Today, the challenge we face from the east, in terms of lethality, is no different than the one we face from the west. Both of them are existential challenges.
Mr. Zafar Hilaly is a renowned diplomat who had been Pakistan's Ambassador to several countries. His father Agha Hilaly migrated from India and is considered among pioneers of Pakistan Foreign Service. His uncle Agha Shahi was also a famous diplomat. In line with his family traditions, Zafar Hilaly also joined Pakistan Foreign Service. Besides other prestigious portfolios, he remained Special Secretary to the Prime Minister. He is a security and political analyst who regularly contributes for print & electronic media.
Hilal: This year we are celebrating 68th Independence Day of Pakistan. Your father Agha Hilaly migrated from India and is considered among pioneers of Pakistan's Foreign Service. He is also known to have close acquaintance with Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. What are your memories of early days of Pakistan and what your father shared with you, particularly, with reference to dynamic leadership of Quaid-i-Azam?
ZH: On the 68th anniversary of our independence, it's worth recalling that many did not think we would exist for as long as we have. In fact, on or about our first anniversary in August 1948, Nehru declared that Pakistan would not have a life span of more than 25 years. And just the other day, Richard Armitage, the former US Deputy Secretary of State, said he was not sure whether Pakistan would last a further 25 years. A spate of recent books by American think tanks and former diplomats also hold out the prospect of Pakistan's impending demise. Well, Nehru was proved wrong; and there is every reason to believe that the other doomsayers will also have to eat their own words.
Yes indeed my father migrated from India to live in a part of the subcontinent he scarcely knew and had never visited, only because he believed in Jinnah and his cause. In fact, along with the others whom you describe as the 'pioneers' of Pakistan he, and his brother, Agha Shahi, readily gave up all they owned, including over a score of houses on a street named after their own father (Agha Abdullah) in Bangalore for the sake of Jinnah's Pakistan. I say this because when in 1950, as a very young boy, I grumbled to my mother about the modest accommodation assigned to us by government in Karachi, when compared to the virtual palace in which we lived in Bangalore, she suggested I keep quiet lest my father overhear. Later, when I finally did summon up the courage to ask father why he had decided to leave all his worldly possessions in India to trek to Pakistan; his answer, in one word, was, 'Jinnah', adding, 'and I have never regretted that decision.'
Yes, my father Agha Hilaly worked fairly closely with Jinnah as Pakistan's first de facto chief of protocol in 1948, although he never thought of himself as a 'friend' of Jinnah or even an 'acquaintance'; he was too much in awe of Jinnah to consider himself in those terms, besides he was much younger. It's probably more accurate to describe him as a devoted follower, a 'murid', if you like, of the man he revered as 'the Quaid'. My father's reminiscences of working with Jinnah were many. I recall him remarking that Jinnah had no patience for the interminable pleasantries and aimless banter exchanged with foreign dignitaries during courtesy calls and how the Quaid had fretted because, for instance, his half-hour long meeting with the Saudi monarch in 1948 had consisted of nothing but pleasantries. He also recalled Jinnah feeling irked that the Shah of Iran, a young man in 1948, seemed so tongue tied during their meeting that he hardly uttered a word. Luckily the Foreign Secretary (or was it the Foreign Minister at the time?), who was also present at the meeting, came to the rescue and the meeting concluded on a pleasant note.
What impressed my father about the Quaid was the meticulous attention he paid to detail. There was nothing 'airy- fairy' about the Quaid. He wanted his subordinates to be 'boned up' on all aspects of the projected meeting, the proposals under discussion and to brief him, if the need arose. Apparently, Jinnah was fastidious in just about everything he did, including dress, deportment and his selection of words and phrases. Some of the Quaid's attributes must have rubbed off on my father because on one occasion, I recall him telling me (1961), with considerable pride that an Indian journal had declared him the 'best dressed Ambassador (High Commissioner) in New Delhi'. Sensing I was unimpressed by the accolade he had earned my father remarked, 'you don't seem to appreciate how important it is for a diplomat to be well dressed. By dressing well you not only tell a lot about yourself but also show respect for whomever you are meeting.' I suspect he recalled Jinnah too believing that. Of course, much has changed since then, though not in some countries like Italy, as I discovered. There, even today, 'Clothes maketh the man', as the saying goes.
