Tag Archive for 'Benazir Bhutto'

Young, beautiful and gossiped about

Young and glamorous women politicians in Pakistan have been hounded for years by rumour and unwanted gossip, writes Mariana Baabar in Outlook.
  •  The Bangladeshi tabloid Blitz, which claims to be the “only anti-jihadist newspaper in the Muslim world”, was started in 2003 by Salah Uddin Sohail Choudhury
  • Preetha Memon, who authored l’affaire Hina-Bilawal, also wrote a 2,900-word story on the “fourth richest politician in the world”, Sonia Gandhi, last week
  • Among Blitz’s five most-viewed pieces is news of Kareena Kapoor embracing Islam in the run-up to her wedding with Saif Ali Khan
  • Blitz says it is looking for reporters in at least 80 countries
  • “Mr Speaker, please stop this yellow taxi from leaving the House,” Muslim League MP Sheikh Rashid Ahmed called out, as the then prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, left her seat to go out of Parliament. Benazir, then in her first term as PM (1988-90) and clad in a yellow kamiz shalwar suit with her trademark white duppata over her head, did not bother to respond as she exited. more

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Hina Rabbani Khar

In The Telegraph, London:

Ms Rabbani Khar and her husband have dismissed the claims as “reprehensible” and “trash”, but they have been reported widely in Pakistan where they spawned conspiracy theories among Islamabad’s political classes.

Senior PPP figures on Thursday said they believed the claims were part of a plot by the country’s feared Inter-Service Intelligence [ISI] agency to damage Ms Rabbani Khar’s reputation because it blames her for her part in facilitating a UN investigation into thousands of missing people detained by the security forces.

In Dawn, Pakistan:

The ISPR spokesman said it is handiwork of those who want to weaken the state by creating misunderstanding between various institutions. It is not something new because such people have been fabricating misleading and impish stories in the past as well, he added.

In The News, Pakistan:

According to The Blitz Weekly, the married foreign minister, who has two young children with her millionaire husband, and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the PPP Co-Chairman,want to marry and have been regularly talking on the telephone and sending cards to each other. The tabloid claimed President Zardari was firmly opposed to their alleged relationship and had sought details of their mobile telephone conversations to establish the facts.

The interconnected nature of food and politics in Pakistan

Jason Burke at Guernica [via 3quarksdaily]:

Not much happened in Islamabad in 1998. Not much happened in Pakistan, in fact—or at least not much that troubled editors, viewers, readers, or policy makers in Europe or the United States. The country had slid inexorably away from international attention since the end of the war fought by the mujahideen against Soviet troops in neighboring Afghanistan almost a decade before. Most media organizations covered Pakistan from India. It was not a big story. The rediscovery of Pakistan and Afghanistan would come, with breathless haste, on September 12, 2001.

Just behind my apartment in Islamabad that year was a plot of land covered in mimosa trees, wild cannabis, and scrub. It was a graveyard, and though no one tended it or came to grieve at the dozen or so mounds of earth that lay among the rubbish under the trees, no one built on it either—though the potential for profitable development of such a prime piece of urban real estate was high. To one side of the graveyard was the substantial embassy of North Korea, to whom, it was whispered, Pakistan sold blueprints for nuclear bombs. These rumors were later proved to be at least partially true. Watching the embassy were two plainclothes intelligence agents, who usually sat on the pavement in the shade below a eucalyptus tree and read popular local-language newspapers. I knew them quite well after a while, and they smiled sheepishly when we greeted each other.

On the other side of the graveyard was the home of Benazir Bhutto. More:

[Reprinted from Eating Mud Crabs in Kandahar: Stories of Food during Wartime by the World’s Leading Correspondents]

Pakistan did its part: Zardari

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in The Washington Post:

Although the events of Sunday were not a joint operation, a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world. And we in Pakistan take some satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an al-Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day.

Let us be frank. Pakistan has paid an enormous price for its stand against terrorism. More of our soldiers have died than all of NATO’s casualties combined. Two thousand police officers, as many as 30,000 innocent civilians and a generation of social progress for our people have been lost. And for me, justice against bin Laden was not just political; it was also personal, as the terrorists murdered our greatest leader, the mother of my children. Twice he tried to assassinate my wife. In 1989 he poured $50 million into a no-confidence vote to topple her first government. She said that she was bin Laden’s worst nightmare — a democratically elected, progressive, moderate, pluralistic female leader. She was right, and she paid for it with her life. More:

Zardari marriage rumours

From The Times of India:

PPP has condemned as internet rumour reports that Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari tied the knot with US-based Dr Tanveer Zamani in Dubai last week.

Websites describe Zamani, a practising physician, as “a Mediterranean descent American resident” who lives in Gramercy Park, Manhattan, New York. The posts claim she earned a PhD in international politics from Britain and owns estates in London, Dubai, Islamabad and Manhattan. They further claim Zamani is prohibited from attending “public political meetings due to security issues”.

The News correspondent in Washington had spoken to Zamani, who refused comment when she was asked, “Are you Mrs Zardari?” The newspaper reported that Zamani is a Democratic Party member in the US and had campaigned for Barack Obama in 2008. More:

Not true, says Dr Zamani

From The News, Pakistan:

Dr Tanveer Zamani on Friday denied her wedding with President Zardari and also claimed that she has never met President Zardari either in US or elsewhere.

“I have never met President Zardari and the only reason, I have refrained from commenting on an Internet hoax involving me is because I deemed it against my dignity to respond to such a hoax. Bloggers and journalists do not have the right to make up stories and disrupt the lives of people,” she said in an email message.

