Not that Benazir was an angel herself. Taliban were first launched under her watch and with her approval, but still these are interesting revelations.
Benazir’s new book has some startling revelations
By Mariana Baabar
IN a revised edition of her autobiography, Benazir Bhutto’s “Daughter of the East”, which has been released in bookshops in London this week, some startling revelations have been made.
According to ‘Outlook’, which is carrying the entire new chapter, the revised autobiography had not been published before, and the preface and this chapter was specially written for the revised edition of the book, now available on bookshelves.
“Revision of the old book was necessary because many momentous developments
had taken place in the life of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto during the last two
decades”, Farhatullah Babar, spokesman for the PPP told The News.
‘Daughter of the East’ was first published by Hamish Hamilton in 1988. The revised edition has been issued by Simon & Schuster, who also published Musharraf’s autobiography last year. The new edition has a preface and a new chapter, ‘Prime Minister and Beyond’, which contains sensational revelations, providing an insight into the mindset of the Pakistani military
and the ISI.
Benazir records in detail her conversation with Pervez Musharraf in 1996 when she was prime minister in her second term, and Musharraf, director of military operations as major-general: “I once again heard how Pakistan would take Srinagar if only I gave the orders to do so. Musharraf concluded the briefing with the words that a ceasefire would be in place and Pakistan would be in control of Srinagar , the capital of Indian-held Kashmir . I asked him, ‘And what next? He was surprised by my question, and said, ‘Next we will put the flag of Pakistan on the Srinagar Parliament’.
“‘And what next?’ I asked the general.
“‘Next you will go to the United Nations and tell them that Srinagar is in Pakistan ‘s control’.
“‘And what next?’ I pushed on. I could see General Musharraf had not been prepared for this grilling and was getting flustered. He said, ‘And you will tell them to change the map of the world taking into consideration the new geographical realities’.
“‘And do you know what the United Nations will tell me?’ I looked General Musharraf straight in the eye, as the army chief sat silently by and the room grew still, and pointedly said, ‘They will pass a Security Council Resolution condemning us and demanding that we unilaterally withdraw from Srinagar, and we will have got nothing for our efforts but humiliation and isolation.’
I then abruptly ended the meeting.”
That was the second time an offer to conquer Kashmir was made. Benazir writes she had earlier received “offers” for Pakistan to take over Srinagar during her first term as prime minister from December 2, 1988 to August 6, 1990. Then Indian Prime Minister VP Singh had told her that Pakistan was arming and training terrorists in Kashmir, an accusation she denied.
“What I did not mention was the offer I received from the Afghan Arabs and the Pakistan militant groups in 1990. Using the good offices of the ISI, they informed me that ‘one hundred thousand battle-hardened mujahideen were willing to go into Kashmir to assist the Kashmiri freedom movement and somehow were confident about defeating the much larger Indian Army. Knowing that any such transnational support would hurt rather than help the Kashmiri people, I vetoed the idea.”
Then army chief General Aslam Beg had, she said, asked her to approve a new policy. “He said that if Islamabad went on ‘offensive defence’, it could capture Srinagar …General Beg told me, ‘Prime Minister, you just give the order and your men will take Srinagar and you will wear the crown of victory and of glory.’ I thought he had lost all sense of reality.”
Benazir makes clear she never liked or respected Musharraf. When she was prime minister, she writes, “I declined to make him (Musharraf) my military secretary. We initially refused his promotion because of his suspected though unproven links to the ethnic, often violent party known as the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM).”
Equally revealing in her account is what the ISI and the military believed it can do, and presumably still does: they do not just want Kashmir, they want Afghanistan as well. Benazir okayed an ISI proposal during the days of the Najibullah regime in Afghanistan for the Pakistani military to take Kabul alongside the mujahideen.
“When I insisted that we explore a peaceful, orderly transfer of power in Kabul with Shevardnadze (then Soviet foreign minister), my intelligence chief said, ‘Prime Minister, will you deny your men and the Afghan mujahideen the right to march victoriously into Kabul and pray in the Masjid together after all the sacrifices they have made?’ This emotional plea worked.. ..surely the Afghan parties and our military boys deserved to validate their victory with a triumphal entry into Kabul , which I was assured would take place within days.”
