October 30, 2012

A leaf from history: The London plan

By Shaikh Aziz | From InpaperMagzine | 3 days ago

During the second year of Z.A. Bhutto's government, one fine morning the news media flashed a report titled London Plan. Since then the term has become synonymous for intrigues and sedition. Was it a fact or a drama that was staged to malign the Pakhtoon leader Wali Khan and his National Awami Party (NAP), or an attempt to extend PPP rule to the province where the NAP had a coalition government with Mufti Mahmood's Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI).

The government claimed that the discovery of an arms cache from Iraqi Embassy in Islamabad was a part of the conspiracy to break Pakistan and create a greater Balochistan by annexing Iranian Balochistan with Pakistani Balochistan. The arms were reportedly meant for the separatists of Pakistani Balochistan. Later it was added that the NAP was working for independent Pakhtoonistan.

It started in September 1972 when Maulana Kausar Niazi, the information minister and a close confidant of Bhutto claimed that the NAP chief Wali Khan and his colleagues had hatched a conspiracy to break Pakistan into semi-independent units. He alleged that this occurred when Wali Khan visited London for eye treatment. It was claimed that the Chief Minister of Balochistan Attaullah Mengal, and Balochistan Finance Minister Ahmad Nawaz Bugti met Bangladesh Prime Minister Shaikh Mujibur Rahman in London and discussed the plan.

This was corroborated by a speech by the Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, at Mochi Gate, Lahore, on January 31, 1973, claiming that Wali Khan and Attaullah Mengal had told him about the 'Greater Independent Balochistan' plan through which Balochistan would gain independence. He also claimed that the assistance for implementing the plan was coming from Greater Balochistan Centre in Baghdad. (We have never heard of any such center in Baghdad, Iraq. It was all an orchestrated plan by Z.A Bhutto to dissolve the Balochistan's (Non-PPP) Government at the orders of Shah Iran)

The reports about the London Plan appeared in news media in Pakistan as well as in the UK which created a stir among the general public as they were just coping with the shock of separation of Bangladesh. Bhutto asked for an explanation from Bizenjo to which he reaffirmed loyalty with Pakistan but could not satisfy Bhutto. Subsequently, the Balochistan government was dissolved on February 14, 1973, while the KP government resigned in protest the next day. Wali Khan, Attaullah Mengal, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Khair Bakhsh Mari, Mir Gul Khan Nasir, Habib Jalib — in all 52 activists were arrested.

The situation became very intriguing as NAP leaders rejected the government claim and said that the ploy was hatched by the then Interior Minister Abdul Qayyum Khan. When the story broke out in a London newspaper, Shaikh Mujibur Rahman on his own told The Times that the news was baseless and that it was engineered by the central government which wanted to create an excuse to dissolve the NAP-led KP government.

On the face of it the whole episode appeared to be a well-planned fiasco. It appeared true that the arms cache was meant for the Baloch activists but who would have distributed it? This could not be established. An open debate in the National Assembly was not allowed on the ground that it was a sensitive issue and involved a foreign Muslim country; this closed all possible explanations that could have surfaced.

One proposed argument sounds plausible: the Bhutto factor. The experience of the past 10 months proved that Bhutto did not like two border provincial governments in partnership of the NAP. Despite the Tripartite Accord with the NAP and JUI the centre did not fulfill many conditions that were agreed upon on March 6, 1972. Both the provincial leaders had been complaining about it but nothing was being solved. The interference in provincial matters was irritating both the governments. All that the NAP wanted was greater provincial autonomy and less interference in the working of the provincial governments.

In the light of these developments, what was the truth about the London Plan? As the scheme of things unravelled, the plan seemed a well-conceived mechanism to slander the NAP leadership and its partner JUI. This was achieved. With the Presidential rule clamped, the ruling party had been able to break the party structure.

Later, a Hyderabad Tribunal was set up to investigate the allegations and prosecute those found involved in seditious activities. Since prosecution did not have ample evidence the proceedings remained almost dormant. Soon Bhutto got entangled in such a political mess that it led him first to become a hostage at the hands of Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) and later his hand-picked army chief Gen. Ziaul Haq who overthrew his government and sent him to the gallows. The Hyderabad Tribunal was wound up and all detainees were released, but only after rotting in jail till 1979.


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