Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto


Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (January 5, 1928 – April 4, 1979) was a Pakistani politician, active in the early years of the Pakistani Government. He was the son of Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto. Bhutto served in the position of President (from 1971 to 1973) and as Prime Minister, from 1973 to 1977, of Pakistan. He has the rare distinction of being a civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator. Deposed in a coup by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, he was hanged on charges of authorizing the murder ofa political opponent in 1974.

Early years:
Bhutto was born in Larkana (in what is now Pakistani Sindh) the son of Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto. He completed his early education in Bombay. After completing his initial education, he went to the United States in 1947 to study at the University of Southern California, and later transferred to the University of California, Berkeley. He applied to Harvard and was accepted, but chose to stay at Berkeley. He was the first Asian student to be elected to the Berkeley Student Council. From Berkeley he earned a degree in political science, after which he went to Oxford and studied at Christ Church College from where he graduated with honors.

Following his time at Oxford, he was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1953 (which had also been attended by Allama Iqbal and Muhammed Ali Jinnah). The same year his wife Begum Nusrat Bhutto had a daughter Benazir, who would later become prime minister herself.

Political career:
Zulfiqar Ali BhuttoDuring his student days, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had acquired an anti-Imperialist view of the world. He was a firm believer in economic self reliance and political independence themes he expounded in his famous book “Myth of Independence”.

As a member of Pakistan’s delegation to the United Nation in 1957, at the age of 29 years, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto addressed the Sixth Conference of the United Nations on “The Definition of Aggression”, a speech which is still regarded as one of the best on the subject. As a participant at the International Conference in Geneva, Switzerland in March, 1958 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto spoke for mankind with the bold declaration: “The High Seas are free to all.” He was the youngest Federal Cabinet member in the history of Pakistan, at the age of 30. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto held the key portfolios of Minister of Commerce, Minister of Information, Minister of National Reconstruction, Minister of Fuel, Power and Natural Resources before becoming the Foreign Minister. As Minister of Fuel, Power and Natural Resources, he signed a path breaking agreement for exploration of oil and gas with Russia in 1960. He set up a Gas and Mineral Development Corporation in 1961 and Pakistan’s first refinery in 1962 at Karachi.

Bhutto emerged on the world stage as Leader of the Pakistan Delegation to the UN in 1959. To muster the support for Kashmir issue he successfully toured China, Britain, Egypt and Ireland. He also held a series of talks with the Indian Foreign Minister Swaran Singh. He was appointed Foreign Minister in 1963 and remained at that post until his resignation in June 1966. Bhutto made indelible imprints on world community by his inimitable oratorical skills in United Nation’s General Assembly and the Security Council. He believed in an independent Foreign Policy which had hitherto been the hand maiden of the Western Powers. During his tenure as Foreign Minister, Pakistan and Iran cemented a special relationship.

In 1958 he joined the cabinet of President Iskander Mirza. From this point, he was active in the Pakistani government, working at various posts. In 1966 he resigned from the cabinet, after serving as Foreign Minister.

His opposition to the Tashkent accord between India and Pakistan led to his resignation from the government. In 1967 Bhutto formed the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to oppose President Ayub Khan’s regime. He adopted a uniform similar to those worn by the Chinese Communist Party leaders and called for the introduction of “Islamic socialism” in Pakistan and the commencement of a “thousand years war” against India. The slogan of “Food, Shelter and Clothing” shifted the focus of Pakistan politics from theological to economic issues. Using the title “Leader of the People,” Bhutto launched a nationwide tour, agitating against the military dictatorship.

Bhutto was arrested in connection with these activities in November 1968, and detained for 3 months. The movement he helped unleash in West Pakistan (coextensive with the country’s current boundaries), in conjunction with agitation for greater autonomy taking place in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), forced the resignation of Ayub Khan in March 1969. Ayub Khan handed power over to the army commander in chief, Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, who assumed the presidency and reimposed martial law.

