Our house became filled with tension, but I tried not to show my fear. What good would it have done? This was the stuff of political life in Pakistan, and therefore the life we led. Death threats. Corruption. Violence. What was, was. I didn’t even allow myself to feel frightened. I tried, in fact, not to feel anything at all, even when eleven months after the found-ing of the Pakistan People’s Party, Ayub arrested my father and the other senior party leaders and threw them in jail. That was the way of dictators. Where there is protest, crush it. Where there are dissenters, arrest them. Under what law? We are the law.
The violent events of 1968 were not restricted to Pakistan. A revolu-tionary fever was sweeping the world, students rioting on campuses in Paris, Tokyo, Mexico City, Berkeley as well as Rawalpindi. In Pakistan, the rioting against Ayub spread with the news that my father had been arrested and taken to Mianwali, one of the worst prisons in Pakistan. It continued when he was transferred to Sahiwal, where his cell was infested with rats. In an effort to quell the disturbances, the regime closed down all schools and universities.
Meanwhile, I was facing the most critical time of my academic life, preparing for my O-level exams which covered the last three years of my studies, as well as for my SATs, Achievements and my entrance exam for possible admission to Radcliffe. I had begged my father to let me apply to Berkeley where he had gone, but he wouldn’t let me. ’The weather in
THE YEARS OF DETENTION
California is too nice,’ he had explained. ’The snow and ice in Massachu-setts will force you to study.’
There was no question of my not taking the exams, since they were sent from England only once a year in December. ’You stay in Karachi and study,’ my mother said, taking the younger children with her to Lahore to file a petition of habeas corpus in the High Court against my father’s detention. I was left alone
at 70 Clifton, confined to the immediate area, a long way from the commercial centre where the rioting was taking place.
To distract myself from worrying about my father in prison I buried myself in my work, going over and over my subjects with the tutors who came to the house every day. In the evenings I sometimes joined my friends Fifi, Thamineh, Fatima and Samiya at the nearby Sindh Club, once a British enclave where ’natives and dogs’ were not allowed, and now a sporting club for well-to-do Pakistanis. We played squash and swam in the pool, though we all knew things were not as carefree as they seemed. Ever since my father started challenging Ayub, some of my friends’ re-latives and ’well-wishers’ had begun cautioning them that friendship with the Bhuttos was dangerous, an invitation to reprisal by Ayub’s regime. Samiya’s father had been warned by the Inspector General himself that his daughter’s friendship with me could bring trouble to his family. Samiya and my other friends bravely stuck by me, though I noticed other school-mates beginning to distance themselves.
’I am praying for your success in your O-level examinations,’ my father wrote from Sahiwal prison on November 28. ’I am really proud to have a daughter who is so bright that she is doing O-levels at the young age of fifteen, three years before I did them. At this rate, you might become the president.’
Though he was being held in solitary confinement, my father led me to believe that his major concern continued to be my education. ’I know you read a great deal, but you should read a little more literature and history,’ his letter continued. ’You have all the books you need. Read about Napo-leon Bonaparte, the most complete man of modern history. Read about the American revolution and about Abraham Lincoln. Read Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed. Read about Bismarck and Lenin, Ataturk and Mao Tse-Tung. Read the history of India from ancient times. And above all read the history of Islam.’ The prison form was signed ’Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’.
I wanted more than anything to be in Lahore with my family, but I couldn’t. Sanam rang to tell me that my mother was leading women in protest marches against my father’s imprisonment every two or three days, making sure each demonstrator carried a wet towel in a plastic bag in case Ayub’s riot police fired tear gas. Several times the police broke up
IMPRISONED IN MY OWN HOME
the processions with bamboo lathis, yet the demonstrations were continu-ing to grow. Ayub ordered the military out to arrest the protesters. But the soldiers refused to arrest the women, waving at them instead. Even under Ayub, women were still considered
When the time for the O-level exams finally came in December, the Convent of Jesus and Mary arranged for us to take the tests at the Vatican Embassy, also in Clifton. Its sanctity and its distance from the commercial centre of Karachi made it the safest choice. While students in Britain sat their several days of exams in tidy classrooms, we were slipped in and out of Pakistan’s headquarters of the Church of Rome.
