INTERVIEW WITH SYED IQTIDAR HUSSAIN, VICE ADMIRAL (R)
Aug 13 - 19, 2012
PAGE: TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR PROFESSION PLEASE:
SYED IQTIDAR HUSSAIN: My family migrated from India in 1947. I did my early schooling in Lahore. After completing initial education in Govt. College Lahore, I joined the Pakistan Navy in 1953 through an all-Pakistan competition for all three services. As there was no naval academy in Pakistan at that time, I was sent to the U.K. for professional training to the British Navy (Royal Naval College Dartmouth) and subsequently with the Royal Australian Navy. Interestingly, both the ships where I received my early training were aircraft carriers. This training continued till 1962 when I finally qualified in Operations and warfare. I served at Sea most of the time, participating in the International CENTO and SEATO Exercises and subsequently both in 1965 and 1971 wars. I continued serving in the navy commanding ships and in various staff and training appointments. In higher ranks, I served in the Naval Headquarters, Joint Staff Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence. I finally retired as Vice Chief of Naval Staff in the rank of Vice Admiral.
While in higher rank, I represented Pakistan in various International Conferences in USA, Australia and Iran, notably the International Law of the Sea conference, the NATO conference on the future of NATO after the end of the "Cold War" and the settlement of Pak Iran Maritime Boundary. After my retirement, I was appointed Managing Director of Karachi Shipyard where I initiated the planning and preparation of Construction of Agosta Submarines in Pakistan. On the academic side, I graduated from the National Defence University acquiring a Masters degree in Strategic Studies and was subsequently appointed on the teaching Faculty of the N.D.U. I also graduated from the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California, USA in the subject of Defence Economics. Currently, I utilise my time in writing occasional op-ed articles for a leading English Newspaper and the Defence Journal. I also appear frequently on TV discussions pertaining to Defence and Security issues and International relations.
PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON THE PROGRESS OF PAKISTAN SINCE INDEPENDENCE?
SYED IQTIDAR HUSSAIN: The story of Pakistan since its birth is one of some grand successes and immense failures. At the time of its birth in 1947, the country faced monumental problems and difficulties and innate animosity from the Indians and the British. Whereas partition gave India everything served on a plate-an established capital with all ministries and government departments functioning, educational and legal system well in place, with armed forces intact with all their institutions and supply depots located in India. Pakistan had to start from the scratch having to do with make-shift arrangements. A new capital with offices for Federal Government had to be established, a State Bank had to be started, and most important of all monetary resources had to be created. Pakistan did not receive its quota of foreign exchange and monetary reserves from India despite many promises both by British and Indian governments. Also Pakistan did not receive its share of the stores and supplies for the armed forces. No salaries could be issued to Govt. Servants in Pakistan for the first six months. In addition, massive number of refugees had to be accommodated and fed while India stopped the flow of canal waters. The first Kashmir war started at the same time, it was being forecast that Pakistan would collapse within six months.
Remarkably, however, the wheels of the government started turning slowly and the spirit of the people, the govt. servants as well as the leaders started showing results. Everyone paid their taxes, Quantum of exports started rising, agriculture showed surplus, lifestyle both at the official and popular level remained simple and frugal. Low and behold the first surplus budget was presented by the Finance Minister in 1949. The Kashmir War ended, with India asking for a ceasefire. By 1952 Pakistan was firmly on world map as the largest Muslim state in the world with high promise. Much happened in the political field in the next fifteen years, but Pakistan made the greatest strides in the economic field in this period. It became a rising star in the developing world. In this period, Pakistan's economic planning took a bold leap forward with its Planning Commission working firmly on five-year plans. Pakistan's agriculture produced a green revolution, new industries, especially in textiles and jute mills were established. Two large dams were built, a new capital city was constructed. Pakistan's railways and irrigation system were considered one of the best in the world, its national airline, PIA made headlines for efficiency and performance. It's armed forces were highly respected. Pakistan was a country towards which the entire Muslim world looked with pride and the green passport was looked at with respect. But the subsequently years, after the 1965 and 1971 wars saw a major down-turn in Pakistan's fortunes. Political and military adventures, violent changes in economic policies e.g. large scale nationalization of industries, even small grinding mills, and educational institutions turned the tide of economic progress. The system of 5-year plans was abandoned and economic planning largely became a matter of chance and expediency. Much reliance was placed on foreign aid and bank borrowing with the passage of years the economy largely became a matter of convenience for those in power-top keep the country going as best as possible with minimal exertion and financial discipline. Policy of patronage and cronyism combined with massive corruption in the award of major contracts resulted in high borrowing and inflation. The country did make some progress in certain areas e.g. telecom sector with major penetration of mobile phones, and car and motorbike manufacturing. The banking industry in the country also received a major boost with the establishment of many private banks which created jobs for the educated middle class. The stock markers also progressed creating a wealthy capitalist class, majority of whom don't pay taxes. But with a large population many natural calamities the country had impact slid quite for back economically. So to answer your basic question for my comments on the progress that Pakistan has made since independence, I would respond by saying that with the overview that I have just given the progress after a good start has been, spasmodic, erratic and largely un-satisfactory. We could have done a great deal better. Our per-capita income today is about $ 2,500, our literacy rate just about 45% and our borrowings stand at nearly sixty billion dollars. Our tax to GDP ratio stands at less than ten percent when countries like Srilanka, Maldive and Bangladesh have a ratio of 14 to 17 percent with their literacy rates at 90%. Today our educational systems, especially at primary and secondary level is in total disarray because of gross mis-management and lack of focus. Our energy situation as it exists speaks for itself. We did become a nuclear power but our national confidence remains weak with a largely un-happy population.