She explicitly and clearly denied being married or being subject to a proposal or notion of being married to the president, whom she holds in high esteem. Tanveer Zamani said in her email that this is her first ever denial on the matter while rumours and emails about her wedding have been in circulation for the last three weeks. More:

Salman Taseer murder throws Pakistan in fresh crisis

Assassinated Punjab governor Salman Taseer’s India links include the writer Aatish Taseer, the son he had with journalist Tavleen Singh. His murder in Pakistan silences a the voice of a secular politician and has uncanny echoes with the assassination of Indira Gandhi. In The Guardian, Declan Walsh writes about the man who wasn’t afraid of going against the grain of majority opinion.

Salman Taseer

Pakisatan lurched into a fresh crisis after an outspoken secular politician was shot dead by a fanatic who opposed reform of the country’s draconian blasphemy laws. Punjab’s governor, Salman Taseer, was gunned down by one of his own bodyguards as he stepped from his car in Islamabad’s Kohsar market, a favoured haunt of westerners and wealthy Pakistanis. The assassin, who belonged to an elite police force tasked with protecting Taseer, shot the governor at least nine times before dropping his weapon and surrendering to colleagues. Officials named him as Mumtaz Qadri. “A guard jumped out of a car with a flashing light on top of it. He pointed his Kalashnikov at [Taseer's] window and blasted it,” said one witness. more

In The Telegraph, Calcutta:

Salmaan Taseer teased the edge in private as he did in public. He married thrice and a brief tryst with Indian journalist Tavleen Singh produced his best-known progeny, author Aatish Taseer, who made the difficult and poignant relationship with his father the subject of a celebrated book called Stranger to History.

Excerpt from Aatish Taseer‘s Stranger to History:

Aatish Taseer

”When I was very young, my mother explained her separation from my father in terms of a fight with a friend, not unlike those I had routinely with my friends. When my questions became more sophisticated, she told me about his political career and how it would have been impossible if we had been in his life. And though I didn’t have a good impression of my father, I don’t think I had a bad one either.

She often said, ‘Sometimes people come together for a reason, to create something or someone, and then they go their own ways.’ This made me think, at least when I was child, of my father’s departure as something unavoidable for which no one was to blame. My grandfather, of course, made it seem like just one more chapter in the Partition saga he had lived through.

When I was eight or nine, I wrote my father a letter, expressing my desire to see him, which I sent with my mother to Pakistan where she was covering the election. ‘If I see him, I’ll give it to him,’ she said, ‘but be prepared that he may not reply. What will you do if he doesn’t?’

‘I’ll leave it and never get in touch with him again.’As it happened, with my mother covering the election and my father contesting it, they did run into each other. My mother gave him my letter. He took it and told her he would reply, but never did. And for years I made no effort to contact him again.”

Benazir Bhutto “murder plot hatched at brigadier’s home”

From Express Tribune:

Islamabad: A fresh probe has uncovered the role of nine men, including an army brigadier, in the December 27, 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The assassination plot was hatched in the official residence of the army brigadier mentioned in the investigation report.

The findings of the probe, conducted under the interior ministry’s supervision, have deliberately been kept under wraps — even from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party’s leading lights. The report is in the possession of Interior Minister Rehman Malik and has only been seen by President Asif Ali Zardari in its entirety.

Earlier this week, President Zardari temporarily shelved plans to share the contents of the inquiry report. The president was keen to first take the army leadership into confidence before ordering the arrest of certain uniformed personnel over their alleged involvement in Benazir’s assassination.

Five of the nine co-conspirators are still alive, according to the inquiry report. They were the ones who hired the killers and gave them shelter and logistical support. The five men will now be formally charged-sheeted and put on trial. The remaining four men, including those sent to kill Benazir, are already dead.

Both logistical support and rehearsals for the murder were arranged by uniformed persons, who were part of the plot. Militant groups, which were working closely with the nine plotters, provided the manpower. More:

Benazir Bhutto – a documentary

A trailer. Click here to visit ‘Bhutto the film’ site.

Sixty-three and down on our knees

Ardeshir Cowasjee in Dawn:

Asif Ali Zardari

Cried Cassio in Shakespeare’s Othello: “Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!”

Later, in that great tragedy, arch-villain Iago provokes Othello: “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, Is the immediate jewel of their souls: Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing; ’Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands; But he that filches from me my good name, Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed.”

This latter quote was passionately used by Benazir as prime minister, defending herself in the National Assembly in her second round on but one of the occasions during which she was subjected to allegations of corruption, due in no small part to the suspected misdeeds of her husband-minister.

Now, many years later, the latest presidential capers have dragged Pakistan even deeper through the mud and surely put off to an even larger extent the already reluctant donors who keep it afloat.

The husband-minister was transformed accidentally, as a result of an unresolved tragedy, into the head of state of a wounded nation. His reputation preceded him, as it always has done since he married Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s daughter, and as it unfortunately magnified itself year by year. This month his country, and ours, has suffered most grievously, and his current reputation and that of his government with it. More:

Benazir Bhutto murder was avoidable: UN inquiry

From BBC:

A long-awaited UN report into the killing of Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto two years ago has been highly critical of the government of the day.

It says Bhutto’s death at a rally near Islamabad could have been prevented if proper security measures had been taken by Gen Pervez Musharraf’s government.

The subsequent investigation into the crime was also sharply criticised.

It was noted that the crime scene in Rawalpindi was hosed down immediately after the explosion.

This, the report says, could not have happened without the knowledge of higher authorities.

