Friday, 24 October 2014

QK Archives: Reminiscences of His Frontier Visits

Reminiscences of His Frontier Visits
by Farhatullah Babar - April 4, 2000

Over a quarter century ago I was posted at Peshawar as Director Information of Frontier government and worked there during 1974-75. An upright octogenarian Sayed Ghawas hailing from Mardan was the provincial governor. Donning a felt and always immaculately dressed the retired Major General and an Ex-ISI Chief Ghawas had retired from active public service nearly 20 years ago. He was leading a quiet life in his hometown until unexpectedly picked up by Bhutto and catapulted into public life as governor. With dignified bearing and a firm gate despite old age Ghawas was an inspiring person. Bhutto appeared to hold him in genuine respect witnessed by many during the Prime Ministers numerous visits to Frontier Province. On more than one occasion I noticed that General Ghawas would enter the meeting room of the Governor House when Bhutto would be already seated and the proceedings commenced. As the governor entered the room, Bhutto would rise in his seat and as though by an instinctive command every body present did the same. An embarrassed Ghawas would hurry to the empty chair by the side of Prime Minister, apologise and wonder aloud whether the meeting had actually started ahead of schedule.

Sayed Ghawas was not personally known to Bhutto prior to his selection as governor and one day narrated to me how he was picked up for the job. During one of Bhutto's visits to Peshawar, Syed Ghawas living in his house in Mardan received a telephone call from the ADC to Prime Minister and told that his appointment with Bhutto had been fixed for 5.00 p.m. that evening. Ghawas was puzzled as he had never sought an appointment and told the ADC that there appeared some mix-up as he was not keen for a meeting with the Prime Minister. The ADC rechecked and informed him that it was the Prime Minister who wanted to see him that day. "That is a different matter and I will come if he wants to see me", Ghawas told the ADC. In the meeting lasting less than half an hour, Bhutto told him of his decision to appoint him as provincial governor. Ghawas had always been wondering what prompted Bhutto whose path he had never crossed before and for whose radical politics he had no great admiration either, had chosen him.

Sardar Inayatullah Gandapur, a greater Pakhtoon by code of conduct than many Pakhtoons by birth, hailing from the southern waterless district of Kulachi was the Chief Minister. Hayat Muhammad Khan Sherpao, brother of Aftab Sherpao was Senior Minister in the Provincial Cabinet. Being also the PPP provincial President, a founder member of the Party considered close to Bhutto and already having served as provincial governor and a federal minister, Hayat Sherpao was the de-facto Chief Minister. Bhutto used to visit Frontier Province regularly and as Director Information I came in contact with him at various official and public functions in Peshawar and elsewhere in the province which were quite often.

One day Bhutto's Military Secretary Brig. Imtiaz called up to say that I should immediately come over to the Governor House. There I was made to sit in a room, given a pen and paper and asked to write in 10 minutes for the information of Prime Minister a one-page report about a certain journalist. I was also asked to suggest whether I recommended assistance to the journalist. I wrote a favourable report.

As I was leaving the Governor House. I saw the Director of Radio Pakistan Peshawar Kazi Sarwar also going out. A senior officer of the Federal Information Ministry and one who used to act as stage secretary during Bhutto's visits to the province. Kazi Sarwar was well known to Bhutto. It transpired that the Prime Minister had directed that both of us should separately give their assessments spontaneously and without either knowing what had been asked of the other. We felt relieved when we realised that the main thrust of our separate reports was identical. Thereafter the journalist received liberal assistance and also was included in the delegation during visits abroad.

One summer afternoon the Prime Minister was interviewed by a foreign correspondent in the Governor House. At the outset Bhutto ordered the recording gadgets be removed. The journalist was very upset but said nothing. But before Bhutto settled in question-answer session he asked that the interview may be recorded only by an official agency and a copy be given to the journalist. The Radio Pakistan's outfit did it. Bhutto was provoked in the interview and he used some very harsh words and made uncomplimentary comments about Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. After the interview when the correspondent had left, Bhutto called his Military Secretary and asked him to personally seal the cassette. Bhutto ensured that the cassette was sealed in his presence. He then ordered that it be got personally delivered by one of his staff officers to Adviser Information Yousaf Buch in Islamabad who had already been instructed to edit it before giving it to the correspondent and releasing to the press.

