Pakistan’s Other Story: 4. A failed start – the failure of bourgeois democracy

Capitalism in Pakistan was not an independent, developing system, but a very dependent client of the major capitalist powers, unable to finance its investment plans without massive foreign aid. Througout the 1950s Pakistan's political structures lay in shambles and the decade closed with the army seizing political power through a coup d'etat.

Military rule and the gathering storm

“I don't know about businessmen elsewhere, but ours are damn rascals. He will not hesitate to suck people's blood if he gets half a chance. I wonder how long we would be able to protect him and the private sector against the people. One day people will take their revenge on him.” (Field Marshal M. Ayub Khan)1

According to the official medium of the State Pakistan's ideology is based on a dream conceived by the philosopher poet Allama Sir Mohammad Iqbal. But even the creator of Pakistan's mythological ideology had reservations about how his dream would be realized. He had died about a decade before Pakistan's inception in 1938. A year before his death he wrote a letter to Jinnah about his fears of his dream turning into a nightmare for the oppressed Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. In his astute letter written on 28 May 1937 Iqbal drew attention to the political problems confronting the Muslim League:

“I have no doubt that you fully realize the gravity of the situation as far as Muslim India is concerned. The League will have to finally decide whether it will remain a body representing the upper classes of Indian Muslims or the Muslim masses, who have so far, with good reason, taken no interest in it. Personally, I believe that a political organization which gives no promise of improving the lot of the ordinary Muslim cannot attract our masses. Under the new constitution the higher posts go to the sons of upper classes; the smaller ones go to the friends or relatives of Ministers. Our political institutions have never thought of improving the lot of Muslims generally. The problem of bread is becoming more and more acute.”2

The first planning commission of Pakistan was set up in 1948. Out of 15 members there were 11 from US and Imperialist institutions. This was self evident what course of political and economic development this new confessional State would embark upon.

Most of the Muslim entrepreneurs who had a tough competition and were subdued and dominated by Tata's, Birla's and other major nominally 'Hindu' conglomerates had a false perception that by getting a separate 'independent' state and market they would be able to amass huge profits. Hence the Habib's, Valika's, Adamjee's, Saigol's, Isphahani's and many other nominally Muslim business houses had showered Jinnah and the Muslim League with large sums of money for a greater share of the market and facilities in the new Islamic Republic.

After the disastrous summer of 1947, the leaders of Pakistan tried to take control. They had envisaged building a new modern capitalist state. The newly emerged bourgeoisie in Pakistan had an enormous opportunity to show its calibre and capabilities: they had the state, a massive market and a country rich in natural resources, together with a huge reservoir of human manpower.

Crisis of Identity

Jinnah wanted to create Pakistan as a modern industrialised secular capitalist state. He believed in sound law and sound procedures. He was, according to one intimate: “a parliamentarian in the mode of Gladstone…” At the inauguration of Pakistan, Jinnah was a frail, sick man who already, in the words of his physician, had been living for three years on “willpower, whisky and cigarettes”. When he became Pakistan's first governor general, Jinnah said to his new ADC, Syed Ahsan, “Do you know I never expected to see Pakistan in my lifetime”.3 He died in mysterious circumstances on 11 September 1948. On its inception, Pakistan went into an internal crisis, which intensified after Jinnah's death. Disagreements within the feudal hierarchy and the semi-capitalist elite created political chaos. Pakistan's first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated by Akbar Khan at Company Bagh Rawalpindi, in 1951. Most domestic and foreign policy decisions of the 1950s reflect these conflicts. Pakistan was founded as a theocratic state, and the newly emerging ruling elite tried to impose this artificial ideology on a multinational, multilingual and multiethnic society in order to perpetuate its rule. Jinnah's promised secularism was fading fast. The educational curriculum was modified to fit in with the state's official theology. The history syllabus was distorted to reflect the official line. Urdu was imposed as the national language, although the state bureaucracy, commerce, trade and the elite continued to use English. The first two commanders in chief were British: although the Muslim league had refused to accept Lord Mountbatten as a joint governor general of Pakistan and India, the army was receptive to a British commander as head of the armed forces to ensure the continuity of colonial structures. The first commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army was General Messervy, who was later replaced by Major General Douglas Gracey. The land revenue system, military chain of command, civil administration, legal code and judicial system continued as created by the British. In fact they still remain intact to a large extent in all countries of the subcontinent. Even “left-hand drive” on roads and railways is still in practice. The ruling elite tilted its foreign policy towards the United States of America and became its stooge at a very early stage. The United States and the Central Intelligence Agency became involved in the affairs of the Pakistan army early on.

The main reason behind this chaos and anarchy and the shattered dream of the nascent Pakistani bourgeois class was the historical belatedness of this class itself. Its advent in history came when imperialism had attained a crushing domination of the world market. During the Second World War, when most of the world was in the throes of devastation and destruction, the US mainland remained untouched by the ravages of war. But during the war period the emergency war regime and laws were in full force in the USA. This enabled the US ruling classes to extract and exploit maximum labour from the American proletariat. It resulted in an enormous boost to US Industry, accumulating enormous surplus in the process. They now had the luxury to invest larger sums of this surplus in research and technological innovation, thus further increasing productivity and profits; hence an even greater accumulation of Capital by the US bourgeoisie. Consequently, in the post war scenario, their technological superiority, financial domination and Militaristic hegemony gave them a greater control of the world capitalist economy and the international market. Institutions like the World Bank, the Breton Woods Treaty, which later became the IMF and the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), now WTO (World Trade Organisation), were used for the implementation of US financial and economic domination. In the political and diplomatic sphere they used the United Nations, its subsidiaries, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), CENTO (Central Treaty Organisation), SEATO (South East Asia Treaty Organisation) and other treaties and alliances, to assert their diplomatic, political and military hegemony.

Meanwhile, European imperialists, financially weakened and exhausted by the war, had lost their capacity to continue with direct colonial rule. The revolutionary movements of the European proletariat, and the reactions of the soldiers of the returning armies, exhausted and sickened by the Second World War, further aggravated this process. Hence European Imperialism had to withdraw from direct colonial rule; the growth and spread of national liberation movements further accelerated this imperialist retreat. But in the colonial revolutions the only Third World countries that could get a temporary respite from the stranglehold of this new structure of capitalist imperialism were those proletariat Bonapartist states that arose through their own peculiar methods and forms of revolutionary movements. These were mainly through Guerrilla armies led by petty bourgeoisie intelligentsia or the military coups led by radical officers who were disgusted by the glaring and rapacious Imperialist exploitation ravaging their societies. They had no option except to overthrow capitalism and feudalism to escape from the exploitation and plunder of imperialism.

Apart from these exceptions, most other neo colonial countries were trapped in capitalist/ landlord regimes dominated by corrupt and reactionary ruling classes incapable of developing these societies and laying the social, economic and political foundations of modern industrialised capitalist states. In the period of post colonialism the so called independence of these countries was paralytic and debilitated in its character; their ruling classes had a comprador character and were subservient to Imperialist hegemony. On the other hand, due to the intrinsic and organic weakness of these colonial ruling elites, their economic base was in constant dearth and at the mercy of the technology and finance capital of western imperialism. Owing to this historical backwardness and economic, technological, and financial dependence on the advanced capitalist countries, these subservient and subdued nascent ruling classes were forced to submit to the new post-war world order that was designed and structured to enhance and facilitate the blatant plunder of imperialism.