Hilal: Quaid-i-Azam was known for Hindu-Muslim unity. Similarly, initially Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal also demanded for more political representation and economic rights for Muslim community. How do you view role of Hindu leadership and movements for Hindu revivalism that pushed Muslim leadership to the conclusion that it would be detrimental to the future of Muslims of the subcontinent to live alongside a highly prejudiced and narrow-minded Hindu majority in one country.
ZH: Yes, indeed, the attitude of Hindu nationalists in the Congress Party had a key role to play in the creation of Pakistan. Some believe, and I agree, that their role was unwittingly, of course, even greater than some Muslim League leaders, for example, the (Hindu) refrain that in an independent India the will of the (Hindu) majority would invariably prevail. It caused a great deal of concern among Muslims who feared for their future at the hand of Hindu revivalists (like Vallabhai Patel) who had come to dominate Congress policies. Even Nehru, who was considered more 'secular' than the rank and file Congress Party leader, was not prepared to accept that Muslim concerns had to be addressed and their fears assuaged if India was to remain united. Nehru believed that the time had come for Muslims to lump it, as it were, and accept Hindu dominance just as, I suppose, the Hindus had accepted Muslim (MUGHAL) rule. Jaswant Singh has pointed out how Jinnah, once known as the 'Ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity' among his fellow Congress Party members was slighted and made to feel unwanted in Congress by Nehru in the 1930s because he felt that Muslim apprehensions should not be ignored. Of course, the breaking point between Jinnah and Nehru and, in a sense, between Muslim and Hindu India came later, in 1946, when having accepted Jinnah's conditions for a united India, Nehru went back on his word very shortly afterwards. It was then that Jinnah declared he had no trust in Nehru, or the Congress, and that henceforth the Muslim League, of which he was by now the undisputed leader, would settle for nothing less than partition.
Frankly, that was probably just as well because, as we now know, Hindu bigots in Congress wished to reclaim India exclusively for the Hindus. For them even Mahatma Gandhi was far too accommodating of the Muslim viewpoint and, hence, an obstacle to militant Hindu rule, which is why, as we now know, he was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic (Naturam Godse) in 1947.
Hilal: Pakistan began its journey with virtually no economic assets, meagre share of defence forces and non-existent civilian bureaucracy. However, today despite enormous challenges, Pakistan has achieved many successes. How do you view this journey from a 14 August 1947 to 14 August 2014?
ZH: To say Pakistan began her independent journey with few, if any, assets is a gross understatement. I recall being told the Foreign Office did not even have paper for notes, summaries, etc. or the wherewithal to purchase them at the time of independence because the funds supposed to have been released for Pakistan's use had been withheld by India. Instead rolls of toilet paper served as writing material in the Foreign Office for several weeks after independence. So yes, the saga of Pakistan's rise, in the teeth of unremitting Indian hostility and the denial of her assets is one that deserves recounting, especially when we consider that the task was made infinitively more difficult by the huge influx of refugees that partition triggered and the administrative chaos that created for a fledgling nation.
But while succeeding generations must not forget all that, and the other travails and vicissitudes our elders endured, and how well we have done to reach the stage where we are at today, the fact is we are out of the woods as yet. In fact, the challenges we face today, at the hands of local and foreign zealots, and cunning enemies in neighbouring countries are, if anything, as serious a challenge to our independence and territorial integrity as any that we have faced in the 67 years since we gained our freedom. In other words, Pakistan's history is still in the process of being made. The present, therefore, is not the time for self–congratulations although, Inshahllah, that time too will come. The present is the time to make history and to make history bend in our direction.
Hilal: You have served for a long time in Pakistan's Foreign Service. Your father, Agha Hilaly, and paternal uncle Agha Shahi also remained top civil servants for Pakistan. In your opinion, what are major achievements of our foreign policy and where things went wrong that could have been avoided, or a better course had been chosen to safeguard Pakistan's national interests?
ZH: Pakistan's greatest foreign policy success has been the relationship we have been able to forge with China. It is in every respect an exemplary relationship and moreover one that ensures peace can subsist in our volatile environment notwithstanding India's hegemonic aspirations and crude attempts to impose her fiat on the smaller nations of the region. But we would do well to remember that like much else in life friendship too, much like loyalty, has to be continually nourished. It must not be taken for granted; hence, it is gratifying to see that every sphere of government and, in particular, the armed forces striving to maintain the closest possible cooperation with China.
