Pakistan & SEATO


This paper seeks to investigate why Pakistan became a member of South-East Treaty Organization (SEATO) when it was not part of South East Asia. By joining SEATO, Pakistan became an ally of the American power System in Cold War against Communism...

This paper seeks to investigate why Pakistan became a member of South-East Treaty Organization (SEATO) when it was not part of South East Asia. By joining SEATO, Pakistan became an ally of the American power System in Cold War against Communism. This strategic partnership strengthened non-democratic forces in Pakistan eroding the fragile democratic institutions and established a constitutional dictatorship' which was used as a vehicle for ensuring Pakistan's membership in SEATO.

Cold War Defense Facts And Pakistan:

For American policy makers, the Cold War was in fact a real war in which the survival of the free world was at stake and Pakistan before its birth was destined to enter into this war. Pakistan's proximity to the Soviet Union and China, the emerging Communist Block and the Middle East and Iran the center of oil resources or "wells of power" placed it in a very critical position on the "security map of the free world". The key event in the south Asian arena of Cold War competition was the signing of the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement between Pakistan and the United States on 19lh May, 1954 with the major objectives to build defense establishment in Pakistan to be used to block any Soviet thrust into the Crucial Middle East and provide United States with valuable military bases against Soviet Union. The Mutual Defense Agreement resulted in Pakistan's signing the SEATO and the Baghdad pact also referred to as the Middle East.

Treaty Organization (METO). The SEATO was established by the Southeast Asia. Collective Defense Treaty (Manila pact), which was signed at Manila in September 1954 and was signed by Pakistan, Australia, France, Great Britain, New Zea land, the Philippines, Thailand and the United States. Pakistan was included in the alliance though it was not a part of South East Asia. By signing these Defense pacts, Pakistan became one of the first few allies of the American power System in its war against Communism and an environment.

when most of the Third World countries were campaigning for nationalism, social reform ism and anti-imperialism and refused to be part of the American power System in the Cold War era. Dulles is known in history for his efforts to "integrate the entire non-communist Third World into a system of mutual defense pacts, traveling almost 500,000 miles in order to cement new alliances that were modeled after (NATO). The emphasis on pacts was a logical culmination of Trumjan-Acheson containment, which called for strong alliance systems directed by the U.S. and collective security pacts.

Dulles, along-with most U.S. foreign policy-makers of the era, failed to distinguish indigenous Third World social revolutionaries and nationalists from the Soviet influence. Neutrality for Dulles was "an obsolete, immoral and short-sighted conception". In its war against Communism, Dulles found cooperative partners-generals and bureaucrats who were trained by the British colonial strategist minds believing in a concept of a security state and groomed in a colonial tradition of "controlled democracy". They were put in control of affairs at the expense of the democratic institutions to steer Pakistan towards Dulles's collective security pacts. In April 1953 the Governor-General destroying the notion of the cabinet government dismissed the Prime Minister Nazimuddin to pave the way for negotiating.

The Mutual Defense Agreement under an "authoritarian regime" which was unaccountable to the people of Pakistan and backed by the army. This authoritarian' regime led by Governor- General Ghulam Muhammad was again successful in dismissing the provincial government of East Pakistan in May 1954, when it voiced against the signing of the Mutual. Defense Agreement, an authoritarian regime under the disguise of a democratic set up was felt necessary to influence Pakistan to join the Defense pacts, SEATO and Baghdad pact, since the majority of the parliamentarians and the people of Pakistan were not in favor of joining these defended pacts. The fear of widespread public protest over the question of Pakistan's joining these defense pacts and support of Soviet Union for any such popular movement was keeping Pakistan's authoritarian regime in a dilemma to publicly announce its intentions to join any defense pact against Communism.

