Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gaddafi: a Pakistani perspective

Old times: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Gaddafi
in the early 1970s

Growing up in Pakistan in the 1970s, I first heard the name of Gaddafi (called "Qazzafi" in Pakistan) with reference to his impassioned speech at the Islamic Summit Conference held in 1974 in Lahore. It was said that he stole the show with his blunt speech in favor of Pakistan's nuclear programme.

He became a personal friend of our prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who renamed the National Stadium Lahore as "Gaddafi Stadium". Wikipedia describes it as "the largest field cricket stadium in world with the capacity of 60,000 spectators". Ironically now, even if he gets buried in an unmarked grave as announced by the new regime in Libya, Gaddafi may still leave his name on the largest field cricket stadium of the world.

The warmth between "Colonel Qazzafi" and an average Pakistani was probably lost after the execution of Bhutto in 1979. Information about the Libyan leader's involvement in international terrorism and his high-handedness at home, which had apparently been toned down by the media during the Bhutto regime, was now allowed to become more widespread in Pakistan.

Things changed again in 1988 when the Bhutto family returned to power. Benazir's stints as Prime Minister were short (from 1988 to 1990, and from 1993 to 1996), but the kind of intelligentsia which came to rise with her stayed in place for a long time. Some of them were intellectuals who would denounce General Zia as oppressive dictator from one corner of their mouths and hail Colonel "Qazzafi" as liberator of the oppressed and a true friend of the people from the other.

It was usually said that the younger lot in the Bhutto family, such as Benazir and her siblings, affectionately called him "Uncle Qazzafi".

However, Gaddafi's stardom was over at least for the people of Pakistan. He faded out of the headlines once again in the 1990s; and made a comeback only in the 21st Century as the new ally of the West - the reformed warlord who was now eager to play his role in world peace, of course, with assistance from the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The rest, we may say, is not history but current affairs (no pun intended with any reference to the previous sentence). So, no need to go over it here, since this post has been written mainly for the benefit of the younger generation, many of whom may not have known this subjective side of the Pakistani part of the story.

One lesson to be learnt from all the information which is coming our way with regards to the events in Africa and the Middle East is that at least we should give due credit to our history. Since 1947, we have had our share of military rulers and civilian dictators, and some of them may have aspired to stay in power for forty years, or to set up dynastic rule. However, hats off to the people of Pakistan, such a thing has never actually happened here. Let's remember this, so that it doesn't happen here even in the future.

Above: Speech (in English) by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
in honour of Gaddafi and the Libyan delegation
at PM Guest House, Pakistan, on
February 26, 1974;
Below: Gaddafi's speech (in Arabic) in Pakistan,
February 22 (in 3 parts)


  1. Love your statement at the end:

    "we have had our share of military rulers and civilian dictators, and some of them may have aspired to stay in power for forty years, or to set up dynastic rule. However, hats off to the people of Pakistan, such a thing has never actually happened here. "

    Though I have to say, the really daring jaan-ki-amaan-pa'oon level of article on The Colonel is yet to be written. Maybe we should talk about how to write it.


  2. Nice... informative... missing a few pieces though.
    What about Ghaddafi's role in creating the proliferation expose' episode for Pakistan and the effect it had on Dr Abdul Qadeer...
    Was Ghaddafi a supporter of Al-Zulfiqar???
    - Mulki

  3. "History and Current Affairs are two separate things"
    -point remembered

    Zulfiqar wanted him to keep on board. That's what i can conclude right now without knowing the history of Qaddafi. Please correct me if i'm wrong.

  4. I read comments and one thing that surprises me is to see about blaming America for everything. As if the whole world is foolish and Americans are controlling all. I would say has any one ever met any one outside India and talked about politics. Has any one ever made friends with Arabs, Iranians or Europeans. Do people know, Iranians are way more racist than any European. They call Africans gorilla hate Arabs more than anybody(calls them Berber in Farsi). The world is not controlled by Americans and sometimes wars are inevitable. And when an Army of any country enters any region, civilians will die. In hindi: "Genhu ke saath dhun pista hain". As long as we humans are here, there will be war some where for some reason. Till then choose your side and hope it wins the war. From my point of view, in current world, a dominant Western power is far better than a dominant Chinese or Arab power.

  5. Dear Neha Sharna,

    Thanks for giving us the Indian perspective on all the related issues.

    Which comment posted so far blames America? You must have read them on some other blog :-)

  6. That's a pretty informative post.

    I'm not pro-Gaddafi or something, he had his flaws. But he has done Pakistan great favours that can never be forgotten.

    Gaddafi was not a dictator, and neither were the people sad with him. This "revolution" leading to his brutal death was indeed tragic. :(

    We'd be honoured if you take a look at our posts about Gaddafi. ( )

    P.S. I'm Hasaan Rafique, remember me? :)

    One more point - I believe Wikipedia is wrong about the size of Gaddafi stadium, it isn't the largest cricket stadium at any rate.