Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (born on Jan 5, 1928) was globally recognised as one of the most outstanding leaders of his times. Indeed, the more trouble we are in as a nation the more we lament the absence of such a towering personality who had the unique niche in handling challenges that demand tougher decisions. Bhutto’s inherent talent got immensely reflected soon after his advent in politics—in his handling of matters related to the formulation of Pakistan’s independent foreign policy, advancement of science and technology, harnessing of nuclear energy-both as a source of cheap power and nuclear deterrence. However, what made him a saviour of the nation was the quality of leadership that Bhutto responded with to pull out the truncated country from the lowest depths it had sunk politically and militarily to the bottom of degradation, dissipation, disunity and destruction after the fall of Dhaka.
Notwithstanding his multi-faceted achievements as a nation builder, Bhutto excelled in mobilising divergent political leadership in a situation where neither the military as a so-called “binding force” nor religion as the sole unifier-could hold the country together. It was his1973 Constitution unanimously accepted by the elected representatives of the four provinces that salvaged a federal Pakistan and keeps it united to this day as the sole unifier.
It was a landmark achievement in the long drawn struggle that continues till today between the forces representing the general will of the people and those who adhere to the Praetorian concept of a garrison state. Although one agrees that extraordinary situations such as ours at this critical juncture demand extraordinary decisions to pull Pakistan chestnuts out of fire, one feels the need to dispel some of lethal perceptions that have confounded the nation’s confusion regarding the intent and real purpose behind such moves.
Martyred ZAB-with the support of the elected leadership of the provinces-had resolved that in a democracy the military —as other vital institutions of the state-had to subject itself not as the sole arbiter of power but subservient to the sovereignty of the parliament and be accountable to the elected representatives of the people. The Article 6 in the Constitution was the pudding, the taste of which was in eating it. Former dictator General Pervez Musharraf’s dilemma is that it is for the first time attempts are being made to establish the supremacy of the Constitution by putting a dictator to trial for subverting the Constitution.
Indeed, one can understand the urgency for a constitutional amendment to give cover to the Army Act to effectively deal with the curse of terrorism following massacre of school students in Peshawar. However, one had the impression that Zarb-e-Azb was mother of all operations. Though late by ten years, it too now seems to be an attempt—-despite its tremendous success in North Waziristan— in bolting the stables after the horses have fled.
Is the constitutional amendment to re-enforce Army Act be enough or next would be the demand to increase the numerical/technical strength of the army as being hinted by defence analysts in the talk shows. Since we are in an extraordinary situation-in a state of war— with multi-faceted threats on our borders and continuous blood baths within, logical step would be to re-organise and revamp our defence wherewithal.
ZAB could foresee Pakistan’s growing security needs in a changing world order full of strife. That was reason that he sought nuclear deterrence, revamped and rebuild the armed forces, establish institutions like Pakistan Steel Mill, Kamra Aeronautical Complex, Heavy Machine Tool factory, Karachi Shipyard, Karachi Nuclear Power Plant etc. Even the usurper General who got him executed on false charges paid compliments to him that ZAB had done so much for the armed forces (until 1976) that all the previous governments put together had not.
Relevant to current situation in Pakistan was yet another monumental step by ZAB to prepare the nation to defend itself in a situation in which its adversary was six times larger than Pakistan’s with vulnerable borders. He knew that he could not economically afford to raise the numbers in the standing army to match those of its adversary. He introduced compulsory military training for the youth of the country in colleges and educational institutions with certain percentage of marks to add to their results at their passing out. It was much like United States, Israel and Switzerland where the young and able bodied are trained and could instantly take up arms in defence of the country.
Bhutto was the first technocrat leader of Pakistan who had a vision that looked beyond ordinary comprehensions. He believed in the preparedness of the entire nation to physically rise to meet any eventuality. According to him standing armies with its “fat and flabby generals” cannot entirely defend a country and this was proved when the erstwhile Soviet Union’s armed forces-largest in the world—and all-powerful KGB—could not keep the country together.
In his vision-numerically small but strong and well trained standing army, equipped with nuclear deterrence and high-tech missile system-a programme that got fruition under martyred Benazir Bhutto—a militarily trained population to carry on guerrilla war if need be— and a sustainable economy that could ensure the greatest good of the largest number-were sure guarantees to a nation’s survival.
Regretfully, when General Ziaul Haq took over in 1977, the national cadet scheme for military training in schools and colleges was abandoned as he feared that his dictatorship could face a popular armed resistance from the people at some stage. One feels that the critical situation we find ourselves today and not too sure of tomorrow, we must revert back to Bhutto’s scheme of training Pakistani people to defend themselves physically and ideologically by reverting back to Mr Jinnah’s vision of political and democratic pluralism, freedom of religion and secular governance.
(The writer is longest serving former High Commissioner of Pakistan in UK)
Source: The News