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Special report: The founding fathers 1947-1951

While Jinnah’s unusual role makes him a unique figure, it also represents a weakness of our freedom movement.
Updated Oct 19, 2017 03:16pm

The season of light...

By Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness ... We were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

THESE lines were written by Charles Dickens in the background of the French Revolution. These hold true in a very different historical setting in which Pakistan was created and started its journey. It was a journey which began amidst conflicting rays of hope and despair, and belief and incredulity.

Pakistan emerged on the map of the world as the solution of the communal question that had declined to be addressed within a wider united Indian framework that had made partition inevitable.

The founding fathers had cultivated a very promising image of Pakistan, a country that would be a social welfare and modern democratic state, radiating all the virtues a common Muslim believes to be found in what was believed to be an Islamic state. The reality of Pakistan, however, unfortunately proved to be the nemesis of what had been cultivated.

Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan addresses members of the All-India Muslim League at a meeting in April 1943, in Delhi, as Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah looks on. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives
Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan addresses members of the All-India Muslim League at a meeting in April 1943, in Delhi, as Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah looks on. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives

A lot of Pakistan’s saga has to do with its leadership.

Historians generally enter the historical theatre by first identifying the characters in a given drama whose more deep-seated urges and social context unfold only later. That is why the historians undertaking the social and political history projects are also compelled to give due place to the historical figures playing some crucial role.

Pakistan’s hopes and despair after independence had also much to do with its leaders, the founding fathers. But who could be counted among them?

Our freedom is known for its being the work of just one individual, the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Leonard Mosley called the creation of Pakistan a “one-man achievement”. More comprehensive was Stanley Wolpert’s depiction of Jinnah’s role in the creation of Pakistan: “… few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Jinnah did all three.”

However, while Jinnah’s unusual role makes him a unique figure, it also represents a weakness of our freedom movement which did not create a wider section of big leaders. Those who accompanied Jinnah were mostly not even his pale shadows.

This weakness came to be exposed when Jinnah died 13 months after independence. Beverly Nichols had foreseen the danger: “If Gandhi goes, there is always Nehru, or Rajgopalachari, or Patel or a dozen others. But if Jinnah goes, who is there?”

And really when Jinnah went, there was no one there.

Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah speaks at a civic reception held in his honour by the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) at the KMC headquarters on August 25, 1947. Mayor Hakeem Muhammad Ahsan is seen on the right, while Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan and Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah are on the left. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah speaks at a civic reception held in his honour by the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) at the KMC headquarters on August 25, 1947. Mayor Hakeem Muhammad Ahsan is seen on the right, while Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan and Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah are on the left. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives

Liaquat Ali Khan did come of age and certainly his stature increased but there was no question of him filling the space left by Jinnah. Despite having been a trusted lieutenant, Liaquat did not command the level of authority that Jinnah did. One can only say that after Jinnah’s death, he naturally came under more political limelight. Pakistan, as such, began with a very limited political resource.

Unfortunately, the League had during the freedom movement remained a platform giving voice to Muslim political separatism; it was more of an umbrella under which Muslims of all shades could assemble. At best it was a movement. But a political party it was not. No widespread structures; no committed and trained cadres.

Soon after independence, it was proposed in the League’s Council to liquidate the party and allow diverse elements within it to form more natural organisations built around various ideological preferences and political programmes. This was not approved and in the later years, short-sightedness of certain leaders even compelled them to argue that League and League alone had the right to rule the country.

Most of the prominent Leaguers had not emerged above the provincial politics and even in the provincial arenas most of them had been pitted against each other. With such inherent weaknesses League could not withstand the pressures of the civil and military institutions which had lost no time in adjusting themselves to govern the state.

A major failure of League leadership in those formative years was its total neglect of the fact that a major segment of the effective political leadership in the regions which comprised Pakistan could be a great help in building the country.

The leaders one is referring to either did not go along Muslim League during the Pakistan movement, and some of them had their reservations also about the new country, yet once Pakistan came into being, their relevance had not diminished but had in fact increased given the fact that they were the sons of the soil, had their strong social and political bases and were looked upon with respect by sizeable followers.

This marginalised elite included the likes of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Abdul Samad Achakzai, G.M. Syed, and Ghous Baksh Bizenjo. Engaging this elite could not only have been helpful but was perhaps essential for realising the project promised by the League.

If Pakistan had to be made a genuine federal state, for which Jinnah had fostered the most convincing arguments, it was this stuff of politicians which was needed to be brought in to make it a reality. That they did not support the Pakistan movement is not of much significance because we all know that after independence the state lost no time in courting the support of those religo-political organisations and even sectarian outfits that had opposed the Pakistan idea more vocally and with stronger arguments. Had it happened otherwise, the size and worth of the real critical mass Pakistan would have found in its political domain would have been radically different.

Ghaffar Khan, on partition, openly announced his loyalty to the new country. At one point Jinnah even offered his brother, Dr Khan Sahab, the governorship of the province, but these moves were frustrated.

G.M. Syed was certainly on the other side of the political fence, yet he was someone who had once described himself as a soldier of Jinnah, and had described the latter as his general. His differences with the League emerged only on the eve of partition and that was also confined to the narrow provincial politics of electioneering. He could be brought to the negotiation table but the League preferred to let such political elites be marginalised.

Even leaders within the League who stood for provincial rights or advocated civil liberties and social reforms were also gradually shown the door. Thus, some of the earlier opposition parties came out of the League fold. Suhrawardy, Fazlul Haq, Maulana Bhashani, Pir Sahab Manki Sharif, Iftikhar Hussain Mamdot, Mian Iftikharuddin, and several others were all once part of the League, where their space kept shrinking.

An already weakened political class thus became weaker and the emerging civil-military power found it ever easier to establish its dominance.

The civil servants had the experience of administering the colonial state. They employed their experience to restore a state apparatus that characteristically was not any different from the colonial model.

With the induction of the first Pakistani commander-in-chief of the army, General Ayub Khan, a civil-military alliance emerged which soon became more of an oligarchy. Within a couple of years of independence, the initial signs of the policies and the perceptions the state had to pursue started coming to the fore.

The mismanagement of the partition by the colonial rulers, the leaving of a number of matters unsettled, and particularly the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, created in the very beginning animosity between Pakistan and India. A war was fought between the two over Kashmir in October 1947. Though a ceasefire was enforced 14 months later, the matter has not been resolved even in 70 years and even after fighting three wars. The relationship between the two countries stands frozen in 1947.

Dilip Hiro has rightly titled his recent book on the subject as The Longest August.

The adverse relationship between the two countries provided to our rulers and the ruling institutions the pretext to develop Pakistan as a national security state with a political economy of defence as its founding philosophy. The priorities of the state were designed to support what the state had accepted for itself. Things that define a modern social welfare, democratic state became insignificant.