The report, compiled by an independent commission appointed by the UN, concludes that the pervasive presence of Pakistan’s politicised intelligence agencies hampered the investigation. More:

Click here to read the 65-page report

Family matters

In Business Standard, William Dalrymple reviews Fatima Bhutto’s Songs of Blood and Sword:

I first encountered the family in 1994 when, as a young foreign correspondent on assignment for the Sunday Times, I was sent to Pakistan to write a long magazine piece on the Bhutto dynasty. I met Benazir in the giddy pseudo-Mexican Prime Minister’s House that she had built in the middle of Islamabad.

It was the beginning of Benazir’s second term as Prime Minister, and she was at her most imperial. She both walked and talked in a deliberately measured and regal manner, and frequently used the royal “we”. During my interview, she took a full three minutes to float down the hundred yards of lawns separating the Prime Minister’s House from the chairs where I had been told to wait for her. There followed an interlude when Benazir found the sun was not shining in quite the way she wanted it to: “The sun is in the wrong direction,” she announced. Her hair was arranged in a sort of baroque beehive topped by white gauze dupatta like one of those Roman princesses in Caligula or Rome.

A couple of days later in Karachi, I met Benazir’s brother Murtaza in very different circumstances. Murtaza was on trial in Karachi for his alleged terrorist offences. A one hundred rupee bribe got me through the police cordon, and I soon found Murtaza with his mother — Begum Bhutto — in an annexe beside the courtroom. Murtaza looked strikingly like his father, Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto. He was handsome, very tall — well over six feet — with a deep voice and, like his father, exuded an air of self-confidence, bonhomie and charisma. He invited me to sit down: “Benazir doesn’t care what the local press says about her,” he said, “but she’s very sensitive to what her friends in London and New York get to read about her.”

“Has your sister got in touch with you since you returned to Pakistan?” I asked.

“No. Nothing. Not one note.”

“Did you expect her to intervene and get you off the hook?” I asked. “What kind of reception did you hope she would lay on for you when you returned from Damascus?”

“I didn’t want any favours,” replied Murtaza. “I just wanted her to let justice take its course, and for her not to interfere in the legal process. As it is, she has instructed the prosecution to use delaying tactics to keep me in confinement as long as possible. This trial has been going on for three months now and they still haven’t finished examining the first witness. She’s become paranoid and is convinced I’m trying to topple her.” More:

Heir reluctant

Hartosh Singh Bal interviews Fatima Bhutto. From Open:

Q What did Benazir see in Zardari?

A Wonderful question, I wouldn’t know how to answer it. She really did love him. She opted for an arranged marriage so she chose him. It was not an accidental decision.

Q Your book offers another way of looking at Zardari. You mention your grandfather humiliated his father. Wouldn’t it be natural for him to look for some recompense on marrying Benazir?

A His story is indeed unusual. In a perverse way, it can be seen as a revenge story. But what is missing is the hard work, the pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. He is a man very connected to money and greed. A man who believes once you are in power, you can make the rules. In his father’s case, more than the humiliation, the story that matters to me is the story of a man who jumped from party to party and was part of an anti-Bhutto alliance. More:

Also read Aakar Patel in The News: Reading Fatima Bhutto in Bombay

The literary gladiator

Fatima Bhutto says Pakistan’s President had a hand in her father’s death. Samrat in the Hindustan Times:

I ask her where she sees herself living. In Pakistan, she says. And will she join politics? “No. “I always wanted to be a writer. I followed journalists and writers, they were my heroes”.

Like who, I ask. The first writer she names, strangely enough, is Malcolm X. “I liked his autobiography very much”. And Noam Chomsky and Edward Said. “They were prolific writers but undeniably political”.

“Is there anything in Pakistani politics you think is right?” I ask.

“Currently?” she asks. I nod, yes.

There’s a long pause. Finally, getting no response, I say “I take it there isn’t”.

The good work is done by ordinary people, not the government, she responds. “Like the people who brought attention to the disappeared during the War on Terror. They’re ordinary people, family members and local reporters … They are the backbone of the country. “.

In the government itself, she sees no hope. Or in the international community for that matter. “America is fighting this highly unjust war. It needs unjust rulers to help it. They will allow someone like this to remain in power so long as he follows their orders. And he is. We have drone attacks on an almost daily basis”, she says.

Who is in charge in Pakistan, I ask. “It seems America is”. And America is in charge in Afghanistan as well. And in charge of Pakistan’s relations with India, she adds. More:

And C. Raja Mohan in The Indian Express: Among the few common features shared by South Asian nations are dynastic power and political violence. The friction between the two is marked by frequent political assassinations in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. And nowhere has the intersection been bloodier than in what Pakistan’s Bhuttos had to bear. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto founded the political dynasty and gave it a powerful populist platform, the Pakistan People’s Party. More than three decades after his assassination, the PPP remains the only mass party with a following in all the provinces of Pakistan. More:

Touched by tragedy

The Times of India has an excerpt from Fatima Bhutto‘s book, Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter’s Memoir, published by Viking (Penguin India):

Asif Zardari was on the phone. ‘Don’t you know?’ he said casually to me. ‘Your father’s been shot.’ I dropped the phone. My body went numb and cold and my heart beat so hard it drowned out everything around me. Mummy picked up the phone. She saw my face, I looked ashen. She must have known something was terribly wrong though I couldn’t get the words out to say anything or even look at her. She screamed. I don’t remember what she said. I was frozen to my chair, Papa’s green armchair.

