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Wars

June 13, 1999

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BEFORE me lies the facsimile of the front-page of the New York Times published on Monday June 29, 1914, claiming, as it still does, that it prints "All the News That's Fit to Print".

The leading story's headline: "Heir to Austrian throne is slain with his wife by a Bosnian youth to avenge seizure of his country." Sub-headlines read: "Francis Ferdinand shot during state visit to Sarajevo;" "Archduke saves his life first time by knocking aside a bomb hurled at his Auto;" "Slain in second attempt;" "Lad dashes at car as the royal couple return from Town Hall and kills both of them;" "Heir warned not to go to Bosnia, where populace met him with Servian flags;" "Aged Emperor is stricken - Shock of tragedy prostrates Francis Joseph - young assassin proud of his crime." (Messages from Sarajevo)

Sets of headlines from the NYT, July 29, 1914 : "Austria formally declares war on Servia, Russia threatens, already moving troops, peace of Europe now in Kaiser's hands;" "Notice sent to the powers of the opening of hostilities;" "Servian vessels seized, sharp fighting begins along the River Drina on the Bosnian frontier;" "Montenegrin and Serb armies to invade Bosnia and start a rebellion there;" "Grey's peace plan fails" [he was Britain's foreign secretary, as is Sartaj Aziz ours]; "Kaiser declines to join in conference to exert pressure on Austrian ally;" "But reply is conciliatory;" "And London still has faith that his influence will avert general conflict." (Messages from London) "Czar's forces mass on Eastern border, his capital expects war and counts confidently on England's aid;" "Mobilisation order ready, German official says its issue would mean launching of Kaiser's army." (Messages from St Petersburg) "Austrian Emperor to take command at Vienna headquarters;" "War fear at capital;" "Crowds cheer outbreak of hostilities and demonstrate at friendly embassies;" "Outbreak of food riots;" "Prices soar as hostilities are declared and the government steps in to regulate them;" "Manifesto from Emperor;" "Forced to grasp the sword, he says, to defend the honour of his monarchy;" "France fears a Great War;" "Army moves to the frontier." (Messages from Vienna)

Headlines from the NYT of August 2, 1914 : "Germany declares war on Russia, first shots are fired; France is mobilising and may be drawn in tomorrow; plans to rescue the 100,000 Americans now in Europe;" "England hesitates what course to take;" "Grey wants to throw the weight of great Navy at once in favour of Russia and France." (Messages from London). "France orders mobilisation after Germany asks her intentions;" "Delcasse War Minister;" "Clemenceau in Cabinet" [the Tiger roared]; "President and Cabinet issue a manifesto to French nation, plain words to Germany - 'You are mobilising, we know it,' says Prime Minister to German Envoy;" "Poincare orders mobilisation telling France it is not war yet." (Messages from Paris).

Now, who in New York who had bought the NYT on the morning of June 29 for one cent or others who had bought it elsewhere for two cents could have dreamt that what they had read that day could lead to a world war which began on August 3 and would last for four long years, with such battles as were fought at the Somme, Ypres, Verdun, and Paschendaele where in one day's battle over 100,000 men could be killed or wounded. Verdun lasted ten months during which 700,000 men fell, its aim being less to defeat the enemy than to bleed him to death.

Between June and August 1914, many believed that peace in Europe lay in the Kaiser's hands, but Wilhelm II - vain, pompous and surrounded by sycophants - was at heart a war-monger. He took his nation to war, made it lose, impoverished and humiliated his people. Years later writing about his 'Great Contemporaries,' Churchill wrote on Wilhelm: "Imagine yourself brought up from childhood to believe you were appointed by God to be the ruler of a mighty nation ..... 'You are,' they say, 'the All-Highest, ..... It is for you to choose the Chancellor, the ministers of State, it is for you to choose the chiefs of the Army and Navy. There is no office, great or small, throughout the Empire from which you cannot dismiss the occupant. Each word you utter is received by all present with rapture, or at least respect. You have but to form a desire, and it is granted ..... Should you weary of the grosser forms of flattery, far more subtle methods will be applied. Statesmen, generals, admirals, judges, divines, philosophers, scientists and financiers stand eager to impart their treasured knowledge and to receive with profound gratification any remark upon their various spheres which may occur to you. Intimate friends are at hand to report day by day how deeply impressed this or that great expert was with your marvellous grasp of his subject. The General Staff seem awed by your comprehension of the highest strategy ..... and this goes on day after day and year after year for thirty years."

Then, Churchill poses a question to his 'gentle reader': "Are you quite sure, you would have withstood the treatment? Are you quite sure you would have remained a humble-minded man with no exaggerated idea of your own importance, with no undue reliance upon your own opinion, practising the virtue of humility, and striving always for peace?"

We jump thirty-three years to when Jinnah made Pakistan. Since then we have gone on three 'jehads' of our making, or, as some may say, which were forced upon us. These three ventures caused us to lose 143, 998 sq km of territory and gain but added humiliation, adding to the despair and distress of our people.

Today we find that some 500 men, having trained themselves in the art of war before falling from the heavens and landing upon a hilltop near Kargil in Kashmir on the other side of the line. And we find the Indians blaming us for having entrenched them there. Noises about 'jehad' are again being heard and the fear of an 'escalation of conflict' stalks the land. But what have we to fear? We have Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, surrounded by sycophants as was the Kaiser in 1914, and to aid him we have as supreme commander of our armed forces President Rafiq Ahmad Tarar.

Eighteen years ago Nawaz Sharif was picked up from his foundry by my friend Lt General Ghulam Jilani and converted into a politician. Jilani, who died last week, did us a good turn when, as Bhutto's favourite chief of the ISI, he kept his COAS, General Zia-ul-Haq informed of the destruction planned by Bhutto and gave him enough warning for him to act as he did on July 5 1977.

It was during Jilani's time at the ISI that Bhutto, by an executive order, created a political cell to execute political dirty-tricks. This cell, in 1990, disbursed some Rs.900 million of the people's money (with whose permission and under what authority?) to Nawaz Sharif and his cronies to help them gain power. We are still waiting for the Supreme Court to establish who is responsible for this act, but the court is not willing to dig out the truth, our Chief Justice-designate, Saiduzzaman Siddiqui, having proclaimed from the Bench that this is now 'history' and out of the domain of the court (why? how?). He obviously holds so because Air Marshal Asghar Khan has filed a petition questioning the disbursement. Thus, the Supreme Court is not required to abide by its constitutional obligation (Article 187) and do "complete justice." Does he fear that his court will again be stormed by the ruling party?

As governor of Punjab, General Jilani did much good for his province, and for this he deserves to be remembered with gratitude. Whilst discussing Nawaz Sharif's follies I often used to ask, 'What sort of a man have you landed us with, General?' He would say, 'Someone had to be found to neutralize Benazir Bhutto and the PPP, and we thought a businessman, uncorrupted by politics, might do better, might help enrich the country and the people. That he enriched himself and his family is unforgivable. But then we all make mistakes.'Nawaz Sharif might now think that he has made himself impregnable by destroying every institution that could have stood in his way. He knows that he rides a tiger from which he cannot dismount.

Many people ask how and when and who will make Nawaz Sharif fall. I say, have faith in natural justice. Most of our prime ministers have arisen from their beds in the morning not knowing that they would not go to sleep in the prime ministerial bed that night - one went to bed as prime minister and was awoken to be told that he had been deposed.