Meanwhile the rioting continued, the anger against Ayub mounting after the police fired on the demonstrators, killing several. Now rioters all over Pakistan began calling for Ayub’s resignation as well as the release of my father and the other political prisoners.
Three months after my father’s arrest, the chaos in Pakistan forced Ayub Khan to let the PPP leaders go. Amidst rumours that the plane that was to bring my father home to Larkana from Lahore would be sabotaged and my father killed, supposedly by accident, my mother held a press conference to expose the possible plot before it could be carried out. My father was brought to Larkana by train instead. I have never been so happy to see anyone in my life. But the struggle against Ayub was far from over.
’Get down!’ my father shouted at Sanam and me during a victory march in Larkana soon after his release. While our open car moved slowly through the mobs cheering ]iye Bhutto!’ and ’Girti Houi Deewar Ko Aakhri Dhaka Dow’ - Give the falling wall a final push - an Ayub agent fired pointblank at my father. Miraculously, the pistol jammed, but the crowd was unforgiving.
I peeked out from under my father’s hand to see a young man literally being torn apart. His neck, his head, his arms and legs were being pulled in different directions, as was his mouth, which was bleeding heavily. ’Don’t look!’ my father said sharply, pushing me down harder. I hunched down over my knees while my father shouted at the crowd to let his would-be assassin live. Reluctantly they did so, but the sight stayed with me for months.
So did the sight of my father wasting away on a hunger-strike in his continuing protest against Ayub’s dictatorship and powers of arbitrary arrest. For days after his release from prison he sat under a shamiana at Al-Murtaza with other PPP leaders, in full view of the street. All Larkana watched and grew frightened as he got thinner and thinner. ’Please give in to Papa,’ I silently willed Ayub Khan, wondering why the men sitting with my father looked so well. ’They order food when they are in their rooms at night,’ one of the staff confided to me. ’Don’t tell your father.’
THE YEARS OF DETENTION
Like mushrooms, hunger-strike
groups sprang up in front of the Bar associations and the busy streets of cities all across Pakistan. Large crowds gathered every day to give the hunger-strikers moral support and call for Ayub’s resignation. Realising that even his police could not control the situation, Ayub- finally stepped down on March 25, 1969. But the victory was hollow. Instead of passing power to the Speaker of the National Assembly as laid down in his own constitution, Ayub designated his Army Chief-of-Staff Yahya Khan the new leader of Pakistan. Once again Pakistan was under the grip of a military dictator who promptly suspended all civil law and imposed martial rule.
’You have a letter from Radcliffe,’ my mother told me in April. I took the envelope from her with misgivings. Did I really want to go? The college had cautioned my father that at sixteen, I would be too young to enter Radcliffe, and had suggested that I wait a year. But my father saw no reason to hold me back. Instead he had asked the help of his friend John Kenneth Galbraith, a professor of Economics at Harvard and the former US Ambassador to India. I opened the envelope. I had been ac-cepted for the autumn of 1969.
My father gave me a beautiful volume of the Holy Quran bound in mother-of-pearl as a going-away present. ’You will see many things that surprise you in America and some that may shock you,’ he said. ’But I know you have the ability to adapt. Above all you must study hard. Very few in Pakistan have the opportunity you now have and you must take advantage of it. Never forget that the money it is costing to send you comes from the land, from the people who sweat and toil on those lands. You will owe a debt to them, a debt you can repay with God’s blessing by using your education to better their lives.’
In late August, I stood in the carved wooden doorway of 70 Clifton while my mother passed my new Holy Quran over my head. I kissed it. And together we left for the airport to fly to the United States.
REFLECTIONS FROM AL-MURTAZA:
MY FIRST TASTE OF DEMOCRACY
As my mother and I enter our second month of detention at Al-Murtaza, the gardens are dying. Before my father’s imprisonment and death we had needed a staff of ten to maintain the large gardens and tend to the grounds. But since Al-Murtaza has been turned into a sub-jail for my mother and me, Zia’s military regime has permitted only three gardeners to enter. I join in the struggle to keep the gardens alive.
