Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto`s nephew refutes claims of Fatima Bhutto
Last Updated: Thursday, April 22, 2010, 21:52
Islamabad: A nephew of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto has dismissed late leader's grand-daughter Fatima Bhuttos's claim that the former premier had asked his son Murtaza to go to Afghanistan to set up a militant movement to challenge former Pakistani military Zia-ul-Haq.

In her book on the Bhutto family, 'Songs of Blood and Sword', Fatima contended that Zulfiqar Bhutto had written to his son and her father Murtaza to go to Afghanistan to set up a movement for taking on military dictator Zia-ul-Haq.

In a letter to the Dawn newspaper, Zulfiqar Bhutto's nephew Tariq Islam said he felt it was "incumbent upon me to set the record straight on at least one story."

"Fatima tells us how ZA Bhutto wrote to his son Murtaza to go to Afghanistan to set up a militant base for waging a war on the military dictator, Zia. I challenge anyone to produce that letter. Because there is none!" Islam wrote.

Islam said he had flown from London, where he was a student, to Islamabad on March 24, 1979 at Murtaza's request to meet Zulfiqar Bhutto and convey Murtaza's "urgent messages."

"The messages were to seek permission for Murtaza to base himself in Afghanistan to wage a guerrilla war on the invitation of the then Afghan government headed by Hafizullah Amin," he wrote.

"The other message was from (Palestine Liberation Organisation) leader Yasir Arafat who viewed Bhutto as the soldier of Islam and was ready to use his resources to spring him from Rawalpindi's central jail," he added.

At the time, Zulfiqar Bhutto had been sentenced to death on charges of allegedly authorising the murder of a political opponent.

Islam wrote that he met his uncle in prison on two occasions, during which Zulfiqar Bhutto opposed his son Murtaza's plans to launch a movement against Zia from Afghanistan.

"I first met my uncle in his death cell on March 27 (1979). I was allowed only 30 minutes and we had to whisper across the cell bars (I was not permitted inside the tiny cell) as it was heavily bugged and police and military officers stood all around us, straining to hear," he wrote.

"ZAB flatly refused both options. On the case of Murtaza's relocation to Kabul, ZAB flew into a rage.

His words, which I recall clearly till this day, were, 'Did I send Mir to Harvard and to Oxford to learn about all this stuff? Already they are calling me a murderer and a smuggler (on account of the book If I Am Assassinated, which was claimed to have been smuggled out of prison to be published abroad)'," he added.

Islam quoted Zulfiqar Bhutto as saying, "Next, they will be calling me a terrorist. Tell him that I forbid him to go to Kabul. No matter what happens to me, he should concentrate on his studies and complete his course at Oxford."

Islam wrote that he conveyed Zulfiqar Bhutto's message to Murtaza in "coded language" during a phone call made from Rawalpindi in presence of former parliamentarian Amina Piracha.

Murtaza was "extremely distraught and disappointed" and asked Islam to seek another appointment with his father.

"You have to convince my father. You must do it for my sake. I don't care how you do it, but please don't come back empty-handed," Murtaza said.

Islam wrote that he managed to meet Zulfiqar Bhutto again on March 30, 1979, with great difficulty.

"I conveyed Mir's desperate message again. The reaction was the same, but I persisted. Time was running out. In sheer frustration, ZAB remarked with great prescience, 'I think Mir has boxed himself into a corner'.

"He has made some commitments to the Afghans and is finding it difficult to back out now. Tell him to go if he wishes but I am not at all happy. The Afghans are too shrewd, they have fooled two superpowers for so many years.

They are master diplomats and schemers and they will manipulate Mir for their own reasons and sell him down the river when it suits them. He must be very careful in what he does and says. I leave him in God?s hands. But ask him to complete his studies at Oxford?," Islam wrote.

Islam said another of Murtaza's associates, Suhail Sethi, who is quoted in Fatima's book, could set the record straight.

He added that he returned to London on March 31, 1979 and conveyed all the messages to Murtaza.

"Bashir Riaz (Mir?s aide and press spokesman and subsequently one of Benazir Bhutto?s closest aides) and former Punjab Governor, Mr Ghulam Mustafa Khar, were witnesses," he added.

Islam said it was "not only a distortion of history but also a great travesty to accuse a statesman and visionary of ZAB's stature of condoning a bloody and militant route and placing the lives of his own son in danger when he did not even call upon his party men to go out into the streets to fight the dictator."


First Published: Thursday, April 22, 2010, 21:52

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