On February 8th 1975, Hayat Sherpao, the elder brother of Aftab Sherpao and the then senior minister in Frontier cabinet, was assassinated in a bomb blast at a students union function the Peshawar University. That day Bhutto was scheduled to arrive in Romania from New York, on a state visit. On learning about Sherpao's murder Bhutto cancelled visit to Romania and headed straight to Islamabad. Noted journalist H K Burky who was in the Prime Minister's entourage has recalled that Bhutto called him to his cabin and poured his grief stricken heart before him on the tragic death of Hayat.

When Bhutto returned home, he came to Peshawar the next day to visit the hall of the History department where a bomb blast had blown Hayat and four students to smithereens. He also went to Hayat's native village Sherpao to offer fateha on his grave. Subsequently he called a meeting of the Cabinet, the governor and all MPAs in the Governor House. Before mid day I was called to the Governor House and asked to come over with a typewriter but without a typist. I was expected to do some important typing work myself. Luckily I knew how to type and did not feel handicapped.

I was given some hand-written notes and told to prepare and type out a press statement. The statement was about the dismissal of Gandapur Ministry and the appointment of new Chief Minister Nasrullah Khattak. I was duly warned against leaking the news to any one until it had been mad public by the Prime Minister himself later in the evening. I was closeted in a room to work on the most fateful draft for the Provincial Cabinet. Throughout the day Minister's flying national flags and high officials came in and went out of Governor House for meetings with the Prime Minister without any one having the slightest idea about what was in store for the cabinet before the night fell. Being privy to a crucial piece of information I felt thrilled as seldom before.

Before sunset I showed the draft to Bhutto. His reading speed was fantastic. He barely took half a minute to read a foolscap typed page, changed the word 'interested' to ''inimical' in his own hand and asked me to write in full the name Nasrullah Khan Khattak (later the new Chief Minister) instead of simply Mr. Khattak which he said confused the identity of Nasrullah Khattak with that of Mr Aslam Khattak. Then he asked me to release the statement to the press only and not to radio and television that night after he had addressed the Cabinet and MPAs in the evening. I ventured to suggest that with piecemeal release the punch in the news would be diminished. "That is exactly what I want", he retorted.

After the dinner, Bhutto called the Cabinet, the governor and MPs for a meeting in the darbar hall. Government servants were ordered out. Governor Ghawas and Chief Minister Inayatullah Gandapur flanked him. Bhutto began his speech by recalling the tragic murder of Hayat Sherpao, how Frontier was ripped by bomb blasts and the law and order was in shreds. He was heard in hushed silence. Then he proceeded to announce the removal of Gandapur Ministry and replacement of Chief Minister with Nasrullah Khattak. A not a so veiled threat also marked his speech.. You have always co-operated with me in difficult times, he said' but went on to caution them in the same breath that he also knew how to deal with difficult people who caused trouble and violated party discipline. Saying this his eyes glowered over the stony faced members of the Assembly.

As the members came out of the hall a watery eyed Chief Minister Gandapur blurted and protested to Governor Ghawas that by keeping him in the dark about the decision he felt humiliated. He thought that the governor was privy to the decision but had kept him in the dark. Ghawas raised his drooping head , stood still and placing his hand on the shoulder of Gandapur, he said "I swear upon my God that I was also not privy to the decision and that the announcement has also shocked me". Gandapur left the governor house in a jiff. Before leaving he told me that he was vacating the chief minister house the same night and would shift to his hometown Kulachi. It was no empty threat. He meant what he said, called for a truck and hurriedly packed his modest personal

Sunday, 19 October 2014

QK Archives: Remembering Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

Remembering Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
by Major General (R) Naseerullah Babar - April 4, 2000

As the years roll-by, the human mind ruminates with past events - events that are either of personal interest or are of great national importance. These ruminations become even sharper on occasions like the birth and death anniversaries. On occasions like these the mind, acting as a Kaleidoscope churns out vignettes of the past and picks up suitable events to reflect upon. However, even this becomes difficult when the personality involved is a colossus like Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Having undertaken an exercise in this vein, I have picked up, after considerable sifting, three aspects of the late Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's life. These are:

a. A champion of national integration.
b. Humanitarianism.
c. As a seer and visionary.

