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Pakistan Inherited A Large Army That Needed A Threat If It Was To Be Maintained

It was in the military’s institutional interest to encourage Pakistan’s evolution as a national security state.

30/09/2016 1:55 PM IST | Updated 30/09/2016 2:10 PM IST
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Fayaz Aziz / Reuters
Pakistani soldiers patrol the border post in Torkham, Pakistan June 18, 2016. REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz

Pakistan's share out of Partition comprised 21 per cent of British India's population 14 and 17 per cent of its revenue but as much as one-third of the large armed forces that had been raised by the British during the Second World War.

The British policy of considering certain ethnic groups and communities in India as 'martial races' had favoured recruitment of Pashtun and Punjabi Muslims whose homeland was now part of Pakistan. Under the terms of Partition, Pakistan received 30 per cent of British India's army, 40 per cent of its navy and 20 per cent of its air force. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was forced in 1948 to allocate 75 per cent of Pakistan's first budget to cover the salaries and maintenance costs of this huge force.

Thus, Pakistan was not like other countries that raise an army to deal with threats they face; it had inherited a large army that needed a threat if it was to be maintained. Although India's army was twice the size of Pakistan's, the country's size and revenue base was larger and India could cite several potential sources of threat to justify its armed forces. In Pakistan's case, the only threat that could be invoked to retain the legions inherited from the Raj was India.

The Pakistan army's first two commanders-in-chief were British generals. When the first Muslim commander-in-chief, General Ayub Khan, assumed the military's leadership he spoke of how 'Brahmin chauvinism and arrogance' had led to Pakistan's creation. Ayub and other generals argued that Pakistan needed a large military to protect itself against Hindu India.

They claimed the Hindus wanted to avenge seven centuries of Muslim rule over the subcontinent by menacing Muslim Pakistan. Ayub even declared that India had 'a deep pathological hatred for Muslims' and that its hostility to Pakistan stemmed from its 'refusal to see a Muslim power developing next door'.

Pakistan was not like other countries that raise an army to deal with threats they face; it had inherited a large army that needed a threat if it was to be maintained.

Ironically, the real threats to Pakistan at the time of its inception stemmed from economic and political factors, not military ones. The Partition plan of 3 June 1947 had given only seventy-two days for transition to Independence. But Pakistan, unlike India, did not have a functioning capital, central government or financial resources. The Muslim League leaders had done little homework to prepare for running the country they had demanded.

Within days of Independence, Pakistan was concerned about its share of India's assets, both financial and military. It was also caught without a concrete plan to deal with negotiating the accession of princely states, fourteen of whom (out of 562) had Muslim-majority populations and were contiguous to or located within the territory of Pakistan.

The Muslim League's lack of preparation meant that on the day of Pakistan's independence, only one of these states, Swat, had joined the new Muslim dominion. This contrasted with India's ability to integrate by Independence Day all but six of the 548 princely states that became part of the Indian Union. Thus, Pakistan's territory remained undefined for several months after Independence. The princely states in Pakistan eventually fell in line while one — Kalat, in Balochistan — was coerced through military action in March 1948.

Moreover, at inception, Pakistan comprised two wings separated by a thousand miles of Indian territory. Creating a system of governance that would satisfy the Bengalis of East Pakistan and Punjabi-dominated West Pakistan was a tall order. Getting the new state on its feet economically was another major challenge. Pakistan had virtually no industry and the major markets for its agricultural products were in India. Pakistan produced 75 per cent of the world's jute supply but did not have a single jute-processing mill. All the mills were in India. Although one-third of undivided India's cotton was grown in Pakistan, it had only one-thirtieth of the cotton mills....

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldier stand guard during night patrol near the fenced border with Pakistan at Abdullian on January 14, 2013 about 40 kilometers from Jammu, India. (Photo by Nitin Kanotra/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Pakistan's economic crisis was made worse by the threat of political chaos. The larger idea that had united diverse Muslim supporters of Pakistan's creation could no longer be maintained now that the country had come into being. While Jinnah was concerned about containing the communal violence already stoked during Partition, his successors (he died in September 1948, barely a year after Pakistan came into being) decided that the religious passions could also be used for consolidating Pakistan's nationhood and their own power.

One of the major arguments advanced for an independent Pakistan had been the notion that, irrespective of population, Hindus and Muslims should be treated as two separate and equal nations. The Muslim League referred to this demand as the doctrine of parity. Now that Pakistan had come into existence, its economic and military disparity with India was obvious. Pakistan was India's sovereign equal in terms of international law but the two countries could not be uniform in terms of their military strength or international stature.

This reality, however, did not matter to Pakistani politicians struggling to create a support base at home. The Pakistani military realised that it would have to effectively control the country to be able to get the lion's share of its resources. Pursuit of military parity with India could justify forever greater allocation of resources to the military. It was in the military's institutional interest to encourage Pakistan's evolution as a national security state, living in constant fear of being overrun by an India that had not reconciled to its existence.

Excerpted with permission from India vs Pakistan: Why Can't We Just be Friends? by Husain Haqqani published by Juggernaut, available in bookstores and on the Juggernaut app.

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