The bloody partition of 1947 ensured that the imperialist exploitation and the rule of capital continued in the phase of neo colonialism where the world market domination subjugated these societies under the yoke of imperialism. The Pakistani nascent capitalist class soon realized this but was impotent to break this cordon. Their weakness forced them to rely on Imperialism on one hand and the landed aristocracy, including religious mystagogues (pirs) owning vast tracts of rural lands, mainly introduced in the subcontinent by the British Raj to perpetuate its rule, on the other. These 'Nawabs', feudal landlords and religious mystagogues had already switched over to the Muslim League for reasons not dissimilar to the nascent Muslim bourgeoisie cashing in on support for a separate Muslim entity. Politics began at the top and was marked by a distinctly feudal approach to problems. Individual land lords could make or break parties by utilizing the 'parcelled-out sovereignty' they enjoyed over their lands and their tenants.

Jinnah favoured the creation of a bourgeois-democratic state, but the theocratic inconsistencies of the advocates of the 'two-nation' theory now made themselves felt in the practice of fashioning the new republic.


But within a year war broke out in Kashmir which was a dispute deliberately left behind by British Imperialists. Their motive was to continue the divide-and-rule policy even after they retreated from direct colonial rule in the South Asian subcontinent; they aimed to maintain a greater imperialist control by sowing the seeds of instability and antagonism between India and Pakistan. After the Hindu Maharaja of Muslim-dominated Kashmir signed accession with India, the Pakistani rulers wanted to take Kashmir by force. A secret plan was agreed upon in which Pathan tribesmen were used to start the offensive.

The Pathan tribesmen crossed the Jehlum River into Kashmir on the night of October 23-24, 1947. The plan was to capture Srinagar by October 26 in time for the Eid celebrations. However, instead of marching straight to Srinagar, they indulged themselves in arson and plunder in Muzaffarabad and nearby towns, getting only as far as Baramulla (though they did manage to cut off the power supply to the Kashmiri capital). This gave the Indian army crucial time to amass troops and force the raiders into retreat. Hence the history of the subcontinent took a strange twist: more than two thirds of Kashmir was taken by India and the other one third, of mostly rugged terrain, came under Pakistani control.

Indian troops, replacing National Conference supporters in the defence of Kashmir, succeeded in halting the tribal advance before Srinagar was captured. They also launched a counter-offensive, recapturing Baramulla. Once India had sent her forces into Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan's Governor General M.A. Jinnah wanted to send his country's regular troops in as well. But such a move was blocked by the Pakistan Army's acting Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Douglas Gracey, who feared that it would spark off a war between the two new states (the two armies were still under the same supreme command). Jinnah still attempted to send help to the pro-Pakistan 'Azad Kashmir' forces, for example encouraging Pakistan regulars 'on leave' to make their way to the state. In May 1948, Gracey reversed his earlier decision, and Pakistan “officially” sent its troops into Jammu and Kashmir.

A series of offensives and counter-offensives ended with Pakistan controlling Gilgit (which had 'acceded' to that country on 3 November 1947), Baltistan, part of the Vale, most of Poonch, and the Mirpur area of Jammu. Indian forces controlled Ladakh, most of the Kashmir and Jammu provinces, and a small part of Poonch. By the end of 1948 the war, which had so far been confined to Jammu and Kashmir, threatened to spread to India 'proper' and Pakistan. Such an escalation was avoided by the declaration of a ceasefire, partly the result of the intervention of the United Nations which took effect on 1 January 1949. The ceasefire line was defined in an agreement between Indian and Pakistani military representatives on 27 July 1949 and remained unchanged until the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War.


The only 'political party' Jinnah could rely on was the civil service of Pakistan, born out of the Indian civil service and conceived by the British imperial administration. Jinnah clearly viewed Pakistan as a constitutional social democracy. His first address to the Constituent Assembly in Karachi, on 11 August 1947, explicitly dissociated itself from interpretations which stressed the confessional character of the new state:

“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 this 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 with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. Now I think we should keep that 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, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”4

This speech has been strongly criticized by religious divines, confessional sects and right wing political parties because of its opposition to the creation of an 'Islamic state'. The criticisms are not without logic. If Pakistan was the culmination of the struggle for a 'Muslim nation', then clearly secularism was a somewhat inappropriate ideology for it. If its aspirations could be implemented in Pakistan, then surely they could equally have been put into practice in a united India.

Jinnah's addiction to constitutionalism merely brought to the fore the confused character of the campaign which had preceded the formation of the new state. Soon after partition, Jinnah seriously considered the possibility of declaring the Muslim League a secular party and changing its name to the Pakistan National League. His intention, however, was prematurely revealed by the Pakistan Times, and the effect of Jinnah's death in 1948 and Liaquat Ali Khan's assassination in 1951 left the civil service in total command.

The economic situation was not much better. The agrarian character of the new state was highlighted by the fact that agriculture accounted for 60% of total output and 70% of total employment. The comparable figures for industry were 6% for output and 10% for employment. Service sector made up the remainder. Large-scale production was non-existent: 41 percent of all industrial enterprises were devoted to the processing of agriculture raw material and were in seasonal operation.

The country was seen as a producer of raw materials tied to Britain by a whole network of economic and political links.

The 1954 Election

It was in the countryside that the situation was at its worst: in Pakistan as a whole, 6000 landlords owned more land than 3.5 million peasant households. The landlords were the largest single group on the Muslim League National Council.

An attempt was made to create a cohesive ruling class, a stable ruling party, and a permanent constitution; but all these attempts failed, and the decades that followed exacerbated the 'crisis of identity' that had consistently confounded the ideologists of the new state.

Pakistan's refusal to devalue the rupee during the Korean War had resulted in a temporary boom, but with the end of the war there was a sharp drop in the prices of agricultural raw materials. This was coupled in 1952-3 with a massive food shortage and a famine, during which the Muslim League proved incompetent to deal with either the black market in food or the economic crisis.

It was mainly Mohajir (the refugee Urdu speaking population from India that came after partition mostly from Central and Northern India) and Punjabi civil servants, moulded by the Raj, who determined political developments in the country. The Muslim League was a creature of the state bureaucracy. Its isolation was revealed in stark fashion following the provincial elections of 1954. The elections were preceded by a fresh outbreak of mass struggles on the thorny issue of language. On 21 February 1952 a large student demonstration was 'dispersed' by the police in time-honoured fashion: they fired on the protestors, killing twenty-six and wounding 400 others.

As the date for the elections approached, the bureaucracy was in a state of panic; it postponed them for a fortnight in order to silence the left. Twelve hundred communists and trade-unionists were arrested within the space of forty-eight hours. When the voting was finally allowed from 8 March till 12 March 1954 the Bengalis showed how isolated the Muslim League was from the mainstream of political consciousness in the province: out of 309 seats, the League won only ten.

The Communist Party won four of the ten seats it contested, and interestingly enough it was communists of Hindu origin who were elected rather than their Muslim comrades a revealing footnote to illustrate the outrageous character of the 1947 division!

The Central government dissolved the newly elected Assembly only two months after the elections and proclaimed Governor's rule under Section 92A of the Constitution. The communist Party was banned and employers were instructed to dismiss communist workers or face the wrath of the administration. While repression was used to demobilize the left, the right wing of the United Front was offered a number of inducements.

In West Pakistan, as it continued to suffer defeats in successive by-elections, it became clear that if free elections were permitted the Muslim League would lose three provinces.

Shaking hands with Uncle Sam

The bureaucracy was petrified. The scheme of 'One Unit' was conceived.

