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  #11  
Old Sunday, October 11, 2015
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A leaf from history: Junejo’s austerity in vain


After Benazir Bhutto’s return from exile, General Ziaul Haq had assigned Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo the task of facing the PPP chief in her tirade against the government. But Junejo could not accomplish the assignment, and the general thought that perhaps Junejo too had joined forces with Benazir.

In truth, Junejo was struggling to assert himself as an elected prime minister — his mission to strengthen the roots of democracy was being compromised by the sheer disregard shown by the bureaucracy and military officers.

In the budget for 1987-88, for example, Junejo sought to introduce austerity in governance. He scrapped the head of purchasing new, big and imported cars for official use and for officers who had been entitled to them. Under the scheme of austerity, he ordered that all officers who were entitled to use cars would now use locally-assembled Suzuki cars instead of imported cars.

No doubt this decision brought huge savings to the national exchequer, but it angered the officers group. The army officers, showing disregard for Junejo’s wishes, preferred to use old jeeps instead. This summed up Junejo’s travails: a prime minister whose wings had been clipped by the Eighth Amendment.

With the Prime minister desperately trying to assert his authority, parliament too is rebuffed in its efforts to debate Gen Zia’s extension of tenure
Junejo came from a modest feudal family of Sanghar, Having experienced local politics for some time, he joined the mainstream in 1958 when the former military ruler General Ayub Khan appointed him as the federal communications minister. A thorough gentleman, he possessed a reputation of unquestionable integrity. A true disciplinarian, he retained this credit throughout his political career. A follower of Pir Pagara, he had no illusion about his ability to rid society of corruption.

Pir Pagara’ advice to appoint him as prime minister was based on Junejo’s past record, but unfortunately, Gen Zia did not subscribe to the PM’s views on restoring political parties within the house. Certain actions undertaken by Junejo had pointed to his intention of working independently, which in turn, earned him the general’s annoyance.

But Junejo was resolute on trying, again and again.

For the PM, the arrival of Benazir Bhutto was a political development that could be helpful in advancing the effort to restore democracy. But in the backdrop of the prevailing situation, it required concerted efforts else many feared that Gen Zia would send the parliament packing. Unfortunately for Junejo, his hope to secure Benazir’s support was also shattered as there were clear ideological differences between the two.

Meanwhile, Benazir continued meeting with political party leaders and some like-minded figures who wanted to exchange views about a future course of action. Most PPP workers poured in to extend their condolences on Bhutto’s demise, but simultaneously, they also rededicated their efforts to evolve a workable strategy in the changed political environment.

Junejo came from a modest feudal family of Sanghar, Having experienced local politics for some time, he joined the mainstream in 1958 when the former military ruler General Ayub Khan appointed him as the federal communications minister. A thorough gentleman, he possessed a reputation of unquestionable integrity.
On Aug 10, 1986, nine leaders of the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) called on Benazir at her Clifton residence. It was a meeting held after six years and there was enough to discuss. The foremost point on the agenda was national elections. They decided that whenever polls were held, the opposition would take part in them. It appeared that Benazir was prepared to extend her cooperation to other political forces in the form of a larger alliance if it became possible.

On Aug 14, Benazir slipped into Lyari, a bastion of PPP, for Independence Day celebrations. Her supporters thronged her from all over, and soon, a huge crowd turned into a public meeting. A large contingent of police interrupted the gathering and baton charged those present. Many were injured and over 1,000 arrested.

After the meeting was over, Benazir Bhutto was detained for one month. Rallies were immediately banned including in Sindh towns.

On the same day, PPP supporters also staged protest processions in Lahore and some towns of Sindh. After some pitched battles with the police, six protesters died in Lahore while another 16 lost their lives in Sindh. This turned the situation very ugly; as more deaths and injuries were reported in Sindh following protests in towns large and small.

On Aug 23, the government ordered registering a sedition case against her and nine other activists. However, she was released on Sept 9, 1986, after there was no letting up in protests.

Meanwhile, in the National Assembly, the Independent Political Group pushed a bill for debate in the house about the reported extension of the service of Gen Zia as army chief. But it was ruled out of order, as according to the 1984 referendum, the President had been elected for five years, till 1990, which included his service as chief of the army staff.

If it wasn’t clear before, it became patently obvious that since provincial chief ministers were direct nominees of the President, he was de facto master of the entire governance team. This is how the federation became subservient to one person; it took two decades to redress the balance.

Source: A leaf from history: Junejo’s austerity in vain
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 11th, 2015
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  #12  
Old Sunday, October 18, 2015
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A leaf from history: The botched Pan Am plane hijacking at Karachi airport


On the calm, humid early morning of Sept 6, 1986, a division of Pakistani commandoes stormed a hijacked Pan Am aircraft at the Karachi airport. Six hijackers were arrested, all of whom belonged to Abu Nidal, a Palestinian group struggling to create an independent Palestinian state.

The five hijackers — Zayed Hassan Abdul Latif Safarini (leader), Wadoud Mohammad Hafiz Alturki, Jamal Saeed, Mohammad Abdullah Khalil Hassan Rahayat and Mohammad Ahmad Al-Munawar — were arrested and later awarded life sentenced.

The aircraft was a regular Pan American World Airways 747-121, which had left India’s Sahar airport near Mumbai a day earlier for an onwards journey to Frankfurt, Germany and was to culminate at the John F. Kennedy Airport, New York. Carrying some 360 passengers, it had landed flawlessly at the Karachi airport to pick up some passengers, and now, the aircraft crew was preparing to take off.

Palestinian militant group Abu Nidal attempts to capture an aircraft to attack the Israeli defence ministry
Before the flight could take off, at around 6.00am, a van seemingly belonging to the airport’s security guards was parked besides the plane. Four men dressed in security guards uniform frisked out and stormed into the plane. They were armed with assault rifles and after entering, immediately began firing at passengers who were busy locating their seats and placing their luggage.

