My father continued to negotiate with Mujib, hoping to keep Pakistan intact, hoping to spare East Pakistan the military reprisal so easily available to a military regime. On March 27, 1971, he was actually in East Pakistan’s capital city of Dacca for another round of talks with Mujib when his worst fears were realised: Yahya Khan ordered in the army to quell the insurrection. Alone in his hotel room, my father watched Dacca go up in flames, sick at heart at the Generals’ inevitable solution of force. And six thousand miles away in Cambridge, I learned a bitter lesson.
Looting. Rape. Kidnappings. Murder. Where no one had cared about Pakistan when I arrived at Harvard, now everyone did. And the condemn-ation of my country was universal. At first, I refused to believe the accounts in the Western press of atrocities being committed by our army in what the East Bengal rebels were now calling Bangladesh. According to the government-controlled Pakistani papers my parents sent me every week, the brief rebellion had been quelled. What were these charges then that Dacca had been burned to the ground and firing squads sent into the university to execute students, teachers, poets, novelists, doctors and law-yers? I shook my head in disbelief. Refugees were reportedly fleeing by the thousands, so many of them strafed and killed by Pakistani planes that their bodies were being used to erect road blocks.
The stories were so extreme I didn’t know what to think. The lecture we’d been given about the dangers of rape during freshman orientation week at Radcliffe had initially
seemed as unbelievable. I had never even heard of rape until I came to America and the very possibility of it kept me from going out alone at night for the next four years. After the lecture, the possibility of rape at Harvard was real to me. The rape of East Bengal was not. I found security in the official jingoistic line in our part of the world that the reports in the Western press were ’exaggerated’ and a
MY FIRST TASTE OF DEMOCRACY
’Zionist plot’ against an Islamic state.
My classmates at Harvard were harder to convince. ’Your army is barbaric,’ the accusations would come. ’You’re slaughtering the Bengalis.’ ’We are not killing the Bengalis,’ I would counter, my face turning blue with indignation. ’Do you believe everything you read in the newspapers?’ Everyone was turning against West Pakistan, even the people with whom I had gone door to door earlier in the year, collecting money for the victims of a devastating cyclone in East Pakistan. The charges mounted. ’You people are fascist dictators.’ I wouldn’t even try to bite my tongue, especially when I read that India was training thousands of Bengali re-fugees in guerrilla warfare, then slipping them back over the border. ’We are fighting an Indian-backed insurgency,’ I’d lash back. ’We are fighting to hold our country together, just as you did during your own Civil War.’
There was no place to avoid condemnation, even when it was un-founded. ’Pakistan has denied the people of Bangladesh the right of self-determination,’ thundered Professor Walzer in a public lecture on ’War and Morality’ in the autumn of my junior year. I shot to my feet in front of the 200 other students in the lecture hall and delivered my first political speech. ’That’s completely wrong, Professor,’ I corrected him, my voice quivering. ’The people of Bengal exercised the right to self-determination in 1947 when they opted for Pakistan.’ There was a stunned silence. But my point was historically correct. The sadder truth which I was refusing to face lay in the disillusionment that had followed the creation of East Pakistan.
How many times since have I asked God to forgive me for my ignor-ance? I didn’t see then that the democratic mandate for Pakistan had been grossly violated. The majority province of East Pakistan was basically being treated as a colony by the minority West. From revenues of more than thirty-one billion rupees from East Pakistan’s exports, the minority in West Pakistan had built roads, schools, universities and hospitals for them-selves, but had developed little in the East. The army, the largest employer in our very poor country, drew 90 per cent of its forces from West
Pakistan. 80 per cent of government jobs were filled by people from the West. The central government had even declared Urdu our national lan-guage, a language few in East Pakistan understood, thus further handicap-ping the Bengalis in competing for jobs in government or education. No wonder they felt excluded and exploited.