For a start, it split the Muslim League. The Governor-General, Ghulam Mohammed, was a foul mouthed bureaucrat closely in league with the Dulles brothers in the United States. The country's Prime Minister, Mohammad Ali Bogra, was himself a favoured protégé of John Foster Dulles, US secretary of state. Together with the commander-in-chief of the army, General Ayub Khan, Bogra was dispatched by Ghulam Mohammed to the United States to negotiate a long-term military and economic aid pact and obtain authority to run the country. On their return to Karachi they went straight to the Governor General's residence, where the decision was taken to dissolve the Constituent Assembly and proclaim a 'state of emergency' the first of many to be inflicted on the country. The One Unit plan was forced through by the Central government, and provincial assemblies were ordered to vote in its favour.

On 14 October 1955 the new 'province' of West Pakistan came into existence. On 23 March 1956, Pakistan became an Islamic Republic.

Pakistan's first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan had rejected an invitation to visit Moscow and, instead, boarded a plane for Washington. His successors formally cemented the alliance. Ghulam Mohammed and Iskander Mirza, the two bureaucrats who effectively ran the country as heads of state in the fifties, needed the alliance with the United States to shore up their position at home. American aid had already started in 1951.

John Foster Dulles acclaimed Pakistan as 'a bulwark of freedom in Asia'. Any idea that the aid came without any attached strings was brutally dispelled by an official US document which laid down the guidelines:

“Technical Assistance is not something to be done, as a Government enterprise, for its own sake or for the sake of others. The US Government is not a charitable institution, nor is it an appropriate outlet for the charitable spirit of the American people. That spirit finds its proper instrumentality in the numerous private philanthropic and religious institutions which have done so much good work abroad. Technical Assistance is only one of a number of instruments available to the US to carry out its foreign policy and to promote its national interests abroad … these tools of foreign policy include economic aid, military assistance, security treaties, overseas information programmes, participation in the UN and other international organizations, the exchange of persons programmes, tariff and trade policies, surplus agricultural commodities disposal policies and the traditional processes of diplomatic representation.”5

The refusal of India or Afghanistan to become part of the Western alliance gave Pakistan a certain geopolitical importance. The army and bureaucracy agreed to make the country an American base.

The very circumstances of its birth had rendered Pakistan into a security state from day one. And from then onwards all of its policies, including that of its economy, were being dictated and shaped by the state's security concerns.

In the immediate bloody aftermath of Independence India was seen by the ruling classes of Pakistan as the bully on the block who was perceived to be hell bent on wolfing down its smaller neighbour. This partly real and partly imagined threat had sent the ruling elite in Pakistan, soon after independence, scurrying desperately in pursuit of defence parity with the larger, more powerful and more developed India, although its own internal organic weakness, plus its fear of its own toiling masses, also created this psychology of heavily arming the state.

“Pakistan would be willing if necessary to be a satellite of the US if she remained secure from India. But we can never accept a relationship which would expose us to being a satellite of India.”6

Although it was on January 3 1966 that Ayub Khan uttered this demeaning, servile statement to the American ambassador, it was precisely this blinding fear of Indian hegemony which had driven Pakistan into the lap of the US from the very beginning.

Over the years Pakistan has poured, overtly, at least 25 percent of its total federal budgets on defence needs, over and above what was spent covertly; the real figure would be astronomical. Still, it lost all the wars that were fought, losing in the process half of Kashmir in 1948, half of Pakistan itself in 1971, and Siachen in the early 1980s. The real story of Kargil is yet to be told.

A recent study by the New Delhi-based strategic Foresight Group, that included former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz A. Naik, has estimated that the ISI alone comprised of 10,000 professional staff, and its wages and operations, including the “Jihadi operations”, cost around Rs 26 billion. Subversion costs by Pakistan and India are said to have exceeded their defence budgets.

On gaining independence in 1947 the country inherited a 95,000-strong army and immediately planned to raise its strength to 150,000. To fund this plan Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Liaqat Ali Khan, and Nazimuddun, in their respective tenures, sought $2 billion of immediate assistance from the US, but the latter kept refusing to oblige.

Pakistan's first budget, announced on 28 February 1948 allocated a staggering 85 percent of its total resources to defence; this priority continued during the first ten years of independence, except in 1953-54.

Ayub's first budget (1958-59) allocated twice as much as the defence budget (which was being taken care of by that time mostly by the US military assistance) to development, helped by US economic assistance.

In 1952, Pakistan was hit by a food shortage. The government approached the United States for assistance, and negotiations led to an agreement for the importation of one million tons of wheat under a $15 million commercial loan provided by the Export-Import Bank of the United States (USEXIM).

On 19 May 1954 Pakistan and the United States signed the 'Mutual Defence Agreement' and on 8 September 1954, Pakistan joined SEATO (South East Asia Treaty Organisation): “The sky is the limit,” said Ayub Khan.

But SEATO neither enhanced US aid to Pakistan nor guaranteed help from the US in the case of Pakistan being attacked. Nor did the infamous Badabair basing facility that was given to the US in 1959 bring Pakistan any additional security: instead the Russians warned that they would wipe Pakistan from the face of the earth if any further U-2s took off from the base after one was shot down in 1962 by the Russians.

On 11 July 1950 Pakistan joined the World Bank and a team of World Bank officials visited Pakistan the following year, offering $60 million for projects in irrigation, rehabilitation of railways, extension of telecommunication and hydro projects. Pakistan contracted the first loan of its history a $27 million loan from the World Bank for the Pakistan Railways on 22 February 1952.

In May 1967, when aid from America had ceased, Ayub's government approached the World Bank for the first debt relief of Pakistan's history, but no consortium meeting was held for two years. General Yahya Khan was therefore compelled on 25 March 1969 to impose a unilateral moratorium on repayment of debt.

US military and economic aid produces a shift in the domestic relationship of political and social forces in favour of reactionary and conservative parties and institutions. The United States is strongly conscious of this; it admits that 'from a political viewpoint US military aid has strengthened Pakistan's armed services, the greatest single stabilizing force in the country, and has encouraged Pakistan to participate in collective defence agreements'.7

The climax was reached when Pakistan justified the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt in October 1956. The overthrow of the pro-British monarch Farouk and the rise to power of Nasser in Egypt marked a turning point for Middle-East politics Arab nationalism was on the ascent! On 26 July 1956 Nasser reacted to the refusal of the West to finance the building of the Aswan Dam by nationalising the Suez Canal. The imperialists could, he stated, 'choke in their rage'. Nasser's defiance of the British evoked a responsive chord in other former colonies.

The Communist Party in W. Pakistan

In early 1957 Bhashani visited West Pakistan, where he conferred with left-wing leaders and decided to convene an All-Pakistan conference of progressive organisations. This was held in Dacca on 25 and 26 July 1957, and resulted in the creation of the National Awami Party. The social composition of the party varied from province to province, but overall it was a 'United Front' of the communist and non-communist left throughout the country. Its stated aims were a combination of radical nationalism and social democracy. Its programme and contents were basically different variants of Stalinism.

Partition had resulted in a severe dislocation of the left. The effects of this were especially felt in West Pakistan, where the communist movement had never acquired a mass following.

A limited peasant agitation was organized by the left, and areas like Lyallpur (now Faisalabad), Montgomery (now Sahiwal), Multan, Khanewal and several other districts saw a number of peasant strikes and peasant-landlord clashes. The Punjab premier and Unionist leader, Sir Sikandar Hyat, used a combination of repression and concessions to end the agitation.

The Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) was set up by decision of the CPI in 1948, and the latter obligingly sent a number of Muslim communists to lead the new organization.