Someone from the cabin crew became suspicious and informed the cockpit crew, who fled without wasting a second, leaving the passengers and other crew members at the mercy of hijackers. Those who escaped included the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer.

Upon hearing that the cockpit team had managed to flee, the ring leader flew into a rage. All his plans had dashed. In that state, he summoned a young man at random, later known as Rajesh Kumar, spoke to him, shot him dead and threw his body on the tarmac.

Out in the main building of the airport, some officers were busy in chalking out the strategy of how to handle the situation. They soon sent an SOS to the respective quarters, and within no time, the Shaheen Contingent of the 1st Battalion of the Army’s SS Group was dispatched to take care of the matter.

As Safarini continued to find a way out, much time was wasted. As night began to fall, all hijackers became confused and jittery. During the unmanageable movement of passengers, someone even tried to open an emergency exit of the aircraft in an attempt to escape. But there was no way out.

Safarini started collecting passengers’ passports so that American and British citizens could be ascertained. While sifting through the passports, Safarini called out the name of John Thexton, an Englishman, who had arrived in Pakistan on a mountaineering expedition. His brother, Pete, had also arrived with him but while climbing Broad peak, he died and was buried there.

For a long time, Thexton was asked to lie at the feet of his captors. He thought at the time that perhaps he was the next to be killed and thrown on the tarmac. It was only when Pakistani troops took control of the plane that he could get up.

Meanwhile, Safarini had become even more unsettled. At one stage, in a bid to blow up the plane, he also shot at an ammunition bag that the hijackers had brought along with them, but he missed his target. In the midst of this mess, the aircraft lost electric power, plunging the plane into darkness. This infuriated Safarini even more, and he began throwing grenades into the passengers’ seating area.

Amidst the commotion, one flight attendant managed to open an exit that had a slide shoot already rolled out. Passengers began escaping through it. Safarini began wildly shooting at passengers to stop them, but a flight attendant, Neerja Bhanot, became a human shield to three children whom Safarini wanted to target. She died while saving the children. The captors did not want to kill any more passengers on the runway but demanded that they be provided with cockpit crew so that they could accomplish their objectives. Obviously, this was a ridiculously foolish demand.

While passengers were fleeing through the slide shoot, Pakistani commandos rushed in. Seeing no chance to escape, all five hijackers surrendered. As the dust settled, it was learnt that in all 20 passengers were killed, including 12 Indians, the rest from USA, Mexico and Pakistan. Out of a total 380 passengers, 150 were wounded while the rest stayed safe.

“I do not like this killing,” said Safarini in a brief talk after being arrested. “I would like to go out dancing, go out with women, but the Americans and Israelis have stolen my country and without my country, these things are no good.”

During investigations, Safarini confessed that he belonged to the Abu Nidal group and their botched attempt was to take the aircraft and attack the Israeli defence ministry using the plane as bomb.

On July 6, 1988, a Pakistani court sentenced all of them to life imprisonment. After completing their jail terms, they were released but Safarini was later arrested in Bangkok by the FBI and taken to New York, where on May 13, 2005 he was sentenced to 160 years in jail.

While the group leader Safarini was recaptured by the United States, the four others could not be traced down after they were released on the completion of their punishment. Out of the four, Jamal Saeed Abdur Rahim is said to have been killed in a drone attack on tribal areas of Pakistan in 2010, but Abu Nidal organisation did not confirm him as its member.

Abu Nidal was formed in 1974 after a split appeared in Yaser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Front (PLO). The creation of the group was due to the Arafat’s policy of reconciliation, whereas Abu Nidal believed in military struggle against Israel.

Following this policy, the group made several attacks on its mother organistaion, the PLO. It is believed that PLO leader Abu Iyad and Abu Hul were killed in Tunis in 1991. It also claimed to have killed a Jordanian diplomat in Lebanon in 1994. The group also failed to attack and kill Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. In all, they are said to have undertaken attacks in 20 countries, killing some 900 people. Sabri Khalil al-Banna or Abu Nidal, the chief of the organisation, returned to Iraq in 2002, where he died during an exchange of fire with Iraqi intelligence officers.

Source: A leaf from history: The botched Pan Am plane hijacking at Karachi airport
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 18th, 2015
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  #13  
Old Tuesday, October 27, 2015
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A leaf from history: Ghaus’ Karachi operation stokes more violence


Karachi was living a tetchy peace since the April 1985 rioting after Bushra Zaidi was killed in a road accident. A year later, it dawned upon Sindh Chief Minister Syed Ghaus Ali Shah and provincial authorities that they needed to cleanse the metropolis of narcotics and gun-running business. In theory, it was a good idea; but its timing was wrong and the absence of planning abominable.

On December 12, 1986, Sindh Governor Lieutenant-General Jahandad Khan ordered a police operation against suspected narcotic dens and gun-running houses in the metropolis. The centre of action was Sohrab Goth, one of the two vital gateways of the town.

The raiding team initiated the task under Deputy Commissioner Sardar Ahmad, Sindh IGP, Karachi DIG, and Karachi Corps Commander Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shamim Khan besides a number of officials belonging to anti-land-encroachment department.

During the police action, a number of houses were demolished. The government believed that these houses served as centres of production and sale of heroin and other drugs. Many alleged that it was from here that the distribution for retail of these commodities was being undertaken. Encroachers were asked to vacate the occupied land from around Al-Asif Square and move to a new plot on National Highway.

Coloured by accusations of ethnic bias, an anti-encroachment drive turns the city into a raging battlefield again
When the raiding team reached the venue for action, they were reportedly received with bullets. However, the raiding team which had brought bulldozers with them demolished the structures. Occupants were asked to shift to some other space, which would be legalised later.

After the action, the team claimed moderate success. “One Kalashnikov, 2,000 rounds of ammunition and 65kg of heroin were recovered from what is considered to be one of the most important transit posts in the international heroin trade. A high level leak is suspected to be the cause for the failure,” reported Dawn on December 13, 1986.

