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Real Democracy By Col.Riaz Jafri (Retd)


January 9th, 2017

Real Democracy

The PPP and PPP-P have set a real good example for all to follow by holding their intra party elections.  It’s another matter that no one offered to stand against the father(Zardari) and the son (Bilawal). But could they be blamed for it?

Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)
30 Westridge 1
Rawalpindi 46000
E.mail: [email protected]

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Deplorable role of our politicians by Asif Haroon Raja






Deplorable role of our politicians

Asif Haroon Raja

Irresponsible behavior of our political leaders is causing irreparable damage to the nation. Their myopia has caused deep anguish to the people. Their selfishness broke the country into two. When Mujibur Rahman and 22 co-accused were arrested on charges of treason and secession in 1968, the politicians bailed them out. When Ayub Khan who had uplifted the fortunes of Pakistan sky high, agreed to all the demands of the opposition and called the Round Table Conference to find a political way out, power hungry ZA Bhutto failed the conference. While Gen Yahya gave all the political concessions and allocated heaviest development outlays for the eastern wing to appease the Bengalis, Mujibur Rahman chose to play the Indian game to become PM of Bangladesh and not of united Pakistan. ZA Bhutto added fuel to fire since he wanted half of the cake of power at all cost. Their obduracy and India’s disgusting role led to the break of Pakistan. Bangladesh broke away to become independent but has become a satellite of India.

Egotism and greed of nationalist politicians from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh, later joined by Baluchistan nationalists blocked the construction of Kalabagh Dam (KBD), vital for the survival of Pakistan. Who doesn’t know that India was behind the ones opposing KBD and had doled out large amounts to achieve her sinister design? Today when India has built well over 60 dams on the three rivers flowing into Pakistan from occupied Kashmir and is hell bent to make Pakistan a water scarce country and a barren land, no one is holding the opponents accountable. India is now in a position to flood our rivers during flood season each year and control water during seeds sowing season. This strategy has been devised to bend nuclear Pakistan and force it to give up Kashmir and accept Indian hegemony if it wants to survive. But for the avaricious politicians who have sold their souls to the devil, India could never have succeeded in her designs. Thanks to Ayub Khan who constructed Tarbela and Mangla Dams and laid a network of irrigation canals, otherwise Pakistan by now would have been a drought stricken country and couldn’t have possibly pursued its nuclear program or maintained strong armed forces.

We know the architects of NRO and what price the beneficiaries had agreed to pay to get cleansed from criminal and corruption charges and secure power. We know the dream team of PPP-MQM-ANP-JUI-F formed by the US in March 2008 and how this chosen team went about giving Pakistan on contract to the adversaries of Pakistan. While all the PPP leading lights involved in mega scandals were given a clean chit, 8000 MQM leaders involved in heinous crimes were let off. This team played havoc with Pakistan in its 5-year rule. Besides minting money and reducing Pakistan into a carcass, the MQM in its bid to gain total control over Karachi and other urban centres of Sindh let loose a reign of terror in Karachi with the help of its target killers, extortionists, kidnappers. Railway was almost grounded by ANP minister. While all the economic indicators had gone into negative, all profit earning state corporations ran on oxygen, economy almost collapsed and debts doubled. Country was run by taking loans from IMF, World Bank, local banks and printing notes. PML-N tied to charter of democracy looked the other way.

Pakistan was seen as a breeding ground of terrorism, the most dangerous country in the world and a failing state. An impression had been built that Pakistan’s nukes were unsafe and likely to be snatched by militants and hence must be taken in safe custody. Pak Army and ISI were ridiculed by propagating that they were either in league with terrorists or were inefficient and were repeatedly asked to do more. Every Tom, Dick and Harry could whip Pakistan and our leaders took the insults and whips without a whimper. No country was prepared to invest even $ 100 in Pakistan and foreign investment had dried up. Pakistan suffered worst energy crisis and people had to endure 18-20 hours load shedding. There was acute shortage of gas, fuel and commodities. Corruption scaled new heights and was institutionalized. Nepotism was adopted and merit discarded. Cheats and crooks were preferred over honest people. Accountability was in name only since no one was held accountable under the name of national reconciliation. Even those sentenced to death were not hanged because of moratorium. Over 4000 terrorists arrested by the Army soldiers in combat zones were freed by the law courts. No criminal in Karachi involved in hundreds of murders was convicted and punished.

We remember how merrily our leaders accepted the Kerry Lugar Bill which in the garb of aid was designed to control Pakistan’s premier institutions and strategic assets. We also remember the Memo scandal and the devious role of our ambassador in Washington who had authored it at the behest of the top leaders in Pakistan. Hussain Haqqani had pushed in 7000 CIA and Blackwater operatives without seeking clearance from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ISI. Rahman Malik as Interior Minister served the vested interests of his local and foreign masters submissively and enabled Blackwater to establish itself in major urban centres. It has now been established that while MQM is closely linked with RAW, PPP leadership is involved in financial terrorism in Karachi and ANP connection with the Indian Congress is no secret. BLA, BRA, BLF are creations of MI-6, CIA, RAW and are serving their agenda to detach Baluchistan from Pakistan. Their absconding leaders are leading a luxurious life in London, Geneva and Washington. TTP is also a creation of foreign agencies and its top leaders are hosted by Afghan intelligence in Kunar, Nuristan, Nangarhar and used by RAW against Pakistan.  

Instead of building institutions and focusing on alleviating the sufferings of the poor, the politicians got involved in filling their coffers. While the PPP wasted all their energies in glorifying ZA Bhutto and Benazir and in demeaning Gen Ziaul Haq, the MQM and ANP lionized Altaf Hussain and Bacha Khan respectively. PPP and MQM kept fighting in Sindh but slept in one bed. Their insatiable greed and lust for big money and power, and their uncaring habit of displaying their wealth sowed the seeds of materialism and immorality. Their dishonesty stimulated culture of corruption. Their arrogant behavior and their lackadaisical approach and insensitivity towards the have-nots bred intolerance, resentment and further fueled religious extremism and terrorism. Their inefficiency crumbled the economy and accentuated joblessness and poverty. Lacking in vision and patriotism, and preferring self-interests over national interests, they remained engrossed in transferring wealth to Swiss banks and procuring property abroad and took little interest in education and in integrating the society as one whole, which is prone to divisive tendencies due to factors of regionalism, ethnicity, sectarianism, secular-Islamic divide and religious divides. Their corrupt practices became a key factor in disillusioning the youth and in going astray and in fanning provincialism.