Pakistan's Forced Entry Into The Seato:

In the following discussion, we will examine how Pakistan was persuaded to join SEATO. Dulles initiated the SEATO as a security arrangement for the region of Southeast Asia. The idea was publicly discussed in Geneva peace Conference in May 1954 in the aftermath of Indo-China conflict. On July 24,1954, presenting his "Five point program on South-East Asia and Europe", Dulles, the U.S. Secretary of State highlighted following points: First, as an interim protection, to fill what is clearly a dangerous vacuum in South-East Asia, there should be a prompt declaration of intention on the part of all the free nations, including the so-called neutralist block, against further aggression by means of external invasion or internal penetration. Second, simultaneously, every effort should be made to move ahead on the longer range of hard and fast military commitments under a South-East Asia defense pact. With all the many Asiatic powers we would like to see join such a pact may not be willing to enter it that should not serve as a veto on all the others. The news that Pakistan had decided to participate in the conference on South-East Asia defense was received with great pleasure and considered "an excellent development". Although, Pakistan had decided to participate in the Manila Treaty Conference, she was not yet ready to become a member of the South-East Asia Organization.

On the other hand, Nehru's reaction to the Manila Treaty Conference as expected was very critical. Refusing to be associated with any such proposed organization,. Nehru argued that "an organization of the kind proposed was more likely to promote mistrust and suspicion than security. He observed that "though it was called a defensive arrangement it was by inference directged against China and was motivated by fear about Chinese intentions". He opined that any such organization "would only serve to divide South and South-East Asia into rival groups and would therefore, in his opinion largely undo much of the great achievement of Geneva".

Nehru was seen convinced that "China harbored no aggressive intentions" and there was no need for its neighbors to feel threatened. This was not the view upheld by the Anglo-American block, that professed that "China was the exponent of a militant political philosophy to which (they) were unalterably opposed and which by its very nature could scarcely allow weak neighbors to develop freely along lines of their own choosing". Criticizing the South East Asian and South West pacific Organization, Nehru asserted that "it was far from being a collective peace system rather a military alliance". Nehru warned that it would "possibly result in the formation of a counter-military alliance".

He further argued that "the majority of Asian countries [would] not be participating in the organization. Some would even be strongly opposed south-east Asia a potentially explosive theater of the cold war". Nehru's stand made it more essential either Ceylon or Pakistan should be persuaded to participate in the organization. It was more convenient to press the authoritarian regime in Pakistan to bow before the wishes of Dulles and his partner. In view of India's criticism and anticipated strong reactions from Moscow and Peking (Beijing), it was easy for Pakistan's pro- west leadership to offer unconditional support to the proposed organization.

A fact reflected in Mohammad Ali Bogra's message accepting the invitation to participate in the Manila Conference. However, the government of U.K. and U.S. were "anxious to secure Pakistan's participation or association with a South- East Asian Organization even if she were the only Colombo power". It appeared that there were some serious Anglo-American differences over the strategy and control of a South East Asia Organization. It is interesting to note that, how both the parties were exploiting Pakistan's association for gaining their specific interests.

After knowing that Dulles had already invited the Colombo powers to join in a pact for the defense of South-East Asia, the foreign office, London and the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations were keen to show that they were more "anxious" than the U.S. for Pakistan's association hoping that "there would be at least one Asian country to act as a counter­weight to the American protegees-Siam and the Philippines". It was argued that "Pakistan could make a more useful military contribution than either Siam (Thailand) or the Philippines".

The Foreign Office felt "if Pakistan were excluded, it would be widely believed that (the British), rather than the Americans, were responsible, and there would be a repetition of the resentment felt towards the United Kingdom at the time of the conclusion of the agreement with Turkey". The fear was expressed that the United States might prefer to dominate SEATO by excluding Colombo powers. Therefore, Pakistan's association was considered essential. To make their case more convincing, the Foreign Office, London argued "if Pakistan were to come in now it would make it easier for other Colombo powers to come in later, e.g., Ceylon, Burma, and if there (was) a victory of the Masjumi (Moslem Party) in the elections next February (in) Indonesia".