Since Afghan refugees also stayed in this area, there arose some anguish among them. The Pakhtun community too developed a feeling that the unsuccessful raid over Sohrab Goth had been instigated by Urdu-speaking residents of these settlements. On, the next day, December 13, 1986, announcements were made from mosques in the Pakhtun-populated areas that the raid was, in fact, an attack on Pakhtuns.

Protests by Pakhtuns had already begun and to quell any violent uprising, the army’s support was sought. Patrolling intensified and to meet any eventuality army units were deployed in all sensitive areas with special attention on Aligarh and Qasba colonies.

On December 14, ethnic violence erupted between Pakhtun settlers and Urdu-speaking residents in Aligarh and Qasba colonies, near the Orangi Township area. Many houses were set on fire. Similar tragedy happened in parts of Orangi Town. The firing continued for many hours. This was among the most horrifying acts of terror in Karachi’s history.

As in the case of Bushra Zaidi’s killing, rioting soon spread to all parts of Karachi within no time, bringing the city to a standstill. Reports brought forth many inhuman details of savagery while the government could hardly do anything as casualties and loss of property simply mounted. These gory events drew the deployment of army units in the city and curfew was imposed in almost two-thirds of the metropolis.

Encroachers were asked to vacate the occupied land from around Al-Asif Square and move to a new plot on National Highway. When the raiding team reached the venue for action, they were reportedly received with bullets. However, the raiding team which had brought bulldozers with them demolished the structures.
Prolonged curfew created chaos and fear to such levels that people began fleeing to safer places and temporarily taking refuge with relatives and friends. The city faced shortage of food and medicines. Curfew breaks were used by the stranded people to fetch food items and medicines. The worst-affected were children whose essential supplies had exhausted. Political and social welfare bodies made appeals to the authorities to give longer breaks in the curfew so that food and medicines could be re-stocked.

On December 20, after a reported death toll of 166 people (some sources put the toll at 400), Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo asked his cabinet to quit and allow him to take action aimed at bringing peace to the metropolitan. All 22 federal ministers and 12 ministers of state resigned. An inquiry committee headed by former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Justice Sajjad Ali Shah termed it “the worst kind of massacre,” and laid the blame at the feet of the government.

For Karachi, this was more than brutality causing death and misery to innocent people — ethnic friction that had been simmering for quite some time now rose to the fore. Many observers believed that after the Bushra Zaidi violence, its recurrence could have been prevented by getting all opinion leaders together, ponder over the situation, find out the causes and take remedial measures.

As time passed and law-enforcement agencies kept a close watch, some leaders callously claimed that this episode too was an issue of law and order. They were absolutely mistaken. The rulers still knew nothing of what to do next. Prime Minister Junejo could not do much either.

In the backdrop of these grave barbaric events, some saner elements came out with the advice that it was not a question of rage against the killers of Bushra Zaidi; it was essentially a question of economic disparity and the uneven distribution of Karachi’s resources vis-a-vis the rest of Sindh that bred violence in Karachi. Tragically, nobody in power took the advice seriously.

Source: A leaf from history: Ghaus’ Karachi operation stokes more violence
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 25th, 2015
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  #14  
Old Sunday, November 01, 2015
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A leaf from history: Junejo satisfied over US response


Mohammed Khan Junejo taking oath as prime minister on March 23, 1985 soothed some anxieties in the minds of the democratic forces, yet martial law was not lifted for which they had to wait till December 30 — the date proposed by General Ziaul Haq for lifting martial law — which was by then the longest in the country’s history. Though the general had pledged 90 days, it took him more than eight years to fulfil his promise. On Dec 30, the president addressed the Assembly and announced the lifting of martial law. This was the only fulfilled promise out of the many that the general had made.

In the background of events of the last eight years, lifting of martial law and return to democracy (in whatever form it was restored) was a welcome development, but doubts persisted in the House and outside: Gen Zia was still the President and Chief of Army Staff, armed with a draconian law i.e. Article 58 (2) b. The fears proved to be true when Junejo’s government was dismissed later. In his address, Gen Zia spoke about various aspects of governance he had learnt during his dictatorial rule, and asked the members to retain their independent character. Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo in his address called upon the members to create unity so that a democratic system could take firm roots.

Many had thought that Mohammad Khan Junejo, after being appointed prime minster, would act in a manner typical of a feudal lord as he belonged to the feudal class. However, Junejo’s approach and dignified attitude proved them wrong.

He was a man of integrity and clean politics, and a democratic person; he had entered politics at the age of 22, influenced by his family which had been in local politics for long. As a young man, Mohammad Khan Junejo had a broader vision and, unlike politicians belonging to the feudal class, he wanted to be a reformer and pioneer of social change. He had joined Pakistan Muslim League, a party to which he continued his association till his last. In the 1960s he had held important portfolios under Ayub Khan and served with honesty — a virtue rarely found in Pakistan’s political culture.

Washington secures assurance on nuclear arms and Afghan issue
Much later, when Gen Zia visited Pir Pagara, whom he considered his spiritual mentor, to discuss the future premier, Junejo’s name was on his list along with one other name. Pir Sahib frankly told the general that if the prime minister had to be from Sindh, it would be his man, thus Junejo became his final choice.

From the first handshake Gen Zia felt the difference. Mohammad Khan Junejo asked for everything he felt was for a prime minister, including the Falcon, the aircraft Bhutto used for his official visits. By taking over ministries of defence and foreign affairs, Junejo made it clear to the president that he wanted to make democracy a functional mode of governance. He even made it clear to the foreign office that foreign visits were not the task of the president but the prime minister and virtually had many foreign visits cancelled which were to be undertaken by Gen Zia.

In this regard, the US visit presented Junejo a great opportunity to prove his statesmanship. The US government was looking forward to new vistas of talks and mutual cooperation for its own agenda. On July 14, 1986 Junejo led a team of officials and experts on various subjects to the US.