The precarious condition in which Pakistan found itself after independence enabled the civil services to take the initiative in their own hands. Keith Callard writes that “the circumstances of partition and its aftermath demanded strong central action to establish government control over the new state”.

Pakistan, as opposed to India was a new, seceding state, while India was a successor state which had inherited the entire state apparatus that existed before partition.

Thus, the lines were drawn from the very beginning regarding who was to be the actual power-holder and the decision-maker for the state and who had to play a secondary role simply to provide a political democratic colour to this peculiar form of statecraft.

This dichotomy has been fairly visible since the beginning. Liaquat was its first victim. He was made to go to the United States to build what he, upon putting his first step on American soil, described as “a spiritual bridge between his country and the US”.

Towards the end of 1951, he had started cultivating the idea of pursuing a policy deviating from the earlier appeasement of the US. His assassination in October that year cleared the way for enhanced efforts to court the American support.

Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan attend a press conference in Cairo in December 1946. They appeal to the leaders of the Muslim World to support India’s Muslims in their struggle for independence. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan attend a press conference in Cairo in December 1946. They appeal to the leaders of the Muslim World to support India’s Muslims in their struggle for independence. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives

That Liaquat had begun to be isolated within a couple of years is apparent from what was designated as the Rawalpindi conspiracy case.

The outgoing commander-in-chief, General Gracey, had already informed the incoming C-in-C Ayub Khan about a group of young Turks within the armed forces. Defence Secretary Iskander Mirza had also made a comment to the British Defence Attaché in Karachi with respect to the nationalistic aspirations among young officers.

The prime minister was kept uninformed and subsequently came to know of this remark through the civilian channel of the police. Ayub and Mirza thus kept the prime minister in the dark. The conspiracy behind the conspiracy tells its own story.

In this photograph taken by Khatir Ghaznavi, Saadat Hasan Manto is deep in composition, as he holds a cigarette in his left hand at his residence, Laxmi Mansion, in Lahore in January 1948. — Manto Family Archives in the possession of Nusrat Jalal, Lahore
In this photograph taken by Khatir Ghaznavi, Saadat Hasan Manto is deep in composition, as he holds a cigarette in his left hand at his residence, Laxmi Mansion, in Lahore in January 1948. — Manto Family Archives in the possession of Nusrat Jalal, Lahore

Pakistan’s drift towards authoritarianism from its very inception was detected gradually by historians and there has been a great deal of political literature on it since. But it’s a fact of history that the first who noted it were also the first who had to bear the ramifications of authoritarianism.

These were our working classes, our intelligentsia, writers and poets.

Who can forget the writings of Manto and Qasmi and the poetry of Faiz and Noon Meem Rashid articulating the trials of their times. Shouldn’t they too be counted among the founding fathers of our country?

The writer is Adjunct Professor at Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi.


HBL has been an indelible part of the nation’s fabric since independence, enabling the dreams of millions of Pakistanis.At HBL, we salute the dreamers and dedicate the nation’s 70th anniversary to you. Jahan Khwab, Wahan HBL.


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INDEPENDENCE ACHIEVED

DAWN, August 15, 1947 (News Report)

May Pakistan Prosper Always!

Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan casts his eye over the election forms that result in the elevation of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah to the presidentship of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan at its first session on August 11, 1947, in Karachi. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives
Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan casts his eye over the election forms that result in the elevation of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah to the presidentship of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan at its first session on August 11, 1947, in Karachi. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives

SCENES of great rejoicing and enthusiasm greeted the address to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on Thursday [August 14] morning by Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, on the eve of the birth of the new sovereign and independent Dominion which, with its 70 million inhabitants, will be the fifth largest state of the world. The historic event took place in the Sind Assembly Hall, Karachi, at 9 a.m., 15 hours before the new dominion actually came into existence.

His Majesty the King sent his “greetings and warmest wishes on this great occasion.” The Viceroy after conveying his own greetings an added that the close personal contact and the mutual trust and understanding that existed between him and the Quaid-e-Azam were the best omens for future good relations.

“Here I would like to express my tribute to Mr Jinnah. He has my sincere good wishes as your new Governor-General,” he said.

Quaid-e-Azam thanked the King on behalf of the Constituent Assembly for his gracious message. Turning to the Viceroy’s reference to the tolerance and goodwill that the great Emperor Akbar showed to all non-Muslims, Quaid-e-Azam said this was not of recent origins. He added: “It dates back thirteen centuries when our Prophet, not only by words but by deeds, treated the Jews and Christians handsomely after he had conquered them.”

***


RADCLIFFE COMMISSION’S AWARD ANNOUNCED

DAWN August 18, 1947 (Editorial)

Territorial murder

THE decision of the Boundary Commission come to Pakistan like a bolt from the blue. They represent the award of only one man, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the Chairman, and they prove the folly of trusting the sense of justice of a single individual. Pakistan has been cheated of large areas in the Punjab, in Bengal and in the district of Sylhet which inalienably belonged to it.

To describe the three reports which Sir Cyril Radcliffe has submitted as judicial awards is to insult the very name of justice. A judge analyses evidence tendered before him and gives reasons for his findings. Sir Cyril Radcliffe has not considered it necessary to follow that procedure. Indeed, wherever he has attempted to explain some of his decisions he has become involved in contradictions, following one principle in Bengal and another in the Punjab.

Let us make it perfectly clear that even if the Government accepts this territorial murder of Pakistan, the people will not. We call upon the Muslims, on this day of Eid, to forego all festivity and to take a vow that they will work henceforth in their own way and in their own spheres for the restoration of Pakistan’s territorial integrity.

***


REFUGEE INFLUX

DAWN October 7, 1947 (News Report)

Miles of misery

Mr Jinnah visits a refugee camp which has been established after partition in Karachi, 1947. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives
Mr Jinnah visits a refugee camp which has been established after partition in Karachi, 1947. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives

AN eight-mile column of Muslim refugees trudging from the East Punjab to the West Punjab, a 40-mile non-Muslim column of refugees moving from the West Punjab in to the East Punjab and some of the damage to roads and railways caused by the floods were the main highlights of scenes witnessed by a party of pressmen who flew 600 miles over the East Punjab and part of the West Punjab in the Governor-General’s Dakota. An API correspondent in the party writes: “[At Ludhiana] we saw two large groups of refugees who had camped in open space. We went on to Jullundur and sighted the first train, packed to capacity and with people perched on rooftops as most of the refugee trains are. The recent floods have disorganised rail movements and some stretches of roads have also been damaged. We sighted more refugee concentrations at Kartarpur. Later we saw a 40-mile long non-Muslim convoy which was crossing Balloki Head. The crossing has to be made across a single bridge and the process is slow. Here there were thousands who had left their all except for what they could carry on their backs – gazing wistfully across the single bridge the crossing of which would signal the end of the nightmare they had gone through.”

