September Special

Pakistan's External Challenges: Unflinching Resolve of the Pakistani Nation Since 1947

The first external challenges the yet-to-be born Pakistan faced were negotiating independence from colonial Britain and the Hindu majority.
The objective of the Congress leaders was to deny the Muslims independence. When reluctantly they were forced to agree to the demand for a Muslim homeland, they hoped it would not be viable and soon fail. Throughout India has worked with the objective to weaken Pakistan, to disintegrate it, to bring it into the four corners of Akhand Bharat – undivided India. Until then to dominate and manage Pakistan while occupying much of Kashmir and treating all its Muslims as untrustworthy second-class citizens. Indian hostile objectives predated and distorted partition. This challenge has shaped Pakistan’s response, its foreign policy, and the people’s response since then.

How did the challenge evolve and how did the nation respond? What are the lessons that can be drawn going forward? Our country is a prime example of the historian Arnold Toynbee’s theory of challenge and response. If the challenge facing a civilization is too great, then the struggle to survive leaves no room to develop. Conversely, if there is hardly any challenge, there is no spur to change. Progress comes out of the crucible of facing and overcoming the challenges.
It can truly be said that from pre-partition we were faced with security problems in the making, which upon partition accentuated manifold. That many of our internal issues since then have arisen to a large degree from the adverse economic knock-on effect of these external challenges on our socioeconomic development. This situation could well have been mitigated and managed, through better, more focused economic and development policies, political stability and governance, to give our foreign policy and defence capabilities more solid support. 
When we look back at our past we usually think of the trauma when partition took place, the sacrifices made, the unflinching resolve to overcome adverse internal and external difficulties. But we have to go back to see how a conspiracy unfolded. This is not to lament like a Greek chorus that we were unfairly treated, that there was no justice.  We know the world is not fair or just. But we need to know how against our peoples’ interests the timeframe for partition was telescoped, how a better foundation was torpedoed, how the boundaries of what should have been West and East Pakistan were reduced, and how by handing over a Muslim majority district to India it was given safe passage to access and occupy a large part of Muslim majority Kashmir.
The Cabinet Mission Plan proposed three autonomous units: The North East comprising the Provinces of Bengal and Assam; the North West with Punjab, the Frontier, Balochistan and Sindh; and the Centre comprising the remaining provinces. These zones would be knit into a Federation responsible for defence, foreign affairs, currency, communications, and federal finance. After ten years the first and second zone or both could opt out of the Federation and become independent. The Muslim League accepted the Plan as it would have given time to consolidate, and an undivided Punjab with Gurdaspur would deny India that vital route to Kashmir. The League did press for a veto in vital affairs at the Centre. However, Pandit Nehru torpedoed the plan publically stating that once in place the majority could change the agreed conditions and not allow any secession.
Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on behalf of the Muslim League was facing and negotiating not only with the unsympathetic British, and their even more hostile Viceroy Mountbatten, but also with the Congress Party under Mr.  Nehru, who unknown to him was colluding with the Viceroy.
The Transfer of Power papers reveal that Nehru proposed to the Viceroy that India be given 12 districts of the 29 districts in Punjab, which were not named, which should be cleared with Mr. Jinnah but without informing him that the suggestion came from Nehru.
Cyril Radcliffe, with no experience of India, was brought in to map the division of Punjab and Bengal and to chair both boundary commissions.  In his initial administrative maps, he allocated the Ferozepur tehsil with its headworks, and the district of Gurdaspur, which otherwise would provide India road access to Kashmir, to Pakistan. The only fair and feasible manner of demarcating contiguous Muslim and non-Muslim areas was at the sub-district or tehsil level. By that yardstick Gurdaspur district, the Ajnala tehsil of Amritsar, the Ferozepur and Zira tehsils of Ferozepur district, and the Nakodar and Jullundur tehsils of Jullundur district should have been allocated to Pakistan. In fact, based on the 1941 census and the higher Muslim rate of birth, even Amritsar –  the commercial hub of East Punjab – should have gone to Pakistan.