The issue of an autonomous East Pakistan continued to plague Yahya’s Administration. In the elections held in 1970, the pro-autonomy Awami League won by a landslide in East Pakistan, capturing enough parliamentary seats to control any government that might be formed. On the other side, Bhutto’s PPP captured the majority of seats in West Pakistan. When Yahya delayed the transfer of power to the newly elected representatives in March 1971, public unrest erupted in East Pakistan. East Pakistani leaders demanded the establishment of an independent nation of Bangladesh, and the Pakistani Army cracked down on armed revolutionaries in East Pakistan.Bhutto played a very negative rule in this whole affair. He said “Hum Yahan Tum Wahan” meaning you (I.E. East Pakistani now the Bengalis) are no longer compatible. Also his speech in the UN Security Council in response to the motion presented to end the war was very embarrassing for the nation as a whole where he tore the resolution papers in front of the media and said “we will Fight” although Pakistan Forces had to surrender a few days later.

President of Pakistan (1971 – 1973):
Zulfiqar Ali BhuttoWhen India intervened in December, the Pakistani Army was swiftly defeated, and East Pakistan emerged as the state of Bangladesh (Bangladesh Liberation War and Indo-Pakistani War of 1971). Yahya Khan resigned, and Bhutto was inaugurated as President and Chief Martial Law Administrator on December 20, 1971. For a brief period, Bhutto appointed General Gul Hassan as the Commander-in-chief of the then demoralized Pakistani Army.

However, Bhutto dismissed Gul Hassan in March 1972 and appointed General Tikka Khan as Chief of the Army Staff, who proved to be extremely loyal to Bhutto since he genuinely believed that the army should only perform its professional duties and not interfere in politics. Tikka Khan ensured that the army did not intrude in politics, which was greatly advantageous to Bhutto as it allowed him to enact his policies with the knowledge that the chances of a military coup had been eliminated.

Bhutto introduced socialist economic reforms while working to prevent any further division of the country. He nationalized Pakistan’s major industries, life insurance companies, and private schools and colleges. Although still a major landholder, dubbed by his opponents the “Raja of Larkana,” Bhutto enacted tax relief for the country’s poorest agricultural workers and placed ceilings on land ownership. During his tenure there was a massive transfer of resources towards the dominant rural economy by setting higher prices for agricultural products.

The Karachi Nuclear Power Plant was inaugurated by Bhutto during his role as President of Pakistan at the end of 1972. Long before, as Minister for Fuel, Power and National Resources, he has played a key role in setting up of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. The Kahuta facility was also established by the Bhutto Administration.

Prime Minister of Pakistan (1973 – 1977):

Bhutto with Gerald FordHe countered secessionist movements in all of Pakistan’s provinces, lifted martial law in 1972, and pushed through a new constitution in 1973 that recognized Islam as the national religion. The never ending dispute of powers between the Head of State and Parliament was resolved by empowering the office of the Prime Minister.

There was an amendment made in constitution in 1974, which declared Ahmadiyya muslim comunity as non-Muslim.

Under the parliamentary system established by the new constitution, Bhutto became prime minister. Bhutto’s support for democratic processes was uneven. A popular leader, he engaged in meet-the-people tours that attracted huge crowds. However, he also repressed all disagreement by opposition parties in Pakistan’s National Assembly.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, during a 1973 visit to the United KingdomOn the international front, Bhutto resumed implementation of his policy of nonaligned neutrality. He withdrew Pakistan from the British Commonwealth of Nations and from the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), sponsored by the United States. In July 1972 he negotiated the Simla Agreement, which confirmed a line of control dividing Kashmir and prompted the withdrawal of Indian troops from Pakistani territory. To forge closer ties with the Islamic world, in 1974 Bhutto hosted the second meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in the city of Lahore. He used this forum to announce Pakistan’s official recognition of Bangladesh. To bolster Pakistan’s military defense capabilities, Bhutto laid the groundwork for a nuclear weapons program.

During elections held in March 1977, nine opposition parties, united as the Pakistan National Alliance, ran apparently a popular campaign against Bhutto’s PPP. When the PPP won a decisive victory in the parliamentary round of the elections, the PNA accused Bhutto’s party of rigging the vote and withdrew in protest from upcoming provincial elections. Widespread street fighting broke out, and opposition politicians were arrested.

