A Journey To Disillusionment – By Shehbaz Khan Mazari

This is an autobiography, a political history of Pakistan by one of the scions of a prominent Baluch family and a practicing politician. It is also an indictment of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan and his politics. Coming from a Baluch chieftain, it gives rare insight into the working of tribal system in Baluchistan and the history of Baluch unrest in the largest province in today’s Pakistan.

After giving his tribal background, the author starts with narrating his own life story, which started as an orphan in a prominent family. Being wardens of the court, this family of six children, three brothers and three sisters, were taken care of by the Deputy Commissioners posted at Dera Ghazi Khan district in Pakistan. Educated at Qeeen Mary’s college at Lahore and later at Aitchison, the author joined Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College (RIMC) at Dehra Doon, which he left after partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. He joined Aitchison again till he got back to his village Rojhan in 1951.

Here he started taking part in local politics and records many incidents of the excesses of the tribal system and its chieftains. Having seen these excesses, he moved to Sonmiani, a nearby town to keep distance from his immediate family with which he had developed some differences. He married twice, once by choice and the other time due to the tribal code.

His story gives many interesting details at this stage: the history of Sindh, the southern province of Pakistan; the settlement of Karachi, the financial hub of Pakistan; and history of many of its prominent families. He recalls his first meeting with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, recently returned from  DG Khan the US in 1954. He found Bhutto to be intelligent, articulate, ambitious, duplicitous and insecure all at one time. Much of the later part of the book is focused on the author’s assessment of Bhutto’s policies as the President and later the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

He has also given a brief history of the Baluch discontent, starting from Kalat, the third largest princely state in the British India. Under the British, Kalat enjoyed autonomy in all subjects except defence, foreign policy and currency. After partition, the ruler of Kalat, or the Khan of Kalat was nudged into joining Pakistan by the British government. With the introduction of One Unit, a devious constitutional mechanism introduced to avoid the anticipated parliamentary majority of East Pakistan, the Khan of Kalat was deprived of his special status. He therefore started agitating for a new province. The martial law authorities in 1958 accused him of plotting with the Shah of Iran and arrested him after a bloody operation. This sparked the first Baluch uprising in Pakistan.

This was the first martial law, declared by General Ayub in Pakistan. While Bhutto joined the government led by General Ayub, the author became part of the opposition who worked for Fatima Jinnah during the presidential elections in 1960s. He however admits the helpful role of Bhutto in getting some of the Baluch inmates released at his request during this time. These included Akbar Bugti, the chieftain of the Bugti tribe, whose assassination in 2006 in Baluchistan during General Musharraf’s presidency has sparked the latest Baluch insurgency in Pakistan, which continues to this day.

He shares many incidents of Bhutto’s duplicitous politics during the agitation against the Ayub regime, after the war between India and Pakistan in 1965. He found Mujeeb to be equally weak, though he sympathizes with the Bengali plight at the time. He found Asghar Khan, another political figure, to be an upright person, but one who lacked in political skills. However, he didn’t become part of Asghar Khan’s party as he defined himself as an independent politician who was responsible only to his own conscience.

After the breakup of Pakistan in Bangladesh and the present day Pakistan, Bhutto assumed the leadership of the war-torn Pakistan. The author criticizes him for his authoritarian style of governance and his military operation against the Baluch tribes in 1970s. Mazari became a part of the opposition that contested elections against Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The results of the elections led to the political stalemate and the third Martial law in the country.

This was a reprieve for most of the politicians in opposition to the government of People’s Party. The author claims he was approached a number of times by the military regime to be part of the new setup. He declined and instead joined the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in Pakistan. Here he mentions what he sees as a lack of commitment to democracy in the other members of the Bhutto family. After General Zia’s death, he stood in elections, but lost due to the interference by the interim government which was actively promoting a new alliance of political parties, the Islamic Democratic Alliance (IJI) against Bhutto’s PPP. He retired from politics since then

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