***


TROOPS ADVANCE AS MAHARAJA ACCEDES TO INDIA

DAWN October 29, 1947 (Editorial)

Azad Kashmir

THE fast moving Kashmir drama is reaching its climax. From Pulandari in Poonch comes the thrilling announcement that a Provisional Government of Azad Kashmir has been formed, that its forces have made advances on all sectors, annihilated positions of the opposing enemy and “put the Dogra on the run.”

The communiqué issued by the Provisional Government makes the stirring promise that “the liberty of the oppressed is near at hand.” That these claims are not altogether unfounded is evident from the fact that the Number One Dogra of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, is not only on the run but has run as far as New Delhi, and fallen prostrate before the British Governor-General Lord Mountbatten. He has asked for “military aid”, and obligingly Lord Mountbatten has already sent plane-loads of troops to Kashmir to suppress what is clearly a popular movement of liberation.

From the hearts of all lovers of freedom and haters of tyranny will rise prayers to Heaven that He may crown with victory the people of Kashmir who have at last awakened from their lethargy and are making such a heroic bid to liberate their long oppressed country from the clutches of its exploiters and oppressors. Azad Kashmir Zindabad!

***


PARTITION AND THE ABDUCTION OF WOMEN

DAWN December 10, 1947 (Editorial)

Disgrace abounding

MR Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Pakistan’s Minister for Health and Refugees, made a strong plea for a joint organisation for the rescue and restoration of abducted women and children. Armed mobs, in a momentary frenzy, killing one another is at least understandable, but when men, having only the physical attributes of man, systemically subject innocent women to inhuman brutalities and insufferable shame, out of vengeance against the community to which they belong, they put even the lowest animals to shame. In recent months, there has been such a surfeit of human cruelty and atrocity, that any further savagery by people is taken for granted.

We only voice the feelings of every Pakistan Muslim when we say that our State has to make an all-out attempt to get back our women; for the honour of our women is the honour of our State.

***


MAHATMA GANDHI ASSASSINATED

DAWN January 31, 1948 (Editorial)

“Glorious deliverance”

THEY have killed Mahatma Gandhi at last. Ten days ago they tried with a hand-grenade and failed; yesterday [ Jan 30] they left nothing to chance. Thus has fallen one of the world’s greatest men – a martyr to his convictions. Thus has ended the life of the greatest Hindu of modern times – at the point of a Hindu’s revolver.

Gandhi has died for the cause of his country which he was determined to save from relapse into primitive savagery on the morrow of freedom. Gandhi has died, too, for the Muslim minority of India on whom that savagery was being practised with increasing relentlessness. He was dismayed to find that in spite of his life-long preaching of non-violence the forces of violence were beginning to gain the upper hand. Many who paid outward homage to him and lip service to his teachings had themselves been instrumental in letting loose these evil forces. Mahatma Gandhi communed with himself and made his choice.

In 1942 he had given his followers the motto “do or die”. In 1948 he chose it for himself in a final bid to stop the rot. The world sees to its sorrow that the life of even Gandhi, sainted and deified by so many Hindus, was of little value to the Frankenstein that others had raised. Gandhi could not “do”; so he has paid his life’s forfeit in fulfillment of his pledge. In his own words, he has achieved “glorious deliverance”.

But history records that many great men accomplished by their death what they failed to accomplish while living. Men’s minds all over the world, stirred by news of this terrible tragedy, will ask: Will the monster of violence which Gandhi failed to control during his life be laid by his death? Will the maniacs who were so demented by their lust for violence be shocked into sanity by the very foulness of their deed?

Not only the Muslim minority in India, for whom Mahatma Gandhi in the last few days of his life had stood out so fearlessly, but all Muslims in Pakistan are also bowed with grief at the ghastly ending of so great a life. Should the Mahatma’s supreme self-sacrifice in the cause of peace and amity lead to a genuine stirring of the conscience of the Hindus of India, Muslims on this side of the frontier will not fail to respond with all sincerity.

***


CONVOCATION ADDRESS AT DACCA UNIVERSITY

DAWN March 25, 1948 (News Report)

Quaid clarifies state language issue

ADDRESSING the annual convocation of the Dacca University, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah again clarified the position regarding the state language of Pakistan.

He said that so far as the provincial language was concerned the people could choose any language they desired to adopt. But there could be only one lingua franca, language of intercommunication, for the whole of Pakistan. That language should be Urdu and could not be any other language.

Referring to the demand recently made in certain interested quarters that Bengali should be a state language along with Urdu, the Quaid-i-Azam said that it was only Urdu that could be called the state language. Urdu was the language which was understood throughout the length and breadth of Pakistan, which was nearer to the languages of other Islamic countries and which embodied in a larger measure than any other language Islamic culture and civilization.

The Quaid-i-Azam asked the students to note the trials and tribulations through which Pakistan had passed. The Quaid-i-Azam advised the students to beware of fifth columnists, to guard against and weed out selfish people who only wished to exploit them and to learn to judge really unselfish people wishing to serve the state. He also asked them to consolidate the Muslim League Party and to extend invitation to those who are either not helping the cause or working against it to join the organisation.

A small group of students led by a Hindu youth shouted ‘No, No, No” when the Quaid-i-Azam said that no language other than Urdu could be the state language. While the Quaid-i-Azam was leaving the hall, Hindu students again led a demonstration, shouting Bengali slogans.

The Curzon Hall where the convocation was held was packed to capacity and besides the Ministers of East Bengal all MLAs and leading citizens were present.The occasion was unique in this respect that a Calcutta firm which used to supply gowns for the students at the convocation refused to do so this time. The university authorities had requested the firm to send the gowns to Dacca by air immediately after the Calcutta University convocation which was on March 20, at the expense of the Dacca University. But the firm still refused. The students, therefore, attended the convocation without gowns, but wearing only the hood.

***


CENTRAL BANK INAUGURATED

DAWN July 2, 1948 (Editorial)

“State Bank symbolises our financial sovereignty”

JULY 1 was a red letter day in the history of this young State when the opening ceremony of the State Bank of Pakistan was performed by the Quaid-i-Azam. The occasion has marked the emergence of the financial sovereignty of this country and has enabled it, at a time when dependence on others would not have been compatible with the dictates of an enlightened policy, to become master of its own affairs in vital matters relating to central banking and currency.

The State Bank of Pakistan will be the Central Bank of this country and in this capacity will perform functions in Pakistan broadly similar to those which are performed by the Bank of England for Britain, the Federal Reserve Bank for the USA, and the Reserve Bank of India for India. The State Bank, as Mr Zahid Husain, Governor of the State Bank, pointed out in his speech, will have to perform various important functions in regard to the issue of currency notes, flotation and management of public loans on behalf of the Central and Provincial Governments, maintenance of the international stability of Pakistan’s currency and management of exchange control for the Pakistan Government. The State Bank will be the banker of the Central and Provincial Governments; it will be the bank with which other banks will maintain their reserves of cash balances.

