Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bhutto Documentary at Sundance Film Festival

The life of Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007) is the subject of a documentary film "Bhutto" by Jessica Hernandez and Johnny O'Hara at a major independent film showcase in the mountains of Utah in the United States. The film compares the glories and tragedies of the Bhutto family with the story of the Kennedys in America.

The two-hour documentary shows her tragic story in the broader context of Pakistan's troubled history since independence in 1947.

The Bhutto family, sitting left to right in back row: Nusrat, Shahnawaz, Zulifiqar Ali, Sanam. In front, Murtaza and Benazir.

Fitting it in two hours "was the most difficult thing -- making sure that we are giving you an enormous amount of information," co-director Hernandez told AFP. "And to make it entertaining was the only way to do that."

The film captures the unusual story of success and failures, and the controversial, feudal legacy of Pakistan's first woman prime minister, with ultra-slick editing, dynamic music and graphics, animation -- to captivate the audience. As "Bhutto" producer Duane Baughman put it, "You mention the name of Bhutto, in Pakistan especially, and you will have no shortage of people who hate her and of people who love her".

"Her legacy will be debated for the generations to come," Baughman told AFP.

Here's a short movie trailer:

Here's another video discussing Benazir Bhutto's Legacy:

Here are some spontaneous reviews of the documentary from viewers at Sundance:

Here's a documentary on Islam narrated by Benazir Bhutto:

Related Links:

Ode to Feudal Prince of Pakistan

Acquittals in Murtaza Bhutto Case

Bilawal Partying at Oxford

Political Dynasties and Assassinations

Grandchildren of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Ziaul Haq Speak Out

NRO, Democracy and Corruption in South Asia

Pakistan's Intelligence Failure Amidst Daily Carnage

Zardari Corruption Probe


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a billion dollar LNG contract scandal uncovered by a complaint of the Fauji Foundation CEO, as reported by The News:

The NA members were told that the petroleum ministry bosses had never recommended to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) to give the multi-billion dollar contract to French firm (GDF-SUEZ), whom surprisingly they all were religiously defending now.

It was disclosed that the petroleum ministry had actually recommended the award of the contract to Shell-Qatar, whose bid was higher than the French bid by $1.5 billion. But Shaukat Tarin had thrown this recommendation of the ministry in a dustbin after he learnt that he was being asked to award the contract to a party (Shell), whose bid was higher by $1.5 billion compared to the lowest bidder.

At the end of the hour-long presentation followed by a question-answer session, Chairman MNA Sheikh Waqas Akram, praised the journalist for his comprehensive presentation. Later, MD Fauji Foundation Lt Gen Rab Nawaz was said to have reiterated his old stance that his firm’s bid was the lowest if compared with the GDF-Suez, which was awarded the deal.

The committee met with Chairman Sheikh Waqas in the chair and was attended by MNAs Barjees Tahir, Nawab Yousuf Talpur, Wasan, Khurum Wattoo and others. Petroleum Minister Naveed Qamar, Secretary Kamran Lashari, Special Secretary G A Sabri and MD FF General Rab Nawaz attended the meeting.

Klasra told the committee that his story was based on the minutes of the ECC presided over by then Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin. The minutes had revealed that Tarin had got a telephone call from MD Fauji Foundation that the lowest bid given jointly by FF/Vitol had been rejected and the highest bidder GDF-Suez was given the lucrative contract. Tarin had informed MD FF that he was not aware of any such bidding because the petroleum ministry never shared such information in its official summary tabled before the ECC on Feb 9.

Consequently, Tarin had alarm bells ringing and had ordered a serious probe into the whole issue as to why the bid offered by FF/Vitol was not mentioned in the summary. But the petroleum ministry never replied to the queries of Tarin till he departed from his office at the end of February, much to the satisfaction of the petroleum ministry officials who thought that the issue had been buried but the publication of the scandal by The News shook them.

