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The Other Side of the Hill

C. Vithal

By Siddiq Salik
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1979, pp. 235, Rs. 55.00

VOLUME IV NUMBER 4 January-February 1980

Siddiq Salik, one time lecturer and journalist joined the Pakistan Army as Public Relations Officer and his tour of duty got him to Dacca in January 1970. He remained there until taken as a prisoner of war to India where he spent two years mulling over the fiasco that his bosses had so callously brought about. It is to the memory of United Pakistan that Salik addresses his well compiled, racy and readable book making every effort to play down his professional viewpoint and make a fair assessment which unfortunately has not been always possible, perhaps because of the residual bitterness and his strong cultural and patriotic affiliations. Quoting extensively from personal notes and obser­vations as also from newspaper clippings which fit his line of thought, Salik at times evades some obvious conclusions and at times comes up with some surprising ones. Whether his convictions were modified to suit publishing requirements in Pakistan is difficult to say. Nonetheless, no mind­-bending is necessary to understand the purpose of the first part of his effort which sketches the political drama culminating in the military crackdown. With ample access and opportunity to understand and analyse the post-election fraud which was systematically perpetrated on a people whose only fault had been to give Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and the Awami League 167 out of 313 seats in the assembly, Salik remains impervious to the mass of evidence which indicated that the Awami League wanted autonomy, not indepen­dence. Salik came to Dacca without knowing whether ‘Mujib's six points were nothing but a veiled scheme for seces­sion.’ ‘As a loyal citizen of Pakistan’ he carefully avoids getting to the truth and in the process manages to push the bulk of the blame onto Mujib and the Awami League by a process of clever logic con­trived from reports favourable to his theme. The infamous legal framework order, that easily manipulatable document which could deadlock the assembly as and when it suited the President's fancy, finds favour with Salik who is relieved to read it ‘because it cut across the Awami League politics which preached the secular chara­cter of the Republic and its division into virtually self-governing provinces’. Having read thus far, it is no surprise to find Salik squirming that the martial law authorities in Dacca ‘did nothing to bridle the Awami League horse or urge on rival political steeds to win the race’. He ...

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