Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Grand Old man of Karachi: Chapter I

Chapter 1: Jinnah & Bhutto: Secularism & the rule of law
 Also read  
 Chapter II: The murder of Bhutto, Zia's blasphemy & his protege
Chapter III: Lost causes, murder, spooks & the storming of the courts (1990-2000)
Chapter IV: Karachi, a lovers quarrel and the more things change.
I begin with this acknowledgement, I learnt much by reading DAWNs columns by Ardeshir Cowasjee. The 85 year old columnist, activist, businessman and charity worker was an important introduction for me to the 'other' narrative of Pakistan's history. He would talk about historical figures as human beings with odd eccentricities and human strengths and failings. He would be brutal in his criticism, lavish in his praise and did not give out the latter often. He also had his biases, he was urban centric and saw the world from a  Karachi-centric view, the city that had gone through an unprecdented boom till the 1970 election. It defied the national trend by voting in the religo-political party's and against the Pakistan Peoples Party.

So while I did not always agree with Karachi's him as I read his works, I more often then not learnt from them. This is the history of Pakistan that I learnt through the words of the grand old man of Karachi.
I begins with something central to Cowasjee, that is his emphatic belief in Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan's founder and 'Great Leader'. Here he links in Jinnah with the story of his family:

He needed a shipping company, so his trusted lieutenant Yusuf 
Haroon was asked to request the premier shipowner of Karachi, 
Rustom Cowasjee, to come to Bombay to meet him. Jinnah told Rustom 
what he wanted, and that was the start of Muhammadi Steamship 
Company. Rustom delivered, and within one month of Pakistan's birth 
Muhammadi's flag was flying on Muhammadi's ships.

This in turn highlights two core themes that run through his articles, his belief that Pakistan was conceived by it's founder as a secular state, defined by the rule of law. He invokes two famous speeches by Pakistan's barrister founder.

"You are free, free to go to your temples, you are free to go to 
your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of 
Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed - that 
has nothing to do with the business of the State."

Now, this particular passage has always been the main bugbear of 
the insecure, the feeble of faith, and the cowards who live by 
self-deception. The very next day it was found to be too irksome, 
it inspired fear.

In his speech, Jinnah also proclaimed that "the first duty of a 
government is to maintain law and order, so that life, property and 
religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the 
State." Amongst the evils which he vowed would not be tolerated 
were bribery, corruption, blackmarketing, and "this great evil - 
the evil of nepotism and jobbery."

Despite his love for Jinnah, Cowasjee is in fact influenced far more by  one man whom modern day Pakistan owes far more too and yet whose legacy is now so little.

Cowasjee on Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

Ilahi Bakhsh and I have known each other since 1943 when we both read 
science at the Dayaram Jethmal Sind College, Karachi. Later he moved to the 
Nadirshaw Eduljee Dinshaw Engineering College to do his BE, and then went 
off to America to do his M.Sc from Columbia Polytechnic. In 1951, it was 
Illoo who helped arrange for our mutual friend Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to be 
married to his second wife Nusrat, much against the will and wishes of 
father Shahnawaz and his family. Illoo produced a Maulvi and the two were 
wedded very privately, with only Karamdad Junejo and Ilahi Bakhsh standing 
by on Zulfikar's side and father Sabunchi with Nusrat.
We first met in 1951, introduced by our family lawyer Dingomal 
Narayansingh Ramchandani. 'Meet our latest entrant,' said Dingo, 
'Shahnawaz's son.' My father and I shook hands with a young affable 
man. We talked of generalities; my father wrote him off; I was 
impressed. When I next met him (Dingo having put him on one of our 
cases) he seriously declared his ambition to be foreign minister of 
This in turn was followed by his quoting of Bhutto's letter to  President Iskander Mirza 
 my imperishable and devoted 
loyalty,' 'you are not merely an individual, but an institution,' 
'your services are indispensable for the greater good of the 
country,' 'you embody the national interest,' all roll glibly off 
many servile tongues, and are transferred with the greatest of ease 
from each transient master to the next. The supreme example of 
adulation : 'When the history of this country is written by 
objective historians, your name will be placed even before that of 
Mr Jinnah,' written to Iskander Mirza by loyal Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, 
Bhutto, Mujib & Yahya Khan 
Defying the stereotype of Yahya Khan, the destroyer of united Pakistan, Cowasjee in fact tells us the story of
Yahya Khan through the eyes of his son. Unsurprisingly Cowasjee would agree with Yahya 
who was to lay the blame on the feet of Bhutto and Sheikh Mujib.
Basit has now compiled a book The Breaking of Pakistan, containing papers 
written by Yahya in which he describes the interaction between him, Bhutto 
and Mujib that led to the disintegration of the country. Most of these 
papers were those submitted by Yahya to the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, 
plus other sworn statements and affidavits. In his introduction, he 
Yahya thinks that it was the Mujib-Bhutto interaction which broke 
Pakistan. Indeed, he puts the major share of the blame on Z. A. Bhutto, the 
minority leader, who insisted to be treated as equal to the majority 
leader. Between these covers the reader will find Yahya's perception on the 
subject. He is obsessed with the theme that 'a congruence of objectives'
had emerged between Bhutto and Mujeeb pursuant to which East Pakistan 
garrison was made to surrender to seal the fate of united Pakistan.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a power-hungry person who exploited the social 
climbers techniques of projecting special relationship with the Army 
Brass. He was a narcissist with a tendency to megalomania as well as 
intrigue. He had no commitment to any doctrine or to Pakistan. He 
manufactured his own charisma without any ethical scruples.
Sheikh Mujib was a greedy and immature person who never outgrew the role 
of an agitator student leader. Indians had bribed him to launch an anti-
Pakistan movement in East Pakistan to which extent the allegations in the 
Agartala Conspiracy case were true. They had also implanted a phobia in his 
mind that even if he were to win a general election and become the prime 
minister real power will not be transferred by the Pakistan Army.
Bhutto & the 1973 Republic
Despite Cowasjees early closeness to ZA Bhutto, this relationship was to change 
dramatically after ZAB was to assume power in 1971. 
As the increasingly authoritarian ruler started to to turn on 
his former friends and best man.  
 This constitution, the constitution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, father of 
Benazir, was drafted and redrafted during 1972-73 and finally 
promulgated on Aug 14, 1973.
During the promulgation ceremony, the maker of the constitution, already
declared prime minister of Pakistan, had in his pocket a presidential 
order. Four hours after the constitution was promulgated and came into 
force, he produced the order, put in front of the already declared tame 
and acquiescing president, Fazal Elahi Chaudhary, and asked him to sign 
it, which of course he did without demur and probably without bothering 
to read and digest it. (Cowasjee November 2007)
Halaku I have known since 1972, then a dreaded policeman who was sent to 
Karachi by Bhutto to question me. Bhutto was desperately trying to find 
some evidence against Altaf Gauhar who had been arrested on a trumped-up 
charge and jailed. Halaku, quite happy to call a machine gun a gun 
machine, ordered his sidekick to pick up Cowasjee Ardeshir, also bearded, 
also a Parsi. This unfortunate man, totally ignorant of what was going on, 
was taken to the police station and questioned late into the night, until 
at last Halaku realising he had the wrong man, arrested me, the machine 
gun, and released him, the gun machine.

