by Benizir Bhutto

My father knew that you can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can
exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea.

Benazir Bhutto in Daughter of Destiny

That is visionary thinking and the reason why none of us should not be afraid of dying. In any case, we can look back from here and see if the ideas for which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto ruled outlived him. For the Pakistani, they have different opinions as to Zulfikar and felt he had the singular most important opportunity to have placed Pakistan on the trajectory of greatness.

We all do agree that no man is a saint, in fact there are no saints here on earth, we can only look for such in heaven. Zulfikar wasn’t expected to be one either. that said, the entire write up by Benazir told a story that portrays her father to be one, a saint on earth. I can’t recollect anywhere in the book where she accepts any error of judgement by her father despite the reality that Pakistan cannot be said to be a stable polity in the days he ruled. It was this very instability that led to the introduction of Martial Laws by the military administration that deposed her father, jailed and finally executed him.

Another thing of note is the very few mention of her brothers – Murtaza and Shahnawaz who later formed the terrorist organization Al-Zulfiqar. It would seem that very early in their lives, there has been a division which they were unable to mend. The story, as presented by Benazir, revolved mostly around her, her mum, dad and to some extent her sister, Sanam. The fact that Murtaza was killed by Pakistani policemen under a government administered by Benazir suggests that the division runs deep in the family.

In today’s Pakistan, the Bhutto represents the good and the bad and none of them apart from the sister that had stayed out of Politics is alive. Benazir was pampered and privileged, sent to the best of schools, flew to most political international functions with her father and straight out of school had a political office awaiting her in the Prime Minister office. One is tempted to take some of the experiences narrated by her as undue use of privileged office by her father to benefit her daughter. That, to me, was not a way through which Zulfikar exhibited a higher level of morality.Yet, there were cries on the streets.

Blood was shed and whether directly or indirectly it was the failure of the government headed by her father to provide security of lives and properties that he got hanged for. It would be interesting to read the narrative from General Zia, the Martial Law Administrator, to have a balanced perspective of the times of great upheaval in Pakistan narrated by Benazir, which to me is a one-sided view of events.

It also seemed that the politics of ethnicity was well played by the Bhuttos. Being Sindhs, Benazir wrote of how Sindhis had made great strides under her father’s government winning lucrative government jobs and contracts and having quotas set aside for them in the universities in addition to being preferentially treated in a couple of sectors within the economy. All these were reversed by General Zia and one can easily see why there will be contempt for such a government that removes privileges.

As I read Chapter 13, the Return to Lahore and the August 1986 Massacre, I can’t just stop imagining the similarity of some of the trend under Zia’s autocratic rule and that of Sanni Abacha in Nigeria. It gets worse, the trend was also in play with every military dictatorship that had ruled Nigeria just before Abacha. It will be unfair to limit this to Abacha alone.

She sent me the names of families to visit, who had had members arrested, and the amounts of money to give them, depending on the number of children they had. ‘If the worker is the only earning member, take his address so that we can send money to the family every month until the release,’ she wrote, then concluded: ‘You should go in the Mercedes. It is strong and reliable with good acceleration. All my love, Your Mummy.’

Benazir Bhutto

Four hundred police headed by the superintendent of the police and a
colonel of the army intelligence surrounded my house in Lahore on April 12, 1981, at 3.30 in the morning. They beat the servants and broke into the house. My sister, who was recovering from liver surgery, was dragged from her bedroom. They dragged my mother out of her room and broke down my bedroom door.

‘This is the headquarters of Al-Zulfikar,’ they
told me, grabbing me by the neck. ‘We are here to confiscate the rocket launchers, bazookas, submachine guns and ammunition you have stored in your basement.’ I looked at them dumbstruck. ‘Search all you want,’ I said. ‘This is a family home, not a headquarters. We don’t even have a basement.’ They arrested me anyway.

Faisal Hayat

I am hoping that the Kuti family may find some consolation in the above. Its even possible that the Martial Law Administrator in Pakistan got his ideas from the invasion of the Kalakuta Republic on 18th Feb 1977, an event for which Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Fela‘s mother was to lose her life.

Brutality is synonymous with military regimes and this is the very reason that the worst civilian government is better than the best military government. The concern here is how do you heal the land following such onslaught of terror on the citizenry? Of course, for those who lost loved ones under brutal dictators, they continually seek vengeance and until justice is provided, the cycle of wickedness is never broken.