On July 15, 1947 in Lahore, before the two sides in the Punjab Boundary Commission had yet filed their written submissions and made oral representations, Radcliffe disclosed he was to make a general aerial survey the next day. In the event the weather prevented this survey but the Muslim League commission member who was to accompany him was told by the pilot that he had been directed to fly east just beyond Pathankot where the River Ravi debouches into the plains, and then follow the river westwards to a point in the Lahore district, then left in a south-westerly direction. Not a general aerial survey it was clear but a definite boundary line. The senior Muslim league commission member was refused permission by the Quaid to resign in protest. On August 8 in Delhi he was tasked on behalf of the Quaid to apprise Lord Ismay, Chief of the Viceroy’s staff, of the serious consequences of such a boundary. Ismay – who had just met Radcliffe – disingenuously professed ignorance and continued in that vein when the senior member showed him that the map in that very room had a pencil-drawn line following the boundary reported to the Quaid.
It was a dark conspiracy, as the Quaid correctly termed it later, between Mountbatten and Nehru and his lieutenants, to ensure that the award was changed in favour of India. 
On August 14 the West Pakistan government issued a notification for a District Commissioner for Gurdaspur, Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad Cheema, who took charge on that day. However, to Pakistan’s dismay the Boundary Commission award, finalized on August 9, was deliberately withheld by Mountbatten and announced on August 17 after the Independence of both countries; with Gurdaspur going to India and setting the stage for the conflict in Kashmir which continues. Calcutta was similarly given to India rather than to East Pakistan.
India launched a number of actions to weaken Pakistan. First of all, a security threat by invading and occupying a large part of the overwhelmingly Muslim majority territory of Kashmir. Secondly, by supporting Afghanistan to claim a large part of NWFP so that we face a two-front threat. Thirdly, denying Pakistan its agreed share of assets of finances, cash balances, arms and military equipment. Fourthly, by inciting massacres of Muslims to push the maximum number who survived into Pakistan to over-burden the already strained resources and to create ethnic imbalances that they hoped would destabilize on a long-term basis. Fifthly, threatening to divert Pakistan’s vital lower riparian water flows. These security threats persist.
In June 1947 before the Partition of British India, in a novel though unjustified approach, the Afghans sent a démarche to the British referring to the claims of history and demanding the return of FATA and most of the NWFP under the doctrine of the lapse of paramountcy. It was forcefully rejected inter alia with the remark that if the claims of history were to be evoked the boundaries of India lay at the Hindu Kush. On July 1, the British Government informed Kabul that the latter’s representation related to an integral part of India recognized by the Afghans in the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1921. On July 31, the Quaid’s press statement regarding goodwill towards tribesmen was received favourably by them. The shadow Pakistan Foreign Secretary Ikramullah put up a note with a speech for the Quaid which he delivered soon after Independence, promising the inhabitants of FATA that they were part of Pakistan and would no longer be garrisoned as by the British. The garrisons in Wana and Razmak were soon withdrawn.
Foreseeing the Afghan reaction, the Quaid sent Nawabzada Saidullah Khan as his personal representative to Kabul and from September 25 to October 20, 1947, he had discussions with the King, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and other high Afghan officials. When the UN voted to admit Pakistan, only Afghanistan, on September 30, cast a negative vote. We still remember but lacking an institutional memory forget the corollary that within a few days, on October 20, Afghanistan spoke in the UN to withdraw its vote on the plea that it had been engaged with discussions relating to NWFP, through diplomatic channels, referring to the special envoy’s mission to Kabul. On October 23 Nawabzada Saidullah received a note from the Afghan Foreign Minister expressing the desire to set up an Embassy in Karachi and hoping that a Pakistan Embassy would be established in Kabul. Pakistan has always had a proactive foreign policy supported by a proactive Foreign Service.
When the Quaid proposed in October 1947 to send two Brigades into Kashmir Field Marshal Auchinleck flew in to dissuade him, threatening to withdraw all British officers including the then Pakistan Army Chief, General Gracey. Notwithstanding, still few military officers took leave and went to Kashmir to join the unequal struggle to support the Kashmiris fighting to free themselves from the Hindu Maharaja’s despotic rule and to join Pakistan.
