By Dr Asif Javed 19 July 2022
“I feel that your services to Pakistan are indispensable. When the history of our country is written by objective historians, your name will be placed even before that of Mr. Jinnah.” The writer of this infamous piece of consummate flattery was a young Z.A. Bhutto, and the recipient, Sikander Mirza, who should be in the political hall of shame, if one were ever to be erected in Pakistan.
Bilawal Zardari has recently made a lot of noise about Z.A. Bhutto’s trial and demanded an apology for the unjust verdict handed out to his grandfather. It has become very fashionable lately to call it a “judicial murder”. This writer is not a lawyer nor am I a politician; I do, however, belong to the unfortunate generation that witnessed the events of his grandfather’s time in power, and fall from it. It is said that legends ossify over time; in Bhutto’s case, certainly, that appears to be so. Bhutto worship has become a relentless train that shows no signs of slowing down; instead, it keeps gathering speed. In the process, the established historical facts are being denied or distorted, and myths are being created. KK Aziz may easily write another volume of Murder of history based upon what we have seen recently.
Z.A. Bhutto was widely admired for his genius. Henry Kissinger may not have been way off the mark when he remarked, “Elegant, eloquent, subtle. . . .I found him brilliant, charming, of global stature in his perceptions. . . .He did not suffer fools gladly.” It is, however, the other side of ZAB—the dark one—that needs to be revisited. In the process, perhaps we, as a nation, may learn some lessons and see things in the right perspective. Khalid Hasan, a lifelong admirer, who knew ZAB firsthand, and worked as his press secretary, may have written the most balanced and insightful short biography of ZAB. He has summed it up eloquently: “ZAB had all the makings of a classical hero, carrying the seeds of self-destruction in him—he was a flawed genius, a god who turned out to have feet of clay. . . .ZAB had many personal failings, including an inability to trust others, a congenital suspicion of friends and high sensitivity to personal criticism.”
With rare insight and objectivity, KH writes: “There is no evidence that US government or any of his agencies played a role in the overthrow of Bhutto—the time has come for us to accept that much of what has happened to our country and our leaders have been the result of our own mistakes. . . .ZAB believed that a country should have only one central figure as leader and all power should flow from him. It is a tragedy that a man of Bhutto’s intelligence, education, and sense of history did not appreciate that Pakistan could only survive as a federal state with the provinces enjoying the maximum autonomy. Bhutto could not abide rival claimants to power even if they were elected to their office. He could not work with the opposition run provincial governments in Quetta and Peshawar and squeezed them out; that was his undoing. Bhutto forgot that power in order to be kept, must be dispersed.” KH also notes that it was Bhutto who revised ISI’s charter to include domestic political intelligence.
It is widely believed that Bhutto was hanged for a crime that he did not commit. It is rarely, if ever, asked, who then was the real perpetrator? Mohammad Ahmad Kasuri was murdered in Lahore; the crime scene was found to have shells used by FSF—Bhutto’s elite security force. And yet, the investigation was not extended to FSF. I recall a statement by Hanif Ramay of PPP, then the CM of Punjab, that Kasuri family had many enemies. This was despite Ahmez Raza Kasuri’s contention that there was no suspect but one—ZAB. This was not the first attempt on Kasuri’s life; he had escaped one ambush in Islamabad earlier. These episodes had followed an angry exchange between ZAB and Kasuri in the NA when ZAB called Kasuri a poison and threatened to fix him up. Ch Sardar, former IG Police, Punjab, has provided the firsthand account of this case in his biography, The Ultimate Crime; so read on: “FSF was created by a notorious dismissed police officer, Haq Nawaz Tiwana, and was headed ultimately by another infamous police