The Quaid-i-Azam, in his opening speech, said: “The economic system of the West has created almost insoluble problems for humanity and to many of us it appears that only a miracle can save it from disaster that is now facing the world. It has failed to do justice between man and man and to eradicate friction from the international field. The adoption of Western economic theory and practice will not help us in achieving our goal of creating a happy and contented people. We must work our destiny in our own way and present to the world an economic system based on the true Islamic concept of equality of manhood and social justice.”

***


FATHER OF THE NATION PASSES AWAY

DAWN September 12, 1948 (Editorial)

Quaid-i-Azam is dead. Long live Pakistan!

IT has pleased God who had given the Quaid-i-Azam to us to take him away from us. The father of the nation is dead. He lived for Pakistan, he gave us Pakistan, he died for Pakistan. The father of the nation is dead. But the nation lives. The founder of Pakistan is dead, but Pakistan lives.

His task was done – a task the like of which few men in history have had to their credit. In less than ten years he united a disunited people, organised their disorganised ranks, welded them into a great nation, placed before them a dream as an ideal, and made that dream come true. The nation loved him, adored him. When the people know that he is no more they will be weighed down with what men call grief but which is a feeling without a name. But we ask them to put grief aside, not to yield to sorrow. Our dear Quaid would have wished it so.

Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (first row, centre) with members of the Central Legislative Assembly for the Muslim League in Delhi, 1946. Seated second and third from the left is Jogendra Nath Mandal and Khawaja Nazimuddin; seated third from the right is Sir Yamin Khan. Mohammad Amir Ahmed Khan, the Raja of Mahmudabad, stands on the extreme left; Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan and I.I. Chundrigar are on the extreme right in the second row. — I.I. Chundrigar Family Collection/ Dawn/White Star Archives
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (first row, centre) with members of the Central Legislative Assembly for the Muslim League in Delhi, 1946. Seated second and third from the left is Jogendra Nath Mandal and Khawaja Nazimuddin; seated third from the right is Sir Yamin Khan. Mohammad Amir Ahmed Khan, the Raja of Mahmudabad, stands on the extreme left; Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan and I.I. Chundrigar are on the extreme right in the second row. — I.I. Chundrigar Family Collection/ Dawn/White Star Archives

Pakistan was his greatest love. Even in illness which slowly overpowered his already frail frame, he worked for the Pakistan he loved. Even in their unspeakable agony of sorrow the people of Pakistan must not forget for one single moment that Pakistan come first, that Pakistan expects each man to do his duty and to remain at his post, no matter what tragedy may have overtaken him.

Our Quaid would not have wished that a single one among us should falter or fail or droop or yield so much to grief even at his death that the interests of Pakistan, the good of Pakistan, the safety and security of Pakistan might be in the slightest jeopardy thereby.

Let every man and woman remember this, let all who have responsibilities by the state remember this, let every citizen of Pakistan remember this.

It has pleased God to take our Quaid-i-Azam away at a time when our country and our people are threatened with grave dangers. With the Quaid at our head we would have overcome them, with God’s grace; without the Quaid we must and shall overcome them, with God’s grace.

The Quaid is dead but we are not leaderless. The fountain-head of our inspirations is dead but his spirit will continue to inspire us. Let us see to it that the absence of the Quaid-i-Azam does not in any way, in any sphere of national activity, put the clock back for us and for Pakistan.

For months now our prime minister and his cabinet and that band of brilliant and devoted public servants who are closely associated with the conduct of grave and momentous national affairs, have carried on their responsibilities without troubling the Quaid-i-Azam in his sick bed, except rarely. We have still these leaders and these gifted servants of Pakistan with us.

The nation can rest assured that despite our great leader’s demise, the conduct of our national affairs will not so grievously suffer as to be cause for dismay. The men trained by the Quaid are with us. They know exactly what he would have wished to be done in what circumstances and how. They will do it, Jinnah’s wisdom and guidance and drive will no more be there, but they will do it, let neither friend nor foe make any mistake about it.

***


THE FALL OF HYDERABAD STATE

DAWN September 18, 1948 (Editorial)

What next?

HYDERABAD has been overpowered by the aggressor’s superior might. The Nizam has been compelled to surrender and to order his troops to lay down their arms. The brute force of India has achieved its brutal objective. The timing of the attack, its magnitude and multi-directional thrust clearly indicated that the aggressor wanted to present the United Nations with a fait accompli. He has succeeded.

The Nizam’s surrender has been secured at the point of the aggressor’s dagger. Now India will demand that the Security Council should accept the same argument of the dagger. What will the Security Council do on Monday [September 20]? Is there a single man among that Council’s eleven members, the Chinese delegate included: who can regard the Nizam’s action as that of a free agent? When a powerful and brutal invader has its weaker victim by the throat whatever that victim says or does is merely a command performance.

The Nizam has been reduced to that plight now. His surrender has been extorted by sheer brute force. His announcements, proclamations, orders and decisions are no longer his own, they are dictated by India. Hitler overran Czechoslovakia, Poland and France. The Governments which thereupon came into being in those Nazi conquered countries were not free Governments. The Allies recognised this fact and refused to accept the Nazi sponsored Governments of Czechoslovakia, Poland and Vichy France as free Governments representing the free will of their peoples.

Hitler’s spiritual descendent Mr Nehru has now presented the world with another parallel. The Nizam and the Government which he may form at the dictation of India will not be free Government and will not represent the will of Hyderabadis. If the Security Council in which the representatives of the former Allied Powers of the World War II predominate, refuse to recognise this obvious fact they will be dishonest.

***


AGREEMENT ON PLEBISCITE PROPOSAL

DAWN January 2, 1949 (News Report)

“Cease-fire” in Kashmir

A “CEASE-FIRE” has been ordered in Kashmir to take effect from one minute before midnight of January 1, 1949, it was officially announced in a communiqué simultaneously released in Karachi and New Delhi yesterday [Jan 1].

The governments of Pakistan and India, in making this announcement, express the hope that “this decision may bring to the people of Jammu and Kashimir lasting peace and to the peoples of Pakistan and India a sense of closer friendship”.

The “cease-fire” agreement followed the acceptance by the two governments of the proposals made by Dr. Alfredo Lozano of the UNCIP [United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan], which “dealt with certain principles to govern the holding of a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir after certain conditions had been fulfilled” [in line with UN Security Council Resolution of April 23, 1948, and the UNCIP Resolution of August 13, 1948].

Dr. Lozano, who has returned to New York, will report to the UNCIP which is expected to meet again on January 8 and an announcement is expected shortly. While awaiting this formal announcement the governments of India and Pakistan authorised their respective C-in-Cs to enter into informal arrangements for a cease-fire.

