Roedad Khan
Oxford University Press 1997

Group Captain (Retd) ATHAR HASSAN ANSARI reviews the book written by ROEDAD KHAN, a consummate bureaucrat for being in the eye of the storm

This is not the country I opted for in the Referendum held in my home province of NWFP. in 1947 and this is not the country I would like to die in. I badly want a Pakistan to defend, a nation I can belong to, fight for and die for'. This is what Roedad Khan has written in his book under review. The expression is reflective of that despondency and frustration which all thinking and sensitive countrymen felt in the past and continue to feel. These are not only his feelings. Every Pakistani, more or less, feels the same way.

Roedad Khan has not been only a witness to the traumatic existence of Pakistan since 1947; he was also a player in the game of power politics with varying degrees. Joining the Pakistan Administrative Service in 1949, he reached the apex as a Federal Secretary and then after his retirement in 1985, once again entered the arena as Advisor to President Ghulam Ishaq Khan after the dismissal of the first Benazir Bhutto Government.

'A Dream Sour' is divided into 16 Chapter with a Preface, a Prologue, and an Epilogue. The book also carries a number of appendices. In the Preface, the author minces no words in observing that all the five presidents with whom he worked, in their own way 'directly or indirectly contributed to our generation's anguish and sense of betrayal'. In the Prologue, he gives a brief account of his family background, early education and then moves on to his stay in F.C. College Lahore in 1940. The writer has very fond memories of Lahore's splendour and sophistication. The atmosphere, in the College was 'liberal, tolerant and progressive'. He mentions about the Lahore Resolution of 1940 and observes that it did not make any impact on him. It was at Lahore that Roedad Khan established some life long friendships which continue even today. His moving to the Muslim University at Aligarh took place under compulsion. His father wanted him to go there. He describes the atmosphere in Aligarh as a 'mystic frenzy'. After doing his M A in History, Roedad Khan competed for the Pakistan Administrative Service and started his career in 1951. The October 1958 Martial Law shocked him and all those lofty ideas of a democratic order and representative rule, taught to him at Lahore and Aligarh disintegrated into the air. The country was peaceful. There was no commotion. All state organs were working with their weak and strong points. But still the Martial Law came. He refers to Diecy here that Martial Law could only be resorted to in a situation of 'commotion in the country, preventing the judges from going to the court'. Nothing of this nature was happening in Pakistan. This was the beginning of the tragedy.

Bhutto, as acting foreign minister wanted to visit Badaber. The American commander, after talking to Washington, did agree to Bhutto's visit but only to the cafeteria at Badaber. Badaber was not a base which Roedad Khan has erroneously mentioned. It was a communication centre for electronic espionage against the former Soviet Union and China. The U-2 spy planes did not operate from Badaber. The air base at Peshawar was used for the purpose. Roedad Khan mentions with a lot of pride his contribution as Project Director of Ghulam Muhammad Barrage and his appreciation of the interest Ayub and Kalabagh took in making 2.5 million acres of land available for cultivation. Jam Sadiq Ali also finds a place in the Prologue, for 'Shamiana, Mujra and Alcohol' Roedad Khan admits his failure to protect the lives and property of the citizen of Karachi on the eve of the declaration of presidential election results in 1964 while he was Commissioner of Karachi. Ayub called 'Dhakha and Karachi as deceased cities'. Cham Cham, a dancing girl from Lahore, also finds a place in the book when she was brought to 70 Clifton where the then Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr. Subandrio was staying as a guest of late Bhutto. Roedad Khan has had the opportunity of meeting a number of world leaders and was impressed most by Zhou Enlai. Meeting him 'was like meeting history'. After Ayub's exist, Roedad Khan was appointed as Federal Information Secretary and was a witness to the events leading to the tragedy of surrender and loss of eastern wing. 'I was in tears', he observes after the surrender and quotes Yahya as saying that 'he was not going to endanger West Pakistan for the sake of Bengalis. Mr. Nurul Amin was highly agitated and wanted to see Yahya. The meeting did take place and the generals including General Hameed were drinking. On seeing this, Nurul Amin observed 'So Dhaka has fallen, and East Pakistan has gone and you are enjoying whiskey'. Roedad Khan also mentions of the plan of 'promulgating a new constitution by Yahya and some of the generals' which was later on dropped in view of the volatile conditions in the country.

