September 1957

on the World today

PAKISTAN is often spoken of as one of the United States’ strongest allies in Asia, and this is true in the sense that Pakistan has shunned neutralism and is a member of the Baghdad Pact and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. It has a well-trained army and air force equipped with American weapons and has received large amounts of economic assistance. American military and economic aid since 1951 is estimated at a billion dollars. We are now paying 40 per cent of Pakistan’s budget. But Pakistan remains one of the weakest nations in Asia, geographically, economically, and politically. It has not held national elections in the ten years of its history and is ruled by a small oligarchy operating behind the façade of democratic institutions.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is not really one country at all. Its 80 million people live in two distinct regions separated by 1100 miles of India at its widest, point. East Pakistan is about the size of Wisconsin. It is surrounded on three sides by India, except for a small portion touching Burma on the southeast, with the Bay of Bengal on the south. East Pakistan includes only 16 per cent of the land area of the nation but has 56 per cent of the population, with an average density of nearly 800 persons to the square mile. The people speak Bengali; they are small and dark-skinned.

West Pakistan is about the size of Texas and Oklahoma. It borders on Iran to the west, Afghanistan to the north, India to the east, and the Arabian Sea to the south. The average density of population is about 110 per square mile. The West Pakistanis speak Baluchi, Pushtoo, Sindhi, Punjabi, and Urdu. They are generally taller and lighter-skinned than their compatriots.

This strange nation, with its geography split two ways and its culture split six ways, was founded on August 14, 1947, without any planning or forethought. The demand for Pakistan was basically an emotional bargaining point used by the educated, Westernized leaders of the Muslim League who wanted to counter the growing strength of the Congress Party under Gandhi and Nehru.

Truncated country

The Muslim League, led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, claimed that Hindus and Muslims in India formed two nations and that a united, secular state could not be established because the Hindu majority would always dominate the Muslim minority.

While political negotiations continued in New Delhi, rioting started in Calcutta and then spread across the face of India. These riots are referred to as religious riots, but actually it was the hooligans of both communities who began the trouble and the fanatics who encouraged revenge. When the partition plan was announced, the communal massacres reached a new pitch of fury, and mass migrations began. In all, about a million persons were killed and about 16 million were driven from their homes.

Jinnah was left with what he called a “truncated, moth-eaten” Pakistan. East Pakistan produced 70 per cent of the world’s supply of jute, but all the jute mills remained in India. West Pakistan produced cotton but had almost no cotton mills.

The loss of Pakistan’s leaders

Pakistan was burdened with 7 million destitute refugees and lacked a middle class, since most of the traders, bankers, and professional people were Hindus who had fled to India. Less than 200 Muslim civil servants opted for Pakistan, and these were mainly younger, untrained men. Many trained Muslims remained in India, including leading scholars and professors. Punjab University in Lahore lost 90 per cent of its faculty.

Jinnah died thirteen months after independence, and then, in 1951, Liaquat Ali Khan, who had been Jinnah’s chief lieutenant, was killed by a fanatic who was enraged because Liaquat Ali’s wife appeared in public wearing lipstick and without her face covered by a veil. Left rudderless, Pakistan drifted on the currents of opportunism, intrigue, and corruption. Even though it has not had national elections, it has had five Prime Ministers. There have been provincial elections, but these governments have been repeatedly dismissed and reshuffled by executive fiat and the people ruled by appointed politicians.

It has been publicly stated in the legislatures that one leader of Sind got himself voted 2000 acres of land, that thirteen West Pakistan Assemble members divided up 200 bus and truck franchises, and that a top civil servant bought 10,000 acres of land knowing it was earmarked for development. Privately you hear of cases where civil servants have gained as much as $100,000 on a single deal.

The position of the 9 million Hindus in East Pakistan is shocking. They are almost entirely excluded from the army and the civil service. Last year 320,000 Hindus fled to India, mainly to escape a food shortage and growing inflation but also to escape constant police and official tyranny. The exodus currently averages about 10,000 a month.