Petroleum ministry officials had even written a letter to Tarin, informing him that Minister Naveed Qamar had desired that they should not respond to him as he would “personally deal” with this issue. According to Klasra, he had contacted Shaukat Tarin to get his version about these startling developments and the ex-FM had confirmed on record that he was kept in the dark about the joint bid of FF/Vitol, which was claimed to be the lowest.

Tarin confirmed that he got no reply from the Ministry of Petroleum till he left the office. He also claimed that according to his calculation and information, there was a difference of one billion dollars in the bid price of the French company and FF/Vitol, so the country had suffered a loss of a billion dollar.

Minister Naveed Qamar is a close friend and ally of Zardari.

Riaz Haq said...

India, too, belongs in this discussion because it was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who played a huge role in precipitating both 1965 and 1971 wars with India.

In 1965, it was ZAB who urged Ayub to wage a limited war in Kashmir. But he miscalculated badly and India turned it into a full scale war by crossing the international border in to Lahore and Sialkot on Sept 6, 1965.

Then again, in 1971, ZAB 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.

ZAB was the closest thing to America's Benedict Arnold in Pakistani context.

Mayraj said...

The Journey to Disillusionment

by Sherbaz Khan Mazari

Excerpts from his book . . ..

Page 330 - Bhutto’s fixation with Hitler was manifested in a similarity of coincidences. The concentration camp at ‘Dalai’ and the FSF ‘storm troopers’ were clearly products of Bhutto’s Hitler fixated mind. Aping Hitler, Bhutto chose to use a policy of systemic terror to brutalize his opponents.

Page 331 - By 1974 four political activists were victims of political assassination. The fifth was a botched attempt at killing a man Bhutto had grown to hate: Dr Nazir Ahmed, Jamaat-i-Islami MNA – shot dead at his clinic at Dera Ghazi Khan on 8 June 1972; Khawaja Muhammad Rafiq, leader of Itehad Party – shot dead by a sniper during an anti-government demonstration in Lahore on 20 December 1972; Abdus Samad Achakzai, leader of NAP Pakhoonkhwa of Balochistan – killed in his house in Quetta by a grenade attack on 2 December 1973; Maulvi Shamsuddin, JUI MPA and Deputy Speaker of the Balochistan assembly – shot in his car on his way to Fort Suleman on 13 March 1974; Muhammad Ahmed Kasuri, father of Ahmed Raza – killed mistakenly, during a bungled attempt to assassinate his son, who was present in the car along with him, in Lahore on 10 November 1974.

(Bhutto was lucky he got hanged for only one of these murders).

Page 331 – Others were killed as well. On 28 September a serious attempt was made on Wali Khan’s life as he was driving to Swat. Both his driver and guard were killed but Wali Khan luckily emerged unscathed.

Page 331 - On 5 October Ali Buksh Junejo – a former Khalifa of Pir Pagaro, who had joined the PPP, was murdered in Sanghar in broad daylight. The next day Six supporters of Pir Pagaro, who were attending a court hearing against them, were taken by the police to a deserted location and murdered in cold blood.

Page 332 - Apart from the killings during this period, thousands of people were detained from all over the country. There were those like Kaswar Gardezi, secretary general of NAP, who was sadistically tortured by the police while in detention. In a voice breaking with emotion Gardezi later related his horrifying experience to me (details of the torture not included here).

Page 333 – In September 1972 Khawaja Mana Rahman, of the Dawn group, was shot at the Karachi Boat Club by hired assassins who made their escape. A few months later an attempt was made to shoot his daughter while she was driving her car.

Given the circumstances I was disappointed , but not surprised, when Mana Rahman called on me to tell me that both he and his brother-in-law, Mahmood Haroon, has sought and received forgiveness from Bhutto. They had done so because they “lacked the courage to continue to oppose him”. The people who stood firm against Bhutto’s autocracy were getting smaller in number and in time would shrink further.

Page 334 – If any of his subordinates showed even a modicum of independence, he would be swiftly punished. In December 1973 he dismissed Mumtaz Bhutto as chief minister of Sindh. In March 1973 Khar was sacked as chief minister of Punjab.