officer, Masood Mahmood—-The FSF did not bother about any law, assuming the role of Bhutto’s private army—- Soon after the imposition of martial law, an elaborate enquiry in to the affairs of FSF was initiated. The FSF had gained a reputation of being, Bhutto’s gang of goons, for dirty works. During the enquiry, ASI M. Arshad of FSF, appeared before Ch. Abdul Khaliq, Dep. Director, FIA, Lahore and promised to tell everything truthfully if he were not tortured. He disclosed that he was a member of a special cell in the FSF headquarters, which had the most trusted officers for secret and sensitive missions—then he threw a bombshell. He said he was one of the FSF men who had fired on the car in which MNA Ahmad Raza Kasuri was ambushed.” So, this was the first solid lead in to the infamous murder case that led Bhutto to the gallows; legal intricacies aside, one is hard pressed not to see a connection here. Ch Sardar discusses the dubious character of the infamous trio of Masood Mahmood (DG FSF), Saeed Ahmad Khan(Chief Sec Officer to Bhutto) and Sardar Abdul Wakeel, DIG Lahore; they all had been among the most trusted police officers of Bhutto and would commit criminal and illegal acts to show him their ‘devotion and loyalty’. After his overthrow, they all were among the star prosecution witnesses in the case that led to his conviction. Sardar also, confirms the widely believed rumor of the time that a procession of opposition women in 1977, was mal-handled near Wapda House, Lahore by the “Nath Force”—a large number of prostitutes, recruited temporarily as police women, specifically for this purpose.
Kasuri’s murder may have been the most famous one, but was by no means the only one; this is a list that includes Dr. Nazir Ahmed of JI, MNA from Dera Ghazi Khan who was gunned down in his clinic weeks after provincial chief of his party, Syed Asad Gilani, had been warned by Khar (Us ka anjaam acha naheen ho ga). Kh Rafiq was gunned down behind Punjab assembly while leading a procession; Abdus Samad Achakzai was killed in his house in a grenade attack while Maulvi Shamsuddin, MPA and deputy speaker of Balochistan assembly, was shot in his car. Those who escaped attempts at their lives included Wali Khan, who lost his driver and personal body guard in the ambush; this was fourth attempt on his life. Years later, Wali Khan was to warn Zia of Bhutto’s vengeance (there are two dead bodies and one grave; make sure Bhutto goes in first, otherwise, you may be the one). Ch. Zahur Elahi, whose political heirs sit happily with Zardari at present, suffered more than most; Amnesty international once reported that there were 117 cases against him; this included a case of buffalo stealing. He survived in jail in Balochistan, courtesy of Governor Akbar Bugti, who refused to do him harm. Small wonder that after Bhutto’s hanging, Zahoor Elahi requested and received the pen that Zia had used to reject the mercy petitions for Bhutto. Mian Tufail, was scandalously manhandled in jail, writes Sher Baz Mazari in his autobiography, AJourney to Disillusionment; it was rumored at the time, that a naked prostitute was sent in to his cell to humiliate the Amir of JI. At the height of crises that eventually toppled him, Bhutto rushed in to see Maudoodi in Ichra; one wonders whether the founder of JI reminded ZAB of the treatment given out to his successor. Barrister F. Ibrahim, who was later to become chief justice of Supreme Court, used to share the legal chamber with Bhutto in Karachi, in the 50’s. “Bhutto was very generous, but I sensed a streak of violence in him, a certain mean or vindictive quality,” he told Stanley Wolpert, the author of Zulfi Bhuttoof Pakistan.
Mukhtar Rana, a PPP MNA from Lyallpur, had earned the wrath of his leader by his divergent views. He was deposed as MNA, arrested, and after being subjected to severe physical abuse—according to one report, he almost died under torture—was convicted in a military court and sentenced to five-year term of imprisonment, all in a matter of days. Ustad Daman, dervish Punjabi poet, made the cardinal error of writing an anti-Bhutto poem; he had a case registered against him—he was accused of being in possession of a hand grenade.