It must be the arm, I kept telling myself. He must be hit in the arm; it can’t be serious, maybe the leg. Why would Zardari tell me, a fourteen-year-old girl, that my father had been shot if it had been serious? I couldn’t breathe. Mummy must have called for the car. The next thing I knew she was running towards the door. I got up and ran after her. ‘Stay here!’ she yelled. ‘No!’ I screamed back. ‘I’m coming with you!’ Zulfi (little brother) was sitting in the lobby now, with Sofi, his nanny from when he was a baby. Sofi watched Mummy and me yelling at each other in the corridor by the door. She held Zulfi close to her and tried to distract him from our screaming. More

Also in The Times of India: ‘Should I die to prove Pakistan is dangerous?’

In The Telegraph, UK: Living by the bullet:

When Fatima was 14, she cowered in the dressing-room of her parents’ bedroom in Karachi, her back against the locked door. She was shielding her six-year-old brother, Zulfikar, from a barrage of bullets outside her house. ‘It’s just fireworks, Fati,’ said the quiet little boy. But Fatima, who was always wise beyond her years, knew otherwise – she understood something about violent deaths. Her family was plagued with them.

The dupatta: More than a covering

Aamna Haider Isani in Dawn:

Interestingly, in the early years after Partition, the dupatta’s symbolism was more national than religious. For example, the uniform of the Pakistan Women’s National Guard that was formed during the Kashmir War included a dupatta. ‘Since Pakistan was a Muslim state, the dupatta was naturally part of the uniform. However, it was just a sash across the torso…a starched V-shaped dupatta,’ recalls former Sergeant Abeeda Abidi in an interview with the Citizens Archive of Pakistan. Clearly, this sash was meant to be more of a comment than a covering.

The years that followed saw leaders such as Fatima Jinnah and Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan enter politics. Unlike their female predecessors in the armed forces, these women made public appearances with their heads covered with a dupatta, which was deciphered as a symbol of modesty. Since they had set the trend, women who stepped into politics in subsequent decades were expected to follow suit.

In 1966, the uniform for the PIA airhostesses, designed by Paris-based fashion sensation Pierre Cardin, also included scarf-like dupattas over graceful tunics. In this incarnation, the dupatta was viewed more as an attractive accessory than a symbol of Muslim womanhood.

Although a dupatta has always been part of the attire of female politicians of this predominantly Muslim state since the beginning, trends among the masses have been slightly different. It was only in the late 1950s that the dupatta became an integral part of the urban-middle-class woman’s outfit. Before then, some women wore burqas and chadors. But younger women who were looking for some form of covering increasingly opted for dupattas as they proved to be a less stringent alternative. More:

[Image: Dawn]

‘Democracy is the greatest revenge’

Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan, in the Wall Street Journal:

Two years ago the world stopped for me and for my children. Pakistan was shaken to its core and all but came apart. Women everywhere lost one of their greatest symbols of equality. And Islam, our great religion, lost its modern face.

On Dec. 27, 2007, my wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated. She was the bravest person I have ever known, and the second anniversary of her death is an appropriate occasion to reflect upon what she achieved for our country, and how her legacy must be preserved against those who would return Pakistan to darkness.

Twice elected prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir had an immense impact. She stood up and defeated the forces of military dictatorship. She freed all political prisoners. She ended press censorship. She legalized trade and student unions, built 46,000 primary and secondary schools and appointed the first female judges in our history. And she showed the women of Pakistan and the world that they must accept no limits on their ability and opportunity to learn, to grow and to lead in modern society. More:

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is the eldest child of the late Pakistani politician and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari, the current President of Pakistan. His Wiki profile says he is studying History at Christ Church, Oxford. His speech in Urdu is doing the rounds for the accent.


A year of Zardari

Sardar Mumtaz Ali Bhutto in the News:

The present dispensation is the direct result of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s murder. It is believed that the deal sponsored by the Americans between Musharraf and her, was “Plan A.” She deviated from this on her return to Pakistan and had to be eliminated. This is a view recently supported by Gen (Retd.) Aslam Baig, former chief of army staff. Thus, the standby “Plan B” came into operation and her long-estranged husband came on the scene. A controversial and often-questioned will emerged, according to which Asif Ali Zardari was made co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

It is not astonishing or surprising that Plan B has worked. The rot that set in with Zia’s success in corrupting not just politics but the very mindset of people, and is a practice advanced by all his successors to facilitate a shortcut to power. Thus even the most sceptical elements in the PPP found it expedient to climb onto the Zardari bandwagon. High offices, membership of assemblies, advisory positions and access to the corridors of power was just around the corner, and it became imperative to pretend that the emperor was fully clothed. “Democracy is the best revenge” was the absurd slogan coined to bury the murder of Benazir, while referring the matter to a UN tribunal was done to seek a permanent closure of this sordid chapter.

Thus began the journey to Olympus at the foot of Margalla Hills fuelled by the endless use of the “Jiay Bhutto” slogan and crocodile tears for Benazir. Meanwhile, people continued to be fed the stale promise of not only their supremacy but the forty-year-old clichés of roti, kapra aur makan and that democracy was gospel and Parliament sovereign. To this was added the concept of reconciliation and change of the system. More:

In my place: An interview with Fatima Bhutto

Pakistan’s dynasty-bashing heir apparent discusses how Obama and corruption legitimize the Taliban, her work to include women in Pakistani politics, and why she will never run for office (it’s not why you think). From Guernica:

Fatima Bhutto

Fatima Bhutto

The story of Pakistani politics for the last four decades can be told through one family: the Bhuttos. Two Bhuttos have been heads of state, but four have been slain in the violence that riddles modern Pakistan. Fatima, the twenty-seven year old poet, stands in the wake of this carnage and is its heir. Her grandfather, Pakistan’s first democratically elected head of state and founder of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was executed three years before Fatima was born by General Zia-ul-Haq (who overthrew him in a military coup). Fatima’s Aunt Benazir was shot in her car on December 27, 2007, while campaigning. Her uncle was poisoned in exile. And when Fatima was just fourteen, outside her home in Karachi, her father was shot by dozens of police in one of Pakistan’s famous “encounters.” From that same home, Fatima insists that this violence points back to the family; she believes not only that her aunt was morally responsible, but that she played a direct role.