There are many others who suffer in Pakistan. The torrent of Muslim refugees ten years ago raised the population of Karachi from 325,000 to 1.5 million, and most of them still live in miserable shacks with no electricity, drinking water, or toilet facilities. There are other thousands who simply sleep on the streets; you see them at night stretched out like corpses on the sidewalk without even a piece of cloth spread beneath them. The construction of refugee housing drags on at a snail’s pace.

The profit motive

Pakistan has spurned the socialist theories that play so important a part in the political thinking of India, Burma, and Ceylon. It practices a sort of nineteenth-century brand of laissez-faire capitalism, and the profit motive has produced quick results, The index of industrial production, with 1950 as 100, now stands at 420.

Pakistan has the capacity to be self-sufficient in diesel engines, electric wire and cable, all kinds of paper except newsprint, cycle tires and tubes, and aluminum and brass utensils. It has developed an exportable surplus of cement, cotton textiles, manufactured jute goods, and canned sea food. But many of the industries depend on imported raw or semifinished materials, and plant capacity is now standing idle because of a shortage of foreign exchange. Cycle producers last year operated at 50 per cent of capacity, electric wire and cable factories at 70 per cent of capacity, and sewing machine producers at 20 per cent.

Another fault is that industrial development has not been evenly spread between the two zones, and the East Pakistanis, whose jute earns most of the foreign exchange, claim that they are being exploited like a colony. Their charge is true, since 75 per cent of the expenditure of the Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation, a semiautonomous government body responsible for much of the industrial advance, has been incurred in West Pakistan. In addition, imports arranged under the Department of Supply and Development have generally ranged about five times higher for West Pakistan.

But the present Prime Minister, H. S. Suhrawardy, who comes from East Pakistan and has his main political support there, has now ordered that all government spending must be divided equally between the two zones. This means that the factories of West Pakistan will suffer even more from a lack of foreign exchange, and idle capacity will probably increase.

Wasting the land

Despite industrialization, per capita income stands at less than fifty dollars a year — only a few cents higher than at the time of partition. The reason is that agriculture, which accounts for 60 per cent of the national income and supports about 80 per cent of the people, has been neglected. Pakistan inherited some of the best rice and wheat lands of India and was considered a food surplus area, but for several years it has been dependent on food imports. It imported nearly 1.5 million tons of food grains last year.

Per capita food production has declined from 19.2 ounces to 14.8 ounces a day. The acreage under wheat in 1955-1956 was the highest on record, but production was 17 per cent lower than at the time of independence. Bad weather is partially responsible, but John Bell, the director of the American aid program, has warned that 100,000 acres of irrigated lands in West Pakistan are going out of production every year because of increased salinity and waterlogging, while the fertility of hundreds of thousands of additional acres is being reduced by about 50 per cent. Moreover, 12,000 acres of unirrigated lands are being destroyed every year by erosion. Bell warned that at this rate the valley of the Indus will become a desert within fifty years.

While agriculture, education, public health, and housing are neglected except for projects receiving foreign aid, Pakistan is spending about 60 per cent of its revenues on defense. This is in addition to military equipment received as a gift from the United States. The Pakistan army numbers about 100,000 combat troops plus an equal number in supporting units. The air force has completely changed over to American Sabre jets, and Pakistani pilots are rated as among the best in the world. There is almost no waste, inefficiency, or corruption in the defense services.

However, American military aid encourages the Pakistani leaders to concentrate on military spending at the expense of nation-building activities and social services, since they know they can check civil disturbances by force if all else fails. It also encourages them in their feuds with India. India this year raised its own military budget by $100 million. An arms race between the two neighbors only defeats efforts in both countries to improve living standards.

The new Prime Minister

At the moment, the future of Pakistan seems to rest with Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy, the 63-year-old. Oxford-educated lawyer who became Prime Minister last year. He is a shrewd and able politician who is fond of Western music and dancing.

American officials in Karachi seem to feel that personal acquaintance with realities of Pakistan’s economic situation has proven to Suhrawardy the need for maintaining close ties with the United States. They also say that whatever his shortcomings, he is just the sort of man Pakistan needs at this time — a tough politician who will be able to give orders to the selfish and corrupt in Pakistan instead of taking orders from them.