The first general secretary of the CPP was Sajjad Zaheer, a resident of the United Provinces and scion of a landed family, who held a commanding position as a critic in the realm of Urdu literature. His organizing abilities, however, did not match his literary skills.

“The membership of the CPP in West Pakistan was less than two hundred. With committed cadres a party could have been developed and an influential trade-union network established.”8

However, the skills and talents which existed were not put to their proper use, and the CPP leadership was constantly engaged in a search for short-cuts. The curse of Stalinist two-stage development was always an impediment to its growth and development.

In 1951 the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case exploded on an unsuspecting country. The mastermind of this attempted putsch was Major-General Akbar Khan, chief of staff of the Pakistan army and widely regarded as an audacious and relatively progressive officer. The officers who supported him were a mixed bag of radical nationalists, outright chauvinists and religious freaks. The infant CPP became embroiled in the plan when Sajjad Zaheer met General Akbar at a cocktail party. The general broached the subject of the intended coup, and requested help in drafting manifestos and hit-lists. The CPP leadership approved of the enterprise and participated in various meetings with army officers. It was decided that the plan be shelved for a period, but one of the military conspirators, fearing that the truth might come out, turned informer and unveiled the whole affair. The plotters were arrested. General Ayub, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, was shocked to learn that he was to be shot. The amateurishness of the plot ensured that those involved received light sentences. Sajjad Zaheer returned to India after his release. The CPP virtually dissolved itself after being banned, and many of its cadres joined the Azad Pakistan Party. This debacle was to leave a lasting impact on the demoralized remnants of the party, which was never again to emerge as a national, independent force. Its politics was instead to be submerged in successive multi-class formations of one variety or another.


In the spring 1958 budget, military spending was increased while price controls were abolished. The cost of living in the towns registered a phenomenal rise: an average of 8.2 percent.

The result was increasing agitation in town and countryside. Strikes became commonplace and were crushed by private armies in the pay of the employers or state repression.

In Lahore, capital of West Pakistan, hundreds of thousands of peasants marched through the streets to demand that: a) eviction of tenants be outlawed; b) landlordism be abolished; and c), all uncultivated land be given to landless tenants.

“On 8 May 1958, in one of numerous episodes, the police attacked peasants in the village of Lundo in the heart of the province of Sind. They attacked the Haris (poor peasants), seized their harvest, ransacked their homes, raped the women and arrested seventy peasants. The local landlords provided valuable aid by burning hari dwellings.”9

On 20 June 1958 workers attempted to occupy a strike-bound factory in Lyallpur in protest against the imprisonment of a union leader. The police opened fire, killing six workers and seriously injuring another twenty-one.

The country's first ever general election was scheduled to be held in March 1959. The bureaucracy was extremely worried, and with good reason. There was every likelihood that the left would make gains on a provincial and national level. There was also a real possibility that the mere holding of a general election could trigger off a mass upsurge which might overflow electoral channels.

Under Military Rule

The bureaucracy, in ten years, had failed to build a stable bourgeois political party. On 7 October 1958, eleven years after Pakistan was created, its political structures lay in shambles and the army took political power through a coup d'etat.

The new regime was an undisguised dictatorship of the bureaucraticmilitary elite. General Ayub's own reflections on the post-colonial state: 'Democracy cannot work in a hot climate, to have democracy we must have a cold climate as in Britain',10 were treated seriously by State Department policy-makers and their satraps elsewhere in the world.

The two dominant institutions, the army and the bureaucracy, were the direct descendants of the colonial state, and the importance of these institutions in maintaining colonial rule cannot be overestimated.

It was the politically backward rural hinterlands of the Punjab and the North-West Frontier which were to be the catchment area for the new style army.

The simple reality is that even before completing the first decade of its existence the state of Pakistan had proved that it could not develop into a modern industrialised and developed capitalist country. The quest of the 'lefts' who were ignoring the tragedy of partition, that the nascent ruling class of the 'new' country would create a democratic set up, equality of nationalities, genuine election, sovereignty and other democratic tasks, was a utopian dream at best and a conscious betrayal of revolutionary Marxism at worst. The traditional Muslim bourgeoisie could in reality only hope against hope.

The political conflagration, the crisis of the state and the subservience to imperialist hegemony was basically the reflection of the economic failure of capitalism in a newly independent colonial country now trapped in an epoch of the resurgence of rapacious imperialism.

But above all it was carved out, and two of its nationalities were pierced, by the stiletto of partition. It was not just a geographical bifurcation but a historical, economic and cultural separation, the wounds of which needed healing through a high level of socio- economic development and growth which the new Pakistani ruling class could not even begin to deliver. The squabbling, ruling, political elites created such an anarchic situation that imperialism and the vested interests of Pakistani capital had no option other than direct military rule to safeguard the crisis-ridden Pakistani capitalism. This in itself exposed the real reactionary character of the Pakistani ruling class, even when it had just begun its rule of the new state.

The use of religion to create such a state was a retrogressive act in itself. But the promulgation of Martial Law further exposed the historical, ideological and economic bankruptcy of the ruling classes and their state. But, as subsequent events would prove, military rule with all its repression and might could not develop a stable and functioning Pakistani capitalism. Paradoxically, it sharpened the contradictions so much that after a decade it ignited a social revolution which suspended the state in mid-air, and the overthrow of capitalism through a socialist revolution was the order of the day.


The new regime established as a result of the military coup of 27 October 1958 was an undisguised dictatorship of the bureaucratic military elite. It lasted for a decade and was marked by two distinct phases: the first period (1958-62) was dominated by the army, then the years that followed (1962-9) saw the bureaucracy re-asserting its dominant role in the country's politics.

The situation in the Middle East and Asia had become very fragile, especially for the declining force of British Imperialism. This was especially due to the 1956 Suez crisis, during which Britain, Israel and France had been defeated by an awakened Egypt and Nasserism was on the rise. For many army officers, especially in the Arab and so-called Muslim world, Jamal Abdul Nasser was a beacon of hope an icon to follow.

Hence a Military coup, even by the very pro-western Field Marshal Ayub Khan, raised a lot of eyebrows, especially in the corridors of the White Hall in London. Some of the immediate diplomatic correspondence after the coup expresses apprehension. In a telegram, published in the recently declassified British papers published by Oxford, these fears are very much evident:

Outward Telegram from Commonwealth Relations Office

TO: Karachi

(Sent: 20.12 hours 28 October 1958)


Addressed Karachi No. 2300, repeated Ottawa No. 1694 and Delhi No. 2050.

My telegram W. No. 927


Brief for Prime Minister's talk with Mr. Diefenbaker follows lines of paragraph 2 of my telegram under reference, but continues as follows:

New regime has, however, many difficulties to surmount. Future is uncertain and there are grounds for anxiety. Although a strong personality and a man of vigorous action, General Ayub is not of high intellectual stature. This raises question whether there is not some more capable and designing mind or minds in Pakistan Army providing impetus behind scenes. It is to be feared that if General Ayub were in turn replaced, his successor is likely to be less favourably disposed towards Commonwealth and West. The danger is that he might be neutralist or, worse, a Nasserite. Sad as it is to see democracy extinguished, even temporarily, in a fellow Member of the Commonwealth, and uncertain as future of General Ayub's regime may be, it would seem nevertheless in our interests to give them every possible encouragement.11

The fears of British Imperialism were not unfounded, mainly because of their experiences in Iraq, Syria and of course Egypt. The entire leading melange of twenty officers who constituted the effective leadership of the 'Free Officers' were university graduates, most having studied at Cairo University. They were imbued with the main urban influences of the time: Islamic revivalism as preached by the Muslim Brotherhood and socialism as advocated by the Egyptian left. While Anwar Al Sadat had been an activist of the Muslim Brotherhood, Jamal Abdul Nasser, Khalid Mohieddine and Jamal Salem were all associated with the left. During his period as a cadet, and later as an officer, Nasser for his part had read Voltaire, Garibaldi, Ataturk, Napoleon, Clausewitz and, according to some, even Marx. They were successful in overthrowing the monarchy of the corrupt king Farouq and tried to carry out radical reforms, especially in the agrarian sector, that dented the authority of the rural oppressor and had a nationalist, antiimperialist, programme.