To convince Pakistan to participate, it was argued that "Pakistan's interests in East Bengal give her a direct interest in South-East Asian security". According to American analysis, the closeness of former East Pakistan to the vulnerable areas in South East Asia could serve as a justification for Pakistani participation. It was emphasized that it would be more difficult to justify the introduction of American military equipment into East Pakistan, if Pakistan's security interests were primarily directed towards the Middle East.

It was widely believed that "Foreign Minister (of Pakistan) by signing the instrument in Manila had gone rather further than his Government had intended; and that there had been genuine embarrassment between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister about something which the latter had done in order to be as cooperative as possible with Mr. Dulles". The Pakistan Ambassador was concerned to maintain the "balance between tacit approval of South-East Asia Treaty Organization and strict neutrality supported by fear of possible Chinese reaction".

As expected, the South- East Asia Collective Defense Treaty provoked great criticism in Moscow and Peking. Defending the Manila Treaty, the British Ambassador in Bangkok observed in a press conference on 24 September 1954, that: The propaganda attack against the treaty made by Moscow and Peking and echoed by other communist agencies have been very violent. All have denounced the Manila Treaty as "aggressive". The falseness of this charge and the fury with which it had been leveled show how effective it must appear in communist eyes for the purpose for which it was designed, namely the defense of South-East Asia against aggression.

It should not be forgotten that Chinese have their own treaty with the Soviet Union and hence have no right to question whatever arrangement we may make with our friends for our mutual defense. Despite the difficulties Pakistan could face over ratification of SEATO, Prime Minister Mohammad Ali was not given a sympathetic hearing whenever he tried to explain Pakistan's difficult position. The minutes of such a meeting with the Secretary of State and Minister of Defense held in the Foreign Office London, reveal how the Prime Minister's position was humiliated rather than showing an understanding attitude for the difficult position in which Pakistan was being placed by signing SEATO.

It was reported that Mohammad Ali Bogra "haggled a lot and adopted a stupid and rather blackmailing attitude on the lines of what "do we get out of it if we did become members, what about India etc? The minutes recorded that "the Secretary of State and Minister of Defense pressed Mohammad Ali Bogra strongly on loss of prestige and other good reasons why it would be very short sighted of Pakistan to back down now". The record further reveals that "later the Foreign Secretary and Lord Alexander had a further discussion with Mohammad Ali Bogra when the latter said that he would like to think more about this and have another meeting after he returned from Washington".

Borga's reluctance was due to the increasing pressure from the Bengali members of the Constituent Assembly. These members opposed to any Defense pact, were also in the process of finalizing the future constitution of Pakistan.

The Constituent Assembly was re-convened on 14 March 1954 after a long break of four months and had resumed the work on the finalization of the remaining clauses of the Basic Principles Committee Report. The Governor General who was in control of the central executive was unable to extend its authority over the Constituent Assembly and was not pleased with these developments. Once the constitution was framed, the Governor General's position was about to change and the focus of the power had to shift to the representative forces. In July, Sir Lvov Jennings arrived in Pakistan to assist in the drafting of the constitution of the Assembly's Constitutional Drafting Committee.

On 15 September, Bogra announced in the Assembly that, "he (was) grateful to God that at last (they had) crossed the last hurdle in Pakistan". On 20 September, the Assembly abolished the public and Representative Offices Disqualification Act (PRODA), the most powerful executive weapon, since it was passed during Liaquat's ministry. The next day, the Constituent Assembly amended the government of India Act 1935, which prevented the Governor-General from dismissing the cabinet, which was made responsible to the National Assembly through this amendment. "This was the move to make the government completely dependent upon the Assembly and to prevent the repetition of the exercise of the Governor-General's power of intervention".

According to the fifth Amendment only members of the Assembly were to be selected as cabinet ministers and could continue to hold only as long as they retained the confidence of the legislature and similarly the Prime Minister was required to be a member of the Assembly at the time of his appointment to the Assembly, and would be required to resign if any one of its members lost the confidence of the Assembly.

