Art of killing without a trace

Published: September 15, 2012
The writer is Director South Asian Media School, Lahore

The writer is Director South Asian Media School, Lahore

Indian arch-journalist Kuldip Nayar has written his memoir at the age of 89 — Beyond the Lines: an autobiography (Roli Books 2012). He writes about Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death in Tashkent where he had gone to end the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war with a peace accord.

Kuldip was in Tashkent with Shastri: “In a corner of the room, however, on a dressing table, there was an overturned thermos flask. It appeared that Shastri had struggled to open it.

“In 1970, on Shastri’s birth anniversary, his wife Lalita Shastri asked for a probe into his death. The family seemed upset that Jan Muhammad, Ambassador TN Kaul’s cook at the time, had cooked the food, not Ram Nath, his own personal servant”.

The book narrates how on Shastri’s death, Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aziz Ahmed who, together with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the foreign minister, was opposed to the Tashkent talks, which they thought was President Ayub Khan’s act of capitulation to India, reported Shastri’s death to Bhutto like this:

“Aziz Ahmad rang Bhutto who was half asleep and heard only the word ‘died’. He apparently asked, ‘Which of the two bastards?’ The late Salmaan Taseer in his book Bhutto: a political biography (Ithaca Press, 1979) tells it differently. Aziz Ahmed said, ‘The bastard’s dead’. Bhutto asked: ‘Which one?’”

The murder of Gandhi was no mystery although AG Noorani tells us there was an effort at a cover-up. Mohammad Ali Jinnah died by the wayside in Karachi while being brought back from Quetta in a ramshackle Red Cross truck which broke down. Now, MQM’s Altaf Hussain claims knowing that he was killed by opponents within his party.

Was Fatima Jinnah killed too? Officially, no. Sharifuddin Pirzada, former attorney general of Pakistan and ‘honorary’ secretary of Jinnah from 1941 to 1944, revealed that Fatima Jinnah was killed by her cook in 1967.

The late would-be Begum of Bhopal wrote in her memoir Abida Sultaan: Memoirs of a Rebel Princess (OUP 2003): “I found Miss Jinnah lying surrounded with blocks of ice. There were blue patches on her face, mainly the left eye. There was some blood on the covering sheet, but I could not detect whether it had come out from the ear, nose or mouth”.

Pakistan’s prime minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy is supposed to have been killed by Field Marshal Ayub in 1963. In the introduction of Suhrawardy’s posthumously published memoir Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy (OUP, 2009), the following account is recorded:

“Suhrawardy’s doctor advised him to receive heart treatment. He went to London to recuperate at the home of his son, Rashid. From London he returned to Beirut in November and was planning to undergo an overdue hernia operation in Zurich.

“Suhrawardy expired in his hotel suite in the early hours of December 5, 1963. At 3:00 am he had a sudden heart attack and, as he tried to contact one of his Lebanese friends on the telephone, the receiver fell from his hand”.

Ayub’s foreign minister, Bhutto, is supposed to have sent Suhrawardy a warning: “Tell Suhrawardy not to try and return to Pakistan, otherwise I shall make sure personally that he never sets foot on its soil”.

Before his death, an intelligence official told Suhrawardy’s daughter, “Tell your father to take great care of himself. The word is going round that they are out to get him”. Three days later, he was dead.

We know General Ziaul Haq and the judges killed Bhutto; we don’t know who killed Zia. We still don’t know who killed Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • Zalim Singh
    Sep 15, 2012 - 10:32PM

    Death is no stranger in the sub-continent.


  • Sep 15, 2012 - 10:54PM

    what …..they all dont know balochistan biodata .baloch naTION are never hand to pakistanRecommend

  • Sharjeel Jawaid
    Sep 15, 2012 - 11:09PM

    Missing from the list are Liaquat Ali Khan followed by the aircrash that killed the investigating team. A little later three General Officers, one of them nominted to become the Pak Army Chief [Ayub would never have made it!] in an air crash and finally the COAS General Asif Nawaz Janjua!


  • Yusuf
    Sep 15, 2012 - 11:10PM

    Violence begets violence.


  • Fed Up Indian
    Sep 16, 2012 - 12:38AM

    Right from the dawn of Islam, Muslim leaders have been in the habit of killing/overthrowing each other. One can get innumerable examples right from the Caliphs of Arabia, to the Shahs of Persia, to the Ottomans in Turkey, to the Mughals in India, and to present day Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Middle East.
    Look at South Asia and see the political history of the 4 Islamic states- Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and the Maldives; full of coups, dictatorships, and leaders overthrowing each other. All these 4 countries are “Islamic States” (yes, even in Bangladesh it’s the state religion), and afford few, if any rights to minorities.
    Meanwhile, have a look at the country in the middle, India- it has/had various insurgencies, but not a single coup or civil war since independence and still functioning as a secular republic.


  • Toticalling
    Sep 16, 2012 - 12:57AM

    Screening the long list of names, I feel we should be worried about those still with us. I hope nothing suspicious happens to them.


  • conspiracy nut
    Sep 16, 2012 - 1:39AM

    Shastri was 61.
    Jinah was 72.

    How long are these people suppose to live.
    May be conspiracy nuts should that into account.

    Jinah had cancer. Average survival rate for cancer patient
    is 5 years in todays modern medicine not 1950s pakistan.

    Shastri looks like he had weak heart.


