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COVER POINT: Impressions of Leadership in Pakistan – Jamsheed Marker

COVER POINT: Impressions of Leadership in Pakistan – Jamsheed Marker

“Reason and Judgement are the qualities of a leader” –Publius Cornelius Tacitus.

Introduction to Writer

Jamsheed Marker (24 November 1922 – 21 June 2018), is well remembered as a distinguished veteran Pakistani diplomat, whose diplomatic career spans a period of 42 years. He is born into a Parsee family of Hyderabad Deccan, India. He has been awarded the Victoria Medal for his military service, as an officer, in the Royal Indian Naval Volunteer Reserve during World War II. He has served as ambassador of Pakistan to Romania, the Soviet Union, Canada, France, East Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, United States and at United Nations. In 1999, he has served as Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and has represented a Special Envoy to East Timor. He has received national awards of highest honour i.e. Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam and Hilal-i-Imtiaz from the Government of Pakistan.

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Abstract of the Book

This book is particularly a compelling attempt to observe and record the political impressions of Pakistani leaders, their statesmanship and statecraft. It is neither history nor memorabilia nor biography but simply a series and compendium of reflections and recollections of the author’s diplomatic experience, which he has sought to put into words. It simultaneously covers and gives an analytical review on the roles of Pakistan’s most powerful leaders by undertaking a thorough assessment of Pakistan’s political system of power, acquired through usurpation in one form or another, whether by outright military interventions or through manipulated electoral processes. As the term ‘cover point’ means ‘observation point’ on a cricket field, that is near enough to the wicket to follow immediate action and yet sufficiently distant for a general overview of the state of play. So, Marker’s Cover Point is a legacy of his lifetime in the diplomatic service of Pakistan, that in turn, is a position of political sureness and saviour faire which has guaranteed the author to pen down a general overview of Pakistani politics. To understand well the saga of Pakistani politics, the individualistic strengths as well as foibles, of each one of its rulers, are studied with specific reference to their political lives.

The storyline of the Book

The book opens with vivid recollections of the early days highlighting the creation of Pakistan. It gives the most powerful descriptions of that epochal era in the Independence movement of the Indian Subcontinent that has triggered the unforeseen events of decolonization, communal riots on a nationwide scale, mass migration, genocide, massacre, mass violence, political discords and the incomprehensible cruelty of the time.

The creation of Pakistan in itself gives an everlasting impression of Jinnah’s leadership and his statesmanship. The founder and the creator of Pakistan – Mohammad Ali Jinnah is bestowed the honorary title of ‘Quaid-e-Azam’ by millions of his followers who have supported him and believed in him throughout the herculean period of Independence. Marker recollects that after the creation of Pakistan, Jinnah has manfully dealt with the multifarious political, socio-economic and humanitarian challenges that have deluged the fragile infancy of Pakistan as “the task has appeared more difficult for Pakistan than it is for India. For them it is just a matter of continuity, only the occupants have changed, with the Indians now moving smoothly into the rooms hitherto occupied by Britons. On the other hand, for Pakistan, it is a total scramble. The process of governance has to be established on an entirely new government and administration has to be set up from scratch besides coping up with an influx and accommodation of millions of refugees from India” (Cover Point 14, 16). Under the indomitable and defiant leadership of the founding father of the nation, the early days of Pakistan seem to be filled with hope and courage despite its looming state of uncertainty. The sudden demise of Jinnah has devastated the country but “Pakistan was Jinnah and Jinnah was Pakistan. He has completed his work and given us a country. Now it is up to the Prime Minister to run it. What else is there to do?” (Cover Point 14).

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After Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan has taken charge as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Entitled “Quaid-e-Millat” and “The Right Hand Man of Jinnah”   Liaquat Ali Khan has devoted his time, talent and energy to the cause of the Muslim League. He has achieved much in his short tenure as a Prime Minister (1948-1951) but there are failures in a number of other aspects as well. His major strengths include good governance of a newly created state despite the crippling lack of resources; his acceptance of Washington’s invitation over the Soviet Union for the official state visit that in turn has strengthened Pakistan’s military and economic resources. In addition to it, he has very skillfully handled the far emotive case of Rawalpindi Conspiracy brewing the seeds of a coup de tat and has pragmatically guided the issue of canal waters dispute with India into the arbitration. Perhaps his greatest failure has been the delay in framing a constitution.

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After losing both its founder and leader, the years from 1951 to 1958 in Pakistan are observed to be full of rambunctious politics and capricious Governments. From 1958 -1969, the military dictatorship of Ayub Khan is remembered as the time of benevolent despotism attended by the most substantial economic development in the history of Pakistan. He has introduced the three-tiered military-bureaucratic- entrepreneurial nexus which has secured the decade-long era of his dictatorship. It is a “solid West Pakistan structure, with a thinly disguised East Pakistan façade”(Cover Point 51). The major strengths of  Ayub Khan’s regime are economic growth and the country’s impressive development framed in the Five Years Plan. The marker also adds to his credit the spurt seen in banking and finance with a forceful shift to modern technology. Whereas the drawbacks are also present side-by-side in the form of “disparities increasing visibly between the rich and the poor, the army and the civil, and above all between East and West Pakistan”(Cover Point 55). In response to the increasing opposition, “a confused and battered Ayub Khan has handed over the reins of power to his chosen successor, Army Chief General Yahya Khan instead of Assembly Speaker Abdul Jabbar Khan and Martial law is declared once again on 25th  of March 1969.