These glaring anomalies can be attributed to a robber baron but certainly not to a Guardian. One can expect the callous feudal lord to commit such thoughtless acts but cannot be expected from a true leader and a well-wisher. The have-nots have been groaning under the weight of unbearable poverty and crying in pain for the last 69 years, but the ones sitting in the corridors of power and taking turns to loot the national wealth and resources are so smug in their high lifestyle that they either turn a deaf ear to their cries or pretend that they are doing a lot for them. Each time they stand for elections, they reach up to the have-nots and promise them moon, but no sooner they get elected through their votes they get disconnected from them. Having spent millions during election campaign, they consider it their right to plunder the national wealth. They forget the sacrifices rendered by the workers, tillers, farmers, laborers, artisans who keep the economic wheels of the country running irrespective of the odds.

Even under such insalubrious circumstances, the Army and ISI remained focused on battling with the foreign agencies supported terrorist groups in FATA and parts of KP and managed to recapture 17 administrative units from their hold in 2009 and retained them since the civil administration expressed its inability to takeover. Over 3000 security personnel embraced martyrdom in Swat and South Waziristan operations while the list of injured was much longer.

It is indeed ironic that well knowing that Pakistan has been cleverly trapped into a web of international conspiracy and the security forces are fighting an existential war since 2004, the politicians have brought no change in their behavior pattern and conduct. While the Army is at war and is shedding blood to safeguard the territorial integrity and sovereignty of motherland, and has demolished the last stronghold of TTP in North Waziristan, there is no change in the way of life of politicians. They are still making money, squabbling and indulging in intrigues. MQM followed by the PPP are trying to discredit the Rangers and fail the operation in Karachi since both want the axe to fall on smaller fish only and to spare the big fish. Sindh government is dragging its feet to grant extension to Rangers. They are doing so against the wishes of people of Karachi.

Disgruntled politicians in Sindh never hesitate from using Sindh or Muhajir card. There are some envious of progress achieved by Shahbaz, blaming Punjab for lack of development in smaller provinces. Punjab cannot be blamed for plunging the city of lights Karachi into darkness and soaking the streets with human blood. It is PPP which is creating hurdles in the implementation of National Action Plan and is now seeking judicial inquiry of Bacha Khan University terror attack. PPP is building pressure on the government to wind up Rangers operation in Karachi.

Look at how some political parties assisted by segment of media are opposing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a win-win project for both Pakistan and China since it helps Pakistan in getting out of the woods and China in developing its western provinces and in getting connected with South Asia, Middle East, Africa and beyond. The ones in the vanguard are Tehreek-e-Insaaf, ANP, PPP, JUI-F supported by Baloch nationalists. They are speaking the language of India which is hell-bent to scuttle CPEC.

While the $46 billion project is being viewed by the analysts all over the globe as a game changer for Pakistan as well as for South Asia, India is creating hurdles and has declared that it is unacceptable. Reason is that this project will bolster Pakistan’s economy and enhance its significance in the world and above all decisively demolish India’s plan to encircle Pakistan and her grandiose plans to become a regional and global power. India knows that politically stable, economically sound and militarily strong Pakistan will quicken the pace for liberation of occupied Kashmir from her clutches and then unravel Indian Union. Like India, the US is equally upset about CPEC since it will jeopardise its ambition to shift its strategic pivot from West Asia to Asia-Pacific, disrupt its plans to encircle its chief rival China and will thwart its plans to harness the mineral resources of Central Asia.

Since the CPEC has become a nightmare for India as well as USA because Central Asian Republics and some Gulf Countries have already got attracted towards it, the BJP regime has established a special desk of RAW at Delhi and allocated $300 million to scuttle CPEC at all cost. In addition, ex Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been given $30 million to keep Afghan base active for cross border terrorism in Pakistan. Indian National Adviser Ajit Dowal is the director of the operation and he is using multiple methods to achieve India’s ends. Heating up of LoC/Working boundary, false flag operations, threatening posture, and acceleration in acts of terror in restive zones of Pakistan through which western route passes, establishing a link between TTP runaway leaders and Daesh and straining Afghan-Pakistan relations were part of the gory plan. Having failed to disrupt the progress of CPEC and getting flabbergasted with the outstanding successes achieved by Operation Zarb-e-Azb in northwest, FC operation in Baluchistan and Rangers led operation in Karachi, India seems to have acquired the services of some political parties and anchors/journalists in Pakistan to do what she couldn’t do.

Their possible linkage with foreign agenda can be discerned from the fact that the first attempt to scare away the Chinese from undertaking this project was made through Dharna politics. People were led astray under the slogan of ‘change’. Negative politics delayed the signing of the CPEC deal by six months. Another trick employed was to spoil civil-military relations. After the failure of dharna to achieve its objective, complexion of Pakistan began to improve, and the CPEC project took off. Guided by outsiders, the detractors tried to make it controversial by raising the issue of ‘route’ under the pretext that Baluchistan and KP provinces would derive least benefits from it. They tried to mislead the people by asserting that original plan had been changed to benefit Punjab whereas the only route in the original plan was western. They insisted upon giving priority to western route over central and eastern routes. And when to their great disappointment this issue was amicably resolved by the PM in the All Parties’ Conference held in May 2015 that development of western route will be given top priority, they were left gaping and had to shut up for next six months.

They then waited for their patrons for the new theme to play up. To pick faults, they stated that the western route which is being constructed by FWO under the supervision and protection of Army is just a road. When they were explained that it was a four-lane Highway in continuation to KKH, they are now saying that a six-lane motorway along with all the allied facilities are required at the outset. KP CM is using threatening language; similar to the language used by ANP leaders about KBD. They fail to realise that CPEC is a 15-year long term project which has been entirely funded by China, and the one investing $46 billion has its own interests and security concerns and would like the venture to be profitable and not a liability. No one has ever invested this kind of money in Pakistan. As far as energy parks are concerned, which would consume $35 billion of the total amount, those would be decided in consultation with provinces and the latter will have to earmark places and acquire land. The opponents in their frenetic hatred for the ruling party to gain political mileage have started to sing the old song of “Punjab’, which was sung by the Bengalis and it is not difficult to ascertain as to who is the composer of the song.

The frustrated politicians know well that operationalization of CPEC and resolution of energy crisis by 2018 will sink their political ambitions to capture power in 2018 elections. To remain relevant and garner support of the public, they are ringing false alarm bells about CPEC and employing all sorts of dirty tricks to make it controversial and to dishearten the Chinese and oblige them to abandon the project. Their bleating impelled China to express its concern. In their mad frenzy, they do not understand that this opportunity that has come our way is a fate changer and if it slips away Pakistan will never be able to get rid of its external and internal debts and to remove socio-economic deprivations of smaller provinces and will continue to lurch from one crisis to another and remain vulnerable to conspiracies and foreign adventures.

