My political struggle Asghar Khan Sunday, September 19, 2010

The largest election campaign in Pakistan’s history started with Yahya Khan’s accession to power and as Mujib-ur-Rehman mustered support in East Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto launched a powerful campaign in West Pakistan. Neither thought it necessary to pay any attention to the other half of Pakistan. Although he never toured West Pakistan, Mujib-ur-Rehman had a party in the other half of the country whereas Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made no effort to form his Party in the East wing, the more populous part of the country. Without some support in East Pakistan, he could not have hoped to form a government in the centre. It would therefore appear that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who aspired for national leadership intended to lead the country without any presence in the East wing. He maintained close liason with Yahya Khan and his political-staff officer, Lieutenant General Peerzada.
In 1965 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, at the time Ayub Khan’s foreign minister, had advised the president to embark upon a military adventure by launching an armed attack in the Indian-held part of Jammu in the Akhnur sector. This he said was based on the foreign-office assessment that India would not react by attacking Pakistan. Ayub Khan had accepted this assessment and the attack was launched on September 1. He was therefore totally unprepared for the Indian attack that took place on the early morning of September 6 in the Lahore sector of Punjab. Bhutto’s logic, with which Ayub Khan agreed, was that Pakistan would thus cut off India’s road-link with Srinagar and be in a position to capture most of Jammu and Kashmir without having to resort to an all-out war with India. Although I had by then relinquished command of the Pakistan Air Force, I asked to see President Ayub Khan on the morning of September 3 and expressed my opinion that India would react by launching an attack in Punjab, if we continued with our action in the Akhnur sector of the Indian-held territory of Jammu and Kashmir. I was amazed when the president expressed his conviction that India would not do this and said that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had assured him that there was no such possibility. 
Bhutto was too shrewd a person to really believe that India would not react and one is therefore left with the inevitable conclusion that he thought that India would react in an all-out offensive and thought that a military defeat would result. He thought that he could then make some arrangement with the Indian leadership and take over from Ayub Khan. In a conversation that I had after the 1970 elections with Abdul Hamid Khan Jatoi, an eminent People’s Party leader of Sindh, I was told that after the success of the PPP in the 1970 elections, he had asked Bhutto what he proposed to do to curb the power of the armed forces in national affairs. He told me that Bhutto had replied, “Don’t worry about that. By the time I have finished with them they will be fit only for Guards of Honour.” Earlier in 1969, after being released from prison when he had asked me to join his ‘Pakistan People’s Party’, I had wanted to know what his programme was. He had replied in all seriousness that the people are fools and his programme is to make a fool of them. He had said, “Come join with me and we will rule together for at least twenty years. No one will be able to remove us.” Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had many qualities but he was an odd mixture of good and evil, a rare genius who had an unlimited capacity for mischief. His many qualities and failings have been admirably summed up by Sir Morrice James, a former British high commissioner in Pakistan in his book: Pakistan Chronicle. In this he writes:
“Bhutto certainly had the right qualities for reaching the heights — drive, charm, imagination, a quick and penetrating mind, zest for life, eloquence, energy, a strong constitution, a sense of humour and a thick skin. Such a blend is rare anywhere, and Bhutto deserved his swift rise to power. From the end of 1962 onwards, I worked closely with him and it was a pleasure to deal with someone so quick-witted and articulate. We got on remarkably well; I never thought of him as a friend, but his attitude towards the British High Commission and myself was often approving and appreciative.
“But there was — how shall I put it? — the rank odour of hellfire about him. It was a case of ‘corruptio optimi pessima’ (the corruption of the best is the worst of all). He was a Lucifer, a flawed angel. I believe that at heart he lacked a sense of the dignity and value of other people; his own self was what counted. I sensed in him ruthlessness and a capacity for ill-doing which went far beyond what is natural. Except at university abroad, he was mostly surrounded by mediocrities, and all his life, for want of competition, his triumphs came to him too easily for his own good. Lacking humility he thus came to believe himself infallible, even when yawning gaps in his own experience (e.g. of military matters) laid him — as over the 1965 war — wide open to disastrous error.
“Despite his gifts I judged that one day Bhutto would destroy himself — when and how I could not tell. In 1965, I so reported in one of my last dispatches from Pakistan as British high commissioner. I wrote by way of clinching the point that Bhutto was born to be hanged. I did not intend this comment as a precise prophecy of what was going to happen to him, but fourteen years later that was what it turned out to be.”

This is an excerpt from the writer’s book “My Political Struggle” published by Oxford University Press. He is a retired air chief and veteran politician. 

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