I was also too young and naive at Harvard to understand that the Pakistani army was capable of commiting the same atrocities as any army let loose in a civilian population. The psychology can be deadly as it was when US forces massacred innocent civilians in Mylai in 1968. Years later, Zia’s suppression of my home province of Sindh would be no differ-ent. Members of the armed forces can lose control and wreak havoc
THE YEARS OF DETENTION
among civilians. They look upon them as ’the enemy’ to be shot or looted or raped. Yet, during that terrible spring of 1971, I clung to my childish image of the heroic Pakistani soldiers who had fought so valiantly during the 1965 war against India. It was an image that was to die slowly and painfully.
’Pakistan is passing through a terrible ordeal,’ my father wrote in a long letter to me which was later published as a book called The Great Tragedy. ’The nightmare of Pakistanis killing Pakistanis is not yet over. Blood is still being spilled. The situation has become greatly complicated by the aggressive involvement of India. Pakistan will live purposefully forever if we survive the turmoil of today; otherwise catastrophic con-vulsions will lead to total ruin.’
The catastrophic convulsions came on the morning of December 3, 1971. ’No!’ I cried in Eliot Hall, throwing down the newspaper. Under the guise of establishing order so that the steady stream of refugees pouring into India could be reversed, the Indian army invaded East Pakistan and struck at West Pakistan as well. Sophisticated Soviet-made missiles were sinking our warships at their moorings in Karachi Harbour. Indian planes were strafing the city’s vital installations. Our weapons were so outdated, we couldn’t even fight back. Now the very existence of my country was being threatened.
’You are lucky not to be here,’ Samiya wrote to me from Karachi. ’There are air strikes every night and we have had to put black paper on the windows to block out any light. The schools and universities are closed, so there is nothing to do all day but worry. As usual, the news-papers are telling us nothing. We didn’t even know India had invaded East Pakistan until somebody knocked on our gate and yelled ”There’s war! There’s war!” Now the 7.00 news says we are winning, but the BBC Asia broadcast says we are being
crushed. The BBC is also reporting terrible crimes committed by the army in East Pakistan. Have you heard anything about that?
’Your brother Shah Nawaz is the most excited thirteen-year-old in Kar-achi. He has joined the Civil Defence and patrols the neighbourhood every night on his motorbike, telling everyone to put out their lights. The rest of us are terrified. I was at your house with Sanam during one strike, and your mother took us into the downstairs dining room where there are no windows. At home, I’m sleeping with my mother we’re both so nervous. Three bombs have fallen just across the street from our house but luckily they didn’t explode. Our garden is full of glass.
’The Indian planes fly so close to the windows that you can actually see the pilots! But none of our air force seems to be striking back. Three nights ago the explosions were so loud I thought they’d bombed our neighbour’s house. I went up on the roof and the whole sky was pink. I
MY FIRST TASTE OF DEMOCRACY
found out the next morning that the oil terminals in Karachi harbour had been hit by missiles. The fires are still burning. We are waiting for help from the Americans.’
Military help from America never arrived. Though Pakistan had a de-fence treaty with the United States, the arrangement suffered from mis-taken identity. The Americans were prepared to defend us from their enemy, the Soviet Union. But Pakistan’s real threat had always been India. Even now, much of the military aid designated for use by the Afghan rebels against the Soviets is going into the Pakistani army arsenal for potential use against India.
In the crisis of 1971, President Nixon eschewed military intervention in favour of safer diplomatic manoeuvres, ordering what came to be called America’s ’tilt’ towards Pakistan. On December 4, the second day of what fumed out to be a thirteen-day war, the US State Department placed the blame for the hostilities squarely on India’s shoulders. On December 5 the United States sponsored a cease-fire resolution in the United Nations Security Council. On December 6, the Nixon administration suspended more than eighty-five million dollars worth of development loans promised to India.
But these manoeuvres would prove to be insufficient. A week after India’s invasion, Dacca, our last stronghold, was about to fall. Indian troops had crossed the border into West Pakistan. Facing total defeat on the battlefield and the overrunning of our country, Yahya Khan turned to the one elected leader in Pakistan who, as such, had the authority and credib-ility to save Pakistan: my father.
`I am coming to the United Nations.
Meet me in New York at the Pierre Hotel on December 9,’ the message read from my father.
’Do you think Pakistan will get a fair hearing at the United Nations?’ my father asked me when I met him in New York.