While I agree that PML-N is not a party of angels and there are quite many feudal lords and crooks in it, the fact is that its performance is far better than the previous regime. It must be allowed to work and complete its tenure. If PPP led regime could be tolerated why not this one which is delivering. Let the people decide its fate in May 2018. Any turmoil in the political setup at this delicate stage when economy is yet to stabilize, energy crisis are yet to be overcome, and our adversaries are getting impatient to denuclearize and fragment Pakistan, will be suicidal. Talk of presidential form of government, national government, or the Army taking over power are unproductive suggestions at this stage. Meaningless tug of war will help our adversaries and not Pakistan. The critics must rationally analyse whether the present government has retrogressed or progressed after it took over.

Nawaz’s softness towards India, although highly unpalatable, may be tolerated. After all, Pakistan cannot afford tension on its eastern and western fronts. It is the duty of the government in power to keep the neighbors placated, particularly when our adversaries are provoking Pakistan intentionally. Pakistan’s chief focus should be towards improvement of economy. Economic prosperity alone will deter our adversaries. At the same time, ongoing operations in FATA, Baluchistan and Karachi must continue relentlessly and National Action Plan implemented in letter and spirit to achieve conclusive results. Besides the cancer of terrorism, the bigger cancer of corruption must also be cured. All this is possible only if civil-military relations remain harmonious, all institutions to perform at their optimum levels and provincial governments to concentrate on improving the socio-economic conditions of their respective provinces rather than blaming the federal government.

The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Director Measac Research Centre, Director Board of Governors Pakistan Thinkers Forum, takes part in TV talk shows. [email protected]          


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The Ugly Faces of Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari Exposed By Hamid Mir


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www.pakway.blogspot.com (27)












Ugly Faces of Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari & Poverty in Pakistan

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Bhutto Legend:Myth and Reality By Dr Asif Javed

Bhutto Legend:

Myth and Reality 
By Dr Asif Javed
Williamsport, PA


“I feel that your services to Pakistan are indispensable. When the history of our country is written by objective historians, your name will be placed even before that of Mr. Jinnah.” The writer of this infamous piece of consummate flattery was a young Z.A. Bhutto, and the recipient, Sikander Mirza, who should be in the political hall of shame, if one were ever to be erected in Pakistan.

Bilawal Zardari has recently made a lot of noise about Z.A. Bhutto’s trial and demanded apology for the unjust verdict handed out to his grandfather. It has become very fashionable lately to call it a “judicial murder”. This writer is not a lawyer nor am I a politician; I do, however, belong to the unfortunate generation that witnessed the events of his grandfather’s time in power, and fall from it. It is said that legends ossify over time; in Bhutto’s case, certainly that appears to be so. Bhutto worship has become a relentless train that shows no signs of slowing down; instead, it keeps gathering speed. In the process, the established historical facts are being denied or distorted, and myths are being created. KK Aziz may easily write another volume of Murder of history based upon what we have seen recently.

Z.A. Bhutto was widely admired for his genius. Henry Kissinger may not have been way off the mark when he remarked, “Elegant, eloquent, subtle. . . .I found him brilliant, charming, of global stature in his perceptions. . . .He did not suffer fools gladly.”It is however, the other side of ZAB—the dark one—that needs to be revisited. In the process, perhaps we, as a nation, may learn some lessons and see things in the right perspective. Khalid Hasan, a life long admirer, who knew ZAB first hand, and worked as his press secretary, may have written the most balanced and insightful short biography of ZAB. He has summed it up eloquently: “ZAB had all the makings of a classical hero, carrying the seeds of self destruction in him—he was a flawed genius, a god who turned out to have feet of clay. . . .ZAB had many personal failings, including an inability to trust others, a congenital suspicion of friends and high sensitivity to personal criticism.”

With rare insight and objectivity, KH writes: “There is no evidence that US government or any of his agencies played a role in the overthrow of Bhutto—the time has come for us to accept that much of what has happened to our country and our leaders has been the result of our own mistakes. . . .ZAB believed that a country should have only one central figure as leader and all power should flow from him. It is a tragedy that a man of Bhutto’s intelligence, education and sense of history did not appreciate that Pakistan could only survive as a federal state with the provinces enjoying the maximum autonomy. Bhutto could not abide rival claimants to power even if they were elected to their office. He could not work with the opposition run provincial governments in Quetta and Peshawar and squeezed them out; that was his undoing. Bhutto forgot that power in order to be kept, must be dispersed.” KH also notes that it was Bhutto who revised ISI’s charter to include domestic political intelligence.

It is widely believed that Bhutto was hanged for a crime that he did not commit. It is rarely, if ever, asked, who then was the real perpetrator? Mohammad Ahmad Kasuri was murdered in Lahore; the crime scene was found to have shells used by FSF—Bhutto’s elite security force. And yet, the investigation was not extended to FSF. I recall a statement by Hanif Ramay of PPP, then the CM of Punjab, that Kasuri family had many enemies. This was despite Ahmed Raza Kasuri’s contention that there was no suspect but one—ZAB. This was not the first attempt on Kasuri’s life; he had escaped one ambush in Islamabad earlier. These episodes had followed an angry exchange between ZAB and Kasuri in the NA when ZAB called Kasuri a poison and threatened to fix him up. Ch Sardar, former IG Police, Punjab, has provided the firsthand account of this case in his biography, The Ultimate Crime; so read on: “FSF was created by a notorious dismissed police officer, Haq Nawaz Tiwana, and was headed ultimately by another infamous police officer, Masood Mahmood—-The FSF did not bother about any law, assuming the role of Bhutto’s private army—- Soon after the imposition of martial law, an elaborate enquiry in to the affairs of FSF was initiated. The FSF had gained a reputation of being, Bhutto’s gang of goons, for dirty works. During the enquiry, ASI M. Arshad of FSF, appeared before Ch. Abdul Khaliq, Dep. Director, FIA, Lahore and promised to tell everything truthfully if he were not tortured. He disclosed that he was a member of a special cell in the FSF headquarters, which had the most trusted officers for secret and sensitive missions—then he threw a bombshell. He said he was one of the FSF men who had fired on the car in which MNA Ahmad Raza Kasuri was ambushed.” So, this was the first solid lead in to the infamous murder case that led Bhutto to the gallows; legal intricacies aside, one is hard pressed not to see a connection here. Ch Sardar discusses the dubious character of the infamous trio of Masood Mahmood (DG FSF), Saeed Ahmad Khan(Chief Sec Officer to Bhutto) and Sardar Abdul Wakeel, DIG Lahore; they all had been among the most trusted police officers of Bhutto and would commit criminal and illegal acts to show him their ‘devotion and loyalty’. After his overthrow, they all were among the star prosecution witnesses in the case that led to his conviction. Sardar also, confirms the widely believed rumor of the time that a procession of opposition women in 1977, was manhandled near Wapda House, Lahore by the “Nath Force”—a large number of prostitutes, recruited temporarily as police women, specifically for this purpose.