Bhutto’s obsession with maintaining a aura of invincibility was so strong that he would spare no one, not even those who had done him valuable and devoted service over the years...

Mayraj said...

Mazari book "The Journey to Disillusionment" excerpts contd...

Bhutto’s obsession with maintaining a aura of invincibility was so strong that he would spare no one, not even those who had done him valuable and devoted service over the years.

Page 335 – On the evening of 2 July 1974 J A Rahim was invited, along with the senior hierarchy of the PPP, to a dinner at the prime minister’s house. The invitation was for 8 pm but the host had failed to show up. By midnight the seventy-plus-year-old Rahim lost his patience and left uttering some harsh words.

In the early hours of the morning as Rahim lay sleeping he was informed by his servant that a posse of men were demanding to be let in. Rahim went to the front door to discover that it was Saied Ahmed Khan, the chief of prime minister’s security, who told him he had come to deliver a personal message from the prime minister. When he opened the door the security chief began by pummeling Rahim’s face and body with his fists until Rahim fell to the ground. Then one of his men hit Rahim with his rifle butt while he lay prostrate. Rahim’s son, Sikander who rushed to intervene, was soon beaten unconscious by the FSF troopers. Having delivered Bhutto’s message Rahim was dragged by his feet and flung into a jeep, along with his son, and taken to a police station. Rafi Raza arrived at the police station a couple of hours later and rescued him.

Even Bhuto’s close associates and cabinet ministers now lived in dread and fear of the unpredictability of their master’s temper. Bhutto would not brook any criticism. Rafi Raza revealed that Dr Mubashir Hasan told him that when he wished to speak to the prime minister he would do so only privately to avoid ugly consequences. Rafi Raza also mentioned that Bhutto forbade him to speak openly at cabinet meetings to prevent others from becoming ‘too independent and contrary.

(this policy was continued by Benazir Bhutto. No one could speak until spoken to. Not even Aitzaz Ahsan, Raza Rabbani, Khurshid Shah or even the benign Iqbal Haider, not to mention the small fry Sherry Rahman, Farzana Raja and Fauzia Wahhab. A US official told of a meeting with Benazir Bhutto -- she spoke 90 percent of the time).

Part II

Page 344 – Bhutto did not trust even the closest of his associates and kept them in check by pitting one against the other. In Sindh he had controlled his cousin Mumtaz through his rival Jatoi. Jatoi in turn, as chief minister, had no control over Jam Sadiq Ali, who reported directly to the prime minister. Jam Sadiq Ali, his hit man had total control of Sanghar, Pagaro’s vote bank. Larkana was made into a division and Khalid Kharral became its first commissioner, reporting directly to Bhutto. Rather than trying to bring his warring subordinates together, Bhutto encouraged them to squabble even further, all the while enjoying the complaints of one colleague about the other.

Page 345 – Creating rivalries between his subordinate gave Bhutto a sense of security. As his confidant Rafi Raza admitted: “By nature suspicious, he sought to have ’dirt’ available against his ministers and leading party members, and in early 1976, assigned to his intelligence chiefs the task of preparing secret dossiers about them, to be used against them in case of need”.

Page 342 – NAP/JUI government in Balochistan was dismissed illegally and unethically and inspite of sending Baloch leaders to jail, the federal government had not been able to form a majority government there. People were shot like dogs, the army had blockaded sizeable populations, air force had been used to strafe people, Iranian ammunition was being used against the locals and thousands of political workers had been jailed.

Page 350 – On 25 June while I was at Karachi I read in the evening papers that over nine hundred people had been slain by the armed forces in the Mari tribal area. The newspapers mentioned the use of the Pakistan air force in aerial bombing of the hapless civilians....

Mayraj said...

Mazari book "The Journey to Disillusionment" excerpts contd...