’Of course, Papa,’ I said with the certainty of an eighteen-year-old. ’No one can deny that India, in violation of international law, has invaded and occupied another country.’
’And do you think the Security Council will condemn India and insist on a withdrawal of her forces?’
’How can they not?’ I answered incredulously. ’It would be a travesty of their mandate as an international peace-keeping organisation to sit by while thousands are being slaughtered and a country dismembered.’
’You may be a good student of international law, Pinkie, and I hesitate to disagree with a Harvard undergraduate,’ he said mildly. ’But you don’t know anything about power politics.’
Images from the four futile days my father tried to save a united Pakis-tan still stand clearly in my mind.
THE YEARS OF DETENTION
I am sitting two rows behind him in the Security Council. 104 countries in the General Assembly as well as the United States and China have voted to condemn India but, under the threat of a Soviet veto, the five permanent members of the Security Council can’t even agree on a cease-fire. After seven sessions on the Indian-Pakistan conflict and a dozen draft resolutions, the Security Council has not adopted one. Everything that my father has taught me about the manipulation of Third World countries by the Superpowers is being played out in this one room. Pakistan is defenceless in the face of Superpower self-interest.
’December 11. 5.40. Our army is fighting heroically but without air and naval support and facing a b : l ratio, it cannot last longer than 36 hours from yesterday,’ read the notes I scribble on Hotel Pierre stationery. My notes the next day are just as devastating. ’6.30 am Ambassador Shah Nawaz called to say situation grim. Only answer is Chinese intervention with Americans putting screws on the Russians to prevent them from intervening. Papa sent telegram to Islamabad saying hold on for 72, not 36, hours. General Niazi (the commander of our army in East Pakistan) says will go forward to the last man.’
On December 12, my father calls on the Security Council for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Indian forces from Pakistani territory, the stationing of UN forces and the means to ensure that no reprisals take place in East Pakistan. But his pleas fall on deaf ears. Instead I listen in disbelief to an hour-long debate on whether the Security Council should convene the next morning at 9.30 or
at the more leisurely hour of 11.00. Meanwhile, Pakistan as we know it is dying.
’We must get Yahya to open the western front,’ my father says urgently to the Pakistani delegation in our hotel room. ’An offensive in the West will draw the concentration of Indian troops from the East and relieve pressure there. Without that pressure, we are in great danger of losing all of Pakistan.’ I place a call to Yahya Khan in Pakistan for my father, but Yahya’s military aide tells me the President is sleeping and can’t be disturbed. My father grabs the phone. ’There’s a war going on! Wake up the President!’ he shouts. ’He must open the western front. We must relieve pressure on the East immediately.’
A Western journalist reports that General Niazi has surrendered to the Indians in East Pakistan. My father loses his temper with Yahya altogether. ’Rescind the rumours!’ my father shouts over the phone to Pakistan to Yahya’s military secretary because Yahya is still unavailable. ’How can I negotiate a favourable settlement if I have nothing to bargain withT
The telephones at the Pierre ring non-stop. One afternoon I take a call from US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on one line, and one from Huang Hua, chairman of the delegation from the People’s Republic of China, on another. Henry Kissinger is very worried that the Chinese will intervene militarily on the side of Pakistan. My father is worried that the
MY FIRST TASTE OF DEMOCRACY
Chinese won’t. While Papa is planning to ask Yahya to fly to Peking as a last resort, Henry Kissinger, I read later, is having meetings with the Chinese in CIA ’safe houses’ all over New York.
The Soviet delegation comes and goes from my father’s suite. The Chinese come and go. So does the United States delegation, headed by George Bush. ’My son is up at Harvard, too. Call me if you ever need anything,’ Ambassador Bush tells me, handing me his card. Through it all I sit by the phone in the bedroom, taking down real messages, relaying false ones.
’Interrupt the meetings,’ my father tells me. ’If the Soviets are here, tell me the Chinese are calling. If the Americans are here, tell me that the Russians are on the line or the Indians. And don’t tell anyone who really is here. One of the fundamental lessons of diplomacy is to create doubt: never lay all your cards on the table.’ I follow his instructions but not his lesson. I always lay my cards on the table.