In August 1948 the Pakistan Army entered Kashmir and in December of that year launched Operation Venus in the Naushera-Beri Patan area deploying an infantry and a tank brigade in a thrust aimed at severing the Indian line of communication to Poonch Valley. The heavy bombardment of the Beri Patan bridge led to India calling the next day for a ceasefire at the United Nations which came into effect on the night of December 31, 1948/January 1, 1949. It’s a moot point that Pakistan went along rather than first carrying out its objective.
Similarly, in the 1965 War when the 4 Corps Artillery under Brigadier Amjad Chaudhary had reduced Chhamb and Jaurian with Akhnoor lying open, according to few accounts, the change of command from General Akhtar Malik, a soldier’s soldier and the planner of Operation Grand Slam, to General Yahya Khan, and the ensuing tardiness and delay deprived Pakistan of its best opportunity to significantly interdict Indian troops. Pakistani planners had assessed that with India’s military forging ahead, 1965 was a one-time opportunity to change the status quo. It was an ambitious and bold plan. In military affairs he who dares may not always win but he who never dares never gets anywhere.
In 1971 conflicting orders from the President to fight on or otherwise to the Governor and his military commanders in East Pakistan prevented the military from regrouping and holding on in and around Dhaka as a redoubt which would have enabled the ongoing negotiations in the UN Security Council to extract the military with their arms along with civilian officers. I saw that as part of our delegation to the Security Council at that time.
Much has been written about the pros and cons about Kargil but it was a surprise and an innovative move to do a reverse Siachen on India. One point which is seldom discussed is that the LoC has always been an active border with India often trying to take tactical and sometimes strategic territorial advantage. We should have used this plea and pressed hard due to this status of LoC.
The very formation of Pakistan was a tremendous achievement. The Muslim community in the subcontinent had to overcome the opposition of the ruling British colonial power and the unyielding hostility of the majority Hindu community. Once independent, it had to make do with skeletal civil services, seven million traumatised refugees, no industrial base, a small ill-equipped military, and hostile neighbours on both sides with irredentist claims. Many foreign observers and neighbours assessed that the security and economic challenges were so huge that the new country would not survive. Yet Pakistan survived and prospered. Labelling the country as being at the edge of chaos (and a failing state) has been periodically revived by many observers across the years. Reality is different. Yes, challenges persist: external as well as internal. The record of successive governments and their leadership has been mixed.
As Pakistan’s industrial base was being built up, and infrastructure augmented, its democratic consciousness deepened. The country’s workforce contributed to the process of nation-building as technical expertise got better, while the remittances of overseas Pakistanis have bolstered the home economy, and the middle class expanded significantly.
Despite the country being dismembered in 1971, Pakistan rebounded, enhanced its regional and international relevance, and was looked up to in the Muslim world as the champion of its causes and a strong military power. The fact that two independent Muslim nations continued on India’s flanks was a reaffirmation of the ‘Pakistan Resolution’ which was initially envisaged as a call for two independent states – albeit later through a special session of AIML in 1946, demand of one state was reaffirmed.
The tragic events of 1971 imbued policymakers with dedication that this must never happen again. Though unfairly targeted in 1974, Pakistan overcame all sanctions and restraints to become a nuclear power, utilizing a technological path unmatched by any nuclear power for its first test. A nuclear capability not only pivotal to peace and security in South Asia but whose peaceful uses are contributing to electricity generation in this fossil-fuel deficit country, and providing no-cost nuclear diagnosis and treatment annually to 800,000 cancer patients.
This nuclear capability with its deterrence has led to strategic stability in South Asia. Deterrence is not static and has to adapt as the threat level changes. The projection of nuclear deterrence itself and being a responsible nuclear power is itself a challenge. While nuclear capability is Pakistan’s shield, it should also be clear that its conventional capability is similarly a credible deterrent. In the early 2000s when a significant force was moved to the Afghan frontier it was thought by India that by building up and stationing battle groups on the border with a rapid thrust capability would enable it to fight and gain territory under the nuclear overhang. But apart from an expanded range of nuclear options, the Pakistan military redeployed and reconfigured its troops and dispositions to be able to take care of such potential threats. As a nuclear power we must have the self confidence to “speak softly and carry a big stick”.
