Monday, May 31, 2010

An Ode to... One year of UPA-II...!!!

Author's note: The UPA government has just completed its first year in office... in its second avatar that is. The 63rd anniversary of our so-called 'independence day' is just around the corner too. Not yet time for superannuation... I tell you! Therefore, I feel it is only fitting that I blog about them a bit. Read on folks...

PC has advocated Taoism to combat Maoism. Doing it any other way... will attract the Human Rights fellows, I say! The dimpled Prince shows no sign of taking over... it makes sense to be the King-maker (Singh-maker??) than the King (Singh). Afterall... 'Singh is King'... and not the 'Mover and Shaker'!! With due apologies to Shekhar. The 'hot seat' can wait... while our Prince Charming hotfoots across the country wearing cool sneakers! Mayajal-wati continues to wear 'phool-malas'... and bless her supporters. The ones who find their pockets/purses lightened as a result of being fooled... for those 'malas'. The Balaji of a certain hills is under an illusion... of being the richest God. How can he be? He only wears garlands made of garden-fresh flowers... while the Queen-Goddess wears freshly minted ones! So silly of him... you see?!!

We also had the much-coveted 3G auction. Its a fact... not fiction. The government received a windfall of Rs 67,719 crore! Haan Ji, Haan Ji... it was a winning strategy. Pranab Babu is as pleased as punch. He might lower the price of Hilsa... that's my hunch!

Trees and forests are being murdered to make way for "martyr's memorials". While our living soldiers are all well-equipped with rusty old guns and bullet-proof jackets made of paper. They look quite dapper and this is no caper. They have to be martyred for us to build more memorials! Moral of the story: this way they get to remain immortal, silly! We are an environment conscious nation and an extremely prosperous one at that... with a high level of resilience to global climate change. We can't be short-changed! Our life is controlled by a little blue bird. So sweet... tweet! tweet! Our thoughts revolve around: To Twit or not to Twit? Our mission is to twit... and then matter finished! Offlate, in certain countries... the Facebook has lost it face and become faceless. But not nameless though... it still retains its identity. What a pity! Twitter has no such ills... only communication (s)kills. The cricket i-Pill caused some complications... and is now undergoing some 'modi'fications. There will be no 'pawar' failures in future. The specialists are checking on the Vitamin M dosage prescribed by Dr. Twitteroor... who is currently attending to matters of the heart. No foreign affairs allowed... therefore he bowed out.

Meanwhile... Swami Mithyanand goes about his business with folded hands. He has mastered the art of throwing sand. Where? In our eyes... the man is a veteran and very wise. The cost of everything including foodgrains... is going through the roof. So? It means we all have a roof over our heads! Remember... 'roti, kapda aur makaan' (food, clothing and shelter)?? Without 'makaan' there can be no 'roof'. Hence proved! Less roti keeps us slim 'n' trim. No cholesterol... no bad dream! Kapda? Well... Ms. Sherawat is our national inspiration. She's always naturally air-conditioned! That's how our statistics will interpret. No sweat. Didn't you know about the three kind of untruths: lies, damn lies and statistics?!! There lies the solution... the quick fix!

We'll soon have to live on 'love' and 'fresh air'. Ummm... given the level of pollution, the latter may be difficult and unfair. But we will achieve it... given the 'indomitable Indian spirit'. Don't the folks who display poly-tricks and their first cousins in the media say... 'we are not scared of bombs and terrorists'... and sing paeans in praise of the 'resilient Indian spirit'... ??? They mean the aam-jaanta of course... who have to be forever resilient... by force. For the VIPs/VVIPs... only black cats and Z/Z+ category. Only then no worry... for the welfare of our country. Their spirits do not want to be 'domiciled' either... and would rather travel farther and farther. Sometimes on 'study tours'... of Switzerland and Sweden. As we believe in the 'power of the pen'.

Which also makes the 'renowned author' Shobha De laugh all the way to the bank. This is no child's play and certainly not a prank. While all the knowledge gathered by our forefathers have sank... without a trace. Our history is written by foreigners... belonging to nations with a history of some 400 odd years! Their history is like our current affairs! Not fair... dear Sirs. And Madams too! You see... I'm all for 'gender equality'. Even though I recently learnt from Choco's blog... that till now only the cockroach species have managed to achieve it. 'Gender Equality'... that is. They do not have a lalu, mulayam or even a chara ghotala among them. Probably that's why... they are flying high.

We hate them... we bait them. Yet they 'endure'... but never 'endear'. And are quite at home... with atom. I meant the nuclear bomb. We have made a big deal out of the 'Indo-US Nuclear deal'. Not kill bill. We better check its veracity... to be doubly certain re: its 'purity'. Lets make sure... it is not 'new wine in old bottle'. Full throttle. One, two, three... Uncle Sam goes up the tree. Jack and the Beanstock... no shock! We are all 'human beans'... genuflecting is in our genes! As to whether this nuclear deal is really nuclear or not? So what? Is it like 'American diamond' or 'rolled gold'... ?? Don't we all know: "all that glitters is not gold"... ?? Roaches don't die easy... they die hard... very hard indeed! No relation to Bruce Willis. Go fish! Methinks... perhaps they know where to find the 'elixir of life' aka the 'amrit'... so to speak. Choco says: "They might just have the 'amrit' stashed away, somewhere deep inside the sewers!" Yewww! That'll be the antidote to the 'amrit' then... Shame, Shame! We may want to ask the Chinese though. Just to be sure. *wink wink*

As for the 'living on love' bit... how else do you think we have almost equalled China? I mean... in headcount... not in size... sweetheart. Even though 'size does matter'. Our 'custodians of the law' too are found doing their bit... regularly. Quite simply! It is the female of the species who are at fault, silly. Why do they wear jeans, salwars, sarees... and 'ask for it'?? You dimwit... we are progressing. By leaps and bounds... not bit by bit! In ancient times women wore much less... and were totally safe. As for the land... we are staunch believers in the 'Panchsheel' and the peerless 'theory of non-violence'. Both make a lot of sense.

When China attacked in October 1962, our defense factories were producing tin cans... and not bullets. I did not mean the bullet motorbike. Go... take a hike! Blame it on our fate. We didn't know... tin cans can be used for chasing away elephants and tigers... but not the Chinese. So we said 'cheese'. And graduated to 'Hindi-Chini Buy Buy'. We never shy... we aim for the sky. Next we will feed them 'chikan manchuri' and other classic 'Chineese food'. So far so good! As for the tigers... only 1141 of them remain... not counting the species found in the emerald island off the South East coast of India... in the Indian Ocean. It wasn't due to the tin cans silly... we have now started manufacturing bullets. You bet! What about the elephants? Well... as they say: "Haathi ke daanth khane ke aur, dikhane ke aur hote hain".

Meanwhile... we should stop 'eating' tigers and switch to Parle - G!!! Heehee!

The Chinese took away large parts of our land... and still indulge in wilful excursions. Let them! We will continue to uphold our 'ancient culture and traditions'. Didn't you know... 'atithi devo bhava'... ?? It means 'guest is God and should be treated like a deity'. Very, very gently. So our 'guests' from the 'Red Fort' are God... and by mistake Buddha had smiled here... twice. How nice!

Another Buddha went to Japan and declared... we have a 'surplus of power' and can export it. Not sure... which 'power' he was referring to though. Take a bow. While we petition the rain gods... to mitigate the growing water crisis. 'Water, water everywhere... but not a drop to drink'. We indulge in brinkmanship. Our fertile lands are turning into industries led by the MNCs... while people don't know their ABCs. Lakes make way for apartments while metro-rail run through parks. Land sharks? Three cheers! They come in all shape and sizes. For guessing... no prizes!

Playgrounds are transforming into parking space for vehicles... yet we expect our athletes to perform miracles! Not our cricketers silly... they are Gods. Even if they import snazzy cars and do not pay the customs duty... we accept it, whatever the odds! Afterall, their 'services to the nation' are there for all to see... and it is the public who got to pay the tax or the fee. 'Coz for them... nothing comes free! Pub brawls and parties... are the new ditties. Whoever said: "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country"... did not know a thing about our cricketing gentry.