The diplomatic card-playing in New York, however, all comes to an abrupt end. Yahya does not open the western front; the military regime has already psychologically conceded the loss of East Pakistan and lost heart. The Chinese do not intervene, in spite of their
statements of military support. And the rumour of our premature surrender leaves a damaging legacy, even after the error is corrected. The Indians now know our mili-tary commanders in East Pakistan want to give up the fight. So do the Permanent Members of the Security Council. Dacca is about to fall.
On December 15 I take my accustomed seat behind my father in the Security Council when his patience with the do-nothing strategy of the members wears out. ’There is no such thing as a neutral animal. You take positions,’ he charges them, pointing a finger especially at Britain and France who because of their own interests on the sub-continent, had ab-stained in the voting. ’You have to be either on the side of justice or on the side of injustice, you have to be either on the side of the aggressor or the aggressed. There is no such thing as neutrality.’
As his impassioned words fill the chamber, I learn the lesson of acquies-cence versus defiance. With the Superpowers dead set against Pakistan, the prudent course would be acquiescence. But giving in to the Superpowers would mean becoming a party to the act. ’Impose any decision, have a treaty worse than the Treaty of Versailles, legalise aggression, legalise occupation, legalise everything that has been illegal up to December 15, 1971. I will not be a party to it,’ my father is thundering. ’. . . You can take your Security Council. I am going.’ And with that, he rises to his feet and strides out of the room. Hastily I collect my papers and through the stunned silence, follow him out with the rest of the Pakistani delegation.
THE YEARS OF DETENTION
The Washington Post termed my father’s performance in the Security Coun-cil ’living theater’. But for us it was a real dilemma affecting the future of our country, if there was going to be a country called Pakistan at all. ’Even if we surrender militarily in Dacca, we must not be part of a political surrender,’ he said to me later while we walked the streets of New York. ’By walking out, I wanted to make clear that though we can be physically crushed, our national will and pride cannot be.’
My father was very upset as we walked and walked, seeing the devastat-ing repercussions ahead for Pakistan. ’Had there been a negotiated political settlement, perhaps a political referendum under the auspices of the UN, the people of East Pakistan could have voted whether to remain part of Pakistan or to become the separate country of Bangladesh. Now Pakistan will have to face the shame of surrender to India. There will be a terrible price to pay.’
The next morning, my father began his journey back to Pakistan.
I returned to Cambridge. And Dacca fell.
The loss of Bangladesh was a terrible blow to Pakistan on many levels. Our common religion of Islam, which we always believed would transcend the 1,000 miles of India which separated East and West Pakistan, failed to keep us together. Our faith in our very survival as a country was shaken, the bonds between the four provinces of West Pakistan strained almost to breaking. Morale was never lower, compounded by Pakistan’s actual sur-render to India.
As television cameras focused in, General Niazi approached his Indian counterpart, General Aurora, on the race course at Dacca. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw General Niazi exchange swords with the conqueror of Dacca (they had been at Sandhurst together), and embrace him. Embrace him! Even the Nazis did not surrender in such a humiliating manner. As commander of a defeated army, Niazi would have acted far more honour-ably if he had shot himself.
When my father landed in Islamabad, the city was in flames. Angry mobs were even putting a torch to the shops selling alcohol that had supposedly supplied Yahya Khan and the members of his regime. Watch-ing Pakistan’s surrender to India on television after weeks of the regime’s claims that Pakistan was winning the war sent huge crowds in Karachi to storm the television station and try to bum it down. And bellicose editor-ials in the Indian press threatened further devastation to Pakistan, claiming our country was ’an artificial nation which should never have come into being’.
On December 20, 1971, four days after the fall of Dacca, the people’s fury forced Yahya Khan to step down. And my father, as elected leader of the largest Parliamentary group in Pakistan, became the new President. Ironically, since there was no constitution, he had to be sworn in as the
MY FIRST TASTE OF DEMOCRACY
first civilian in history to ever head a Martial Law administration.
