Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Acquittals Revive Memory of Murtaza Bhutto's Murder

All of the twenty police officials charged with Murtaza Bhutto's murder have been acquitted by a Karachi court. Those acquitted include Shoaib Suddle, the then DIG of Sindh police; Masood Sharif, ex-director-general of Intelligence Bureau; SSP Wajid Durrani, ASP Shahid Hayat, SHO of the Napier police station Inspector Agha Mohammed Jameel, ASP Rai Mohammed Tahir, sub-inspector Shahbbir Ahmed Qaimkhani, ASI Abdul Basit, head constable Faisal Hafeez, head constable Raja Hameed, and police constables Ghulam Shabbir, Zulfiqar Ahmed, Zakir Mehmood, Zafar Iqbal, Ahmed Jan, Gulzir Khan, Ghulam Mustafa and Muslim Shah.

All of the police officials accused in the murder case were promoted after the incident, except one, Haq Nawaz Sial, who was instead found shot dead, having “committed suicide”; his wife says she saw a gunman running away from the scene of the alleged self-shooting.

Shoaib Suddle, one of the accused who was the Karachi Police chief at the time of the murder, was appointed by Zardari in June, 2008, to head Pakistan's intelligence bureau (IB) by Zardari, in spite of strong opposition from Prime Minister Gilani and against the advice of the military. He was given an extension of two years after he reached retirement age. In April this year, a Pakistan Supreme Court judge set aside the extension given to him and other police officers facing trial in connection with the murder of Murtaza Bhutto. In spite of this rebuff by the apex court, he was taken to the US and Europe by Zardari along with the Director General of the ISI. Shortly after his return from the trip with Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani had Suddle replaced by Javed Noor as the DGIB in deference to the Supreme Court judgment.

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

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper has reported that the Murtaza's murder trial took over 13 years to conclude since a number of judges had sent references to the Sind High Court, arguing that they could not conduct the proceedings and requested transfer to other courts, lengthy cross-examination of witnesses by the defense, long delays sought by defense counsel, absence of Asif Ali Zardari when he was in self-imposed exile, and a lack of interest of the prosecution witnesses.

Zardari and Shakeeb Ahmed Qureshi, who was an SP at the time, were also charged in the case.

However, Zardari had moved a review application in the Sindh High Court and on April 9 last year, after the PPP election victory, and Justice Syed Pir Ali Shah allowed the plea and acquitted him.

Earlier, prior to the 2008 election, the trial court had dismissed the acquittal plea of Zardari. Qureshi was exonerated on Nov 14 last year when the sessions judge Abdul Rahman Bhatti allowed his acquittal application moved under Section 265-K of CrPC.

Here is an account of Benazir Bhutto's brother Murtaza's murder September 1996 in Karachi as reported by British journalist William Dalrymple in an article published in Times Online:

As the convoy neared home, the street lights were abruptly turned off. The police snipers were ready in position; some had climbed up the trees lining the avenue to get clear shots. Their guns were loaded, the roadblocks had been erected, the surrounding lanes sealed off. The guards outside the different embassies nearby had been told to retreat within their compounds in expectation of trouble. By nine o’clock, all 80 police were in position, commanded by four senior officers. There was complete silence, but for the occasional buzz of static on the police radios.

It was September 20, 1996, and Murtaza Bhutto, Benazir’s younger brother, was returning late from campaigning in a distant part of Karachi. He had come home to Pakistan the previous year after a long period in exile to challenge his more famous sister for a role in the leadership of the family party, the Pakistan People’s Party, or PPP. Benazir was then the prime minister, and Murtaza’s decision to take her on had put him into direct conflict not only with his sister, but also with her ambitious and powerful husband, Asif Ali Zardari.

Murtaza had an animus against Zardari, who he believed was not just a nakedly and riotously corrupt polo-playing playboy, but had pushed Benazir to abandon the PPP’s once-radical agenda fighting for social justice. By doing so, believed Murtaza, Zardari had turned their father’s socialist-leaning party into a political moneymaking machine for the PPP’s wealthy feudal leadership. But Benazir was deaf to the voluble complaints being made about Zardari, which had led to him being dubbed “Mr Ten Per Cent”. Instead of reprimanding him, she appointed her husband minister for investment, so making him the channel through which passed all investment offers from home and abroad.

