I recently had the chance to read Fatima Bhutto’s book titled “Songs of Blood And Sword”. It was an interesting story about a girl who remembers her father fondly and travels the world, meeting her father’s friends and colleagues to him better.
What’s astonishing is that despite the long nature of research she undertook, she still is not willing to admit the faults of her father and blames everyone else who speaks against him. In similar fashion, Ms. Fatima Bhutto pointed finger at our family too, accusing us smartly so as to keep a way out from legal action.
I prepared a rebuttal and emailed it to prominent English newspaper of Pakistan, Dawn, to bring the issue to notice and clear any doubts.
The following is what I wrote for Dawn Letters to the Editor but for some odd reason it wasn’t printed despite the fact I submitted it twice.
In the end I have been forced to put it on my blog as a way to raise my views about her book and clear the misconception she has tried to create.
Ms. Fatima Bhutto’s recent book “Songs of Blood and Sword” has sent tremors into Pakistan’s political circles, attracting criticism from several people including relatives. I unfortunately have to bring a half truth to light and address the misinformation.
In the book, Ms. Fatima states that Mir Murtaza Bhutto asked party ticket for Larkana seat which Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto refused and instead gave ticket to a newcomer Munawar Abbasi. She further says that locals know him as a landowner who presented Ajrak to Zia Ul Haq when he visited Larkana.
I want to bring this to notice that Munawar Abbasi was not a newcomer to PPP. He joined PPP on its creation and was student leader campaigning for PPP in Larkana. Munawar Abbasi would drive Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto throughout Larkana district for election campaigns and visit tours in 60s and 70s. Munawwar Abbasi and Dr. Safdar Abbasi’s mother, Dr. Begum Ashraf Abbasi, was the first-ever woman in Pakistan’s Parliamentary history to be elected as Deputy Speaker of National Assembly in 1973. Before that she was elected as MPA in 1965 and was part of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s group in the assembly. She was elected as Deputy Speaker National Assembly again in 1988. Munawar Abbasi was a student activist before the creation of PPP and once party was founded in Lahore, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto came to Larkana and Munawar Abbasi was amongst the first ones to be officially inducted in PPP as member.
Munawwar Abbasi spent considerable time in jail during Zia’s era, beginning from October 1977 for 5 months, March 1978 to July 1978, October 1978 till May 1979 and for one month in 1986. He was elected Chairman of District Coordination Committee Larkana in 1983 and MPA in elections of 1988 (he was appointed Minister for Transportation and later Local Bodies).
Ms. Fatima Bhutto narrates the story in a way that shows Mir Murtaza Bhutto only opted to compete on Larkana seat, however the truth is that Mir Murtaza Bhutto competed on 20 seats (Reference: Dawn’s article “Is it the end of Bhutto saga?” dated 24 December, 2008) throughout Pakistan for both Provincial Assembly and National Assembly seats. He had initially asked for party tickets to compete on all of them but Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto offered an alternate of one provincial and one national ticket for him, Mir Murtaza Bhutto refused the offer and filed himself as Independent Candidate. Murtaza Bhutto lost all seats except for Larkana where he won by a narrow margin, details of the victory I would rather not venture into.
Ms. Fatima Bhutto also mentions that locals knew Munawwar Abbasi as the landlord who presented Ajrak to Zia Ul Haq. I am not sure who are the locals Ms. Fatima consulted and without verification she included the information in her book. In 1983 Zia Ul Haq was on Sindh tour and he also came to Larkana. During Larkana district tour he addressed to the local office bearers at Circuit House. Munawar Abbasi was Chairman of District Coordination Committee of Larkana district and it was his duty to attend the event due to the office he held. He did so after consulting PPP leadership and with their permission attended the event with other PPP members.
Other members from Larkana district were Abdul Khaliq Bhutto, (Chairman District Municipal Committee Larkana), Ghulam Mujtaba Isran (Chairman District Council Larkana) and Office bearers from other districts also attended the event, both PPP and non-PPP, including Sardar Mohammed Baksh Kuhawar (Chairman Taulka Municipal Committee Shahdad Kot) and others.
Munawwar Abbasi did not bestowed Ajrak to Zia Ul Haq which can be testified by the above mentioned people who attended the event. Munawar Abbasi sat at the very back seat instead of the stage beside Zia Ul Haq and none of the PPP members including Munawar Abbasi presented Ajrak, Sindhi topi or garlands to Zia Ul Haq. They attended the event on conditions of bare minimum participation. If there is any documentary evidence in form of video clippings of the event or pictures then please bring them forth.