Kaswar Gardezi, was one of many to suffer vicious brutality; here is Mazari’s narrative: “In a voice breaking with emotion, Gardezi related his horrifying experience to me. The police presented him with an egg, a potato and an onion, he said, and then asked which of these will he prefer to be inserted in to his anus. After undergoing this humiliation and barbaric ordeal, he was then threatened with sodomy; to his good fortune, this threat was never carried out. Instead, he was badly beaten with a stout cane, after which he was forced to lie naked on a solid slab of ice.”At the time, Gardezi was Secretary General of the NAP, one of the leading opposition parties. Some people have been accused of going to irrational lengths in their hatred of Bhutto; incidents like above, are perhaps, the explanation for this.
One has to remember that Bhutto’s own associates were not spared his wrath; J.A. Rahim, a senior member of the cabinet, learned this lesson the hard way. He annoyed Bhutto once by leaving early from a dinner hosted by the PM. Rahim also made the mistake of showing his resentment by calling Bhutto, ‘Raja of Larkana’. What follows is how Rahim described this horrifying experience to Wolpert: “On reaching home, I went to bed. . . . About 1 A.M., I was woken up by my servant who said that there was a crowd of people before the house. . . . Some men of the FSF were climbing up the front balcony for the purpose of entering my bedroom. . . . I went to the front door downstairs. . . . Saeed Ahmad Khan, Chief of PM’s Security, who was at the head of that mob of armed FSF thugs, answered that he had come to deliver a message from the PM. . . . As the door opened, they rushed in . . . . Besides being beaten by fists, I was hit by rifle butts. I was thrown to the ground and hit while prostrate. . . . I lost consciousness. . . . I was dragged by my legs, then thrown in to a jeep. . . . bleeding profusely.” Intellectually brilliant, Rahim had retired as Pakistan’s ambassador to France, had been one of the founding members of PPP, and had written its manifesto.
Khalid Hasan was once asked by Bhutto to check out a certain person in Lahore. “I found out that the man was saying bad things about Bhutto all over the place,” Khalid writes. “I came back and told Bhutto. His brow furrowed. “His credit in my book has not quite run out yet,” he said. “I shuddered to think what would happen when the man’s credit did run out.”
Malik Meraj Khalid, in his biography, Merajnama, describes the extent to which Bhutto and Khar could go to harass their political opponents. Meraj Khalid once received a phone call from Zahoor Elahi’s daughter, whose admission to Lahore College of Home Economics had been blocked by Khar. By nature a decent man, Meraj had to call Bhutto personally to rectify this. On another occasion, Meraj had to call ZAB again to stop Khar’s plans to set on fire the house on Davis Road, Lahore where Asghar Khan was staying. Asghar Khan was not so lucky with his house in Abbotabad though; it did burn to the ground in very suspicious circumstances.
No account of Bhutto’s Awami Raj is complete without Dalai Camp. It will be fair to call it Bhutto’s Gotanamo Bay. It was used to secretly detain, three political dissidents (Iftikhar Tari, Ch. Irshad and Mian Aslam). These individuals were former PPP members, who had fallen out with Bhutto and left PPP along with Khar. As I recall, two of them had been former provincial ministers. Fearing arrest, some of them had been granted bail before arrest by the high court. They vanished without trace one day, having been picked up by FSF and were only recovered when Bhutto was deposed. Iftikhar Tari, who had the reputation of a goon, appeared broken after release. He narrated his ordeal on TV and could not stop crying in a program called, Zulm ki dastanay.
