The space between rhetoric and reality

I’ve been doing a bit of research about the domestic political fallout from the 1965 war and the Tashkent declaration and I came across this speech [pdf] delivered by Ayub Khan on October 2 1965, 10 days after the ceasefire.

Here are a few excerpts, but it’s definitely worthwhile reading the entire document:

My dear countrymen. Assalamoalaikum. The people of Pakistan were put to a great test during the month that has gone by. A treacherous enemy applied his entire armed might in a bid to conquer Pakistan. He respected no principles, recognized no rules. His sole purpose was to demonstrate to the world that his forces could subjugate a smaller neighbor. But he reckoned without the will of the people of Pakistan which proved mightier than all that the army possessed. Pitched against faith and determination of our people his vast forces dispersed and retreated. Whenever they made an attempt to advance they were thrown back in one powerful sweep. While the enemy continues to hold bits of territories along our borders, he has surrendered substantial territory in the Chamb, Khem, Karan, Fazilka and Rajhastan sectors.
These facts are still unknown to the people of India because they have been drugged on the false stories of imaginary successes achieved by their rulers.
The Indian air force has been crippled, their vital air bases demolished and the Indian Army’s armored might badly mauled.

In return the Indian forces can show few strips of land here and there well away from our forward defence lines and a number of civilian areas which they indiscriminately bombed.

How did this miracle happen? It happened because our cause was just and moral.

This speech is just an example of the official government propaganda during the 1965 war that must be read in order for a present-day reader to understand the violent domestic reaction to the January 10 1966 Tashkent Declaration signed by Ayub Khan and Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. The basic clauses of the Tashkent declaration were as follows:

* Indian and Pakistani forces would pull back to their pre-conflict positions
* The nations would not interfere in each other’s internal affairs
* Economic and diplomatic relations would be restored
* The two leaders would work towards building good relations between the two countries.

Given the actual military results of the war, this should not have been particularly surprising to the Pakistani public but the Pakistani public had been fed on reports of military success like the speech above and as a result there were riots in Punjab and Karachi; windows were smashed and buildings set on fire and Ayub Khan suffered a massive loss of popularity. The Tashkent Declaration was criticized by almost all major political parties and rival politicians such as Fatima Jinnah who said:

What the blood of our brave soldiers achieved was thrown away at the conference table

Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s (who was later to resign from the administration and join politics) reaction to the Declaration was:

Asghar Khan narrated his impression of the Declaration in the following words: “The Indians were jubilant and smiling. Tashkent Declaration was for Pakistan a statement of surrender. The Indians were all over the room shaking any hand that they could grasp. It was as if India had defeated Pakistan in hockey at the Olympic” (Khan, 1978:120-121)

(by the way, I love this quote — only in Pakistan would a comparison to an Indian victory over Pakistan in a sporting event be made to illustrate the significance of a political event)

Ayub Khan’s own foreign minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto distanced himself from the Ayub regime following the Declaration and was even said to have started spreading rumors that there were hidden (and even more humiliating) clauses in the Declaration that would be revealed at a later date. Ultimately the domestic reaction to the Declaration was a major contribution to the downfall of the Ayub regime.

I’m always reminded of this particular sequence of events when confronted with some of the more egregious displays of political rhetoric like what we are seeing with the media and opposition reactions to the Kerry Lugar Bill. An example is Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s ‘fiery’ speech against the Kerry Lugar Bill in the National Assembly on Wednesday – similar to the fiery speech he delivered in favour of the ill-fated Nizam-e-Adal Regulation in Swat in April. The nature of our political space is such that it allows rhetoric to be practiced by all participants pretty much without constraint in order to maximise their short-term political gain. In the long-run, there is invariably disaster and the distance between rhetoric and reality is so extreme that the public cannot react any other way but by burying its collective head even further into the sand.

14 responses to “The space between rhetoric and reality

  1. Mr. Tambourine Man

    Yes in the long run it will be interesting. Will a future Sharif govt. say no to US aid? I doubt it and then those who supported them because of this distortion of reality will be burying their heads in the sand.

    It is interesting how Ch. Nisar Ali has become a more prominent member of the PML-N than Javed Hashmi. Were the Sharif brothers insecure with Hashmi’s new found popularity gained in their absence or did he go off the party line on an important issue to the Sharifs(He did on the Seraikistan issue)?

  2. Pingback: The space between rhetoric and reality | Long Distance Inc

  3. Rabia

    that’s a good point you raise about Javed Hashmi vs. Chaudhry Nisar. Maybe NS feels threatened by Hashmi’s popularity and the fact that he did time in jail and was tortured while NS was chilling in Saudi Arabia? Although Ch. Nisar is getting pretty popular with his parliament speeches…

  4. stuka

    You may have read this earlier, but I thought it may be appropriate to post. It is a fascinating letter, written by obviously a very patriotic and moral man..