  • Subah
    Sep 16, 2012 - 2:53AM

    Lots of mysterious stories. But i think we need more of such stories to justify or rather rectify a lot that has deliberately gone wrong for quite a while now,since after bhutto. Such “art of killing without a trace” might prove good before the common man is wiped out.


  • Pmbm
    Sep 16, 2012 - 3:48AM

    Investigative journalists have done very poor job.


  • Khalid Pathan
    Sep 16, 2012 - 4:37AM

    Some leaders make history but in our case it is their death in mysterious circumstances that often lead to drastic and unwanted changes.


  • vasan
    Sep 16, 2012 - 6:08AM

    And u also dont know who killed BB.


  • Syed AHSAN Ahmad
    Sep 16, 2012 - 6:45AM

    Unfortunately we muslims are master of the art of political and religion base murders!
    We will never find any clue that is I am sure!
    Inheritances of assassin or Hasan Ibne Sabah…!


  • saima
    Sep 16, 2012 - 7:44AM

    …And we don’t know who killed Benazir Bhutto.


  • mr. righty rightist
    Sep 16, 2012 - 8:41AM

    It’s always a pleasure to read you. Always bring something fresh to the table. One of the few genuine, original writers who does NEVER subscribe to rhetoric.


  • Sep 16, 2012 - 9:07AM

    We know who killed Z.A.B. Who killed his daughter, who killed his son, who killed Liaquat Ali Khan, who killed Zia, which P.A. jawans and officers slew Bangladeshis….the investigations never went anywhere and nobody got punished. Clearly, generation after generation of Pakistanis is simply supposed to let justice slide and simply concentrate on personal success.


  • Raza Khan
    Sep 16, 2012 - 1:04PM

    Nation living in conspiracy theories!


  • Lala Gee
    Sep 16, 2012 - 3:56PM


    I like the title and appreciate that you tried to write something different from your usual subject, but I would have liked it more if you had provided some clues using your amazing analytical skills instead of plain description of events which most readers already know. I know the real research and analysis is lot harder than to simply criticize some state institutions, but, anyway, still better than the ‘Deep State’ cliché .


  • Lala Gee
    Sep 16, 2012 - 4:00PM

    @Fed Up Indian:

    Termite don’t fight each other, they destroy others.


  • Amir
    Sep 16, 2012 - 4:16PM

    @Fed Up Indian:
    And Hindu seldom had the chance to rule their land. Muslims had to do it.


  • Ali Wali
    Sep 16, 2012 - 4:56PM

    In Pakistan there are people/groups/mafias who flourish on bloodshed, and they are the out to kill anyone who simply wants to live free of hate and prejudice.


  • asim
    Sep 16, 2012 - 6:27PM

    What is your prediction about current rulers ?Recommend

  • Fed Up Pakistani
    Sep 16, 2012 - 6:45PM

    @Fed Up Indian:

    Secularism & democracy are India’s strength. Although not perfect, it still tries to pursue these ideals. Wish Pakistan had the same.


  • Ganesh
    Sep 16, 2012 - 7:02PM

    Yes paaaaki Muslims are ruling India now!!HAHAHA


  • unbeliever
    Sep 16, 2012 - 8:09PM

    @Lala Gee:

    and one of those termites now call itself lalajee.


  • Srinath
    Sep 16, 2012 - 8:56PM

    @conspiracy nut:
    I thought Jinnah died of TB.


  • Tareen
    Sep 16, 2012 - 11:20PM

    @Fed Up Indian:
    Associating Islam with killing, coups and maiming is a bigoted approach…. If Hindus had least unity amongst themselves the Muslims would have never ruled them on their own land for more than 1000 years. . . and by the way who killed Gandhi, who massacred Muslims in Ahmedabad, who maimed sikhs. . . . none other but Hindus


  • conspiracy nut
    Sep 17, 2012 - 12:05AM


    here is wiki quote.
    “On 6 July 1948, Jinnah returned to Quetta, but at the advice of doctors soon journeyed to an even higher retreat at Ziarat. Jinnah had always been reluctant to undergo medical treatment, but realising his condition, the Pakistani government sent the best doctors it could find to treat him. Tests confirmed tuberculosis, and showed evidence of lung cancer. Jinnah was informed, and asked for full information on his disease and for care in how his sister was told. He was treated with the new “miracle drug” of streptomycin, but it did not help. Jinnah’s condition continued to deteriorate despite the Eid prayers of his people. He was moved to the lower attitude of Quetta on 13 August, the eve of Pakistan’s first independence day, for which a statement ghost-written for him was released. Despite an increase in appetite (he then weighed just over 36 kilograms (79 lb)), it was clear to his doctors that if he was to return to Karachi, he would have to do so very soon. Jinnah, however, was reluctant to go, not wishing his aides to see him as an invalid on a stretcher.[165]”

    So he had TB from 30s, Diagnosed with Lung Cancer and died from Pnemonea.
    So Pick your poison.


  • Umme Omar
    Sep 17, 2012 - 12:39AM

    @Fed Up Pakistani:
    Tell me one Indian forum, newspaper, or blog, where you can express anti Indian views and not get moderated? In Pakistan we have freedom of speech which they don’t. You are not a fed-up Pakistani. You are an Indian. Tell me one place in India where I can pretend to be an Indian and lash out against Indians.


  • Sep 22, 2012 - 2:42PM

    I was pretty impressed with @ Srinath’s opinion

    I am sure that is Shastriji’s location was tracked properly then it would have been different case altogether

    I guess at that we are not able to track any mobile number or IP location



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