As A Champion of National Integration

In 1947, at the advent of Pakistan, the Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in his sagacity and prophetic vision withdrew the armed forces from the cantonments around the tribal areas as a gesture of good-will and a first measure towards integration of the tribal areas with the rest of the country. In the ensuing years the successive governments however decided to leave the tribal areas to their own devices and only minimal social projects were undertaken. In 1971-72 the total developmental budget for six agencies (equivalent of districts) was a paltry Rs. 4.4 million. Thus, for twenty five long years, the tribal areas, 10,500 square miles in extent and with a population of around 4 million were little more than a sociological curiosity. The tribal areas were considered as beyond the pale of Pakistan and these years were, but naturally, marked by the hum of that political bogey—Pakhtunistan.

After the traumatic events of 1971 and with the advent of the Bhutto Government, the tribal areas too, began to be considered as within the pale of social and developmental activity. For the first time Pakistan had been blessed with a head of state/ government who had a profound sense of history, was endowed with prophetic vision, was humane (reflected in the party manifesto of roti, kapra aur makan) and above all had a deep sense of geo-political compulsions. Resultantly, in 1972, he decided to embark upon a deliberate and massive developmental programme in the tribal areas. It can be gauged from the fact that developmental allocation had risen from a paltry 4.4 million in 1971-72 to a staggering 300 million by 1977—excluding allocations by autonomous bodies like WAPDA etc. What were till then considered the back waters of Pakistan began to gradually enter the social and economic mainstream—Mr. Bhutto, being only too aware that economic realities were the cornerstone of national integration and, in effect, the most important element of national integration.

Kakar Kharasan, in Zhob is an area of 3,500 square miles bordering on Afghanistan. The British had vacated this area as an administrative unit in 1919. The Pakistani administration as true successors, decided to forsake the area totally—so completely—that it was not only void of any governmental presence, but the people to settle their disputes made reference to Afghan officialdom. In April 1973 Bhutto brought the area under control of the government. In the early 90s the same area was to ring with names like Mullah Rocketty, who would kidnap the local administration officials for ransom till brought in chains by the government of the Daughter of the East!

Tribal Areas of NWFP

Mr. Bhutto being thoroughly steeped in the historical perspective had identified the fact (overlooked by all predecessors) that after the departure the British, Afghanistan was no more the traditional/ historic buffer—if at all, it was unidirectional in effect. With the political changes of April 1973 in Afghanistan (coup by Sardar Daud) Mr. Bhutto the macro-politician that he was, immediately sensed the "vacuum" of power that had resulted—there being no legitimate line of succession. He immediately identified the threat emanating from the fact that "vacuums" near a big power automatically get filled. It is inevitable and throughout history this has been the pattern of power politics—amply proved by events of April 1978 and December 1979. These visualisations coupled with the psycho-political residue of the 1971 trauma, necessitated emergent measures to fill these "vacuums" within our territory and, simultaneously, initiate action so as to establish and maintains option within Afghanistan. The measures adopted were: -

a. Forward Move

1. Central Waziristan (North & South Waziristan) the hunting ground of the erstwhile Faqir of Ipi and presently, Niaz Ali, his nephew. The Frontier Corps moved into the old and historic cantonment and posts and by end 1976, a Cadet College had been conceived at Razmak—something totally unthought of.

2. Mohmand Agency is the most heavily populated Agency with an area of 890 square miles and population of around 600,000. Since the Mohmands had no international highway nor did a road to an output of the empire run though their area, the British penetrated no deeper than the outer fringes of their land. The Mughals, Sikhs and the British had given them a wide berth —so much so that this was the only area left undemarcated (boundary pillars) when the Durand line was finalised. It would be pertinent to add that until 1973 the upper Mohmands by and large drew their allowances from the Afghans. The events of April 1973 spurred a rapid integration. Whereas there was no allocation of development fund, upto 1973—but between 1974 and 1977, it went up to 44 million.