1958 martial law was a murder of democracy. Roedad Khan has made a very apt observation in the first Chapter dealing with Ayub. 'Experience shows that the Army Chief does not have to move even one brigade A jeep load of soldiers armed, with the authority of the chief will suffice'. This observation may have lessons for many now and in future. He gives credit to Ayub Khan for establishing KANUPP and PINSTECH. But in the ultimate analysis, 'he was the first to stab Pakistan's democracy in the back. It was Ayub who committed the original sin. It was Ayub who inducted the army into the politics of Pakistan'.

Chapter 2 is a very short one and deals with 'Bhutto, the outcast'. Roedad Khan describes the bitterness of Bhutto, 'The way Ayub treated today, you would not treat your orderly'. The author mentions, in this Chapter, his liking for Bhutto and that he went to the Rawalpindi Railway Station after his ouster. Roedad Khan also mentions his visits to 70 Clifton in Karachi. He expresses great admiration for Bhutto's sister Manna.

In chapter 3, Yahya is mentioned. Yahya was very popular with junior officers and had a great zest for life. However, according to Roedad Khan, Yahya by experience or temperament was not suited for the job of running the country. Roedad Khan has also praises for Maulana Bhashani for his patriotism. Mujeeb gave him an impression of 'being an angry young man in a hurry'. The author observes rightly while discussing the 1970 crisis that 'neither Ayub nor Yahya had the statesmanship or political skill' for resolving the East Pakistani crisis. They both miserably failed to judge the intensity of Bengali feelings. Roedad Khan, however, praised Yahya for his devotion to his family, generosity to friends, loyalty and honesty.

The author describes the details as to how Bhutto was brought from Rome to be handed over power as decided by the military junta. Bhutto, according to the author, started well. His greatest contribution was the 1973 constitution. Also the credit for the development of nuclear programme goes to Bhutto. Roedad Khan then describes the coup' d'etat of Zia and the trial of Bhutto. He is of the opinion that Bhutto's case should not have been fought in the courts. Zia was very clear right from the beginning. 'Roedad Sahib, it is his neck or mine'. Again about the popular belief and propaganda that Zia never commuted death sentences, the author tells us that Zia did so a number of cases. Bhutto's hanging was a trauma for him as Federal Interior Secretary and the one who had worked very closely with him. Roedad Khan broke down. He mentions his visit to CMLA Secretariat and found that all army officers had 'reddened eyes'. Zia, however, failed to destroy PPP which was the greatest ambition of the dictator. Bhutto, according to the author, had great capacity to mobilize people who had faith in him.

Roedad compares Zia with Roosevelt who was 'deeply receptive to the needs of the people'. He would listen to them with 'deep attention'. Zia was a good listener. 'He enjoyed clash of views, conflicting opinions and discordant notes'. However, Roedad, also presents a picture of Zia as painted by Altaf Gauhar as a 'great hypocrite. His grin concealed his arrogance and his cold blooded nature'. Roedad tells us of the transformation in Zia's personality after becoming CMLA. 'He radiated strength and confidence'. Zia, according to the author was surrounded by those who always told him what he wanted to hear. 'In fact, Zia had nothing but contempt for the constitution and democratic norm'. 'What is a constitution?' Zia said, 'It is a booklet with ten to twelve pages. I can tear them up. Is there anybody to stop me?. All politicians including the once mighty Bhutto will follow me with their tails wagging'. Roedad Khan mentions the violent political agitation of MRD and calls it a 'Volcanic Eruption'. The Referendum held by Zia was 'embarrassing low' with polling station giving a haunted and deserted look. With the passage of time, Zia started losing his rigour and confidence. Roedad sums up Zia that 'if he had his way, he would have taken Pakistan back to the Middle Ages. He had no idea of law or constitution or the requirements of a modern government'. He was all set to become an 'Amir'. Roedad also tells us of Zia's ever keenness to speak to Indira Gandhi on telephone and seek her advice, cultivate Indian journalists and welcome Sikh pilgrims in Pakistan. Zia's handling of Afghan crisis and his exploitation of the same to get favours from the west is also mentioned. Roedad is very critical of Pakistan's traditional Afghan policy by 'playing into Indian hands by treating the Afghans as our enemies and their leaders as Indian or Soviet stooges'.