Our gravest foreign policy failure has been our inability to convince the world that, like so many other people, Kashmiris too must be permitted the right of self-determination, as was promised to them by India, Pakistan and the UN itself in numerous UNSC resolutions. The Kashmir cause is a great moral cause but somehow it has not caught the imagination of the world like ending apartheid in South Africa did not long ago. Our stance that the Kashmir dispute must be settled peacefully in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri nation is the right one and we must not, merely for the sake of pleasing India, or a phony peace, give up our principled stance or forsake the Kashmiris.
As great a failure has been our inability to forge the closest possible relations with our neighbours, Iran and Afghanistan. The fault is not entirely ours, especially in the case of Afghanistan, which stubbornly lays claim to Pakistan territory and connives with India to harm Pakistan. But that said, had we made the right kind of approaches to Kabul earlier, like we did in the last days of the Daoud regime (1978) and generally shown more imagination in handling Kabul, who can say we would not have succeeded in overcoming the suspicion and distrust that presently sour relations. Indeed, matters have reached a pass today that both countries not only accuse each other of harbouring and providing succor to their respective enemies but also actively helping them to launch attacks against the other. I have always believed our policy towards Afghanistan should be non-interventionist, trade oriented, non ideological, focused on genuine national interests and undergirded by an inflexible bias towards neutrality in other people’s wars and repeatedly pointed this out to the powers that be while I was in service. Needless to say it earned me no kudos.
However, it is the vital relationship with Iran that we have consistently failed to get right and has been our greatest foreign policy failure. It has deprived us of the vast economic benefits that an assured supply of energy would generate for the economy and the improvement it would bring about in the quality of the people’s lives. It beggars the imagination that 67 years on, not a single oil pipeline links energy-starved Pakistan with an oil exporting country of the magnitude of neighbouring Iran. It is no less astonishing, given our geographical location, common religion and cultural ties that not a single bilateral treaty binds the two countries to come to the assistance of the other in times of peril or need. We have signed defence treaties and joined alliances with countries seven seas away from Pakistan but not even one with our neighbour Iran. The lapse is so glaring and logically so inexplicable that I, for one, have never been able to discover a plausible explanation.
Another failure was the decision, very soon after independence, to take the side of the West in the ongoing cold war at that time. We were seen as having sold ourselves to the West and although few believe, it caused any lasting damage, which was not the case. The Soviet Union, for example, was alienated and blocked all moves in the UNSC to implement the resolutions of the Security Council on Kashmir although earlier these had been passed unanimously. Moreover, at a key moment during the Bangladesh crisis, the Soviet Union signed a military alliance with India, in effect giving India military cover to invade East Pakistan without having to worry about the Chinese and US reaction.
Both Agha Hilaly and Agha Shahi were strongly opposed to the uncritical relationships Pakistan forged with the West during the Cold War. Agha Hilaly nearly lost his job over his opposition to Pakistan joining SEATO. And it was Agha Shahi who finally persuaded ZA Bhutto to adopt a non-aligned posture when it came to choosing between the capitalist and communist worlds rather than be too clever by half and promise unstinted support to the West out of one corner of his mouth and the same to the Soviets out of the other corner as Bhutto would do on occasions. Eventually in 1982, Agha Shahi resigned as Foreign Minister, ostensibly on health grounds, but actually because of differences over the direction of our Afghan policy and the posture, our leaders adopted towards the US.
Again, it was Agha Shahi who masterminded the UN campaign to win China's admission and, as it happened, it was Agha Hilaly who acted as the messenger/ adviser to both Presidents, Yayha Khan and Nixon, in the now historic rapprochement between China and the US. As a measure of US gratitude President Nixon offered Agha Hilaly US citizenship, which he politely declined. However, he did accept Prime Minister Chou en Lai's invitation to pay an 'official' visit to China even though he was by then (1974) a private citizen, having retired from service two years earlier. The invitation to pay an official/state visit, as PM Chou reminded Agha Hilaly during a dinner in his honour, was 'a unique invitation' and indeed since then a Chinese prime minister has not extended a similar invitation to any 'private' Pakistani citizen.
Hilal: You remained Pakistan's ambassador to Italy, Yemen and Nigeria. In your view, what are the essentials for a successful diplomacy and a diplomat?
