M. Asghar Khan: We’ve learnt nothing from history

!http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/images/2008/asgharkhan.jpg! A first hand account of Pakistan’s history – Asghar Khan has lived through it all, and has been involved with all the major political and army leaders throughout Pakistan’s history. If not for Bhutto’s rigging and Zial Huq’s coup, Asghar Khan would now be written in the history books. It’s a testament to the threat he posed to the powers that be that despite the impact he had on Pakistani politics, he’s been written out of the official histories of Pakistan, both by Zia and than by Bhutto, who both disliked him intensely – Bhutto tried to kill him, while Zia put him in jail for years.

The book is highly readable and very interesting – Asghar Khan speaks of personalities and behind the scenes details which the official histories leave out. Asghar Khan is one of the few honest politicians in Pakistan, and now approaching 90 he doesn’t have much to fear from anyone – the book is a honest overview of how he lived through politics, starting from Partition and ending midway through Musharraf’s reign

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What is really depressing, is that Asghar Khan reaffirms the dismal view I already had of Pakistani politicians. Every single leader he talks about is ready to do whatever it takes to get into power – the lowest of the low, and he reaffirms Bhutto’s role in sending in the Pakistan Army to attack it’s own in East Pakistan.

The book is worth reading, for many of the politicians he met and worked with are still very much on the political scene. The Pir of Pagara for one, comes across as a half assed dilettante, dabbling in politics for the hell of it now and then, before going back to whatever it is he does.

It’s not just the Pir, but all the other politicians – they connived with the Army and pushed them towards taking over as that was an easier path to power than getting elected, and especially the unelected ones were always pro-army.

The role of the ISI in politics is covered, though a bit too briefly – as well as Asghar Khan’s “case against the ISI for bribing politicians”:http://www.dawn.com/weekly/cowas/20071208.htm, which has been in deep freeze since 1996, probably waiting for Asghar Khan to die.

The first hand account of how Z.A Bhutto took over power from the army reads a lot like the events of 2008. What the book establishes, as to all other biographies of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto do, that Z.A Bhutto was “the single worst leader in Pakistan’s history”. And he’s had tough competition, with the likes of Yahya Khan and others to compete with, who sought to out drink and out womanize, as well as out stupid Bhutto to the title.

The book does have a silver lining – the current generation of Pakistani leaders don’t look so bad, considering the ones we had not so long ago. Musharraf was a marked improvement as compared to Yahya and Tikka Khan, not to mention Zial Haq, and even the much maligned Zardari is better than Z.A Bhutto.

Asghar Khan was present during all 3 wars Pakistan has had with India – 1965, 1971 and Kargil, and he says (like the rest of the world excluding Pakistan) that all three were the current Pakistani leaderships stupid ideas – not even wars really, as much as exercises in extreme stupidity. This is another thing which the official history books completely lie about, portraying them as some sort of heroic war where Pakistan was the wronged party, while it was actually the sheer arrogance, stupidity and ambition of the Pakistani leaders which caused all three wars – all of which Pakistan lost.

The “OUP blurb of the book”:http://www.oup.com.pk/shopexd.asp?id=1033:

bq. The book focuses on the early entry of Pakistan’s armed forces into the country’s politics and the struggle for the restoration of democracy from 1968 onwards. The author played an important role in this struggle, leading a movement against Ayub Khan that resulted in his ouster, and later, opposing Yahya Khan when he refused to hand over power to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League after they won a clear majority in the 1970 elections. In addition, the author reviews the events that led to the re-entry, in 1999, of the armed forces into politics after a short and turbulent period of ‘democracy’, and provides some insights into possible political developments in Pakistan in the future.

Highly recommended. Puts the recent wheeling dealings in perspective, by someone who’s been involved in all the past wheeling dealings (though always on the losing side!).

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* “Dawn’s book review”:http://www.dawn.com/weekly/books/archive/050626/books7.htm

* “Wikipedia entry on Asghar Khan”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asghar_Khan

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