A few weeks earlier, according to a widely reported story, an incident took place the truth of which is now difficult to establish. In view of their worsening relations, Murtaza is said to have rung Zardari and invited him for a chat at the Bhutto headquarters, 70 Clifton. It was agreed he should come without bodyguards, in order that the two might meet privately and try to settle their differences. Zardari agreed. But as the two men were walking through the garden, Murtaza’s guards suddenly appeared and grabbed Zardari. Murtaza took out a cut-throat razor, and after slowly sharpening it, personally shaved off half of Zardari’s moustache. Then he threw him out the house. A furious Zardari, who had presumably feared much worse than a shave, was compelled to remove the other half of his moustache once he got home.

Whether there is any truth to this story – and Murtaza’s family strongly deny there is – the two brothers-in-law had become irreconcilable by the end of the summer of 1996, and few believed the rivalry was likely to end peacefully. Both men had reputations for being trigger-happy. Murtaza’s bodyguards were notoriously rough, and Murtaza was alleged to have sentenced to death several former associates, including his future biographer, Raja Anwar, author of an unflattering portrait, The Terrorist Prince. Zardari’s reputation was, if anything, worse.

Around the time of the alleged moustache shaving, when Benazir’s mother, the Begum Bhutto, suggested that Murtaza be made the chief minister of Sindh, Benazir and Zardari’s response was to remove the Begum as chairperson of the PPP. Zardari was also said to have leant on Abdullah Shah, the man who held the chief ministership the Begum had wanted Murtaza to be given, and asked him to get his Karachi police to harass Murtaza and obstruct his election campaign. There were also hints of worse to come. So insistent had these rumours become that at 3pm earlier that afternoon, Murtaza had given a press conference saying he had learnt that an assassination attempt on him was being planned, and he named some of Shah’s police officers he claimed were involved in the plot. Several of the officers were among those now waiting, guns cocked, outside his house.

According to witnesses, when the leading car drew up at the roadblock, there was a single shot from the police, followed by two more shots, one of which hit the foremost of Murtaza’s armed bodyguards. Sizing up the situation immediately, and guessing that the police wanted to provoke his guards into retaliating, Murtaza immediately got out of his car and urged his men to hold their fire. Even as he stood there with his hands raised above his head, urging calm, the police opened fire on the whole party with automatic weapons. The firing went on for nearly 10 minutes.

In the silence that followed, as the wounded men lay bleeding on the ground, the police circled the bodies with pistols, administering the coup de grâce to several of the prostrate figures with assassin’s shots to the back of the neck. One of Murtaza’s aides, Ashiq Ali Jatoi, the Sindh president of Murtaza’s faction of the PPP, was standing up cradling a broken arm and begging to be taken to hospital when he was shot at point-blank range in the back of the head. It was all over in quarter of an hour, leaving seven men either dead or dying. The remaining more lightly wounded men were left to bleed on the road for nearly an hour before being taken for treatment.

Related Links:

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


Anonymous said...

New Trend's Pakistan observers and researchers have concluded
that three levels of conflict have emerged in Pakistan.

1. Pakistani military forces at the orders of the US and NATO have
been attacking Islamic communities supporting Pakistani Taliban and al-
Qaidah. Entire populations have been affected by the military in Swat,
Dir, Momand, Buner, Adam Khel, South Waziristan, North Waziristan,
Orakzai, etc.

2. Pakistani Taliban counterattacking Pakistani military, are hitting
very selectively at Generals, senior officers, air force elements on
the ground, intelligence branch, special commando forces, special
police and para militaty units like FC trained by the US.

3. Mysterious forces at work to destabilize Pakistan as a country. A
series of GENERAL attacks on civilians at random have occurred. These
attacks cannot benefit the Islamic forces and have been categorically
condemned by the Taliban and al-Qaida. Blackwater and Indian
intelligence agency known as RAW are high in the list of suspects.

