Aug 26

Murtaza Bhutto’s dilemma

Posted on Thursday, August 26, 1993 in The Friday Times (Editorial)

Brig (retd) Imtiaz (Billa) Ahmad, former DG Intelligence Bureau under the Nawaz Sharif government, must be licking his lips in anticipation. His pet project — to lure Mir Murtaza Bhutto back to Pakistan so that the PPP can be riven by divisions as well as lumped with charges of harbouring a proclaimed terrorist in its ranks — may well come true. Going by his various interviews to the press, Mir Murtaza seems to have swallowed Brig Billa’s offerings hook, line and sinker.

If proof is required of Murtaza Bhutto’s naivete, consider his outrageous charges (“They are both intelligence agents”) against two men who lay claim to being the biggest thorns in Brig Billa’s hide. These are the staunch PPP loyalist — Mr Salmaan Taseer — and a recent deserter from the Nawaz Sharif ranks — Mr Hussain Haqqani. Mr Taseer has probably done more than any single PPP leader to destroy Nawaz Sharif’s credibility in the country. As far as Mr Haqqani is concerned, Mr Sharif’s loss is truly Ms Bhutto’s gain. You cannot find a sharper card in the pack today than this wily “master media-manager”. No wonder, Mr Sharif’s control over the “free press” is beginning to wilt and Brig Billa is mad as hell at Mr Haqqani.

Mr Murtaza Bhutto’s choice of spokesman at 70 Clifton in Karachi, a certain M Subuk Majeed, also belies the logic of well known facts. Granted that Mr Majeed is Murtaza’s “childhood chum”, we might also reveal that Mr Majeed was an associate of the late terrorist Jam Sadiq Ali and is reported to be a business partner of his son, Jam Mashooq Ali. Brig Billa could not have selected a more suitable candidate to do his bidding.

  Such matters aside, Murtaza Bhutto’s press interviews definitely give the impression of a man totally out of touch with the ground realities in Pakistan. Of course, this is perfectly understandable. Murtaza has been floundering in the political wilderness ever since his father was assassinated by the dictator Zia ul Haq in 1979 and the young man was driven to desperation to avenge his family’s honour. But, all said and done, it was clear from the outset that Murtaza’s angry means to achieve his lofty ends were always dubious. In the event, his sister Benazir Bhutto took the more mature and democratic route and has reaped the harvest. Therefore she alone deserves to consolidate on her father’s lasting goodwill among large sections of the people of Pakistan.

That said, Murtaza Bhutto has every right to return to his homeland and seek rehabilitation as many other former “terrorists” of his ilk have done. As we understand the situation, the cases against him are not terribly strong. As a matter of fact, according to a law enacted by Benazir Bhutto while she was PM in 1989, Murtaza can appeal to the superior courts to reassess the evidence claimed against him by the military court which sentenced him in absentia over a decade ago. That his chances of being acquitted are good needs to be emphasised. Whatever the new military leadership may think of Murtaza’s past methods, we dare say the current crop of Generals thinks even less of his nemesis Zia ul Haq. Since there are no personal scores to settle anymore, a brief stint in prison while his case is adjudged afresh may be all that it takes for Murtaza to be a free man one day not too far away.

Consequently, it would be good strategy on Murtaza’s part to maintain a low profile and keep his trap shut while his mother negotiates with the establishment to find a suitable way out of his dilemma. Of course Murtaza should contest the forthcoming elections as an independent candidate from a safe seat in Sindh so that the stamp of approval from the people strengthens his case for rehabilitation. But he should stay away from the hustings until the heat and dust of electioneering has settled and conditions are more conducive for his return to Pakistan.

Unfortunately, though, it does seem that the young man in solitary exile has begun to doubt his sister’s sincerity in accepting him into the mainstream. This is uncharitable. Given Brig Billa’s machinations, Benazir Bhutto may be rightly apprehensive about the adverse impact her brother’s return to Pakistan could have on her prospects in the next elections. Apart from such justifiable considerations, however, surely there is nothing more to be said about the matter. Benazir Bhutto is the undisputed leader of the Peoples Party and until she is thoroughly discredited either at the polls or after another stint in government Murtaza Bhutto doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of capturing his father’s party.

  While Murtaza Bhutto’s frustration is perfectly understandable and many people actually sympathise with his predicament there is no justification for the sort of contradictory, immature, unrealistic and often bitter statements which are emanating from Damascus. Murtaza Bhutto would therefore be advised to stay cool, bide his time a wee bit longer and stay out or Brig Billa’s treacherous clutches. He could do much worse for his own cause than he has done in recent weeks.

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