Paradoxically, with autocratic and rural backgrounds, the Pakistani generals were a different breed. Their vision of the world was some what jaundiced.

But the Americans had different game plan and motives: they wanted to repeat the experiment of the Far East in Pakistan. In South Korea, Hong Kong, Formosa (Now Taiwan), Japan, Singapore and other states and state-lets in South East Asia, they had laid the foundations of relatively sound capitalist economic bases under the jackboot of military dictatorships.

With military brute force US General Douglas McArthur, the Commander of the US military's Eastern Command, carried out extensive land reforms and other steps to develop a base for modern industrial capitalist states. These experiments were successful mainly because most of these states, like Taiwan and South Korea, were bifurcated lands from main countries: China, Korean peninsula and Malaya. Japan also had a certain development and Industrial base in these regions, even before the war. Hence US Imperialism invested under General McArthur's despotic rule, and created a subservient bourgeoisie that was entangled in a thousand straps to ensure that US hegemony over these states remained intact, even after the departure of General McArthur and his forces.

This was to curb the raging tide of red revolution in China and other countries of the region and required substantial capitalist development; America had to put in some of the surplus it had accumulated, mainly from the labour of the US proletariat during the war years. This investment was necessary to maintain the political, military, diplomatic and strategic hegemony of US Imperialism in the post war period of the cold war. The Stalinists in China who headed the regime after the 1949 revolution also facilitated this process through their narrow, nationalist approach. The despotic regime of General McArthur also removed some of the remaining feudal impediments to this process, such as the monarchy in Japan, etc. This was to create modern nation states.

Ayub Khan

In Pakistan it was not to be. Even today some of the bourgeois politicians are fond of raising this option of the 'miracle' of the Asian tigers although after the 1990's crash they are not much of an example to boast about. In Pakistan this process was initiated through Robert McNamara, who had been the World Bank President and US Secretary of Defence in the 1960s. He was the main instructor of Field Marshal Ayub Khan in formulating and executing these policies, by means of the jackboots of the Pakistani Generals. The blue print of the plan for the Green Revolution and the land reforms was drawn up in Washington. The motive of US policy in Pakistan was the same as those in East and South East Asia: to curb and quell any revolutionary wave in the region. But in Pakistan this had the opposite effect; instead of preventing, this pattern of capitalist development actually provoked revolution. One of the most significant outcomes of partition was a geopolitical situation of the period, where revolutionary waves were charging all around the sub-continent and had started to dominate the Independence struggle in spite of the Hindu/Muslim bourgeois political leadership. .

In his autobiography, 'Friends not masters' Ayub devotes a whole chapter on the first military coup in Pakistan. In this chapter, he tried to interpret this coup as a revolution and not a coup. But also his apprehensions on the ramifications are very evident. He wrote:

“Another worry I had was how, if the Army once got drawn into political life and this seemed inevitable how it could withdraw itself from the situation. The outside world was going to interpret the action of the Army in terms of the coup d'etat which frequently occurred in certain other countries. This would have had a damaging effect on the image and reputation of Pakistan. A well organized, trained and disciplined army would find it distasteful to be turned into an instrument for securing political power. But as conditions were, the army alone could act as a coercive force and restore normalcy… Revolutions take long and painstaking preparations, detailed planning, clandestine meetings and countrywide movement of troops. In our case, there was very little preparation. It was handled as a military operation. What happened was that a brigade was moved, actually two brigades.”12

The weakness of the Pakistani bourgeoisie has vastly enhanced the role of the army as the arbiter of political power. The civilians are heavily dependent on the army for their rulership. Hence it is not an accident that all the bourgeois politicians, in spite of this endless rhetoric against military rule, always end up allocating greater sums of money for the military during their sham democratic stints than the funds overtly allocated under direct military rule. They are very much aware that, in the final analysis, the institution that protects their exploitative class and system against revolutionary uprisings is the institution of the armed forces of Pakistan.

British influence was gradually displaced after Independence by that of the United States, a reflection of changing political realities on a world scale. In February 1954, USMAAG (United States Military Assistance Advisory Group) was set up in the army GHQ in Rawalpindi; as Pakistan's domestic and external policies had by then become largely subservient to US interests, few politicians were bothered by the fact that there was now a direct link between the army chiefs and the Pentagon. There can be little doubt that the relevant authorities in the United States were fully aware in the late fifties that the Pakistani army was planning a coup d'etat: some years later Ayub's brother, Sardar Bahadur, was to allege that the CIA had been fully involved in the military take-over.

After October 1958, the military chiefs and their civil-service collaborators argued that the coup had been essential in order to save Pakistan from the politicians. It is perfectly true that Pakistani politics was notoriously unstable and the country's parliamentary institutions were in shambles.

These, however, were not the real reasons for the army action. The Pakistani state was not a viable entity; its ruling class was weak. The possibilities of radical advance and mass explosion were built into the very structure of the new state. So the army, with guidance from abroad, decided to circumvent the whole process of obtaining mass consent, substituting itself for a homogeneous ruling class and a strong ruling political party alike. It was aided and abetted by the civil service.

The first phase of the Ayub dictatorship saw the regime attempting a 'cleaning-up' operation: politicians were prosecuted and barred from political activity for several years, trade unions and peasant organizations were banned, and students were warned against initiating or participating in any form of political activity. The progressive chain of newspapers owned by the veteran leftist Mian Iftikhar-ud-Din was taken over by the state, on the grounds that Mian was a 'foreign agent'. This was a severe blow against the left, at a stroke depriving it of its voice and providing the new regime with newspapers under its direct control. At the same time, the military attempted to modernize the country, setting up commissions to prepare recommendations on land reform, education, marriage and family law, pay and services, and a number of other subjects. With the exception of the Family Laws Ordinance (which placed serious restrictions on polygamy and allowed women to sue for divorce), none of the other commissions resulted in any serious reforms.

Domestic and Economic Policy

But this reform could only be realised and exercised by women from the middle and upper classes. Working-class women and destitute sections of society did not have the financial resources or the social acumen to benefit from this reform and these comprised the vast majority of women in Pakistan.

The Pay and Services Commission report did propose a drastic overhauling of the country's civil service, which would have challenged the traditional elitism inherited from the Raj, but this report was conveniently shelved.

The Land Reforms Commission proved to be the biggest disappointment. The reforms proposed and subsequently implemented were designed to preserve the status quo (after making a few cosmetic adjustments). In sharp contrast to the Nasserite reforms in Egypt or the Cardenas agrarian measures in Mexico, the land reforms in Pakistan were actually welcomed by the country's main landlords. Though the ownership ceiling was placed at 500 acres of irrigated and 1,000 acres of unirrigated lands, orchards and cattle-farms were exempted, as were landlords who had gifted some of their land to their heirs or dependants. A leading Sindhi landlord, Mir Ghulam Ali Talpur, declared that the reforms were exceedingly generous 'because of the big heart of the President'. In reality, the reforms evaded the central issue in countryside: the separation of ownership and cultivation. The only equality embodied in the reforms was equality between landlords. Even though limited areas of excess land made available through the reforms were offered to tenants, the latter did not possess the money to make an offer. Since the departure of the Hindu money-lenders, the peasants had had no access to ready cash; landlords had taken over the functions of the money lenders, and the government did not set up rural credit institutions to aid poor peasants.

