Harris Khalique: Bhutto no more, Zia lives on


Friday, April 03, 2009

Thirty years ago, on April 4, 1979, I was pale and weak after recovering from severe jaundice and the final exams for class seventh. We were home with my younger brother and a couple of cousins. My mother had just got back after doing her groceries. In those days, we cousins were addicted to a game called ‘Monopoly’ where the choicest property of London could be bought and sold for a few hundred pounds. I wish electric company, which was for 150 pounds then, could still be bought. It was a pleasant day and while buying and selling property by throwing a pair of dice and offering fake currency, we were also thinking of organising a cricket match with another group of boys in the afternoon. Yusuf, a very dear cousin of mine, had anointed his new bat with linseed oil, as was the ritual in those days, and was now eager to hit a few strokes.

I vividly remember that around 11am, someone knocked at the front door. He was a junior colleague of my father’s who came regularly to bring files and other office material. He arrived with the instructions that children should stay indoors as riots may break out. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, was hanged in Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, in the early hours of the day. I remember my mother was shell-shocked. She hunkered down holding her head in both hands and then started shaking in disbelief. My father arrived a little early that afternoon and kept using his favourite expletive in Farsi for General Ziaul Haq, which virtually meant the product of an unidentified sperm. He was peevish and we kept a distance from him. But soon he went out with a grim-faced man for a meeting somewhere in Nazimabad. It seems now that it would have been a political meeting of some sort.

On the same day, a boy came running from the neighbour’s telling my mother that my aunt was on the phone. We did not have a direct phone connection those days and used their number. Police had come to arrest my maternal grandfather, Sufi Saghir Hasan. He was an educationist by profession who ran a number of colleges and schools during his career and a thoroughly religious man with no less than a decade long solitary chilla on the outskirts of Sialkot behind him. He was about 85 years old in April 1979. His journalist son M B Khalid, my uncle who I never saw due to his early death in PIA’s Cairo crash of 1965, was a friend of Bhutto’s. Sufi sahib and Bhutto started writing letters to each other after that tragedy. This continued while Bhutto was in prison and then in his death cell. The reason cited by the police for the old man’s arrest was his habit of writing letters to a dangerous and condemned man. His warrants were cancelled after some senior civil servant’s intervention but Sufi sahib was all set to go to prison.

The reign of terror had begun. People were picked up, tortured, jailed for years, flogged and gagged. Many were executed. Newspapers had blank columns appearing on main pages after official censors would remove a news item or a feature at the eleventh hour. The same year, General Ziaul Haq was to introduce the draconian laws against women and religious minorities in the name of Islam. I am amazed at how unashamedly his son and followers can still come out in public and attempt at rationalising the deeds of Pakistan’s General Franco. After Aurangzeb Alamgir, Ziaul Haq committed the greatest disservice to Islam as a ruler in the history of the Indian subcontinent. But in April 2009, what remains of Bhutto is mere rhetoric – a few slogans raised by his followers, in which the PPP leadership doesn’t believe itself, or a few sponsored TV shows in his memory. What remains of Zia is the real thing – a conservative, hypocritical, rotten to the core polity and sociology of Pakistan. (The News)

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet and rights campaigner. Email: harris@spopk.org

ذوالفقار علی بھٹو کو چار اپریل سنہ 1979 کو جنرل ضیاء کے دورِ اقتدار میں تختۂ دار پر چڑھا دیا گیا تھا اور وہ لاڑکانہ سے بیس کلومیٹر دور بھٹوز کے آبائی قبرستان گڑھی خدا بخش بھٹو میں دفن ہیں جسے لوگوں نے اب شہیدوں کا قبرستان قرار دے دیا ہے اور جہاں پنجاب سے آئے ہوئے ایک بزرگ جیالے کے بقول’پاکستان کے رکھوالے‘ دفن ہیں۔

تیس سال پہلے جب راولپنڈی سے ایک فوجی ہیلی کاپٹر میں بھٹو کی میت گڑھی خدا بخش لائی گئی تھی تو ان کی نمازِ جنازہ میں درجن بھر مقامی لوگوں کو شرکت کی اجازت دی گئی تھی۔گڑھی خدا بخش کے ایک بزرگ محمد عالم نے بی بی سی سے بات کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ ’فوجیوں نے بھٹو کو خاموش کرنے کے لیے خاموشی سے اسے دفن کردیا مگر انہیں پتا نہیں تھا کہ بھٹو کی قبر بول پڑے گی۔ تیس سالوں سے بھٹو کی قبر چیخ چیخ کر قاتلوں سے حساب مانگ رہی ہے‘۔