Kasuri’s murder may have been the most famous one, but was by no means the only one; this is a list that includes Dr. Nazir Ahmed of JI, MNA from Dera Ghazi Khan who was gunned down in his clinic weeks after provincial chief of his party, Syed Asad Gilani, had been warned by Khar (Us ka anjaam acha nahi ho ga). Kh Rafiq was gunned down behind Punjab assembly while leading a procession; Abdus Samad Achakzai was killed in his house in a grenade attack while Maulvi Shamsuddin, MPA and deputy speaker of Balochistan assembly, was shot in his car. Those who escaped attempts at their lives included Wali Khan, who lost his driver and personal body guard in the ambush; this was fourth attempt on his life. Years later, Wali Khan was to warn Zia of Bhutto’s vengeance (there are two dead bodies and one grave; make sure Bhutto goes in first, otherwise, you may be the one). Ch. Zahoor Elahi, whose political heirs sit happily with Zardari at present, suffered more than most; Amnesty international once reported that there were 117 cases against him; this included a case of buffalo stealing. He survived in jail in Balochistan, courtesy of Governor Akbar Bugti, who refused to do him harm. Small wonder that after Bhutto’s hanging, Zahoor Elahi requested and received the pen that Zia had used to reject the mercy petitions for Bhutto. Mian Tufail, was scandalously manhandled in jail, writes Sherbaz Mazari in his autobiography, A Journey to Disillusionment; it was rumored at the time, that a naked prostitute was sent in to his cell to humiliate the Amir of JI. At the height of crises that eventually toppled him, Bhutto rushed in to see Maudoodi in Ichra; one wonders whether the founder of JI reminded ZAB of the treatment given out to his successor. Barrister F. Ibrahim, who was later to become chief justice of Supreme Court, used to share the legal chamber with Bhutto in Karachi, in the 50’s. “Bhutto was very generous, but I sensed a streak of violence in him, a certain mean or vindictive quality,” he told Stanley Wolpert, the author of Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan.

Mukhtar Rana, a PPP MNA from Lyallpur, had earned the wrath of his leader by his divergent views. He was deposed as MNA, arrested, and after being subjected to severe physical abuse—according to one report, he almost died under torture—was convicted in a military court and sentenced to five-year term of imprisonment, all in a matter of days. Ustad Daman, dervish Punjabi poet, made the cardinal error of writing an anti-Bhutto poem; he had a case registered against him—he was accused of being in possession of a hand grenade.

Kaswar Gardezi, was one of many to suffer vicious brutality; here is Mazari’s narrative: “In a voice breaking with emotion, Gardezi related his horrifying experience to me. The police presented him with an egg, a potato and an onion, he said, and then asked which of these will he prefer to be inserted in to his anus. After undergoing this humiliation and barbaric ordeal, he was then threatened with sodomy; to his good fortune, this threat was never carried out. Instead, he was badly beaten with a stout cane, after which he was forced to lie naked on a solid slab of ice.”At the time, Gardezi was Secretary General of the NAP, one of the leading opposition parties. Some people have been accused of going to irrational lengths in their hatred of Bhutto; incidents like above, are perhaps, the explanation for this.

One has to remember that Bhutto’s own associates were not spared his wrath; J.A. Rahim, a senior member of the cabinet, learned this lesson the hard way. He annoyed Bhutto once by leaving early from a dinner hosted by the PM. Rahim also made the mistake of showing his resentment by calling Bhutto, ‘Raja of Larkana’. What follows is how Rahim described this horrifying experience to Wolpert: “On reaching home, I went to bed. . . . About 1 A.M., I was woken up by my servant who said that there was a crowd of people before the house. . . . Some men of the FSF were climbing up the front balcony for the purpose of entering my bedroom. . . . I went to the front door downstairs. . . . Saeed Ahmad Khan, Chief of PM’s Security, who was at the head of that mob of armed FSF thugs, answered that he had come to deliver a message from the PM. . . . As the door opened, they rushed in . . . . Besides being beaten by fists, I was hit by rifle butts. I was thrown to the ground and hit while prostrate. . . . I lost consciousness. . . . I was dragged by my legs, then thrown in to a jeep. . . . bleeding profusely.” Intellectually brilliant, Rahim had retired as Pakistan’s ambassador to France, had been one of the founding members of PPP, and had written its manifesto.

Khalid Hasan was once asked by Bhutto to check out a certain person in Lahore. “I found out that the man was saying bad things about Bhutto all over the place,” Khalid writes. “I came back and told Bhutto. His brow furrowed. “His credit in my book has not quite run out yet,” he said. “I shuddered to think what would happen when the man’s credit did run out.”

Malik Meraj Khalid, in his biography, Merajnama, describes the extent to which Bhutto and Khar could go to harass their political opponents. Meraj Khalid once received a phone call from Zahoor Elahi’s daughter, whose admission to Lahore College of Home Economics had been blocked by Khar. By nature a decent man, Meraj had to call Bhutto personally to rectify this. On another occasion, Meraj had to call ZAB again to stop Khar’s plans to set on fire the house on Davis Road, Lahore where Asghar Khan was staying. Asghar Khan was not so lucky with his house in Abbotabad though; it did burn to the ground in very suspicious circumstances.

No account of Bhutto’s Awami Raj is complete without Dalai Camp. It will be fair to call it Bhutto’s Guantanamo Bay. It was used to secretly detain, three political dissidents (Iftikhar Tari, Ch. Irshad and Mian Aslam). These individuals were former PPP members, who had fallen out with Bhutto and left PPP along with Khar. As I recall, two of them had been former provincial ministers. Fearing arrest, some of them had been granted bail before arrest by the high court. They vanished without trace one day, having been picked up by FSF and were only recovered when Bhutto was deposed. Iftikhar Tari, who had the reputation of a goon, appeared broken after release. He narrated his ordeal on TV and could not stop crying in a program called, Zulm ki dastaan.

Bhutto could not forgive. Mazari recounts the following in his memoirs: “Back in the 50’s, Sir Shah Nawaz (Bhutto’s father) went to see Ayub Khuro, who was then CM of Sindh. Bhutto went along. Khuro slighted them by making them wait for half an hour in the verandah, and then drinking tea without offering them any. Swallowing his pride, elder Bhutto requested the Sindhi politician for a job for his son in the foreign service. Khuro listened to the request and asked the elder Bhutto to submit an application in writing to him. He then dismissed them cursorily with a wave of his hand. Later in 1972, as soon as Bhutto achieved power, one of his first acts was to humiliate Khuro by having the walls to his home in Larkana razed to the ground.”At times, Bhutto’s sensitivity reached absurd levels. Mazari notes: “In the mid 50’s, Ahmed Nawaz Bugti was hosting a table for some foreign ladies at Le Gourmet. Bhutto, who was present at the restaurant, spotted him and asked if he could join the group. Knowing his reputation with women, Bugti declined. Years later, Bhutto visited Quetta as President, to attend a formal dinner held by Governor Bizenjo for Princess Ashraf of Iran. Seated at the high table, he sighted Bugti, who was then Balochistan’s finance minister, dining at a less august table than his. Bhutto asked his ADC to bring Bugti to his table, looked at him and said, ‘Do you remember the time when you would not let me sit at your table? Well this time, I won’t let you sit at mine’.”

