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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Notes From My Memory, Part III by Mir Thebo: Syed, Bhutto, Yahya Khan, 1971 military action & Bangladesh

The nationalists of earlier times in Sindh were very much traditional. They used to give much importance to culture, traditions, folk music, literature and history of the land. In the outlook they were modern and well educated.

Z.A. Bhutto, who emerged as a popular leader in late 1960s, had a dynamic personality. He was a modern man and loved Western style of living. You can say he was thoroughly Western with Sindhi blood and belonging to the landed aristocracy. He was not a nationalist but he had some feelings for Sindhis. He didn’t like traditional style of politics. Once he attended a meeting of an anti One Unit forum before the Ayub era. In that meeting, Comrade Hyder Bux Jatoi very politely told him that ‘this is not the place for you’. Z. A. Bhutto also realized it and left that forum. In the beginning, Z. A. Bhutto didn't oppose the nationalists from Balochistan, Sarhad (now Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa) and Sindh.
In Sindh, the Party (Communist Party) invited Z. A. Bhutto through Sindh National Students Federation (SNSF) at a large student gathering at Jamia Arabia High School in Hyderabad, Sindh (probably on 13th December 1967) to influence him to get some support for the popular anti One Unit movement. During his speech, we raised slogans against One Unit but Bhutto was sharp enough to neither oppose nor support One Unit though he projected himself as a bona fide Sindhi and gave the people a catchy slogan, "Roti, Kapra, aur Makan" (food, clothes & shelter). The poor land-hungry peasants were promised to get land. Though, he himself was a landlord, Sindhi peasants trusted him and they surrounded him in millions, because through out centuries they were humiliated and coerced by the big landlords.
After signing Tashkent agreement, Indian PM Shastri, Bhutto, Ayub Khan, Soviet PM Kosygin: photo courtesy Dr Kazi's collection
In the failed adventure of Ayub Khan in 1965 war with India, Bhutto became a 'war hero' through his statements and his opposition to the Tashkent Declaration for peace. After coming back from Tashkent, he resigned from the Ayub cabinet or he was asked to resign. Before that he was a favorite minister of Ayub khan. He used to praise Ayub khan a lot.
Bhutto addresses UN Security Council in 1971 where he rejected Polish resolution
Although Bhutto did not join it, he was very cautious not to oppose the Democratic Action Committee (DAC) formed by democratic left parties and Awami League. G.M Syed also did not join the broader democratic front because DAC (Democratic Action Committee) did not give the nationalist slogans. That and Bhutto’s popularity in Sindh hurt G. M. Syed and he became isolated with only a few student activists, writers and his friends remaining loyal to him.
G. M. Syed with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman & other Bengali leaders in Dhaka in 1971. One can read a lot from Sheikh Mujib's demeanor: photo courtesy Dr Kazi's collection
Anyway, under the pressure of the masses, dictator Ayub Khan was removed and replaced by General Yahya Khan. Now the real political game and conspiracies started. In this game, the biggest player was the military junta. In a very calculated move, General Yahya Khan abolished one unit to separate the nationalists of the western part of Pakistan from the nationalists in East Pakistan.

As it was the long cherished goal of the nationalists to end the One Unit, many nationalists congratulated General Yahya Khan for this positive step. From Sindh, G.M Syed and Hyder Bux Jatoi welcomed this change. General Yahya Khan also declared holding general elections on the basis of ‘One Man-One Vote’ to fulfill the longstanding demand by the people in East Pakistan.
General Yahya Khan
 In the 1970 elections, Bhutto’s PPP scored big win in West Pakistan defeating several stalwarts in Punjab and Sindh while Sheikh Mujib’s Awami League won almost all the seats in East Pakistan. After the elections, behind the scene, political game started. General Yahya Khan had earlier spoken to Bhutto and gave him false promise that he will be given power after the elections. The famous talks were held on the lawns of Bhutto’s residence in his hometown, Larkana. In return, Bhutto promised to oppose Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as it was also in Bhutto's interest. Sheikh Mujib’s Awami League had secured majority in Pakistan and was in a position to form a government on its own. Sheikh Mujib was in a certain position to be next Prime Minister of whole Pakistan.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressing a rally
Bhutto opposed the newly elected Assembly’s first session announced to be held in Dhaka and warned his party members that "I will break the legs of those MNAs who will go to Dhaka”. Again pre-planned game started by military junta. Yahya Khan went to Dhaka. Bhutto and NAP chief Wali Khan were also invited there for talks. The talks ‘failed’ as they were supposed to. After the failure of the talks the ruthless military oppression began in East Pakistan. Wali Khan said about the talks on his return at the airport that it was a drop scene of ‘the drama’ while Bhutto said that ‘thank God, Pakistan is saved’. The tanks rolled in the beautiful city of Dhaka. The military took over the Dhaka University and started killing unarmed people to crush their rebellious spirit. In Sindh, the Party (Communist Party), some writers and some G. M. Syed workers opposed the military oppression in East Pakistan.
Wali Khan meets Sheikh Mujib in Dhaka in 1971
After starting the military operation in Dhaka, the junta started extremely oppressive policies in East Pakistan. In West Pakistan also, Junta took away freedom from the people, which they enjoyed during the elections process. People were severely punished even for minor acts. Jam Saqi, Mehar Hussain Shah and I made a program to violate Martial law and distributed badges with slogans, ‘Jeay Sindh’ and ‘land to the tiller’ written on them at Bhitt Shah Mela. We were arrested while distributing the badges and were given rigorous imprisonment for one year by a summary military court.
General Yahya Khan arrives at Mohenjo Daro airport in January, 1971 to hold talks with Bhutto: photo courtesy Dr Kazi's collection: photo courtesy Dr Kazi's collection
Gen. Yahya Khan also cheated Bhutto and backed away from his promise to hand over power to him. Bhutto became furious at the betrayal of Gen. Yahya Khan. Up to that time, Bhutto had a solo flight. Now he needed some allies who had some courage to fight with military and had some parliamentary seats to pressurize the military junta. He chose National Awami Party (NAP) headed by Wali khan with Baloch nationalists and leftists. He went to Peshawar to meet Wali Khan. Wali Khan was busy in his party’s meeting at that time. Bhutto was informed, but he said seriously, "I'll not go with out meeting Wali Khan". He waited for Wali Khan restlessly, continuously moving to and fro in anger. It was Bhutto's usual style. When Wali Khan met Bhutto, he asked Wali Khan to give him support to bring down Yahya regime. Wali Khan’s response was: "Bhutto sahib previously you said that you don’t need any alliance and also how would we bring down the generals"? Bhutto thumped his foot on the floor with force and said in a defiant tone, ‘I’ll crush the generals. Only you be with me’. Wali Khan reported this exchange to the NAP meeting.
Bhutto meets Sheikh Mujib in Dhaka in 1971
Anyhow, that alliance couldn’t materialize but the military was finally defeated on the Eastern front. The great tragedy occurred in the East Pakistan as Bhutto wrote in his famous book, ‘The Great Tragedy’. New map was drawn in the subcontinent and a new country of sovereign nation emerged as Bangladesh.

1 comment:

  1. Comment by Haider Bhurgri:
    "Great! I feel indebted to Mir for jotting down his ramblings in the most honest way! The discourse is interesting and enlightening. However I feel Mir is capable of providing more in depth insight into the happenings in yester years rather than putting down cursory account. Nonetheless, his efforts to articulate events of one era deserve compliment. Keep it up dear Mir Thebo (though u have taken a hideout and left us here lurching for your company)"


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