Bhutto could not forgive. Mazari recounts the following in his memoirs: “Back in the 50’s, Sir Shah Nawaz (Bhutto’s father) went to see Ayub Khuro, who was then CM of Sindh. Bhutto went along. Khuro slighted them by making them wait for half an hour in the verandah, and then drinking tea without offering them any. Swallowing his pride, elder Bhutto requested the Sindhi politician for a job for his son in the foreign service. Khuro listened to the request and asked the elder Bhutto to submit an application in writing to him. He then dismissed them cursorily with a wave of his hand. Later in 1972, as soon as Bhutto achieved power, one of his first acts was to humiliate Khuro by having the walls to his home in Larkana razed to the ground.”At times, Bhutto’s sensitivity reached absurd levels. Mazari notes: “In the mid 50’s, Ahmed Nawaz Bugti was hosting a table for some foreign ladies at Le Gourmet. Bhutto, who was present at the restaurant, spotted him and asked if he could join the group. Knowing his reputation with women, Bugti declined. Years later, Bhutto visited Quetta as President, to attend a formal dinner held by Governor Bazinjo for Princess Ashraf of Iran. Seated at the high table, he sighted Bugti, who was then Balochistan’s finance minister, dining at a less august table than his. Bhutto asked his ADC to bring Bugti to his table, looked at him and said, ‘Do you remember the time when you would not let me sit at your table? Well this time, I won’t let you sit at mine’.”
Here is another eye opener for Bhutto fans; this is again written in Mazari’s autobiography: “Over dinner at the Governor’s House, Arbab Sikander Khalil, related a rather strange and unsettling story to me. It seemed that Bhutto had recently visited Peshawar and while staying at the Government House, had requested Arbab Sikander for a supply of whisky. The Governor politely informed ZAB that as he did not imbibe alcohol, he was unable to provide the President with liquor. Bhutto then sent his airplane to Islamabad to fetch whisky. When the plane returned that evening, it not only brought alcohol but also, a Federal Minister’s wife too, to keep Bhutto company.”
Here is an excerpt from Stanley Wolpert’s book, Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan: “One of the women Zulfi met at a cocktail party that fall (1963) was Rita Dhar, daughter of V. Lakshmi Pandit, the first woman president of the General Assembly. Mrs. Dhar recalled how immediately after meeting her, Zulfi eyed her lasciviously, inviting her to his apartment.” Nehru’s niece apparently declined to Bhutto’s chagrin. Pakistan’s young foreign minister was in NY to attend the annual session of General Assembly. Ardsher Cowasjee told Wolper that Nusrat Bhutto had once attempted suicide and was hospitalized in Parsi hospital, Karachi with a drug overdose; on another occasion, she approached Ayub Khan, through Nancy Cowasjee, after “having been thrown out of her own house by her faithless husband.” She was staying in Mrs. Davies Private Hotel in Rawalpindi. It is to her credit that she stuck to her husband as he continued his love affairs.
A myth that refuses to go away is that opposition and Bhutto had reached an
agreement and army sabotaged it; the facts speak quite otherwise. Here is Mazari’s account: “At 10 P.M., on July 3 rd,Mufti Mahmood, Prof Ghafoor and Nawabzada Nasrullah, handed over the additional nine points to Bhutto. Having consulted Pirzada and Niazi, Bhutto returned to the PNA team and told them that he needed time for further consultation. According to Prof. Ghafoor, Bhutto’s attitude appeared accommodating; but only two hours later, his stance hardened dramatically. Addressing a press conference at midnight July 3rd, he lambasted the PNA negotiating team for ‘repudiating their earlier agreement’. It was clear to all that the PPP-PNA talks had broken down once again.” Gen K.M. Arif gives a very similar account of events in his book, Working with Zia. Arif quotes General Gilani, ISI chief at the time, that both him as well as Rao Rashid, newly appointed Director of Intelligence, had warned Bhutto repeatedly that the army’s patience had been exhausted and it was planning to act very soon. KH has also, devoted many pages of his book to crises of 1977. Here is an excerpt: “Tikka Khan (Bhutto’s adviser at the time) told the PM, in the presence of Zia and Corps commanders, ‘Sir, I would say we wipe out five or six thousand of their(PNA’s)men. That will cool them off’. Tikka Khan’s mindless remark convinced Zia and his Corps Commanders that Bhutto and his men were bent upon doing just some such thing.”