Downfall and trial:
On July 5, 1977 the military, led by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, staged a coup. Zia relieved Bhutto of power, holding him in detention for a month. Zia pledged that new elections would be held in 90 days. He kept postponing the elections and publicly retorted during successive press conferences that if the elections were held in the presence of Bhutto his party would return to power again.

Upon his release, Bhutto traveled the country amid adulatory crowds of PPP supporters. He used to take train traveling south to the north. On the way he used to address public meetings at different stations. Several of such trains were late, some by days to reach their respective destinations. As a result he was banned for traveling by train. The last visit he made to the city of Multan in the province of Punjab was the historic one. In spite of the administrations efforts to block the crowds, the crowd was so large that they got panicky. Initially when Bhutto was taken into custody after the coup it was given by the official media that people are against Bhutto and it is necessary to protect him from the masses for his own safety.

On September 3 the army arrested Bhutto again on charges of authorizing the murder of a political opponent in March of 1974. A 35-year-old politician Ahmed Raza Kasuri tried to run as a PPP candidate in elections, despite having previously left the party. The PPP rebuffed him. Three years earlier, Kasuri and his family had been ambushed, leaving Kasuri’s father, Nawab Mohammad Ahmad Khan, dead. Kasuri claimed that he was the actual target, accusing Bhutto of being the mastermind. Kasuri later claimed that he had been the victim of 15 assassination attempts.

Bhutto was released 10 days after his arrest after a judge Justice KMA Samadani found the evidence “contradictory and incomplete.” Justice Samadani had to pay for this; he was immediately removed form the court and placed at the disposal of law ministry. Three days later Zia arrested Bhutto again on the same charges, this time under “martial law.” When the PPP organized demonstrations among Bhutto’s supporters, Zia canceled the upcoming elections.

Bhutto was arraigned before the High Court of Lahore instead of in a lower court, thus automatically depriving him of one level of appeal. The judge who had granted him bail was removed. Five new judges were appointed, headed by Chief Justice of Lahore High Court Maulvi Mustaq, who denied bail. The trial would last five months, and Bhutto appeared in court on a dock specially built for the trial.

Proceedings began on October 24, 1977. Masood Mahmood, the director general of the Federal Security Force (since renamed the Federal Investigation Agency), testified against Bhutto. Mahmood had been arrested immediately after Zia’s coup and had been imprisoned for two months prior to taking the stand. In his testimony, he claimed Bhutto had ordered Kasuri’s assassination and that four members of the Federal Security Force had organized the ambush on Bhutto’s orders.

The 4 alleged assassins were arrested and later confessed. They were brought into court as “co-accused” but one of them recanted his testimony, declaring that it had been extracted from him under torture. The following day, the witness was not present in court; the prosecution claimed that he had suddenly “fallen ill.”

Bhutto’s defense challenged the prosecution with proof from an army logbook the prosecution had submitted. It showed that the jeep allegedly driven during the attack on Kasuri was not even in Lahore at the time. The prosecution had the logbook disregarded as “incorrect.” During the defense’s cross-examination of witnesses, the bench often interrupted questioning. The 706-page official transcript contained none of the objections or inconsistencies in the evidence pointed out by the defense. Former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, who attended the trial, wrote;

“The prosecution’s case was based entirely on several witnesses who were detained until they confessed, who changed and expanded their confessions and testimony with each reiteration, who contradicted themselves and each other, who, except for Masood Mahmood … were relating what others said, whose testimony led to four different theories of what happened, absolutely uncorroborated by an eyewitness, direct evidence, or physical evidence.”

When Bhutto began his testimony on January 25, 1978, Chief Justice Maulvi Mustaq closed the courtroom to all observers. Bhutto responded by refusing to say any more. Bhutto demanded a retrial, accusing the Chief Justice of bias, after Mustaq allegedly insulted Bhutto’s home province. The court refused his demand.