3. Bajaur Agency was administrated until 1973 from Malakand (70 miles away). It must be remembered that it was through Nawa Pass that Alexander the Great, Babar and Nadir Shah had entered the Sub-Continent. Here again there was an unprecedented raise in development funds—from a few million to around 40 million in 1976-77.

b. Political Changes

Mr. Bhutto also foresaw that administrative changes must be preceded by political changes and that as a preliminary there must be some political awakening. He therefore dispensed with the format jirga when only select elders, under the tutelage of the political agent, made easy renderings and transformed these into public meetings at most remote and peripheral places. At these meetings there were no question of Khan or non-Khan, Malik or non-Malik, Mashar (elder) or Kashar (young).

History is replete with instances where one single decision transformed the entire course of history. In the tribal areas, it was this single and singular measure of public meetings, which transformed their course. Its impact was immediate and profound. By 1977, it was decided that adult franchise be introduced for the impending 1978 elections and elections were to be held to both, the National and Provincial Assemblies—as, in the ultimate, integration had to take place with the province. The Election Commission was directed to initiate necessary measures but, their, or a request from Sardar Daud, it was postponed for a year (1978). A half hearted effort was made in this direction in the1997 election.

c. Humanitarian Aspects of Mr. Bhutto

I will touch upon only two incidents which were salutary and reflected his inhere anguish when he confronted abject poverty.

i. Cadet College Razmak: At Razmak, the site of the Cadet College (a revolutionary measure in itself) Mr. Bhutto declared, the poor people in the Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan will be happy to see the tribal areas developed—as they all had one thing in common—abject poverty. It was here that he announced the historic measure of integrated education—viz 60 % seats for the tribals and 40% to the remaining provinces on a reciprocal basis. Today, the Cadet College Razmak is a fine institution and graduating students into all aspects of national life including the defence forces. The tribals have truly, established a place in national endeavour and that, too, through merit.

ii. Chitral: In the winter of 1976-77, Mr. Bhutto, accompanied by the Agha Khan visited Chitral. The sight that one met that cold, icy morning was one of absolute and abject poverty. There were the people in the thousands dressed in the barest of clothing and their feet tied in bandages as they could not afford shoes even in the blisteringly cold. During his address, when he saw this sight, he could not hold back his feelings and wept publicly and unashamedly and remarked, "God has not destined the poor to remain poor. It is man and society that is maintaining this stark difference." He immediately directed to construction of the Lowari Tunnel so as to ensure an all weather and year round communication. The task was assigned to the Frontier Works Organisation who made a beginning but the succeeding dictator abandoned the project—having no sympathy for the poor.

iii. As a Seer and Visionary: Mr. Bhutto was convinced by the events of April 1973 (SAUR Revolution) that a fresh invasion of the Sub-Continent had taken place. The traditional hordes were for the present, absent—there being no Greek, Mongul, Tatar, or Moghul armies on the march. Yet the events in Afghanistan, were a precursor, to its traditional use as a halting place—a brief respite before the final thrust into the Sub-Continent. Being aware of the fate of Samarkand, Bokhara etc. in the wake of Peter the Great's will, he deemed it appropriate to use Afghanistan as the first bulwark of defence. Staking an option in Afghanistan was therefore necessary.

iv. The Birth of Afghan Resistance: Resultantly, when elements in Afghanistan ie Hikmat Yar, Rabbani, Ahmed Shah Masood and others arrived in Peshawar in October 1973 and offered to organise a resistance movement in Afghanistan—they were taken under the wings. Training camps were established and military training began to be imparted. However, the training had to be limited to creating only a nucleons in each of the Afghan provinces. Essentially, being a political animal he did endeavour to use political means a King Zaire Shah was contacted in Rome and invited to lead the movement into Afghanistan and arrest the impending disaster. He vacillated and events overtook the endeavour. This continued until July 1977 and it was this effort that enabled the Afghans to meet to Russian invasion in December 1979. It would be pertinent to add that General Zia-ul-Haq lacking the vision of Mr. Bhutto, suspended this moderate assistance—financial and military and thus divided the single composite group into seven small groups with obvious results.

After July 1977, it was a free for all. The Americans began their support in May, 1979; the religious parties joined hands when the dollars began to flow; and Zia-ul-Haq used the it to prolong his regime. An endeavour conceived by a giant was reduced to nought by pygmies that followed.