Today marks the death anniversary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, one of the most popular and prolific politicians to have emerged from Pakistan. Arguably, Bhutto was ahead of his time and was a genius who’s political acumen was unmatched.
Bhutto was born in Larkana on 5th January 1928 to Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto and Khursheed Begum. Bhutto’s family was influential landlords who decided to secede their territory and lands with Pakistan, at the time of partition. In 1947, he joined the University of Southern California, and later the University of California at Berkeley in June 1949. After completing his degree with honors in Political Science at Berkeley in June 1950, he was admitted to Oxford.
Initially after joining Iskander Mirza’s government as Commerce Minister and the youngest member of Ayub Khan’s cabinet, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto rose in prominence as a young, intelligent, firebrand politician and took over the coveted portfolio of Foreign Minister from Mohommad Ali Bogra in 1963. As Foreign Minister, Bhutto worked wonders for Pakistan and revamped Pakistan’s relations with several countries. He persuaded Ayub Khan to to establish close, brotherly relations with neighboring China, a relationship due to which Pakistan benefits even to this day.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Speech by UNewsTv
Pakistan’s 1965 war with India was to have a huge impact on Bhutto’s legacy and political career. An invasion which the Pakistan Army had fended off well on ground, was lost at the table during the Tashklent declaration. Bhutto was upset with Ayub Khan and the two harbored differences. Ultimately, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto resigned as Foreign Minister in 1966 and established Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 1967.
After forming PPP, Bhutto launched an organized and disciplined protest against military dictator Ayub Khan. The boastful, charismatic and fiery speeches by Bhutto drew in large crowds and people began to connect with Bhutto. Ayub was losing power and influence as thousands flocked to hear Zulfiqar’s protest speeches and blameworthy anecdotes of Tashkent declaration. After immense pressure and political opposition, Gen.Ayub Khan was forced to hang his boots and announce his resignation on March 25, 1969. He handed over power to Gen.Yahya Khan, who oversaw the famous ‘one man, one vote’ election of 1970.
Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party swept the elections in West Pakistan and secured a whopping 81 seats out of 138 in West Pakistan. He was unable to secure a seat in East Pakistan where Sheikh Mujib’s Awami Muslim League won 160 seats. Bhutto refused to recognize Awami Muslim League’s mandate in West Pakistan and persuaded Yahya Khan not to hand over the reigns of the country to Mujib. With tensions high between two provinces of the same country, India launched a military invasion of Pakistan and seceded East Pakistan from West Pakistan, into Bangladesh.
Bhutto became the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1971 and assumed charge of the dismal state of affairs in Pakistan. It was a demoralized country he had to administrate and a weakened, war-torn economy he inherited. However, his active personality and clever tactics helped Pakistan emerge out of an impending crisis. Bhutto was also the pioneer of Pakistan’s nuclear program and was also dubbed during those days as the ‘Father of the Islamic bomb’. Bhutto reigned in Dr.Abdul Qadeer Khan and tasked him to equip Pakistan with a nuclear weapon. His famous words are still fondly recollected by people which were,”We will eat grass but build the bomb”. Bhutto successfully and with immense political acumen, secured the release of 90,000 Pakistan Army prisoners of War during the Simla Agreement in 1971.
In 1977, the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), a group of political parties emerged to rally against Bhutto, took to the streets. Bhutto dealt firmly with journalists, activists and political prisoners through his armed force FSF (Federal Security Force). As tensions mounted and protests continued, Army Chief Zia-ul-Haq imposed Martial Law and overthrew Bhutto’s government. Bhutto was charged with the murder of a political rival Nawab Mohammed Ahmed Qasuri and a trial took place. Bhutto was handed out to a death sentence after a hostile trial had been conducted by kangaroo courts, courtesy Zia-ul-Haq.
Amid petitions and appeals of clemency, mercy from several Heads of States, Bhutto was hanged on April 4, 1979. His death shattered the nation’s morale and was symbolic of the suppression of democracy. With his death, the needy lost their leader; the destitute lost their representative. The famous slogan of ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makaan’ died with Bhutto himself.
Bhutto gathered all Islamic nations underneath one banner with his Islamic Summit conferences. His style of politics is still popular with the masses and politicians to this day, follow his way of conducting political rallies and making fiery speeches. Undoubtedly the best that Pakistan had to offer, Bhutto has been long gone but is immensely being missed by Pakistanis. His daughter and two sons also suffered bloody executions just like their father. 36 years on and the nation continues to mourn Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.