Here is another eye opener for Bhutto fans; this is again written in Mazari’s autobiography: “Over dinner at the Governor’s House, Arbab Sikander Khalil, related a rather strange and unsettling story to me. It seemed that Bhutto had recently visited Peshawar and while staying at the Government House, had requested Arbab Sikander for a supply of whisky. The Governor politely informed ZAB that as he did not imbibe alcohol, he was unable to provide the President with liquor. Bhutto then sent his airplane to Islamabad to fetch whisky. When the plane returned that evening, it not only brought alcohol but also, a Federal Minister’s wife too, to keep Bhutto company.”

Here is an excerpt from Stanley Wolpert’s book, Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan: “One of the women Zulfi met at a cocktail party that fall (1963) was Rita Dhar, daughter of V. Lakshmi Pandit, the first woman president of the General Assembly. Mrs. Dhar recalled how immediately after meeting her, Zulfi eyed her lasciviously, inviting her to his apartment.” Nehru’s niece apparently declined to Bhutto’s chagrin. Pakistan’s young foreign minister was in NY to attend the annual session of General Assembly. Ardeshir Cowasjee told Wolper that Nusrat Bhutto had once attempted suicide and was hospitalized in Parsi hospital, Karachi with a drug overdose; on another occasion, she approached Ayub Khan, through Nancy Cowasjee, after “having been thrown out of her own house by her faithless husband.” She was staying in Mrs. Davies Private Hotel in Rawalpindi. It is to her credit that she stuck to her husband as he continued his love affairs.

A myth that refuses to go away is that opposition and Bhutto had reached an 

agreement and army sabotaged it; the facts speak quite otherwise. Here is Mazari’s account: “At 10 P.M., on July 3 rd,Mufti Mahmood, Prof Ghafoor and Nawabzada Nasrullah, handed over the additional nine points to Bhutto. Having consulted Pirzada and Niazi, Bhutto returned to the PNA team and told them that he needed time for further consultation. According to Prof. Ghafoor, Bhutto’s attitude appeared accommodating; but only two hours later, his stance hardened dramatically. Addressing a press conference at midnight July 3rd, he lambasted the PNA negotiating team for ‘repudiating their earlier agreement’. It was clear to all that the PPP-PNA talks had broken down once again.” Gen K.M. Arif gives a very similar account of events in his book, Working with Zia. Arif quotes General Gilani, ISI chief at the time, that both him as well as Rao Rashid, newly appointed Director of Intelligence, had warned Bhutto repeatedly that the army’s patience had been exhausted and it was planning to act very soon. KH has also, devoted many pages of his book to crises of 1977. Here is an excerpt: “Tikka Khan (Bhutto’s adviser at the time) told the PM, in the presence of Zia and Corps commanders, ‘Sir, I would say we wipe out five or six thousand of their(PNA’s)men. That will cool them off’. Tikka Khan’s mindless remark convinced Zia and his Corps Commanders that Bhutto and his men were bent upon doing just some such thing.”

Gen. Gul Hassan and Air Marshal Rahim Khan had played a key role in bringing Bhutto to power. They were both dismissed in a most humiliating way, having been forced to sign their resignations, taken hostage and then driven to Lahore in the company of pistol packing Jatoi, Mumtaz Bhutto and Khar. Years later, while awaiting his fate in jail, Bhutto accused Zia of ‘biting the hand that fed him’. He had conveniently forgotten his own treatment of Ayub, Gul Hasan and Rahim.

“Bhutto trusted nobody,” KH notes. “He was troubled by what he considered unrealistic and idealistic liberal approach to press freedom, basic rights and government by law. Long before his overthrow, he had deprived himself of those who were capable of honest and wise advice. . . .and chosen to exercise power through civilian and military bureaucracy that he had once denounced. After his overthrow, he told Inam Aziz—Bhutto’s last interview—that he now understood where he might have gone wrong. He said he wanted to start all over again, back to the real fountainhead of power.” But history is merciless, Khalid laments, and had moved on.

Mazari’s assessment is similar to KH’s: “The press had to bear ZAB’s determined onslaught. As soon as he attained power, he dismissed the chairman of National Press Trust (that he had vowed to abolish) and the editor of Pakistan Times. His rival from the Ayub days, Altaf Gauhar, who was then the editor of Dawn, was placed under arrest. The printer, editor and publisher of Urdu DigestZindgiand Punjab Punch were arrested for protesting against ZAB’s martial law, were convicted and sentenced even before the writ petitions challenging their arrests could be heard in the Lahore High Court. Shorish Kashmiri of Chataan was also sent to jail; Hurriyet andJasarat were banned and their editors imprisoned. Mehran was banned while Iqbal Barni’s weekly Outlook was forced in to shutting down its publication.”This is by no means an all inclusive list of the journals and newspapers that suffered.

KH has analyzed the issue of rigging in 1977 elections: “As far the rigging, it was so unnecessary because he was going to win big anyway. There is no evidence that he ordered the rigging, but he did not exercise the vigilance that it was his duty to do as PM and chairman of the ruling party. His own unopposed election from Larkana encouraged the lesser figures in the party to use the muscle of the state wherever possible to ensure their individual victory. The first angled brick that Bhutto built was laid by the unanimous and unopposed election of the PM himself. This less than laudable example was followed by his CM’s and some other PPP leaders in the four provinces. His rival Jan M. Abbasi of JI had -been kidnapped earlier, to keep him from filing his papers.” Wolpert traces this back to highly unexpected defeat of Bhutto’s father Sir Shah Nawaz in 1937, at the hands of Sh. Majid Sindhi. “Young Zulfi may have taken too much to heart, the lesson of his father’s election defeat, resolving even at his tender age, never to risk losing an election, no matter how high a price need to be paid to insure victory.”

ZAB’s intolerance had no limits. On 23rd March 1973, an opposition rally at Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi was disrupted. Here is the eye witness account by Ch. Sardar, who was SP Police at the time: “It was in the air that armed workers would be present in the public meeting. . . .then came reports that that armed PPP workers were also coming to the same public meeting. . . .by midday, we received information that large conveys of PPP crowds were coming from Punjab and some of them were armed as well. . . .DSP City told me that he saw some FSF men in plain clothes and suspected their involvement—On the FSF involvement, I was really shocked.”The violence at Liaquat Bagh led to eleven deaths and hundreds of serious injuries. Almost four decades later, BB was assassinated at the gate of the same Liaquat Bagh; was this divine retribution? One has to wonder.