Page 352 – A ‘mohtabar’ informed us: "On a recent visit to Harnai I met with an army Subedar at a local ‘chaikhana’ who told me that he was a paratrooper who had participated in the action against the Marris. The Subedar said many members of his section had been dropped by parachute at night near identified Marri settlements. At dawn they surrounded the settlements and attacked them killing all those who resisted, After burning down their homes, they arrested all the able bodied men and took away all their livestock. When I asked the Subedar about the Marri women, he told me that they took with them only the pretty ones for obvious reasons and left the others to fend for themselves. The ‘mohtabar’ then confirmed that in his presence alone he saw the army auctioning off over 15,000 heed of captured cattle".

Page 353 – On our return to Islamabad a number of us in the opposition including Wali Khan, Pir Pagaro and I sent separate similarly worded telegrams to Chaudry Fazal Elahi, the president:

"The action committee of UDF hereby bring to your notice that the actions taken by the federal government in Balochistan are unconstitutional and unlawful. In compliance with such orders the Pakistan army and air force are indiscriminately shelling, strafing and killing innocent inhabitants, including women and children. Their properties are being destroyed and their livestock looted. Concentration camps have been established where innocent and patriotic people of Balochistan are being kept and maltreated. Their women are dishonoured and innocent children tortured. Implementation of such orders of the federal government by the Pakistan army and air force is damaging the unity of the country and may lead to further disintegration, thus a reign of terror is prevailing in the whole province for the simple reason that the people of Balochistan did not vote for the People’s Party in the last general elections".

Page 354 – only two days later I received a report from Mukhtar Hasan, a newspaper correspondent who had just returned from Balochistan. He told me that while he was there two Marri women were raped near Balpat station by soldiers. The culprits were later caught and given only extra drill as punishment. In another incident, one Lal Han Marri’s wife was abducted in Kohlu and raped by several soldiers. Rape in any society is a most reprehensible crime, but when a country’s army, whose sworn and only duty is to defend the borders of a country, indulges in criminal raping of its own hapless citizens, it is nothing less than an act of treason. What disgusted me most was the fact that only token punishment was being awarded by the army for the perpetrators of this most monstrous of crimes. The Pakistan army was behaving as if it had occupied a foreign country, and an iniquitous occupation at that. It reminded me of the atrocities committed by the army in East Pakistan.

Page 356 – in late August I was asked by Bhutto to meet with him in Karachi. I took the opportunity of remonstrating with him about the continuing military action against the tribesmen, especially the use of aircraft against them. It was then, in my presence, that Bhutto finally, openly admitted that military aircraft had been used in Balochistan, but he insisted that no bombing had taken place, the aerial attacks, according to him, had been restricted to strafing and rockets....

Mayraj said...

Mazari book "The Journey to Disillusionment" excerpts contd...

Page 356/357 – within weeks of the dismissal of the NAP government in Balochistan in February 1973 a disparate group of Baloch guerillas had sprung up largely in the Marri and Mengel areas. These guerrilla groups, despite their meager numbers, constantly harassed army convoys. Adopting the classical guerrilla approach of avoiding any large scale encounters with the armed forces. Between the period of 1973 and 1975, there were 178 major recorded army encounters with the guerrillas. Despite the army’s enormous 80,000 man force it would find itself increasingly frustrated with its inability to deal with small groups who attacked at unexpected moments and then swiftly melted away into the mountainside. The army’s heavy handed approach of avenging itself on the innocent, ordinary tribal folk only worsened the situation.

Page 361 – the army now decided to take advantage of the presence of a large concentration of Marri families in one particular locality and launched Operation Chamalang on 3 September 1974. By attacking the tent villages of their families the army hoped to lure the fighting tribesmen down from the hills. The strategy worked and thousands of armed Marris poured down from the hills to defend their wives and children. It is said they fought for three consecutive days and nights before running out of ammunition and being forced to retreat to the hills.

Page 364 – News of the Chamalang Operation reached me late. I had spent a week in Sonmiani and found myself – as was the case in those days without telephones, newspapers or even electricity – completely cut off from all but urgent telegrams, which would take a couple of days to reach. It was only when I reached Karachi on 18 September that I was informed by Ahmed Raza Kasuri that the army had occupied Chamalang. He told me that about 800 Marris and over 200 soldiers had been killed in the fighting. I was shattered by the enormity of the event.

