REMEMBERING THE KASHMIRI PANDITS: THE ROLE OF BENAZIR BHUTTO

When Benazir Bhutto died in December 2007, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described her as “one of the outstanding leaders of our sub-continent, who always looked for reconciliation between India and Pakistan.” Most magazines did cover stories on her and Benazir Bhutto became a “martyr of democracy”.
It is a sad that a mother of three children was so brutally killed and we all mourned her terrible death. Nevertheless, truth must be told. For, as usual, what the press says is not exactly what happened. Firstly, under Bhutto, anti-Indian terrorism in the Kashmir region was fostered and increased. Benazir was also directly responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Kashmir. "She was instrumental in sponsoring jihad, openly inciting militants to intensify terrorism in India," says Ajai Sahni, the executive director of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management. "I find it very difficult to discover a single element with her relationship to India that is positive and for the betterment of her country or the region", he adds. Remember how she was shouting her slogans of azaadi, and exhorting the people of Kashmir to cut Jagmohan, then governor of the state, into pieces, as in "jag-jag, mo-mo, han-han". She would say this while making chopping motions with her right hand as it moved from her left wrist to the elbow, leaving nobody in any doubt as to what she meant.
Secondly, under Benazir Bhutto, the Taliban formed and, helped by Pakistan's intelligence service, swept across Afghanistan and later hosted Osama bin Laden. It is a bit of an irony that she may have been killed by the very people she helped foster if at all she was murdered.
Thirdly, she deliberately increased tension levels and then threatened India with a pre-emptive nuclear strike. The tension peaked when Benazir repeated her late father's immortal boast of waging a thousand-year war against India and even Rajiv Gandhi was forced to mock her in Parliament, asking if those who talked of a thousand-year war could last even a thousand hours.
And fourthly, in her last speech before she died, she alluded to India as one of the threats Pakistan had to face, implying that if she was elected she would deal firmly with it. Then why is it that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called her a friend of India and that Indians still remember
affectionately ?
I interviewed Benazir Bhutto twice, the last one as she was campaigning to be re-elected for a second term.
The first question I asked, was about Kashmir, as she was the one who had called for ‘Azad Kashmir’, a Kashmir free from India, which had triggered the ethnic cleansing of most Hindus of the Valley of Kashmir, 400.000 of them having to flee their ancestral land.
- - You know, she answered, you have to understand the Pakistani point of view on Kashmir. If one goes by the logic of Partition, then at least the Kashmir valley, which is in great majority Muslim - and it should be emphasised that for long the Hindus Pandits in Kashmir exploited and dominated the Muslims, who are getting back at them today - should have reverted to Pakistan. But let us say that officially we want to help grant Kashmiris their right to self-determination
- - That’s the only reason, I continued ?
- - No, answered Benazir, it should be clear also that Pakistan never forgot the humiliating loss of Bangladesh at the hands of India, although India claims it only helped Bangladesh to gain its freedom in the face of what the Bangladeshis say was Pakistani genocide. Zia's emergence was a result of that humiliation.
- - But Zia hanged your father, I interrupted...
- - Yes and I hate him, and God the Almighty already punished him for that, said Benazir (alluding to Zia’s death in a plane crash). But Zia did one thing right, he started the whole policy of proxy war by supporting the separatist movements in Punjab and Kashmir, as a way of getting back at India.
- - What about Pakistan’ nuclear bomb, I asked?
- -That’s my father’s work she said proudly. He realized, after having lost the 1965 and 1971wars with India, that both numerically and strategically, we can never beat India in a conventional conflict. Thus he initiated the programme by saying that “we will get the nuclear bomb, even if we have to eat grass”.
- - But is it not a dangerous weapon if it falls in the hands of the fundamentalists of your country, I asked?
- No such danger, Benazir answered. Anyway, it is not only a deterrent against India's military conventional superiority and an answer to India's own nuclear capability, but also the ultimate weapon to reassert Islam's moral superiority.
- - We in Europe have united in a Common Market, why don’t Pakistan and India forget their differences and form some kind of confederation with other South Asia countries, instead of killing each other?
- - Pakistan and India were never one country, answered the imperious lady. They were only kept together by force, whether by Mauryan, Moghul or British rule. Hindus have recognised the reality of Islam, and we needed our own country to feel free.
I was flabbergasted: here was a lady educated in Oxford and Harvard, who mouthed such irrational statements. She spoke good English, was pretty, articulate and appealed to the Press. But when in power, she had to resort to anti -Indianism to please her voters, her husband, now President of Pakistan, was known as Mr 10%, and she was hounded out of power twice for incompetence and corruption. Is she then a martyr of democracy ? History will tell. But today we see that her niece, Fatima Bhutto, as pretty as Benazir was, is the toast of the Indian Media, every time she comes to the Literary Festival of Jaipur, to sell her books! If one day Fatima becomes PM, as Pakistan have also their favorite dynasty, for sure, she will tread in her aunt's footprints, for the only way to please the Pakistani voters, is to called for Azad Kashmir...
François Gautier

 

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