PAGE: WHAT BIG CHALLENGES DO YOU THINK PAKISTAN HAS BEEN FACING SINCE INDEPENDENCE?
SYED IQTIDAR HUSSAIN: Without doubt, our biggest challenges have been in three areas: governance, nation-building and security.
As a new-born developing country Pakistan needed a system of governance that essentially worked on merit and discipline, somewhat akin to the initial years of the Asian Tigers / Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea etc. While in the first two decades merit and discipline in the governance were largely visible, these values steadily began to erode as political parties gained influence and power. Slowly but consistently political favourtism, patronage and loyalties took precedence on performance and merit. This approach hollowed down institutions and organizations which were once the pride of the nation e.g. the Railways the airline the Civil Service etc., corruption also began to be accepted as, an acceptable norm of society. This change of values in governance resulted in a reversal of economic and social progress and began to eat into the vitals of the country. The second big challenge the country faced was in the area of nation-building, the separation of East Pakistan is a prime example. Currently the problems in FATA and Balochistan repeat the same story. This failure is directly attributable to the lack of vision, sagacity and flexibility on the part of the leaders and the politicians.
East Pakistan could have been saved by giving them the autonomy that they wanted and creating a loose confederation. The troubles in FATA and Balochistan could have been avoided if we had given greater attention to their development needs right from the beginning. As in war the focus of leaders mainly remains on areas closer to the headquarters and center of power, the outlying and distant areas are over-looked. The political forces failed to grasp the importance of bonding of all areas of Pakistan and thus producing a cohesive nation.
Pakistan's third biggest challenge is territorial security and integrity. Because of its geography it will always face challenges from its neighbours, especially India and Afghanistan. With India's rising economic and military power and Afghanistan eternally un-stable, Pakistan's security challenges are formidable. Amazingly this was forecast even by the Supreme Commander of Indo-Pak armies, Field Marshal Anchinleck, at the time of Partition. In a study ordered by him to his staff to determine as to what size of army would be required by Pakistan, the answer emerged that Pakistan would require the same size army as the whole British-Indian army at the time of Partition i.e. nearly half a million soldiers and fifteen thousand officers, and for the same reason that Pakistan will have to protect both its Eastern and Western borders. Events have shown that this analysis was not far-off the mark. So to summarize, governance, nation-building and security are the three major challenges the country faces today.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC RATIONALE FOR THE REASON OF INDEPENDENCE:
SYED IQTIDAR HUSSAIN: I am glad you have asked this question because there are many in Pakistan today who question the wisdom of two-nation theory and the very establishment of Pakistan, especially after the separation of East Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh.
The dynamics behind the establishment of Pakistan are well-known and sufficiently documented. The fact remains that the founding father, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, opted for establishment of Pakistan as a Semi-Secular Muslim State where the Muslims of the Sub-Continent could pursue their economic and political interests with total freedom without the over-hang of a Hindu Majority. It was not the intention to establish a theocratic state. The Quaid's demand for Pakistan really emerged as a fall-back position i.e. when he was fully convinced that the Congress party had no intention of giving Muslims any part in power-sharing in undivided India once the British departed, not even in the Muslim-majority provinces. Because of the machinations of Nehru, Mountbatten and Radcliff, Pakistan, in the last moments, was denied even those areas that should have rightfully gone to her i.e. state of Jammu and Kashmir and some districts of East Punjab. Nevertheless the establishment of Pakistan did provide the Muslims of the sub-continent a geographical entity where they could rise to their expectations. Even though East Pakistan has separated, it still fulfills the original concept of "One or Two Muslim States" in the sub-continent.
The argument that Muslims in today's India are just as well-off is totally fallacious. There may be a few prominent positions occupied by Muslims e.g. as President / Vice President or in Foreign Service or in the film industry, but the bulk of Muslim population lives in extreme poverty with few opportunities for progress. According to the report of the Sachar Commission on the status of Muslims in India, (Justice Sachar was a former Chief Justice of India), the Muslim Community's Social economic and educational standing in the society is 25% below that of the Dalits. Those Muslims who have done better have had to change their social and cultural outlook e.g. Shabana Azmi a renowned Indian actress, culturally well-versed in literature and poetry, when asked to recite Ghalib's poetry from Dewan-e-Ghalib, asked for a Hindu version of the Dewan because she could not read Urdu! Similarly† in the hostels of Aligarh Muslim University no newspapers in urdu are available and all Muslim students have to read Hindu papers. In another instance when General Musharraf visited India, in the hotel where he was staying the Muslim bearers told members of the encourage that they had to change their Muslim names to get jobs in the hotel. The innumerable anti-Muslim riots that have taken place in India and the demolition of the Babri Mosque bear clear testimony to the fact that Muslims in India remain second class citizens. Pakistanis need to realize and appreciate what a great gift their founding leader left behind for them which they need to nurture, strengthen and protect and not just use it for personal and material gain. Nations rise because of their character and sacrifice and not through selfishness and greed.