At the time of the land reforms, 6,000 landlords owned 7.5 million acres of land in estates of 500 acres and over; 2.2 million peasant families owned an average of less than 5 acres per family; 2.5 million peasants owned no land and worked as share-croppers or seasonal workers. This situation was not qualitatively altered by the reforms. As the Pakistan Times pointed out, a few months before it was seized by the army: 'even a conservative body like the Muslim League Land Reform Committee recommended an upper limit of 150 acres of irrigated land.13

The total land surrendered by the landlords was only 6 percent of the total area under cultivation, and it was also the worst land. General Ayub strongly condemned absentee landlords. As a result, many landlords evicted weak tenants and put their retainers or heirs in charge of direct cultivation. The dispossessed tenants joined the growing army of landless labourers.

Thus the new regime failed to alter the basic structure of class relations that prevailed in the countryside, although it did begin to inject government subsidies to raise agricultural output. Capitalist farming was encouraged and the area under cultivation grew. But small farmers were virtually ignored. The main beneficiaries of the 'green revolution' were the big landlords. They were the major recipients of subsidies and loans, and were not required to pay income-tax. Hardly any money was made available to build village schools or rural hospitals and dispensaries; to improve sanitation facilities; or to carry out welfare measures. The rural poor, who comprised the overwhelming majority of the population, received few benefits from the 'green revolution'.

Dramatic economic developments, however, were to take place in the cities. The military made Pakistan a haven for capital investment by removing cumbersome restrictions, particularly by suppressing trade unions. Pakistan had not possessed a capitalist class in 1947. The North Western areas of the subcontinent had not been particularly hospitable to the industrial entrepreneur. It was Bohra and Ismaili Khoja traders from Bombay who were destined to become the agency of Pakistan's limited industrialization. Together with their Chinioti counterparts from the Punjab, the traders became the clients of a powerful civil service. It was the latter, acting on behalf of the new Pakistani state that put into effect a series of measures designed to aid capital formation. Government aid involved supplying cheap machinery, raw materials and interest free loans, while turning a blind eye to large-scale tax evasion.

Immediately after Partition an industries' conference was convened in September 1947 in Karachi to consider the country's future industrial development. On 2 April 1948 the government issued a statement of its industrial policy, setting out the priorities which were prescribed as basic for subsequent industrial development.14

The weakness of the indigenous entrepreneurial class, in addition to the lack of industry, caused the government to play an active role in the promotion and fostering of a class of industrial entrepreneurs. In this respect , Mohammed Ali Jinnah, speaking as the governor-general of Pakistan, set the goals quite clearly in a speech to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce shortly after the industrial policy was issued in April 1948:

“Government will seek to create conditions in which industry and trade may develop and prosper…I would like to call to your particular attention the keen desire of the Government of Pakistan to associate individual initiative and private enterprise at every stage of industrialization…I can no more visualize a Pakistan without traders than I can without cultivators and civil servants. I have no doubt that in Pakistan traders and merchants will always be welcome and that they, in building up their own fortune (…)”15

The government took a variety of measures to promote industrial development and to foster the growth of an industrialist class. In March 1949 the Karachi Stock Exchange was established to provide a broad-based capital market. In September 1949 the Pakistan Industrial Finance Corporation was established for financing private sector industries. Various fiscal incentives were used by the government to encourage private investment in industry.

The New Industrialists

As a more concrete measure, the Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation Act of 1950 (which was implemented in January 1952) provided for the establishment of a corporation that was to take initiative in the field of industry.

It would also, in certain cases, assist private capital in its projects: it was intended that when the projects were completed and successfully in operation, the Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) would transfer the share capital to private investors.

The government suspended the open general license for imports in November 1952, stemming the import of consumer goods, allowing only 'essential' goods and machinery to be imported. All these factors together created conditions for profitable industrial investment in Pakistan.

There followed what has been termed a period of 'austerity and development' during which there was large scale investment in industry. Because of the large differential between the foreign exchange cost and the extremely high domestic prices of imported goods, traders who had import licences made extraordinary windfall profits which then provided them the capital to invest in industry. They were sufficiently assured of a protected domestic market free of any uncertainties over future government policy.

“Throughout the 1950s, new industrialists earned extremely high profits, investing mainly in consumer-goods industries where the entire initial investment could sometimes be recovered within a year. Even during the early 1960s, the profit rate was about 25 to 35 percent of the paid-up capital and net value. During this period and into the 1960s, the government, favouring private ownership, awarded large subsidies and tax concessions to private industry.

“Profits were subject to various exemptions from taxes: these were in the form of 'tax holidays' for certain types of industries in specified geographical areas of the country, accelerated depreciation allowances, various exemptions on reinvested income from both corporation and personal income taxes, etc.. During the 1950's the government invested in a few industries which private enterprise found unattractive on account of technological complexity, high initial outlay and overhead costs or doubtful profitability. But the government embarked on that programme which the declared purpose of selling such industries to private enterprise when it was ready to take these over.”16

By 1958 the momentum of the initial period of growth seemed to be at an end. Stagnation in agricultural production resulted in inadequate food supplies, which meant rising prices and the risk of inflation. The strategy of import substitution through domestic production of consumer goods had come close to the end of its potential.

Ayub Khan's martial law government imposed greater controls to counteract the deteriorating economic and political situation that had preceded their coming to power. Such initial measures caused a short period of uncertainty among investors, but the government soon made it clear that its basic aim was to promote private enterprise. This promotion was to be based primarily on the growth of new industry, which was to be export-oriented and was to be financed through large amounts of foreign aid; it soon began to implement policies designed to secure those ends.

Ayub Khan pointed out that the needs of economic development were such that new countries could not progress under the “strains and stresses of the western democratic systems. Their development, if you study their history carefully, took place under almost a totalitarian system (…)”17

During the 1960s, in keeping with government policy of decontrolling the private sector, the emphasis was more on assistance to private industry, through finance corporations in the form of loans. The Pakistan Industrial Finance Corporation (PIFCO) had already been created for this purpose as early as 1948. The Pakistan Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation (PICIC) was established in 1957, with World Bank assistance, to provide foreign exchange facilities to the larger private enterprises which had been outside PIFCO's realm of activity. In the 1960s, PIFCO was transformed into the Industrial Development Bank of Pakistan (IDBP), which serviced medium-scale industry while PICIC operated in the field of large-scale industry.

In those sectors where private enterprise was still reluctant to invest, despite being offered optimal terms of assistance, the government undertook direct investment in new projects. This was mainly in the capital-goods industry, for creating employment in the industrially underdeveloped areas of Pakistan.

Interests of Capitalism comes before the Interests of the People

PIDC preferred to 'disinvest' by selling its projects to the private sector on very favourable terms. In the absence of any formal procedures for selecting those who were to benefit from the corporation's resources, transfers were made on the basis of political patronage. Thus, handovers were made to those leading industrialists who had cultivated the top bureaucracy.

This relationship between business and bureaucracy resulted in increasing the concentration of wealth in the hands of leading industrial houses of the country, and was in keeping with the government's general policy of rapid industrialization at the expense of social distribution of benefits. The rationale behind such a policy was that, in the overall interest of capital accumulation, it was essential to develop industrial entrepreneurship. It was argued that only high-income groups of investors should be promoted for this purpose, because of their 'high marginal propensity to save'.

