Rejoinder to Fatima Bhutto’s book – by Amna Piracha

LUBP Exclusive: Here is Amina Piracha’s (a close associate of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto) rejoinder to allegations made by Fatima Bhutto in her book ‘SOBAS

Fatima Bhutto’s book “Songs of Blood and Sword” has generated some controversy and I am reluctant to add to the controversy for the simple reason that though Fatima Bhutto seems to be totally impervious to the reverence and love which the vast majority of Pakistanis have for Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as also singularly ignorant of historical facts pertaining to Zia’s dictatorial rule, people like myself hold Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s family in such high esteem that it pains me even to talk about Fatima Bhutto or her book. However, I find it incumbent on me to set the record straight in so far as it relates to me or to facts personally known to me.

Fatima sought an interview with me. I welcomed her to my home and embraced her with the love and affection that I have always and continue to guard for all members of the Bhutto family. She spent one and a half or two hours with me. We had what I thought was a very congenial meeting. I am therefore horrified to read her account of this meeting on pages 228-229 of her book. That she should have found the experience a “nightmare” is a revelation for me and Sohail Sethi who has known me and who was present should, if he has the courage, bear me out.

Just because someone does not agree with Fatima’s world view does not give her the right to berate and ridicule such person. She has not named me and I do not see why as I did not place any restriction on being named. She refers to me, who has on the few occasions that I have met her treated her with love and kindness, as “a woman who made a career of her friendship, even serving in parliament during Benazir’s first term in power.” I do not claim fame but even the few people who know me could testify to the falsehood of this defamatory statement. I served in Parliament during Benazir Bhutto’s first government not because I was a friend of Benazir Bhutto’s but because I was nominated for a reserved seat by the Central Executive Committee on the basis of my role in the PPP during Zia’s harsh dictatorship. I did not apply for this seat. Both my husband, who was counsel for Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the Supreme Court and was a close and trusted confidante of Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto have always viewed our relationship with the family of Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as sacred and have never cashed in on it. This affection extended to Mir Murtaza Bhutto and when he returned to Pakistan both my husband and I were in Karachi to receive him and even subsequently went to Karachi on several occasions to be present at his court hearings. In fact both my husband and I had dinner with Mir Murtaza Bhutto in Mr. Bashir Riaz’s Islamabad residence a couple of days before the horrible carnage in Karachi in which he lost his life and which devastated us all.

In so far as my meeting with Fatima Bhutto goes, the discussion centred initially on what she termed as the “ethnic cleansing of the mohajirs” by Benazir Bhutto’s Government and I tried to explain to her what is even now my decided opinion on this issue, namely that the action initiated by General Naseerullah Babar was a counter to the reign of terror unleashed by a political party created by Mr. Zulfikar Al Bhutto’s persecutors to undermine the Pakistan Peoples Party in Sindh and was a necessity and could not be dubbed as “ethnic cleansing”. Obviously, this historical fact did not hold sway with Fatima Bhutto and on the first page of her book she writes, “The Sindhi PPP government launched a genocidal strike, called Operation Clean-Up, against the ethnic Muhajirs who form the bulk of the MQM political party.” Even the detractors of the PPP concede that the PPP is the only federal political party of Pakistan with roots in all the four provinces and Fatima’s assertion is contrary to the facts.

The discussion then turned to Benazir Bhutto. I did not and do not agree that Benazir Bhutto changed on coming into Government. Benazir Bhutto was a leader of international repute. She fought courageously against Zia’s martial law. She suffered incarceration and great hardship and she always maintained her dignity. Keeping Pakistan’s largest political party alive against the intrigues of the establishment was not easy. Politics, especially in Pakistan is not for the faint hearted and for idealists. Benazir Bhutto through her life waged a solitary battle to keep the PPP intact and in that process she learnt how to cope with intrigues and to best her foes. She had to, in order to survive. In her first Government the establishment manipulated the results to deprive her of the majority that was rightfully hers, when she entered Parliament she had to face a hostile opposition whose sole aim was to get her out. She was not given a level playing field. It was in the context of the opposition’s negative role that I told Fatima Bhutto that when we first went in to parliament we were novices and had no experience in parliamentary politics while the opposition having been inducted through the Majlis e Shura were old hands at filibustering and their sole object was to make Benazir Bhutto fail.