The December 7 attack on an open shopping market in Lahore's Moon
Bazaar is deemed an Indian attack aimed at terrorizing ordinary
citizens. Nawaz Sharif, Muslim League leader whose major constituency
is Lahore, has not blamed the Taliban, as the government tried to do,
but has expressed strong suspicion that India is involved.
India's key city Mumbai was attacked a year back by Fidayeen
taking revenge for Indian army's occupation tactics in Kashmir.
Lahore's Moon Bazar attack seems to be India's sneak response.
Pakistanis also see Blackwater at work in the random attacks on
civilians in Peshawar.
General Kayani's bombing of mosques, medressas, Imams' homes, torture
of village elders may have had the consequence of the Punjabi Taliban
hunting Kayani's generals and officers in their own HQ and their
"mosque." Anti-military observers say that these generals and officers
are murtadeen [apostates] and their "mosque" is masjide dirar. Whom
would the generals be praying to if their god is America, the Islamic
observers say.

Anonymous said...

The situation in Pakistan is worsening day by day. The only solution to this problem would be a revolution because all the past, present and future leaders are corrupt with no moral values. We need a leader or at least a new government level agenda where Pakistan stop accepting foreign charity in exchange of the blood shed of innocent people in all major cities. At this point all we can do is to pray for the safety of everyone back home. Inshallah!

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the transcript of an NPR report on feudal power in Pakistan and how it enslaves people on the large feudal estates in Punjab:

LAURA LYNCH: The midday sun throws a harsh spotlight on weathered faces. Women crouch low, searching for, then plucking out barely ripe tomatoes. Every crease and crevice in their feet, their hands, even on their faces is dusted with dirt from the fields they farm. They work from dawn to dusk - and the landowner gets most of the income. Nearly two thirds of Pakistan's rural population are sharecroppers. One of the male workers, Abdul Aziz, says they all owe their livelihood to their boss - so they support the political party he supports. He has always voted for the Pakistan People's Party he says; the party of the late Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto and other wealthy landowners like her had always been able to count on the loyalty of those who toil for them in the fields. At her gracious home in Islamabad, Syma Khar traces her lineage - both familial and political - through the photographs she keeps in the cupboard.

LYNCH: Khar is a member of the provincial assembly of the Punjab - the largest province in Pakistan. She is also a member of one of Pakistan's most powerful families. The pictures are from the Khar family estate just outside the city of Multan. The sprawling property includes fisheries, mango orchards and sugarcane fields. Thousands of people work there - most are loyal to their masters. Syma's husband, his father, brothers, nieces and nephews have all turned that to their political advantage to gain office. The workers are by and large, poor, landless and uneducated. Pervez Iqbal Cheema of Pakistan's National Defence University says that's the way most feudals want to keep it.

PERVEZ IQBAL CHEEMA: A feudal, in order to maintain his influence, will be probably not very happy for extension of education or health facilities because as long as they have a minimum interaction with the outsiders then the chances of new ideas germinating or causing some trouble are relatively less.

LYNCH: That star power was evident when Benazir Bhutto staged her return from exile in Karachi in October of 2007. Though it was later marred by a suicide bomb attack, the Bhutto power base in rural Pakistan bussed thousands of loyal followers in to cheer her arrival and dance in the streets. Even after she died, Bhutto's political machine ensured her husband eventually became President. And her son, Bilawal, inherited the party leadership even though he's only 20 with no political experience. In a back alley off a busy road in Rawalpindi, boys are just starting a late afternoon game of cricket. Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, rights activist and professor of colonial history at Lahore University of Management Sciences, keeps an office a few floors up. Akhtar sees the staying power of the feudals - and gives credit to the military. It is Pakistan's other power centre - staging four coups in the country's 62 year history. Akhtar says the military, interested in holding onto its own sphere of influence, finds a willing partner in the feudal class.
KHAR: If they don't' keep that attitude then people will be doing daytime robberies because they are illiterate people. They will, you know, kidnap the daughters they will take away the children they will take away the properties, they will kill each other. So a boss has to be a boss. He has to have that sort of attitude.
LYNCH: As a farm worker empties her bucket of tomatoes into a crate there is no smile of satisfaction - the day's work is still far from over. There's little chance her life will change soon. Several land reform programs have failed to change rural life in Pakistan. And failed to loosen the grip of Pakistan's large landowners on the country's politics.

