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Exclusive: Interview with Shafi Burfat, JSMM Chairman fighting for Sindh separation

Shiva is the shakti of Sindh and Sufi is the faith, says Safi Burfat of JSSM

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Perspective |Standpoint | Approach

These words can stand dull on a piece of paper but they hold more meaning than they are credited for. There’s a fine line between understanding and agreeing. You may not agree with somebody’s take on things but if you’ve never really looked from his point of view, climbed under his skin and walked around in it, you will never understand his opinions.

My interview (Reporter Karishma Vanjani of NewsGram) with Shafi Burfat has a lot to do with this perception. Shafi Muhammad Burfat is the chairman of Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz, founder of a separatist and liberal political party, a leader, an activist and a man with an imposed ban stamped on his name for his alleged separatist’s actions against Pakistan.

The nationalist leader has formed the group for one sole motive- freedom of his beloved Sindh. He’s been fighting for the cause actively since 2000 and seems to have left no stone unturned in this struggle.

faq-qutions-3

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Buttoned up collar and a stack of books in the background; a set up in Germany complementing his strong persona, our Skype interview began with answering the What if’s. When questioned about Sindh, without catching his breath, there was a full outcry against the August 15, 1947, separation.

Shafi Burfat: There should have been no separation based on religion in the first place. It was a mistake committed by the then Indian political leadership, a blunder for which we are still suffering. In my opinion, history betrayed us; a Modi should have been born in place of Gandhi ji to stop this unnatural division. A division even the Hindu- Muslims stood strongly against. Secondly, Jinnah, he was no leader, he was a servant of the British headship and this division was a conspiracy where he was used as a pawn by the Britishers to act their will. The man didn’t see the walls of a jail for an hour and in return, he made a new country! 

In midst of the controversial statements thrown now and again, there was nothing that broke some ground. The leader of the JSMM party (an organisation termed as a terrorist group like the many other independent fervent groups formed in Pakistan) agreed with brotherhood and detested the separation. Narrowing down to Sindhi’s, Sindhudesh and their secular fight against the regime, he adds.

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Shafi Burfat: We hold no difference between a Hindu and a Muslim because we aren’t either of the two. We are Sindhi’s. Our Sindhudesh was surviving as a free nation since thousands of years and then came the division that strangled us with a noose around our necks. Many Indians won’t know this but it’s a fact that many of the ancient Vedas and scripts like the Rigveda were written near the banks of the Sindhu River. Such was the nature of our country but today there are extra-judicial killings of Sindhi Political Activists. We are a different sect; freedom is our right and ‘hum wo leke rahenge.’ (No one can deny us our freedom). 

At the expensive of coming across as a man with evident animosity towards Pakistan to support his fervor and passion for a single political cause, he expressed his repulsion.

Shafi Burfat: Pakistan today, after 1971 (referring to the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War) is not the Jinnah regime Pakistan or simply the country Pakistan. It’s a capture; capture of two things. There are the G3 guns of Punjab force on one side and on the other side there are Mullah’s with fatwa’s who only know how to shed blood in the name of humanity. JSMM is against Pakistan politically and historically due to its badge of terrorism.

Every leader has his own perception about his struggle and the future of it. In this case, the Sindh movement, which has been a matter of great concern in Pakistan for last 45 years, is perceived to be the next Balochistan in the eyes of media. Sharif Burfat puts his vision in words.

Shafi Burfat: Modi’s recent speeches in favor of the Balochistan conflict compels me to convey my message to all your readers, Indian media, to the intellects, political leaders and policy makers of India. Give Sindh the political and moral support it needs, establish Sindh as a separate entity and we’ll do the breaking. There is no need for an external force, no need for military intervention by India to do the striking. Adding to that, years back G.M.Syed during his India tour and then during the Geneva conference too had warned the Indian political leadership against radical Islamists and asked for a separate national identity for Sindh. The then Indian leaders, I assume didn’t grasp his words till the time the Mumbai attacks took place, it’s only now that they have woken up. Therefore, I say that ideologically we have already defeated Pakistan; it’s the political support we ask for. 

Protests against CPEC.
Protests against CPEC (China-Pak Economic Corridor)

A lot of readers will not stand in vein with his fanatics and hold opinions that will state otherwise. But Perspective. Wikipedia doesn’t always nail it right but it defines perspective correctly, one’s personal opinion about an issue. Sharif Burfat continues to spread his message regionally and internationally through various media outlets and social networking sites.

Currently, he’s fighting against CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor), the $46-billion project that displaces thousands of people without a proper plan of rehabilitation or providing any compensation. He considers Sindh and Hind to be a single unit (while referring to the Indian national anthem) and looks forward to receiving equal support for JSMM’s struggle for Sindhudesh as one sees for Balochistan.