Fatima’s father, Murtaza Bhutto, had been campaigning one night in September 1996. Fatima, her brother (then six), and stepmother had been waiting for him. They thought he might come home only to be arrested; he’d been criticizing Benazir over her government’s corruption and challenging her to return the PPP to their father’s original manifesto. He’d also been critical of her Operation Cleanup against the Mohajir ethnic group, which allegedly claimed three thousand Mohajir in two years of extrajudicial killings. On this night, police and armored vehicles surrounded the house. But instead of the arrest the family was told to prepare for, Murtaza and several of his men were shot from the street and from treetops in an Operation Cleanup-style barrage of gunfire. Murtaza himself was shot point-blank in the jaw and dumped bleeding to death in a clinic known not to treat gunshot wounds. Young Fatima watched her father die, insisting today that given better treatment, he could have lived. For his death, she unequivocally blames her Aunt Benazir; she certainly has her reasons, which she discusses below. More:

Imran Khan and Benazir Bhutto had an affair: Book

Benazir Bhutto and Imran Khan

Benazir Bhutto and Imran Khan

A new biography of Imran Khan by Christopher Sandford has claimed the former international cricketer and Benazir Bhutto, the assassinated former Prime Minister of Pakistan, were romantically involved while they were both students at Oxford University. From the Telegraph:

The respected author, Christopher Sandford, has claimed that Bhutto became infatuated with Khan and the pair enjoyed a “close” and possibly “sexual” relationship.

He also alleges that Khan’s mother tried, unsuccessfully, to organise an arranged marriage between the pair.

Until now, it had always been believed that Khan and Bhutto had always been at loggerheads both politically and personally. Khan openly criticised the former prime minister just days before her death.

However, Sandford, who interviewed both Khan and his ex-wife Jemima for the book, claims a source told him that Bhutto was 21 and in her second year of reading politics at Lady Margaret Hall when she became close to Khan in 1975. More:

And in Daily Mail:

The ‘elegantly shod’ Bhutto, a fellow politics student, hooked up with Imran in 1975 when she was 21 and in her second year at Lady Margaret Hall. A mutual acquaintance told Sandford that Bhutto had been ‘visibly impressed’ by Imran, and that she might have been among the first to dub him ‘the Lion of Lahore’.

Says Sandford: ‘In any event, it seems fairly clear that, for at least a month or two, the couple were close. There was a lot of giggling and blushing whenever they appeared together in public.’

He adds: ‘It also seems fair to say that the relationship was “sexual”, in the sense that it could only have existed between a man and a woman. The reason some supposed it went further was because, to quote one Oxford friend: “Imran slept with everyone.” ‘

Eyewitness: Pakistan

In the New York Times, Joshua Kurlantzick reviews “To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan,” by Nicholas Schmidle:

schmidle_bookTaking office in January, Barack Obama promised a radically different vision of foreign policy from that of his predecessor. But on perhaps the most critical issue, the new king looks a lot like the old one. In Pakistan, President Obama has retained the Bush administration’s targeted drone missile attacks against suspected militants and may quietly be expanding the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert battle against jihadis along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

As Nicholas Schmidle, a contributor to publications including The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic and Slate, reveals in a richly reported book based on his two years traveling across Pakistan, United States policy does not change because Pakistan, sadly, does not change. Birthed in 1947 by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the lawyer son of a rich merchant, the country remains in the grip of venal, feudal, wealthy politician-landlords like the opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and the current president, Asif Ali Zardari, for whom democracy means one vote one time, after which the victors go on to dominate indefinitely. Worse, greed and graft have led Islamabad’s ruling class to ignore large portions of the population, who remain illiterate, and their incompetent governance has opened the door to Islamists’ offering average Pakistanis promises that the first Mayor Daley would have recognized – safe and orderly streets – not through machine politics but through the brutal application of Shariah law. More:

The Taliban will ‘never be defeated’

‘Colonel Imam’, the Pakistani agent who trained Mullah Omar and the warlords to fight the Soviets, tells Christina Lamb in Rawalpindi the US must negotiate with its enemies. From the Sunday Times:

“I have worked with these people since the 1970s and I tell you they will never be defeated. Anyone who has come here has got stuck. The more you kill, the more they will expand.”

A tall, bearded figure, whose real name is Amir Sultan Tarar, he trained at Fort Bragg, the US army base where America’s special forces are stationed.

During the late 1970s and 1980s he controlled CIA-funded training camps for 95,000 Afghans and often accompanied his students on missions.

After the Soviet defeat and the collapse of communism, he was invited to the White House by the first President George Bush and was given a piece of the Berlin Wall with a brass plaque inscribed: “To the one who dealt the first blow.” More:

Zardari’s new zeal

David Pilling and Farhan Bokhari interview the Pakistan President. In the Financial Times:

zardariA visit to Asif Ali Zardari, president of Pakistan, is not to be undertaken lightly. Four rings of security surround Islamabad, the leafy capital now scarred with sandbags and clogged with concrete roadblocks designed to deter suicide bombers. Then come six more checkpoints at which guards search vehicles, frisk the occupants and confiscate electronic devices.

