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Lessons for the future

Jagat S. Mehta

Edited by C.E. Baxter
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2007, pp. 638, price not stated.

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

For the Oxford University Press to publish in 2007, a nearly 600- page diary of Field Marshall Ayub Khan, covering only the period 1966-72, evokes suspicions of fulfilling a promise to his expired son Gohar. However, the Press managed to persuade Professor C.E. Baxter to edit the dated diary. These were afternoon years for the Field Marshall before being dislodged from the Presidency and after 1969 the sunset of an eventful life. There is intermittent anxiety but basic confidence that the Two Nation theory of religion-based cohesion could overcome the handicaps of geography, language and culture and keep Pakistan united was falsified in his own lifetime.   Ayub’s peak period was when he succeeded in cajoling the USA to accept that Pakistan would be the staunchest ‘anti-Communist ally in Asia’, Backed by the military, Pakistan was upheld for some years as a model of stability and economic growth. When the diary begins, however, memory was still fresh that, yielding to Bhutto, Ayub authorized ‘Operation Gibraltar’, certain that the Muslims in Kashmir needed only a trigger to overthrow the Indian yoke. The direct attack in the Chhamb sector of Kashmir did not anticipate the logical Indian counterattack across the international frontier. No wonder after three weeks of intense fighting, the conflict ended, which even Pakistan acknowledges as a non-success and at best a stalemate in a failure.   There are, of course, non-serious but also politically significant ingredients in the long diary. Yahya Khan, his successor, was apparently habituated to drinking, often womanizing, and at one formal dinner unable to contain himself! Ayub’s extensive reading list included Sudhir Ghosh’s Gandhi’s Emissary. His frequent relaxation was duck and partridge shooting. On the serious side, even then, Ayub was worried about ‘Mullahism’ obstructing modernization. Legitimacy came from the army, but also as President of the Muslim League, but he faced problems in finding a suitable successor. He was constantly alarmed at India’s rising defence budget. After the ‘Gibraltar’ fiasco, relations with the USA deteriorated, the Badaber intelligence centre was eventually ordered closed. But, notwithstanding subsisting membership of western alliances, relations with China remained firm and, after Tashkent, steadily improved with the USSR. Ayub was told that chances of restoring Sino-Soviet ideological solidarity were none. Bhutto, after serving as Foreign Minister, saw Ayub as a dictator and conspired against him and, in turn, Ayub considered him a double dealer, promoting Third World ...

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