At Harvard I was no longer known as Pinkie from Pakistan, but Pinkie Bhutto, the daughter of the President of Pakistan. But my pride at Papa’s accomplishments was compromised by the shame of our surrender and the price Pakistan had paid. In the two weeks of the war, one quarter of our air force had been shot down. Half our navy had been sunk. Our treasury was empty. Not only was East Pakistan gone, but the Indian army had captured 5,000 square miles of our land in the West and taken 93,000 of our men prisoners-of-war. Pakistan could not last, many were predicting. The united Pakistan Mohammed Ali Jinnah had founded after the partition of India in 1947 died with the emergence of Bangladesh.
Simla. June 28, 1972. A summit between my father, the President
of Pakis-tan and Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India. The future of the entire sub-continent depended on its outcome. And again, my father wanted me to be there. ’Whatever the result, this meeting will be a fuming point in Pakistan’s history,’ he told me the week after I returned from my junior year at Harvard for the summer vacation. ’I want you to witness it first hand.’
If the atmosphere had been tense six months before at the United Nations, it was strained to breaking point at Simla. My father was coming to the negotiating table with Indira Gandhi empty-handed. India held all the bargaining cards, our prisoners of war, the threat of war trials and 5,000 square miles of our territory. On the presidential plane to Chan-digarh in the Indian state of Punjab, my father and the senior members of the Pakistani delegation were sombre. Would tensions ease between our two countries at Simla? Could we make peace with India? Or was our country doomed?
’Everyone will be looking for signs of how the meetings are progres-sing, so be extra careful,’ my father advised me on the plane. ’You must not smile and give the impression you are enjoying yourself while our soldiers are still in Indian prisoner-of-war camps. You must not look grim, either, which people can interpret as a sign of pessimism. They must have no reason to say: ”Look at her face. The meetings are obviously a failure. The Pakistanis have lost their nerve. They have no chance of success and are going to make concessions.”’
’So how should I look?’ I asked him.
’I’ve already told you. Don’t look sad and don’t look happy,’ my father said.
’That’s very difficult.’
’It’s not difficult at all.’
For once he was wrong. It was very difficult to maintain a neutral
THE YEARS OF DETENTION
stance of the face as we transferred to the helicopter at Chandigarh that was to take us to the hill station of Simla, the former summer capital of the British Raj in the Himalayan foothills. It was even more difficult when we landed there on a football pitch and, under the scrutiny of televison cameras, were greeted by Mrs Gandhi herself. How tiny she was, much smaller than she seemed in the countless photographs I had seen of her. And how elegant, even in the raincoat she wore over her sari under the threatening skies. As-Salaam O alaikum,’ I said to her, our Muslim greeting of peace. ’Namaste - Greetings,’ she replied with a smile. I gave her what I hoped was a non-committal half-smile in return.
During the next five days, my father and the other members of the Pakistani delegation were on a roller coaster of emotions. ’The talks are going well,’ a delegate told me halfway through
the first session. ’It doesn’t look good,’ another told me that evening. The next day was an even wilder ride, optimism followed by pessimism. Acting from a position of strength, Mrs Gandhi was insisting on a package settlement, including India’s claim to the disputed state of Kashmir. The Pakistani delegation wanted a step-by-step approach, settling separately the issues of the ter-ritory, the prisoners and our dispute over Kashmir. Any sell-out by Pakis-tan under pressure would be unacceptable to the people of Pakistan and heighten the chances of a new war.
But while the negotiating teams were deadlocked, a strange phenom-enon was taking place on the streets. Every time I left the Himachal Bhavan, the former residence of the British governors of Punjab where we were staying, people lined the streets to stare at me. Cheering crowds began to follow me everywhere: past the old cottages and country gardens planted by nostalgic British inhabitants years before; on my arranged visits to a doll museum, a handicrafts centre, tinned fruit factories, and a dance programme at a convent where I ran into several of my old teachers from the convent in Murree. When I walked down the Mall where officials of the Imperial Government had once promenaded with their wives, the crowds grew so huge that the traffic had to be stopped. It made me feel quite uncomfortable. What had I done to draw such attention?