Arthur Kessler once wrote that nothing is more sad than the death of an illusion. Many of Bhutto admirers never knew him first hand; one wonders what their reaction would have been, had they seen their leader’s behavior at close quarters. Back to the apology, demanded by Bilawal, I am not sure if the Bhutto family deserves an apology for his hanging. One should certainly ask whether the Oxford educated Bilawal has the moral strength to offer one to the families of those who suffered his esteemed grandfather’s vengeance.



Interesting odds and ends about Bhutto- surely he was a walking disaster for us Pakistanis!


Here is what the British High Commissioner; Sir Maurice James had to say about Bhutto,


“Bhutto certainly had the right qualities for reaching the heights–drive, charm, and imagination, a quick and penetrating mind, zest for life, eloquence, energy, a strong constitution, a sense of humor, and a thick skin. Such a blend is rare anywhere, and Bhutto deserved his swift rise to power…….


But there was — how shall I put it ?– a rank odor of hellfire about him. It was a case of CORRUPTO OPTIMA PESSOMA a flawed angel.I believes that at heart he lacked a sense of dignity and value of other people; his own self was what counted. I sensed in him ruthlessness and capacity for ill-doing which went far beyond what is natural.


Except at university abroad, he was surrounded by mediocrities, and all his life, for want of competition, his triumphs came too easily for his own good. Lacking humility, he thus came to believe himself infallible, even when yawning gaps his own experience (e.g. of military matters) laid him—as over the 1965 war–wide open to disastrous error.


Despite his gifts, I judged that one day Bhutto would destroy himself — when, I could not tell. In 1965, I so reported in one of my dispatches from Pakistan as British High Commissioner. I wrote by way of clinching the point that BHUTTO WAS BORN TO BE HANGED.  {Emphasis added}. I did not intend this comment as a precise prophecy of what was going to happen to him, but fourteen years later that was what it turned out to be”. MAN PROPOSES, GOD DISPOSES. HIS HANGING MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FOR THE ALLEGED MURDER BUT HE DESERVED TO DIE FOR HIS ROLE IN BREAK UP OF PAKISTAN.”


Original message From: Ayesha 

Date: Sun, 6 Jul 2014 12:18:17 +0500


ASA Dr. Asif Javed,


Your article has prompted me to write to you.


My husband’s eldest brother, Naseemul Islam was married to Bhuttos only natural sister, Manna or Munawwar.

Through her I saw Zulfi from close quarters.


 My late father ,G.A.Madani, as Commissioner Karachi in 1963, showed us the Estate Jewels  frisked away by Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto from the Junagadh Treasury, when Sir S B was the Madar ul  Mahaam of Junagadh State, pre-partition.


 Begum Junagadh had filed a case for recovery of these jewels and other things. I saw those jewels in the Commissioner Office, Karachi, at the time when my father had called her to view the jewels recovered from Bhutto House. (By that time Sir Shahnawaz had died in the Palace Hotel–having been thrown out by his young Bahoo, Nusrat Bhutto ). (At this point I was married to Munawwar Islam Bhutto’s brother-in-law, and I was jittery about the flack I would  receive from her!)


A year later, in 1964, my late father, G.A.Madani, ICS, CSP, SPK, SQA had been posted to Peshawar as Commissioner. (by request to get away from the awful Commissioner ate of Karachi). I was visiting him when an invitation came from the next door neighbor, Air Chief Asghar Khan. I was asked to accompany my father as Mother was happy baby-sitting my first born).




Zulfi was the Chief Guest (in a bad mood because of the DRY LIQUORLESS party) I saw him sidling up to my father who was talking to Asghar Khan with me right behind them. 

I AM WITNESS TO THE ‘KAMEENI’ and vindictiveness of ZAB. 

He looked into my father’s eyes and said, “Madani, I will not forgive you Or your children And their children, for what you did to my family. (Ref. Junagadh Jewels!)


I tugged at my father’s sleeves, fearing Bhutto’s physical presence, AND ASGHAR KHAN’s mouth kept falling open. My father excused himself from the host and walked out on Bhutto!


Soon Bhutto’s vengeance with all Urdu speakers became known and talked about. He said that had he been in Pakistan he would never have allowed his father to ask a Mohajir to marry his daughter! 


His vengeance further took the shape of breaking up established Business  Houses (cartels according to Feroze Qaiser Bhai—my childhood role model) . He stooped to nationalising the business house, Spencer & Co Pak Ltd, where my in laws, the Islams, were majority share-holders. ZAB’s own brother-in-law, Naseem ul Islam, (husband of Munawwar Bhutto, father of Tariq Islam, ) was a smaller share-holder than my husband. 




Comes separation of East and West Pakistan, thanks to Zulfi, who threatened to break my cousin, Ahmad Raza Qasuri’s legs, if he goes to attend the first session of Parliament in Dacca,



We knew Zulfi. We survived him by the strength of our faith. We live to see the games being played by Tariq Islam with us and by the rangroot, Bilawal Bacha.


Signing off with amazing memories surfing in my mind,



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Night of The General








Once among the country’s most influential individuals, General Rani is now just a faded page in the country’s history books.

The woman was a phenomenon. Easily the most influential figure during Pakistan’s second military regime, with the slightest gesture of her bejewelled hand she could guarantee employment, ensure promotions and bring about unwelcome transfers. Yet, interestingly, few even know her real name: Akleem Akhtar. General Rani she was, and remains to all but an intimate few.
There are enough reasons for the lady’s ascension to local legend status. In her glory days she seemed omnipotent and was brazen about her exploits. And now, even while suffering from breast cancer that has led to metastasis in the liver and kidney, bedridden and in semi-seclusion, she remains spirited and outspoken.
Yet, doing a story on her was probably the most difficult assignment I have undertaken. For one thing, everyone I was certain was acquainted with her, was reluctant to even own up to the fact that they knew her. So, for starters, I made a call to her daughter, Aroosa Alam, the defence journalist for the Pakistan Observer and the news coordinator for the Middle East Broadcasting Company, and pop star Fakhre Alam’s mother.
Aroosa nipped all efforts at contact with her mother in the bud, claiming that not only was General Rani far too unwell to entertain visitors, but also, her brothers were completely against their mother appearing in the press. “My mother has been hurt sufficiently by the media already; we don’t want her private life exploited any further,” stated a stern Aroosa.
A call to Naureen and Arshad Sami, Adnan Sami Khan’s parents, proved equally unsuccessful. Although General Rani is Naureen’s maternal aunt, she politely but firmly denied even knowing the lady. There was a similar response from Zil-e-Huma, whose mother Madame Nur Jehan’s friendship with General Rani was legion. Huma completely denied any knowledge of the woman.