As for the health of the kids... both big and small... they'll have a ball. "All work and no play makes jack a dull boy"... did you say?? What are joysticks for... and video games, computer games, et al... ??? We love our 'kupamandup syndrome'... infact we bask in it. All's 'well' that ends (in a) 'well'... isn't it?? So what... the groundwater levels are depleting?? Switch to bottled water... available freely in the markets. It is a free-market economy... you see. The sellers are free to charge you... as per their fancy. "If they have no bread, let them eat cake!" Its all for the public's sake. Let us never fear to negotiate... or curse our fate. If there was a platinum medal for 'kabaddi' we would win it... by a wide margin. It is our national pastime... *big grin*

We neglect our real heros... and remain in thrall of our cricketing Gods and matinee idols. We fight and kill in the name of God... then indulge in blame game. No shame. 'Sons-of-the-soil' rhetoric and bombastic talk about the 'glory of the mother tongue' prevails. That 'inglees' is a foreign language. We refuse to develop a culture of reading. What culture (?)... only vulture.

Sania-mania waned and made way for Saina. So, our former tennis queen... forever plagued by various 'aches and pains' decided to cross the 'Lakshman Rekha' and marry the out-of-work 'mundaya Sialkotia' - Shoaib Malik... to woo lady luck back. 'Lady luck' arrived in the shape of Ayesha aka Maha Siddiqui... who firmly stayed away from the flash-bulbs, and yet was the sole provider of all the 'spicy and juicy grist for the rumour mills and gossip-mongers'. Shoaib denied having married her ever... while she held firm... demanding a divorce. What a farce! Mr. Malik referred to her as his 'apa' (elder sister) and even aunty. No Babli... only Bunty!

Things came down to their 'wedding-night clothes'. Mr. Malik then broke into a cold sweat and felt like he was going to faint. And immediately recovered from his selective amnesia. Remember... the lady's name's Ayesha? He speedily granted her a divorce. So, the saga of the 'telephone marriage' that had begun with a pic sent over the internet... ended. Net-Net. Why Mr. Malik divorced someone he had never even married... is a mystery. Maybe the Bhatts can solve it! Will be a sure-shot hit! The celebrity-crazy media on both sides of the border... hungry for juicy tidbits... went berserk. And for nearly a month we had to endure the 'Shoania' saga plaguing our airwaves... disguised as important news coverage. No less. Overshadowing minor matters like the water and power crunch and sundry law and order issues. Pass me the tissues. Shoaib reportedly demanded 35 million for the exclusive rights to telecast his walima ceremony. It's all about the money, honey! But was left tweedling his thumbs, since there were no takers. Crumbs! Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Talk about the volatile stock markets! Ho-hum. Pass me the sickbag please... and strictly no doughnut and no cheese.

Cyclone Laila... gave us a scare. But mercifully weakened and we were spared. Else we would have been submerged for days on end... much like Atlantis - the lost continent. And no rainwater harvesting either... our poly-tricians would be too busy running hither and thither. To fish in troubled waters, silly! While the hoi polloi would have to go without 'roti, kapda aur makaan'... what fun! There... our statistics goes up in smoke! No joke! Thankfully, Laila came alone and did not bring her better half... Majnu along. So considerate and sweet! No, I won't twit... one bit! I Promise! Say cheese... yes please!

(More later...)

Note: The views expressed here are entirely in good humour and without malice.


Hilarious takes on the Political scenario - in India.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Songs, Blood and Sword... Untruths, Half-truths and Fiction (Part-V)

Author's Note: The 1st part of this series can be read: HERE.
The 2nd part can be read: HERE.
The 3rd part can be read: HERE.
The 4th part can be read: HERE.
To my readers: This is not just a book review or a discussion regarding a family, personality or country. This series is infact the prism through which I am discussing the political goings-on in this part of the world - the real powers-that-be who remain behind the curtains yet control the destinies of billions of people. The role played by 'respected' authors, scholars, experts, analysts, media/press, think tanks, lobbies/special interest groups, seemingly neutral organizations/NGOs, et al. I do look forward to your views... they will enrich this series of posts. Hopefully we can have an engaging discussion as well.
Have you ever thought about the great cull... that of strong and popular leaders especially in this part of the world... ?? Leaders who led and managed political parties with widespread support. It cannot be mere fate or even coincidence... or accident and/or work attributed to sundry 'terrorists'. That it is certainly not...