Out of the five presidents, the next is Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Roedad acquaintance with GIK dates back to early fifties. 'Two things about him struck me; he was very handsome and immaculately dressed in western clothes'. Roedad mentions his retirement in 1985 when he 'experienced a strange feeling of liberation'. Zia died in mysterious circumstances, Ghulam Ishaq Khan became president and Benazir Prime Minister in 1988. Benazir had a feeling the GIK had been a party to the tragedy of her family but the author was to advise that 'she was lucky to have an honest man like GIK at the helm of affairs'. However, Benazir had to go in 1990 under the provision of clause-2(b) of article 58 of the constitution. By now Roedad Khan has become an Adviser to the President. Relations between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and GIK remained warm for about a year but then something started going wrong. 'Go, Baba Go' by Benazir in Parliament and Nawaz Sharif's silence was indicative that something was cooking up. By 1992, difference started surfacing openly. Benazir's appointment as Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee and Iftikhar Gillani's suggestions that the government and opposition should sit together became the starting point. Then came the question of selection of a new chief of the army staff after the death of General Asif Nawaz. Since the prerogative lay with the president, Lt. Gen Farrukh was tipped for the same. However, when the president discussed it with Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister expressed his reservations as according to Chaudhary Nisar Ali 'Farrukh was responsible for all his (Nawaz Sharif) problems with the late Asif Nawaz'. GIK reacted coolly and Lt. Gen. Abdul Waheed was chosen to fill in the slot. Nawaz Sharif did not like even this selection. He had somebody else in his mind. The prime minister came openly against the 8th amendment. PPP was looking for the opportunity. Benazir's strategy proved very successful. She was hobnobbing with both to extract maximum benefit and ultimately 'decided to throw in her lot with the President Ghulam Ishaq Khan'. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's address on television and radio on April 17, 1993 was heard by the author and Gen. Waheed at the latters residence. 'Good God! we are in serious trouble' said Waheed. Gen Waheed was very upset on this development and conveyed message to the president through the author that as army chief, he would uphold the constitution and that 'martial law was out of question'. Nawaz Sharif's speech sealed the fate of the national assembly which was dissolved by the president. The only dissenting note was from Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, who upheld the presidential action. A political crisis engulfed the whole country. Maulana Samiul Haq played the role of an intermediary. Gen. Waheed came much later. According to the author, the credit for the resolution of the crisis goes to the president, the prime minister and Maulana Samiul Haq. Both the President and the Prime Minister packed up and a new election was held. The author describes Nawaz Sharif 'a decent well meaning person' and 'action oriented'. Roedad Khan speaks very high of GIK and his abilities specially his brilliant intelligence and a powerful and quick mind. The rift between the two was a great tragedy. Nawaz Sharif did not understand GIK well and 'unwittingly drove a reluctant GIK into the arms of Benazir'. Further, discussing the person of Ghulam Ishaq Khan the author tells us that GIK never 'bullied or humiliated anyone, although he loved debate and intellectual confrontation. He put on no airs, he wore no masks. He was a loner from the start. Contemptuous of politicians, he always remained aloof from them. He never permitted any intimacy, friendship or informality except with very few'. Roedad Khan then mentions the indiscretions which he found in the person of GIK like induction of Asif Ali Zardari in the interim cabinet. Then GIK 'shielded some of his sons-in-law' which the author describes as GIK's 'Achilles heel.'

Roedad Khan was sworn as a Federal Minister, on 11 Aug. 1990, given the portfolio of accountability when Benazir first government was dismissed. Whatever then, he describes, is very sickening - the stories and scandals of financial corruptions and misuse of political influence for personal gains. Six solid cases of serious corruption charges against Benazir Bhutto were initiated. But then, all these cases resulted in nothing. 'No wonder there is a widespread popular belief that people who loot and plunder can get away with anything and that our law is neither swift, nor, sure, nor powerful nor just but only a paper tiger', observes the author. On Benazir's return to power the second term, all these cases were decided in her favour as the refereeing authority. (GIK had ceased to be the President and the referring authority. 'Accountability', in our context is a dirty word as far as power corridors are concerned. Nobody is bothered about it. Here Roedad Khan, in a pensive and reflective mood, gives vent to his feelings about the loot and plunder by holders of public offices.