I cannot bear to watch the flowers wither, especially my father’s roses. Every time he had travelled abroad, he’d brought back new and exotic varieties to plant in our garden - violet roses, tangerine
roses, roses that didn’t even look like roses but were so perfectly sculpted that they looked as though they had been fashioned out of clay. His favourite was a blue rose called the ’rose of peace’. Now the rose bushes begin to shrivel and turn brown out of neglect.
Every morning in the lingering summer heat I’m in the garden by seven, helping the gardeners haul the heavy canvas hoses from one bed to the next. From the corners of the house the Frontier Forces watch me. It used to take the staff three days to water the garden. It takes us eight. By the time we reach the last rose bushes, the first have already begun to wilt. I will them to survive, seeing in their struggle to live denied adequate water and nourishment my own struggle to survive denied freedom.
The happiest hours of my life have been spent among the roses and the cool shade of the fruit trees at Al-Murtaza. During the day the air carried the scent of the Din ka Raja, the King of the Day, the sweet white flowers which my mother, like many Pakistani women, used to weave into her hair. At sunset, the air filled with the scent of Raat ki Raani, the Queen of the Night, which sweetened the evenings we spent as a family on the terrace.
More hoses. More water. I sweep the leaves from the patio, rake the lawn until my arms ache. My palms become raw and blister. ’Why are you doing this to yourself?’ my mother asks in concern when I slump, exhausted, by midday. It is something to do, I tell her. But it is something more. If I work so hard that every bone in my body is tired, then I am too tired even to think. And I don’t want to think of our lives wasting away under Martial Law.
THE YEARS OF DETENTION
I dig a new flower bed and plant rose cuttings, but they do not survive. My mother is more successful with her plantings of ladyfingers, chillies and mint. In the evenings, I whistle to a pair of tamed cranes and am gratified when they rush towards me, wings flapping, to take a piece of bread. Calling an animal and it coming, planting something and it growing, become essential. It is proof that I exist.
When I am not working in the garden, time becomes something merely to get through. I read and re-read my grandfather’s Erle Stanley Gardner books, though the electricity is often turned off, leaving my mother and me to spend days and nights in darkness. There is a television set, but even when the electricity is working there’s nothing to watch. In my father’s time, there were plays, films, even soap operas on television, as well as talk shows and literacy programmes to teach the people to read. When I turn on the television now, there is almost nothing
but Zia: Zia giving another speech, discussions of Zia’s speeches, censored news pro-grammes reporting who Zia has had meetings with.
At 8.15 every night my mother and I tune in without fail to the BBC Urdu report on the radio. Only on the BBC do we learn in November that the American Embassy in Islamabad has been burned to the ground by angry mobs believing that the United States was behind the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. As the story unfolds, my mother and I are astonished to learn that in security-conscious and Martial-Law-regulated Islamabad buses had been permitted to gather, pick up fundamentalist students, and deliver them to the American Embassy which they then set on fire. The Embassy had burned for hours before the authorities who had always turned up at the blink of an eye for a PPP demonstration made an appearance. The American Embassy was gutted, and one person killed. A contrite Zia went on television to make a public apology to the Americans and offer to pay damages. But what was he playing at? It remains a mystery to this day.
The news on the BBC a month later is even more provocative.
On December 27, 1979, Russian troops move into Afghanistan. My mother and I stare at each other when we hear the news on the BBC, knowing that the political implications are enormous. The battle between the Superpowers is now right on Pakistan’s doorstep. If the US wants a country which is internally strong to meet the Soviet presence, they will move quickly to restore democracy to Pakistan. If they decide to wait and see what happens in Afghanistan, Zia’s dictatorship will be strengthened.
America. It was in America that I-had experienced democracy for the first time, and where I spent four of the happiest years of my life. I could close my eyes now and visualise the Harvard-Radcliffe campus, the crim-sons and yellows of the trees in the autumn, the soft blanket of snow in the winter, the excitement we all felt at the first shoots of green in the spring. As a student at Radcliffe, however, I had also learned first hand
MY FIRST TASTE OF DEMOCRACY
the powerlessness of Third World countries in face of the self-interest of the Superpowers.
