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Pakistani-American Mansoor Ijaz's confidential memo to retired US Admiral Mike Mullen on behalf of former Ambassador Hussain Haqqani makes a reference to the 1971 war where it says "this is a 1971 moment in Pakistan’s history". What does it really mean? Does it mean there is another India-Pakistan war in the offing? Or an expansion of US Afghan war into Pakistan? Or further splintering of Pakistan?
Let me try and interpret it by explaining it in the context of civilian-military relations in Pakistan in 1971.
The key result of the 1971 India-Pakistan war was the creation of the independent state of Bangladesh after a humiliating defeat of Pakistani military and Gen Nizai's surrender on December 16, 1971. This military defeat discredited, demoralized and sidelined Pakistani generals and paved the way for the Pakistan Peoples' Party leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to become an all-powerful civilian dictator and Chief Martial Law Administrator of what remained of Pakistan.
It can be reasonably argued that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a key architect of the tragic events that unfolded in 1971. Many analysts agree with late Governor Salman Taseer of the PPP who said that "the lion's share of the blame" for 1971 goes to Mr. Bhutto. Here's what Mr. Taseer wrote in his book "Bhutto: A Political Biography":
"Blame can never be satisfactorily or finally apportioned to the major players in this grisly drama, but that Bhutto, Mujibur Rahman and Yahya Khan share responsibility there can be no doubt. Many, indeed, are inclined to the view that Bhutto, as the most sure-footed politician of the three and thus the best equipped to assess the consequences of his actions, must accept the lion's share of the blame. Argument on this point will remain one of the central themes of Pakistani politics, perhaps for decades."
A number of actions and pronouncements by Mr. Bhutto support Gov Taseer's conclusion. Some of these are:
1. While the rest of the political parties winning two-thirds of the National Assembly seats agreed to attend the 1971 post-election session in Dacca, Mr. Bhutto refused to do so.
2. Not only did Mr. Bhutto announce his PPP's boycott of the assembly, he also threatened to "break the legs" of any one from West Pakistan who agreed to attend.
3. Mr. Bhutto urged the military to act against Shaikh Mujib-ur-Rahman's Awami Leage which had absolute majority in the National Assembly elected in 1971.
4. After General Yahya Khan was persuaded by Bhutto to act against the Awami League, Mr. Bhutto welcomed the army operation in East Pakistan by saying "Thank God, Pakistan is saved" on the day the military started its action in East Pakistan....knowing full well that it would invite an Indian invasion as it did.
5. There was wide support for a Polish ceasefire resolution in the UN Security Council to end the 1971 India-Pakistan war before Dhaka fell. But Mr. Bhutto, as General Yahya Khan's special envoy, refused to go along and walked out of the UN meeting.
All of the above facts lead to only one conclusion: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto engineered the defeat of Pakistani military in East Pakistan in 1971 to discredit and marginalize the generals and consolidate his own power at the expense of the unity of Pakistan.
Is today's PPP inviting the US military to defeat, demoralize and destroy Pakistan's military in 2011? Are Abbottabad and Mehmend part of this strategy? Are US and Pakistan heading towards a dangerous military confrontation in the near future?