Who was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto?

By Syed Atiq ul Hassan

On his 85th birthday 

In 1958, Field Marshal General Ayub Khan established military rule in Pakistan through the first introduction of Marshall Law in the country. In his ten year rule, Ayub Khan promoted landlords into

Late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

the political and bureaucratic establishment. When he decided to shield his army rule with a customized democracy, he invented Conventional Muslim League from Pakistan Muslim League. Ayub Khan brought Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto as one of his frontline campaigners for his customized democracy.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the son of Shah Nawaz Bhutto who was a prominent loyalist of British Raj (Empire) in the Colonial British India and a top class Vadera (landlord) of Sind. His mother name was Khursheed Begum née Lakhi Bai (a converted Muslim according to some sources). He was born on 5th of January 1928 in Larkana. To provide western education to Shah Nawaz Bhutto, his father Ghulam Murtaza Bhutto sent Shah Nawaz Bhutto to United Kingdom (UK). Shah Nawaz Bhutto graduated from UK and returned to British India. Nawab of Junagardh (State of India) appointed Shah Nawaz Bhutto as the Dewan (Prime Minister) for his State. In 1934 Shah Nawaz Bhutto and G. M. Syed (a prominent Sindhi nationalist politician who later, in Pakistan, created Jia Sindh Tehreek) founded Sind Peoples Party. Shah Nawaz Bhutto was very close to the English head of states in India. The British Empire appointed Shan Nawaz Bhutto as the ‘Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire’ and also as ‘an officer of the Order of the British Empire’. Rewarding to the services of Shah Nawaz Bhutto, the British Raj awarded Shah Nawaz Bhutto with ‘Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto’. It to be noted here that though Shah Nawaz Bhutto was actively involved in the politics at that time, but historical facts show no evidence of any participation of Shah Nawaz Bhutto in the movement of Pakistan with Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Following his father’s footsteps, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto also went to United Kingdom and United States for higher education and achieved degrees in political science and law. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s second wife was Begum Nusrat Bhutto who was an Iranian woman of Kurdish background and western-minded grown-up in Karachi. Her father was a wealthy businessman in Karachi. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto met Nusrat Bhutto in Karachi and they married.  Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Nusrat Bhutto gave birth to four children, Benazir, Murtaza, Sanam and Shah Nawaz (Junior).

In 1957, Bhutto became the youngest member of Pakistan’s delegation to the United Nations. He addressed the UN Sixth Committee on Aggression in October of that year and led Pakistan’s delegation to the first UN Conference on the Law of the Sea in 1958. Later that year, Bhutto was appointed as Pakistan’s youngest cabinet minister, taking charge of the Ministry of Commerce by President Iskander Mirza before the coup d’état.

In 1960, he was promoted to Minister of Water and Power, Communications, and Industry. Bhutto quickly became a trusted ally and advisor of Ayub Khan, rising in influence and power despite his youth and relative inexperience. He helped his president negotiate the Indus Water Treaty with India in 1960, and the following year, he negotiated an oil exploration agreement with the Soviet Union, which agreed to provide economic and technical aid to Pakistan.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhuto started his political career from the Conventional Muslim League of Field Marshal General Ayub Khan. Ayub Khan appointed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto as the Secretary General of Conventional Muslim League. Bhutto flourished and enjoyed his early political life in Ayub Khan’s government. Bhutto admired Ayub Khan and as a role model called Ayub Khan as ‘Dad’. He enjoyed Ayub Khan’s government, as a key minister particularly as a foreign minister 1960’s. He developed international contacts especially with the western capitals as a foreign minister. He attracted common people with his charismatic speeches. Using his international influence and secretly developing support from the western capitals Bhutto quietly created a lobby against Ayub Khan within Conventional Muslim League. He made a group of key figures of Conventional Muslim League and formed Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 1967. From PPP banner, Bhutto introduced new political slogans in Pakistan like ‘Rooti Kapra Aur Makan (Bread, Cloth and Home)’, ‘Islam is our religion and socialism is our economic’, ‘Political power belongs to people’. Bhutto harmed Ayub Khan and his Conventional Muslim League so badly that people of Pakistan came on streets against Ayub Khan. Bhutto’s campaign against Ayub Khan was fully backed by US and Western Capitals. Eventually, General Ayub Khan had to resign and handed over power to another army dictator, General Yahya Khan. On the foreign pressure and political agitation created by Bhutto, General Yahya Khan had to announce the general election in the country in 1970.

In 1971, with the exception of a few religious and political leaders, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his Pakistan People Party won the election in the West Pakistan (current Pakistan) and Shaikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman and his Awami League won in the East Pakistan (current Bangladesh). Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto refused to sit on opposition benches and let Awami League of Shaikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman to form the government. Instead, he threatened all the other political and religious leaders if they support Awami League, travel to East Pakistan and sit in the national assembly meeting in Dhaka. Bhutto’s statement against Mujeeb-ur-Rehman and other political and religious leaders were the headlines in the newspapers. He warned the leaders of the West Pakistan that if they fly to East Pakistan then they should better buy one-way ticket as they wouldn’t be allowed to return to West Pakistan. He refused to accept Awami League’s six point autonomy demand that led to the brutal conflict with Shaikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman and his Awami League.

