Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based think tank “National Issues”
Ghulam Ishaq Khan, a prominent figure of Pakistan’s checkered history passed away, Ina lilla he Ina Alehe Raajioon. He enjoyed a long and fulfilling life. From humble beginnings he rose to the highest office of the country which speaks loudly of his skills and survival instincts. He was involved or witness to some of the major events in the tragic history of the country which were never properly investigated and reported to the nation. As a person very well rewarded by the nation, GIK owed it to the nation and the future generations to set the record straight. Despite his meticulous career as a bureaucrat GIK failed in this personal duty. To be fair, failure of delivering to the nation or the common man is a routine habit of the people at the helm of affairs. He was no exception but still it is no excuse.
GIK joined the civil service as a junior officer in the colonial days. The civil service might have been the biggest beneficiary of independence as droves were inducted who could not have joined the elite group otherwise, along with GIK. Since the fifties he knew the art of remaining important and held the most important posts under Ayub, Yahya and Bhutto. In the Zia era he was the de facto prime minister without the designation somewhat like the Musharraf era Tariq Aziz. After Zia he became the President and had to quit after dismissing 2 national assemblies.
It is important to have the skills to acquire important positions but it is more important to perform or deliver at these positions. Acquisition of position is important because it helps perform and not by itself. It is means and not end. People getting to the position of influence while not performing is rather negative or counterproductive as it prevents the deserving to rise and perform. Nations with a system that elevates the non performing status quo agents to important positions fails to develop or solve problems like Pakistan. Although the skills and abilities of GIK to get in positions of importance were doubtless, his performance and contribution in improving the lot of the people will remain highly questionable.
A nation which is not honest with its history would always have a dishonest geography. Trouble with the Muslim world in general and Pakistan in particular, is that despite repeated tragedies we did not sufficiently investigate the causes so could not remedy them. No wonder the current condition of Muslims and Pakistan in the world is pathetic putting it mildly. The neglect was to the extent that we did not even investigate the 65 or Kargil debacles which harmed the country immensely. Proper investigation is necessary to keep the record straight for the future generations and we owe it to them. Doing wrong may be bad, but not acknowledging it and trying to hide it is even worse.
Material dishonesty is harmful but intellectual dishonesty is simply disastrous. In the west we see people writing confessions and memoirs which might be termed as one sided but overall objective and honest. We in Pakistan do not seem to be gathering enough courage to be honest after retirement or even posthumous. Another witness to Pakistan’s history, Qudratullah Shahab wrote an interesting book with stories of ghosts but simply ignored the pertinent parts like the PPO or his role under Ghulam Mohammad and Ayub Khan. Justice Anwarul Haq is reported to have confessed in front of many in masjid that Zia took oath on Quran that he just wanted to break Bhutto’s pride. If Anwar could help by giving Bhutto capital punishment Zia promised to reduce it to a jail term. When this statement got out, Justice Anwar did not have courage to put the record straight and denied it probably because of small privileges that he was enjoying as a retired judge. He died soon after taking the important secrets with him. Honesty was the heritage of the Muslims but we lost it and must repossess it.
Assessing the long career of GIK his greatest achievement appears to be his late understanding of need for education and higher studies. He took the initiative and supported the project of GIK institute which enjoys great respect locally and abroad. He named it after himself and wanted to be buried there. As long as this institution lasts and students get educated GIK will be remembered favorably. Although establishing a centre of excellence is commendable but might be highly insufficient for a man holding such important positions for so long.
We have not been able to put the record straight as our people made mistakes which they did not accept and we did not figure out the perpetrators. They felt this would somehow cause loss of their prestige or respect along with material benefits. This attitude is hurting us as we have not been able to understand the reasons for the derailment of democracy, many wars, breakup of the country, hanging of the PM and extremism, to name a few. We must devise a way not to make this mistake again as that would condemn us to keep on repeating mistakes resulting in more disasters. GIK might have been honest otherwise but in this matter he was short of it for the future generations.
The government might announce immunity for the retired if they state the facts clearly and voluntarily, sort of a truth and reconciliation commission. Anyone incriminating himself or others should not be denied privileges or concessions or even court cases. It might have allowed Justice Anwar to accept his mistake or GIK to accept his repeated role against democracy like instigating Zia against Bhutto. This might unearth foreign connections which GIK was always alleged to enjoy. Respected historians might be given the duty to write and correct the history with complete freedom, to be objective and honest. This might straighten our history and establish our heroes and villains correctly. We have not been honest and fair to ourselves but it may be argued that we had a right to make mistakes, but no sane person can give us the right to rob our future generations of the true records and history. We owe it to our future generations and the progeny. Let us stop our dishonesty in this world and not let it outlast us. We owe it to our children.