Even inside the presidential palace, now 10 concentric circles of security from the violent world beyond, soldiers mill around with automatic weapons. Mr Zardari would be like a general in his labyrinth were he not a civilian president in a nation where military rule has been the norm.

The chamber where he receives his guests is more mausoleum than meeting room. Prominently displayed are photographs of Benazir Bhutto, his wife, whose assassination in December 2007 led to his appointment as president eight months later. Now, Mr Zardari has taken on the anti-jihadi battle that was to have been his wife’s. More than once during an interview with the Financial Times, he raises his eyes skywards and – dressed in a silver-grey suit rather more sparkling than his lowly, though improving, approval ratings – invokes the spirit of Benazir. More:

Click here to read the transcript of the FT interview:

Pakistan on the brink

Ahmed Rashid in the New York Review of Books:

To get to President Asif Ali Zardari’s presidential palace in the heart of Islamabad for dinner is like running an obstacle course. Pakistan’s once sleepy capital, full of restaurant-going bureaucrats and diplomats, is now littered with concrete barriers, blast walls, checkpoints, armed police, and soldiers; as a result of recent suicide bombings the city now resembles Baghdad or Kabul. At the first checkpoint, two miles from the palace, they have my name and my car’s license number. There are seven more checkpoints to negotiate along the way.

Apart from traveling to the airport by helicopter to take trips abroad, the President stays inside the palace; he fears threats to his life by the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda, who in December 2007 killed his wife, the charismatic Benazir Bhutto, then perhaps the country’s only genuine national leader. Zardari’s isolation has only added to his growing unpopularity, his indecisiveness, and the public feeling that he is out of touch. Even as most Pakistanis have concluded that the Taliban now pose the greatest threat to the Pakistani state since its cre- ation, the president, the prime minister, and the army chief have, until recently, been in a state of denial of reality.

“We are not a failed state yet but we may become one in ten years if we don’t receive international support to combat the Taliban threat,” Zardari indignantly says, pointing out that in contrast to the more than $11 billion former president Pervez Musharraf received from the US in the years after the September 11 attacks, his own administration has received only between “$10 and $15 million,” despite all the new American promises of aid. More:

A personal history of Pakistan on the brink

Moni Mohsin in Boston Review:

It was December 2007, and General Pervez Musharraf had declared a state of Emergency in Pakistan. He suspended the Constitution, banned all independent television channels, and sacked the country’s senior judiciary. The streets were thronged with protestors raising their fists and chanting, “Go, Musharraf, go!”

In London I took part in a protest outside the Pakistani High Commission. It was a smallish demonstration, mainly comprising Pakistani undergraduates at the University of London. We chanted slogans against the General and called for a return to the rule of law. Then a student in a beanie took the microphone and sang a poem. Written by Faiz, the great Pakistani poet who spent four years in jail under General Ayub Khan’s martial law, the poem, “Hum Dekhain Gay”-”We Shall See,” has become an anthem of resistance for the people of Pakistan. As I stood on that chilly pavement and listened to the young man’s full-throated voice, I was filled with profound sadness. More than twenty-five years ago, I had sung this very song on the streets of Lahore. I, too, was an impassioned student then, and I, too, had protested the tyranny of a military dictator. I, too, had believed that that would be the last martial law we would experience.


Once upon a time in Lahore…

In The Indian Express, Khaled Ahmed, a consulting editor with The Friday Times, on the beginning of the Talibanisation of Lahore.

But things were different once. Lahore was known as a tolerant city with a big heart that set cultural trends. It published all the books and magazines that mattered in India and Burma. Jats and Rajputs belonging to Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities formed cross-communal “unionist” governments that disallowed entry into the province to both Congress and the Muslim League. It was a Mughal city with the pluralist stamp of Emperor Akbar who made Lahore the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1585 to 1598. The great Mughal king was here for 14 years.

Lahore is the city where the popular story of a quarrel between Akbar and his son Jahangir is said to have taken place and of course, Jahangir lies buried here as does his queen, Nur Jahan. The city also carries the mark of Shah Jahan, the great builder king. He built the most beautiful buildings in Lahore, then turned to Delhi and repeated the feat in Shahjahanabad. Aurangzeb turned eastward and the death of his brother Dara Shikoh sent Lahore into eclipse.


The leftist and the leader

From 3quarksdaily:


An imagined conversation between Tariq Ali and Benazir Bhutto.

By Maniza Naqvi

Act I: The Leftist and the Leader:

Scene/Stage: There is a screen at the back of the stage which plays the clip, of General Zia-ul-Haq, declaring Martial Law, on July 5, 1977.

When the speech ends, two spot lights have searched, found and trained themselves on two people on the stage. Two actors playing Tariq Ali and Benazir Bhutto stand a couple of feet apart from each other. They are a young Tariq Ali, in jeans and a young Benazir Bhutto also in jeans. Tariq Ali, stands, legs apart, and grabs his head in anger and frustration. Benazir crouches—holds her head and then reaches out her arms as though reaching for someone in grief and pain.

TA: Arghhhhhhhhhhh

BB: ———Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh.

Stage darkens.

Lights go up. In the middle of the stage, there are two podiums at a short distance from one another. Tariq Ali stands at one and Benazir at the other. Benazir wears a white dupatta covering her head -and a green colored shalwar-kameez. Tariq Ali is dressed the same way as before, in jeans. They have their backs to the audience and they face two screens at the back of the stage. In the foreground there is a single chair.

