Review of General Rao Farman Ali’s book by Major Amin
HOW PAKISTAN GOT DIVIDED-RAO FARMAN ALI KHAN -298 PAGES – OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS-PAKISTAN –ISBN NUMBER 978-0-19-940698-2- YEAR OF PUBLICATION -2017
Reviewed by Major Agha H Amin (Retired)
This is yet another disappointing book in the genre that Pakistani writers write to rationalize the separation of East Pakistan and creation of the new state Bangladesh in 1971. The real causes are always simply whitewashed and not even discussed. This book does so again .
The book is divided in 17 chapters but only one deals in a very vague and rudimentary manner with the historical background. The remaining chapters are devoted to 1970 elections and its aftermath. This is a rather ultra myopic way of writing history. The bottom line of the whole issue was that ethnicity was the defining factor in Indian Muslim relations. Starting in 1906 Indian Muslim politics was dominated by United Provinces (UP) Muslims . When All India Muslim League was created in 1906 with Bengalis in the forefront , it was hijacked by UP Muslims and its headquarters shifted to Aligarh in 1907 . Bengalis were regarded as an inferior Dravidian race. The watershed moment was the Lucknow Pact under stewardship of Mr Jinnah, where without discussing the matter with Punjabis or Bengali Muslims a twin thrust in the back was delivered to Punjab and Bengal. Punjab’s Muslim legislative majority being reduced from 54 to 50 % and Bengal’s Muslim majority reduced from 52 to 40 % . All this being done by an All India Muslim League that contained 90 % of its delegates from Lucknow city and UP.
Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman, a UP Muslim leader in his book Pathway to Pakistan severely criticized Lucknow Pact and Mr Jinnah and termed it as an act of Muslim political inexperience. As a result of the Lucknow Pact, Bengali Muslims were reduced to 40 %, were severely destabilized, and could not form any stable government in Bengal from 1937 (when the first elections were held in India) till 1947. The Punjabi Muslims were also destabilized but managed to survive by forming the Unionist Party which was an agriculturist party of combined Muslim, Hindu and Sikh agricultural interests which defeated the All India Congress in Punjab elections.
When Pakistan was created , Pakistani politicians from West Pakistan deliberately delayed constitution making as they did not want to concede to Bengalis their 54 % majority.This situation lasted for nine years, at which point the Bengalis were forced literally at gun point to accept 50 % legislative representation. However before this imperfect and unjust arrangement could be tried in elections scheduled in 1959, martial law was imposed in 1958. This martial law laid the foundations of secession of East Pakistan as it shifted the center of gravity irrevocably to West Pakistan.
The situation of that time had parallels to what happened in united Punjab in the 1920s. Then Punjabi Hindus regarded Punjabi Muslims as politically educationally and economically inferior and in 1921 raised a political demand that if Punjabi Muslims were to get their due 54 % majority in any legislative arrangement , Punjab should be partitioned. We find similar sentiment in West Pakistan’s newspaper articles of 1950s where West Pakistani writers stated that if East Bengal was to get their true majority in parliament Pakistan should be a confederation, ironically just like Sheikh Mujeeb was to recommend many years later in his six points!
The background to this was simple. The West Pakistanis , Punjabis and UP Muslim emigrants in the lead, dominated the civil service and army and thus the decision making processes of the new state called Pakistan. Once martial law was declared this domination became too extreme as the army and civil services were overwhelmingly dominated by West Pakistanis , particularly from Punjab. Interestingly when the second martial law was declared, General Yahya Khan, who was not a Punjabi, knocked out 50 % parity , restoring 54 % Bengali majority which was Bengalis due right from 1947.
This drastic albeit just change was not acceptable to the West Pakistani politicians or to the army and this led to the secession of East Pakistan. But our dear author faults only Yahya Khan and ZA Bhutto and Sh Mujeeb and above all Indian conspiracies in his 17 chapters.A very shallow analysis indeed.
Rao Farman Ali also delivers personal attacks on the character of Lt Gen Niazi but fails to note that Pakistan Army had no strategic plan to save East Pakistan. Rao Farman Ali also fails to note or admit that no Pakistani general was willing to take over the East Pakistan command and Niazi was sent to East Pakistan being the junior-most, as a scapegoat. While Indian general Candeth in his book Western Front states that September-October 1971 was the crucial strategic window in which if Pakistan had launched a pre emptive attack , East Pakistan could be saved . However our gunner general offers no worthwhile or serious strategic analysis. Instead we get petty pin pricks wherein all that happened did so because general Niazi was a man of bad character and was a womanizer and similar allegations.
He completely ignores the the fact that the Pakistan Army was strategically clueless about defending East Pakistan from day one when Pakistan was created. My father who served as GSO 2 Operations of 16 Division states that there was no plan to defend East Pakistan and the so called Fortress defense only envisaged six weeks of fighting after which everything would have collapsed. Rao Farman’s hopes that ceasefire could have saved East Pakistan are also Quixotic. Why on earth would India accept a ceasefire when it was winning the war and was about to impose the ultimate humiliation of surrender to the Pakistan Army? A humiliation that to this date scars and haunts the psyche and character of Pakistan Army ! We are left with a narrative with rants of a barren old woman , beating around the bush , avoiding facts , distorting reality! This remains our tragedy.. Not admitting the truth! This book is just another hogwash and it is an exercise in futility to even read this nonsense narrative.