Now out of power, Benazir Bhutto is at pains to reinvent herself as a moderate and a peacenik.
PUBLICATION of this revised edition of Benazir Bhutto's memoirs now, two decades after they were first published, is far more timely than she suspected. It is mainly addressed to the West. Sacked as Prime Minister in 1996, it has taken her a decade and more to attribute her misfortunes to Al Qaeda. The sub-text is: "Plant me in office. I will fight the Al Qaeda more efficiently than Pervez Musharraf."
The only additions are a new Preface and the last chapter. The former drips with megalomania; the latter, with mendacity. "Like England's Queen Elizabeth, I, who had also endured imprisonment and remained single, thought I would never get married." She married a man of ill repute, Asif Ali Zardari. Both stand convicted in Swiss courts in cases of corruption and money laundering (vide the writer's article "Benazir in Swiss courts"; Frontline; April 9, 2004).
The memoirs have not a word about his past; these cases; or, for that matter, her pact with the Army in 1988 under which she was allowed to be Prime Minister. It is only literally true that Rajiv Gandhi and she "signed the first nuclear" confidence-building measure (CBM) in South Asia not to attack each other's nuclear installations. But it was first concluded orally and publicly announced in December 1985 between Zia ul Haq and Rajiv Gandhi in Delhi. "We subsequently signed the draft of an agreement to withdraw to Kargil without prejudice to our respective view on the (Siachen) Glacier (though neither of us would actually remain in power to actually sign the document)."
False, again. No such draft was initialled, still less signed.
She it was who screamed to the Kashmiris early in 1990 "Azadi, azadi. Goli chalao" (Freedom, Freedom. Shoot). On her return to power, she stipulated impossible terms to India in January 2004 and wrecked accord. She sponsored the Taliban and encouraged the clergy at home. She now claims that even the 1989 no-confidence motion against her was funded by Osama bin Laden. Her brother "Murtaza's murder was part of the conspiracy to destabilise my government". Zardari was, however, tried for the murder but was acquitted. The two hated each other.
It is accepted by all now that Pakistan's Northern Light Infantry had occupied posts in Kargil in 1999. But Benazir repeats the lies of 1999 even 2007: "The Kashmiri Mujahideen seized the posts held by India when it [sic] was unoccupied."
The piece de resistance is about the Army Chief General Aslam Beg's briefing in 1990: "He proposed that if the Army suspected it was going to be attacked, the government should allow it to engage in `offensive defence'. This was his expression for a pre-emptive strike. He said that if Islamabad went on an `offensive defence', it could capture Srinagar, the capital of India-held Kashmir. There then came the offer of the `one hundred thousand battle-hardened Mujahideen' who were ready to come to our assistance in capturing Srinagar. (Osama bin Laden made the same offer to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Like me, King Fahd chose not to take up the offer. This resulted in Osama's open confrontation with the House of Saud.)
"General Beg told me, `Prime Minister, you just give the order and your men will take Srinagar and you will wear the crown of victory and of glory.' I thought he had lost all sense of reality."
False, once again. He publicly proclaimed "a policy of offensive defence". Should there be a war, "the Army would enter India". This was at the time of the largest military exercise Zarb-e-Momin which began on December 9, 1989. Hardly any noticed its fate. It was called off, as The Muslim (Lahore) reported on December 25. "Blueland" forces made "tactical mistakes", the General admitted, and could not turn the enemy territory into a battlefield. Whereas "Foxland", the "enemy", not only "defended their `vitals' but were poised to launch an offensive against their rivals. He said that is why the imaginary war between Blueland and Foxland forces was called off." India was "Foxland"; Blueland was Pakistan. Beg discovered in 1989 that Pakistan could not win a war. Beg's denial in the Daily Observer (April 12, 2007) rings true. It was Benazir who asked, "Can you capture Srinagar?" He replied, "Yes, if you place the resources at our disposal. She did not answer." Both knew that she could not. A, predictably, more varnished account that General Pervez Musharraf made a similar proposal to her, in 1996 when he was DGMO, is also false. By then, if anything, India was far stronger. Neither soldier could possibly have recommended war in Kashmir.