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
"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
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
"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
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
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."