Gen. Gul Hasan and Air Marshal Rahim Khan had played a key role in bringing Bhutto to power. They were both dismissed in a most humiliating way, having been forced to sign their resignations, taken hostage and then driven to Lahore in the company of pistol packing Jatoi, Mumtaz Bhutto and Khar. Years later, while awaiting his fate in jail, Bhutto accused Zia of ‘biting the hand that fed him’. He had conveniently forgotten his own treatment of Ayub, Gul Hasan and Rahim.
“Bhutto trusted nobody,” KH notes. “He was troubled by what he considered unrealistic and idealistic liberal approach to press freedom, basic rights and government by law. Long before his overthrow, he had deprived himself of those who were capable of honest and wise advice. . . .and chosen to exercise power through civilian and military bureaucracy that he had once denounced. After his overthrow, he told Inam Aziz—Bhutto’s last interview—that he now understood where he might have gone wrong. He said he wanted to start all over again, back to the real fountainhead of power.” But history is merciless, Khalid laments, and had moved on.
Mazari’s assessment is similar to KH’s: “The press had to bear ZAB’s determined onslaught. As soon as he attained power, he dismissed the chairman of National Press Trust (that he had vowed to abolish) and the editor of Pakistan Times. His rival from the Ayub days, Altaf Gauhar, who was then the editor of Dawn, was placed under arrest. The printer, editor and publisher of Urdu Digest, Zindgi and Punjab Punch were arrested for protesting against ZAB’s martial law, were convicted and sentenced even before the writ petitions challenging their arrests could be heard in the Lahore High Court. Shorish Kashmiri of Chataan was also sent to jail; Hurreyet and Jasarat were banned and their editors imprisoned. Mehran was banned while Iqbal Burni’s weekly Outlook was forced in to shutting down its publication.”This is by no means an all inclusive list of the journals and newspapers that suffered.
KH has analyzed the issue of rigging in 1977 elections: “As far the rigging, it was so unnecessary because he was going to win big anyway. There is no evidence that he ordered the rigging, but he did not exercise the vigilance that it was his duty to do as PM and chairman of the ruling party. His own unopposed election from Larkana encouraged the lesser figures in the party to use the muscle of the state wherever possible to ensure their individual victory. The first angled brick that Bhutto built was laid by the unanimous and unopposed election of the PM himself. This less than laudable example was followed by his CM’s and some other PPP leaders in the four provinces. His rival Jan M. Abbasi of JI had -been kidnapped earlier, to keep him from filing his papers.” Wolpert traces this back to highly unexpected defeat of Bhutto’s father Sir Shah Nawaz in 1937, at the hands of Sh. Majid Sindhi. “Young Zulfi may have taken too much to heart, the lesson of his father’s election defeat, resolving even at his tender age, never to risk losing an election, no matter how high a price need to be paid to insure victory.”
ZAB’s intolerance had no limits. On 23rd March 1973, an opposition rally at Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi was disrupted. Here is the eye witness account by Ch. Sardar, who was SP Police at the time: “It was in the air that armed workers would be present in the public meeting. . . .then came reports that that armed PPP workers were also coming to the same public meeting. . . .by midday, we received information that large conveys of PPP crowds were coming from Punjab and some of them were armed as well. . . .DSP City told me that he saw some FSF men in plain clothes and suspected their involvement—On the FSF involvement, I was really shocked.”The violence at Liaquat Bagh led to eleven deaths and hundreds of serious injuries. Almost four decades later, BB was assassinated at the gate of the same Liaquat Bagh; was this divine retribution? One has to wonder.
Arthur Kessler once wrote that nothing is more sad than the death of an illusion. Many of Bhutto admirers never knew him first hand; one wonders what their reaction would have been, had they seen their leader’s behavior at close quarters. Back to the apology, demanded by Bilawal, I am not sure if the Bhutto family deserves an apology for his hanging. One should certainly ask whether the Oxford educated Balawal has the moral strength to offer one to the families of those who suffered his esteemed grandfather’s vengeance.
(The writer is a physician, based in Williamsport, PA, and may be reached at [email protected])