A journalist working for the Jang group, Maqsood Butt nearly had an apoplexy when I mentioned the story I was working on. While in the past Maqsood Butt had written extensively on this topic and is said to have close ties with the family, he has for several years, refrained from even bringing up her name in an article.
“I promised her that I would never talk about her or her family again,” he stated nervously and refused to help me in any way.
Clearly, the woman I was seeking out was no ordinary woman. As I kept running into a blind alley and became increasingly despondent, General Rani’s lawyers, S. M. Zafar and Ijaz Batalvi, Mustafa Khar, and a few journalists and government officials who wish to remain anonymous, appeared like beacons and lit my way.
A sneak visit was arranged to General Rani’s house and thereupon begins this story.
The house General Rani resides in is rather small, with little more than a handkerchief-sized lawn in front, and the main door opening into a virtually non-existent hall that leads straight to her room. There was an air of neglect about the house; the garden was unkempt and the floor unswept. General Rani was lying in bed. My first impression was one of shock. Having visualised an elegant, elderly woman, I was instead confronted by a dark, overweight woman. Her hair had obviously suffered due to heavy doses of chemotherapy, and the loss of hair accentuated the pock-marks on her face. But though visibly ill, she was in good spirits and happy to entertain visitors – a commodity I suspect, is a rare treat nowadays.
General Rani hails from a village in Gujarat. Her father was a zamindar and the family was reportedly well-to-do. Those who knew her family describe their house as one of the bigger mansions in the area, with a number of servants running around to the residents’ bidding.
From the outset, Akleem was an independent spirit. She was a tomboy, fond of outdoor sports and hunting. And though she did not even complete her matric, her sharp intelligence more than compensated for her lack of education.
At a tender age she was married to a police officer many times her senior. Though the marriage lasted for some time and she bore six children, General Rani was never happy. Her husband was a traditionalist and believed that a wife’s primary duty was to serve her husband. A woman as strong and independent as she found this hard to digest, and squabbles were common between the two. The sham their marriage was eventually reduced to, collapsed one day – right on Murree’s Mall Road.
One summer, when the family was vacationing in Murree, a burqa-clad Rani and her husband went for a stroll on the Mall. As was customary for him, he walked a step or two behind her so as to keep an eye on her. Suddenly there was a gust of wind – “a lovely breeze” says she, and quite spontaneously Rani lifted the naqab covering her face to allow the breeze to caress her cheeks.
Her husband immediately tapped her with his walking stick to reprimand her. Enraged and insulted, she threw caution to the wind and flung her naqab to the ground, and her abaya into a cracking fire. She then turned to face her husband with a defiant gleam in her eyes.
She explains her reaction in these words: “I just felt I had had enough. The anger and frustration had been building up inside me for many months, but that day, it just all came oozing out. I wanted to tear my husband’s muffler into bits, scratch his face, pull his hair out, and do all sorts of damage to him. The only thing that stopped me were the people on the Mall.”
Though this incident marked the end of her marriage, the official divorce process (if there was one) took place later. Most sources agree that Rani was only married once, but one of her closest friend states that there was a second marriage, much later in her life and of an extremely short duration. Whatever the truth of that marriage, the dramatic end of her first proved a turning point in her life and transformed Rani irrevocably. She began to thrive on her independence and her life philosophy evolved into a specific ambition. As she puts it, “I was determined to beat men at their own game. Since my husband was in the police, I had been observing men in positions of power throughout my married life and I had realised that all men in positions of power needed a vent and the vent they require the most is a bedmate provided through a reliable agency. The higher a man’s position, the greater his demand.”
In one interview, Rani stated: “I knew that dumb, pretty girls who come with no strings attached are a universal failing of men in power. After my marriage collapsed and I had to find the means to support myself and my children, I decided to become the provider of such girls to men in need.”
In yet another conversation, she talked about the understanding she gained of the workings of the government by listening to her husband’s complaints. “I realised that in this country everything worked on mutual favours and the profession that I had chosen for myself entitled me to these favours.”
This outspokenness notwithstanding, Rani maintains she personally never allowed herself to be used or even thought of as any man’s keep. She contends she maintained her dignity and saw herself as a sexless mother figure. She says she was always the woman behind the scenes, there to run the show and mop up the mess.
The gods were obviously smiling on her, because soon after she adopted this profession, the man who was soon to run the show took a shine to her. She describes her first meeting with Yahya Khan. “At that time Agha Jani was posted at Kharian and I was living in Gujarat. We met by chance at a party in Pindi club. Though I would often frequent such parties, I never joined in the drinking and dancing. Rather, I preferred sitting some distance away from the party and usually found a seat near the men’s room, well aware of the fact that the more they drank the more visits they would have to make to the toilet and hence past me.
“Agha Jani was in full swing at this party. He was completely drunk, and was continually traipsing back and forth from the men’s room. During one of these visits, he saw me and took a fancy to me. I remember asking about him and after we were formally introduced, I invited him to Gujarat.”
Thereafter Yahya Khan began making frequent journeys from Kharian to Gujarat. Somewhere along the way she earned the title of General Rani and the name stuck. While speculation about the exact nature of her relationship with Yahya Khan rages – they were said to be friends, lovers, shared a sibling relationship or one of demand and supply at various times through the course of their relationship – the general consensus among Rani’s more intimate circle is that they never had a physical relationship. Various explanations are put forth to explain this. “Yahya never desired her,” says a friend. “She was a woman of principles and from day one, she made it clear to him what her limits were,” states another.
Nonetheless, after he became the martial law adminstrator, Rani became a cornerstone in his life. Yahya’s weaknesses were drink and women and Rani masterfully catered to both. Among the women she introduced him to were film actress Taranna – film actress Andleeb’s mother – Madame Nur Jehan and Nael Kamal. She relates how Yahya’s fascination with Nur Jehan began.
“One night Agha Jani came to visit me and was somewhat agitated. The moment he entered, he inquired if I had heard the song “cheeche da chala” from the film Dhee Rani. I smiled and stated that I had no time to listen to songs. So, he called the military secretary and ordered him to have a copy of the song delivered to my house at once. It was two o’ clock in the morning and the MS had to specially have an audio shop opened up in order to obtain the album. But the command was obeyed and within an hour, Agha Jani was blissfully listening to the song.
“Observing him I smiled and stated that since he seemed to enjoy the song so immensely, I would bring the singer to his house on his birthday. This greatly pleased him and so the very next day, I took a flight to Lahore. In those days, a suite at the Intercontinental Hotel was permanently reserved for me and so from the airport, I went directly to the hotel. From there I called Nur Jehan and asked her to come and meet me. Till now, I had never been formally introduced to her; I just knew of her, as she knew of me. Well, Nur Jehan came, and we talked, and the next week she arrived in Islamabad to dance and sing for General Yahya Khan.”
Madame Nur Jehan’s relationship with General Yahya Khan subsequently came under great scrutiny. At first, Madame persistently denied that she was on friendly terms with the general, but when objectionable pictures of both of them were printed, she resorted to another defence and officially stated that General Rani, had time and, again tried to get her involved with the general. In response to this, Rani laughed and commented that Madame was hardly a suckling infant who could be coerced into doing what others wanted her to do. The Rani-Nur Jehan tussle was played up by the press, until eventually, some time before the latter’s death, the two made up. Following is an extract from an interview General Rani gave after Madame’s death.
Q: Why did you introduce Madame Nur Jehan to General Yahya Khan?
A: Some tax inspectors were bugging Madame Nur Jehan and the poor woman was in great distress. She asked me to help her out and I introduced her to Agha Jani.
Q: How would you define your relationship with Nur Jehan?
A: She was just like my sister and I often called her baji.
Q: How would you describe her character?
A: She was an exceptionally brave and confident woman, who brought up her children singlehandedly. The only flaw she had was her greed for money.
Q: It is said that Madame tried to drive a wedge between you and Yahya Khan?
A: I don’t want to say anything on this issue. If Rani catered to Agha Jani’s every whim, there is no question that she was royally compensated. During Yahya Khan’s time, General Rani prospered way beyond her wildest expectations. There are endless reports of how she would use her ‘special relationship’ with Yahya to fill her coffers. She would ask for a plot of land or a house in return for a favour and those desperate for a job or promotion would readily fulfill her demands. During this time, politicians were also eager to win her approval and among the many who curried her favour were Mustafa Khar and Z. A. Bhutto.
General Rani describes her relationship with these two men: “Both Mustafa Khar and Z. A. Bhutto would come and sit at my house for hours on end, begging me to introduce them to the General. Mustafa Khar was particularly fond of listening to the poems I used to write. In fact if you compare Yahya Khan to these two, I would say that I was closer to Bhutto and Khar and arranged more parties for them than I did for Agha Jani.”
It was a closeness that was not to endure. As soon as Bhutto came to power, General Rani was put under house arrest and her telephone connection was cancelled. Her crime in the words of an eminent lawyer was that, “she knew too much.”
Thus began General Rani’s downfall. Once the issue of house arrest was resolved (courtesy S. M. Zafar) and her subsequent jail terms ended (the most recent for drug-trafficking), General Rani never really reverted to her former glory. By now the money that had so freely flowed into her hands had also freely flowed out.
Financially wrecked, socially ostracised, dependent only on the kindness of a few whose affections for her have endured, General Rani lives largely in the past – in the memory of days of wine and roses.