On March 18, 1978, Bhutto was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Bhutto did not seek an appeal. While he was transferred to a cell in Rawalpindi central jail, his family appealed on his behalf, and a hearing before the Supreme Court commenced in May. Bhutto was given one week to prepare. Bhutto issued a thorough rejoinder to the charges, although Zia blocked its publication. Chief Justice S. Anwarul Haq adjourned the court until the end of July 1978, supposedly because 5 of the 9 appeals court judges were willing to overrule the Lahore verdict. One of the pro-Bhutto judges was due to retire in July.

Chief Justice S. Anwarul Haq presided over the trial, despite being close to Zia, even serving as Acting President when Zia was out of the country. Bhutto’s lawyers managed to secure Bhutto the right to conduct his own defense before the Supreme Court. On December 18, 1978, Bhutto made his appearance in public before a packed courtroom in Rawalpindi. By this time he had been on death row for 9 months and had gone without fresh water for the previous 25 days. He addressed the court for four days, speaking without notes.

Funeral prayer for Bhutto:
The appeal was completed on December 23, 1978. On February 6, 1979, the Supreme Court issued its verdict, “Guilty”, a decision reached by a bare 4-to-3 majority. The Bhutto family had 7 days in which to appeal. The court granted a stay of execution while it studied the petition. By February 24, 1979 when the next court hearing began, appeals for clemency arrived from many heads of state. Zia said that the appeals amounted to “trade union activity” among politicians.

On March 24, 1979 the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal but unanimously recommended that the sentence be commuted to life in prison, a decision that only Zia could approve. However, Zia upheld the death sentence. On April 4, 1979, Bhutto was hanged.

Political legacy:
The Constitution of 1973, passed unanimously, is a direct legacy of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The Role of Islam in the State, the degree of Provincial Autonomy, and the Nature of Executive were points of dispute since the birth of the State. Bhutto managed to bring all the political parties: Jamat-e-Islami, JUI and JUP, who demanded an Islamic State; and the Wali Khan led National Awami Party, which was the major party in the Frontier and Balochistan, calling for autonomy, to agree to a consensus on the new Constitution and permanently resolving all the three issues.

The Senate of Pakistan was created, in which the provinces had equal representation in order to redress the balance of power in Pakistan. The creation of Council of Common Interest also gave to the provinces a greater weight in the federal dispensation. Islam was declared to be the State religion, and the Council of Islamic Ideology was given charge of the Islamisation of laws. At the same time the Constitution reiterated the basic principle of socialism: “from each according to his ability to each according to his work”.

Through the 13th Amendment of 1997, the role role of the Prime Minister was restored as was intended to be according to the Constitution of 1973. This role of the Prime Minister temporary lasted until General Pervez Musharraf took over as the Chief Executive in 1999 through a military coup d’état. The constitution was further mutilated through yet another LFO; Legal Framework Order, this time of another General. The 17th amendment of December 29, 2003 rendered the role of the Prime Minister a puppet at the hands of the ruling General and the Parliament to that of ineffective rubber stamp.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was considered and is still seen as a hero and a savior of the people of Pakistan. He is considered the first elected Prime Minister to give voice to the poor and down-trodden people of Pakistan.

The strength of Bhutto as a politician was shown by the fact that the army sprayed his grave with substances that would make his body decompose rapidly. This epitomised the fear of the Army of Bhutto at the time, and even to this date, there is massive debate in Pakistan; the majority of which accuses the military of injustice and demands an apology to the people of Pakistan, and to the PPP.

Great Leader:
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had the courage of his conviction to decide to lay down his life rather than compromise or seek appeasement. The last chapter of his life is a glorious example of martyrdom for the cause of resurrection of democracy.

No doubt, the age of Bhutto was an age of revolution. At the time of his over throw, Bhutto was emerging as a spokesman of the world of Islam and the leader of the third world. Although his life and political career were cruelly terminated, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto will always be remembered as one of the great leaders who took part in the liberation of the third world from the yoke of Imperialism and Neo Colonialism during the twentieth century.



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