It never happened, and soon the intelligence boys came back to her, suggesting a joining of Pakistan and Afghanistan so that ‘there will be no borders between us’. Benazir writes: “I rejected the idea of a confederation with Afghanistan. ‘This will give the Indians an excuse to intervene in Afghanistan. And without American, Saudi and Iranian support it will land us in bigger trouble,’ I replied.” But support and money was coming to madrassas and the ISI all through the days of Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship, Benazir writes.
“Fund-raising activities across the Muslim world were established where the faithful would make contributions for education, health and food for the poor and needy. The money went into the political madrassas that claimed they were teaching and feeding the orphans from the refugee camps, but in fact were proselytising hatred and terrorism. International funds poured in but were diverted to the ISI headquarters.” Not unlike what the Indian government has been saying for years.
One exchange gives some idea of the power of the ISI in relation to the Pakistan government. The ISI head, she says, proposed an intelligence corps to ensure continuity, make sure that all senior appointments are screened through the ISI so as to maintain security control to defend the ideological frontiers of the country.
Benazir writes: “I was being asked to authorise and legitimise the creation of ‘a state within a state’ that would manipulate every aspect of life in Pakistan , including subsequent elections. I refused. However, after my overthrow, the interim prime minister brought by the ISI, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, put their scheme in place.”
Fighting off the ISI also meant taking on Osama bin Laden. “Although Osama bin Laden had not yet formed al-Qaeda in 1989, I first heard his name when he funded a no-confidence bill to overthrow my first government. Though he had returned to Saudi Arabia following the withdrawal of the Soviets in February 1989, he was called back to Pakistan when I asserted authority over the ISI in May. Bin Laden was asked by the ISI, with whom he had long and close relations, to help overthrow the democratic government and install a theocratic rule in Pakistan.” Osama, she said, paid $10 million to buy off her political supporters.
“Around this time I received a report that a Saudi plane had landed in Pakistan loaded with mango boxes. Since Saudi Arabia grows dates and not mangoes, we were quite suspicious. The civilian intelligence found that the boxes did not contain mangoes but rather money.” One of the Saudi King’s advisers, she said, “identified the source of the money as Osama bin Laden”. And then: “I went to the US Embassy and personally called President George Bush (Sr). I told the president that the military hardliners who had supported the mujahideen were attempting to bring down my government with the help of extremists and that foreign money was pouring into Pakistan.” She writes elsewhere that she was often hesitant to use her own phone because it was tapped by the ISI.
Benazir lost the elections in August 1990. “I believe that the age of the terrorist war actually coincided with the conclusion of the Pakistani elections in 1990 and the formation of the Nawaz regime.” The ISI, she writes, chose Ramzi Yusef, who planned the first attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993, to assassinate her during her election campaign that year. He failed, and “was extradited, on my order, to the United States “. That was after Benazir was elected prime minister for the second time that year, and found herself, she says, taking on the extremists again.
“I really do think that there is at least some degree of causality that most major terrorist attacks took place when the extremists did not have to deal with a democratic Pakistani government…this includes both the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre, the Bombay blasts, the Indian Parliament attack, the attack on the US embassies in Africa and the USS Cole in Yemen.” Her government was dismissed for the second time on November 4, 1996.
That, she said, brought in Nawaz Sharif. “Under Nawaz, the Taliban changed colour and character. They killed Iranian diplomats and allowed Bin Laden, in 1998, to declare war on the West from their (Afghanistan) soil.” But Nawaz’s “marriage of convenience” with the military and ISI did not last long. “They ostensibly fell out over fighting in the area known as Kargil, both blaming the other for the misadventure.” Pakistan suffered heavy casualties, she said. “An army-connected friend informed me that the dead bodies of soldiers were kept in frozen lockers and released in small tranches to prevent the news spreading of the high casualties inflicted during the conflict.”
She sees Musharraf continuing the support to terrorism, though he’s been trying to convince the international community that “he was the only obstacle in the way of a fundamentalist take-over of nuclear armed Pakistan “, Benazir writes. “Tragically, there are still some that once again have bought into this charade.” She adds, “The militant cells, meantime, are intact.”
Finally, Benazir writes: “So as I prepare to return to an uncertain future in Pakistan in 2007, I fully understand the stakes not only for myself, and my country, but the entire world. I realise I can be arrested…I can be gunned down on the airport tarmac when I land.” But return she will, she says. “I do what I have to do, and am determined to fulfill my pledge to the people of Pakistan to stand by them in their democratic aspirations…Democracy in Pakistan is not just important for Pakistanis, it is important for the entire world.”