After receiving a state welcome, Prime Minister Junejo and President Reagan had a detailed discussion. At the State reception in the White House, Reagan announced that his conversation with Junejo was upbeat, cordial and productive.

The US government wanted an understanding on two other important issues which were accomplished as desired. Junejo made it clear that Pakistan did not have any nuclear devices but wanted to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. More pertinent expression came at the State dinner where Prime Minister Junejo said that Pakistan had offered many ideas to solve this issue. Most important being that Pakistan was prepared to renounce all nuclear weapons in the region if India also did the same. Since the US was aware the Indian stance on nuclear issues therefore Junejo’s approach was appreciated.

His week-long visit was quite hectic. Talks were held on important issues, including Afghanistan and Pakistan’s role in ousting the Russians being of the central importance; perhaps the US government wanted to show that its first priority was the establishment of a civilian government in Pakistan. In a diplomatic manner Junejo made it clear to President Reagan that the ties needed two-way system which was accepted without reservation. In the light of past experience, the US wanted an assurance that Junejo government would not take any such decision which could hurt US-Pakistan ties. The most important achievement was the US support for Junejo government and emphasis on strengthening of ties even after the anti-Russian operation, including economic assistance that had been affected by war in Afghanistan and the expenses to retain millions of Afghan refugees.

Apart from a major meeting between Junejo and Reagan, many other meetings were held by officials from both sides to sort out development programmes and assistance, and the drug route through Pakistan, which he clarified, was the result of the Afghanistan issue and Pakistan was the worst victim.

On its return, the Pakistani team appeared satisfied. Gen Zia who was following the visit in detail was not happy to find Junejo triumphant and could not help making a sarcastic remark: “Ye daura kahin us ka sar na ghumaday.” (Hopefully this visit would not get to his head). No doubt Junejo had made a calculated visit for political gains but perhaps he had forgotten the Eighth Amendment which was still there. And the general’s reaction was evident when he remarked that someone should tell him that he could no longer stay as prime minister till he earned the generals’ support.

Source: A leaf from history: Junejo satisfied over US response
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 1st, 2015
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  #15  
Old Sunday, November 08, 2015
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A leaf from history: Target: Pakistani nukes

In the middle of 1986, when Pakistan was heavily occupied in internal matters, reports from across the border emerged that India was organising a major military exercise in Rajasthan, adjacent to the border with Pakistan. In Islamabad, the alarm bells began sounding off — was Pakistan in danger? ‹ The war exercise, named Operation Brasstacks, was being led by General Krishnaswamy Sundarji, an officer who had led an infantry division in the 1971 war. Apart from the Indian army, the navy and air force were also taking part in the war exercise. According to the plan, the exercise was to begin in 1986 and end in 1987. While India claimed that these war games were merely to test and experiment with new concepts in warfare, about 600,000 troops had been amassed near the border, along with a large number of equipment and ammunition. These exercises were later described as “bigger than any NATO exercise and the biggest since World War II.” In his memoirs, veteran Indian soldier Lt Gen P.N. Hoon, who fought against Pakistan in the 1965 war, described the war games as having a larger objective. “[Operation] Brasstacks was no military exercise. It was a plan to build up the situation for a fourth war with Pakistan,” he wrote.

This perspective is lent weight in a report compiled by Global Security Inc: “Operation Brasstacks was tasked with two objectives: the initial goal was the deployment of ground troops. The other objective was to conduct a series of assault exercises by the Indian navy near the Pakistan naval base ... An amphibious assault group formed from Indian naval forces was planned and deployed near the Korangi Creek of Karachi Division of Pakistan. However, the most important aim of these war alert simulations was to determine tactical nuclear strategy overseen by the Indian Army.”

In the backdrop of historical Pakistan-India ties, the Indian military exercise was deemed as alarming for Pakistan. Some considered these war game as a threatening show of force at a very critical juncture in Pakistan-India relations. Independent observers viewed these war games as a psychological move to convey to Pakistan the superior strength of Indian nuclear capability. Some also considered it a plan to infiltrate densely populated areas inside Pakistani territory. “General Sunderji’s strategy was to provoke Pakistan’s response, and this would provide India with an excuse to implement existing contingency plans to go on an offensive against Pakistan and take out its nuclear bomb projects in a preventive strike,” said Robert Art, an international observer, in 2009.

Military tensions had, of course, been simmering between the two countries since the 1970s. India had begun special efforts to make its armed forces an indomitable force ever since the Pokhran nuclear tests in 1974. In response, Pakistan, too, had redoubled efforts to procure modern arms, ammunition and equipment in an attempt to retain strategic power balance in the region. In 1979, Gen Zia was provided intelligence information that India wanted to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear facilities. He immediately relayed this information to Air Chief Marshal Anwar Shamim, his closest confidant and also the deputy chief martial law administrator. Shamim was among a few four-star officers who had played a key role in developing Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear arms programme. Air Marshal Shamim responded with the plea that it was necessary to procure very fast fighter jets to keep the Indian planes at bay. The air chief told Gen Zia that since Kahuta was in close proximity to the Indian border, the Indian air force had the benefit of time. “Indian aircraft can reach [Kahuta] in three minutes whereas PAF can reach it in eight minutes, thereby allowing the Indians to attack the facility and return before the PAF can could defend it,” Air Marshal Shamim told Gen Zia. It was therefore decided to expedite efforts to acquire F 16s, for which talks with the United States were in an advanced stage. After two years of strong lobbying and exploiting the Afghanistan issue, the United States agreed to supply the F-16 jets. The first batch of F-16s reached Pakistan in 1983. “We are now in a position to confirm that India will not attack Kahuta because it is amply clear to them that we will retaliate and launch an attack on their nuclear facility in Trombay. Knowing that they will suffer much more devastation than us, they will desist taking any unwise action,” wrote Air Marshal Shamim in a letter to Gen Zia. As reports of Operation Brasstacks began pouring in, Pakistan too responded at great pace. While reiterating that the exercises were a threat against Pakistan’s integrity, almost all strategic resources were mobilised. By mid-January, 1987, both troops stood face-to-face. At this stage, the Pakistani Foreign Office summoned the Indian ambassador to Pakistan, S.K. Singh, at midnight to meet Foreign Affairs Minister of State Zain Noorani, who had just returned from an emergency meeting with Gen Zia Haq. According to general Hoon in his book, The Untold Truth, Noorani related the president’s message, to Ambassador Singh that in the event of any violation of Pakistani sovereignty and territorial integrity, Pakistan was capable of inflicting great damage on India. When Singh asked Noorani whether this implied a nuclear attack on Bombay, Noorani replied in the affirmative.

