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Of unsolved assassinations

Basic to most assassinations is the feudal mindset of people of the region extending from Kabul to Rangoon, embracing Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Burma, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2008 22:21 IST
Khushwant Singh | With malice towards one and all
Khushwant Singh | With malice towards one and all

Despite the massive media coverage the world over to events in Pakistan, we still do not have answers to the three questions uppermost in our minds: who killed Benazir Bhutto? Why? What next in Pakistan?

All experts on the subject: Pakistani, Indian and Western continue to indulge in learned conjectures without specific answers.

I thought Pakistanis would know better than others about the situation in their country, That is not so, I had a couple come over for drinks one evening. Both are known to have connections with many people who matter. Samina Peerzada is a beautiful woman and a popular TV and film personality based in Lahore. Her husband Usman, a tall, handsome man is a well-known figure in Pakistani Punjab’s political and literary circles. I asked them bluntly: “Please tell me what is going on in your country?” Samina raised both her hands in a gesture of surrender and replied: “I wish we knew; we are as clueless as everyone else.” I dropped the subject.

There can be little doubt Benazir Bhutto was a marked woman. An attempt was made to kill her when she arrived back to Karachi after many years in exile. It was assumed that the killers belonged to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. She named men who she thought were after her life. However, it is still presumed that the men who killed her belonged to the Islamic fundamentalist outfits. Why they did it is still not clear. It was not in Musharraf’s interest to see her eliminated. They had agreed to cooperate and had the blessings of the US. Can accusing fingers be pointed towards Nawaz Sharief, supported by the Saudi conservative monarchy? The truthful answer is we don’t know, nor probably will ever do so.

Basic to most assassinations is the feudal mindset of people of the region extending from Kabul to Rangoon, embracing Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Burma. In all these countries political power is regarded as ancestral property to be inherited by members of the family in power. They settle their family differences by killing each other.

In Afghanistan ex-Presidents have been hanged; in Pakistan Presidents and Prime Ministers have been hanged, blown up in aircraft or blasted out of existence. India is no exception: we killed Mahatma Gandhi; we killed Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. We also killed a few Chief Ministers. In Nepal, the Royal Family killed half-a-dozen members of their own kith and kin. In Bangladesh they killed the founding father of their country and his family minus his wife. In Burma, they killed the man who got them freedom. Benazir Bhutto’s assassination was yet another instance of feudal way of settling scores. Now her husband, a most unsavoury character has put up his mousy looking teenage son as her successor. His nomination has been promptly challenged by other members of the Bhutto’s family. Election or no election, people in power may change, the feudal mindset will not. Meanwhile, religious bigots will gather more strength and become a bigger menace to India. All I have said is also entirely conjectural.

Neglected Northeast

Robin S. Ngangom who teaches English literature at the North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong sent me his third collection of poems: The Desire of Roots (chandrabhaga). With the book was his letter complaining that people in the North were not interested in what was going on in the Northeast. I concede. I find modern poetry as hard to understand as I find pronouncing his name. Having made that confession, I got down to reading his collection; beautiful words string together which more often than not eluded me. However, there were some, which I understood and enjoyed. One is entitled Middle Class Blues. I quote the first few lines:
A middle class man
Wakes up on a middle class
And has his middle class tea and biscuits
Last night, he dreamt of being an aristocrat
But today he is afraid
Of falling below the poverty line.
No one’s rich enough to feel guilty about the poor
Or poor enough to reach that breaking point
A middle class man merely wants to save his money
Troubling no one and expecting no trouble in return
Another example, Only a Street :
Only a street, and one highway
Came between my love and me
I lived in a run-down neighbourhood
I have named the past
There were nights that waited
Until her window went black
And stories to finish in her secret room,
There were afternoons thirsting for a look
And rainbound evenings freed by desire.

Slogans to die for:
Cocktail lounge, Norway: Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

At Budapest Zoo: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.

Doctor’s office in Rome: Specialist in women and other diseases.

A booklet about using a hotel air conditioner: Japan Cooles and heates; If you want condition of warm air in your room, please control yourself.

In a Nairobi restaurant: Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.

On the grounds of a Nairobi private school: No trespassing without permission.

In Aamchi Mumbai restaurant: Open seven days a week, and weekends too.

The best: In a Tokyo bar: Special cocktails for the ladies with nuts.

Hotel, Japan: You are invited to take advantage of the Chambermaid. In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox

Monastery: You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried
daily except Thursday.
(By Vipin Bucksey, Delhi)