On the geopolitical front, the American-sponsored jihad to remove Soviet troops from Afghanistan depended upon Pakistan’s support but left a legacy of extremism, narcotics trade, and arms smuggling; apart from nine million refugees from Afghanistan of whom 1.4 million remain after four decades, and at least an equal number of illegal economic migrants, the majority temporarily regularized through the new Afghan Citizenship Card (ACC) system which was meant to ensure issuance of Afghan passports by their Government to enable their return which is still awaited. For Pakistan a key objective of any Afghan peace deal is a provision for the refugees to return.
As Pakistan recovered from the first Afghan ordeal, the tragic terrorist attack of September 11 took place. With Western occupation, the second blowback from Afghanistan began, worsened by the use of Afghan soil by India to sponsor insurrectionists in Pakistan with the resultant – and catastrophic – loss of so many civilian and military lives. It is facile for others to say that Pakistan should ‘do more’ to help resolve Afghanistan or develop a better counter-extremism narrative. Credit goes to the discipline of the Pakistan military that – despite the unpopularity of the government’s logistic lifeline support for the occupying forces in Afghanistan – who still survive on the oxygen that Pakistan provides – the long and hard campaign against terrorists within Pakistan has been largely won at a great human cost. Young officers led from the front resulting in a one officer to nine soldier’s casualty rate. The sacrifices our military and law enforcement agencies made are unforgettable.
Many of the current economic difficulties of Pakistan are due in large part due to the economic costs resulting from the continuing occupation of and turmoil in Afghanistan.
What is more, natural disasters too have not spared Pakistan. The October 2005 earthquake killed 73,000 people within a few hours, the floods of 2010 and 2011 inundated large and heavily populated parts of the country, but the nation rebounded. The resilience of Pakistanis stands out.
What though of the future? What are our main external challenges, how should we meet them? India remains our major threat. Its growing strategic alliance with the U.S. and its western allies aimed at containing China, along with its conventional and strategic buildup on land, sea, and air threaten to destabilize strategic stability in South Asia and the wider region. That at one level requires a calibrated response of strategic, conventional arms, and technological capability on our side. 

‘The foreign policy of Pakistan is a one issue policy: India, resisting its centripetal pull, and liberating Kashmir; everything else is in support.’ 

– Ambassador Sajjad Hyder, 1961.

The Indian alliance with the Afghan intelligence agency and cells mainly within Afghanistan but some in bordering Iran as used by Commander Jadhav, the attempted destabilization campaign against Pakistan continues. Supporting the TTP inside the Afghan border; training, arming/financing, and sending insurgents into Balochistan to target security forces and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as well as terrorists into FATA and elsewhere in Pakistan. To this has now been added Indian financing, some estimated $130 million worth, in an attempt to destabilize Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).
In Balochistan the solution is to continue to use kinetic tactics against hardcore insurgents, but to implement political solutions along the lines often recommended by our mainstream parties, to take the Balochis along giving them increased representation and employment, especially the younger and educated generation which is adrift. 
The annexation by India of its illegally occupied part of Jammu and Kashmir and reactivation of claiming AJK and GB presents another set of serious challenges. How to respond apart from the international campaign, now in full swing, to expose India and its brutal, year-long plus lockdown of the Kashmir Valley. On the territorial front limited Indian action apart from the continual firing and bombing along the LoC can be expected by land though the induction of Rafale fighter jets and long range S-400 anti-aircraft system would have as its first objective to try to avenge the bringing down of two Indian fighters by the PAF.
In GB India would be foolhardy to attempt to intersect the KKH link with China. In further-away sectors of its Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, India is already having problems. It is aware that when at the beginning of the Korean War, General MacArthur, commanding American and UN troops, pushed back DPRK troops almost to the border with China along the Yalu River he suddenly found that some 250,000 Chinese soldiers of the People’s Volunteer Army had crossed the Yalu and infiltrated his flanks. MacArthur asked for atom bombs to destroy the bridges and infrastructure over the Yalu. President Truman sacked him despite him being the most decorated American soldier in World War II. In the event the U.S./UN troops were pushed back to the pre-war border between the two Koreas along the 38th Parallel where an uneasy peace persists along the DMZ border.