Source: A leaf from history: Target: Pakistani nukes
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 8th, 2015
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Old Sunday, November 15, 2015
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A leaf from history: Cricket diplomacy checks war pitch


With Indian troops am*a*ssed along the Pakistani border in early 1987, the morning of Feb 21, 1987, presented an altogether different surprise: a Pakistan Air Force jet landed at Delhi airport, with the visitor none other than Pakistan President General Ziaul Haq.

The general had flown to Delhi on the pretext of watching a test match between Pakistan and India in Jaipur, with his arrival putting Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in a spot of bother. In an article published by India Today, Behramnam, special adviser to Rajiv Gandhi, claimed that the Indian prime minister was not prepared to receive the General at the airport but had to be convinced by his associates to do so. With the match being played in Jaipur, Behramnam was deputed by Rajiv to accompany Gen Zia and tend to him.

As quoted in the India Today article, Behramnam states: “Before departure for Chennai, General Ziaul Haq, while saying goodbye to Gandhi said, ‘Mr Rajiv, you want to attack Pakistan, do it. But keep in mind that this world will forget Halaku Khan and Changez Khan and will remember only Ziaul Haq and Rajiv Gandhi, because this will not be a conventional war but a nuclear war. In this situation, Pakistan might be completely destroyed, but Muslims will still be there in the world; but with the destruction of India, Hinduism will vanish from the face of this earth.’”

Gen Zia had left Rajiv shaken.

Gen Zia’s unannounced arrival in New Delhi paves the way for peace, but only after another threat of absolute destruction in South Asia is delivered to PM Rajiv Gandhi
“These were only few minutes, but Gen Zia seemed to us a very dangerous man. With a stern-face, Gen Zia’s eyes showed that he meant business. I was astonished, that after this stern warning, in a flash, Gen Zia started smiling as if nothing happened and warmly shook hands with other hosts. Except Rajiv Gandhi and myself, [nobody knew] that Gen Zia had created problems for the Indian PM by threatening him with nuclear war,” said Behramnam.

Wisdom ultimately prevailed, and the next day, Rajiv met Gen Zia for dinner. They spoke briefly but with definite intention of reducing tensions at the border. They agreed that in the first phase, both countries would withdraw 80,000 troops from each side. To discuss the mechanics of further withdrawals, an Indian team would visit Pakistan and carry talks.

Why had the general decided to deliver his viewpoint to the Indian leadership directly?

It so happened that the US had warned Pakistan in 1984 that India was planning to attack its nuclear installations in a fashion similar to how the Israelis attacked Iraq’s Osiraq facility. This information was conveyed to Gen Zia in a confidential letter written by President Ronald Reagan on Sept 12, 1984, delivered by Ambassador Hinton, US ambassador to Islamabad.

Details about this exchange were disclosed in the recently declassified US State Department documents. Both the “Talking points for use in delivering letter to General Zia” (a four-page undated secret document) and President Reagan’s letter to General Zia (a three-page secret and sensitive document) were only revealed recently; neither had been revealed or published before.

Reagan’s fear was based on a CIA analysis, which noted in July 1984 that some sections of the Indian government viewed a Pakistani nuclear threat as imminent. The CIA analysis also noted that “an Indian attack on Pakistani nuclear facilities would almost certainly prompt retaliatory strikes against Indian nuclear facilities and probably lead to a full scale war.” The US also wanted Pakistan to restrict its uranium enrichment to a maximum of five per cent, a breach of which would trigger sanctions on Pakistan.

In reply to Reagan’s letter of November 7, 1984, Gen Zia did not mention Reagan’s request to limit uranium enrichment. Instead, he flatly denied Pakistan having uranium enrichment capability. “Pakistan has no intention whatsoever to manufacture or detonate a nuclear device,” the general told the American president.

Meanwhile, off the cricket field, Gen Zia told media personnel, “Cricket for peace is my mission, and I have come with that spirit.”

By March 1987, tensions between the two countries had diminished appreciably. They reached an agreement to withdraw 150,000 troops in Kashmir followed by withdrawal of more troops from Rajashthan desert. India stuck to its decision of holding military exercises, telling Pakistan that it had nothing to worry about. India delayed the last phase of the exercise to communicate the same message.

In the context of Pakistan and India, cricket diplomacy has a special place. After Gen Zia’s visit, General Pervez Musharraf also visited India on the pretext of watching a cricket match, and ultimately led to more dialogue and better friendly ties between the two neighbouring countries. In 2011, after democracy returned to Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited his Pakistani counterpart to visit India and witness a cricket match between the two countries. PM Yousuf Raza Gilani accepted the invite, and went to Mohali which helped defuse tense situation between the two countries after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Source: A leaf from history: Cricket diplomacy checks war pitch
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 15th, 2015
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Makhdoom Amin Fahim — a dedicated leader and poet


MAKHDOOM Amin Fahim, spiritual leader of the Sarwari Jamaat and an eminent leader of the Peoples Party who passed away in the early hours of Saturday, was also a distinguished poet of the Sindhi language.