Foreign prostitutes go to work as Pakistan closes for Ramadan





IT IS RAMADAN in Islamabad: the restaurants are deserted all day, the mosques are crammed with the devout, and the populace are going about their tasks with a weary, hangdog, hungry air.

At the Restaurant Baiga in a market on the southwestern fringe of this planned and gridded capital of Pakistan, the sign says “Closed for Ramadan”. But there are lights on behind the lace curtains upstairs, and if you brave the smell of stale curry you will find one outpost of a quite un- Islamic import that is doing unseasonably good business.

Catarina, Vera and Sonia (not their real names) have not shut up shop for the holy month. And although their colleagues have been arrested, held in squalid jails for months on end and then booted out, these girls are staying put. They are sure that prostitution has a rosy future in this stronghold of Islamic orthodoxy.

Catarina, wearing a black negligee, curls up in the rumpled bed under the harsh fluorescent light in the large, bare room and smokes a Marlboro; Vera, thin and frizzy-haired, disappears into the shower; Sonia, much older and beefy, with the charm of an Aeroflot stewardess, the minder and madam in this small establishment, screws up her mean mouth and prepares to talk numbers.

Catarina, who has a fair complexion, jet-black hair, large eyes and a prominent nose – a winning combination in these parts – says that she is a Turk from Ankara, and a Muslim. But it soon emerges that all three are Russians. They may be Orthodox Christians, too, but although my visit coincided with the Orthodox Church’s Christmas Day, there were no signs of festivity.

The prostitutes from Russia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and other parts of central Asia first came to the Pakistani public’s attention last October, when police raided several plush guesthouses and arrested more than a dozen women.

They were held in jail for two months on grounds of overstaying their visas. But their places were quickly taken by arrivals from places in the Gulf such as Abu Dhabi. The mobile phones were handed on to the next contingent like batons, with numbers unchanged.

The women have caused a stir in Islamabad, partly because it likes to be thought of as a centre of Islamic purity, but also because, despite being the nation’s capital, it is about the size of Tunbridge Wells, and not much goes on. “Islamabad is small,” said one of the policemen involved in the operation. “Everybody noticed these women and started talking about them.”

The prostitutes are rotated in a circuit that includes several Gulf states, and until recently their Pakistani base was Karachi. With its heterogeneous population, Pakistan’s biggest city and only port is more their natural habitat.

Russians and other Central Asians first trickled into Karachi under the protection of Soviet mafia and corrupt local police in the late 1980s, to buy second-hand Western-made clothes in bulk and lug them back to Russia. Later, the girls arrived under the same protection, and business flourished.

But in the past year Karachi has become too dangerous because of fighting between terrorists. Killings are a daily occurrence, many accompanied by gruesome mutilations. Three Americans travelling in a car were shot dead along with their Pakistani driver. One foreign prostitute was also murdered. It was then that the exodus of the girls began.

Until the arrests and expulsions, they were doing very nicely in Islamabad. And now the immediate fuss has died down, they are doing very nicely again. Above the Restaurant Baiga, Sonia demanded Rs10,000 (about pounds 140) for a night with Catarina and after extended haggling the price came down only to Rs7,000 before the Independent on Sunday made the traditional excuses and left.

Across town at the Diplomat Inn (next door to a United Nations agency), the price demanded for a night in the arms of a “Turkish 16-year-old” – actually another Russian – is Rs8,000. For a young Pakistani girl, on the other hand, the rate is only Rs6,000.

The women are doing well because the classical Central Asian look – fair skin, strong nose, glossy black hair – corresponds to the Pakistani ideal of female beauty. Pakistani men appear unmoved by the delicate, small noses and almond eyes of mongoloid peoples of Central Asia, such as the Uzbeks. The Uzbeks are happy for it to stay that way. “Our country has a strong religious background,” said a spokesman for the Uzbek embassy, “and we do not indulge in such things.”

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