’Pak-i-stan? Where’s Pak-i-stan?’ my new classmates asked me when I first arrived at Radcliffe. The answer was simpler then.
’Pakistan is the largest Muslim country in the world,’ I replied, sounding like an embassy hand-out. ’There are two wings of Pakistan separated by India.’
’Oh, India,’ came the relieved response. ’You’re next to India.’
I smarted every time I heard the reference to India with whom we had had two bitter wars. Pakistan was supposed to be one of America’s
strong-est allies, a geographical buffer against the Soviet influence in India, and our other border countries of Communist China, Afghanistan and Iran. The United States used our airbases in northern Pakistan for their U-2 reconnaissance flights, including the ill-fated flight of Gary Powers in 1960. Henry Kissinger’s secret flight from Islamabad to China in 1971 was more successful, paving the way for President Nixon’s historic visit the next year. Yet Americans seemed completely unaware even of the existence of my country.
They were also understandably unaware of the Bhuttos and I relished the first anonymity I had had in my life. In Pakistan, the Bhutto name always brought recognition and with it a sense of shyness for me. I never knew whether people were approaching me on my own merit - or for my family’s name. At Harvard, I was on my own for the first time.
My mother had stayed with me for the first few weeks, settling me into my room at Eliot Hall and calculating the location of Mecca so I would know in which direction to pray. When she departed, she left behind warm woollen shalwar khameez she had gone to great lengths to have made for me, lined with silk so the wool wouldn’t scratch.
I was attentive to her directions for prayer, but not to her wardrobe which was impractical in the rain and snow and set me apart from the other students. I quickly shed the shalwar khameez and re-emerged in jeans and sweatshirts from the Harvard Co-op. I let my hair grow long and straight and was flattered when my friends in Eliot Hall told me I looked like Joan Baez. I drank gallons of apple cider, ate unconscionable numbers of peppermint-stick ice cream cones sprinkled with ’jimmies’ from Brig-ham’s ice cream parlour, and regularly attended rock concerts in Boston as well as the garden parties at Professor and Mrs Galbraith’s, my ’parents-ill-residence’. I loved the novelty of America.
The anti-war movement was at its peak and I marched with thousands of other students from Harvard in a Moratorium Day rally on the Boston Common and in a huge rally in Washington, DC, where, ironically, I
THE YEARS OF DETENTION
caught my first whiff of tear gas. I was nervous as I pinned on my ’Bring the Boys Home Now’ badge for the first time. As a foreigner I risked deportation if I was caught taking part in any political rally. But I had opposed the Vietnam war at home and was becoming even more radical-ised by the anti=war fever in America. The motives of my fellow marchers and mine were strangely the same: Americans should not be involved in an Asian civil war.
Having been to six different
branches of four schools in Pakistan, I relished the continuity of four years at Harvard. And there was so much going on. The momentum of the Women’s Movement was building and the Harvard bookshop was filled with books and magazines about women, including the campus bible, Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics and the first issues of Ms magazine. Night after night my friends and I gathered to talk about our aspirations for the future and what kind of new rules would govern our relationships with the people we married - if indeed we chose to get married at all. In Pakistan I had been among the minority who didn’t view marriage and family as their primary goal. At Harvard I was amongst a sea of women who felt as unimpeded by their gender as I did. My fledgling confidence soared and I got over the shyness that had plagued my earlier years.
In Pakistan, my sister, brothers and I moved within a small circle of friends and relatives. As a result, I was uneasy in front of people I didn’t know. At Harvard, I knew no one, except for Peter Galbraith, to whom I’d been introduced at his parents’ house just before college began. To my sheltered and conservative eye, Peter Galbraith seemed shocking. His hair was long, he was dressed in old and untidy clothes and he smoked cigar-ettes in front of his parents. He looked more like a waif the former Ambas-sador to India had brought home with him, rather than the son of a senior diplomat and respected professor. Little did I know then the role Peter, who became a good friend, would play in my release from detention in Pakistan fifteen years later.