When the SeeIA/5-sided polygon and their cronies wanted to defeat their rivals - the Soviets and the rival ideology - Communism... they created this virulent brand of Islam... in the US universities and think tanks. This brand of Islam (whose practisioners are today referred to as: Islamic terrorists, Islamic fundamentalists or militants) did not grow out of thin air nor was it born in the muslim or Arab streets... but was midwifed by the SeeIA and 5-sided polygon in the eighties. They enlisted the help of the Saudi royal family for this purpose. The Saudis were initially reluctant... but after a series of unnatural deaths, including that of King Faisal and another royal who apparently 'died of thirst' at the age of 29, they relented and agreed to 'toe the line'. 
When Mrs. G was killed... the words 'Sikh terrorism' was bandied about worldwide... even before an investigation could be done. This was designed to create a certain mindset... which spread hatred, gave rise to the "Us vs. Them" syndrome... and paved the way for certain forces to exploit it. Yet when our homespun 'great man' (through whom the imperial forces were able to impose this shameful and distorted 'theory of non-violence' on us) was assassinated a few months after we achieved our so-called 'independence'... no one talked about 'Marathi terrorists'. Perhaps in the changed circumstances of the post-independence era... there was no role for the 'great man'. Therefore the forces that created him... thought it prudent to eliminate him as well.
Nehru was a conformist. He agreed to the manner in which our nation was given independence... via a complicated C-section. He ensured that the Kashmir cauldron would be kept perpetually burning... and involved the UN in it. His daughter was a different kettle of fish altogether though. Whether we liked her/agreed with her/voted for her or not... we cannot deny her influence, legacy and the fact that she did a lot of good for this nation. Yet... certain sections want us to equate her with the '71 war (to an extent) and largely with the 'emergency' and the 'Op. Neel Star'.
In 1974, the opposition-led protests and strikes had caused a widespread disturbance in many parts of the country and badly affected the government and the economy. On 26 June 1975, Mrs. G (then the PM) declared a national emergency, delayed elections, censored the press and suspended some constitutional freedoms in the name of national security. Non-Congress governments throughout the country were dismissed.
About the 'excesses' committed during the 'emergency' ('75 - '77) - we have to mostly rely on the evidence, testimony and views offered by a legion of politicians among whom the 'Master Plaster' from Maharashtra and the Yadav Kings from the Hindi heartland rank very high. Plus sundry others... like the great and courageous writer, and journalist of unimpeachable integrity with a prolific pen - Khushi Singh. Their credibility/bona fides are quite well known... so I'm not sure if they can and should be taken at face value. In those days... the 'Master Plaster' was directing his vitriolic rhetoric and attacks at the hapless 'South Indians' by inflammatory slogans like: "lungi hatao pungi bajao" (referring to the lungi, a Marathi word for the traditional men's dress in South India), and "yendu gundu" (a derogatory reference to the Dravidian languages spoken by the people from South India). Mrs. G took note of it and then took action... thereafter the 'Master Plaster' went mum. Many years later... after 'she' was safely gone... he and his progeny did (and are still doing) an encore on the hapless 'North Indians' as well as the Gujaratis and Marwaris. Mrs. G II prefers to maintain a deafening silence.
During the height of the '71 war (Bangladesh Liberation War)... the US diplomat, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize Henny Kissmonger tried his best to involve China. The US wanted China to take advantage of the situation... since Indian forces were busy fighting the Pak army... other areas were vulnerable. Even though relations between China and the US were frosty at best... yet the 'cowboys' had/have no qualms about talking to anybody if they smell an opportunity conducive for themselves. They are self-serving from the marrow of their bones... so to speak. But China refused to intervene. Whether 'big brother' USSR had any role in that decision... we do not know. In fact the Chinese officials who met Kissmonger (after several requests that is) were very courteous and politely thanked him for some other event! Needless to say Kissmonger was thoroughly disappointed... and resorted to name-calling, referring to Mrs. G as "that witch", etc. The Pakistan army conducted widespread atrocities against the civilian populations of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). An estimated 10 million refugees fled to India, causing financial hardship and instability in the country. The United States under Richard Nixon supported Pakistan, and mooted a UN resolution warning India against going to war. Nixon apparently disliked Mrs. G personally, referring to her as an "old witch" and "clever fox" in his private communication with Secretary of State Henny Kissmonger. Mrs. G signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, resulting in political support and a Soviet veto at the UN. India was victorious in the 1971 war, and Bangladesh was born. (Incidentally Lyndon Johnson referred to her as "this girl"). However some noblemen were impressed with Kissmonger's contributions towards peace and making the world a better and safer place to live in... and conferred the Nobel Peace Prize on him in 1976. Barack H. Obama too has been bestowed with this prize (2009) even though he has yet to open his 'peace account'. Let's see...
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) advised the then Saudi King - King F - to use oil as a bargaining chip with the Americans. The Saudis had huge quantities of it... and America and its allies were heavily dependent on the Saudi oil... in order to cater to their ever-growing energy needs. Believing in pan-Islamic unity, he developed closer relations with nations such as Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations... besides China. Bhutto wanted to unite the Islamic world. He wanted to create an Islamic block and unite all the Muslim nations... in order to consolidate their power/economic and political clout. He called a meeting of the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference) in Feb. 1974 and it convened in the city of Lahore. Bhutto, Moammer Q of Libya and King F of Saudi Arabia were especially united in this cause. This did not please the West (esp. cowboy country) one bit. Bhutto was a dangerous man and had to be gotten rid of. Kissmonger warned him, Democrat and Republican went hand in hand and warned him. The consequence; Bhutto was hung in a coup (4 April 1979), King F was assassinated in March 25, 1975 and Qaddafi's Libya was reduced to an international pariah state.
It is a long-known fact that whenever the United States wants to advocate its foreign policy through a non-diplomatic channel it usually echoes in its newspapers. This was the case in the seventies when a senior American official writing in the Washington Post warned of "dire consequences" should Pakistan's Prime Minister, Bhutto not comply with the "great white elephant" as he (Bhutto) once famously put it. The matter at the time was Pakistan's fledgling nuclear weapons program. The Americans wanted it rolled back. The senior American official was the American Secretary of State Henny Kissmonger. 
Nevertheless, ZAB went ahead and initiated Pakistan's nuclear program. India had just tested its nuclear bomb (under Mrs. G's premiership)... much to the annoyance of the US and its allies. Kissmonger is reportedly said to have warned ZAB after he decided to go ahead with Pakistan's nuclear program... "we will make a horrible example of you". They did keep their word... see how they dealt with him and his family apart from King F of course. King F had been one of the financiers. Kissmonger apparently also said (to ZAB) - "your daughter is more dangerous than you". Benazir is the architect of Pakistan's missile program. 
The US got the 'dirty job' done through Gen. Zia-ul-Haq... the Chief of the Pakistani army. Ironically on 1 March 1976, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto approved Zia-wool-Haq as Chief of the Pak army, ahead of a number of more senior officers. ZAB chose the most junior, superseding seven more senior generals... apparently impressed by Zia's 'humility'. He was distinguished by his role in the "Black September" in Jordan military operation in 1970. ZAB was unseated on 5 July '77 in a coup d'état after 'widespread civil disorder' (led by the lawyers, Islamic parties and sundry others) and then hanged (4th Apr. '79) on a trumped-up murder charge. Judges were coerced/pressurized while some resigned/retired... finally the Supreme Court of Pakistan handed down a sentence indicting ZAB in a split 4-3 verdict. The hand of the Jimmy Caterer administration behind the 'widespread civil disorder'... has long since established. Incidentally... the 'moving force' behind the epic 'lawyers' movement' was a prominent member of the protesting lawyers even then. He left the PPP and joined the Tehrik-e-Istiqlal floated by Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan... who too was involved in the 'widespread civil disorder'.
Mrs. G is said to have commented... that had she been in power... she would not have let this happen. By a strange co-incidence... Mrs. G was out of power as a result of the hue and cry raised due to the 'excesses committed by her regime during the emergency'. A motley group led by the Janata Party and headed by the 'iconic' Morarji Desai was in the saddle. In 1979, Prime Minister Morarji Desai resigned. His successor was Choudhary Charan Singh who upon failing to secure support from a majority of MPs who had earlier formed the Janata coalition, turned to Mrs. G for support. She promised him that support, but a short while later withdrew it, forcing new elections and the end of Janata Party's time in power. Vigorously attacking the confusion in the years of the crumbling Janata government, Mrs. G's heroine-Goddess image of the Indo-Pak War of 1971 and the tough ruler of the early Emergency years returned her the previous position. She made allies out of key political foes.
In Jan., 1980... Mrs. G and the Congress Party returned to power in a landslide. She was not too fond of ZAB... so by her statement she may not have meant ZAB per se. But the 'lesser evil' so to speak... since instability next door and the presence of dubious forces was not desirable/beneficial for India. On 23 June 1980... her younger son and designated heir (reportedly) died in an air crash near Safdarjung Airport in New Delhi. ZAB's nemesis, Gen Zia-wool-Haq, was killed (17 Aug., '88) in an air crash... after 'jihad' (Islamic holy war) was over in Afghanistan... with the retreat/withdrawl of the Soviet Russian forces from there. He was installed shortly before the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan... and was instrumental in building up the 'Mujahideen' or the 'Islamic holy warriors' in conjunction with the SeeIA/5-sided polygon and their allies... in order to fight the Satanic forces/Soviets/Communists.
The pro-India 'Bangabandhu' Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came to power in Bangladesh... after the end of the '71 war. He is the father of the current PM Sheikh Hasina Wajed. On 15 Aug '75... he along with his entire family (including his nine year old son) were mercilessly killed in a coup d'état led by a group of junior military officers. This was followed shortly by another coup and counter-coup and ultimately led to the consolidation of power under Lt. Gen Ziaur Rahman (then a high-ranking officer in the Bangladesh Army) as Deputy Chief Martial Law Administrator.
He subsequently became the Chief of the Bangladesh army as well as the President of Bangladesh (1977-1981). It has been alleged that Zia helped individuals involved in the assassination of Sheikh Mujib rehabilitate at home and abroad, and gave them immunity by the Indemnity Act. Only Sheikh Hasina and her sister survived... since they were abroad at that time. Ziaur Rahman was the husband of the former premier and current opposition leader in the 'Jatiya Sangsad' (Bangladeshi parliament) Begum Khaleda Zia... who leads the right-wing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and is bitterly opposed to the more moderate Awami League of Sheikh Hasina. The hand of the Pakistani intelligence agencies has been suspected behind the massacre of Mujib's family. However, it is common knowledge that the Pakistani intelligence does not act on its own... without a nod and a wink from you-know-where.
It is usually said that the failing political process in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh could be salvaged by holding elections within the political parties... so that they could break out of the 'dynastic stranglehold'. Strangely, it is the large/national parties with widespread/grassroots support and their leaders who are targeted with the 'dynastic bogeyman'. The other parties - regional parties with narrow agendas - are rarely asked to do the same.
Yet... in India the Congress has suffered the most. It is the largest party and the only national party we have. The BJP is not a pan-India party as yet... and I do not see that happening anytime soon, though it is not quite a regional party either. After Mrs. G was killed... the Congress party was weakened in no time and so was India. In fact, in a short span of time the Congress was turfed out of its strongholds... by regional parties that mushroomed overnight. Where did these come from, their finances, etc??? Sitaram K and N. Rao too damaged the party heavily. 
Rajiv Gandhi was no great shakes as a leader and hasn't really left behind a legacy. Yet, he was the leader of the only national party of India. After he was killed... fingers were promptly pointed towards the LTTE/Tamil Tigers... an ethnic group operating out of Sri Lanka. The Congress party was weakened even more... while India went through another bout of political instability courtesy several weak and shaky governments... that badly affected our economy/business/political and social fabric, etc. Certain policies formulated by these weak and shaky coalitions that came one after the other has destroyed several sectors, e.g., education. 
Today merit has been dispensed with to such an extent that even teaching faculty are appointed without it. What kind of students our educational institutions are churning out is anybody's guess. Even for admission to professional courses - engineering, medical, management - merit has taken a backseat. How can students who do not have the aptitude/with very low scores, sometimes barely the pass mark/grade... get admission into professional courses (especially into our elite institutions) due to management quota/other quotas/donations etc is beyond my comprehension. Professional courses require aptitude... and there are many students among the weaker sections (economically and otherwise) who do have that. They need assistance in the form of monetary aid, etc to pursue their education and then contribute towards nation-building. Not the ones whose basic education is weak, and certainly not the ones who come from educationally and financially sound backgrounds... yet claim benefits under the quota/reservation system, just because some distant ancestor was a fisherman, cobbler, barber, farmer, etc. This policy is only dividing India socially and perpetuating the obnoxious and distorted caste system more forcefully. This is a sure-shot recipe for disaster... whereby the scourge of caste discrimination will continue to prevail for generations to come... in a far more distorted manner. I was shocked to learn that we have 6000 castes and 65,000 sub-castes ... and counting! What have we done? What is it that we are getting at??
Filling up seats by drastically lowering the cut-off percentage and pushing students who are not prepared/do not have the aptitude towards professional courses... is an injustice of the highest order. It is certainly not helping these students and their families (and by extension this country) in any way. What happens to these students once they pass out... in many cases after multiple attempts?? Who will employ them? What about the ones who cannot clear their exams or quit midway?? Putting quantity over quality is not acceptable. Yet nobody speaks about doing anything to improve the abysmal condition of our primary and secondary education system and govt. aided schools... especially in the interiors. The focus is solely on the few institutes of excellence that we have - the IITs, IIMs and IISc. Also the proliferation of educational institutes with sub-standard facilities and faculty is playing havoc with our country. In a few years we will have a predominance of unemployable engineering/medical/management graduates... and will have to import skilled labour from abroad. That way not only our energy needs but also our technical/technological/medical/management requirements/needs will be heavily dependent on foreign nations. They can and will have us by our jugular. We will never be able to come out of that neo-colonisation.
I think there is a far more sinister game that is being played in this region. Popular leaders leading large/national parties are cut down mercilessly...
Small and regional parties with narrow agendas - ethnic/linguistic/caste based/community based manifestos are ruining our economic, political and social fabric. Even playing havoc with our education system. The medium of instruction need not be the mother tongue... for someone to 'learn' their mother tongue. Nobody is going to forget their mother tongue... and our regional languages are under no threat/danger from the English language. English is a language spoken all over the world, is a link language in which business is conducted. In India, English has been spoken for 300 years and we have the largest English-speaking population... compared to Europe and US combined. That is our strength. Plus... the English language has borrowed heavily from Sanskrit... a language almost forgotten in the land of its birth. And we still call English a 'foreign language'! Instead, the focus should be on developing a culture of reading... books/journals/materials in any language including one's mother tongue. This will broaden our thinking, enhance our knowledge... and get us out of the destructive 'kupamandup syndrome'... ('kupa' means 'a well' and 'mandup' means 'frog').
Even countries e.g., Spain, China, Russia, the Philippines, etc who have ignored English for long... are taking steps to make amends. In a short time they will be our formidable rivals and pose a mighty challenge to us... by attracting foreign investments, business and thereby creating more and more employment opportunities. If we continue with our 'sons of the soil' rhetoric and bombastic talk about the 'glory of the mother tongue'... spearheaded by forces which are inimical to development/growth/progress and who have no stake in it... we are doomed. We need to build on our strengths so that our weaknesses can be minimized. We should not surrender/squander/give up the few advantages we have as a nation; nor should we destroy the few remaining centres/institutes of excellence that we have... to pamper the distorted and myopic views of certain groups/vested interests. We do not know who/what forces are behind them. The MNCs are known to hire people/groups in order to protest/demonstrate/agitate against their rivals... especially indigenous rivals... and India has never had a shortage of quislings...

