DAWN, Karachi, Pakistan
3rd June, 1999


War clouds: an opportunity for unity

Shamim Shamsi

THE current hostilities may be taken as a continuation of the ones
which started before the September 1965 war, during the late Ayub
Khan’s presidentship. Those were the days when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was
the foreign minister with a distinguished diplomat, Aziz Ahmed, as the
foreign secretary, and General Musa as the commander-in-chief of the

It was later that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as chief of the government, took
two major steps. One: he reorganized the armed forces’ administrative
setup. The commander-in-chief was designated as Chief of Army Staff
(COAS), and all the three forces were made independent. Another step he
took was to give the I.S.I. its political charter in addition to its
security duty. Thereafter, the agency became more active.

We will not discuss the role of I.S.I. here, for it is being taken up
by the apex court these days, but would confine ourselves to the
current situation in which two Indian planes were downed prior to Yaum-

Allama Shah Ahmed Noorani, chief of the Jamiat Ulema-i- Pakistan, was
repeatedly asked by reporters as to what would be the outcome if a war
involving atomic bombs broke out between the two arch-enemies, whose
long border stretches from Karachi to Kashmir. His reply was straight
forward. There was no question of an atomic war because it would be
disastrous for both the countries in case either chose to push the bomb

The September 1965 war was started with the assumption that India would
not cross the international border and the fight would remain confined
to the disputed territory. But the decision of bringing General Akhter
Malik back and replacing him with Yahya Khan, at the Akhnoor sector,
proved erroneous for Pakistan as the war was lost then and there. The
rest was just a formality. The game ended in just 17 days. War has
always been seen as disastrous for any adventurer for its after-effects
are always harmful. Both India and Pakistan are poor states, and the
race for weapons, started by Atal Behari Vajpayee on May 11, 1998 at
Pokhran, cannot be predicted where it would end. Pakistan is justified
in countering the Indian threats, and the decision of downing the two
planes at the LoC cannot be questioned.

Maulana Noorani congratulated the army and the air force (although the
air force was not involved) for their swift and timely action and even
called this as “gift” for the Takbeer day.

On the Takbeer day there was great fervour among the PML, Jamaat-i-
Islami, Jamiat Ulemi-i-Pakistan, in Sukkur and other parts of the
division. However, three prominent parties, surprisingly, distanced
themselves from the celebrations in the Sukkur division and this was
marked by the general public. These were the PPP, the ANP and the MQM.

The MQM, led by Salim Bandhani, MPA, appeared to be more engaged in
relief-work for the cyclone-hit people of Badin and Thatta and had
taken a lead by setting up a camp and dispatching a truck to those
areas. The PPP came in second. They put up a camp at the Clock Tower
Chowk. The ANP does not have much of a presence here, though they have
a stronghold in the NWFP and Karachi.

Mr Noorani has totally distanced himself from the JI-led movement these
days, and has strongly opposed launching of any movement aimed at
destabilizing the government, as he viewed them to be potentially
detrimental for the country.

He also hit at Benazir Bhutto’s statement, in the United States,
calling upon Mr Clinton to stop providing aid to Pakistan. What kind of
sincerity is Benazir Bhutto showing towards Pakistan? He questioned. Is
she opposed to Nawaz Sharif or opposed to Pakistan? Mr Noorani
inquired. Pakistan has to live with honour and political differences
must remain on an individual level and no harm should come to the

Jamaat-i-Islami is very excited these days for leading political
groups, for it knows that the PPP has been sidelined because of the
hardships Asif Zardari is facing and the cases of the Ehtesab bench
against Ms Benazir Bhutto. The PPP does not seem likely to come out of
hot waters in the immediate future, at least. However, the Millat Party
of Farooq Leghari and Tahrik-i-Insaf of Imran Khan, and “Tonga parties”
of the Nawabzada, and Chattha, and the PPP minus BB, including the one-
time lion of Punjab, Ghulam Mustafa Khar, may gather around Qazi
Hussain Ahmed for starting a campaign against Mr Nawaz Sharif.

But people may not have forgotten or forgiven the JI, which had
launched a campaign against the former Governor of Punjab, Mr Khar, for
the kidnapping two girl students and keeping them in the Governor
House, Lahore. And during his tenure, their MNA, Dr Nazeer Ahmed, was
killed at his Dera Ghazi Khan clinic.

The Jamaat lost its mass support immediately after the PNA Tehrik. They
joined hands with Ziaul Haq just to get eight ministries, in which the
party had its lion’s share of four of them, including Prof Ghafoor
Ahmed as Production Minister and former Information Minister, Mahmood
Azam Farooqi. In those days the Jamaat was led by Mian Tufail Muhammad,
who has now become a critic of Qazi’s policies, since 1992 when the
party changed its stance towards Nawaz Sharif, turning against him.

The impression gathered from Maulana Noorani’s press talk, here, was
that he was not prepared to associate with the JI-led Tehrik against Mr
Nawaz Sharif at the moment.

The euphoria, created by the one-dayers in England and the downing of
two planes in AJK, may further heighten in the coming days as the BJP
may launch more offensives in order to win popularity of their voters
for the coming elections.

Local PML leaders here, Abid Shah Musavi, and Jai Jai Veshnu are
confident that the Nawaz-led government was capable of countering the
All Parties Conference of the opposition on the pattern of former
President Ayub Khan.

Leaders like late Chaudhri Muhammad Ali, Sardar Shaukat Hayat, Maulana
Abul Ala Moudoodi, Nawabzadah Nasrullah, and later Arif Iftikhar and
Khan Wali Khan did not hold any reservations during those crucial days,
and joined hands with Ayub Khan to prove to India that the nation was
united to face the enemy.

Similarly when Bhutto was leaving for Simla to sign the accord, with
late Indira Gandhi, he was seen off at Lahore by Chaudhri Zahoor Elahi.