When one writes one’s memoirs, one is invariably and understandably caught up in two different and conflicting states of mind. My mindset today in the year 2015 is decidedly different from the mindset which in 1964 had driven me to believe that the government of President Ayub Khan was synonymous with despotism, corruption, nepotism and soullessness. Today I have experienced all kinds of governments since the times of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, and a simple and casual exercise in ‘comparison’ is enough to make me remember the Ayub era with nostalgic fondness. Ayub Khan might not have risen to the high expectations that my generation by and large had associated with his 1958 revolution, but most progress in our history was made in his times, and the quality of living of the poor was least deplorable in his years.
I personally now believe that it was the aura of despotism that the West Pakistan governor Amir Mohammad Khan of Kalabagh exuded which had contributed largely to the disenchantment of most people with the Field Marshal. The politicians who had felt ‘left out’ for years had suddenly sensed their ‘opportunity’ went into quick action. Political parties opposed to Ayub Khan formed a new alliance called Combined Opposition Parties i.e COP. The combined parties gladly received in their fold anyone who was equally as determined to remove Ayub Khan as the other. In the COP we suddenly found strange bedfellows— like Jamaat -i-Islami on the one hand and Awami League on the other hand. There was also Council Muslim League of Daultana and company. Maulana Bhashani’s National Awami Party was also there.
In the hindsight I have excellent reasons to believe that some political parties—specially those with ethnic/linguistic preferences, had connections even at that time with New Dehli, and had been persuaded into creating an organized opposition to Ayub Khan who had come to be regarded as a symbol of Pakistan’s political stability and economic growth the worldover— New Dehli in particular.
Information that leaked out in the subsequent years indicated that at first it had been General (R ) Azam who had been a hot contender for leading the COP, and Awami League’s hot choice. But then the opposition of Jamaat-i-Islami and some other components of the COP to the idea of pitching an ex-General against Ayub Khan for the supremacy of democracy led to the search for other alternatives. General ( R) Azam had played a key role in support of General Ayub Khan’s Martial Law in October 1958, and had been a loyal lieutenant to the Field Marshal till his popularity in East Pakistan as Governor had led to his fall from the President’s grace.
Initially Mantaz Mohammad Khan Daultana and Chaudhry Mohammad Ali had approached Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, the aging sister of the Father of the Nation, and pleaded with her to stand against the Field Marshal, but Madar-i-Millat had found it hard to place her trust in the same politicians whose deeds had been instrumental in leading to the Martial Law.
In the early 1950s, Mohtarma had grown disenchanted with politicians, and had infact supported and welcomed Ayub Khan’s takeover. She had then hoped that the change would lead to a more stable form of government and healthier governance. The events that followed had led her to dislike the despotic proclivities and characteristics of the regime, and the personality cult that had grown around the Field Marshal.
In the end it took Maulana Bhashani to convince her to overcome her distaste for politics. He pleaded with her that East Pakistan looked upon her as the symbol of democracy, and that she should not let down the people who had placed such high hopes on her.
Mohtarma finally agreed to be COP’s presidential candidate.
It was virtually a bombshell in Pakistan’s politics.
The period between my meeting with Enayatullah Sahib and the announcement of the candidacy of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah ran over months. The management of Kohistan remained in the hands up of Mian Rasheed and Raja Zauq Akhtar. The slide downward of once a mighty newspaper had started. I remember that earlier that year Television transmission had begun. A Japanese company NEC had installed a TV set in Kohistan’s office as a marketing gimmick.
Mian Rasheed used to bring his entire family occasionally to Kohistan’s office to watch TV programmes. The TV set was placed in the office of the Managing Director. The sight of Enayatuallah Sahib’s room crowded with Qasoorpura village crowd used to infuriate me, but I had gradually resigned to my role as Executive Editor of the newspaper.
I never kept a diary or notes. Thus I am depending very heavily on my memory. There is a little confusion in my mind regarding dates.
But I have distinct memories of the key events. The most important of these events was the holding of a conference in Lahore of the COP delegates led by their party chiefs. The most important person (in my opinion now) in this conference was Awami League’s Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rahman. And the sensational incident that I am going to narrate here throws light on the mindset of this man who was to become instrumental in the breaking-up of the Quaid’s Pakistan, and who at that time was trying to act as a loyal lieutenant of the Quaid’s sister.
It was a pretty hot afternoon I remember. I was doing some ‘editing’ work in my office when the door opened, and the excited bulk of Manzoor Malik our Chief Reporter made appearance. He was a heavy person with a childlike smiling look always adorning his roundish face.
“Are you okay Malik Sahib?” I asked as he took a chair infront me.
“I feel I am on top of the world Akbar Sahib. I have a story that may become scoop of the decade,” he said in an excited tone of voice. “Have you?” I asked politely.
“Of course,” he replied. “First let me tell you, how I got it. I was strolling around at lunch-break of the COP conference when I spotted Sheikh Mujeeb Sitting with another leader on a table. I went there and occupied a chair. At that moment both suddenly got up to catch hold of Khan Wali whom they had spotted. Sheikh’s briefcase was right there infront of me in a half-open state. It took me a moment of nervous courage to put my hand in and take out a pack of papers. I had no idea of what I was laying my hands upon, but I made good my escape in a flash from there. Later in a safe place when I checked the papers I learnt about the significance of the documents. Here are these.
When I took the documents from his hand, I too had no idea of their significance. While I was checking them, I said to Manzoor Malik. “It was not very moral of you Malik Sahib.”
“I know Akbar Sahib, but journalists often have to act in highly unconventional ways,” Manzoor Malik replied.
The document was what was to become subsequently famous as Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rahman’s six-point agenda—
It was virtually a proposal for creating confederation of two mostly independent units with only flag and President’s ceremonial figure as common factors. Defense and Foreign Policy too could be common with certain strings.
I have forgotten the details now-But the substance was so mind-shattering that I remained virtually dumb-founded for a while….
Then he asked: “What do we do with it Akbar Sahib?”
“We will publish it Malik Sahib. There will be nothing else tomorrow on Kohistan’s front page except these six points of Sheikh Majeeb ur Rahman”.