Fundamentally for the Kashmiris in IIOJ&K to gain their freedom, cost is heavy in blood, and for that not to be in vain Pakistan would then have to come to their help and shed its own blood and accept and meet the serious consequences. Both difficult decisions at any time, and equally difficult to judge when best initiated and coordinated. Till then our redlines for intervening in IIOJ&K would be including: if India indiscriminately kills Kashmiris, launches a major attack into AJK, and if it attempts to renege on the Indus Waters Treaty and hastens its campaign to hold back water during the Rabi sowing season by using synchronicity in its multiple run-of-the-river dams’ storage facilities.
It is recognized that GB should have been internalized long ago but despite attempts in that direction this was not affected. The important objective is that we do everything possible to extend facilitation, representation, and development in GB and AJK, including quotas in services and provisional representation in the National Assembly. On the constitutional level a number of solutions have been examined and proposed. These include a constitutional amendment to provisionally incorporate GB and AJK into Pakistan which would preserve our principled position at the UN Security Council. The political map of Pakistan which we have recently projected is a useful move. A bold decision would be to have a constitutional amendment incorporating provisionally into Pakistan all the disputed territory including that illegally occupied by India and proclaiming that its inhabitants are entitled to Pakistani nationality.
Making the most of the CPEC opportunity to transform Pakistan is a major implementation and policy challenge. Our record on this score has been inconsistent. We cannot be complacent or take the friendship for granted.
China has just initiated negotiations with Iran on a $400 billion package to purchase Iranian oil and gas, and to invest further in infrastructure and trade. China already has $40 billion in projects in Iran. Most analysts in Pakistan assess that this development in Iran will bring synergy to CPEC. That will be the Chinese intention but not necessarily of other parties involved. Pakistan has usually been viewed as a regional rival and India has added fuel to this fire in the past. For some Chinese companies prospects in hydrocarbon-rich Iran with few other countries to sell to may be more attractive than Pakistan, which has a strategic relationship with China. All the more reason to focus on CPEC: to remove the bottlenecks, upgrade security, try to attract more Chinese equity in projects, negotiate better, and explain away any doubts in the public mind caused by motivated, often foreign funded, and incessant criticism on social media.
Another emerging external challenge is the increasing strain between China and the U.S. Last year at a closed seminar on CPEC I attended in Beijing, two of China’s three top experts on Pakistan were present. One said that Pakistan had been the bridge to bring the U.S. and China together. He worried that if relations between the two countries deteriorated sharply, American demands of Pakistan to distance itself somewhat from China would increase and threaten the bilateral relationship.
This is already taking place from the U.S. and in lower key from its western allies although they have no alternative investment to offer. While China will and must remain a cornerstone of our foreign policy, we need to get along with the U.S. as well. Right now our assistance to help the U.S. leave Afghanistan keeps us relevant to them.
Over the years China has often advised us to maintain good relations with the U.S.  Nowadays in the face of increasing U.S. actions and pressure the Chinese response has been measured. Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a recent interview gave China’s position on China-U.S. relations. He said inter alia, ‘I want to stress that the steady development of China-U.S. relations serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples and meets the common aspirations of the international community’. For Pakistan maintaining a positive relationship with the U.S. while maintaining its crucial strategic relationship with China will be a difficult dance requiring skill. However, I do not see any pressure from China to the contrary.
The ability to best tackle most of our external challenges is linked to our internal situation. The solution to the country’s problems are self-explanatory. Population growth needs to be further reduced and education made a priority, not just given lip service. There is a youth dividend, increasingly politically active, which needs to be harnessed through training and provision of jobs by an economy that needs to pick up. All efforts should be made to enable the CPEC, through its multidimensional projects, to contribute towards the transformation of Pakistan. Though Pakistan’s development and governance has been uneven, the momentum of its 214 million inhabitants, whose indomitable spirit has overcome so many challenges, shall always carry it forward.
Since 1947 many segments of society have claimed or been identified with the making and maintaining of Pakistan. The middle class, politicians, the civil services, the military, and others. No doubt all of these are responsible for significant contributions. But it is the common man and woman in Pakistan who toil with limited recompense, who lacks adequate health and welfare facilities, whose children struggle for an adequate education, who are our heroes and whose fortitude and unflinching resolve have made Pakistan what it is today.

The writer is a distinguished Visiting Fellow at the National Defence University.
E-mail: [email protected]

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