Field Marshals of Pakistan: Costs of Sycophancy and Political Expediency

[To understand the context of this post, please read At What Cost! Why Compute Economic Costs of Faulty Political Decisions]
At What Cost? Costs of Self Proclaimed Field Marshals in Third World Countries
In Pakistan the award of Field Marshal rank has been a product of sycophancy and political expediency for personal gain and short term advantage. The case of Ayub Khan who self awarded himself the rank of Field Marshal is a case in point. Currently, there is also the debate of awarding Field Marshal to the current COAS for every thing except any victories against enemies on the battle field. “The prime minister is repeatedly asking the army chief to take an extension and become a field marshal because he [PM Sharif] fears him;”  Imran Khan

Story of Self Proclaimed Field Marshal General Ayub Khan

[From Dawn De facto versus de jure – 3]

There is but one source that might explain the circumstances surrounding the appointment of our field marshal (which his military background cannot justify). On Aug 13, 1976, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto addressed a note to his major-domo Aziz Ahmed, to the army chief of staff and to the cabinet secretary, the subject ‘The elevation of Gen Ayub to the rank of field marshal’.

“I will tell you how Ayub Khan became a field marshal. When he promoted Lt Gen Mohammed Moosa to the rank of general and made him commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army he told me in Nathia Galli in 1959 that he was worried over the quarrel between Gen Moosa and Gen Habibullah [the father of Lt Gen Ali Kuli Khan who rightly should have been made chief of army staff in October 1998]. He told me that he was worried about Habibullah’s intrigues and ambitions. He asked for my advice on how to place himself head and shoulders above their squabbles.

“I told him that one way of doing it was to show complete impartiality, fairness and justice, and I made the other suggestion rather cynically. I told him that since it was essential for him to be head and shoulders above the others, it would be better if he elevated his own rank from that of a general to that of a field marshal. He thought it a brilliant idea. He was simply overjoyed but as all his reflexes were influenced by monetary considerations, much to my surprise he said, ‘The idea is brilliant, it will create stability but we will have to persuade Mr Shoaib, the finance minister to agree to the financial aspects of the proposal.’ Of course Mr Shoaib agreed. Ayub became field marshal in October 1959.

“At that time I was leading the Pakistan delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The formalities were completed in my absence. The cabinet willingly agreed to the proposal. All members of the cabinet, except Moulvi Ibrahim, the then law minister, dissented. I was informed that Mr Manzoor Qadir tried to give the impression of not being wholly in agreement but that was only for the sake of showing his convenient integrity. After the decision was taken at Karachi, Ayub Khan told his military secretary to phone me in New York and to thank me for making such a sound suggestion. I am therefore the hero of Ayub Khan’s valorous battles. Of course, the object of this note is not to dismantle the man. Some of us can still refer to him with respect. I am only setting the record straight.”

Bhutto (may his soul rest in peace) was a deeply complexed man, prone to bullying, and to continually justifying his dodgy actions. What provoked him to ‘set the record straight’?

See Also the background of General Ayub’s Self Proclamation of Field Marshal

Do You Know What Field Marshal Originally Meant and What it had to Do With King’s Horses 

See other posts related to Pakistan History 101: 


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