Benazir Bhutto too was the victim of the same forces who eliminated Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Shahnawaz Bhutto and Mir Murtaza Bhutto. I tried to explain this to Fatima. What she has reproduced is a distorted version in which her sole aim appears to be to make me sound frivolous and stupid and thus hit back at Benazir Bhutto. I am not given to fluttering my eyes and I never laugh leave alone heartily when I talk of Benazir Bhutto. The wound is too raw.

Nobody has the right to distort history no matter what their personal tragedy. It is sad indeed that Fatima, who I for one have always thought had great potential, should fall prey to fiction. She has fabricated stories- the alleged letter by Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto telling the boys to go to Kabul and avenge him is contrary to what those who were around in those painful days know to be true. Even when facing the gallows the clarity of Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s thinking was such that he in categoric terms rejected outright any suggestion for using force to get him out. To say that in going to Kabul, Mir Murtaza and Shahnawaz were following their father’s dying wishes is an outright lie. To say that for Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to place “his sons, his heirs in direct danger was maddeningly irresponsible” or that for Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto “to have ended his children’s chance of a peaceful, safe, ordinary life was vengeful” is adding insult to calumny. Mr. Tariq Islam has already contradicted Fatima’s version. Unfortunately, the other persons who had access to Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in those days are not in the world today to give a befitting reply to Fatima’s concocted stories but those of us who were privy to the jail visits of Mr. Yahya Bakhtiar, Mr. Ghulam Ali Memon and Dr. Zafar Niazi can bear testimony to the fact that Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at no time told or encouraged his sons to wage an armed struggle or go to Afghanistan.
Fatima’s labour of love is punctuated with half truths, outright lies and misrepresentations. Her allegation that Benazir Bhutto exulted at the Kabul hijacking is a blatant untruth. I would like Fatima to name one person to whom the “jubilant phone calls” were made. Benazir Bhutto blanched when we heard that news. She was fearful for her brothers’ safety. Benazir Bhutto did not believe in armed struggle and to say otherwise is false. At the same time stating this fact, does not mean that Mir Murtaza Bhutto who subscribed to armed struggle was a terrorist. I have at no point in my life thought of Mir Murtaza Bhutto as a terrorist and I am also not given to “yelping”.

On page 151 of the book Fatima in quoting Sohail Sethi writes “’Other times the problems came from within the family. Pinky___’ Suhail stops, its instinctive to call Benazir by her childhood nick-name….”. I can say with certainty that Suhail Sethi was never given the liberty to address Benazir Bhutto or to talk of Benazir Bhutto using her nick-name and therefore it could not have been instinctive for Suhail Sethi to use this nick-name. This privilege was reserved for Benazir Bhutto’s family and childhood friends and I challenge Suhail Sethi to claim otherwise.
Fatima’s allegation that Benazir Bhutto was somehow responsible for Shahnawaz Bhutto’s death or that she worked in collusion with CIA and Pakistani Intelligence service is outrageous. Since these allegations have been attributed to a French lawyer, one wonders what prompted the said lawyer to say these things, if he has said them at all. I think what Fatima and the lawyer to whom the remarks are attributed seem to forget that at the time of Shahnawaz Bhutto’s death Benazir Bhutto was in exile and therefore one fails to understand how her power was based on the approval of the CIA and Pakistani Intelligence services given that she had no power. When she came into power, it was through elections which too were rigged against her. Benazir Bhutto adored her baby brother and those of us who lived the tragedy with her when she brought her brother’s body for burial in their ancestral graveyard at Garhi Khuda Buksh know what agony she lived through.

Incidentally, the transcript of the French proceedings which were in French were translated by me for Benazir Bhutto. The Afghan aunt whom Fatima would now like to exonerate of all culpability cooked an omelette and ate it while her husband lay dying or dead.

Fatima needs to understand that one cannot become tall by cutting the legs of a giant.

Amna Piracha
May 21, 2010

Related article: ZAB’s nephew challenges Fatima Bhutto’s version



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