The screen in front of Benazir shows one of her typical political rallies. There are massive jubilant crowds of people waving banners and chanting slogans. The screen in front of Tariq Ali shows either at a clip of a talk, or Tariq Ali leading the February 2003 anti war demonstrations.

There is the sound of people cheering and shouting her name. Her fists punch the air she makes movements that show that she is delivering an impassioned speech. There are cheers and slogans in both crowds. Benazir and Tariq Ali turn away from the screens and look at the audience and then turn around to face each other. They stand for a moment just looking at each other. Benazir adjusts her dupatta, in her characteristic way with both her hands. She moves forward away from the podium waving. A flash goes off-from a camera-then another and another. With each pop of the flash, the sound gets louder, till it segues into the sounds of explosions and gunshots.


Pakistan’s president on terrorism, India and his late wife

Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal:

Zina Saunders / WSJ

Image: Zina Saunders / WSJ

Asif Ali Zardari used to sport a full moustache, jet black and rakish in the style of the avid polo player he once was. But sometime in the past year he trimmed it short and let its salt-and-pepper colors show. It befits the sober role he has now assumed, at 53, as the president of Pakistan, probably the world’s most difficult — and dangerous — political job.

Mr. Zardari shows no signs that he is stepping into that role diffidently. In an interview last Saturday with The Wall Street Journal, held under tight security at a midtown Manhattan hotel, he crafted his phrases in a tone of command. Pakistan’s war, he says, is “my war,” its fighter jets “my F-16s,” its Intelligence Bureau “my IB.” When he discusses Pakistan’s economic crisis — the central bank has about two months’ worth of foreign currency reserves left to pay for the country’s imports of oil and food — he says he looks to the world to “give me $100 billion.”


Zardari draws flak in Pakistan: Pakistan president’s remarks in his interview to WSJ that India is not a threat to his country and militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir are “terrorists,” have got him into trouble back home.

Zardari’s remarks run counter to the views held by Pakistan’s military establishment, which views India as a threat, and indicate a major shift in the country’s position vis-a-vis its neighbour. Former President Pervez Musharraf would more likely have called the militants in J&K “freedom fighters.”

India has welcomed Zardari’s statement. In Pakistan, opposition parties have threatened to raise the issue in Parliament.

Click here for BBC update: Fury over Zardari Kashmir comment

[Update] By the end of the day, Zardari backtracked on his comments. The Pakistan  government issued a statement:

“The President has made it very clear that the just cause of Kashmir and its struggle for self-determination has been a consistent central position of the PPP for forty years now. There is no change in that policy. He has never called the legitimate aspirations of Kashmiris an expression of terrorism, nor has he undermined the sufferings of the Kashmiri people. All other statements about India were in context of our current bilateral relations.”

Zardari and the Surrey mansion

Dropped corruption case may free up mansion cash for Pakistan president. From The Guardian:

For more than 10 years a Surrey mansion, put on the market for £8.5m by its new owners, has been the most visible symbol of the corruption charges that have stalked Asif Ali Zardari, the new president of Pakistan, and his late wife, Benazir Bhutto. But since Bhutto’s assassination last December and his improbable transformation from former prisoner to head of state, the saga of Rockwood House may soon be resolved.

Once the final legal details are sorted out, Zardari can expect to pocket around £3m from the property’s earlier sale, which occurred in 2004 after it had been put into the hands of a liquidator.

That sum will be on top of the $60m (£32m) in frozen assets released to him by the Swiss authorities a month ago. Geneva prosecutors were obliged to drop their money-laundering investigation at the request of Zardari’s government.


‘Whoever killed Benazir wants to kill me’

In The Spectator, Christina Lamb interviews the husband of the late Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari:

On the wall above Asif Ali Zardari’s dining table in Islamabad is a framed copy of a letter. The handwriting is small and neat and it looks nothing special but he frequently grabs it from the wall to show to visitors. For on this piece of paper rests the remarkable rise of the man for years vilified as Mr Ten Percent, who this weekend looks set to become Pakistan’s President.

The letter is written by his late wife Benazir Bhutto, and dated 16 October 2007, two days before her return to Pakistan from exile, and 11 weeks before her assassination. Addressed to supporters of her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to be opened in the event of her death, she wrote it at her home in Dubai shortly after receiving a delegation from foreign intelligence services warning her she would be killed if she went back. ‘I would like my husband Asif Ali Zardari to lead you in this interim period until you and he decide what is best,’ it states. ‘I say this because he is a man of courage and honour. He spent 11 and a half years in prison without bending despite torture.’

‘You see,’ he said to me over lunch at his house last month, as he jabbed at the text. ‘She knew I was the only one with the strength to hold it all together.’


Mad and bad

In The IndependentJemima Khan reacts to Asif Ali Zardari’s election as Pakistan’s new president, calling him both mad and bad. Dogged by allegations of crime and corruption he could lose power to the army if the people get restive, she warns.

Asif Ali Zardari flanked by his daughters, Bakhtawar and Asifa

Asif Ali Zardari flanked by his daughters, Bakhtawar and Asifa

President Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto’s widower, formerly known as Mr Ten Per Cent because of kickbacks received during his wife’s time in office, has become one of the most powerful and potentially dangerous men in the subcontinent. Mad and bad. And now omnipotent. He is head of state, supreme commander of the armed forces, has the power to dismiss parliament, appoint the heads of the army and election commission – and, as chairman of the National Command Authority, has the final say in the deployment of nuclear weapons.

