The State of Pakistan: L. F. Rushbrook Williams. Faber & Faber, 25s. 254 pp.

One of the most remarkable feats of the Ayub Regime was its—even if only temporary—success in projecting a radical image at home and abroad, while in fact pursuing policies calculated to stabilise an essentially backward social situation. Popular opposition to the regime is now making itself felt once more; the illusions have not survived the harsh experience of regressive and oppressive policies. But the very fact that widespread illusions did exist for a time, underlines the failure of the Pakistani left to educate itself and the Pakistani people about the processes which have determined our social and political evolution. The series of upheavals and political experiments which have marked the brief span of our history have, however, brought into sharp relief many underlying problems which invite systematic analysis—not only in order to clarify aspects of our own political development, but also because they may have some relevance to other underdeveloped countries with a similar background. The book under review, while it makes no contribution to an understanding of these issues, may at least serve as a convenient starting point to identify some of the problems.

Rushbrook Williams’ much-publicised The State of Pakistan has been eagerly awaited by a grateful, if now tottering regime. It turns out to be a patchy and uneven survey of Pakistan’s political history, and a panegyric on the Ayub regime, desceibed as “Revolution and Renaissance”. Nearly half of the book is devoted to the cold war with India and Afghanistan, whose paid agents get the entire credit for political opposition to the Ayub regime in Pakistan. The rest of the book is a convenient summary of the propaganda material which has been turned out by the Ayub regime. The author unceasingly reminds us of his long association with political movements in India and Pakistan and of his close personal relationship with the men who have occupied the positions of power in Pakistan. But any hopes that this position of confidence would be reflected in the provision of interesting original material are swiftly dissipated.

“The time has not yet come”, says Rushbrook Williams, “to set down the complete story of the chain of events which finally precipitated the Army’s action.” Significantly, amongst the circumstances which preceded the coup d’etat of 1958, he mentions that the army “knew that a formidable agrarian revolt against landlord tyranny and economic oppression would soon break out.” He also adds that “General Ayub Khan found himself unexpectedly confronted with conclusive proof that a coup d’etat, of the kind which brought General Kassim into control of Iraq, was being prepared. Such a move if it had been permitted to mature would have involved the entire country in bloodshed, and profited no one but the Communists.” So Ayub conferred with Mirza and Operation Overlord, the assumption of control over Pakistan by the Army, was carried out swiftly and efficiently.

The actual prospect of an “agrarian revolt” breaking out at that time is perhaps a matter for speculation. But it is true that agrarian unrest had reached an unprecedented level and was giving powerful assistance to left-wing political parties in their campaign for a General Election, long overdue. Rushbrook Williams scarcely mentions this fact. The right-wing parliamentarians, isolated from the masses, were certainly not enthusiastic about an election. But they were not men who wielded any real power in the country. They were only a convenient front behind which real power was exercised by men like Ghulam Mohammed and Iskander Mirza and their colleagues of the bureaucracy, backed by Ayub and the Generals. The so-called “revolution” of 1958 was not a revolution in any sense at all. It was the destruction of the apparatus of constitutional government after it had become clear that a new force threatened to emerge which would no longer allow the ruling Bureaucracy and the Generals to manipulate a parliamentary facade as easily as they had done before.

The situation in Pakistan has now turned a full circle. Initial popular enthusiasm, fostered by the radical image of the new regime and confirmed by the sacking of the old politicians, soon turned into disillusion as the actual policies of the regime unfolded. Now, in the face of growing opposition, Ayub has little alternative but to rehabilitate his old parliamentary allies, whose support he once more desperately needs. His dilemma is that those who still carry some degree of popular support will not forgive him easily. They are also holding out for a greater share of real power.

In line with the current rehabilitation, Rushbrook Williams devotes a good deal of space to emphasising the “solid achievements (of) Pakistan during the first decade of her existence.” He examines the “Political Record” of the principal figures on the political scene and produces a catalogue of their virtues. “The men who controlled Pakistan during the period of her decline were certainly no worse than their ‘opposite numbers’ who came to power in other newly-liberated countries in South-East Asia; indeed, in many respects they were superior. Under their rule, for all its deficiencies, Pakistan continued to make progress in a wide variety of fields. It was partly their misfortune as well as their fault, that they forfeited the confidence of their countrymen, and that their shortcomings were publicly exposed with pitiless clarity in a surge of national indignation”. Their weakness, according to Rushbrook Williams, was only that they lacked “the toughness, resilience and imperiousness to hold . . . (their) . . . own.” Until “the advent of the Revolutionary Government in 1958”, says the author, “Pakistan lacked a leader of unquestioned national statute . . . (who) . . . enjoys the confidence of both the elite and the masses . . . (who) . . . can commit errors himself with impunity, because (of) the confidence he enjoys from the Nation at large . . .” The role of such a leader is seen as a dual one. First, the leader must “bridge the gap between the rulers and the ruled”, to hold the loyalty of the masses and to insulate them from “disruptive” forces and ideas—i.e. to neutralise them politically. A second, complementary role is to enable the administrative services to “put up a most effective resistance to any attempt at interference with their duties by political pressure.”