Interviewed by Karishma Vanjani of NewsGram. Twitter: @BladesnBoots

  • Asad Saber Janjua

    OMG! Indian media pretends to go berserk while trying to sell patriotism dish to Indians cooked in anti-Pak sentiment spicy broth. THEY COMPETE WITH EACH OTHER BECOMING CRAZIER THAN OTHER IN PRETEND RAGE.

Next Story

The Errant Son: Mir Murtaza And Al-Zulfiqar

Would the Bhutto charm, have worked on India? And had it been so, would the map of the Indian sub-continent today, have resembled the idea of a free market zone in South Asia, with porous borders?

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Mir Murtaza Bhutto with Shahnawaz Bhutto
Mir Murtaza Bhutto with Shahnawaz Bhutto
Tania Bhattacharya
Tania Bhattacharya

By: Tania Bhattacharya

India-Pakistan relations have hit a record low following the dastardly Pulwama Attack on a CRPF convoy in Indian administered Kashmir, on the 14th of February this year. Curiously, the Pakistan PM Imran Khan, made a statement a few days ago, endorsing the Indian PM Modi, and suggesting, that in case there was a re-election of the latter, the Kashmir issue may be finally resolved. This scenario is significant, given that both Imran and Modi, are perceived hardliners in their respective nations. As some South Asian policy watchers have noted, it is hawks like the two aforementioned heads of state, and not peaceniks, who are more likely to take large risks over bilateral issues involving the two neighbours, since if any of them is required to acquiesce, they cannot be labelled as anti-nationals. Peaceniks, their good intentions aside, are looked upon with suspicion in their countries, which accuse them of selling out.

 

These are the heady days of jingoist patriotism in South Asia, where Right Wing organizations seem to be faring much better than the other political alternatives; but there was a time not very long ago, when Southern Asia was in a sweet spot between Dictatorship and Democracy, where conducive factors facilitated the spectre of Left-Wing radicalism, in both India and Pakistan. Between the imprisonment of Pakistan’s democratically elected PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the mysterious plane crash that killed President Zia ul Haq in 1988, a shadowy entity by the name of Al-Zulfiqar had emerged out of the pale, and rocked the Zia dictatorship, with its nuisance value. What were the origins of Al Zulfiqar, and who, was its chief executive officer?

The PIA Hijack drama
The PIA Hijack drama

We must retrace our steps to the early 1970s, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the Pakistan president. His eldest son, and second-born, Mir Murtaza, would build a lavish tent on the sprawling lawns of 70 Clifton, the Bhutto residence at Karachi. Inside the private sanctuary he had made for himself, the young lad would read the influential works of prominent Marxist revolutionaries like Lenin, Mao, and Che Guevara. The walls of his tent would be adorned with posters of world-famous figures, who had adopted Marxist techniques and applied them to their personal agendas. Murtaza had become deeply involved with the guerrilla warfare ethos of Socialist insurgents and quickly became a role model for his younger male sibling, Shahnawaz, junior to him by four years.

 

Sensing that the wayward, and obstinate nature of the older Bhutto was getting him into trouble with his high school officials and law enforcement, Zulfiqar had insisted, that Murtaza abandon his tent, and his Leftist reactionary literature, to concentrate on his school syllabus, so that the straight and the narrow could produce results for the latter. As soon as it became possible, and after consulting his wife Nusrat Bhutto, the President had packed off his enfant terrible to study in the United States, and then to England, where he hoped, that a new environment would change him. It was here, that Murtaza shone. A thorough academic, he researched upon and produced a dissertation, concerning the consequences of India’s nuclear program, on Pakistan. He developed the reputation of being a cad, and somewhat of a lady’s man as well, during his student years in London, where he was a regular sighting at nightclubs, with one or the other pretty girl, on his arm.

 

His father, had made the issue of the ‘Muslim Bomb’ an international one, arguing, that since the Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Marxist political spheres had their own, ultimate weapon of mass destruction, it was only fair that the Islamic world follow suit. Israel though not openly belligerent with the bomb, was suspected of being in possession of the technology to construct one, in 1966 itself. Moreover, it had refused to sign the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty). Pakistan, under his leadership, he had sworn, would ‘gift’ the Muslim world with its first nuclear weapon. The president’s (and later, Prime Minister’s) son, would broach the topic on an academic level, and make its knowledge, widespread.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with his third wife Husna Sheikh
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with his third wife Husna Sheikh.