But Peter was just one among thousands of students at Harvard. I had to go up to strangers and ask directions to the Library, to the lecture halls, the dorms. I couldn’t afford to be tongue-tied. I had been thrown in at the deep end of a strange and foreign pool. If I were to get to the surface, I had to get there by myself.
I settled in quickly, becoming Social Secretary of Eliot Hall during my first year and later going on to try out for the Harvard newspaper, The Crimson, and to give guided tours of the campus for the Crimson Key Society. ’The official name of this building is the Center of International Affairs, but we all know what CIA really stands for,’ 1 would say con-spiratorially to the new students, perpetuating the irreverent campus spirit that had so delighted me on my own first tour. Harvard’s controversial
MY FIRST TASTE OF DEMOCRACY
visual-arts building designed by the French architect Le Corbusier fared no better. ’The prevailing opinion is that the builder read the plans upside-down,’ was the standard wisecrack.
certain culture clashes, however, that I found difficult to overcome. I never did adjust to living in such close quarters to young men, especially after Eliot Hall went co-ed in my junior year. Even finding a male undergraduate in the laundry room was enough to cause me to postpone doing my own laundry. The problem was solved by moving to Eliot House on the Harvard campus where my roommate Yolanda Kodrzycki and I had our own suite of rooms and bathroom, and the communal laundry room was much larger.
I had thought I wanted to study psychology. But, when I discovered that the major entailed courses in medical sciences and the dissection of animals, I fumed squeamish and chose comparative government instead. My father was delighted; he had secretly written to Mary Bunting, the president of Radcliffe, asking her to try and steer me towards political courses. Instead, Mrs Bunting had kindly asked me what I wanted to do with my life, never letting on that she’d had a letter from my father. Comparative government certainly turned out to be a wise choice.
By studying government at Harvard I began to understand more about Pakistan than I ever had by living there. ’When a policeman holds up his hand in the street and says ”Stop!”, everybody stops. But when you or I hold up our hands and say ”stop”, nobody stops. Why?’ Professor John Womack asked the small group of us in his freshman seminar on ’revolu-tion’. ’Because the policeman is authorised by the constitution, by the government, to enforce laws. He has the mandate, the legitimacy to say ”stop” and you and I don’t.’
I remember sitting spellbound in Professor Womack’s study where I was probably the only student who actually lived in a dictatorship. With one example, Professor Womack had pinpointed the state of lawlessness and contempt in Pakistan under Ayub and Yahya Khan, and later, Zia ul-Haq. The authority of these dictators to govern was self-imposed, not a mandate from the people. I saw clearly for the first time why the people in Pakistan saw no reason to obey this sort of regime, no reason to ’stop’. Where there was no legitimate government, there was anarchy.
I was half-way through my sophomore year when legitimate govern-ment came closer to reality in Pakistan. On December 7, 1970, Yahya Khan finally held elections, the first in thirteen years. On the other side of the world in Cambridge, I studied all night with the telephone beside me. When my mother called me to say that my father and the PPP had unexpectedly swept West Pakistan, capturing 82 of 138 seats in the National Assembly, I was exultant. In East Pakistan, where Sheikh Mujib ur-Rahman,
the leader of the Awami League had run unopposed, Mujib had
THE YEARS OF DETENTION
won an even greater majority. ’Congratulations,’ people I had never met said to me the next day, having read of my father’s victory in the New York Times.
My elation, however, was short lived. Instead of working with my father and the representatives of West Pakistan to write a new constitution acceptable to both wings of Pakistan, Mujib instigated an independence movement to sever East Pakistan, or East Bengal, from the western federa-tion completely. Time and again my father appealed to Sheikh Mujib to keep Pakistan intact, to work together with him, a fellow civilian, to oust the military rule of Yahya. But instead of showing flexibility and agreeing to what was a political necessity, Mujib showed an obstinacy the logic of which to this day defies me. East Bengali rebels heeded his call for inde-pendence by seizing the airports. Bengali citizens refused to pay their taxes. Bengali employees of the central government went on strike. By March, civil war was imminent.