Riaz Haq said...

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared NRO null and void ab initio, according to Dawn News:

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has declared the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) null and void in a short order.

In a landmark decision, the apex court unanimously decided that the ordinance was unconstitutional.

All old cases that had been dismissed under the NRO stand revived and can now be reopened as per the court orders.

The court said that all orders that were passed and all acquittals under the NRO were illegal and never existed.

The apex court in its order also said that all convictions that were held prior to the enactment of the NRO stand revived as well.

Now the Zardari camp is expected to argue that, under the constitution of Pakistan, President Zardari is immune from prosecution as long as he is in office.

Riaz Haq said...

The corruption of Pakistani politicians is exceeded only by their incompetence. With economy in virtual recession, the FDI is dropping as reported by The News:

Thursday, December 17, 2009
KARACHI: Net foreign investment in Pakistan fell 25.6 per cent to $1.08 billion in the first five months of the 2009/10 fiscal year compared with $1.45 billion in the same period a year earlier, the central bank said on Wednesday.

Out of total foreign investment, foreign direct investment fell 52.2 per cent to $774.0 million in the first five months of the fiscal year which began on July 1 from $1.62 billion for the same months last year, the State Bank of Pakistan said.

But foreign portfolio investment flows reversed, with a $311.3 million inflow in the July to November period compared with an outflow of $162.9 million in the same period last year.

Authorities imposed a floor on the Karachi Stock Exchange benchmark index in August last year as political uncertainty and economic and security worries drained investor confidence.

The floor discouraged new investment and also led to a sharp outflow of funds, as foreign investors sold holdings in off-market trade.

The floor was removed in December. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) saved Pakistan from a balance of payments crisis with a $7.6 billion emergency loan package in November last year. The loan was increased to $11.3 billion on July 31.

Pakistan’s economy is in virtual recession as gross domestic product growth in the 2008/09 fiscal year of 2 per cent is about the same as population growth. The IMF has projected GDP growth flat at 2 per cent this fiscal year.

Security concerns over a Taliban insurgency based in the country’s northwest and chronic power shortages have also put off investors.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from William Dalrymple's book "Nine Lives" about Bhuttos:

Benazir was a notably inept administrator. During her first 20-month-long premiership, she failed to pass a single piece of major legislation, and during her two periods in power she did almost nothing to help the liberal causes she espoused so enthusiastically to the Western media.

Instead, it was under her watch that Pakistan’s secret service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), helped install the Taliban in Pakistan, and she did nothing to rein in the agency’s disastrous policy of training up Islamist jihadis from the country’s madrasas to do the ISI’s dirty work in Kashmir and Afghanistan. As a young correspondent covering the conflict in Kashmir in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I saw how during her premiership, Pakistan sidelined the Kashmiris’ own secular resistance movement, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, and instead gave aid and training to the brutal Islamist outfits it created and controlled, such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat ul-Mujahedin. Benazir’s administration, in other words, helped train the very assassins who are most likely to have shot her.

Benazir was, above all, a feudal landowner, whose family owned great tracts of Sindh, and with the sense of entitlement this produced. Democracy has never thrived in Pakistan in part because landowning remains the base from which politicians emerge. In this sense, Pakistani democracy in Pakistan is really a form of “elective feudalism”: the Bhuttos’ feudal friends and allies were nominated for seats by Benazir, and these landowners made sure their peasants voted them in.

Behind Pakistan’s swings between military government and democracy lies a surprising continuity of elitist interests: to some extent, Pakistan’s industrial, military and landowning classes are all interrelated, and they look after each other. They do not, however, do much to look after the poor. The government education system barely functions in Pakistan, and for the poor, justice is almost impossible to come by. According to the political scientist Ayesha Siddiqa, “Both the military and the political parties have all failed to create an environment where the poor can get what they need from the state. So the poor have begun to look for alternatives. In the long term, these flaws in the system will create more room for the fundamentalists.”

