The break-up of Pakistan, Establishment’s Propagandists, and Z.A. Bhutto

Posted on Dec 17, 2007 | 6 comments


big-brother.jpgA few weeks ago, I was talking to a group of friends about the revolt in Swat, the bombings on our villages and towns, beheading of soldiers and the history of how the military establishment supported and used the fascist groups for its own purposes, brutalised and criminalised the society, and is now reaping the harvest.

Next morning, I opened DAWN and read the column written by former shipping tycoon-turned Z.A. Bhutto’s enemy for life – who is considered a ‘distinguished’ columnist in the elitist circles of this banana republic. The column contained its usual out-of-context comment on Z.A. Bhutto.

Pakistan’s ruling elites are ‘distinguished’ in that they are famously corrupt, intellectually bankrupt, politically inept, historically incompetent, notoriously callous, and fatally shortsighted. I have no personal reason to write about Cowasjee. I have never met him but I have chosen to write about this ‘hidden lackey’ of the successive military dictators in Pakistan because he is a microcosm of a lot what is wrong with the ruling elites of Pakistan. One of the characteristics is to accept jobs and favours from the government, enjoy the perks and good life while in the office, and build connections but when out of favour, start preaching the highest standards of moral conduct. Cowasjee’s shipping company was nationalized in 1972 , as were others, and Bhutto gave him a job in Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation in 1973 to make a gesture that the nationalization was not personal.  Later Bhutto made him Chairman of Port Qasim Authority.  Cowasjee was jailed very briefly in 1976, most probably at the behest of Mumtaz Bhutto. My father Nazar Husain, who was a police officer and knew Cowasjee well, once told me that Z.A.Bhutto had ordered a secret inquiry in 1975-76 against Mumtaz Bhutto on reports of some corruption in the Port Qasim Authority as Mumtaz Bhutto was the minister incharge of PQA and Cowasjee reported to him. Since my father had worked in the CID Karachi for a long time, investigating officials from Islamabad also sought his help in connection with this inquiry in 1976. Cowajee’s arrest was probably related to this but he always claimed, after Z.A.Bhutto’s death, that he was jailed by him. Circumstances suggest that his arrest probably had to do more with the PQA affairs or/and with Mumtaz Bhutto.

When Pakistan’s worst Frankenstein, Zia-ul-Haq staged a coup in July 1977 and imposed martial law, Cowasjee went to see Zia in July 1977 and readily agreed to become his adviser for shipping. So much for the love of democratic principles.  He started writing columns only in 1988 and keep quiet about Zia’s martial law and about the atrocities, abuses, destruction of civil institutions and worst human rights violations that took place under his martial law. Since he had been close to Zia and top generals, he wrote freely about mid-level corruption and gained fame as  a result of it. Even today, a police van (does he pay for that?) is deputed for his security. But why give so much importance to him; rather a small fry in the grand scheme of things.

The main reason is that a generation of journalists/columnists (e.g. Z.A. Suleri, Altaf Hasan Qureshi, Cowasjee, etc.) has been patronized, supported, and encouraged by the successive military establishments and their agencies to distort Pakistan’s history, hide the ugly face of the military rulers, mislead people, and harm democratic process in the country. It is not possible to get an objective view of the history through the eyes of the ‘establishment’s media’ because it has systematically and institutionally, presented and highlighted what has suited its interests. Altaf Hasan Qureshi’s was one of the recipients of Rs.140 million distributed by Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Aslam Baig to rig 1990 elections.

Z.A. Suleri was used by Yahya Khan and his information minister to target Bhutto during 1970 elections. Z.A.Bhutto fired Suleri from the National Press Trust when he took over in December 1971. Suleri propoagated the false story that Bhutto said “idhar hum, udhar tum”; words he never uttered. Suleri kept repeating these words in dozens of columns in Jang before and after Bhutto’s death. Except Daily Azad of Lahore no other newspaper in West or East Pakistan (including the government owned National Press Trust papers that had been pouring venom against him) carried the headline “udhar tum, idhar hum”. Subsequently the very next day (March 16, 1971) Daily Azad carried ZAB’s categorical rebuttal under the headline “Na main na tum, hum dono aur ek Pakistan” (Neither me, nor you, but us and one Pakistan).