    Pakistan’s Permanent Military Deputy
    Embassy of Pakistan

    My Dear brother,

    I hope you and the family are very well. Thank you for your letter of 14 Oct. 67. The answers to your questions are as follows:

    a. The de facto command changed the very first day of the ops [operations] after the fall of Chamb when Azmat Hayat broke off wireless communications with me. I personally tried to find his HQ [headquarters] by chopper and failed. In late afternoon I sent Gulzar and Vahid, my MP [military police] officers, to try and locate him, but they too failed. The next day I tore into him and he sheepishly and nervously informed me that he was ‘Yahya’s brigadier’. I had no doubt left that Yahya had reached him the previous day and instructed him not to take further orders from me, while the formal change in command had yet to take place. This was a betrayal of many dimensions.

    b. I reasoned and then pleaded with Yahya that if it was credit he was looking for, he should take the overall command but let me go up to Akhnur as his subordinate, but he refused. He went a step further and even changed the plan. He kept banging his head against Troti, letting the Indian fall back to Akhnur. We lost the initiative on the very first day of the war and never recovered it. Eventually it was the desperate stand at Chawinda that prevented the Indians from cutting through.

    c. At no time was I assigned any reason for being removed from command by Ayub, Musa or Yahya. They were all sheepish at best. I think the reasons will be given when I am no more.

    d. Not informing pro-Pak Kashmiri elements before launching Gibraltar was a command decision and it was mine. The aim of the op was to de freeze the Kashmir issue, raise it from its moribund state, and bring it to the notice of the world. To achieve this aim the first phase of the op was vital, that is, to effect undetected infiltration of thousands across the CFL [cease-fire line]. I was not willing to compromise this in any event. And the whole op could be made stillborn by just one double agent.

    e. Haji Pir [Pass] did not cause me much anxiety. Because [the] impending Grand Slam Indian concentration in Haji Pir could only help us after Akhnur, and they would have to pull out troops from there to counter the new threats and surrender their gains, and maybe more, in the process. Actually it was only after the fall of Akhnur that we would have encashed the full value of Gibraltar, but that was not to be!

    f. Bhutto kept insisting that his sources had assured him that India would not attack if we did not violate the international border. I however was certain that Gibraltar would lead to war and told GHQ so. I needed no op intelligence to come to this conclusion. It was simple common sense. If I got you by the throat, it would be silly for me to expect that you will kiss me for it. Because I was certain that war would follow, my first choice as objective for Grand Slam was Jammu. From there we could have exploited our success either toward Samba or Kashmir proper as the situation demanded. In any case whether it was Jammu or Akhnur, if we had taken the objective, I do not see how the Indians could have attacked Sialkot before clearing out either of these towns.

    g. I have given serious consideration to writing a book, but given up the idea. The book would be the truth. And truth and the popular reaction to it would be good for my ego. But in the long run it would be an unpatriotic act. It will destroy the morale of the army, lower its prestige among the people, be banned in Pakistan, and become a textbook for the Indians. I have little doubt that the Indians will never forgive us the slight of 65 and will avenge it at the first opportunity. I am certain they will hit us in E. Pak [East Pakistan] and we will need all we have to save the situation. The first day of Grand Slam will be fateful in many ways. The worst has still to come and we have to prepare for it. The book is therefore out.

    I hope this gives you the gist of what you needed to know. And yes, Ayub was fully involved in the enterprise. As a matter of fact it was his idea. And it was he who ordered me to by-pass Musa while Gibraltar etc. was being planned. I was dealing more with him and Sher Bahadur than with the C-in-C. It is tragic that despite having a good military mind, the FM’s [Foreign Minister Z.A. Bhutto’s] heart was prone to give way. The biggest tragedy is that in this instance it gave way before the eruption of a crisis. Or were they already celebrating a final victory!!

    In case you need a more exact description of events, I will need war diaries and maps, which you could send me through the diplomatic bag.

    Please remember me to all the family.

    Akhtar Hussain Malik

  5. Rabia

    thanks, stuka, I haven’t read this before. Really interesting, esp. the part about Ayub Khan being fully involved. A lot of post war pro-Ayub revisionism focuses on solely blaming the foreign ministry for the war and for the domestic fallout from Tashkent.

    BTW, I was reading about this war game conducted by the US in march 1965 that concluded that in the event of an Indo-Pak conflict, Pakistan would win 🙂 Apparently it’s published as a book called ‘The Crisis Game’ by Sidney Griffin. It would be interesting to read!

  6. stuka

    “BTW, I was reading about this war game conducted by the US in march 1965 that concluded that in the event of an Indo-Pak conflict, Pakistan would win”

    Not surprised about that. Remember that in 1962, Indian bombast was rewarded with a boot up the behind delivered by China. Also, in the Rann of Kutch conflict, the Indians had failed to dominate. It would be logical to surmise that Indian military preparedness was a sham.

  7. stuka

    good article on Rann of Kutch conflict.

  8. Rabia

    thanks stuka, that was a great read

  9. Rhetoric is a fine opium for the ignorant masses. Yet it gives only a temporary respite.
    A lot of rhetoric bullshit had been said over time against India, about our army – our falsely inflated patriotisms are a result of precisely that.
    And when the bubble bursts, it hurts. And hence the riots ensue.

  10. Rabia

    agreed, Salman.

  11. stuka

    “And when the bubble bursts, it hurts. And hence the riots ensue.”

    Salman saab, as an Indian I would venture to say that riots are manufactured. They rarely “happen”. I was in Delhi in 1984 and it was illuminating to see the kind of resources and organization needed to manufacture a riot. The bigger fear, the more dangerous result from a bubble bursting, is a population becoming despondent.

  12. I believe it depends on how we see ‘manufacturing’ riots.
    To me, riots ensue as the few knowing ones high above the chain of events make the move, and the lay, ignorant masses are given to their sentimental reactions over it. Those actually rioting are genuine enough – however, the causes may or may not be manufactured.

  13. Nicely done.

    Btw, I remember Rushdie in “Midnight’s Children” used radio broadcasts to paint a lovely picture of the hyperbole the two countries were engaging in during the war.

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