The communiqué issued by the Pakistan Ministry of Defence said: “Recently Dr Alfredo Lozano accompanied by Mons Samper and Dr. Erik Colban visited New Delhi and Karachi to discuss with the two Governments certain proposals. These proposals dealt with certain principles to govern the holding of a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir after certain conditions had been fullfilled. The Commission felt that the acceptance of these proposals by both Governments would enable the implementation without delay of Part I and II of the Commission’s resolution of August 13, 1948. Dr. Lozano’s mission succeeded and he returned to New York on December 26, 1948, to report to the Commission which is due to meet again on January 3, 1949. The Commission’s announcement should shortly be forthcoming.”

***


LIAQUAT MOVES CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY

DAWN March 3, 1949 (Editorial)

The Objectives Resolution

THE Objectives Resolution which the Leader of the Muslim League Party, Mr Liaquat Ali Khan, is to move in the Constituent Assembly on March 7, is a happy augury that the foundations of Pakistan’s constitution are being well and truly laid. The resolution not only succeeds in the ideals on which Pakistan is based but it also demonstrates how these ideals breathe the very air of fairplay and tolerance and are in perfect keeping with modern progress.

The first cabinet of Pakistani is formed on August 15, 1947 at Governor-General House, Karachi. Members include, from left to right, Mir Fazlur Rahman, Malik Ghulam Muhammad, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, I.I. Chundrigar, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar and Abdus Sattar Pirzada. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives
The first cabinet of Pakistani is formed on August 15, 1947 at Governor-General House, Karachi. Members include, from left to right, Mir Fazlur Rahman, Malik Ghulam Muhammad, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, I.I. Chundrigar, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar and Abdus Sattar Pirzada. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives

The preamble which governs the entire resolution recognises the sovereignty of God which is the fundamental concept of Islam. It is recognised that the authority which the State possesses has been delegated to it by Him through the people. It should be clearly understood that this does not create a theocracy, because the state derives its authority through the people, not through an ordained priesthood or a particular section. This has been made even more clear in another clause where it has been laid down that authority shall be exercised through the chosen representatives of the people which concept is not only the basis of modern democracy but is also in accord with the spirit of Islamic polity.

One of the most glaring defects of modern democratic methods is that an unscrupulous majority may ignore the ethical principles which should govern the relations between man and man and exercise its power to the detriment of certain sections of the population. Indeed history bears testimony to the fact that there can be no greater tyranny than that of a majority. We have to go far neither in time nor in space to understand the fullest extent of a majority’s tyranny. However, if the State is based on high moral principles, this danger is eliminated, because so long as those principles are respected tyranny cannot creep into the Government. Islam therefore, emphasises the fact that all authority is a sacred trust and must be exercised within the limits prescribed by God. These limits are essentially spiritual and ethical, making the proper exercise of authority an act of worship wherein mundane considerations of selfishness, power or pelf must not enter. And if there be such vile rulers as transgress such limits, the people have the power not only to dismiss them but also to punish them. In the broader sense all mundane power is limited, in the narrower sense, Islam prescribes very clear limits to authority which the framers of the Resolution intend to be observed. Some of these limits have been explicitly mentioned in the Resolution. For instance “the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam” must be observed.

Who does not know that Islam has a wonderful record of freedom from any prejudices against colour, race or birth? It fully recognises the dignity of man and lays down methods of eradicating social and economic injustice; it recognises the freedom of minorities to follow their own way of life and envisages a society where all human beings shall remain happy, equal and free from want and fear. No man shall be persecuted for his beliefs or opinions and, subject to law and morality, every citizen shall be given the fullest freedom to develop in accordance with his ideals and conception of the Truth.

The minorities will not only be free; it will be the duty of the State to protect and safeguard their legitimate interests. These are the very bases of liberal society and the Resolution fully demonstrates that Islam possesses concepts of liberalism far in advance of other schools of thought.

The Resolution, breathing as it does the spirit of Islam, lays down a clear obligation upon the State to enable the Muslims “to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accord with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah”. No non-Muslim can object to the desire of the Muslims who form the vast majority of the population to organise and order their own lives in accordance with the tenets of their religion because that cannot and will not in any way impinge on the freedom and the rights of other citizens of Pakistan, whatever their beliefs. Such freedom has been expressly assured in the Resolution.

Nor should it cause any misgivings in the minds of the minority sects in Islam because the intention of the framers of the Resolution is that Pakistan should be able to develop a truly Islamic society without getting entangled in controversial details of belief or practice; hence only the Quran and Sunnah have been mentioned. All Muslims, irrespective of their beliefs, will agree that in the Quran and the Prophet’s life they possess the basic ideals which are the common ground between all schools of Islamic thought and therefore, Pakistan will develop an Islamic society free from dissensions and controversies. This, however, does not mean that individuals and groups will be entitled to their own opinions and beliefs because the Prophet himself discouraged dull uniformity when he said that differences of opinions among his people should be a blessing and not a curse. It would be defeating the very purpose of Pakistan if any group – a majority or minority – among Muslims were permitted to dictate to others, and this shall certainly be avoided.

Every group will be permitted to make its fullest contribution to the renaissance of Islam which the Resolution contemplates.

[The editorial was published jointly by several newspapers in Karachi, Lahore and Hyderabad on the same day.]

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BRITAIN AND INDIA ANNOUNCE DEVALUATION

DAWN September 22, 1949 (Editorial)

Pakistan’s choice

PAKISTAN’S decision not to devalue her currency shows boldness and imagination, and is realistic in a sense higher than the one that commonly affords justification for tame policies. There are few decisions taken by the Pakistan Government that have been awaited with greater anxiety and are assured of greater popular backing than this. In following the popular lead on this momentous issue, the Government has had to face a veritable war of nerves in the rapid succession of currency devaluations involving no fewer than twenty countries. Pakistan has asserted her financial sovereignty which carries heavy responsibilities and great risks. Conditions in this country are radically different from those that have led Great Britain and our neighbour India to resort to devaluation of currency. Both of these countries are faced with an unprecedented trade and exchange disequilibrium. Sir Stafford Cripps, who has long been most positive in refusing to consider even the possibility of devaluation, has had to acquiesce in it under American and economic pressure. His explanatory broadcast to the British nation unmistakeably suggested that he had to swallow and unlearn much. Time alone can show whether devaluation can save for Britain what she is most anxious to maintain – her living standards, social services and full employment. For the time being it is the USA that has scored.

India’s devaluation stands on a somewhat different plane. High costs have been resulting in a steady loss of her markets both in the dollar and sterling areas. With a devalued currency and other things remaining equal, she may become a serious competitor with Britain in the sterling area.

Of all the sterling area countries, Pakistan has been singularly fortunate in her balance of payments. Her stable currency is quite a phenomenon in the unsettled post-war world. Devaluation in her case would have created fresh problems.