Part III

Page 371 – on 8 February my eldest son Sherazam informed me that he had just heard on the radio that Hayat Muhammad Sherpao, the PPP senior minister of NWFP had been killed in a bomb explosion at Peshawar university.

Mayraj said...

Mazari book "The Journey to Disillusionment" excerpts contd...

Page 371 – on 8 February my eldest son Sherazam informed me that he had just heard on the radio that Hayat Muhammad Sherpao, the PPP senior minister of NWFP had been killed in a bomb explosion at Peshawar university.

There are many theories about who arranged his assassination. One theory that cannot easily be dismissed was that it had been carried out on the direct orders of Sherpao’s own leader – Bhutto himself. It is a known fact that before his death Sherpao had become very disenchanted with the leader he had once hero-worshipped. Bhutto had noticed Sherpao’s growing popularity and had come to resent it and had begun politically sidelining him at every available opportunity. Even one of their close PPP colleague commented:

“ A few months before his death, Sherpao seriously considered leaving the Party altogether. He only changed his mind on the persuasion of myself and other friends from the Frontier ----- . Of all those around Bhutto, sherpao’s personal devotion had been the greatest, and his subsequent disillusionment was consequently the most profound”.

Page 372 – The death of Sherpao provided Bhutto with an excuse to clamp down on Wali Khan and his NAP. It was eerily reminiscent of the dismissal of the Balochistan government on trumped up charges of being responsible for the arms found in the Iraq Embassy in February 1973, two years previously. The day following Sherpao’s assassination, Wali khan and all the national and provincial leaders of NAP were either under detention or being urgently sought out by the authorities. The next day it was announced that NAP had been banned and all its assets confiscated. The First Amendment to the 1973 Constitution allowed the Federal Government to ban political parties formed or those ‘operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty of Pakistan’.

On the evening of 10 February I got a call from Jennifer Musa from Balochistan, who had been a NAP MNA, from Islamabd. She told me that over 800 of the NAP party members had been arrested. She also informed me that an ordinance had been passed in the Assembly which allowed for the arrest of MNAs while the Assembly was in session. It had become obvious that the government had begun an intensified assault to destroy all vestige of NAP. A brutal campaign had begun to pin Sherpao’s death on NAP party members. A number of them including, Asfandyar were very brutally tortured in an attempt to extract ‘confessions’. A few days later NWP Governor Aslam Khattak and the Gandapur Government was also sacked and the federal Government imposed its direct rule in the province.

Page 372/373 - On 18 February at 1 a.m. I was woken up by a telephone call from a very distraught Mrs Azizullah Shaikh. Her home was being stoned by hooligans. Her husband had gone into hiding to evade arrest, and she was alone at home with her three young daughters. I took my son Sherazam and a couple of our servants and rushed over to her house. We saw a dozen or so thugs fleeing into the surrounding darkness when they saw our car approaching. Inside we discovered Mrs shaikh and her three daughters cowering in the corner o a room. The idea that a government could stoop so low as to threaten a defenseless woman and her young daughters sickened me. My son and I kept an all night vigil and left only after sunrise...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the the conclusion of Sherbaz Mazari's book on Bhutto in 1970s:

(the following is being included much against my grain, only to show the kind of man Bhutto was, and to what limits he could go):

On the sixth day of the hunger strike I experienced severe chest pains that almost rendered me unconscious. I sensed someone watching me from the other side of the bars. I was surprised to see the jail superintendent standing there all by himself. He seemed very perturbed for some reason. Then strangely he broke down, “as a jail superintendent I’ve done some awful things in my life but I have my limits. Bhutto Saheb personally rings me up almost daily to see if I have broken you yet. But today he gave me orders which, even though I am scared of him, I cannot obey. I have applied for leave and am taking off tomorrow. I’ll face the consequences of my decision but my mind is made up”. Then he warned me, “the deputy jail superintendent is a vicious man, I don’t know what will happen when I’m gone” ----------

I had known Bhutto for some 23 years. To him lying, double-dealing and deceit were normal means of attaining and keeping power. His evident acceptance of new elections was now belied by his unexpected trip abroad. It was a clear indication that mischief was afoot.