(More later...)
Benazir Bhutto with her father (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) and Indira Gandhi... at Shimla (where the Shimla agreement was signed) in 1972. Pic courtesy: link. Recently... Benazir's niece Fatima Bhutto launched her 'must read' memoir/book "Songs of Blood and Sword" aka "SOBAS".

Monday, May 17, 2010

Songs, Blood and Sword... Untruths, Half-truths and Fiction (Part-IV)

Author's Note: The 1st part of this series can be read: HERE.
The 2nd part can be read: HERE.
The 3rd part can be read: HERE
Fatima's profile is being presented to the world... by her PR folks and handlers as, "her striking looks recall her famous aunt, slain Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto. The resemblance is striking: the long nose, the headstrong personality, the burning rage about a father's violent death." But Fatima Bhutto, the author of the 'must read' book/memoir "Songs of Blood and Sword", says the resemblance ends there: "The comparisons are largely cosmetic." To my mind... she resembles the Hollywood actress Salma Hayek and to some extent the Bollywood actress Amrita Rao, what?

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) was unseated in a coup (July 5, 1977) by Gen. Zia-ul-Haq and later executed (April 4, 1979)... charged with the murder of a political opponent (which to many Pakistanis was a frame-up). Unsure how to defend their father and his legacy, his children had reacted in different ways. Benazir believed the struggle should be peaceful and political. Her brothers (Mir Murtaza and Shahnawaz) initially tried the same approach, forming al-Nusrat, the Save Bhutto committee; but after two futile years they decided in 1979 to turn to armed struggle. Their other sibling... sister Sanam remained apolitical. Murtaza was 23 and had just left Harvard where he was taught by, among others, Samuel Huntington (who is quoted in this book... saying he remembers little of Murtaza at college). Murtaza flew from the US first to London, then on to Beirut, where he and his younger brother Shahnawaz were adopted by the Palestinian leader and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) - Yasser Arafat. Under his guidance they received the arms and training necessary to form the Pakistan Liberation Army, later renamed Al-Zulfiqar (or 'The Sword' in urdu)... an underground guerilla outfit.

Based first in Kabul, where Fatima was born 28 years ago, and later Syria, al-Zulfikar (The Sword) operated with the support of Colonel Gaddafi's regime in Libya and Moscow. It was accused of orchestrating a series of shootings, bombings, and the 1981 hijacking of a Pakistan International Airlines plane. It was "a terrorist group which often scaled the pinnacles of absurdity," once wrote the British Pakistani historian and commentator Bariq Ali, who is otherwise quoted approvingly by Fatima in her book.

Fatima treats Murtaza's excursion into guerrilla-land (in Soviet-held Afghanistan) as something more significant than what her aunt Benazir did - to organise a democratic front against the Zia dictatorship while in jail in Pakistan. Murtaza's whole style of politics was to operate outside the political mainstream. He had run away in exile... while Benazir had chosen to face the music in Pakistan. She had chosen to remain in the front line. She could not afford to carry a brother with the taint of Al-Zulfikar on him and she could not afford to say, 'Well, I'm letting him off the hook'. In life, Benazir was never comfortable talking about Murtaza's murder. Instead, she blamed the powerful intelligence services for engineering the killing to overthrow her govt. and split her family. If she was right, the strategy worked spectacularly well. A month before Benazir's return to Pakistan... Fatima sent around a link to the YouTube clip of a television interview. "Her reaction is amazing," wrote Benazir's estranged niece in an acerbic tone.

In her own memoir, "Daughter of the East" - Benazir refers adoringly to Murtaza as her "baby brother". She saw his murder as a "conspiracy" hatched by the family's legions of enemies, the purpose of which was to "kill a Bhutto to catch a Bhutto". In his 1996 obituary of Murtaza, Bariq Ali suggested that Pakistan's intelligence agencies might have been involved. "It is hardly a secret that there are forces in Pakistan that would like nothing better than to wipe out the entire Bhutto clan," he wrote, in words that Benazir's supporters will regard prescient.

Having fled into exile... Fatima's Harvard-educated father Murtaza, born in 1954, embarked on a life that fills his daughter with compassion, but may evoke mixed sentiments among others. He began an affair with Della Roufogalis, a glamorous Greek allegedly engaged in a civil-liberties campaign to persuade the Athens dictatorship to free her husband, a right-wing general, from imprisonment. Then in 1979, Murtaza pitched camp in Kabul and set about fomenting armed resistance to the Zia regime. He dumped Della to marry an Afghan, Fowzia, who was already pregnant with Fatima. Just before his daughter Fatima was born, Murtaza and his brother had found shelter in Kabul as guests of the pro-Soviet government. There the boys had married a pair of Afghan sisters, Fauzia and Rehana Fasihudin, the beautiful daughters of a senior Afghan official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Fatima's mother was Fowzia.

