Lesson from Decade of Development of Dictator Gen Ayub Khan: Development without People Representation

Do we want to build yet another big dam without building consensus among all the affected provinces? Do we again want to forget the disastrous consequences in our history when development projects were steamrolled without people’s consent? We see in our media yet another drive to hammer the benefits of Kalabagh Dam (KBD) while relying only on technical feasibility data and completely ignoring the real reason for opposition, namely, the trust-deficit of the smaller provinces as explained in the linked post. This post reveals the reality of Gen Ayub’s construction of seven dams during 1960s, which is being used to heap accolades on the role of dictator in Pakistan’s development. The use of this approach in support of KBD is again going to be a recipe for disaster and alienation if we fail to  understand that “a nation that forgets history is forgotten by history!” Our history tells us that development projects of the 1960s, which were forced down the throat of the people without their representation, had led to disastrous results. The case of seven dams built in West Pakistan during 1960s which is being promoted on the social media as a great gift of dictator Gen Ayub Khan to Pakistan was one of the greatest disservice done to Pakistan. The naive dictator, caught in the spell of his neo-colonial handlers, may have been hoodwinked into believing with good intentions that “big” development projects benefit the people. However, the grandiose development projects ended up confirming the suspicion of Bengalis of East Pakistan that they were being disenfranchised by West Pakistanis. The development was a ploy and its visible concentration only in the West, was only designed to benefit the West Pakistanis. This feeling of injustice and disenfranchisement exploded when Gen Yahya, another military dictator from West Pakistan, refused to handover the power to Awami League, the political party from East Pakistan led by Shaikh Mujeeb that had won the 1970 elections. This led to mass protests in East Pakistan, followed by a brutal army operation, which finally culminated in secession of East Pakistan in 1971 as Bangladesh.

Please note that the major grievance of Bengalis of East Pakistan before its cessation was that all the earnings that were being extracted from the resources of East Pakistan were being diverted away and they were being invested into development projects concentrated only in West Pakistan and designed only to benefit West Pakistanis. Dams development projects during the 1960s in West Pakistan are a good example of inequitable development because there were no comparable project in East Pakistan that were visible and prominent enough to pacify the Bengalis. These dam projects included Warsak Dam in 1960, Mangla Dam in 1961, Simly Dam and Rawal Dam in 1962, Hub Dam in 1963, Tarbela Dam in 1968 and Khanpur Dam in 1968.

Gen Ayub’s strategy of Unrestrained Economic Development at the Expense of Have-Nots in both the wings of Pakistan led to disastrous implication for Pakistan because the development was undertaken without representation of the people and without considering their sentiments and aspirations. It was disastrous in both wings of Pakistan:

  • (i) In West Pakistan, the sense of alienation produced by the concentration of wealth in the famous 22 families resulted in the meteoric rise of ZAB that created the conditions for the mass scale nationalization, and roll back of all economic gains made during the 1960s [12]. This nationalization would be a disaster as it tremendously increase corruption and erode the forthrightness of the bureaucracy. It would further lead to massive corruption in the process of privatization developing a rentier class. 
  • (ii) In East Pakistan, the sense of alienation created conditions where Bengalis who faught for Pakistan were forced to secede: E.g. Shaikh Mujeeb ur Rehman who had led Fatima Jinnah’s presidential bid in 1965 from East Pakistan got the first major jolt when Gen Ayub won through massive rigging. The 2nd major jolt was the reaction that he faced for his 6 points when Gen Ayub equated it with treason and which eventually made him to lose faith in the united Pakistan, and became a self-fulfilled prophecy of Gen Ayub [15].
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[12] 22 Families and Nationalization: Who Owns Pakistan by Shahid ur Rehman
[13] Defense of East Pakistan Lies in the West; An Examination of the Strategic Concept of War by Maj (Retd) AGHA HUMAYUN AMIN from WASHINGTON DC makes an excellent dissection of strategy concerned for 1971. Defence Journal, Jan 2001
[14] Bengalis are Strategic Liability: Hamood ur Rehman Commission Report
[15] Autobiography of Shaikh Mujeeb ur Rehman: COVER STORY: From the founder of Bangladesh; DAWN BOOKS AND AUTHORS, NOV 18, 2012 and also reviewed in Memoirs by Hamid Mir The News- Saturday, November 24, 2012

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