He then writes movingly about another era of darkness in Balochistan and Pakistan when another generation of unaccountable 'agencies' mercilessly hounded the people of Pakistan.

hand in hand with the nebulous 'agencies', let
us take Sherbaz's story of the elimination in 1976 of young Asadullah
Mengal, son of that most upright Baloch Sardar and gentleman, Ataullah.
Asadullah and his friend Ahmad Shah Kurd were ambushed outside the house of
Balakh Sher Mazari. Asadullah was killed, and his body dragged along the
road and dumped in the back of a car. Ahmad Shah was taken alive, put in
the car, driven away and then killed. 
One night in December 1973, a hand grenade was thrown down the ventilator
of the Quetta house of NAP Pakhtoonkhwa leader Abdus Samad Achakzai. The
grenade exploded, killing Achakzai. No one was ever charged or apprehended.
Sherbaz spoke also of 'Johnny' Dass, son of the highly respected Air
Commodore Balwant Dass, one of the most senior officers of the PAF who
served his country with distinction. Dulip Dass, known to his family and
friends as Johnny (and Later known to the Baloch as 'Dilu') at the age of
25 returned to Pakistan from England in 1972, where he was doing his
chartered accountancy - 'to do something for his country', as he put it. He
and a few other idealistic young men went to Balochistan. Johnny was
accused of being a sympathizer of the Baloch insurgency and was put on the
'wanted' list. On his way out of the province, betrayed by an informer, he
was ambushed at Jhatpat, taken away by the 'agencies', kept in custody (in
Quetta jail for a while, it is said)...
In March 1974, Maulvi Sahmsuddin, Deputy Speaker of the Balochistan
Assembly of the opposition party Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam, left Quetta for Fort
Sandeman in his official vehicle. Malik Haji Gul Mandokhel left Quetta by
car later the same day and found Shamsuddin shot dead in his car near Qila
Dr Nazir Ahmed, MNA of the JI, was an outspoken critic of Mr. Bhutto's
politics and style of government. One evening in June 1972 a man entered
his clinic in Dera Ghazi Khan and shot him dead. The case was ostensibly
investigated by the police. Two men were sent up for trial and both were
discharged by the court, the judgment saying: "The investigation seems to
be intentionally dishonest." 
Then there were the six Hurs - Mehrab Sinjhrani, Umaid Ali Sinjhrani, Jan
Mohammed Sinjhrani, Hanzo Bahnejo, Syed Ali Sher, and Allah Dad Wadho. Pir
Pagara posed a problem for Bhutto, so in 1973 a plan was prepared to
diminish, if not demolish, his influence by subduing his followers. Chief
security officer Saeed Ahmed Khan and provincial minister Jam Sadiq Ali
were ordered to undertake the anti-Hur operations. 
(to be continued) 


  1. Cowasjee, (13 November 1999) Jinnah's Pakistan
  2.  Cowasjee( 1 March 1997) Toil and tears
  3.  Cowasjee (12 September 1996) General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan
  4.  Cowasjee (28 June 1997) the missing chapter


Admin 2 said...

Great collection of excerpts, thanks for posting this. Look forward to the part(s)

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