By making these amendments, the Assembly declared its supremacy and its objective to ensure that "formation and working of government" should be in accordance with the "accepted principles and conventions" of a parliamentary system of government". With the caption, "Parliament Made Supreme Body", Dawn stated that "the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan yesterday laid down in clear and unambiguous terms that from that day the supreme authority in the country shall be the Parliament". On 21 September, the Assembly voted its approval of the constitution in the form of the Basic Principles Committee Report as amended.

Out of 40 votes polled, 27 were in favour, 11 Hindu members voted against and none of the members from the Punjab voted on the constitution. The assembly then was adjourned until 27 October, concluding what was called a "historical session". In contrast, this was seen as "veritable coup" carried out by Bengali members of the assembly backed by 'some have-nots' of the Muslim League. The British High Commissioner observed that "one result (of the constitutional changes was) to bring a step nearer the possibility that the Army and the higher Civil Service...(might) one day come to the conclusion that the politicians have made such a mess that it is necessary for non-political forces to take over".

This observation was the mirror image of the thinking of the "neo-colonial powers", who claimed to be the champions of democracy and protectors of the "free World" but to democratic forces at the expense of derailing the democratic process in Pakistan. "Pakistan's international supporters were ambivalent about democracy too. The American Agenda was clear: a pro-western Pakistan, a stable Pakistan, prosperous Pakistan, and a democratic Pakistan were all desirable, but in that order. When democracy threatened to remove a leadership that was less than pro-America, the U.S. Embassy conveyed this priority to Pakistan".

Supported be these protectors of the "free World", the Governor General ordered the police to bar the members of the constituent Assembly from attending the session of the Assembly on 27 October 1954 which was called specially to vote on the draft constitution approved in the Assembly's previous session. The next day, the Governor General dissolved the Constituent Assembly, and appointed a 'semi dictatorial executive' praised as a "cabinet of talents", in which the Army Chief, General Muhammad Ayub was included as the Defense Minister. "From all accounts available, it seems clear that Ghulam Muhammad's plan to dismiss the Constituent Assembly once for all and to start again was worked out with General Ayub's prior knowledge.

It is, moreover, probable that without the assurance of the Army's support, Ghulam Muhammad, might have hesitated". General Ayub's inclusion in the cabinet was the indication to suggest that "this was no time for none- sense" and that there should be no doubt left that the Army was the negotiating power in the state construction and the partner in Dulles's defense strategic plans. "On 28 October 1954, the Assembly, which until then had been an operating political body and had produced a new constitution, became a 'failure'. But it was the success not the failure, which brought about its demise".

The termination of parliamentary democracy was not the result of "failure" within the Assembly or defects in the new constitutional changes as suggested by the British High Commissioner and campaigned by the Governor General and his associates, rather the strategic partnership with the American power System that promoted authoritarianism was the real culprit. It was declared that the electorate was bound to act foolish, as they had done in the East Pakistan election clearly. This was not because masses were illiterate and needed further training in democratic institution. The assertion there would be a need of "controlled democracy". Governor General's action of dissolving the Constituent Assembly got the judicial legitimacy by the Federal Court's theory of "Law of Necessity" declaring "that which otherwise is not lawful, necessity makes lawful".

The effect of this theory was that those in command of coercive powers of the state had the right to suspend constitutional government when and for however long they thought necessary. The subsequent courts in Pakistan have retroactively cited the theory of Law of Necessity "to justify coups against civilian governments by General Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf. The bureaucrat military alliance with the support of their strategic partners was successful in eroding the democratic institutions, and establishing a "constitutional dictatorship" in Pakistan. This constitutional dictatorship was the vehicle to be used for ensuring Pakistan's membership in SEATO. "The interplay of domestic, regional and international factors had brought about a decisive shift in the institutional balance of power, bureaucrats and generals had triumphed over politicians".

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