The “establishment’s media men” rarely mention the fact that high-level political corruption was started by General Ayub Khan and his family. They do not discuss issues like why Pakistan has purchased nearly $10 billion worth of arms during the past five years and why doesn’t the government properly account for $100 million of cash payments it receives from the US government every month.

These relate to the present. In the context of history, they have never done justice to the findings of the Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission report. A couple of paragraphs from the report are worth quoting:

“After analysing the evidence brought before the Commission, we came to the conclusion that the process of moral degeneration among the senior ranks of the Armed Forces was set in motion by their involvement in Martial Law duties in 1958, that these tendencies reappeared and were, in fact, intensified when Martial Law was imposed in the country once again in March 1969 by General Yahya Khan, and that there was indeed substance in the allegations that a considerable number of senior Army Officers had not only indulged in large scale acquisition of lands and houses and other commercial activities, but had also adopted highly immoral and licentious ways of life which seriously affected their professional capabilities and their qualities of leadership.”

Another quote from the report:

“The excesses committed by the Pakistani Army fall into the following categories:-

a) Excessive use of force and fire power in Dacca during the night of the 25th and 26th of March 1971 when the military operation was launched.b) Senseless and wanton arson and killings in the countryside during the course of the “sweeping operations” following the military action. c) Killing of intellectuals and professionals like doctors, engineers, etc and burying them in mass graves not only during early phases of the military action but also during the critical days of the war in December 1971. d) Killing of Bengali Officers and men of the units of the East Bengal Regiment, East Pakistan Rifles and the East Pakistan Police Force in the process of disarming them, or on pretence of quelling their rebellion. e) Killing of East Pakistani civilian officers, businessmen and industrialists, or their mysterious disappearance from their homes by or at the instance of Army Officers performing Martial Law duties.f) Raping of a large number of East Pakistani women by the officers and men of the Pakistan army as a deliberate act of revenge, retaliation and torture.g) Deliberate killing of members of the Hindu minority.”Unquote.

Mr. Bhutto never published the report because he was under huge pressure from the Generals not to. But any journalist or political analyst worth his salt knows and knew what really went on in the former East Pakistan. The establishment forces, under a deliberate policy started by Yahya Khan’s Minister of Information Sher Ali Khan, have since used scores of media men to vilify and target Bhutto so that ordinary people do not think and discuss the role of the Army and the Generals. Bhutto made his share of mistakes and had his flaws but he was a popularly elected leader and it is about time things are put in perspective.

This group of “establishment’s media men” has distorted history to hide the ugly realities from the people of Pakistan. An ugly reality is that the year 1971 was a year of loot, plunder and rape in East Pakistan. Mr. Bhutto did not order to loot and rape. The man in charge was the Commander-in-Chief Yahya Khan, the all-powerful Chief Martial Law Administrator. After the fall of Dacca on December 16, 1971, junior officers were on the verge of mutiny; General Hamid was heckled and shouted down in an officers meeting; and there was no constitution and no law except martial law. Many generals and air marshals fearing a complete breakdown forced Yahya to hand over power at a time when the US president Richard Nixon had to warn Indira Gandhi not to enter West Pakistan. Given the grave situation and a complete constitutional vacuum, there was simply no other way to transfer power from a Chief Martial Law Administrator to the man who was the leader of the majority party in West Pakistan. But the army establishment was never a friend of Mujib or Bhutto or for that matter, any popular leader. So it has systematically distorted history and used any body who was willing to do its dirty job.