Many right-wing commentators on the Islamic world tend to see political Islam as an anti-liberal and irrational form of “Islamo-fascism”. Yet much of the success of the Islamists in countries such as Pakistan comes from the Islamists’ ability to portray themselves as champions of social justice, fighting people like Benazir Bhutto from the corrupt Westernised elite that rules most of the Muslim world from Karachi to Riyadh, Ramallah and Algiers.

Benazir’s reputation for massive corruption was gold dust to these Islamic revolutionaries, just as the excesses of the Shah were to their counterparts in Iran 30 years earlier: during her government, Pakistan was declared one of the three most corrupt countries in the world, and Bhutto and her husband, Asif Zardari — widely known as “Mr 10%” — faced allegations of plundering the country; charges were filed in Pakistan, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States to investigate their various bank accounts, and they stood accused of jointly looting no less than $1.4 billion from the state.

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...

Nadeem Farooq Paracha in Dawn on Al-Zulfiqar Organization (AZO):

After the Bhutto regime fell in a military coup (by General Ziaul Haq) in July 1977 and Bhutto was arrested, Bhutto’s wife, Nusrat Bhutto, gave Anwar the responsibility of setting up spontaneous party cells that could be activated to hold situationist protests against the Zia regime. During a number of such protests, some young PPP supporters even set themselves on fire (in Lahore and Rawalpindi).

Anwar is from the Punjab city of Rawalpindi. In his book, he reminds the readers that most of the young men who went up in flames to protest against Bhutto’s arrest (and then trial) belonged to working-class Punjabi families. Bhutto was a Sindhi, and it seems Anwar made sure to point out that Bhutto’s most diehard supporters at the time resided in the Punjab.

He continues to mention this throughout his book and it is only in the latter half of the book that it becomes clear why he does this. He denounces AZO chief, Murtaza Bhutto (ZA Bhutto’s son), as being a ‘Sindhi feudal’ who didn’t care much about his Punjabi supporters.

After Bhutto was hanged through a controversial trial in April 1979, Anwar writes that the police was hot on his (Anwar’s) heels and he escaped to Munich, Germany, and from there he flew to Kabul, where he joined Murtaza and his brother, Shahnawaz, who had formed a small urban guerrilla outfit called the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Kabul was chosen by the brothers because in 1978, Afghanistan had witnessed a coup d'état set into motion by the covert supporters and members of the country’s two main communist parties inside the Afghan military and air force.

Murtaza and Shahnawaz were in London when their father was hanged, whereas their mother and sister (Benazir) were in jail in Pakistan.

The brothers had organised rallies in London to put pressure on the Zia government, but after failing to get the dictator to halt Bhutto’s execution, Murtaza went into a rage and decided to topple Zia through guerilla warfare.

Anwar writes that Murtaza first approached radical Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi (for financial and logistical support). Gaddafi had been on very good terms with ZA Bhutto.

Intelligence expert Brigadier I.A. Tirmiz in his book, The Profile of Intelligence, claims that when Bhutto was on death row, Gaddafi had sent his Prime Minister to Pakistan on a special plane and asked Zia to put Bhutto on that plane and allow it to fly him (Bhutto) to Libya.

Zia refused and ordered the plane to fly back to Libya. Tirmiz then informs that in response to Zia’s rebuff, Gaddafi sent a ‘secret message’ to Bhutto’s wife stating that he was willing to send in special Libyan commandos to break Bhutto out from jail. Gaddafi planned to use Palestinian fighters associated with Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for the breakout mission.

In an article for The News (October 24, 2011), journalist and TV anchor, Hamid Mir wrote that this message was conveyed to Bhutto by his wife, but Bhutto rejected the ‘offer’ by stating that he didn’t want to escape and seek refuge in another country. This, Mir states, was told to him by a Palestinian diplomat who had apparently communicated the message to Nusrat Bhutto.

Tirmiz goes on to suggest that after Bhutto’s execution, Gaddafi set up a training camp near Tripoli to train early AZO recruits in guerrilla warfare. The training was imparted to the young Pakistanis by PLO men.

Anwar, in his account, claims that PLO had also agreed to supply arms to AZO (that was still called Peoples Liberation Army). But the ship in which the arms were being smuggled (from Beirut to Tripoli) was intercepted by Israeli authorities and the weapons confiscated.