ZH: To be a good diplomat one need to have a cool head, a cold heart, a smiling countenance (preferably) and a facile pen, in other words, good powers of expression and excellent communication skills. But that's not all, he also needs to have a profound knowledge of the host country's history and geography and an innate ability to discern where important differences exist, and if no solution can be found, how best to manage them, so that relations remain on an even keel. In other words, to dwell on the positive things that draw the two countries together and do everything that will help reduce friction. All of which requires experience and the right training and background. But just as you cannot clap with one hand so a diplomat's efforts to bolster relations with the country of his accreditation will flounder if he receives no support from his parent office or the government of the day. Alas, regrettably, that happens all too often, as I know from personal experience.
Hilal: Today Pakistan is facing internal as well as external threats. How do you view security challenges for Pakistan from eastern and western neighbours?
ZH: Today, the challenge we face from the east, in terms of lethality, is no different than the one we face from the west. Both of them are existential challenges; let us make no mistake about that. And both must be met with a judicious mix of diplomacy, discussion, state manoeuvring and force. However, we face another challenge, which you have not mentioned, although it is no less vital to our survival, and that is the challenge posed by poor governance and bad leadership. And it is this challenge that should take precedence over the external challenges because if we can get governance right, and are able to meet the very basic requirements of our people, the other challenges will become much easier to confront and the prospects of success immeasurably improved.
Hilal: Over a period of time Indians are following a diplomatic pattern whereby they emphasize on normalization of trade and socio-cultural relations with Pakistan without even mentioning of core issues between two countries. How do you see peace prospects in South Asia with a hegemonic India not ready to listen to others' grievances?
ZH: Precisely because the Indians are behaving in the manner you have correctly described, I see the prospects of improved relations with India as virtually nil. On the other hand, recent developments suggest the possibilities of greater confrontation and perhaps even conflict is very real. The election of Modi is a clear sign of popular bellicosity in India when it comes to dealing with Pakistan; the hysteria of the Indian media and the propaganda against Pakistan whenever there is an incident on the border or LOC; and the proclivity of Indian Army Chiefs to threaten Pakistan every now and then all suggest that India is spoiling for a fight. In the circumstances, I won't be surprised if the very first incident on the border, or perhaps a false flag operation, will result in a major trial of strength. It is for this reason that on no account can we afford to see our defences weaken even as India's massive rearmament programme gathers speed and new weapon systems are inducted, in particular new anti- missile weaponry. We must do whatever is needed to maintain an effective defence capability knowing that there are no prizes for having the second best military in a war. Meanwhile, Indian plans to weaken and bleed Pakistan by supporting anti Pak elements in Afghanistan and Balochistan are becoming more evident by the day. The seven Indian consulates located in the Afghan provinces bordering Pakistan reveal the nature and intent of Indian moves. These consulates are not there to promote tourism. Interestingly there are nearly a million Indian origin persons in Britain but India has only two consulates there whereas it has seven in Afghanistan although there are only 2160 Indians residing in Afghanistan.
And as India's presence in Afghanistan has expanded, so has Indian support for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). It's no coincidence that cross border raids on Pakistan by TTP elements sheltering in Afghanistan have multiplied. Just as it's no coincidence that cooperation between the strongly India backed Kabul regime and the TTP has intensified, so much so that the second senior most figure in the TTP, Latifullah Mehsud was arrested by American forces while travelling in the company of a senior Afghan intelligence official. It seems it's only a question of time before the Pak-Afghan border region is transformed into an Afghanistan-India-Pakistan battleground with India actively backing Afghanistan. It's not, therefore, surprising that in the reckoning of some 'The Great Game' in Afghanistan has already resumed with new players and others are preparing to enter the fray to safeguard their own interests.
India is also busy improving relations with China to dilute the Pak-China alliance and further bolstering her strategic alliance with the US. Both moves are meant to ensure that Pakistan remains, in relative terms, militarily weak and diplomatically isolated. There is nothing cool, dispassionate or ritualistic about our antagonism with India. There is no clash of political ideologies or systems. What we have is historical and religious hatred on an unprecedented scale at a time when both countries are in the throes of full-blooded nationalism. India and Pakistan may want to escape from their history and geography but seem unable to do so. It's like a Greek tragedy. Both know the end but seem powerless to prevent it.
Hilal: How do you see post-2014 Afghanistan?
