By Khaled Ahmed
January 6, 2018
One Pakistani intellectual I have admired over the years is Kamal Azfar, eight years my senior at Government College Lahore whose articles in the college magazine Ravi I admired after I joined GC in 1959. He has written an autobiography, The Waters of Lahore: A Memoir (2013) where he reveals much that Pakistan needs to meditate on.
Azfar joined the Pakistan Peoples’ Party in 1970 and served as Minister for Finance, Planning and Development, Sindh. He was twice elected to the Senate, was a Federal Minister and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister in 1990. Under Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, he was chairman of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Social Contract. He served as Governor, Sindh, from 1995 to 1997.
It is worth recalling from his book the days prior to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007 whose 10th anniversary was observed this past December. He recalls an evening in September 2007 at her Jumeirah home in Dubai before she decided to enter Pakistan after years of exile as General Musharraf ruled Pakistan. Azfar knew that she was making ready to return to Pakistan after reaching a deal with Musharraf with the mediation of the United States. He didn’t want her to come back and was fearful of the kind of reception she might get in a deeply troubled Pakistan. He told her about Ambassador Zafar Hilaly’s message that “her life was in danger and she should not return to Pakistan in October, as planned”. Her reply was, “Tell Zafar I cannot stay away from my people, even if it is at the cost of my life. It is God’s will”.
Azfar knew that Musharraf had an old grudge he unconsciously would fulfil. The general’s father, Musharrafuddin, who had risen to section officer in the ministry of foreign affairs, was fired by her father, Foreign Minister Bhutto, because he pocketed, in cahoots with his ambassador, the sale proceeds of two Mercedes limousines belonging to the Pakistan Embassy in Indonesia. Apart from this grudge, Musharraf also shared the negative feelings of his “patron”, US Vice President Dick Cheney, who hated Benazir, because as PM of Pakistan she had “carried the discs of the North Korean missile technology to Pakistan in her Gucci handbag”.
As a consequence, writes Azfar, “Musharraf did nothing to protect Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf simply looked the other way and let her be killed”. He quotes from The Way of the World (2008), by Pulitzer Prize winning US journalist Ron Suskind, to reproduce the following dialogue.
Benazir asked, “Am I to be protected?”
His reply was, “Depends on how you behave with me.”
Benazir entered Pakistan when Musharraf wanted her to stay out. In Karachi, as she was being received by a mammoth procession, she was nearly killed by a suicide-bomber. Azfar asked the director general of the Intelligence Bureau, Brigadier Shah — “Musharraf’s crony, plus reportedly a cuckold” — what steps were taken after the assassination attempt of October 18 to ensure that Benazir would not be shot on December 27 in Rawalpindi, and received the reply that her security was out of his jurisdiction because “law and order is a provincial subject”.
What Azfar’s book reveals next is truly amazing. “Premonition of her martyrdom, after the attempt to assassinate her on 18 October 2007, led Benazir Bhutto to take two steps: Choose the site of her grave at the ancestral graveyard in Garhi Khuda Bux where she had built a majestic tomb for Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his family, and make a will addressed to the Party General Committee to nominate her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, as the chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party.”
In 2018, the new information about her death is that Benazir was killed by al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden plotted her death and got the Taliban chief, Baitullah Mehsud, to execute the assassination because a brain-challenged bin Laden thought she was a handmaiden of America. On December 30, former PPP Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on TV that the killer of the police prosecutor investigating BB’s assassination was mysteriously released on bail.