Piloo Mody, a Mumbai based architect turned Member of Parliament from Devgadh Baria of Maharawal Jaideep Singh ji used to tell us: “You journos have every right to peep into my bedroom!” A life-long crusader for freedom of press, Piloo never hesitated to criticize Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A schoolmate of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at Mumbai, Mody wrote an interesting book, “Zulfi, my friend”. As a member of the Parsi community, he was always full of humour making everybody laugh at even his own cost! When Zulfi rose to become the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan, he would fly down to Mumbai from Colombo specially to see his friend. Zulfi was hanged by the dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq and his daughter Benazeer, who also rose to become the PM of Pakistan, was killed at a public meeting during General Pervez Musharraf’s reign, earning sympathy not only in their own country but abroad as well. Fortunately, the sympathy evaporates once one reads Tilak Devasher’s “Pakistan At the Helm”. Devasher, who retired from the cabinet secretariat, Government of India as Special Secretary in 2014. He presents factual, inhuman and funny personalities of the Pakistani rulers; both military dictators and civil administrators as well.
Bhutto was the son of a Sindhi feudal landlord Shahnawaz Bhutto and his second wife, a Rajasthani Hindu dancing girl Lakhibai who changed her name to Khurshid after she converted to Islam to marry Shahnawaz. Bhutto senior was the Divan of the last ruler of Junagadh, Nawab Sir Mahabat Khan Rasul Al Khanji, making him signing an instrument of accession with Pakistan. Crookedness running in the DNAs of Zulfi made him play nasty roles even with India and his own bosses in Pakistan. Devasher presents historical picture of each ruler of Pakistan in such a juicy manner that on the day of purchase of the book this writer could not put it aside without finishing reading! The book covers the era of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Z.A. Bhutto, Zia-ul-Haq, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Pervez Musharraf as the rulers of Pakistan from very close quarters and brings out some of the lesser known facets of the personalities.
It is universally known that Pakistan was carved out of the British India on 14 August 1947, but one would be surprised to know that Zulfi continued to be a Paki citizen in Pakistan and an Indian citizen in India till 1958! Tilak writes: “Bhutto’s Hindu origins would haunt him for a long time. After his estrangement with Ayub, the government put out documents showing that Bhutto had considered himself a citizen of India till 1958.” Prior to Partition, Bhutto’s father had got property registered in the name of his minor son Zulfi. He had left India for US on an Indian Passport and visited Karachi in 1949 ‘as an Indian national’. To save his property he had moved the Supreme Court of India as an Indian national. “It was only on 3 November 1958, some weeks after he became a minister, that he accepted that he had settled down in Karachi, and so withdrew his appeal pending before India’s Supreme Court.” The issue was also discussed in the Pakistan National Assembly on 30 June 1967. Replying to a question, Information Minister Khwaja Shahbuddin said that relevant Indian documents showed that ‘till 1958, Mr Bhutto was claiming in Pakistan citizenship of Pakistan and in India he was claiming citizenship of India.’ However, Bhutto’s Indian connection did not adversely affect his political career or rising popularity.
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(The writer is a Socio-political Historian. E-mail: [email protected] )
Coverpage of the book, Pakistan At the Helm by Tilak Devasher