In spite of Zulfiqar's supposed extolment of the Nehru-Gandhi family, Murtaza was disappointed when Mrs. G treated him like an "ordinary" visitor. Although this could and should have been his first lesson in politics, he failed to learn from that practical episode that friendship and family ties have nothing to do with politics. This episode is a testimony to his immaturity and shortsightedness - which also accounts for his inability to view himself critically. This precipitated his failure in politics. Fatima's much touted book does not mention any of this of course! Else it would have been difficult... nay impossible for her to build up his image as 'Pakistan's Che Guevara' and not the shadowy figure of lore. And as the real legatee of the 'Bhutto legacy' who was cheated of his rightful claim, as a male heir. Right?! (Benazir kept out of this theatre of the absurd run by her brothers).

I will deal with the activities of Al-Zulfiqar (AZO) in a later post in detail. It will make for a very fascinating read... I promise you! Now to get back to where I left off in Part III...

The self-styled 'Head of the Bhutto tribe' - Nawab Mumtaz Ali Bhutto - Zulfiqar's cousin and Benazir's uncle... was installed as the Chief in the eighties... after the then Sardar/Chief Wahid Bux Bhutto was murdered by the Zia regime. Wahid was close to Benazir and was her cousin. After his installation, Mumtaz made life difficult for his niece... using extremely derogatory language against her, besides killing, torturing and jailing countless of her supporters and party members in the Sindh province. Whenever Benazir's government was dismissed, and a caretaker/interim regime put in place or new elections were to be held... Mumtaz was made the caretaker Chief Minister of Sindh... and he facilitated the rigging of the polls... against the PPP. He was also instrumental in framing Zardari for Murtaza's murder.

Mumtaz was a founder member when ZAB launched his PPP... but backstabbed him (and his family) after ZAB was overthrown in a coup d'état by Gen. Zia. When Benazir built up her PPP from scratch... she did not hesitate to show him the door... once Mumtaz began extolling Sindhi nationalism and a separate nation for the Sindhi people. He now heads the SNF - Sindh National Front, which is barely a marginal party... and he has not been able to win his ancestral seat even. That has gone to Benazir's party. But this has not stopped him from passing comments and remarks... which a section of the media (including the foreign media) prominently highlights. Recently, he and some other bit players had a hush-hush meeting to explore support for Musharraf... who is keen on launching his own political party.

When Benazir returned to Pakistan on Oct 18., 2007 after 8 years in self-exile... her convoy was attacked via powerful bomb blasts/suicide bombing that left several dead and many more injured. The next day, along with news of this attack that killed over 150 of her supporters, newspapers published a picture of Fatima's step-mother in a meeting with Arbab Ghulam Rahim... the then Chief Minister of Sindh. He was a Musharraf appointee and a zealot who had publicly criticised female heads of state as being a curse upon the land they rule... apart from using extremely derogatory language against Benazir. After this meeting... Fatima, Ghinwa and Mumtaz blamed Benazir and held her responsible for all the deaths and mayhem... in what Fatima described as "Benazir's theatre".

After the first suicide attack following Benazir's return to Pakistan in October 2007, Ghinwa remarked: "I think she has invited trouble herself. She has always thrived on this victimisation complex. She always loves to be the victim and whatever happens to anybody, at the end she is a victim." She further added: "I hoped that she wouldn't die, of course. I think it will be a bigger punishment for her to live. I feel terrible about all those people, and angry for exposing them like that." It is to be noted that Ghinwa barely lets out a peep regarding the countless other deaths and killings... happening all over Pakistan as a result of suicide blasts, etc.

Other 'usual suspects' like Immy Khan, Jemmy Goldylocks, Hamid Gulbadan and other media and political personalities 'indignantly' pointed a finger at Benazir herself. Certain Punjabi politicians including those from Musharraf's party (PML - Q/Q-league) led by the Chaudhry brothers of Gujrat (Shujaat Hussein and Parvaiz Elahi) went a step further and insinuated that Benazir herself had masterminded the blast... to gain sympathy. Incidentally, while Benazir was barred from the 2002 elections... for not having a degree (inspite of both Harvard and Oxford attesting her claims to the contrary)... Ghinwa was speedily given a BA degree (First Division) by the Punjab University in Aug., 2007. Parvaiz Elahi was the Chief Minister of Punjab then. Benazir had mentioned the names of some people who wanted to eliminate her... Arbab Ghulam Rahim, Parvaiz Elahi and Hamid Gulbadan (former spymaster, Afghan jehad veteran and Immy Khan's political mentor) reportedly figured in that list. Fatima went ahead and wrote a piece titled "Aunt Benazir's false promises" that found its way into the major newspapers in the UK and America, besides other countries in the west.

Why do you think this book and its author are given such huge publicity... when she is a mere nobody? Why is she being presented as the 'true heir', 'true Bhutto', the 'New Daughter of the East', as 'Benazir's fiery and fearless niece who bears a striking resemblance to her aunt', as someone who is reluctant to get into politics... simply because she is opposed to 'dynastic politics'? Why is there no mention of the dismal record of her and her step-mother's party - the PPP (SB)? Why is there no mention of what a washout the other party (SNF) run by the self-styled 'Chief of the Bhutto clan' is? Why is she given so much exposure by the western media and press as well as thinktanks? Why is she being introduced to policy-making circles in the US and other capitals of the world (including via dinner parties at Jemmy Goldylocks')??

What do you think about the timing of the book? What are your thoughts regarding the political and strategic gameplan that gets played out through something as innocuous as books?

Why did the Indian media too fall in line... and ask her soft questions... designed mainly to reinforce the contents of her book? They never mentioned anything regarding her father's terrorist activities or hijacking planes...? What do you think about this new term "Af-Pak"? And how do you think the effort to build up a certain B. Mehsud and link him to Al-Q was done? Whether one agrees with her or not... Benazir is an important figure in history and one of the foremost characters in Islam. She has paid the price for challenging certain Islamic tenets - held especially under the brand of Islam that was born in the US universities and thinktanks midwifed by the SeeIA and the 5-sided polygon in the eighties. For challenging patriarchy, for having married a man dubbed as "low born" or from the so-called "lower caste" in a deeply feudal, casteist, clanish and Islamic society. For having made him the leader of the largest party (PPP)... by virtue of which today he is the first citizen there. And much more...

Incidentally, Benazir had lead the PPP/PPPP for nearly 3 decades, despite every effort made by the army/intelligence agencies and hidden forces to break, splinter and factionalize it. This is also Pakistan's only national party with grassroots support... and she was the only national leader there. Her closest rival Nawaz Sharif's party... the Nawaz/N league or PML-N... is essentially Punjab based... with barely any representation/support in the other states.

Why is all this and more being forcibly ignored and 'dynasty' being harped on... when there is no 'dynasty'? Benazir herself is the architect of the 'Bhutto legacy' and the 'Bhutto brand'. Her party is a matrilineal line. What do you think are the implications of her actions vis-a-vis Islam and not just Pakistani society or South Asia? Why is all that being pushed under the carpet? Why is there a concerted and well choreographed attempt to paper over her story by dubbing it as a part of the dynastic culture peculiar to South Asia... 'where women have come to power holding on to the coat-tails of male relatives'? Why is she being lumped with the two feuding Begums of Bangladesh, the Sri Lankan mother-daughter duo of Sirimavo Bandaranaike - Chandrika Kumaratunga as well as the Gandhi clan? The two Begums of Bangladesh (Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina Wajed) would have never become PMs had Benazir not opened that door for them... the first woman to do so in centuries or rather over one millennium. They do not quite have a stature of their own either. Plus any similarity between Benazir and/or her family with the Gandhi clan is extremely superficial.

Not too long ago there was an attempt to 'prove' that her son Bilawal was 'corrupt'... since he had supposedly bought land at below the market price... in 1994. If one were to do some simple calculations, one would realize that in 1994 Bilawal was all of 51/2 years old!

If you look at the events in Pakistan in '95-96... two things/events stand out. One was the initiation or rather the signing of the IPI agreement... i.e., the Iran-Pak-India gas pipeline (dubbed the 'peace pipeline'). This was initiated by Benazir who was the PM then. The other being the arrival of the 'Taliban'. These were students of various Afghan madrassas ('Taliban' means 'students' and 'madrassa' means 'Islamic religious schools'). They were the children of the 'mujahideen' who fought against the Soviet regime/Communists on behalf of the US/SeeIA/5-sided polygon and their cronies between 1978-1989. These 'mujahideen' or 'holy warriors' were trained, equipped and armed by the SeeIA and the 5-sided polygon to defeat the rival ideology - Communism. The brand of Islam they followed and later tried (and are still trying) to impose on others - took birth in the US universities and thinktanks under the supervision of the SeeIA and the 5-sided polygon. They enlisted the help of the Saudi royal family for this purpose. The Saudis were initially reluctant... but after a series of unnatural deaths, including that of King Faisal and another royal who apparently 'died of thirst' at the age of 29, they relented and agreed to toe the line.