I was born in Pakistan and I’m going to die in Pakistan. My grandfather is buried there. My father is buried there. I will never leave my country.’

Benazir Bhutto

I know you all can remember “Etike Revo Wetin”, the 1983 song written by Wole Soyinka. Okay, that doesn’t sound familiar, what about “I love my country, I no go lie?” you know that, right? Here is the lyrics:

I love my country I no go lie
Na inside am I go live and die
I know my country, I no go lie
Na im and me go yap till I die

We are referring to the same music. When Abacha heated up the cooking pot, in 1996, Soyinka fled the country, escaping on a motorcycle via the “NADECO Route.” Well Benazir was no different, she didn’t think twice to flee Pakistan under the guise of seeking medical care.

Albeit, as it is with all those brave souls, she returned to Pakistan just as Wole Soyinka returned to Nigeria in 1999, In her case, she eventually got murdered there and now lies peacefully with the remains of her mother, father and grandfather in the Mazar (Bhutto family mausoleum) of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, in Larkana District, Sindh, Pakistan. Thus, holding true to her words, she never left in a sense.

Why would Shah take poison? He had been happier the night before than we’d ever seen him. He was enthusiastic about his plans for the future, including a return to Afghanistan in August. Was that it? Had Zia caught wind of Shah’s plan and pre-empted it? Or had the CIA killed him as a friendly gesture towards their favourite dictator?

Benazir Bhutto – Daughter of Destiny

That the CIA is complicit in the killing of many leaders around the world is not in dispute. That of Patrice Lumumba surely gives some hints as to what the powers of the CIA has been. The Question being asked here by Benazir Bhutto regarding the death of her brother rings home. The circumstances surrounding MKO’s death, many years after the one being recollected here by Bhutto, show some tragic similarities.

On 7th July 1998, an American delegation which included Susan Rice visited Moshood Kasimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola, while in detention just after the death of the iron ruler, Sanni Abacha. Within hours, MKO Abiola collapsed and died, after taking a cup of tea that has been served him by Susan Rice!

Conspiracy theorists have mentioned that, this was not just an ordinary tea. One that put to permanent sleep a political figure with no known immediate health issue as at that time. Well, the imaginations can be stretched further on this. In her own accounts in her memoirs, “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For“, Susan rice has the following to say about her meeting with Abiola and his death that followed:

“About five minutes into the conversation, Abiola started to cough, at first mildly and intermittently, and then rackingly with consistency… Noticing a tea service on the table between us, I offered Abiola, “Would you like some tea to help calm your cough?” “Yes,” he said, with appreciation, and I poured him a cup. He sipped it, but continued coughing,”

A coughing spree that led to death, aided by a cup of tea surely leaves much to be explained. The association between tea and death in the case of Shah Bhutto remained unexplained till date and so also is the same association in MKO’s death.

The fatwa, or judgment as to what was right and what was wrong, pro-claimed by the mullahs in their Friday sermons at the mosques, took on deep significance. One almost comical fatwa in 1984 concerned the actors in a television film who, in real life, were married to each other. In the film, the male actor repudiated his ‘wife’, saying ‘I divorce you’, three times. The resulting fatwa from the mullahs declared that the married couple was now not only divorced, but that the ‘wife’ was subject to rajm, the practice
of stoning a woman to death for adultery. A mob actually attacked the house of the couple in the middle of the night. But the public had become so anaesthetised by the unchecked and unchallenged fundamentalist view of Islam that the incident went virtually unnoticed.

Benazir Bhutto – Daughter of Destiny

Time and Time over, this plot gets played by military autocracies all around the world, weaponizing Religion. Bu, of course, as Trump has made us to realize, this act is not limited to the playbook of the military, it is one from which civilian governments can borrow a leaf.

As I read this excerpt, the image of his lordship, spiritual and temporal, Donald Trump, holding a Bible up with his right hand at St. John’s Episcopal Church grounds kept playing up in my mind. That singular act led to many that one would have expected to know better, to consider him as the messiah of our time, one that could do no wrong. If this had been limited to America, a little understanding would have been given. However, when a religious group in far away Nigeria, with no direct connection to the voting in the United States, took it upon themselves to go on procession in the streets of the nation, then the weaponization of religion could then be well understood.

Thank goodness, many were able to see beyond the cloak of religion and gave Trump the exit he needed from the white house. I only hope he doesn’t forget to take along the bible with him.