Pakistan’s decision not to devalue the rupee has been prompted not so much by the popular pride in the country’s currency as by her compelling economic interests. Her primary need is for capital equipments. By devaluing currency she would have lost her present advantage in the dollar market and become wholly dependent on Britain which has so far regarded the interests of this country with just cold indifference.

Pakistan’s decision does not follow the line of least resistance. Her adjustment to the new conditions will not be automatic or easy. Her trade so far has lain mainly in the sterling area; and in the face of all-round devaluation she will be running the risk of being undersold in and ousted from her former markets.

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THE LIAQUAT-NEHRU PACT

DAWN April 12, 1950 (Editorial)

“A great enterprise”

THE pronouncements made by Bharat’s Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, in his Parliament and later in his Radio broadcast, were couched in language which bore the impress of his earnestness and sincerity. Those in Pakistan who listened to Mr Nehru’s voice as he explained the Agreement, commended it to his people and expressed his hope of its implementation, could not but have felt that he spoke from his heart. The Agreement is indeed a “great enterprise”, as Mr Nehru said, and there will be full appreciation in this country of his exclamation of relief that Bharat and Pakistan had “turned away from the edge of a precipice”.

One of the most significant gains of the now memorable Delhi Conference between the two Prime Ministers has been the wholehearted recognition by each of the other’s absolute sincerity of purpose. It is now of the utmost importance that this confidence and trust, this faith in the good intentions of the other side, must permeate all other elements in a descending scale until even the lower ranks of officialdom in both countries come to have the same confidence in the sincerity of one another across the frontiers of the two countries. As far as Pakistan is concerned, Mr Nehru has himself admitted what we all know, that Mr Liaquat Ali Khan’s “position in Pakistan is such that his word goes a long way”. We have no doubt that Mr Nehru’s stature in his own country is so great and the love and esteem that he has won from his people through his outstanding part in the achievement of their freedom are so abounding, that his word also will go an equally long way. It is true that Mr Nehru has his difficulties and there are intransigent elements in the political life of Bharat who have become much too addicted to other paths than those of peace. But even they, we venture to hope, will come under the spell of the almost magical change which has taken place in the overall Bharat-Pakistan atmosphere. It is a matter of far reaching import that Bharat’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Vallabhai Patel, should have unreservedly given his approval to the Agreement. He has declared that the pact is “the first step towards the reversal of the process which had led to deterioration in the relations between the two countries”, and he has called upon his people “to make honest effort to implement” the Agreement. Apart from the influence of Mr Nehru, Mr Patel’s gratifying attitude is, we believe, the greatest single factor which will contribute not only to the Agreement’s implementation but also to a progressive improvement in the relations between the two peoples. We are glad to note that Mr Nehru has said he would like to visit Karachi and also East Pakistan, and we can assure him that the people of this country will look forward to that event with great pleasure.

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THE RAWALPINDI CONSPIRACY CASE

DAWN March 10, 1951 (News Report)

Plot to subvert armed forces foiled

PRIME Minister Liaquat Ali Khan today [March 9] revealed that a conspiracy “to create commotion in the country by violent means and to subvert the loyalty of Pakistan’s defence forces” has been unearthed.

The poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz addresses the members of the Postal Workers Union at the Lahore GPO in 1949. Faiz is president of the PWU, and, during his tenure, he works aggressively towards securing workers’ rights. — The Faiz Ghar Archives, Lahore
The poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz addresses the members of the Postal Workers Union at the Lahore GPO in 1949. Faiz is president of the PWU, and, during his tenure, he works aggressively towards securing workers’ rights. — The Faiz Ghar Archives, Lahore

The ring-leaders of the conspiracy are: Major-General Akbar Khan, Chief of General Staff; Brig M. A. Latif, Brigade Commander at Quetta; Mr Faiz Ahmed, Editor of the Pakistan Times of Lahore; and Mrs Akbar Khan, wife of Major-General Akbar Khan. Mr Liaquat Ali Khan announced that the two military officers involved in the conspiracy have been dismissed from service with immediate effect. He further announced that “action has been taken to arrest the ring-leaders” of the conspiracy.

The Prime Minister issued the following statement to the Press: “A conspiracy, hatched by the enemies of Pakistan, has just been unearthed. The aim of the conspiracy was to create commotion in the country by violent means and in furtherance of that purpose, to subvert the loyalty of Pakistan’s defence forces.

“I will not conceal how deeply it has pained me to have had to take stringent action against two high officers of the Pakistan Army. But in the present case, because the safety and defence of Pakistan were placed in grave danger, I felt that both as Prime Minister and as Defence Minister of Pakistan, my duty was clear. I have no doubt that in discharging this unpleasant but essential duty, I have the fullest support of the entire nation and, more particularly, of the defence forces of Pakistan.”

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PUNJAB PROVINCIAL ELECTIONS

DAWN April 7, 1951 (Editorial)

Back to parliamentary government

THE recent Punjab elections and the resounding League victory at the polls have a moral lesson for all, and particularly those disgruntled politicians who had chosen the path of disruption to reach the summit of power, if they do not consider it too late even now to learn. For over three years the people of the Province had been suffering while the self-seeking politicians, with a constant itch for power, had been engaged in their personal and factional intrigues and had no time to attend to the needs of the masses. The writing on the wall became visible long ago, but none is so blind as those who refuse to see. Those self-seekers who had trusted their capacity to cause disruption and create confusion in the public life of the Province have been brought to their senses. The Muslim League won a most decisive victory in the elections, because, notwithstanding all its shortcomings, it continues to be the only organisation which represents the collective will of the nation and which has the genuine good of the country and the welfare of the people as its sole aims. The Punjab election has proved that whatever the provincial cliques of power-seekers may do, the attitude of the people remains fundamentally sound and their loyalty to the national organisation unflinchingly firm. It has also demonstrated that our people are too wide awake today to be deceived by high-sounding political slogans or misled by maudlin sentimental appeals.

Mr Mumtaz Daultana, on whom the mantle of the Punjab Muslim League Assembly Party’s leadership has fallen, has got a rare opportunity for giving a purposive direction to the provincial politics and harnessing national energy for constructive endeavour. This is the last chance for the Muslim League to do what the masses of people supporting it still eagerly expect it to do. The leaders of the Punjab will do well to ponder over the political consequences of disillusionment overtaking the masses who form the backbone of the Muslim League. Mr Daultana has chosen his team. We hope they will all work together with foresight and determination, expecting no other reward than the welfare of the people.

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QUAID-I-MILLAT ASSASSINATED

DAWN Oct 18, 1951 (Editorial)

Liaquat is dead. Long live Pakistan!

Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan exhorts the Muslim League National Guard in Lahore in 1944 to campaign actively for the Muslim League in the 1945 general elections. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives
Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan exhorts the Muslim League National Guard in Lahore in 1944 to campaign actively for the Muslim League in the 1945 general elections. —​ Dawn/White Star Archives

A FEW yards from the body of the Founder of Pakistan now rests in eternal sleep the body of the Builder of Pakistan. Both died in harness and both died for Pakistan. The Quaid-i-Azam worked his body away to waste; the Quaid-i-Millat fearlessly exposed his body to danger for his love of duty and country. The Master and disciple, the twin servants of Islam who in this century added perhaps the most glorious chapter to Islam’s temporal history, now meet again in heaven. Like twin stars, unseen but their presence always felt, their blessings will be continually showered on the land which one founded and the other built up to a state of stability and strength from which progress forward is inevitable because of its own momentum. It is now for the nation which they served so well, to carry on their work, and in particular to make the blood of martyred Liaquat blossom into the red rose of Pakistan’s triumph. The task belongs to all of us, because Pakistan belongs to all of us. But upon the new leader who has been chosen by the team left behind by Liaquat the main burden of it all will fall, and the choice has been well and wisely made.

Khwaja Nazimuddin, our new Prime Minister and Liaquat’s successor as leader of this nation, brings to his task over twenty years’ rich experience as statesman and administrator. He is Pakistan’s most seasoned veteran in the art of government. Since 1935 he had been the Quaid-i-Azam’s faithful disciple who never once wavered in his loyalty to the cause of Islam and the Muslim League. More than once during the struggle for the attainment of Pakistan this loyalty demanded of him great sacrifices, and every time he stood up to the test as few others could. Even now, in stepping down from the office of Governor-General, he has made yet another sacrifice because the Prime Minister’s office is less remunerative and far more ardous. Khwaja Nazimuddin had also been a close associate of the late Quaid-i-Millat, both in the Working Committee of the old All-India Muslim League and subsequently in the work of Pakistan’s upbuilding, and he possesses perhaps more than any other person deep insight into and knowledge of the latter’s mind and policies. Indeed the hour of Pakistan’s dire need had found the right man to call into the breach. It is now for our people to stand united as never before and rally under the new leader and the team which he may choose as members of his Government.

Equally felicitous is the choice of Mr Ghulam Muhammad as head of State in succession to Khwaja Nazimuddin. He too is a veteran in the field of administration and will fill his new role with credit. He has served Pakistan with rare distinction and his name will be always associated with this country’s tremendous success in the economic field despite even more tremendous difficulties.

Most welcome also is the return of Sardar Abdur Rab Nistar to the Central Cabinet where he had been badly missed. He too makes considerable sacrifice in giving up a governorship and the nation is grateful to him. It can be safely assumed that such further additions as may be made to the Central Cabinet by Prime Minister Nazimuddin will be equally wise and result in giving Pakistan the best and strongest possible Government, thus demonstrating to the world how our country can face any crisis and ride any storm.


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The missing pages of history

By Zaffar Abbas


GENERAL Zia-ul-Haq in a mood of characteristic bonhomie is seen in conversation with senior journalists in Islamabad on July 9, 1977. From left to right: Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman (Jang), General Zia-ul-Haq, Sharif Farooq (Jihad), M.A. Zuberi (Business Recorder), Altaf Hassan Qureshi (Pakistan Digest) and Mumtaz Tahir (Aftab Multan). — Hasan Bozai/Dawn/White Star.
GENERAL Zia-ul-Haq in a mood of characteristic bonhomie is seen in conversation with senior journalists in Islamabad on July 9, 1977. From left to right: Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman (Jang), General Zia-ul-Haq, Sharif Farooq (Jihad), M.A. Zuberi (Business Recorder), Altaf Hassan Qureshi (Pakistan Digest) and Mumtaz Tahir (Aftab Multan). — Hasan Bozai/Dawn/White Star.

OVER the decades, Dawn has come to be known as ‘the paper of record’. This is not without reason. Although historians seldom regard newspapers as primary source material, since the early years of Pakistan’s creation, extraordinary efforts have been put in by Dawn’s editors to cover as much as possible of national and international events. Before the advent of the internet this newspaper used to regularly publish the text of most landmark court judgements, speeches by leaders and important gazette notifications. This renders its archives a unique and rich research resource.

But to be considered a paper of record, more than news coverage is required. The contextualisation of developments through editorials and analyses is also important. Were Dawn’s editors able to faithfully cover the news and analyse it? Indeed, were they allowed to do this? They certainly strove to do all they could. But I doubt that they were able to record many crucial events in this country’s chequered history.

DISTORTED HISTORY

There were already pressures on the media, exerted by civilian set ups in the early years. Matters worsened when the country came under direct military rule. Military rulers, including Gen Ayub Khan and Gen Ziaul Haq, had no tolerance of a free press and little appetite for dissent. Draconian laws such as the Press and Publications Ordinance, 1960, direct and indirect censorship, detention of journalists, and the banning of various publications all contributed to the muzzling of the press. These were phases when truthful reporting was considered almost a crime — sometimes even treated as one. So, the archives of Dawn — though one of Pakistan’s most valuable assets — do not do full justice to history.

Even a cursory look at some of the newspaper’s old files indicates that either some events went unreported, or were presented in a distorted form. For instance, going through the reports of those times, it is difficult to make out that young communist leaders Hassan Nasir and Nazeer Abbasi died of torture (during the tenures of two different military regimes). It would also be difficult to determine the number of political opponents behind bars during Gen Zia’s time, or how many insurgents were extra-judicially eliminated during various periods of the Baloch insurgency. Or even to know the details of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s execution. These are some of the missing pages of history. The policies of a powerful state never consented to the unveiling of the truth.

PRE-CENSORSHIP AND ‘PRESS ADVICES’

When I joined the profession, Gen Zia’s martial law rule was at its height. Hundreds of political opponents were behind bars. Scores of journalists were quartered in prisons, and several publications banned. The regime regarded the free press as one of its biggest enemies.

Curbs on the media in the form of the notorious ‘press advice’ system run by the military-controlled information ministry were already de rigueur. Soon direct censorship was in place. Under martial law regulations, all newspapers were to be vetted; the entire content of the paper was to be approved before printing.

One of my duties was to occasionally take the copy of The Star, the Karachi newspaper for which I worked, to the censor’s office. The memory is difficult to erase. The semi-literate officials behaved like butchers. Any news item even remotely critical of the government or the military, or that concerned opposition politicians, was ripped out.

LEAVING blank space on news pages depict the manner in which the national press tried to convey its plight to the readers during the Zia era.
LEAVING blank space on news pages depict the manner in which the national press tried to convey its plight to the readers during the Zia era.

On occasion, even routine crime stories were removed if the officer thought it put the military regime in a bad light. At one point, an entire edition of The Star was confiscated because it carried a photograph of a wedding where Benazir Bhutto was one of the guests.