In a country which had not known peace for over a decade and a half, where there were no scope for employment/education or even the presence of a semblance of infrastructure or institution... one cannot expect people to go back to agriculture. And except for poppy cultivation there were hardly any farming activities left. [Read my post: All in a Day's Work].

She or rather her interior minister (Maj. Gen. Naseerullah Babar) groomed these children of the mujahideen... in order to counter the weak Afghan govt. and to oversee law and order. But most importantly to assist in Pakistan's plans of opening up the old trade route to Central Asia and provide security to this route, etc. She even tried to convince the then Iranian president and top Islamic cleric Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani... to unite their (Pak-Iran) policies on Afghanistan. Rafsanjani, scoffed at Benazir's offer (conveyed to him in 1995). 

These steps angered a certain cow+boy teil giant (Georgie AmBush's 'voice of God' and former US V.P. Dickie Chainey; the diplomat, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize Henny Kissmonger among others have close ties to it). Even the AmBush family is into the teil business... and Condor Rice too is linked closely with the teil lobby. They got her govt. dismissed through the then Pak. President Farooq Leghari (known to be a favourite of the teil giant) - on charges of 'massive corruption', lawlessness and extra judicial killings (where the entire focus lay on Murtaza's killing). The Taliban thereafter took on a different role. Stabilizing Afghanistan was/is not on the agenda of the US and its allies. In fact Benazir... days before her death had reportedly indicated that the US wants to do to Pakistan what it have done to Iraq. And that... it should be resisted. No wonder she met her maker... shortly afterwards. It is a small wonder then that the journalist and author Billy D among others has labelled her as the "mother of the T-ban"!!!

Today India has all but pulled out of the IPI pipeline project... which would have supplied gas from Iran at a subsidised/reasonable rate to cater to India's growing energy needs. Instead we have accepted the Indo-US Nuclear deal... the much touted "1-2-3 agreement"... whereby the solution to India's energy requirements will depend largely on the US. The cow-boys have managed to queer our centuries-old ties with Iran as well. Even Pakistan under the Zardari-Gilani duo are not sure about going ahead with the IPI... even though the 'land of the pure' is suffering from severe energy crisis. They are not even looking at the offers made by their 'all-weather friend' - China... to help mitigate this crisis. All due to the open and veiled advise (dubbed as 'counseling') from you-know-who. The footsteps of our new colonial masters are getting louder and louder...

Have you ever thought of the great cull... that of strong and popular leaders especially in this part of the world... ??? Leaders who led and managed political parties with widespread support. It cannot be mere fate or even coincidence... or accident and/or work attributed to sundry 'terrorists'.

The only person who hasn't had a chance to comment on the book's claims is Benazir. A few months before she was killed she was asked about Fatima's criticisms. "She is a sweet girl. She's very nice and everybody says she's just like me," she told a journalist. "I hope that one day [her] eyes will open." According to Benazir's sister Sanam: My sister always said that our family should not blame Fatima for the outrageous accusations she makes against us. Benazir said: "Don't blame the child, blame those who poison her." Hmm. Perhaps having had first hand experience in the snake-pit of Pakistani and international politics... she may have seen through the smoke and mirrors. Incidentally, in her lifetime, Benazir is reported to have explicitly forbidden her supporters from responding to Fatima's vitriolic attacks on her or on them.

We also noticed that the much fawned-over author was in tears and looked completely broken, shattered and devastated at her funeral. She was the only one who appeared like that from 'that part' of the family. Not her step-mother or her step-brother or the self-styled 'Chief of the Bhutto clan'. If any of us were to accuse someone of all the wrong-doings and crimes that she has accused her aunt of... and even if a fraction of it were to be true... and if that person were to die, we would not cry like that. For sure!

Wonder what great game is being played on the political and international chessboard.

To quote Kahlil Gibran: "Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?"

Let me customize it to suit this post: "Who are the Puppeteers, pray, and who the Puppet?"

I was quite mystified over the reactions of a certain section towards her 'will'. Once it was made public (after her murder)... there was a huge hue and cry and even 'indignation'... that came from the 'usual suspects'. Immy Khan declared in all the foreign channels that this was nothing short of "monarchy" and that it was the end of the PPP. Therefore... if the People's Party wanted to survive it should merge with his party - PTI (a marginal force called the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) - and he would provide the leadership. Immy had once been Mushy's favourite for the PM post. The western media/press plus Jemmy pitched in for Fatima. The experts, analysts and people linked to thinktanks (in the UK and US) pitched in for a shining barrister with marathon driving skills - the 'moving force' behind the epic 'lawyers' movement'. Incidentally, Benazir had rapped this gentleman in public and stated that the intelligent agencies were endeavouring to split her party.

While Mustafa Khar, Mumtaz, Fatima, Ghinwa and others cried foul... claiming that the 'will' was fake and that they had been cheated out of their 'legitimate right'. Experts, analysts and people linked to western thinktanks too joined in while Mumtaz stirred the pot by suggesting that Fatima's step-brother, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Jr, was the "real heir" of Benazir's party... since he descended from the male lineage of ZAB (Murtaza and Benazir's father) and was hence a "real Bhutto". Else it will split the party... and accused that the Zardaris had "hijacked" it. His utterances were provided wide coverage in the western press/media. Also, long-time political secretary (of Benazir) Naheed Khan's clout was diminishing.

Several others... including the foreign media, experts, analysts and thinktanks lobbied for the Makhdoom of Hala... Amin Fahim, Benazir's deputy in the PPP and the President of the PPPP. Also considered to be a blue-eyed boy... of the teil lobby. Their reactions when he did not get to step into her shoes and/or become the PM... courtesy the 'will' was very absurd indeed. During Benazir's absence from Pakistan, the Makhdoom had developed quite cordial relations with the dictator of the time... and the 'establishment' started dreaming of a PPP free of the name of the Bhuttos. Or rather... a PPP 'minus one'. Had the 'will' not been there and had Zardari not stepped in, the establishment's plan seemed to have been the hijacking of the party by using the polite and unassuming Makhdoom as a rubber stamp. Sometime in the future one would have found Pervez Bonaparte heading the party and all its sponsored factions!

Indeed was all the hue and cry over Benazir's 'will' raised (and still being raised) 'coz it was a masterstroke and proved to be the 'joker in the pack'?? Was all the high pitch noise and the slew of churlish pieces appearing in the media... due to the fact that the 'will' managed to throw a spanner in the works and upset a lot of carefully laid-out plans... ???

Questions, questions...

(More later...)


1. The cover page of Benazir's posthumous book "Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West".

2. Fatima Bhutto, niece of slain former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Pic courtesy: link.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Songs, Blood and Sword... Untruths, Half-truths and Fiction (Part-III)

Author's Note: The 1st part of this series can be read: HERE.

The 2nd part can be read: HERE.

In India, dressed in a green Sari with a red tika painted on her forehead, she wowed the literatti of Delhi and Mumbai, as she sipped white wine and answered questions about her family and the 'evil' uncle who now runs the country. It has been pretty much the same in the UK, with lots of the British media also being won over by the writer and her tale. I wondered about this when it emerged that while Ms Bhutto was heavily promoting her book in India and elsewhere overseas, she had declined requests to speak to journalists in Pakistan. May be, 'coz they know their history and hence the truth... and therefore Ms Bhutto's presentation of events which is rather one-sided and skips certain inconvenient facts... will not be fawned over.

Continuing with 'fawned over'... infact there is an overdose of it... with Khushi Singh's article titled "When Fatima held everyone's gaze" taking the whole bakery with all the cakes with red cherries on top. Sample this: "She is as gutsy as she is beautiful. She did me the honour of calling on me before she took her flight to Karachi. I could not take my eyes off her. I kept gazing at the pin-head of a diamond sparkling on the left side of her nose and her long jet-black curly hair falling on her shoulders. I hope I see her at least once more before my time is up." This great and courageous writer, and journalist of unimpeachable integrity with a prolific pen must have been smoking a really long pipe indeed.