Earlier Zardari vowed to relinquish the executive powers that Pervez Musharraf gave to the originally ceremonial presidency. Now he’s evasive. Despite the fact that he has little public support (14 per cent, according to a recent poll), holds no seat in parliament and has no mandate other than his association with the Bhutto name, he had every right to nominate himself or anyone else as President. His party – inherited from his late wife – was democratically elected in February and has the largest number of seats in parliament.


The godfather as president

Zardari is the worst possible choice for Pakistan. Tariq Ali in The Guardian:

Today, he is the second richest person in the country, with estates and bank accounts littered on many continents, including a mansion in Surrey worth several million. Many of Benazir’s inner circle, sidelined by the new boss (Zardari did rub their noses in excrement by having his apolitical sister elected from Larkana, hitherto a pocket borough of the Bhutto family) actively hate him. Benazir’s uncle, Mumtaz Bhutto (head of the clan) has sharply denounced him. Some even encourage the grotesque view that he was in some way responsible for her death. This is foolish. He is only trying to fulfill her legacy. He was certainly charged with ordering the murder of his brother-in-law, Murtaza Bhutto, when Benazir was prime minister, but the case was never tried. Characteristically, one of Zardari’s first acts after his party’s victory in the February polls was to appoint Shoaib Suddle, the senior police officer connected to the Murtaza Bhutto ambush and killing, as the boss of the Federal Intelligence Agency. Loyalty is always repaid in full.


Family feud: The battle for Bhutto’s legacy

Asif Zardari may have emerged as winner but Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseefa are pitched against cousins Fatima, Zulfikar Junior and Sassui. The saga will continue, says Anjum Niaz in Dawn:

Mumtaz Ali Bhutto

Mumtaz Ali Bhutto

There is a background to Mumtaz Bhutto’s fiery dissent. He was a founding member of the PPP. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto made him famous in his 1971 maiden address to the nation on PTV by calling him his “talented cousin” who had gone to Oxford. He appointed him the governor and later the chief minister of Sindh. Come 1984 and the daughter of ZAB (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) sacks him.

“She felt threatened,” says Mumtaz. “Benazir was power hungry and willing to make alliances with her father’s murderers, opportunists and hypocrites. When I objected, she told me to leave the party.”

During his 18 month exile in London, Mumtaz set up the Sindh Baloch and Pashtun Front. “We had a one point agenda – to set up a confederation according to the Pakistan Resolution.” Sadly the Front fizzled out and Benazir returned to Pakistan as a heroine.


Pakistan waits as Bhutto clan trade blows

Benazir’s husband hopes to become President next weekend, but he faces bitter opposition from within the family. Omar Waraich from Islamabad in The Independent:

Asif Ali Zardari is poised to become President of Pakistan next weekend after inheriting the political mantle of his wife, Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated last December. But he faces bitter opposition from within the country’s pre-eminent political dynasty.

Mumtaz Ali Bhutto, Benazir’s great-uncle and head of the Bhutto clan, told The Independent on Sunday last week that the prospect of Mr Zardari becoming President was the latest in a series of tragedies to afflict the family – and Pakistan. “It’s unfortunate for the country, and … for the party that a man of his background should become … President,” he said. “He is totally corrupt and utterly illiterate … If he becomes the next President, what will be left of this country?”


Musharraf’s three pluses

Pervez Musharraf was the victim of the success of his own liberal policies, writes Mushahid Hussain, secretary general, Pakistan Muslim League (Q), in Tehelka:

Mushahid Hussain

Mushahid Hussain

IT WAS September 2004. General Pervez Musharraf had made a public commitment in December 2003 that he would take off his uniform by December 2004. I was woken by my son well past midnight: “Baba, the President wants to speak to you”. General Musharraf came on the line, and quickly came to the point. I could hear a popular Lata number from the 1960s. He said, “Mushahid, tell me, what is the worst case scenario if I decide not to take off my uniform?” I said I would discuss it over lunch the next day. My meeting with him took place in the presence of Tariq Aziz, his most trusted confidant and his main back-channel negotiator with India. My thrust was two-fold: a lesson from the past and what could happen in the future. While strongly advocating that he take off his uniform – a view endorsed by Tariq Aziz as well – I told him, “Please remember what happened to your three military predecessors – Field Marshal Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan, and General Zia ul-Haq. In the end, all three were ditched by their own colleagues in the military after the ground realities changed. The institution of the army is bigger then any individual. I do not want this to happen to you – that you outlive your welcome.”

I also told him, if you choose to renege on your commitment, then you will end up making the mother of all deals with Benazir Bhutto to stay on in power. He listened carefully and then gave a list of reasons why his uniform was necessary in the “supreme national interest”, including the peace process with India and the quest for Kashmir.


End of a Beginning

Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, in Time magazine:

Pervez Musharraf

Pervez Musharraf

As a Pakistani, pleased though I am by Pervez Musharraf’s resignation as President, I cannot but fear that this week’s celebrations could prove to be short-lived. Yes, his departure will make Pakistan more democratic and was long overdue. But it will not in itself cure the myriad ills facing the country.

Musharraf’s legacy is a mixed one. Like many Pakistanis, I was appalled when he seized control of Pakistan in 1999. Pakistan had stagnated in the 1990s under the bickering and incompetent elected governments of Benazir Bhutto and her rival Nawaz Sharif. But I recalled the damage done by the oppressive dictatorship of General Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s and had no desire to see Pakistan revert to military rule.

[via 3quarksdaily]