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The tenure of General Agha Muhammad Khan (1969-1971) is marked by turbulence from beginning to end. His productive visit to the Soviet Union has been a resounding success where he has secured a deal of obtaining Soviet military hardware and tanks, much to the chagrin of India. Also to mention, his contribution as a facilitator of the US-China rapprochement and the signature of the Shanghai Agreement is remembered as a significant measure. The downward spiral of his leadership is commenced at the moment when East and West Pakistan are split by the result of the election. Marker writes that “In most countries of the world, elections have helped to solve problems but in Pakistan, they seem to create the” (Cover Point 88). Unable to cope with this stumbling situation, Yahya takes resignation and the then senior military junta arranges for handing over of power to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as president, and first and only civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator of a disintegrating country.

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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1971-1977) has played a major role in bringing a country to despair and defeat and then galvanizing a dramatic recovery. Marker mentions that Bhutto’s obsession for the acquisition of power has brought with its successes as well as setbacks. The achievements that have marked Bhutto as Third World leader of repute include a) His provision of bringing into reality the concept of  ‘Vox Populi’ by taking “the process of electioneering out of the drawing rooms of the wealthy and into the streets of the populace” (Cover Point 94); b) The SIMLA Agreement with India in July 1972, to make certain the return of conquered Pakistani territories and the prisoners of War. Marker recalls that “origins of most acts of political evil, chicanery, and moral turpitude that currently exist, in Pakistan, can be irrefutably linked to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto” (Cover Point 107). Bhutto’s megalomania has assumed all the accoutrements of Fascism. The disruption of political and civil order is followed by a military takeover in 1977.

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General Zia ul Haq has now entered into his new role as Head of Government and the new Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan (1977-1988). The manner in which Zia has staged his coup and the smoothness of assumption of power is a matter of historic record. His incredible decision to resist the Soviet Union over Afghanistan has provided a timely infusion of the US and foreign assistance, by means of which, he has granted a noticeable resurgence to the country on military and economic fronts. Therefore, Pakistan has been transformed from an international pariah into an international poster boy (Cover Point 127). Perhaps the biggest black mark against his regime is the introduction and implementation of a series of draconian Martial law regulations and punishments. His repressive regime has settled the country surely and purposefully on the Islamic track. He has found himself simultaneously engulfed in a series of major internal and external problems. The immediate ones are the dismissal of Junejo Khan and the return of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. The extended one is the increasing political hostility and sanctions from the US on nuclear issues. Amidst all such chaos, while returning from Washington on 17 August 1988, his plane is crashed at Bahawalpur in which both President Zia ul Haq and US Ambassador Arnold Raphel are reported to be killed.

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The next eleven years from 1988-1999 seem to be the political game of the throne between PPP and PML-N. Among her many other distinctions, Benazir Bhutto is honoured as the first elected lady Prime Minister of an Islamic republic (1988-1990; 1993-1996). Her visit to the US is a major success as she has granted the release of some F-16 fighter aircraft seized by the sanctions imposed under the US nuclear embargo.

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Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif (1990-1993; 1997-1999) known as Zia’s political grandson is remembered for his courageous act of testing six nuclear weapons at Chagai on 8th May 1998, duly countering US pressure through the usual combination of threats and sanctions from President Clinton. The major weaknesses of his regime are widespread corruption, cronyism and an increase in the acquisition of property. His democratic regime is ended, when matters come to a head with the drama of the hijacking of Musharaff’s aircraft. Consequently, Sharif is arrested, followed by his trial and is exiled to Saudi Arabia(Cover Point 178).

After taking a preliminary assessment of Musharraf’s decade-long era of dictatorship (1999-2008), Marker has keenly mentioned both his major accomplishments and failures. The successes are in the realm of law and order, and in recouping Pakistan’s financial and economic situation. However, the urge to hold power at any cost has brought his downfall.

The rest as the saying goes is history. It is a history that is continuing to evolve, and one for future historians to record.

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Book Themes

The major themes in this book are Pakistani Leadership, State and the Statesmanship, Power politics, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Dictatorship, Democracy and the Civil wars.

Additional Facts and Conclusion

The book contains fourteen chapters on one hundred and ninety-three pages and is published by Oxford University Press in 2016.  Also to mention, the preface is written by Stanley Wolpert.

In my personal opinion, it is a must-read because it thoroughly sums up the political pros and cons of prominent leaders of Pakistan from Muhammad Ali Jinnah to General Pervaiz Musharraf.  It casts an impartial and realistic impression of Pakistan’s political history. The language used is simple but scholarly lettered, that in turn, develops an artistic-cum-intellectual taste while reading.

Ratings 4/5

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Iqra Aziz
Iqra Aziz has an M.phil in English Literature, Editor of the book “HR with Heart” authored by “Arfa Farooqi.” An Avid book reader who is experienced as a staff writer for The Meraki Magazine and is currently writing for Bridge the Nations Magazine.

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