While in India (New Delhi) Fatima participated in a panel discussion: "Altered Histories: the Legacy of Political Assassinations in South Asia" along with political critic Ashis Nandy, Hindustan Times editorial director Vir Sanghvi and Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar. She said leaders from political dynasties had been assassinated in South Asia for political gains and Pakistan remains the most suffered nation. "If we look at the assassinations in South Asia, it can be easily found that the leaders who became too dangerous for the establishment, had been killed. Benazir, who came to Pakistan in 2007 on a sympathy wave became inconvenient to some sections in the power. She was isolated. Her protection was removed. It became easy to assassinate her," said Fatima. She also observed that former Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haq was killed after jihad was over in Afghanistan.

Umm... interesting. It certainly indicates that she can rationalise things and events quite well. She is certainly no simpleton then. Is she just a sad and hurt child mourning her father? Is she just naïve and given to certain prejudices? Is she a hurt and angry young woman seeking justice? Is she the future of Pakistan's politics? Or is she part of fiction being written by hidden hands for the future of Pakistan, but made to look like fact? These questions and much more come to mind when observing 'the poet, journalist, author, political commentator, activist, philanthropist and Benazir's fiery and fearless niece'... Fatima Bhutto.

Through the book and her interviews... Fatima is certainly trying to create an alternative narrative... to give the impression that she is the future of the PPP - the party which Benazir lead for nearly 3 decades, despite every effort made by hidden forces to factionalize it. This is also Pakistan's only national party with grassroots support. But then Fatima denies having any desire for power. Murtaza Bhutto's daughter says she does not want to follow her aunt Benazir Bhutto and become a part of "dynastic and birthright politics"... even though her father - the "energetic and idealistic" Murtaza was outmaneuvered and cheated out of his "right" to inherit the 'Bhutto legacy' by his "scheming and ambitious" sister - Benazir. This is clearly designed to generate sympathy... in the minds and hearts of the readers/audience.

The question is, why was Fatima involved in a dirty campaign previously against her aunt Benazir Bhutto, and now against her uncle - the incumbent President... Asif Ali Zardari? Whose game is she playing? Whose interests is she serving? She is consciously part of the fiction which is being created around her: a young Bhutto who denounces dynastic politics and disagrees with all that her aunt stood for... and is one of the most vocal critics of the current regime. Her "must read" book/memoir "Songs of Blood and Sword" is being marketed as "a book of international significance by a young woman who has already established herself as a brave and passionate campaigner".

Fatima paints Zardari as "evil, corrupt and a murderer" and terms him "my aunt's oleaginous husband" while Benazir is portrayed as "cruel" and "power hungry". What distinguishes Benazir from other leaders including female political icons such as Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and even Aung San Suu Kyi is her ability to keep the woman in her alive... and she never shirked from smiling in public. More importantly, there are credible reports and suggestions that say she was a doting mother and a kind aunt who facilitated Sassui Bhutto's US citizenship, and her studies there.

Benazir even reached out to Fatima several times... despite the latter's anger and extra vitriolic outbursts in the media - both foreign and domestic. There are credible reports that say... Fatima went to Benazir's residence in Karachi (with the media in tow) and threw down a cake and a birthday card... that her aunt had sent her. This is the same aunt who inspite of extreme provocation maintained a dignified silence... and did not wash her family linen (fictitious or otherwise) in public. Else where would Fatima... the daughter of Murtaza Bhutto - the terrorist and don responsible for shootings, bombings and the 1981 hijacking of a Pakistan International Airways plane... and Sassui... the daughter of Shahnawaz - the terrorist be??? Who would want to associate with them?

Sassui is Benazir's youngest brother Shahnawaz Bhutto's only child. She finally set foot in Pakistan in 2008, visited her father's grave there... and broke down in tears. Why did she come to Pakistan after all these years? 'coz Fatima traveled overseas and convinced her to come back so that the "real Bhuttos" could get back their "right" from the "usurpers" who were in her opinion "murderers and thieves". Fatima's mother Fowzia and Sassui's mother Rehana are sisters... of Afghan descent. Today Fatima says... she is "frightened" of her "biological mother" and insists she has found love and happiness with her adored step-mother Ghinwa (a lebanese ballet dancer) who she affectionately calls "Mummy".

Fowzia is on record... that Murtaza (Fatima's father) kidnapped their daughter when she was all of three... and forcibly kept her away. That all her efforts to contact Fatima after Murtaza's death were thwarted by Ghinwa... who was more keen on the inheritance (read: Bhutto legacy, wealth, party, power, etc). What kind of a father separates a three year old child from her mother? Ghinwa claims that Murtaza had divorced Fowzia after Shahnawaz's death. On being asked Benazir's response (according to reports) had been: Murtaza had said the same thing to her... but she had not seen any papers. Today, Fatima and Sassui are quite close and Sassui attended the launch of "Songs of Blood and Sword" in Karachi. Fatima now pins a new rap-sheet on her aunt's now silent shoulders... that of keeping her away from her cousin. But of course!

For the uninitiated, Fatima's deceased Uncle - Shahnawaz Bhutto - was mysteriously found dead (due to poisoning) in his apartment in Nice in France (in 1985) - an event in which erstwhile dictator Zia-ul-Haq's/Pakistani intelligence setup's involvement has long been suspected. (There were some suspicion regarding the role of his wife and Sassui's mother Rehana in this event as well). Benazir herself had pointed a finger towards the SeeIA apart from the Pakistani intelligence agencies. Twenty five years down the line... Fatima now sees the hand of her (murdered) aunt behind her Uncle's "suicide". Infact, she sees the work of some combination of the Zia regime, the SeeIA and Benazir behind this event. Both Fatima and Sassui were about three years old then.

Maj. Gen. (retd) Naseerullah Baber... Benazir's Interior Minister was in the centre of investigations when both her brothers were killed. This is what he had to say and I quote: "I went to South of France when Shahnawaz died in July 1985. I know exactly what happened and who killed him." Why, then, has he not revealed the identity of Shahnawaz's killers? "Because I was advised not to go beyond the drawn line," he says. "The substance that killed Shahnawaz was used by very few countries. The FBEye and the French authorities investigated independently but kept their findings secret because of certain international sensitivities."

From what we can gather, Maj. Gen. Babar's integrity and competence is unimpeachable. He was a true soldier (who won the highest award in courage) and a real war hero... unlike the legions of militarywallahs (Mushy included) in that blighted country who proudly display a chestful of medals and colourful ribbons... for 'unmatched bravery and services rendered'. What they were/are... nobody knows. In his long career in the Army, Babar served in the Artillery Corps and Aviation. During the 1965 war with India, he single handedly captured an entire Indian company of soldiers (over 70 POWs) and was awarded the third highest military award of Pakistan - the Sitara-e-Jurat (Star of Courage) - for this action. In the 1971 war, he commanded an artillery brigade in support of 23 Division and later commanded an infantry division until he was wounded and evacuated from the battlefield. He also has the distinction of being awarded SJ & Bar. In 1972, he was appointed Inspector General Frontier Corps. He retired from the Army in 1974 and was appointed Governor of NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). He joined the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in 1977 after the arrest of Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) and famously threw away his Hilal-i-Jurat (with bar) and other army medals at the presiding officer of a military tribunal, when Mr. Bhutto was hanged by the military regime of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq.

Babar's harshest barbs are reserved for Gen. (retd) Musharraf. "I have seen Gen. Musharraf in 'action' during the 1965 and 1971 wars. I watched him from close quarters. To me he came across as a coward; corrupt; and a man of mediocre intelligence."

In September 1996 Murtaza was shot dead by the police (during Benazir's 2nd term as PM) outside his home in Karachi (70 Clifton)... with the street lights switched off. Babar (who was then the interior minister) says, "I know the people who had him bumped off. They dismissed the sister two weeks later because they wanted to seize power and heap all the blame on her for his death."