During one of the PNA meetings at Sihala Asghar khan revealed disturbing news, Bhutto had decided to deal with the PNA hardliners once and for all. Bhutto had now concocted an ingenious plan by which Kausar Niazi and Ghulam Mustafa Khar would become victims of an assassination plan. In retaliation an enraged PPP mob would then proceed to murder Asghar Khan, Shah Ahmed Noorani and myself. This may seem a bit farfetched to some, but even Kausar Niazi, one of the plot’s two sacrificial victims, believed in its authenticity.

Gen Arif writes about a very revealing episode: “Gen Zia expressed his apprehension to Bhutto that, if the agitation did not end, it could erode army’s discipline and cause division in the ranks. This would be a disaster for the army and for the country. Mr Bhutto sensed the mood and laid on the charm, “you are my brother and I trust you”. He asked Gen Zia not to get unduly worried as the government did not plan to employ the army in a hurry again. He went on to confide that he had taken ‘other measures’ to deal with the PNA situation. That statement rang an alarm in Gen Zia’s mind”.

The rest is history.

Here's the link to extensive excerpts from the book on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto- "The Journey to Disillusionment" by Sherbaz Khan Mazari:

Riaz Haq said...

A 1979 Time magazine report said the following:

A message by Bhutto, smuggled out of prison before the Supreme Court ruling, warned that "my sons will not be my sons if they do not drink the blood of those who shed my blood."

Read more:,9171,912367,00.html#ixzz1KJysTc7P

Riaz Haq said...

I finally had a chance to see the documentary "Bhutto" by Jessica O
Hernandez and Johnny O'Hara last Thursday in Oakland, CA. The screening was sponsored by the PACC along with several other orgs.

It seems to me that the documentary is quintessentially a celebration of Benazir Bhutto and her mystique as the first female prime minister of an Islamic nation.

It advances a liberal western view of the Bhutto family through a narrative made up of sympathetic western and Pakistani commentators who see the Bhutto family as outsiders up against "the establishment"...a reference to Pakistani military and the ISI.

The movie does mention the 1977 poll rigging but it says it was done by "overzealous supporters" of the PPP, while conveniently ignoring the fact that the ISI political cell, created by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, actively rigged the vote on ZAB's behalf thus laying the foundation for as larger role for "the agencies" in Pakistan's political and electoral processes in 1979s, 80s, 90s, and the last decade.

Former President Musharraf made a reference to it in an interview in which he acknowledged that no new parties are created in Pakistan without "the agencies" influencing the process.

Here is an excerpt of a Dawn report on Musharraf interview:

"Pervez Musharraf said he had no regrets over the military coup of Oct 12, 1999, and the unconstitutional steps taken on Nov 3, 2007. “It was my good luck that the coup happened.”

When reminded that the Constitution had been abrogated on both occasions, he said the country was more important than the
Constitution, which, according to him, was a piece of paper.

Pervez Musharraf said he had appointed Senator Mushahid Hussain as secretary general of the PML-Q after consulting Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. He said the PML-Q had virtually fallen apart and most of its leaders would not contest the next
elections from its platform. Many of them had contacted him and some were considering contesting elections as independent candidates, he said.

The former president admitted that setting up a new party without the help of government and intelligence agencies was a difficult job.

He said he had written letters to the former nazims of all districts, inviting them to join his party and had received a good response."

Riaz Haq said...

Begum Nusrat Bhutto passed away in Dubai today, report Gulf News:

Dubai: Nusrat Bhutto, mother of the late Benazir Bhutto and mother-in-law of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, died in Dubai yesterday after a protracted illness. She was 82.

Nusrat Bhutto, who was born on March 23, 1929, to the Esfahan family in Iran, had lived in Dubai for more than 10 years.

She was recovering from a stroke and had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for several years.

