By 1965 Ayub Khan had managed to declare himself Field Marshal and omnipotent ruler of the first Islamic Democracy of the world. Like most dictators and political upstarts he sought legitimacy for his rule. His son Capt (R) Gohar Ayub Khan was the heir apparent to the Ayub Dynasty of Haripur.
Presidential elections were announced under his own imposed constitution of 1962 in which the electoral college consisted of 40,000 members from each wing called Basic Democrats (BD Members ). He chose ‘Rose’ as his election symbol, it was not the local small aromatic variety called ‘Desi Gulab’ rather an imported large variety was chosen that looked impressive but lacked aroma or character.
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In his new capital, Islamabad, the CDA had established a huge Rose Garden that boasted of over 400 varieties of imported flowers. Some of them were unique and exotic, like black or green, never seen before in this part of the world. The largest Red Rose was chosen from this nursery to represent the dictator in the electoral contest.
The other notable collection was at Packages Limited on Ferozepur Road. Growing up in Lahore, I was quite content with the local variety but my Uncle Aurangzeb Malik, who lived in Rawalpindi, took a keen interest in flowers and had a collection of his own. With him I had the chance of visiting all these exotic collections of imported flowers for the elite.
The lawyers decided to challenge the self-bestowed rank of Field Marshal in the Lahore High Court, to avoid embarrassment he withdrew it unilaterally. Now it was General Muhammad Ayub Khan versus Madar-e-Millat
With the announcement of the election, the Rose was all over. A run-over victory was projected for the usurper. As a serious Badminton and Table Tennis player, I was on my way to the YMCA Hall for practice, I saw a car parked outside the Light House, the famous outlet on the Mall, with a Lantern on its roof while the owner had gone inside the shop.
Radiance of the Lantern
As a conscientious citizen, I stood beside the car to warn the driver that he had left the Lantern on the roof and it might fall and break while driving. To my utter astonishment, he told me that it was the election symbol of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah who had agreed to contest against the untouchable Field Marshal. It was a stroke of genius, as only the sister of the Quaid-e-Azam was in a position to take him on.
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Through his EBDO ( Elected Bodies Disqualification Ordinance ) the dictator had sent the entire opposition home. In 1963 Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy who had successfully contested his disqualification was also found dead in a Beirut hotel. It was widely rumored that Sardar Shaukat Hayat had played a key role in convincing her to contest. He even led the long processions camouflaged Ms Jinnah as she was frail.
It turned out to be a one-on-one contest between frivolous pomp and show on borrowed money represented by the imported Rose and an indigenous source of light to enlighten and guide the nation through the prevailing darkness of dictatorship that had divided the population into haves and have-nots.
Wherever she went the crowds greeted her. She challenged the rule of the dictator, rejected his imposed constitution and demanded the restoration of the 1956 consensual version to be implemented, which meant returning to parliamentary democracy. The lawyers decided to challenge the self-bestowed rank of Field Marshal in the Lahore High Court, to avoid embarrassment he withdrew it unilaterally. Now it was General Muhammad Ayub Khan versus Madar-e-Millat.
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In East Pakistan her reception was tumultuous. All major cities where the Patwaris and Police were not in control, she was an easy winner. Despite all the administrative pressures she prevailed in Karachi and Dacca. Her victory in two major cities of the country seriously dented the invincibility of the dictator and proved to be the beginning of the end for him.
Quite like Suharwardy, she too was found dead in her bed in July 1967. According to Sardar Sahib who attended her funeral, she had strangulation marks on her neck. A case was registered regarding her mysterious death but never investigated.
In March 1969 Ayub Khan was removed through massive student protests all over the country. His Pakistan Muslim League (Convention) contested the 1970 elections with the symbol of cycle but badly lost in both the wings. In West Bhutto’s ‘Sword’ and in East Pakistan Mujib’s ‘Boat’ prevailed. After the 1977 disputed elections, Sardar Sahib again tried to save democracy.
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According to the 1973 Constitution, the post of Prime Minister could not be kept vacant, and in case of resignation, the senior-most minister was required to take over. Sardar Sahib tried for an in-house change, but his efforts did not succeed and Zia took over on 5 July 1977, plunging the country into another era of political dark ages from which the nation had barely emerged after the break-up of Quaid’s Pakistan.
‘Desi Gulab’ plays an important role in our lives. Its beauty, aroma and character is unmatched by any imported variety. It can be seen and smelt in our weddings, Sufi Shrines and graveyards. I remember as a child I used to visit the old flower market in Lohari Gate outside Anarkali, and it was always overflowing with our King of Flowers.
Pakistan which was once poised to be the first Asian Tiger never recovered from this detour. The flickering light from Fatima Jinnah’s lantern showed us the path to get rid of the first usurper
It is still the country’s largest selling variety which is sold in several forms; garlands, petals, floral and wedding decorations etc. Even politicians and criminals use them when they manage to get bail from our weak legal system. Ayub Khan was imposed on us, he then tried to sell what was not required by the nation.
Even his election symbol of an imported Red Rose that only looked rosy was deceptive as it lacked aroma or character and symbolised what he stood for, imported solutions for the elite and to please the external powers. Some of his ministers were on foreign payrolls who formulated policies to suit their masters.
Under the Indus Water Treaty, he gave up three rivers in violation of international laws. His debt-driven economic model has proven disastrous. Golden era yes, but for a few chosen ones, the homework for this growth had already been done by the founding fathers in the first decade ( 1947-1958 ) all he did was to change the direction of the beneficiaries from the masses to the classes.
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Pakistan which was once poised to be the first Asian Tiger never recovered from this detour. The flickering light from Fatima Jinnah’s lantern showed us the path to get rid of the first usurper. As the first fading generation of Pakistan at least we have succeeded in keeping the flame of freedom alight hoping that the struggle would continue even when we are not there to lead.
Dr. Farid A.Malik is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. (Fr. General Manager PITAC, Process Engineering Manager Intel Corporation Engineering and Management Consultant). An expert on mining and energy, currently working on developing clean Coal Technologies for Thar Deposit. He was a Shadow Minister PTI and Co-Ordinator of the PTI Think Tank where the framework of the Welfare State was developed. The article was first published in Pakistan Today and has been republished here with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.