Fatima has for long pointed a finger of blame at her aunt Benazir and her husband Asif Ali Zardari, the current President of Pakistan, for his killing. At the time of his death, Murtaza was estranged from Benazir. Within weeks of Murtaza's murder, Benazir's government was sacked by the then President Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari... on charges of corruption, lawlessness and extra judicial killings (with Murtaza's death figuring prominently in it). It is widely believed that the 'establishment forces' acted through him. Zardari was thrown behind bars for the murder (and according to reports, beaten and tortured by the Punjab police while in custody). A welter of corruption charges was piled on (against the couple). And after a fresh election (that was heavily rigged), her PPP was reduced to just over a dozen seats. Her opponent (Nawaz Sharif) secured an unprecedented two-thirds majority (known as the "heavy mandate"). In 1999, she went into exile, never to taste political power again. If there was a beneficiary of Murtaza's murder, events demonstrate that it wasn't Benazir or Zardari. [Note: The non-elected forces that have exercised power over Pakistan's destiny are today known as the 'establishment' in their political parlance... and includes the army, intelligence and security apparatus. Certain forces/powers from across the seven seas are also part of it].

Notably, there is no mention in this "must read" book of the former Scotland Yard team that investigated Murtaza's murder. Enlisted by Benazir's government, the team found there was at least another shooter on the other side of the road to the police. Before being paid off and kicked out of the country by the new interim government, it drew comparisons with the "grass knoll syndrome" of the JFK assassination. (Note: The interim government [formed by Leghari] was headed by caretaker PM Malik Meraj Khalid - a PPP old-timer and part of the disgruntled lot who did not find a place in Benazir's party. The caretaker Chief Minister of Sindh - Benazir's home province - was Mumtaz Ali Bhutto - a long time bitter rival of Benazir and the self-styled chief of the Bhutto clan).

Citing a tribunal report, Fatima concludes that Murtaza's murder could not have taken place without approval from "the highest" authority. But that, as observers of Pakistan's anemic and abbreviated periods of civilian democracy know, has never meant the prime minister's office. Perhaps we can also add that... anyone with a little knowledge of Pakistan would know... who controls the Karachi police. Surprisingly, Fatima quotes Farooq Leghari... in order to buttress her claim regarding her father's killers!

In the same vein, Benazir's return to Pakistan in 1986 (when she was given an unprecedented reception at the Lahore airport... as over a million people gathered to welcome her) is said to have succeeded a term in "self-imposed exile," something that will surprise those familiar with her years of solitary confinement in Sukkur jail under very trying circumstances. By contrast, Fatima is sympathetic to others' decision to flee, leave alone her father's understandable absence from Pakistan.

From what we gather: Benazir showed respect when addressing her interior minister. She and Gen. Babar liked to engage in intellectual dialogue. Unlike other cabinet ministers, one never saw Gen. Babar cringe before his young prime minister. Nor is Naseerullah Babar anything like Ghulam Mustafa Khar, the unctuous fast-talking opportunist. "On July 5, 1977 (the day Gen. Zia overthrew ZAB's government in a coup d'état), Khar changed camps and went over to Gen. Chisti for his reprieve while Mr. Bhutto was arrested and taken to Murree"... remembers Babar.

Recently, Khar - the self-styled 'lion of Punjab' turned 'circus lion' - came out with a 'startling disclosure'... that a group of military generals had made an offer to save ZAB from getting hanged. However, Benazir Bhutto had rejected the offer at that time (read it). The date of this stunning disclosure... 4th April 2010... exactly 31 years after Zulfiqar was hanged and nearly 2.5 years after Benazir's own murder. Fatima had launced her book barely a week before this... in which she squarely puts the blame for the death of her father and uncle on Benazir herself. According to her... Benazir did this so that she could be the sole inheritor of the 'Bhutto legacy'. As for her own death... why that was 'accidental'. Didn't Gen. Musharraf say along with his cronies... that "she was responsible for her own death"... ??? Wonderful na? Jigsaw puzzle solved... even Sherlock Holmes would be put to shame. Nobody was/is responsible... the army, intelligence agencies, SeeIA, rival politicians, other forces... none at all. It was Benazir herself. Period.

In her "must read" memoir Fatima quotes PPP old-timers (the disgruntled lot that did not find a place in Benazir's party) who insinuate that Benazir had harboured every intention of doing away with her own mother, Begum Nusrat, as well. My! My!

In Mar '09 an attempt was made through a self-styled celebrity journalist (close to Immy K/ Jemmy Goldylocks and Musharraf) to 'prove' that Benazir and Zardari were not on the best of terms... through a fictitious interview of Benazir's sister Sanam. That did not work... and Sanam forcefully denounced it. Then in Aug '09 a British biographer - Christopher Sandford - came out with a biography of the former cricketer and failed politician Immy K... and suggested that Benazir and Imran had a "roaring affair" while they were students at Oxford. He went on to claim... that Benazir was "completely infatuated" with Imran and that for a few months they had a relationship which was also "sexual" in nature... 'coz "Imran slept with everyone". This fell flat as well. Now, tell me how many folks are keen to read a biography of Immy K of all people?? Next came Fatima Bhutto and her "must read" memoir "Songs of Blood and Sword" followed by Ghulam Mustafa Khar's 'startling revelations'. [*Tarang* *Tarang*... that is the suspense music... still playing in the background... my friend]

Incidentally, Khar's former wife (one of seven I believe) Tehmina Durrani (close to the desii and foreign establishments) is now married to Mian Shahbaz Sharif... and is his 3rd wife. Shahbaz is the incumbent Chief Minister of Punjab and the younger brother of the two-time former PM and life-long Benazir rival Mian Nawaz Sharif. Shahbaz is known to be ambitious... and has been eyeing the PM's post for quite sometime. He is also known to be the establishment's favourite. Nawaz too was a creation of the Pakistan army and intelligence setup (ISI especially) in the eighties... to counter Benazir in Punjab - Pakistan's most populous and influential province. After Musharraf's coup d'état in 1999... which overthrew his government... Nawaz was rumoured to have taken a strong stand vis-a-vis the 'establishment'. Off late... after some 'tutoring' from the 'true survivors' - the east Punjabis and Kashmiris around him... he is said to have 'matured'. Now Khar is attempting to enter the National Assembly (Pakistan's version of the Parliament) after spending several years in the political wilderness (whiling away his time: dog fighting, pig hunting and of course marrying)... through a by-election, as an independent candidate. Reports suggest that the PML - Nawaz/Nawaz league and the Punjab administation of the 'Chote Mian' Shahbaz Sharif will back him fully.

There were times when Fatima and her step-mother named Benazir and accused her (and her husband) for being part of the conspiracy to murder her own brother. Nay for being his murderers. And went on and on about... how she tried to cut up the carpets (from her ancestral residence) and take away one half of them (!) Fatima and her step-mother spread rumours in Pakistan that her paternal grandmother (Begum Nusrat) was being drugged in captivity. As per reports, Begum Nusrat was suffering from dementia - a type of Alzheimer's disease... and was losing her memory (perhaps as a result of a head injury received in the 80's when she was baton-charged in a political rally along with her daughter). We also saw how Murtaza's widow - Ghinwa - said: "Nooo, I did not accuse her directly. I only held her morally responsible"... after Benazir's death. Mind you, it was Benazir who was chucked out of her father's (ancestral) homes... the full control of which was given to Murtaza's family... by the powers-that-be. Benazir and her sister's petition for their legitimate shares in their ancestral property have not moved an inch in the Pakistani courts... even under the 'independent judiciary'. Not under Pakistani laws not even under Islamic laws. Strange! And Benazir was no ordinary person... she was a two-time former prime minister and a towering personality in her own right. Fatima and her immediate family has been saying all kind of things about her sole surviving aunt - Sanam Bhutto as well.

Btw... when her husband was in jail for several years (... during Nawaz Sharif II and much of Musharraf's regime) without a conviction, Musharraf had been sending messages to Benazir that all court cases against them would disappear and her husband would be set free... but there was a big IF. And what was that? If only she agreed to quit politics and hand over the party to someone who was more worthy and truly deserving. Now... who was that person? Ghinwa Bhutto of course - Fatima's step-mother and Musharraf's choice for taking over from Benazir. Ha!

Incidentally, the faction of the PPP run by Ghinwa is called the PPP (SB). SB stands for 'Shaheed Bhutto'... a reference to ZAB and they also use the same party symbol - the sword - used by ZAB for his PPP. Benazir has always used the arrow as her party symbol. Yet... this has not stopped Fatima, her step-mother and a disgruntled uncle of Benazir (Mumtaz Bhutto - the self-styled Head/Chief/Sardar of the Bhutto clan)... from accusing her of "stealing the Bhutto legacy"!!!

(More later...)


Fatima Bhutto, niece of slain former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Pic courtesy: link.