November 26th, 2009 | 50
This story is from the Time Magazine datelined Christmas Day 1964. It sheds interesting light on how far back this game of the security establishment conjuring up images of US-India collusion go. Ayub Khan actually accused Fatima Jinnah of being pro-Indian and pro-American. Oldest trick in the security establishment’s book. -YLH
“They call her the Mother of the Nation,” sniffed Pakistan’s President Mohammed Ayub Khan. “Then she should at least behave like a mother.” What upset Ayub was that Fatima Jinnah looked so good in pants. The more she upbraided Ayub, the louder Pakistanis cheered the frail figure in her shalwar (baggy white silk trousers). By last week, with Pakistan’s first presidential election only a fortnight away, opposition to Ayub had reached a pitch unequaled in his six years of autocratic rule.
The Big Stick. White-haired Miss Jinnah, 71, the candidate of five ragtag and usually disunited opposition parties, was picked mainly because she was the sister and confidante of the late revered Mohammed Ali Jinnah, father of his nation’s independence. But Pakistan’s response to her razor-tongued attacks on Ayub’s highhanded ways has surprised and shocked the government. Students throughout the nation staged angry protest marches against the regime, and at least one demonstrator was killed by police in Karachi. DOWN WITH THE AYUB DICTATORSHIP, cried posters in the East Pakistan city of Dacca, where students enthusiastically proclaimed Miss Fatima Jinnah Week. In Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, student unrest prompted the government to close all the schools indefinitely.
Most legal groups in Pakistan have come out for Miss Jinnah, and were denounced by Ayub as “mischiefmongers.” In reply, the Karachi Bar Association overwhelmingly adopted a resolution urging “the party in power to get rid of the notion that wisdom, righteousness and patriotism are the monopoly of their yes men.” The usually complaisant newspaper editors defied the regime’s attempts to make them endorse a restrictive new press law.
To Ayub’s claim that he is trying to develop “basic democracy,” Miss Jinnah replied: “What sort of democracy is that? One man’s democracy? Fifty persons’ democracy?” As for Ayub’s charge that the country would revert to chaos if he is defeated, his rival snapped: “You can’t have stability through compulsion, force and the big stick.”
Running Scared. Actually, Ayub has been a reluctant and benevolent dictator, who has vastly improved the stability of a country that was paralyzed by squabbling politicians before he took over. Considering Pakistan’s backwardness and poverty, the Ayub-designed electoral system is not half bad, giving the vote to 80,000 middle-and upper-class electors. While that is a tiny percentage in a total population of 110 million, most of those millions are not only illiterate but totally ignorant of political issues. With heavy support in rural areas, where many Moslem electors particularly disapprove of a woman’s candidacy and where Ayub’s economic reforms have helped more than in the cities, Ayub is still expected to win the election by some 60% of the vote.
Nonetheless, he is running scared, because Candidate Jinnah has managed to focus every form of discontent in the country. To brake her bandwagon, he abruptly decreed that elections would be held Jan. 2, instead of March, as originally scheduled. Explaining lamely that the situation is “a little tense,” the government also rescinded a law specifying that political rallies must be open to the public.
At closed meetings with groups of electors, Ayub answered practical questions sensibly enough, but kept lashing out at the opposition with growing anger. Countering Miss Jinnah’s repeated charge that he had been unable to restrain the U.S. from helping Pakistan’s No. 1 adversary, India, he set out to portray her as pro-Indian and pro-American. Ayub’s campaign, in fact, was turning increasingly anti-American.
Though U.S. aid (about $5 billion since 1951) is vital to the nation’s wretched economy, a leading member of Ayub’s party cried: “America never was our friend and never could be, because as a nation aligned with the anticolonial movements, we are at cross-purposes with America.” As for Ayub, he plainly regretted ever calling elections in the first place. For after six years of insisting that Pakistanis were not ready for democracy, the campaign had shown that Mohammed Ayub Khan probably isn’t either.