by N Natwar Singh

Most countries have armies, but in Pakistan the army has a country. Had M.A. Jinnah and Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan lived longer the army may not have played the role it now plays in running and ruining Pakistan. In other words, its hardly concealed political clout has made civilian governments subservient.

The rot set in with Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, who ruled Pakistan for nearly ten years. Before partition he was a captain in the British Indian Army, posted in Mathura.

The army has ruled Pakistan for nearly forty years. In 1973 almost 90% of the federal budget was allotted for the army. American aid to Pakistan runs into hundreds of million US dollars. There is no accountability.

Today Pakistan is facing bankruptcy, hunger, widespread corruption and unemployment. Imran Khan has reduced law and order to a spectacular farce.

The USA, which at one time was chronically pro-Pakistan, is less enthusiastic. The only country that has been a long standing friend of Pakistan is the People’s Republic of China, however, it keeps a close eye on Pakistani terrorists and rabid Islamists. The CIA too is active. The ISI and CIA work together.

Pakistan can no longer be dependent on the Islamic world. But it is not looking to India, which is going from strength to strength. In four years, India will be the third largest economy in the world. Even today it is the fifth largest economy.

Pakistan is the creation of one man—M.A. Jinnah. To some extent he was the creation of Congress. For a long time he was ignored by it. Then pampered by Gandhiji. Being a brilliant lawyer, with a razor sharp mind, he read the Hindu mindset better than the Congress understood the Muslim mind. Gandhiji called him Quaid-e-Azam. For Jinnah it was always Mr Gandhi.

Jinnah made one secular speech between 1935 and 1947. On 11 August 1947, Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly met in Karachi for the first time and unanimously elected Jinnah to preside.

He made an amazing speech. Totally out of character:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in the state of Pakistan…you may belong to any religion or caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state…. We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between caste and creed. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state… I think we should keep in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in the course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual…”

During my two years in Pakistan as Head of Mission, not once did I hear any citizen of Pakistan or any newspaper refer to this speech. I very much doubt if President Zia-ul-Haq ever read it. Except for the Holy Quran he read no other book, as far as I know. In passing I might add that, when it came to good manners, I would bracket his name with Chou-En-Lai.