Bhutto’s unrealistic, rigid and un-compromising approach convinced Mujeeb-ur-Rehman to demand for a separate country. It is to be noted here that Mujeeb ur Rehman started his political career when he joined the All India Muslim Students Federation in 1940. In 1943, Mujeeb joined the Bengal Muslim League. Mujeeb-ur-Rehaman was the young frontline campaigner of Pakistan movement with the founder of Pakistan Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Bhutto feudalistic approach ensued break of Pakistan and East Pakistan became Bangladesh on 16th of December, 1971. On 20th of December, 1970 General Yahya resigned and handed over power to Bhutto. Hence on 20th of December, 1970, Bhutto dream came true and he became the first civilian commander-in-chief, first Civilian Marshall Law administrator and the President of Pakistan. In April 1972, Bhutto lifted martial law and convened the National Assembly. It to be noted that Bhutto campaigned in 1970 for the restoration of a parliamentary system but when he came into power as Civilian Marshal Law administrator, he referred a presidential system with himself as President until 1972. Later, due to extreme pressure from the other political parties like National Awami Party of Wali Khan, Jamat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam, Bhutto accepted a formal parliamentary system. He used PPP’s majority status in the parliament to sign 1973 new constitution of Pakistan by all the political parties. The 1973 constitution provided a federal structure in which residuary powers were reserved for the provinces. In 1973, Bhutto obtained the vote of confidence from the national assembly as being the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Bhutto on the name of reformation he brought his socialist thoughts in the country. He nationalized educational institutes. According to education experts, the Bhutto’s nationalization of primary and high school brought the disaster in the delivery of quality of education. The Bhutto’s economic agenda was based socialist principles. He issued the Economic Reform Order on January 3, 1972, banking and insurance institutions under which he nationalized, all major industries, including iron and steel, heavy engineering, petrochemicals, cement and public utilities. Bhutto maneuvered to break the power of top elite families who had dominated the nation’s economy during the Ayub Khan period. Bhutto’s PPPP unionized industries, introduced PPP’s political elements in major industries. Economic experts claim that Bhutto’s nationalization of industries introduced political appointments on high positions and political briberies.

In 1974, The Sind Government of PPP created division among the people of Sind on the basis of Sindh Rural and Urban. PPP Government introduced Quota System in the education and government jobs on the basis of Sindh Rural and Sindh Urban which was basically a political division between Sindhi Speaking and Urdu Speaking citizens of Sind. People Party introduced Sindhi language bill in Sind parliament that initiated worst ethnic violence in Sind in 1974.

Only about two years, almost all the political parties were fed up with Bhutto’s failed government on almost every front. He launched a policy of political victimization and tortures against his opponents. There were fake cases filed against top class political leaders like Wali Khan of then National Awami Party. The favouritism, corruption and political victimization in the country were on the peak. Pakistan had never seen that type of nepotism before at that time. The people of Baluchistan were fuming due to the Bhutto’s military operation in Baluchistan and arrest of Bloch leaders. In Punjab, Bhutto’s buddies like Ghulam Mustafa Khar were active against opposition leaders. There were incidents of attack on political leaders including many attacks on Ahmed Raza Qasuri. Eventually, in one of the attacks when Ahmed Raza Qasuri was going with father, Nawab Muhammed Ahmed Khan and others, his father was killed. Mr. Qasuri filed an FIR where he made Bhutto as prime suspect of the murder.

In January 1977, Bhutto announced to hold national and provincial elections in March 1977. To fight against Bhutto, 9 major political and religious parties made Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) against Bhutto. The key players of Bhutto’s PPP made a record rigging in the 1977 and PPP were found the winner of national election gained majority seats. The PNA immediately challenged the election results as rigged and demanded a new election. On the refusal to PNA’s demands by Bhutto, PNA launched country-wide movement against Bhutto’s government. Bhutto announced section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which restricted assembly for political reasons. PNA movement made historic strikes in the country. Airports, Seaports, Railway, industries, educational institutes closed down and country was totally frozen but Bhutto with his feudal attitude refused to leave the power. Eventually, on 5th of July, 1977, army intervened, arrested all political leaders including Bhutto and declared Marshal Law in the country.

General Zia ul Haque opened Bhutto’s trial of ‘conspiracy to murder’ of Ahmed Raza Qasuri through formation of a full bench of High Court on 24th of October, 1977. During the proceedings it was found that Bhutto in one of the documents wrote addressing to Mr. Qasuri, ‘Eliminate him’. Certainly, it is common believed of the law experts that decision of death penalty to Bhutto was all set-up by the Zia government, yet, it is to remember that Bhutto created that tradition in his government when he framed many faked cases against politicians and got judgment against them. High Court sentenced Bhutto to hang till death. Chief Justice S. Anwarul Haq presided over the trial. Bhutto’s lawyers managed to secure Bhutto the right to conduct his own defence before the Supreme Court. The appeal was completed on 23 December 1978. On 6 February 1979, the Supreme Court issued a guilty verdict by a decision made by 4 to 3 majority of judges. Bhutto was given seven days to appeal in the Supreme Court. Bhutto did not peruse and others on his behalf appealed which was turned down by the Supreme Court on 24th of March, 1979. Many head of states sent appeals for clemency but General Zia ul Haque refused all those appeals of clemency and upheld the death punishment. Finally, Bhutto was hanged at Central jail, Rawalpindi, on 4th of April, 1979.

With all those setbacks and wrong decisions by Bhutto, he was the only Pakistani politician who received so much popularity in and outside Pakistan. He was an aggressive, out-spoken and an eminent politician. There are so many national and international events and history-making decisions in his credits. For example; He gave the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan which was unanimously signed by all the parties representing National Assembly. He declared Qadianis as non-Muslim. He organised the first World Islamic Conference in Pakistan where the heads of 37 Islamic States attended. He laid down Pakistan’s nuclear program.

With all those good and bad things Zufiqar Ali Bhutto will always remember as a unique Politician, Pakistan ever had after the founder of Pakistan Mohamed Ali Jinnah.

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