Art of killing without a trace

Saturday, September 15th, 2012 5:31:09 by

Indian arch-journalist Kuldip Nayar has written his memoir at the age of 89 — Beyond the Lines: an autobiography (Roli Books 2012). He writes about Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death in Tashkent where he had gone to end the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war with a peace accord.

Kuldip was in Tashkent with Shastri: “In a corner of the room, however, on a dressing table, there was an overturned thermos flask. It appeared that Shastri had struggled to open it.

“In 1970, on Shastri’s birth anniversary, his wife Lalita Shastri asked for a probe into his death. The family seemed upset that Jan Muhammad, Ambassador TN Kaul’s cook at the time, had cooked the food, not Ram Nath, his own personal servant”.

The book narrates how on Shastri’s death, Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aziz Ahmed who, together with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the foreign minister, was opposed to the Tashkent talks, which they thought was President Ayub Khan’s act of capitulation to India, reported Shastri’s death to Bhutto like this:

“Aziz Ahmad rang Bhutto who was half asleep and heard only the word ‘died’. He apparently asked, ‘Which of the two bastards?’ The late Salmaan Taseer in his book Bhutto: a political biography (Ithaca Press, 1979) tells it differently. Aziz Ahmed said, ‘The bastard’s dead’. Bhutto asked: ‘Which one?’”

The murder of Gandhi was no mystery although AG Noorani tells us there was an effort at a cover-up. Mohammad Ali Jinnah died by the wayside in Karachi while being brought back from Quetta in a ramshackle Red Cross truck which broke down. Now, MQM’s Altaf Hussain claims knowing that he was killed by opponents within his party.

Was Fatima Jinnah killed too? Officially, no. Sharifuddin Pirzada, former attorney general of Pakistan and ‘honorary’ secretary of Jinnah from 1941 to 1944, revealed that Fatima Jinnah was killed by her cook in 1967.

The late would-be Begum of Bhopal wrote in her memoir Abida Sultaan: Memoirs of a Rebel Princess (OUP 2003): “I found Miss Jinnah lying surrounded with blocks of ice. There were blue patches on her face, mainly the left eye. There was some blood on the covering sheet, but I could not detect whether it had come out from the ear, nose or mouth”.

Pakistan’s prime minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy is supposed to have been killed by Field Marshal Ayub in 1963. In the introduction of Suhrawardy’s posthumously published memoir Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy (OUP, 2009), the following account is recorded:

“Suhrawardy’s doctor advised him to receive heart treatment. He went to London to recuperate at the home of his son, Rashid. From London he returned to Beirut in November and was planning to undergo an overdue hernia operation in Zurich.

“Suhrawardy expired in his hotel suite in the early hours of December 5, 1963. At 3:00 am he had a sudden heart attack and, as he tried to contact one of his Lebanese friends on the telephone, the receiver fell from his hand”.

Ayub’s foreign minister, Bhutto, is supposed to have sent Suhrawardy a warning: “Tell Suhrawardy not to try and return to Pakistan, otherwise I shall make sure personally that he never sets foot on its soil”.

Before his death, an intelligence official told Suhrawardy’s daughter, “Tell your father to take great care of himself. The word is going round that they are out to get him”. Three days later, he was dead.

We know General Ziaul Haq and the judges killed Bhutto; we don’t know who killed Zia. We still don’t know who killed Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2012.

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