This is the second in a series of posts about the the murder of Hayat Muhammad Khan Sherpao, elder brother of Aftab Ahmed Sherpao.
Click here for the 1st part.
Click here for the 3rd part.
Click here for the 4th part.
Part 1 of the series outlined the event of the murder itself, and the mix of Cold War politics and ethnic turbulence that preceded it. Today’s post attempts to examine what was happening within within Bhutto’s PPP in the run up to the murder, and thereby identifies the second suspect.
“A few months before his death he seriously considered leaving the Party altogether… Of all those around ZAB, Sherpao’s personal devotion had been the greatest and his subsequent disillusionment was consequently the most profound.”
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is in New York when Hayat Sherpao is murdered. He cancels his plans, flies back on the 8th and weeps at Sherpao’s grave on the 9th. The PPP leadership is in attendance at the soyem, but their ranks were already divided.
The day after the funeral, the NAP is dissolved by the Government of Pakistan for “operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan”. Its leaders, including Wali Khan and Asfandyar Wali, are arrested.
Prior to his death, Hayat Sherpao had considered leaving the party he had helped found. As is well known, he was not the only turncoat. Around the same time there had been a series of defections and resignations from the PPP. The most notable of which was that of Ahmad Raza Kasuri, whos father had been gunned down on the 9th of November 1974, less than three months before Hayat Khan Sherpao’s murder.
On the 20th of November, Kasuri famously turned up at the National Assembly carrying a bottle of blood and his fathers bloodstained shirts, vowing revenge. (On a slightly discordant note, Kasuri’s anger can be seen on video here, and is mercilessly but fairly made fun of here).
One of the PPP malcontents was Nisar Muhammad Khan, who was recently our caretaker Federal Minister for Housing and Works. After Sherpao’s murder he was arrested along with Asfandyar Wali. Both were then imprisoned within Bala HIsaar Fortress in Peshawar, which is pictured below.
In his witness statement before the court, he stated:
“I have been falsely involved in this case, because of my difference with the Prime Minister of Pakistan.”
The differences, he stated, started out over Bangladesh, and particularly whether that that key session of the Constituent Assembly in Dhaka should be boycotted. Following the disagreements, Nisar Khan was excluded from the party meetings. He began expressing his contrarian position directly to the press, and was consequentially expelled from the PPP. He states further:
“Several other founding members of the PPP were expelled from the party and not only expelled but they were jailed and insulted and shot at. Miraj Muhammad Khan and Mutkar Rana are examples of the same. Now Mr J.A Rahim has been expelled. He was fired upon and also beaten. Ahmad Raza Qasuri, M.N.A is another person to be quoted. The latest victim is Mr Khushid Hassan Meer. Mr Mahmood Ali Qasuri was also an active memmer of the PPP and so was his son and they have been expelled from the party.”
It should also be clarified that when Nisar Khan talks about the elderly J.A Rahim being ‘expelled’, what he really means to say is that is that on the 3rd of July 1974, the night of his Rahim’s ‘expulsion’, members of Bhutto’s personal Federal Security Force climbed up the front balcony of the 71 year old man who had drafted the PPP’s manifesto, entered his bedroom, beat him with rifle butts, threw him to the ground, beat up his son, dragged him out by his legs, threw him into a jeep and drove off with him. This occurred because Rahim had the audacity to complain earlier that evening, after Bhutto invited the cabinet for a dinner and then made them wait till midnight before dismissing them without having even met them. Specifically, Rahim had said the following.
“You bloody flunkies can wait as long as you like for the Maharaja of Larkana, I’m going home!”
Anyways, back to Nisar Khan. He continues:
“I told Mr Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that there was no need to have the landlords and the tenants clash with each other, I mean land owners, and it would have been better if an Ordinance had been promulgated finishing altogether private ownership. It is for these reasons, as also because the next general elections are coming near, that I have been involved in this case falsely.”
So Who’s to Blame?
Bhutto’s tactics vis-à-vis his opponents, both within the PPP and amongst the smaller provinces, were continuing to harden. The question is, was Hayat Khan Sherpao’s murder Bhutto’s most high profile purge? Or as is alleged by PPP stalwarts, the work of the ‘anti-State’ NAP, and it’s hired assassins? That question was put to Asfandyar Wali in Bala Hisar, subsequent of course to some ‘moderate physical pressure’. His answer and story will follow tomorrow.
Click here to return to Part One.