Would Cowasjee investigate and write about the role of some Haroons, the family that has owned DAWN. Mahmood Haroon served General Yahya as Agriculture Minister and General Zia as Minister of Interior. In Mehrangate case, his brother Yusuf Haroon was named as a recipient of Rs. 5 million from the ISI. Yusuf Haroon served as Governor of West Pakistan during the last days of Ayub Khan.Here it would be quite relevant to reproduce a few paras from now declassified secret papers of the US State Department.The points made are revealing and very important enough to be the subject of a secret telegram to the US Secretary of State. The following quotes from secret telegram no. 768 dated May 28, 1969, sent by the US embassy in Karachi to the US Secretary of State.Quote:

  1. In May 26 conversation with M.A.H. Ispahani, I asked (having in mind, actually a report in ref that President Yahya told (Iranian) PM Hoveyda that Americans supported Shaikh Mujibur Rahman) why Karachites continued to express belief that US supported concept of Independent East Pakistan.
  2. Ispahani responded that answer was simple; Yusuf Haroon, who always had Mujib in his pay was widely regarded as American agent; Mujib is greatest threat to Pakistan and to Pak unity but remained political ally of Haroon’s through pre-PTC period and close liaison between two men obtained until imposition of martial law; Mujib was first important politician Haroon sought after his return here [from the US] in February {Ambassador’s comment: True}: It was therefore logical to conclude that Haroon acted on behalf of United States government in supporting Mujib and that USG supported Mujib through Haroon. He added that Ayub booted Haroon out of country because his belief that Haroon was foreign agent.
  3. I asked Ispahani if he believed all of himself. He responded he did not but I had asked a question and [got a] frank answer that many believed Haroon was US agent. {Ambassador’s comment: Belief was not proof}


The above does establish that(i) Yusuf Haroon was indeed working closely with Americans (ii) he did support Mujib, and (iii) close associates of Quaid-e-Azam such as M.A.H. Ispahani believed (though he expressed his fears to the US Ambassador in a rather diplomatic manner, by saying that is what ‘people’ believed) Mujib was supported by Americans and (iv) even Yahya believed Americans supported independent East Pakistan.

Do these parasites and puppets of the military establishments have the intellectual honesty and moral courage to show the ugly side of their patrons including corrupt Generals who committed serious crimes against the people or all the venom is reserved for the most popular and truly elected leader of the history of what is now Pakistan?

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Posted by: Yousuf Nazar

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  1. Well there are very interesting posts figuring out what is happening in Pakistan with regard to the Elections 2008. plz read abt this at:

    Pakistan Elections 2008

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  2. “The 1971 East Pakistan tragedy was not just a failure of the military but also the collapse of the civil society in West Pakistan. The few voices raised against the military action were too feeble to make the army change the course it had set itself leading to a military defeat and the break up of the country.”

    Excerpts from the book “East Pakistan: The Endgame – An Onlooker’s Journal, 1969–1971″ (Oxford University Press, Pakistan)
    by Brigadier A. R. Siddiqi

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  3. Dear Yousuf: You show your weak side here. Bhutto had his share of opportunism for getting ‘iqtidar’. It is well known that he entered into corridors of ‘power’ through the good graces of the then establishment. His role post-election 1970 was far from credit-worthy. These things, esp. lust for power, were present in him and shared by the establishment people. Why did establishment not choose Mujib as successor? The reason is that Bhutto being a part of establishment in his ‘pre-awakening’ period, was far more reliable and liable to manipulation than Mujib. I hope you agree with me in the hearts of your heart.

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  4. All politicians seek power but to say he entered power through the establishment is a great travesty of truth. The generals had no choice after the fall of Dahka. Please read US Embassy (in Pakistan) Cables during 1971. It is very obvious Bhutto loathed Yahya Khan and did not support his game plan announced in June 1971. People (like many pro-establishment writers) conveniently forget that on the eve of the start of the military operation on 25th March, Yahya left Dahka without informing Bhutto who was trapped in the Inter-Continental and watched the gun battles from his hotel together with his other colleagues. This does not support the view he was in the know of all military’s plans.

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    • In point of fact, negotiations between Bhutto and later,Yahya on the one hand and Mujib on the other were not about who would be PM – Yahya had already declared that it would be Mujib – but over the latter’s six points. The matter at issue was Bengali nationalism and not Bhutto’s alleged ‘lust’ for power.

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  5. Yousuf,

    Did not see this before.

    Great stuff!!

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