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Jadhav's case brings back Kutty's story on Balochistan

Kallol Bhattacherjee

NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 31, 2017 21:59 IST

UPDATED: JANUARY 02, 2018 15:41 IST

Unlike the ex-navy man from Mumbai, the other is a Pakistani, a man from Kerala who migrated in 1947.

Decades before the arrest of Kulbhushan Jadhav in Pakistan, a similar case erupted in Islamabad on February 10, 1973 when Pakistani commandos raided the Iraqi Embassy and discovered more than 300 Soviet submachine guns and 48,000 rounds of ammunition. As the Iraqi government reminded Pakistan of diplomatic immunity, the event led to the arrest of Biyyathhil Mohiuddin Kutty, a man from Kerala who had migrated to Pakistan in 1947. At the time of his arrest, he had been working as the political secretary to the Balochistan Governor, Mir Ghaus Bukhsh Bizenjo.

Pakistan blamed Iraq and Baloch leader Bizenjo of conspiring to weaken Tehran and Islamabad by arming the Baloch rebels on both sides of the Pakistan-Iran border. Mr. Kutty’s arrest was the first step as Pakistan tried to connect the dots of this complex international case.


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He had an unusual identity for a Pakistani which attracted the suspicion of the intelligence agencies. His migration to Pakistan was not entirely religion-driven as he was a staunch Communist. While spending a few years in Lahore, he came into contact with Mr. Bizenjo and became his political secretary. His background only increased his trouble against the backdrop of the arms recovery as the intelligence officials tried to connect him with the Soviet communist and Indian network in South Asia and the continued Baloch insurgency.

In his autobiography titled Sixty years in Self-Exile: No Regrets, Mr. Kutty, who later became a leading champion of Track 2 diplomacy between India and Pakistan, recounts how his life turned upside down immediately after the recovery of weapons. What might have prompted Pakistani intelligence agencies was his pronounced links with the international Communist network which had a strong base in Kerala. Mr. Kutty, as a card-carrying Communist in Pakistan, fitted the bill of an Indian double agent working for Soviet and Indian interests inside the restive Balochistan province.

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Pakistan had just lost its eastern wing which became the new country of Bangladesh in the war of 1971 and a new threat to Balochistan was frowned upon by the government of President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

On February 17, a week after the weapons were discovered, Mr. Kutty was arrested from the Islamabad airport even as Mr. Bizenjo looked on, helplessly. By then, the Bizenjo government had been dismissed by President Bhutto, who became Prime Minister a few months later.

No reaction from India

“The policeman very roughly pushed me inside one of the semi-dark cells, locked the door and left. I could see a tattered blanket spread on the floor. Mosquitoes were on the attack. There was a nauseating stench in the cell as if some dead mouse or something was rotting in some corner. I stood with my back against the wall for god knows how long, as I didn’t dare sit on that blanket,” wrote Mr. Kutty about his first evening in the Phuleli police station in Hyderabad in Sindh.

After weeks of interrogation, the intelligence agencies of Pakistan could not find anything to implicate him in the case, but suspicion of his involvement in the case continued. What probably saved him was that unlike in the case of Mr. Jadhav, his arrest in 1973 drew no reaction from India at all.

The arrest had a devastating impact on the family of Mr. Kutty. Within two days of his arrest, his daughter Yasmeen Mohiuddin, who was studying medicine in Balochistan’s capital of Quetta was expelled from the Bolan Medical College. In a fit of anger, Mr. Kutty shot off a letter to President Bhutto. Thanks to that letter, Mr. Bhutto invited him home in Islamabad where he revealed the reasons for his arrest and long interrogation.

Meeting him on May 28 at the Presidential residence of Pakistan, Mr. Bhutto asked: “Why did you come to Pakistan? Unlike the Biharis and the UP and Delhiwalas, you had no compulsion to leave that paradise called Kerala. It also has the politics of your liking. Then why did you give all that up and come here?”

The question revealed that the President had been briefed by the unusual set of factors in Mr. Kutty’s life that connected him to India and the Soviet Union and brought him to one of the most important Baloch leaders. The meeting with the President to restart his daughter’s education left him shocked as the range of suspicions became clear to him. With his family facing an uncertain future, even Mr. Kutty’s daughter was asked to leave Balochistan immediately.

The developments from February to May 1973 marked the prelude to the brutal crackdown by the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government which began soon after the new Constitution of Pakistan was adopted on August 14, 1973 and a nationwide Emergency was imposed leading to mass arrests and military action against Baloch militants living in the mountains. As Mr. Bhutto became the new Prime Minister under the Constitution, the crackdown began with the arrest of Mr. Bizenjo himself.

The bitterness of that phase did not deter Mr. Kutty as he continued to visit Kerala and stayed in touch with his family there. In 2016, he visited Kerala to recover from a debilitating stroke with the help of ayurvedic treatment.

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