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Ayub Khan’s letter to Yahya Khan

Kanwar Muhammad Dilshad

FIELD Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan on 25th March 1969 stepped down as President of Pakistan and handed over power to Army Chief General Muhammad Yahya Khan who placed the country under Martial Law with Immediate effect. Ayub Khan, in a broadcast over Radio Pakistan, announced he was relinquishing charge as Head of State in view of the fast deteriorating situation in the country. This marks the end of his over 10-year of rule which began with army take over on Oct 27, 1958, at the height of political crises. The letter covers all the aspects of civil-military relationship and is reproduced in these columns: “My Dear General Yahya, It is with profound regret that I have come to the conclusion that all civil administration and constitutional authority in the country has become ineffective. If the situation continues to deteriorate at the present alarming rate all economic life, indeed, civilized existence will become impossible.
I am left with no option but to step aside and leave it to the Defence Forces of Pakistan, which today represent the only effective and legal instrument, to take full control of the country. They are by the grace of God in a position to retrieve the situation and to save the country from utter chaos and total destruction. They alone can restore sanity and put the country back on the road to progress in a civil and constitutional manner. The restoration and maintenance of full democracy according to the fundamental principles of our faith and the needs of our people must remain our ultimate goal. In that lies the salvation of our people who are blessed with the highest qualities of dedication and vision and who are destined to play a glorious role in the world.
It is most tragic that while we were well on our way to a happy and prosperous future, we were plunged into an abyss of senseless agitation. Whatever may have been used to glorify it time will show that this turmoil was deliberately created by well-tutored and well-backed elements. They made it impossible for the government to maintain any semblance of law and order, to protect the civil liberties, life and property of the people. Every single instrument of administration and every medium of expression of saner public expression was subjected to ruthless public criticism and blackmail. The result is that all social and ethical norms have been destroyed and instruments of government have become inoperative and ineffective.
The economic life of the country has all but collapsed. Workers and labourers are being incited and urged to commit acts of lawlessness and brutality. While demands for higher wages, salaries and amenities are being extracted under threat of violence, production is going down. There has been serious fall in exports and I am afraid the country may find itself soon in the grip of serious inflation. All this is the result of the reckless conduct of those who, acting under cover of a mass movement, struck blow after blow at the very root of the country during the last few months. The pity is that a large number of innocent but gullible people became victims to their innocent designs. I have served my people to the best of my ability under all circumstances. Mistakes there must have been but what has been achieved and accomplished is not negligible. There are some who would like to undo all that I have done and even that which was done by the governments before me. But the most tragic and heart-rending thought is that there was elements at work that would like to undo even what the Quaid-i-Azam had done namely the creation of Pakistan.
I have exhausted all possible civil and constitutional means to resolve the present crisis. I offered to meet all those regarded as the leaders of the people. Many of them came to a conference recently but after I had fulfilled all their pre-conditions, some declined to come for reasons best known to them. I asked these people to evolve an agreed formula. They failed to do so in spite of days of deliberations. They finally agreed on two points and I accepted both of them. I then offered that the un-agreed issues should be referred to the representatives of the people after they had been elected on the basis of direct adult franchise. My argument was that the delegates in the conference who had not been elected by the people could not arrogate to themselves the authority to decide all civil and constitutional issues including those on which even they are not agreed among themselves.
I thought that I would call the National Assembly to consider the two agreed points but it soon became obvious that this would be an exercise in futility. The members of the Assembly are no longer free agents and there is no likelihood of the agreed two points being faithfully adopted. Indeed members are being threatened and compelled either to boycott the session or to move such amendments as would liquidate the central government, make the maintenance of the armed forces impossible, divide the economy of the country and break up Pakistan into little bits and pieces. Calling the Assembly in such chaotic conditions can only aggravate the situation. How can anyone deliberate coolly and dispassionately on fundamental problems under threat of instant violence.
It is beyond the capacity of the civil government to deal with the present complex situation and the defence forces must step in. It is your legal and constitutional responsibility to defend the country not only against external aggression but also to save it from internal disorder and chaos. The nation expects you to discharge this responsibility to preserve the security and integrity of the country and to restore normal, social, economic and administrative life. Let peace and happiness be brought back to this anguished land of 120 million people. I believe you have the capacity, patriotism, dedication and imagination to deal with the formidable problems facing the country. You are the leader of the force which enjoys the respect and admiration of the whole world. Your colleagues in the Pakistan Air Force and in the Pakistan Navy are men of honour and I know that you will always have their full support. Together the armed forces of Pakistan must save Pakistan from disintegration.
I should be grateful if you would convey to every soldier, sailor and airman that I shall always be proud of having been associated with them as their Supreme Commander. Each one of them must know that in this grave hour they have to act as the custodians of Pakistan. Their conduct and actions must be inspired by the principles of Islam and by the conviction that they are serving the interests of their people. It has been a great honour to have served the valiant and inspired people of Pakistan for so long a period. May God guide them to move toward greater prosperity and glory. I must also record my great appreciation of your unswerving loyalty. I know that patriotism has been a constant source of inspiration for you all your life. I pray for your success and for the welfare and happiness of my people.”
—The writer is former Federal Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan and currently Chairman National Democratic Foundation