Nusrat breathed her last yesterday at the Iranian Hospital where she had been admitted about two months ago.
Nusrat married the late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, founder of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) on September 8, 1951. It was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's second marriage.

Nusrat outlived three of her children — Benazir Bhutto, Mir Murtaza Bhutto and Shah Nawaz — all of whom were assassinated. Sanam Bhutto is her sole surviving child and lives in London.

Nusrat is widely credited for introducing politics to the women of Pakistan.

The Pakistan government has announced one day of mourning and the ruling PPP has announced the suspension of all political activities for at least ten days in the wake of the death of the woman who was Pakistan's former first lady from 1973-1977.

"Begum Nusrat was a towering personality and a very brave woman. [The] late Benazir Bhutto always took great care of her mother as she used to feed her mother with her own hands," said Sardar Javed Yaqoob, a PPP supporter in Dubai.

A large number of PPP supporters from all over the UAE gathered at the Iranian Hospital after hearing the news of Nusrat's demise.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times Op Ed by AR Siddiqui on Bhutto and the Army in 1971:

The field marshal’s soaring ambition had been to prove his status as a great military leader and Bhutto’s burgeoning desire to cut him to size had fuelled the engine of the 1965 war

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), an offshoot of Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s Convention Muslim League, emerged in 1967 as the single most formidable force against Ayub, under founding chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Quitting the government as its youngest and about the brightest foreign minister, Bhutto, once like a son to papa Ayub, emerged as the ultimate challenge to him at the zenith of his power between 1958-1968.

It hit its nadir towards the end of 1968 in the face of virtual political revolt in East Pakistan led by the fiery Maoist, Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani and the doyen of the fledging PPP, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in West Pakistan.
The trilateral talks in Dhaka (March 21- 27) between Yahya, Bhutto and Mujib failed to pre-empt Operation Search Light planned for the night between the 25th and 26th of March. Yahya left Dhaka on March 26, after telling his local commander Lietenent General Tikka Khan to go ahead with the assault on Bengali civilians.

Bhutto saw the burning ghats (series of steps leading down to a water body) of Dhaka and heard the earth-shaking explosions from his hotel room. In the fierce display of the army’s firepower, Bhutto saw the vision of his political power rise like the proverbial sphinx from the ashes.

On his return to West Pakistan on March 27, Bhutto would be the first to bless the army action as he disembarked from his Boeing 707. “Thank God Pakistan has been saved,” he declared, to put his stamp of approval on Operation Search Light. The operation destroyed the last chance of an amicable political resolution of power transfer between the east (Awami League) and the west (PPP). It also tolled the bell for a untied Pakistan.
The ghost of military rule, which Bhutto believed to have exorcised, materialised once again. Bhutto’s six year rule, at the best of times, had been a twilight zone between democracy and dictatorship. He never allowed institutional democracy to take root in the country, and ended up as an unsuccessful democratic strongman.

General Zia’s martial law came on probation for a period of three months. The military’s time frame was, apparently, a reflection both of its characteristic exactitude as well as of its tendency to oversimplify matters. The soldiers initially saw no problem with setting the mess right by holding elections in three months and going back to the barracks. The enormity of the task simply shocked them, however, once they were faced with it. Elections were indefinitely postponed and the martial law regime embarked on a programme of national reconstruction, moral as well as material.

Bhutto’s PPP used the army to get Mujib out of the way only to be overthrown by the army and hanged after a dubious Supreme Court diktat.\11\28\story_28-11-2011_pg3_2

Riaz Haq said...