Murtaza was yet abroad, when his father, by the time, the democratically elected Prime Minister of his country, was toppled in mid-1977, in a military coup, headed by General Zia ul Haq, who until the event, had been Zulfiqar’s handpicked Chief of the Pakistan Armed Forces; and a man, that the confident, and arrogant premier, termed his ‘monkey general’. In a letter, handwritten to her brother, Benazir had advised him to travel to the United States, to meet with American leadership, that were friendly with the Pakistan Peoples Party, to plead for assistance in toppling the dictatorship of Zia. Interestingly, she had told him to steer clear of a top Bhutto aide, Ghulam Mustafa Khar. This is testified by Lt. General Khalid Mahmud Arif in his book Working With Zia. Khar, an uncle of PPP ex-Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar (2008 – 2013), had been a confidante of Prime Minister Bhutto, who he faithfully plied to the home of Bhutto’s first, secret mistress, and then, legally married third wife, Husna Sheikh, on a daily basis.

 

From the United States, Mir Murtaza had decided that it was not judicious to return to a strife-ridden homeland, which was experiencing its umpteenth military rule. Instead, he had flown to Syria and then Libya, to garner support from Bashar al-Assad and Muammar Gaddafi respectively. The Assads and Gaddafi were supportive of the Bhuttos. Zia to them, was an American puppet that had been installed as a means to an end, that too, through an undemocratic and unpopular regime change. It was in Syria occupied Lebanon, that Murtaza had begun building up a guerrilla outfit, which he named, the PLA (Pakistan Liberation Army). Members from the PPP back in Pakistan, were herded off to the Middle East, for rigorous guerrilla training, that was imparted by the Leftist PFLP (Popular Front For The Liberation Of Palestine). When Mir Murtaza deemed that the time was ripe for ambushing Zia’s men in positions of power; the trained militia of PLA flew to Afghanistan, where they continued further arms training, awaiting an opportune moment, to cross into their homeland, using the mountainous, and lawless tribal routes of northern Pakistan, which flanked the Durand Line.

 

While in Kabul, Murtaza Bhutto decided to rename his outfit Al-Zulfiqar Organization, or AZO. Shahnawaz, the younger son of the jailed premier, joined his older brother and was imparted training in guerrilla warfare, and violent Marxist insurrection. When not wielding guns in army fatigues, the young volunteers and the Bhutto brothers, would watch Bollywood flicks to kill time.

 

Initially, all Shahnawaz wished to do, was to open a tourist agency in Pakistan, and live quietly with the Afghan object of his affections. But the restless circumstances that engulfed the young man, forced him to join Al-Zulfiqar, all the more so, as it had his older brother at its helm; a man he had much admired from the days of his youth.

 

One of the first acts of the AZO, was to try to blow up Zia-ul-Haq’s plane with a missile, from an Islamabad rooftop. It did not produce the desired result. Next, was the hijack of a PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) flight. It was flown to Kabul, where the hijackers stated that the plane and its passengers would only be released if ninety-one political prisoners from the PPP, were set free from incarceration in Pakistan. Zia’s response initially, was a “No”. But once it became eminent, that there were no international mediators to take on the case on behalf of Pakistan; especially once Assad and Gaddafi explained the dilemma to General Zia, the latter was forced to rethink his stand. By then, AZO had reduced the demand from ninety-one prisoners, to some fifty-four of them. The Pakistan general was forced to comply with Murtaza’s bargain, as it released the PPP detainees from various gaols in the country, who were then swapped for the PIA plane and its passengers.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with Indira Gandhi and Benazir
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with Indira Gandhi and Benazir.

The mastermind of the hijack, was a seamlessly trained Salamullah Tipu, who was seen waving his gun in the air triumphantly from the door of the airplane, after throwing down the bloodied and dead corpse, of one Major Tariq Rahim on the tarmac. Rahim was a close aide of the Zia administration. While Tipu took the blame upon himself, and the PPP back in Karachi, led by Benazir and her mother Nusrat, denied any knowledge or existence of the AZO, Mir Murtaza Bhutto continued to avoid Pakistani authorities, was never caught on camera during the hijack episode, and was declared a wanted criminal by the Pak judiciary, in absentia.

 

In his biography of the older Bhutto scion, The Terrorist Prince: Life And Death Of Murtaza Bhutto, author, student activist, and political henchman Raja Anwar, notes, that a paranoid Murtaza had ordered for the assassination of anyone who he feared would challenge his methods as head of AZO. A sizeable number of its members were apprehended from their homes, murdered, and dumped in shallow ditches. The same author states, how he himself, Shahnawaz, Mir Murtaza, and some other workers of Al-Zulfiqar, had received lodging, food, money, and military training, in New Delhi. The government of Indira Gandhi, a Centre-Left political organization in India that is recognized as the Indian National Congress, had housed and funded the Bhutto revolu