PAGE: HOW HAS THE ISSUE OF POVERTY BEEN TACKLED IN DIFFERENT TENURES SINCE INDEPENDENCE?
SYED IQTIDAR HUSSAIN: Poverty has remained a major social issue, in fact a deep physical and spiritual wound in the body structure of the populace. It has never been whole-heartedly addressed by different regimes, whether civil or military. Some have tinkered with the problem others totally ignored it, with the result that today the country faces the worst possible scenario with nearly half of the population living below the poverty line i.e. earning less than $2 per day. With high inflation the conditions are so bad that some of the poor are forced to commit suicides or sell their children. The worst off are those in the interior of the provinces and rural areas General Rahimuddin Khan / (under whom I once served) who had served as Governor of both Baluchistan and Sindh and extensively toured both provinces once remarked "I thought I had seen real poverty in Balochistan until I covered Sind, it is much worse". The ultimate and permanent solution of poverty is employment and creation of jobs, whether in the rural or urban areas. Intensive agriculture, land reforms and industrialization are some of the activities that generate jobs. In the first ten years of Pakistan's existence an effort was made to introduce land reforms but this only succeeded in East Pakistan and not in the western provinces. A more concerted effort was made during the Ayub era when the size of individual land holdings was reduced to 500 acres of irrigated and 1000 acres of non-irrigated land. However this only marginally affected the big Zamindars in Punjab and Sind. A scheme of family planning during this period also helped in poverty control to some extent, resulting in lessmouths to feed. Setting up of industries, construction of dams and the federal capital provided jobs for labour. The approach to the poverty problem during the Bhutto era was more on socialistic lines - nationalization of industries and the slogan of "Roti-Kapra-Makaan". However, in practical terms whereas this gave hope to the poor, but effectively destroyed the economy. Instead of creating real jobs, the govt. departments and organizations such as railways, steel mills, airline etc. were flooded with extra manpower which became a burden on these organizations and eventually resulted in their near-collapse and bankruptcy. General Zia-ul-Haque imposed compulsory Zakat system for the welfare of the poor. Initially this helped the very poor but subsequently people lost faith when the impression gained favour that the funds were being misused and were being diverted for political purposes. Subsequent govt. paid little attention to poverty alleviation though funds were often allocated for SAP's (Social Action Programmes) and more recently to the BISP (Benazir Income Support Programme). The later programme is also politically motivated, where each poorest family will receive Rs. 2,000/- per month, it may make a marginal difference but cannot eliminate poverty. In the final analysis, poverty can best he alleviated by a sound mix of economic policies that lift the level of the poor by raising their earning capacities, the establishment of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh is one such example, along with small industries like garment manufacturing and carpet-making etc. The poor need jobs not dole-outs.
PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON PAKISTAN'S RELATIONS WITH ITS NEIGHBHOURS?
SYED IQTIDAR HUSSAIN: Pakistan's biggest neighbour is India, followed by Afghanistan, Iran and China. Our foreign policy has been more or less dictated by our relationship with India. Our relations with India have remained adversarial since partition. We have fought three wars and in 1971 India played a major role in the break-up of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh. However forty years have passed since 1971, and Pakistan needs to make some major adjustments in its relations with India, despite all the provocations from the other side. Our main priority has to be internal stabilization and avoidance of conflict. This requires a "normal" relationship with India without giving them undue concessions. With nuclear parity it should be possible to achieve this.
In regards to Afghanistan, again Pakistan needs to be pragmatic. The war on terror has exacted a heavy toll from Pakistan. Here again the need of the time is to quickly extricate ourselves from our embroilment in Afghanistan. This will not be easy, but Pakistan has no other option. We should leave the Afghans to conduct their own affairs, whichever direction they wish to go. Where America's involvement in Afghanistan is concerned, we should assist then in exiting from Afghanistan as early as possible without getting ourselves unduly involved with the Americans either. Americans will continue exerting pressure on Pakistan to achieve their own aims, we should only comply with these minimally. With the Chinese our relations should be of maximum economic and political cooperation. It is important that we do not give them offence by interfering in their internal problems in the Xinjiang province.
With Iran, Pakistan should endeavour to go back to the relationship that existed in the Shah's days. Though difficult, our effort should be to take the sectarian element, that has crept in this relationship, out of it. As an immediate neighbour we should have friendly state to state relations based on mutual trust and avoidance of frictions.