A Voice for the People of Kashmir | Pakistan Today

A Voice for the People of Kashmir

  • On the occasion of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s death anniversary, April 4

40 years ago, on 4 April 1979, the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a victim of judicial murder. There were worldwide protests by not just Pakistanis but also by various leaders who condemned this injustice meted out to the people of Pakistan and of Kashmir. It was the voice of Shaheed Bhutto that highlighted the Kashmir issue while addressing the United Nations Security Council —this voice was murdered by a military dictator. While lamenting the double standards of India, SZAB said in his address, “If India talks about the will of the people of East Pakistan and claims that it had to attack Pakistan in order to impose the will of the people of East Pakistan, then what has it done about Kashmir? East Pakistan is an integral part of Pakistan. Kashmir is a disputed territory. Why does India then not permit it to exercise its will?”

Naturally, Kashmiris displayed their grief and anger in Srinagar, the capital of occupied Kashmir. For three days, regular life in the Valley was disrupted and air space was closed.

After carrying out this judicial murder, Gen Ziaul Haq managed to quell the unrest among the people by imposing strict censorship on the country’s media. Everything in favor of democracy or the Bhuttos was banned. PPP’s newspaper Musawat was shut down. Keeping in view this situation, where a battle between democracy and dictatorship was being fought on the media front, Mir Murtaza Bhutto started publishing weekly Musawat from London. It was the only way to keep the public updated about the antics of the tyrant then ruling them.

When the book written by Shaheed Bhutto in jail was smuggled out and reached London, Musawat weekly published it. It was then published as a book titled If I Am Assassinated by Vikas Publishers in Delhi. This book became a bestseller and proved popular among the masses. During this time, another important piece of writing by Shaheed Bhutto was found. Due to expensive rates in London, Mir Murtaza asked me to go to Delhi and get it published as a book. Therefore, in May 1979, I went to Delhi to get the book My Pakistan published in both Urdu and English. Even today, people give references from it.

I went to Srinagar where I interviewed the Chief Minister of occupied Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah. I was staying in a hotel in the centre of Srinagar named Jehangir Hotel. The local daily, Aftab had published about my visit so the moment I reached, I started receiving telephone calls. People wanted to inquire about the situation in Pakistan and to share their admiration for Shaheed Bhutto. During this time, I received a call from Salma Bibi who asked me if I am from Pakistan. After hearing my positive response, she became quite emotional and said, “You Pakistanis have no sense of honor; Bhutto was hanged and you could not do anything.” Later on, she came to visit along with her brother and apologized for her emotionally charged behavior.

Shaheed Bhutto wrote in If I Am Assassinated” that “the Himalayas will cry if I am assassinated”; Zia supporters mocked this. After Shaheed Bhutto was hanged, the tears of the Himalayas flooded the Kashmir Valley in its lap. The Kashmiri people respected and adored Shaheed Bhutto for his courage to raise the Kashmir issue at international forums. They mourned his loss as any loving people would mourn that of a beloved leader.

Before I left Srinagar, Sheikh Abdullah invited me to have dinner with him. For two hours, we discussed Shaheed Bhutto and his family. Sheikh said that Shaheed Bhutto was a courageous man and that they were not expecting such a response by Kashmiris upon his death; all businesses were closed for three days and they even had to arrest certain leaders on Shaheed Bhutto’s chehlum to calm the unrest. In his interview for Musawat, Sheikh Abdullah stated “General Zia’s military government and the judiciary have committed gross injustice towards Mr Bhutto.” It is true that the people of Kashmir had a lot of hope attached with Shaheed Bhutto as a saviour who could possibly give them back their freedom. When he was hanged, they felt their hopes were buried along with him. People of Kashmir adorned the walls of their homes with his photos. Literature on him was sold in the Valley. Elaborate poems were written in Urdu and Persian on him. In Srinagar,a  Shaheed Bhutto Memorial Committee was constituted and a crossing was named after Shaheed him also.

On my last day in Srinagar, I met the renowned Persian professor Hajni. He was greatly saddened by the loss of Shaheed Z.A Bhutto and said that if a bullet kills Zia and his supporters, “It won’t cool down the burniing fire of anguish in our hearts. We will be satisfied when the same treatment is meted out to Shaheed Bhutto’s persecutors as was meted out to him in his dark jail cell.

The welcome I received in the words of Salma Bibi and the farewell I was given by professor Hajni reflect the true sentiments of the Kashmiris. During my five-day stay at Srinagar I met people from different walks of life including scholars, poets, and journalists and everyone was deeply saddened by what had happened to Shaheed Bhutto in Pakistan. They were mourning this loss even one month later and said, “Shaheed Bhutto was the voice of the people of Kashmir and a tyrant from Pakistan has murdered our voice.”