Roedad Khan describes the election of Leghari as President. Quoting, the Daily Frontier Post, Ijlal Haider Zaidi, got involved in a scheme of things wherein Wasim Sajjad was offered the Presidency. However, the machination did not succeed and Leghari got elected as President. Roedad Khan appreciates the genius of Benazir when he observes that 'she bounced back, returned from political wilderness, and out-manoeuvred both GIK and Nawaz Sharif' and calls it as her 'finest hour'. However, she refused permission to Farooq Leghari to address the nation on Radio and TV. This 'stunned' the author. Roedad Khan displays a lot of respect for Leghari especially is his acumen in dealing with complicated matters. Leghari, as a minister, had the courage to differ with Benazir.

Summing up the performance and characters of the five presidents, he says that 'Ayub was a man of an average intellect, acquisitive but not corrupt'. He was 'decent and kind' man. Yahya was a good man but hardly a good 'President'. Yahya was 'devoid of hypocrisy' and 'in financial matters, scrupulously honest' dying 'almost a pauper'. Bhutto's 'outstanding quality' was his 'courage'. He was the 'brightest, most talented, articulate and colourful character but he could turn and become appalling in the flash of an eye'. Zia was humble and kind but lacked 'authenticity'. Zia always reminded the author of Oliver Cromwell. Zia had 'no military reputation' or 'military achievement to his credit'. GIK was a 'hard working man of great personal integrity and incorruptibility'. He was 'fiercely, independent' specially in dealing with Americans. Zia 'loved power'. Zia's concept of Islamic society was of 'scholastic, institution a list, fossilized Islam, co-opted by corrupt rulers'. Roedad Khan, reflecting on the post 1971 events, tells us that Yahya broke down when detention orders were served on him. Roedad Khan had the Hamood ur rehman Commission Report in his custody for 8 years. 'Yahya's performance', before the commission was 'by far the best'.

The author brings to limelight the important issue which have been hunting the nation for the last fifty years. 'Where does the sovereignty reside in Pakistan'? The higher judiciary in Pakistan created 'history' by validating the imposition of martial law by Ziaul Haq and granted him the right to amend the constitution. All the nine judges were a party to this. The author gives the details of the feats performed by the higher judiciary, 'where revolution is successful, it satisfies the test of efficacy and becomes a basic law creating fact' was the observation on Ayub's martial law. This ruling legitimized not only Ayub's usurpation of power but opened the flood gates for others. Yahya's usurpation of power was declared illegal when he was no longer there. The Provisional Constitutional Order of 1982 was the climax to humiliate the higher judiciary which largely accepted it. Again in Junejo's case, the judgment came after the usurper was gone. Nawaz Sharif's restoration is another example. 'Gen. Waheed distanced himself from the president, his benefactor, and joined the rest of the crowd in running him down'. Roedad Khan describes 'improper' the military brass summoning GIK to GHQ after the crash of Zia. The proper course should have been that the top military hierarchy should have gone to him.

Roedad recalls the advice of Jinnah to civil officers to serve a government if it is formed according to the constitution. Public services deteriorated in Pakistan and a stage has now come wherein public servants have been reduced to the 'level of domestic servants'. Politicians have played havoc with the system. Merit is gone. Because of 'the instinct of self-preservation, most of the civil servants have made adjustments'. The governing principle is that 'if you are not with them, you are against them'.

Roedad Khan touches upon the law of political succession in the Muslim World. This law is just not there and that has always led to 'uncertainty, civil wars, war of succession etc.' The author laments and observes that 'people have lost faith in the impartiality of electoral machinery, the independence of judiciary and the rule of law. 'From the country's first decade. Pakistani judges have tried to match their constitutional ideas and legal language to the exigencies of current politics.' This has been the most favourite line of action. Judiciary has largely remained a tool in the hands of the rulers. As a matter of fact, various judgments of the higher judiciary pertaining specially to the validity of martial laws have made us a laughing stock in the international world. The imposition of martial laws, abrogation and suspension of constitutions were acts of treason. The author touches upon ' the efforts of Justice Sajjad Ali Shah for asserting for its independence'. But then the book went for print. What happened later on is history. 'The lesson is that when dykes of law and justice break, revolutions begin'. We may not be far off from that position.