He left two widows. He also married Dina Laila, sister of famous singer Roona Laila. He had six sons, two of them twins Makhdoom Naimat and Makhdoom Habibullah. One of his daughters, Maliha Makhdoom, was given a diplomatic position in Ireland in 2008 soon after the PPP formed its government in the centre.

The eldest son of Makhdoom Mohammad Zaman Talibul Maula, an illustrious politician and a revered figure in the world of Sindhi literature, Makhdoom Amin was born on Aug 6, 1939, in Hala, Sindh, the ancestral town of the Makhdoom family. He received his early schooling at the Ghulam Haider High School, Hala, and later attended the Sarwari Islamia College, Hala.

Subsequently, he earned a post-graduation degree in law and a master’s from the University of Sindh. In January 1993, he took over the spiritual leadership of the shrine of Makhdoom Nooh Sarwari.

Mr Fahim grew up in a fascinating atmosphere where literature, politics and learning existed side by side. He joined politics in 1970 when his father joined the PPP and formed a lasting association with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the party. After the death of Z.A. Bhutto, Mr Fahim remained an unfaltering supporter of the party.

When in 1977 Gen Ziaul Haq wanted political parties to be registered, the PPP created a new faction called the Pakistan Peoples’ Party Parliamentarians to evade any action by Gen Zia. Mr Fahim was appointed its chairman. Unlike Maulana Kausar Niazi and Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi who were prepared to reconcile with Gen Zia, Mr Fahim refused to even consider it.

He won his first National Assembly seat in 1970 and in all was elected to the National Assembly eight times. After the death of Z.A. Bhutto and the exile of Benazir Bhutto, the party felt the pinch of being leaderless and it was feared that splinter groups may arise.

It was Mr Fahim who blocked the scheme and stood as an unwavering supporter of the party.

During the tenure of the PPP government formed in 1988, he was appointed the federal minister for commerce. In later years, when the demand for leadership grew louder, Gen Pervez Musharraf was believed to offer him the office of the prime minister; Mr Fahim refused flatly.

On the literary side, when he was young, Mr Fahim was influenced by the literary organisation Bazm-i-Talibul Maula, branches of which had been established all over Sindh for the promotion of literature. The Sarwari Jamaat also published a number of books and anthologies (and continues to do so). The young Amin began composing poetry at the age of 14, initially using the pen-name Amin and later adding Fahim. He composed ghazals and kafi, and also worked in other poetic genres. His poetry shows him to be overwhelmed by mixed feelings of personal joy, fear and loneliness. He used very fluent and popular diction, and his work has been sung by many vocalists.

In recent years, Mr Fahim was accused of graft, and the investigation was still under way when he fell ill. He went to London for medical treatment and then stayed in Dubai for a few weeks. On Oct 26, he flew back to Pakistan and was staying at his Karachi residence till his demise.

An example of Mr Fahim’s poetry, composed in 1970:

Ajj nethh vyas gulshan mein halio kahin jazba-i-dil khan bekhud thi, Chho moonkhe disi the runo shabnam kujh yad atham kujh visri viyo, Aye Fahim toon moonkhe budhai khanni ta haqiqat keaan aghaz mein huee, Moon khanyo ya nathe khaniyo pahinjo qadam, kujh yaad atham kujh visri viyo.

[Today I went to the beloved’s dwelling becoming so desperate, why did the dew weep, I remember some and forgot some; Fahim, you tell me what was the reality in the beginning; did I take steps or not; I remember some and forgot some.]

Source: Makhdoom Amin Fahim — a dedicated leader and poet
Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2015
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A leaf from history: Benazir ends exile


General Ziaul Haq had imposed a number of ‘unacceptable’ conditions on the functioning of the National Assembly formed after the 1986 elections and it seemed the members had accepted these in exchange for the lifting of martial law and return of democracy. Gen Zia had evolved a political formula which was democratic in appearance and dictatorial in practice. However, despite undesirable political atmosphere Mohammed Khan Junejo provided a ray of hope as he tried to bring respectability to the parliament, to the extent that he even put his career at stake.

The absence of opposition from the Assembly was quite noticeable, though opposition is essential for any democratic forum; and nonexistence of opposition did not give the parliament a democratic look. With Junejo’s nomination as prime minister it was being felt that Muslim League was the ruling party and hence a few members who belonged to other parties assumed the role of opposition. The politicians felt satisfied that democracy had returned, though it was in the form of a sugar-coated martial law aimed at deceiving the world and reaping its fruit.

The resurgence of the MRD (Movement for the Restoration of Democracy) which tended to act as a leftwing political alliance since its formation in 1983 had put up little show in 1986. In April 1986 Benazir Bhutto returned from self-imposed exile to launch a fresh campaign with greater intensity to force the general to either restore real democracy or leave.

Benazir returns to Pakistan to find a softer Zia in comparison to when she had left
The general was moving in a planned manner towards 1990, when his tenure obtained through the sham referendum was to end. He had also retained the post of COAS and used it as leverage and his main source of authority.

It was also being said that it was not only internal influence that forced Gen Zia to hold elections and silence the democratic voices till certain objectives were achieved, like a breakthrough in Afghanistan talks and the ouster of Soviet forces. Since the formation of the national government, political parties had almost given up the effort for a change. The reason for non-action on the part of political parties was not the absence of cohesion but it is believed that they had an idea of the whole plan.

It was also being said that Benazir’s exile came to an end (in 1986) as a result of some pressure from the US.

After her release from detention in 1984, Benazir had visited her mother in Switzerland where she was under treatment and after two days went to London where she met political leaders and media persons. In an interview with the BBC she refuted allegations that she would live in exile forever. She reiterated that her difference with Gen Zia was not on the grounds of Bhutto’s hanging but on restoring democracy. She underwent ear surgery which was, according to her, the reason for her visit. While in the UK she met various political groups in Birmingham, Glasgow, London School of Economics, Lincoln’s Inn, Berlin (Germany), European Union and Frankfurt and told them about the political victimisation and dictatorial rule.