The average growth of large-scale manufacturing industry, which had been 16% per annum during the 1950s, continued to be about 15% during the early 1960s. The share of GNP originating in the industrial sector increased from 8.4% during 1954/55-1959/60 to 10.9% during 1959/60-1968/69.

By 1959 twenty-four industrial houses owned 45.9% of the total assets in Pakistan. By 1968 twenty-two families (one of them being Ayub Khan's family) controlled 66% of the country's total industrial capital, 70% of insurance and 80% of banking.18

Government resources continued to flow in favour of leading industrial houses through public finance corporations, because the former had by then strengthened their monopolistic position, both on the boards of the corporations and in the market in general.

Despite the government's professed goal articulated in the Third Plan Period ( 1965-70) to accord special priority to the promotion of capital-goods industries, and its stated desire to provide the required financing, private entrepreneurs continued to invest in only those industries which guaranteed a high rate of return.

In the period 1965-68, 83 % of PICIC loans were sanctioned to the textile (including jute and other fibres) industry, and only 6.6% went to engineering, metal and electrical industries the sectors in which the government had stated it wished to invest at that stage.19

This was due to the concern of Ayub Khan's government that Karachi was receiving too much importance, also resulting in the concentration of a large industrial workforce in that city. In 1954, over 25% of the workers engaged in large-scale manufacturing were employed in Karachi.

Karachi accounted for 40% of industrial employment in 1959-60, 45% 1964-65 and 30% in 1969-70, numbers which assumed greater significance because they constituted the largest single concentration of the organized workforce:

“The government's policy to disperse industry and thus reduce the importance of the few centres where industries were initially concentrated, particularly Karachi, is of obvious importance for a study of the organization of industrial workers since it entails a concomitant regional dispersal of new entrants into the industrial workforce.

“However, it appears that in the long term the dispersal of industrial growth resulted in a much wider impact of the industrial workforce on national politics, notably in the great revolution of 1968-69 that brought down the Ayub regime”.20

Corruption and Oppression

The state had decided to create and strengthen private capitalism in Pakistan, ensuring that the new bourgeoisie would be tied to the coat tails of the bureaucracy. There thus developed a close and mutually profitable relationship between bureaucrats and businessmen; after the 1958 coup the army top brass also entered this relationship, and corruption increased manifold. While the army and bureaucracy exercised political power, the capitalists exercised economic power. Profits increased, but real wages in manufacturing industry declined drastically, as the working class grew in size in the industrial centres of Karachi, Lyallpur, Lahore, Rawalpindi and other cities.

Although the period under Ayub Khan seems to be relatively quiet compared to the chequered history of Pakistan, yet it was far from establishing any real stability in society: it was a brutal, repressive regime which committed several atrocities, especially against the left-wing. The notoriety of the Mughal Shahi Fort at Lahore, used as a torture centre by the Ayub dictatorship, is well established in modern times.

The most infamous incident to gain publicity was the incarceration and gruesome murder in 1964 of Hasan Nasir, a leader of the Communist Party of Pakistan, by the military rulers. Several other political and trade union activists were also tortured and brutalised in the dungeons of this sinister fort.

But torture was far more widespread: the police were unleashed in every nook and cranny of the country to execute its brutalities, especially against the political opponents and dissidents of Ayub's dictatorship. Bribery and corruption was rampant in the bureaucracy, and among the police it was so notorious that it became a social norm. The system of 'basic democracies' was also introduced by this dictatorship to 'depoliticize' society while pretending to take democracy to the grass roots. Ever since, every subsequent Military dictator in Pakistan has followed this same course to perpetuate its own rule. In the first presidential elections on 2 January 1965 the modus operandi was also these 'basic democracies'. Incidentally, even these tightly-controlled and easy-to-rig Presidential elections became a headache for Ayub Khan. The foxy feudal politicians who had been discarded by the Ayub dictatorship played a cunning trick on him. They put up Miss Fatima Jinnah, the old frail sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, as the opposition's joint candidate against Ayub Khan. She had been very prominent with Jinnah during his public appearances and was his companion for a long time after his wife had left him.

Let's have a War

Although Ayub Khan 'comfortably' won the presidential election, the blatant rigging was too exposed to the masses to be covered up the propaganda churned out by the State machinery and the official media.

The discontent seething under the surface began to come to the fore; the calm of the corridors of power began to shatter; the unease was palpable amongst the strategists of the regime. They were so baffled by this 'unexpected' stirring in society that they embarked upon another more dangerous misadventure in order to deviate the attention of the masses, who were beginning to question the credibility and existence of the regime. They decided to make an incursion into Kashmir and provoke a conflict with India. Some even had the audacity to imagine that they would capture Kashmir to give the regime a solid foundation. In the words of Clausewitz it was “the continuation of politics by other, violent means”.

They intended to divert the domestic conflict on to the foreign front. Some were so naive that they imagined the war zone would be restricted to the disputed border within Kashmir. It turned out to be a fully-fledged war between India and Pakistan that spread to the so-called International Borders. The war of September 1965 was a seventeen day affair, and, as in every war, the first casualty was truth.

It is difficult to imagine who really won the war. After the ceasefire, brokered for a change by the Soviet diplomacy, both India and Pakistan claimed victory. In reality Pakistan being a weaker state had suffered greater ramifications of this destruction, both on the economy and in the stability of the state itself. The crisis above had already enhanced tensions amongst the ruling elite, and the war itself led to an even greater discord amongst the different factions of the regime. The most significant was the aggravation of the conflict between Ayub Khan and his blue-eyed-boy, the most able of his lieutenants, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

This parting of ways became evident even during the parlays between Ayub Khan's cabinet team and the Indian delegation led by Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri at Tashkent, where the negotiations were taking place under the supervision of the Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin, and Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. Bhutto later called the Tashkent accord an outright sell out of Pakistan's sovereignty by Ayub Khan. This break up with Bhutto was to prove fatal for Ayub Khan; it was one of the main factors that had led to his demise.


It is said that revolutions emerge from the wombs of wars. The national and social chauvinism pent up by the war hysteria, and the patriotism inculcated in the minds of the masses, was short-lived. The burden of war devastation, as in every capitalist society, was borne by the working classes and the impoverished masses. Social and political opposition and resistance started to emerge, in the beginning, amongst the unemployed graduates and students. They started burning their professional degrees as a result of their extreme frustration at the unemployment and social distress which they faced, even in a rather rapidly growing economy.

In many ways the September 1965 war became a significant factor in triggering the 1968-69 revolution. The war inevitably took its toll on the economy and further aggravated the burgeoning gap between economic growth and social development. The strong economic growth and industrial and infrastructural development under Ayub Khan's regime, and its incapability to develop society simultaneously, once again proved the historical inability of the neo colonial bourgeoisie to complete the tasks of the National Democratic Revolution.

The Pakistani bourgeoisie could not have imagined better conditions: infrastructural and financial support of the state along with such favourable trade conditions and tariff barriers. The list of state facilitation is a very long one. Yet they failed to carry through the agrarian revolution and abolish feudalism, create a genuine nation state and resolve the national question through an equitable integration, or give a secular character to the state and establish a genuine parliamentary democracy through adult franchise. The whole pattern of industrial and social development, in this 'decade of reforms', was of a strikingly uneven and combined nature; they had failed to create national sovereignty and break out of the imperialist stranglehold. All the government had done was to expose its own weakness and corruption. Their inability to become a progressive class was evident in their necessity to form alliances with the remnants of feudalism and religious obscurantism, and their dependence on Imperialism. Such a ruling class was fated to be doomed by history. The 1968-69 revolution almost did it.

