Ayub Khan the Commander in Chief of Pakistan Army superseding many senior and more competent officers in 1951.

The third important figure was General Ayub Khan, appointed Commander in Chief in 1951. As per military career profiling, he should have never made it beyond the rank of a colonel and perhaps dismissed without benefits. While in command of Sherdils in Burma, he was removed and suspended from command in 1945 for visible cowardice under fire. Again in 1947, he had managed to save himself from a court martial ordered by none other than Qaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah through major Musa Khan (his inquiry officer) who was to later become Pakistan’s commander in chief. Certainly he also accrued favours from senior British officers in Pakistan Army. As GOC East Pakistan, a very good report awarded to him by General Gracey erased the effects of two blemishes of the past. Jinnah’s untimely death was a blessing in disguise. In 1951, Major General Iftikhar Ahmad was the agreed successor to General Gracy. His unfortunate and the untimely aircraft accident near Jangshahi provided the opportunity to Major General Ayub Khan to be promoted out of turn as the commander in chief of Pakistan Army. He had support from Iskander Mirza, Sir Malik Ghulam Muhammad and General Gracy. Again the sanctioning authority was Prime Minister Liaqat Ali.

In due course, Ayub Khan was to account for all his benefactors. In 1962, he became The President of Pakistan. The only person he rewarded was General Musa Khan.

Though the plans for modernising Pakistan and strengthening its armed forces were made by Suhrawardy, they were taken over by General Ayub Khan who eventually made Pakistan’s armed forces an extension of US regional policies. Soon after taking over in 1958, he stopped over in Turkey enroute to USA. He was spellbound by the modern and US equipped Turkish armed forces. In USA, he expressed his desire to equip Pakistan’s armed forces in similar fashion. US officials were delighted that General Ayub Khan had taken the containment bait. USA instantly agreed to reorganize, equip and train nearly six divisions, PAF and Pakistan Navy. An onlooker narrated how after the agreement Ayub Khan sat, lost in thoughts holding his head in his hands. His worry was how to sell the deal to his generals?

Back home, he packed off dissenting military officers and the Naval Chief Vice Admiral H.M.S. Chaudhry. All dissent was stamped and all those who fell in line rewarded. The incident also established the supremacy of army over air force and navy, a convention effective today.

According to Brigadier Mian Mahmood, a military historian, “The course of bartering Pakistan’s Sovereignty was set by Ayub Khan, Yahya only refined it but Zia culminated it by taking it to abysmally low depths of national pride and dignity.” It is this framework that has served international interests through six decades.

Pakistan joined CENTO and SEATO in exchange for aid and military hardware. When it was put to test in 1965, Pakistan could never exploit its tactical successes of strategic significance. Every time Pakistan attempts to break the orbit, it is pulled back by the gravity of its alliances. Since 1958, the invisible hand of CENTCOM exercises complete influence over Pakistan’s policy making and sometimes even appointments.

However, facts and hidden history are in no way an indictment of the field army that has served the nation particularly in the past ten years. Objectively, it is an aspersion on the assessment and promotion system that according to Norman Dixon ‘rewards incompetence’, once too many. 

The romantic notion of Pakistan and the singular leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah were superimposed by a layer of international geopolitics.