Later she travelled to the US and met various political figures and influential groups, and spoke to the media and architects of foreign policy; she retained her ties with the US think tanks even after her return to Pakistan. This was the basis of the rumours that she had sought help from the US for her return, though her objective of meeting them was just to communicate the position of the country.

On the day of Benazir’s return from exile at Karachi (May 3, 1986) the general sent a simple but stern warning that there should be no disturbance of any kind or he would clamp another martial law, much stricter than the previous one. He even did not show a sharp reaction in retaliation to Benazir’s sharp criticsm.

The international media reported the situation in many ways. The Economic and Political Review, Delhi, on Sept 5, 1987 reported that after coming back to Pakistan, Benazir had been in contact with top US hierarchy and was told what to do. Political observers take this attitude as a close observation of the affairs of Pakistan. As part of the plan, it was said that Gen Zia was also being monitored and informed of every development and future actions. This was not averse to Zia’s plans. A report said: “In 1986, Zia permitted Bhutto to return to Pakistan . . . The elections held on non-party basis was also a gimmick by the general and he ignored all the political parties and ended up with a front behind which the general and his coterie could deal with more important matters rather than face the abuses of the people, the press and political parties. For that there was Junejo.” (weekly E&P, Delhi, Sept 5, 1987). It is generally believed that at this juncture, the United States leadership reposed more confidence in Gen Zia than Benazir as a mature and professional man who had the ability to handle political issues quite as the need of the hour demanded. Perhaps Benazir had received the message and stuck to the advice to wait till 1990 polls — ending Gen Zia’s 5-year post ‘referendum’ term as President.

With a near-firm assurance from the sources riding the events, Benazir found time to attend to other issues especially family problems after the hanging of her father. A daughter of a political genius Z.A. Bhutto, Benazir knew what awaited her. She waited while she struggled, drawing people close to her to listen to the smallest whisper and responded. She also used the respite to solve the non-political issues that had accumulated for quite some time. Not an easy task but she made it. She steadily found a way to practical life, in the family and in the world.

Source: A leaf from history: Benazir ends exile
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 29th, 2015
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Old Sunday, December 13, 2015
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A leaf from history: The marriage that shook the political scenario


On July 29, 1987, a few members of the Bhutto family and some of their friends assembled at the London apartment of Sanam Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto’s sister. Despite the unfortunate events the family had braved, Begun Nusrat Bhutto appeared calm and composed. Among the guests were Hakim Ali Zardari, father of Asif Zardari, and his wife. A photographer was in attendance too.

After some time, Benazir Bhutto broke the silence. “This is Asif Zardari, my fiancé.”

The next day, a picture of the ceremony and an accompanying news item appeared in the media. Since she grew up in a liberal environment, her friends wondered why her marriage had been arranged. Many columnists conjectured that perhaps Benazir would retire from politics altogether after the wedding.

Much to the surprise of many, Benazir accepts an arranged marriage proposal. While some expected her to be sidelined thereafter, the marriage strengthened her hand in politics
As per the press release issued from London by the PPP, Benazir said: “Conscious of my religious obligations and duty to my family, I am pleased to proceed with the marriage proposal accepted by my mother, Nusrat Bhutto. The impending marriage will not in any way affect my political commitment to my country, my people or the trail blazed by Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for a free, federal democratic and egalitarian Pakistan.

“I stand as one with my countrymen in repudiating tyranny and its terrible heritage. The people of Pakistan deserve a better, more secure future and I shall be with them in seeking it. ... In view of the carnage caused by the car bombs and the sectarian killings the ceremonies are being postponed. We cannot celebrate when our people suffer. Your suffering is our suffering. Our bond is beyond the vindictive grips of the tyrants. I shall be returning to Karachi shortly.”

On Feb 17, 1987, a huge marriage ceremony was organised in Karachi that bound the two influential families of the country into a relationship. Benazir Bhutto had married Asif Ali Zardari, son of Hakim Ali Zradari, a businessman and landowner. It was an arranged marriage, something stunning for Oxford and Harvard graduate Benazir but she had her reasons for that. According to her, she was introduced to Asif Ali Zardari only five days before agreeing to the proposal.

Whether Zardari’s family knew or not, there were many proposals for Benazir Bhutto while she was still a student at Oxford in 1986. And yet, Hakim Ali Zardari, an old companion of Z.A. Bhutto and a cinema owner in Karachi, proceeded with the proposal.

“His (Asif’s) only apparent vice, if it could be called that, was a passion for polo,” Benazir told Shyam Bhatia, an Indian journalist and long-time friend in her biographical work Goodbye Shahzadi.

It all began in London almost a year before the marriage. On July 29, 1987, Begum Nusrat Bhutto received a formal proposal by Zardari for Benazir Bhutto led by Zardari’s stepmother, Begum Zarin. Asif Ali was studying at the London School of Economics and intended to take up a housing business after completing his studies.

While in London, he occasionally visited Begum Nusrat Bhutto during Benazir’s exile days; during these visits, Asif earned Begum Bhutto’s confidence.

Reconciling herself with choosing an arranged marriage, especially in a society where she had studied and developed her sense of life, was a difficult task. Talking to American newspaper the Los Angeles Times before her wedding, she said: “I don’t really expect people in the West to understand. Every mother wants her daughter married and I felt obligations to my family and my religion.”

Begum Bhutto clearly told the Zardari family that since Benazir was in politics, she would continue doing so and no hurdles should ever be created for her. Once the proposal was accepted, there was no hassle for the ceremony. She asked her mother not to arrange dowry. When the probable date for marriage was fixed, Benazir asked to postpone it because of violence in Karachi. The date was then fixed to Dec 17, 1987.