Shadows of martial laws and military take over still lurk. Pakistan, happens to be the most corrupt country. 'Lotacracy' has become a fact of life. Public faith is at its lowest. 'God seemed to have turned His face away from our country. The author further talks of Pakistan being a land of 'opportunities for the corrupt, unscrupulous, unprincipled politicians, corrupt and dishonest civil servants, smugglers and tax evadors who have bank accounts, luxurious villas and apartments in the west'. He quotes Quaid-e-Azam's speech of 1943 'Here I should like to give a warning to the landlords and capitalists. The exploitation of masses has gone into their blood. They have forgotten the lessons of Islam. Do you visualize that millions have been exploited and cannot get one meal a day. If this is the idea of Pakistan, I would not have it'. Pakistan continues to bleed at the hands of all these elements. Roedad Khan has correctly analyzed the mismanagement of half a century 'if the government does not control inflation and stabilize the balance of payment, if mismanagement of economy continues and the downward slide is not arrested, a grave economic and financial crisis leading to social chaos and upheaval may soon engulf the country. More and more people are losing faith in the country'.

Reflecting on the happenings of last fifty years, the author feels that as a nation we are 'rudderless, exhausted and disoriented'. Barring of a few, our 'leader are all committed to robbing the public'. He comes very hard on politicians when he says, 'the business of politics now attracts the scum of community and a legion of scoundrels'. Robbers must be hanged. Captain Sleeman hanged 400 robbers, 'Thugi' ended and the people of Hindustan, a hundred and fifty years ago, 'heaved a sigh of relief'.

Roedad Khan acknowledges the role and importance of armed forces which are 'preventing the country from going into the abyss of disintegration' but then observes that 'by itself, no army has ever rescued a country from internal disorder, social upheaval and chaos or been able to prevent its disintegration'. He refers to the Nazi military might and then the Red army in former USSR, a super power' which has now become the laughing stock of the world'. Roedad Khan mentions the dissolution of Assembly by Leghari in 1996 and his slogan of accountability which many thought would take to task the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. Nothing happened. Towards the end, the author longs for 'a person who will light a candle in the gloom.'


'A Dream Gone Sour', besides expressing the anguish of the author on the state of affairs in the country, is also a note of warning for the future. The parallels which he has drawn from events of similar nature from world history are relevant and meaningful for us. His grasp on the subject and his depth of knowledge specially of European and Islamic history are superb. Are we destined to doom forever and lost in the dust of history or is there any ray of hope left? This is a country where unfortunately rulers make promises to break. This is a country where businessmen, landlords, industrialists, bureaucrats, and corrupt politicians have devoured Rupees 140 billion of common men's money. They are at large. Nothing has happening to them. Our forex reserves were $ 10 billion when Zia crashed. Where have they gone? $ 11 billions were frozen. Who ate them up? That was betrayal of trust. Even after becoming an atomic power and claiming to have broken the 'begging bowl', our leaders are running from pillar to post begging for money. Fossilized characters like Sahibzada Yaqoob and Akram Zaki and many others are wasting a lot of foreign exchange undertaking foreign visits which will bring us nothing. The picture is frightening. Slogans will not save us. Pakistan today stands at a crossroads. Let us sincerely hope and pray that it does not engulf into a blood bath or economic collapse. God has gifted us with immense resources. It is a test for its leadership. However, well done Mr. Roedad Khan. Whatever demonstrated the courage. You have spoken the bitter truth. It is hoped that it does fall on deaf ears. Pakistan must be rescued. This blessing of Allah for the Muslims must be protected, saved and put on the path of prosperity and happiness. Let us resolve on the 51st birthday that we will do it.

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Commissioned in 1967 in the Education Branch. Group Captain (Retd) Athar Hasan Ansari served the PAF in different capacities till his retirement in 1995. His assignments interalia included Officer Commanding, School of Academic Training, Director, College of Staff Studies. Director Institute of Defence Management and Principal of two PAF Colleges. His articles on national and international issues have been appearing in the national press. Presently, he is working as Directing Staff (Research) at the Air War College.