One of the positive aspects of the industrial development under Ayub Khan was the arrival of a fresh and virgin proletariat on to the arena of history. The relative absence of major trade unions and established trade unionism was also an important factor. Such established trade unions were routinely accompanied by corruption and conciliatory opportunism, always an impediment to the revolutionary development of the proletariat. The trade unions that the revolution threw up were of a totally different character, although they acquired the same classical trade union role when the revolution was derailed, the tide ebbed, and normalcy was restored.

These workers, mainly from villages and suburban areas, were sucked in by rapid industrialisation, the crises in rural farming, and the slow and sporadic mechanisation of the agriculture sector. However, industry and advanced technology gave them new insight and brought out the innovative skills of their untarnished minds. They had not yet suffered betrayal by their trade union and political leaders; the complexities of compromise had not convulsed their thoughts. Their consciousness was rising at lightening speed, and when they realised that the only way forward for them was a collective struggle for collective gains, they plunged into the erupting volcano of the revolution.

This virgin proletariat was the product of relatively rapid development. Karl Marx said in his epic work on the 1857 Indian War of Independence: “by laying every mile of the Railway track and telegraph the British Imperialism was digging its own grave”. The same observation could equally be applied to the industrial development under the Ayub Khan regime. These contradictions of the lag of the social development with economic growth exploded into 'The 1968-69 Revolution'.

It is a historical fact that Pakistan's highest and the fastest growth was during the rule of Ayub Khan, when more industrialisation took place than during any other regime. In the year of the revolution the growth rate of the economy was 9.1%, the highest Pakistan has ever experienced. These high growth rates and the industrialisation process were not due to the wonders of military rule: there were a number of totally different factors involved. Mainly it coincided with the boom in the West and the spin-off effects of the upswing of World Capitalism, which gave the Pakistani rulers room to manoeuvre. At that time they could adopt Keynesianism and state intervention in the economy was quite significant.

Pakistan's growth was to become a reference point for US economists 'advising' other neo-colonial regimes, a 'model' for the rest of the third world and a shining example of free enterprise.

Yet there was nothing free about this enterprise it was state subsidies and protection which enabled capitalism to establish itself. Where this was insufficient the state established factories (through bodies such as the Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation) and subsequently offered them to private capitalists at 'reasonable prices'. This process was labelled as 'Harvard's Development Advisory Service'. Papanek affectionately referred to Pakistan's fledgling bourgeoisie as 'robber barons', and defended the growing exploitation which accompanied their progress. In what might seem an unconscious parody of Lewis Caroll, Papanek acknowledged the rising inequalities in his Wonderland, but wrote: “Inequalities in income contribute to the growth of economy which makes possible a real improvement for the lower income groups”.21 The social explosions which ended Ayub's rule were to prove Professor Papanek wrong.

The Harvard advisers gravely underestimated the damage being done to Pakistani agriculture in the same period that funds were pouring into industry. Moreover, two-thirds of capital investment in West Pakistan came from outside the country, as a stable military regime induced foreign investors to help the growth of indigenous capital.

The policies of the military regime led to an incredible concentration of wealth in the country. When the country's economists began to assemble in 1964 to discuss a third five-year plan, they were gripped by the realization that Papanek's plaudits could not conceal the stagnation of real income so far as the bulk of the population was concerned. Dr. Mahbubul Haq, chief economist of the Planning Commission, revealed a set of figures which startled the country. He stated that 66% of the country's industrial capital was in the hands of twenty-two families, Dawood, Adamjee, Saigols, Valika, Bhimjee, Dinshaw, Fancy, Marker, Isphani and Habib being the most prominent. At the same time, the draft outlines of the third plan showed that the real condition of the economy did not give much reason for optimism. Growth of the national income and economic expansion had gone side-by-side with deterioration in the living standards of the mass of the population, whose food consumption had actually declined over the preceding five years.

In the towns, the army and the bureaucracy had helped to create a monstrous millionaire elite on the basis of intensive and large scale exploitation, while in the countryside they had similarly concentrated on promoting the interests of landlords and capitalist farmers at the expense of peasants and landless labourers.

Any attempt by the people to challenge this state of affairs was met by repression. In the urban areas, all trade-union activity was kept firmly under control. There were a number of reasons for the slow growth of trade unionism: acceptance by many workers on the shop-floor, who had only recently entered the factories of a tenant-landlord, was one factor. Also significant were official co-optation and repression. The bureaucrats of company unions were encouraged by the state, while local bureaucrats aided factory-owners in victimising those who tried to organize representative unions. During the Ayub years, all strikes were outlawed and many union leaders were put on the regime's payroll. But there is an important objective reason for the weakness of trade-unionism in Pakistan. The existence of a very large pool of unemployed labour does not facilitate strong unions. In the countryside, meanwhile, the combined powers of the bureaucracy and the landlords ensured the passivity of the tenants.

On the development front, the regime's much vaunted 'tube-well revolution' benefited only the rural rich. Instead of being geared to planned investment in rural infrastructure, social welfare, and producer technologies, the Pakistan economy was geared to the consumption habits of the urban upper class, which lay behind the country's topsy-turvy imports policy.

Capitalism in Pakistan was not an independent, developing system, but a very dependent client of the major capitalist powers, unable to finance its investment plans without massive foreign aid.

Industrial growth had two major consequences for Pakistan: it highlighted the differences between East and West, and it led to a rapid increase in the size of the working class in the cities.

The Pakistani ruling class was so busy congratulating itself that it was blind to the political developments which would soon threaten the entire fabric of the State.

At least in Asia the 1968-69 uprising in Pakistan was unprecedented for almost two decades. And in the world scenario it came close to a social revolution, the success of which could have had scintillating effects far beyond South Asia.


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1Ayub Khan, Diaries of Ayub Khan 1966-72, Wednesday 16th October 1967 (Oxford), p. 273

2Letters of Iqbal to Jinnah (Lahore 1942)

3Collins and Lapierre, Freedom at Midnight, p. 285

4Dawn, Karachi 12 August 1947

5Technical Assistance: Final Report of Committee on Foreign Relations, Washington, 12 March 1957

6Zafar Shaheed, The Labour Movement in Pakistan (Oxford 2007), p. 25

7Technical Assistance: Final Report of Committee on Foreign Relations, Washington, 12 March 1957

8Tariq Ali, Can Pakistan Survive?, p. 56

9 Pakistan Times, 16 May 1958

10 Tariq Ali, Can Pakistan Survive?, p. 63

11 The British papers 1958-69 (Oxford), p. 49

12 Ayub Khan, 'Friends not masters', p. 71

13 Pakistan Times, Lahore, 26 January 1959

14 The industrial policy of 1948 is reprinted in Arnold 1955, as Appendix III, pp. 283-8

15 Zafar Shaheed, The Labour Movement in Pakistan (Oxford 2007), p. 18

16 Zafar Shaheed, The Labour Movement in Pakistan (Oxford 2007), p. 20

17 Zafar Shaheed, The Labour Movement in Pakistan (Oxford 2007), p. 25

18 Business Recorder, 25 April 1968

19 IBRD 1970: Vol III, p. 63

20 Zafar Shaheed, The Labour Movement in Pakistan (Oxford 2007), p. 24

21 Gustav F. Papanek, Pakistan's Development, (Harvard 1967)