'Bhuttos believed Kashmir can't be left in the hands of the generals'

Benazir Bhutto and her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto were both firm believers that intricate issues such as Kashmir cannot be left in the hands of generals, says retired Pakistani Ambassador Shamsul Hassan in his book, "Life with the Bhuttos."

Feb 27, 2021
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Benazir Bhutto and her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto were both firm believers that intricate issues such as Kashmir cannot be left in the hands of generals, says retired Pakistani Ambassador Shamsul Hassan in his book, "Life with the Bhuttos."  

"Bhutto Sahib (elder Bhutto) had a foresight at some time Benazir Bhutto would be the one who would have to preside over the affairs of the Pakistani state", he adds.

"However, I can share with you that her late father martyred Zulfikar Ali Bhutto selected Bibi (Benazir) to be his political heir when he had seen blossom in her a leader beyond ordinary comprehensions. He did not take her to Simla to see the picturesque Hill Station that had served as Raj's summer capital in India but he wanted her to meet Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with whom later she would have to sort out relations with India including settling the Kashmir issue," he adds.

Hassan adds that had Benazir Bhutto been alive along with Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhiethey would have both garnered the Simla spirit into action.

As a close relation of the Bhutto family, Ambassador Wajid Shamsul Hasan, writes a much-awaited book aptly titled "Life with the Bhuttos."

In 1997, Hasan underwent various legal battles and period of third-degree torture due to his long association with the Bhutto family. Always an unapologetic proponent of democracy and freedom of media, Hasan was a close aide of PM Benazir Bhutto during her term.

The book will cover the real-life experiences of Wajid Shamsul Hasan and attempt to disprove and correct some of the "truths" about the Bhutto family.

Shamsul Hassan is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK, the longest-serving Pakistani envoy to the country. He was long associated with the Bhutto family and spent many years with  Benazir Bhutto, her husband Asif Zardari and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

A man of many talents, he was also a special advisor to Benazir Bhutto. The book "Life with the Bhuttos" covers his extensive history with the Bhutto family. 

Excerpts from an interview:

Q Wajid Sahab you have written a book which everyone would like to read. Tell us about this book.

A Thank you for your questions about my book e covering a period of over 50 years-- My life with the Bhuttos. I have not minced any words in expressing myself candidly as much as possible, in answering you.

Q I'm going to ask a straight question: anything you wanted to write in this book but decided not to write?

A Indeed, I have not avoided writing anything since the book has come at a time when I have entered my 80th year and I am racing against time. If I were to avoid anything it would be no use to posterity. It will go down wastefully in my chest. Rest assured that I have neither avoided writing anything nor have I kept any secrets. However, one word I am fully aware of the predicaments faced by former DG ISI General Asad Durrani who has written three professional books in collaboration with former Indian RAW chief Dulat. Durrani is being unnecessarily put to hassle by his former colleagues out of sheer jealousy. Ultimately, I am sure his critics will have the flak on their faces. My response to your 'straight question' about not writing anything that I wanted to write is settled. Everything is here for you and your readers to discern.

Q I know this fact from almost twenty years about your proximity to Benazir and even Bilawal also said this: She trusted you always. Tell us about your relationship with Benazir?

A What a question! Indeed, you have asked me to put together millions of words, articles and hours spent together with our "Beloved Bibi" from 1972 until her assassination in 2007. Indeed, a Himalayan task.

However, I can share with you that her late father martyred Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, described as an icon of a statesman by Dr. Henry Kissinger in the century, selected Bibi to be his political heir when he had seen blossom in her a leader beyond ordinary comprehensions. He did not take her to Simla to see the picturesque Hill Station that had served as Raj's summer capital in India but he wanted her to meet Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with whom later she would have to sort out relations with India including settling the Kashmir issue.

Bhutto Sahib and Benazir Bhutto both were firm believers that intricate issues such as Kashmir cannot be left in the hands of the generals. He often quoted famous French statesman Georges Clemenceau that "war is too important to be left to the generals". Bhutto Sahib had a foresight at some time Benazir Bhutto would be the one who would have to preside over the affairs of the Pakistani state.

Q Do you think Benazir would have solved the Kashmir problem?

A. My answer to your question is positive. Had she been alive along with Mrs. Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi e they would have both garnered the Simla spirit into action. I remember Bhutto Sahib's historic meeting with Mrs. Indira Gandhi in his farewell call on her at Simla when the talks between the two negotiating teams had collapsed and we were told to pack up to leave for home the next morning.

Bhutto Sahib clicked with Mrs. Gandhi in his farewell call, what would remain forever a landmark development between the two countries. Later in Pakistan when I asked him what transpired between him and Indiraji in the farewell. "I sincerely collected all my wits and beseeched Mrs. Gandhi that, that perhaps it was the last opportunity for the two nations to bury the hatchet permanently and bury the acrimonies of the past. I sincerely meant what I had told her, touched the bottom core of her heart against the wishes of her advisers like Haskars who had stuck to hawkish postures throughout the negotiations. We were confident that the new foundation of Indo-Pakistan relations on a sound footing of the sincerity of our purpose would turn the historic tide for the good of the people of the two countries."

Q How do you see the future of the Indo-Pakistan relationship? Today there is complete silence from both ends.

A I am a born optimist. Indeed, I have also been very eto some extent -- close to the leadership of Pakistan. However, there has always been a difference of opinion in my thinking and their thinking. I have been a devoted follower of the Bhuttos, notwithstanding the rhetoric of the 1000-year war I have heard it from both the Bhuttos about their sincerity for peace in the region, greater co-operation, economic understanding, and assisting each other in the alleviation of the economic and poverty-related sufferings of their people.

Q You have been very close to the top leadership of Pakistan. Tell us frankly in a single word whether so much army interference is helping Pakistan or has damaged the very basic fabric of democracy?

A. My being close to the top leadership of Pakistan would not mean that they would do whatever I would tell them to. My answer to you in a single word is ---that army's interference in politics has been on account of the demographic composition of the partition and the failure of political leadership after the demise of Jinnah Sahib and the assassination of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan to reassert itself as the sole arbiter of civilian power. Praetorian Establishment plus the civil, judicial bureaucracy as established and later recognised as power troika monopolising West Pakistani Punjabi feudal class backed by Jamaat-e-Islami and Ahraris---all combined damaged the very basic fabric of democracy in Pakistan.

Q How do you see the Bajwa-Imran combo? Bajwa is talking positively here and there. But nothing deliverable. Do you think he can be instrumental in regional peace?

A I can only give you an answer. General Bajwa, I will give him the benefit of doubt. I have not known him much but whatever his famous Bajwa Doctrine is it did cause a lot of ripples and inspired food for thought among various circles including the military.

(IANS)

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