Before the main occasion, Benazir published a brochure explaining the cultural customs and traditions like Mehendi, Mayoon and finally Rukhsati. Some Western journalists, who had become Benazir’s friends, came to Karachi to witness the marriage ceremony.

Benazir wanted to make it a historic event. That is why she refused to make it an occasion of a few people gathered in a five-star hotel. Kikri Ground in the heart of Karachi’s PPP stronghold of Lyari was selected. There were no formal invitations while members from both families as well as party supporters attended the occasion in their numbers.

Benazir was clad in a white silk tunic with gold embroidery and Asif wore a traditional Baloch turban and cream-colour traditional trousers. The Nikah ceremony took place amidst a huge crowd; it could easily be mistaken for a huge public meeting. Asif’s gift for Benazir was a heart-shaped ring, studded with diamonds and sapphires.

Beyond public scenes, both families held a number of private celebrations, but the change in the political life of the couple was immense. Asif quickly developed a taste for politics. After the 1988 elections, he played a crucial role in defeating Nawaz Sharif when he wanted to force a vote of no-confidence against Benazir.

Shyam Bhatia recalls his frank conversation with Benazir Bhutto before her wedding about an interested paramour. “There was, of course, no dearth of other Pakistani men who saw her as a great prize and would queue up for her hand. One was the son of a senior party functionary, but he was believed to have a drinking problem. Another party loyalist was also turned down by her because he came across as an opportunist, although he did win favour in a different way some years later when he was brought into the cabinet.”

Source: A leaf from history: The marriage that shook the political scenario
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 13th, 2015
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A leaf from history: Last moment overture


The year 1987 saw General Ziaul Haq completing 10 years as president in uniform. Despite completing a decade in power, he was still grappling with political issues at home, and at the same time, struggling to resolve the Afghan issue which appeared to be inching toward its conclusion.

During all these years, the general, with the support of anti-Soviet expansionist forces, had been supporting the jihad waged for the expulsion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) troops. The USSR had some excuses which it was using to defer the issue for some time, but 1987 was the year when this objective was set to be realised.

Anti-occupation forces did not want to hand the USSR a safe passage to leave without helping to clear the mess first. This in turn led to a moot in Washington between US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, where Afghanistan would also come under the spotlight.

Back in Pakistan, Gen Zia too was anxious about the agenda of this meeting. He wanted to communicate his thoughts on the resolution of the Afghanistan issue to President Reagan, particularly some terms and conditions regarding the future set-up of Afghanistan. He wanted these clauses to be worked in the finer details of any accord that might be reached at between American and Soviet delegations.

With the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan drawing to a close, which of General Ziaul Haq and Mohammad Khan Junejo will bag the credit for resolving the issue?
The first of Zia’s three points was that were an agreement on ceasefire to be reached or some ad hoc truce agreed upon between the US and the USSR, no assurances should be extended on the part of freedom fighters.

The second point called for the departure of Soviet troops to be unconditional.

And third, Gen Zia asked for any future government in Afghanistan to be formed before the dissolution of the Najeebullah government and by having the Afghan people exercise their democratic will. He argued that no external party — not even Pakistan or the US — should decide or be involved in this matter as such interference would be resisted by the Mujahideen.

The US president is reported to have responded that these points would be taken into consideration.

On Dec 8, when the American and Soviet leaders met, they had a vast agenda for discussion before them, including Afghanistan, Central America, southern Africa, arms, control of chemical weapons and conventional weapons, strategic arms and Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

In fact, the two superpowers had been working on this agenda since the Moscow Summit. Reagan’s team included former president Richard Nixon and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who had worked a lot on the proposed treaty. Gorbachev’s side was weaker in comparison, as only two months back Boris Yeltsin had denounced the proposed treaty. Nevertheless, there were some experts in the delegation, including the former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze.

The moot began with deliberations on human rights; on the second day, it picked up Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq war. Finally, when the joint declaration was announced on Dec 10, there was no specific mention of the Soviet stand on Afghanistan. However, it extended support to popular movements for attaining the right to self determination in South Asia, which meant that Pakistan’s position had appropriately been upheld.

In February 1988, Gorbachev unilaterally announced that the Soviet Union would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan irrespective of whether an accord is reached in Geneva or not.
In February 1988, Gorbachev unilaterally announced that the Soviet Union would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan irrespective of whether an accord is reached in Geneva or not. The time stipulated for the withdrawal of troops was May 1988. This move perplexed the entire world leadership but to many it was an attempt to save the Soviet Union from more humiliation.

In Pakistan, the reaction of Gen Zia was very different. In Lahore’s Governor House, he told a gathering of army corps that there must be some reason in the background for this announcement to have been made. When asked why the joint declaration did not specifically include the Afghanistan issue, Gen Zia said that perhaps the United States had its own priorities and interests.

After the declaration in Washington, Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo began preparations for any accord which might be reached at in Geneva. The pattern of things in Geneva was that there would be a pact between Pakistan and Afghanistan regarding the departure of Soviet troops, but the United States and the USSR would serve as guarantors of the accord.

Gen Zia, of course, had wanted to emerge as a hero of the Islamic world by freeing Afghanistan of Soviet troops. But he was also acutely aware that with his plans and suggestions, Junejo would gain more prominence since he was the prime minister. For all practical reasons, Junejo had been handling the Afghanistan issue at all stages since he had become the prime minister; but he was unaware of Gen Zia’s actions and wanted to become the architect of purging Soviet Union from Afghanistan.

When the world leadership became conscious of Afghanistan’s situation, Pakistan became the frontline state to undertake a very difficult task of fighting Russian troops. Gen Zia did not want unskilled Afghan nationals to be pushed in the throes of modern war machines, and instead, he encouraged those who were willing to become warriors to get formal training. Many of these men were then trained under the guidance of General Akhtar Abdur Rahman, who lent Pakistan’s war expertise to not only fight the Russians but eventually, to drive them out.

Source: A leaf from history: Last moment overture
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine December 27th, 2015
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