ZH: Afghanistan was never really a state in the accepted sense of the word. It only emerged as a country of sorts in the mid eighteenth century when Ahmed Khan, leader of the Abdali contingent in the Persian army of Nadir Shah, carved out a barrier between Persia and a crumbling Mughal Empire in India which was later to evolve into a buffer zone between Czarist Russia and British India. We could see Afghanistan disappear on the political map if the Pushtuns, Uzbeks and Tajik decide to link up with the other central Asian entities bearing their names or form their own autonomous republics. On the other hand, if Afghanistan were to fall under Taliban sway, a succession of radicalized states could come into being. Conversely if Afghanistan were to fall under Indian influence, India would be able to challenge Pakistan from the east and the west. I think Afghanistan's future is really up in the air and we will have to wait and see who the latest elections will bring to power, the extent of his support and how he proposes to deal with Pakistan.
Hilal: Your suggestions to combat religious extremism, sectarianism and ethnic militancy in Pakistan?
ZH: The only answer to combatting extremism, sectarianism and ethnic militancy is education, education and education. But even a revamped educational system won't work unless a holistic approach is adopted and planning at national, rather than provincial, a new/reformed system is implemented on an all Pakistan basis. In other words, every school in the country, including the most remote school in the Kaghan valley, must come within the purview of the new system and a central authority, which should also require the registration of all madarassahs and the strict supervision of their curricular and teaching methods. Moreover, funding of schools and madarassahs should, as a matter of course, be in the knowledge of the national education authorities and made available to the public on request.
Of course, the adoption of a new national education system will require an amendment to the Constitution, which presently designates education as a provincial subject. It may also require the creation of a special separate service perhaps called the Education Service of Pakistan with recruitment undertaken by the Central Public Service Commission for candidates with prescribed qualifications.
Only a good educational system will allow us to tackle the other major ills that afflict society such as indiscipline, corruption, social injustice, the cult of mediocrity, etc. And also tackle the cancer of ethnicity/ provincialism, which is so damaging to social morality and national unity. The greatest sufferer of provincialism is the nation itself because it has to contain the legitimate grievance of a wronged citizen; accommodate the incompetence of a favoured citizen and, most importantly, endure the decline of morale and efficiency caused by an erratic system of performance and reward. It's a bit like picking a 'Third and Fourth XI' to represent the country while ignoring the 'First XI' and still hoping to win the World Cup. A good yardstick to measure the quality of the country's leadership, and its political system, is the government's interest in education. It is no accident that with the exception of China, not one non-democratic country has even one university rated among the top 200 universities in the world. In fact, before Hong Kong's return to China, the best-ranked Chinese university ranked 47th in the world and given Russia's long history of dictatorship the best ranked Russian university today is ranked 210th. The obvious lesson to derive from these statistics is that when a leadership's base is narrow, higher education is for the children of the powerful: when it is big, it is for the betterment of everyone.
Hilal: It is often said that strong institutions are important for continuity of democracy in the country. As a political analyst, in your view how we can make our institutions strong so that they can perform in line with state's interests than any other temporary political consideration or influence?
ZH: I don't think I am qualified to address this question. But, what I would say, as someone who has had the opportunity to observe the working of governments at close quarters, is that the trouble with Pakistan, and our institutions, is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Pakistani character. There is nothing wrong with the laws and the Constitution. There is not even anything wrong with our institutions and how they function. What is wrong is simply the unwillingness or inability of our leaders to rise to their responsibility and especially to the challenge of personal example, which is the hallmark of true leadership. I believe the character of one man at the top can bring about that quantum of change in a society that could be transforming. Jinnah did it and the pity is that 67 years on we await his true successor. Let me also add that the difference between different forms of government, like a dictatorship and democracy, is mostly a convenient fiction. Governments do not differ in kind but only how broad based they are, in other words, in the number of essential supporters. The size of this group determines almost everything about politics: what leaders can get away with and the quality of life (and misery) under them for the population as a whole.
Hilal: What message you would like to give to the youth of Pakistan on this Independence Day through pages of Hilal?
ZH: Reject those people, policies and habits, which cripple our chances of becoming a modern, progressive, tolerant and democratic Muslim country. Reject the world and slogans of make believe and unrealistic expectations because that's the commonest manifestation of under development. Don't believe that somehow through the power of prayer alone your problems will be solved. Admit that although your country is presently not a great country it can become one and that your generation will have to toil, and sweat, and fight, and die to make it great. And then ask Allah for the strength to make you do all that.