Ayesha Siddiqa on PPP and Bilawal:

What happens when too many cooks make the broth? The same when a number of uncles and aunties try to write your speech. Bilawal’s speech had a robust aftertaste of many ingredients lying around the PPP kitchen for long — a strong taste of ethnic nationalism all wrapped up in political victimhood, but with an outer layer of Pakistani-military nationalism. The speech mentioned the party’s suffering at the hands of General Zia’s legacy in the same breath as talking about all that is close to the military’s heart — the Kashmir issue, the Swat operation, etc. The justification being that you cannot survive in Pakistan without the GHQ’s blessings. Even Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had gone around as an ambassador for the Kashmir cause while Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was incarcerated for the Agartala conspiracy case. The party’s newly hired retired military gurus would have advised the young man to stay on the side of caution. But then what such advisers do not understand is that politics is a game of big risks. You have to offer something new and substantial for the people to follow you.
But some were excited. The liberal folk were relieved to hear someone finally talk about minority issues of all kinds. There are some who may now believe that the empty space between Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan might get filled. Nevertheless, Aasia Bibi, Balochistan and being anti-Taliban are three fundamental steps, which will determine the direction this country will take. Moreover, these cases are symbolic of a larger malaise. More than an individual’s tale, Aasia Bibi’s story is about a state which no longer has the capacity to dispense justice because its vision is clouded by dogma. Her tragedy lies in the legal regime of the 1980s couched in redefinition of the state during the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto regime in 1974.
Similarly, Balochistan is a gaping hole pertaining to the frustration and unhappiness of a people regarding a contract of a federating unit they were a party to, but no longer feel that it is being honoured. Improving conditions call for a more serious engagement than running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. Will the unhappy Baloch find the former president’s apology sufficient to nurse his/her wounds, especially when when he/she also heard in the speech that the grandson would most likely follow the grandfather in allowing the state security apparatus to use brute force in Balochistan anytime it seemed to threaten the state? While some rejoiced, for others, the speech would have given them a sense of deja vu.
Eliminating the Taliban is equally tough, not only because Punjab is full of such characters and the provincial government’s leadership is accused of having ideological sympathies with the zealots, but also due to the fact that every other place is becoming like Punjab. Lahore may be responsible for a lot of ills, but it certainly cannot account for why the PPP government failed to check the proliferation of questionable madrassas under its watch in Sindh. Or how the interior ministry in the previous government built ties with the Lal Masjid/Hafsa madrassa crowd. Notwithstanding the nervousness of many Sindhi friends on the issue of changing social ethos of the province, the fact is that south Punjab had also transformed the same way. It is not about ordinary people popularly thinking like the Taliban, but the militants taking roots in a society because they find an enabling environment and infrastructure. What enables them are not the poor, but the powerful, who initially used jihadis mainly as temporary partners for their own power enhancement until they were left with no option but to surrender to them permanently. Sindh is undergoing a transformation just like south Punjab.

Riaz Haq said...

Perhaps, the most precise assessment of ZAB has been summed up by Sir Morrice James, Britain’s High Commissioner in Islamabad during 1960’s, in his Pakistan Chronicle:

*“Bhutto certainly had the right qualities for reaching the heights – drive, charm, imagination, a quick and penetrating mind, zest for life, eloquence, energy, a strong constitution, a sense of humour and a thick skin.*

Such a blend is rare anywhere, and Bhutto deserved his swift rise to power. From the end of 1962 onwards, I worked closely with him and it was a pleasure to deal with someone so quick-witted and articulate. We got on remarkably well… *“But there was — how shall I put it? — the rank odour of hellfire about him. It was a case of corruptio optimi pessima. He was a Lucifer, a fallen angel. I believe that at heart he lacked a sense of the dignity and value of other people; his own self was what counted. I sensed in him a ruthlessness and a capacity for ill-doing which went far beyond what is natural. Except at university abroad, he was mostly surrounded by mediocrities, and all his life, for want of competition, his triumphs came to him too easily for his own good. Lacking humility, he thus came to believe himself infallible, even when yawning gaps in his own experience (e.g. of military matters) laid him — as over the 1965 war — wide open to disastrous error.*

“Despite his gifts, I judged that one day Bhutto would destroy himself — when and how I could not tell. In 1965, I so reported in one my last dispatches from Pakistan as British high commissioner.

*"I wrote by way of clinching that point that Bhutto was born to be hanged. I did not intend this comment as a precise prophecy of what was going to happen to him, but 14 years later that was what it turned out to be.”*