Within the first two weeks of the promulgation of the censor order, Dawn, its sister publication The Star, and many other newspapers had begun leaving blank spaces that indicated the removal of news items or editorials; it was clear that what was being printed was not the complete picture.

The response of the regime was to prohibit newspapers from leaving blank spaces. The spaces left by the censored news items needed to be filled with innocuous material, making newspapers even less truthful. This tragedy was compounded when, later, some overzealous civil servants decided to either mark as ‘classified’ and then hide the official archives of news stories and editorials censored over the years or destroy them completely, thus leaving no evidence of what the newspapers had attempted to report.

SYSTEMATIC CONTROL

Military rulers were not the only ones to muzzle the media. Elected prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto also had little tolerance for criticism. His period witnessed many journalists being jailed and publications banned. However, the foundation for the systematic control of the media was laid during Ayub Khan’s period in the form of the controversial Press and Publications Ordinance, 1963. His attempt to turn Pakistan into a praetorian state left little room for a free press. The government not only assumed ownership of several progressive newspapers, it also subjected others to the worst kind of curbs. Sadly, some newspapers and their editors — due to either pressure or out of conviction — saw in Ayub an enlightened military ruler, and unconditionally supported many of his policies. The real casualty was the independent media.

Gen Yahya Khan’s rule is also a dark chapter in the history of press freedom. Together with the media blackout of the events leading to the country’s dismemberment and the creation of Bangladesh, the front pages of most Pakistani newspapers of Dec 17, 1971 — the day after East Pakistan was lost — are a sad reminder of the kind of press curbs that existed.

Dawn’s own banner headline read, ‘War till Victory,’ based on Yahya Khan’s address to the nation. Tucked away was the real news of the day, in a mere double-column spread and restricted to a couple of sentences. With the vague headline, ‘Fighting ends in East Wing’, the officially cleared report from Rawalpindi read: “Latest reports indicate that following an arrangement between the local commanders of India and Pakistan in the Eastern theatre, fighting has ceased in East Pakistan and Indian troops have entered Dacca.”

This, and nothing more, was the news that was allowed to reach citizens to inform them that Pakistan had lost its eastern wing. Various forms of pressure on the media have existed in Pakistan since the early years of its independence.

PRESSURE from official quarters came early. In 1953, Editor Altaf Husain protested against the trend by leaving the editorial space blank in Dawn’s December 25 issue.
PRESSURE from official quarters came early. In 1953, Editor Altaf Husain protested against the trend by leaving the editorial space blank in Dawn’s December 25 issue.

As far back as 1953, the then Dawn editor, Altaf Husain, became so frustrated that in one edition, he left blank the space for the editorial.

At the bottom of where the column should have been published, the following lines were scrolled in his own hand: When the truth cannot be freely spoken, and patriotism is held almost a crime, this editorial space is left blank on Quaid-i-Azam’s birthday, to speak more eloquently than words.

FREE ONLY IN NAME

If truth was in short supply earlier, things are not very different today. True, the media can take a critical view of an elected government, scrutinise its policies and expose its corrupt practices. The uncontrolled debate on political issues witnessed on dozens of privately owned television networks, and in large sections of the print media, is testimony to this fact.

This is no mean achievement. However, it is also true that during this period the state (or certain segments of it) have not only become more powerful, but have also adopted innovative methods to keep the media — or large sections of it — on a tight leash. Scratch beneath the surface, and you’ll discover that the number of no-go areas in terms of reporting has increased — phenomenally. As the tentacles of the segment of the establishment that some refer to as the ‘deep state’ spread, the monster is escaping honest scrutiny.

The demands are unending: ‘Do not report on what’s going on in restive Balochistan’; ‘do not question the claims of casualties in incidents linked to religious extremists or suspected terrorists’; ‘it’s not a good idea to raise the issue of enforced disappearances’; and ‘there’s absolutely no need to highlight extra-judicial killings’. Even reports on differences between the government and security officials on handling militancy are unacceptable — as demonstrated by Dawn’s story of Oct 6, 2016 written by Cyril Almeida. Such reports may, and often will, be categorised as a national security breach.

Media that follows these instructions is called ‘patriotic.’ The few who dare to raise their voice are subjected to the worst treatment, including vicious campaigns at the hands of social media trolls.

Recently, such unwritten rules have been extended to areas that have little to do with national security, for example highlighting corruption in commercial enterprises including the National Logistics Cell or Defence Housing Authority. These even extend to critical reviews of ‘sponsored movies’. In a new push for a self-designed ‘national narrative’, critical reporting on all such issues is being made synonymous with ‘unpatriotic behaviour’. The result is a submissive media, mostly indulging in involuntary or voluntary self-censorship — far more deceptive and damaging than direct censorship.

EMERGENT THREATS

Attempts to curb truthful journalism are not simply confined to the news-amending activities of state institutions. Another major anti-media player to have emerged is the unnumbered army of violent extremists. If the seeds of strong-armed tactics were sown by the MQM in the 1980s, such methods are now being openly employed by sections of Baloch insurgents and, more violently, by various factions of the Islamist militants.

Caught between the narrative being promoted by the military and the militants, it is almost impossible to expect any district correspondent in Balochistan or Fata to report objectively. With scores already being punished for their ‘crimes’, and many other journalists quitting the profession, no editor would dare ask these correspondents to report objectively.

And then there are commercial interests that continue to force the media, or at least a large section of it, into submission.

Successive governments have used the advertising budget at their disposal as a tool to project their activities, or to have stories killed. Imbued with a similar passion, large commercial enterprises use the leverage of their huge advertisement potential to put pressure on newspapers that dare to expose the scandals they are found involved in. On occasions, Dawn has lost hundreds of millions of rupees in advertising revenues, and continues to do so, because the government or some sections of it, or certain big commercial enterprises, is not happy with the newspaper’s coverage.

Today’s Pakistan may not be a praetorian state, but the desire of some state institutions to transform it into one persists. The powerful state is simply not prepared to accept that a free press is crucial to the orderly evolution of a democratic society.

Unfortunately, the proponents of a praetorian state have failed to draw a distinction between truthful journalism and propaganda and fake news.

Journalism is not free speech. In fact, it is constrained expression. Journalism works within a set of values, the most essential of these being truthful, fact-based, impartial and accountable reporting. And that is what Dawn has always stressed on, having now established even a ‘Readers’ Editor’, or an internal ombudsman, to curtail violations of ethical practices.

Where it’s true that due to years of censorship and other restrictions, Dawn may not always qualify as a paper of record, it is still the closest such entity. As the struggle to achieve unfettered freedom continues, one can only hope that despite all the constraints and pressures, this newspaper will live up to the challenges by refusing to compromise on the standards it has helped set for ethical and truthful journalism in the country.

The writer is Editor, Dawn


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Liaquat addresses the nation

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On Manto

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'Subh-e-Azadi'


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