Z. A. Bhutto – a charismatic leader

Osama Siddiqui

My story of knowing Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (Z. A. Bhutto) is not an ordinary one. He was the first person I came to know (related to politics) during the 2008 general elections. My grandfather who passed away last year was the main reason behind the fact that I know Bhutto since long. I was just 9 when I started reading about his spellbinding personality in the book ‘Ayub, Bhutto and Zia’. There is no doubt that Bhutto was an extremely charismatic leader and the reason of my interest to read the politics and history of the South Asia.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was born on 5th January, 1928 in the house of Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto – a landlord of Sindh. He was educated at the finest academic institutions, including the University of Oxford and the University of California. After completing education he returned to Pakistan and started practicing law, however, destiny played differently and he joined the government of General Ayub Khan as Minister for Commerce in 1958. Similarly, in 1960, he was appointed as Minister for Water and Power, Communications and Industry. Thereafter, he became the Foreign Minister in 1963 but later on, due to his disagreement with General Ayub Khan on Tashkent Agreement in 1966 he refused to work with him.

Then Bhutto founded the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in 1967. The PPP was a mixture of the people of different backgrounds and areas. There were feudals like Mumtaz Bhutto and Ghulam Mustafa Khar, intellectuals like J. A. Rahim, a staunch leftist Mubashar Hassan who had an American doctorate, the famous student leader Mairaj Muhammad Khan, and Hayat Khan Sherpao who came from a Muslim League family of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

About his personality, it would not be wrong to say that the foremost quality as a leader he had was to successfully negotiate with others. His remarkable achievement was the Shimla Agreement which was a great victory of Pakistan as 93000 of her prisoners were released from India’s custody. At a time Shah of Iran did not hold Bhutto in high esteem but after meeting him he decided to give $450 million to Pakistan. The establishment of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was his other achievement. The most important factor that everyone agreed upon was ending the illegal occupation of Arab territory by Israel which further strengthened the cause of Palestine in the United Nations.

Like other human beings, Bhutto had some weaknesses but his personality is not so easy to be assessed. He had a mercurial temperament. His sudden mood shifts and his doubts towards his closest friends and colleagues can be traced back to his adoring mother and his aloof father. His heredity was an unusual blend of extreme and versatile qualities of his father and mother. Due to this volatile temperament, he had a fall out with two of the founding members of his party.

After being elected the Prime Minister of Pakistan on 14th August, 1973, J. A. Rahim was dealt with roughly in his government by the FSF, while Mairaj Muhammad Khan was also thrown into the prison after disagreement with him on some issues. Furthermore, he dealt with the opposition harshly where stalwarts like Wali Khan, Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo and Habib Jalib were thrown into jails and they were also among many other accused persons in Hyderabad Tribunal Case which was over when his government was overthrown by General Zia-ul-Haq after imposing martial law in the country on 5th July, 1977.

After that, Bhutto was taken into custody by General Zia’s government and convicted in the murder of Ahmed Raza Kasuri’s father Nawab Muhammad Ahmed Kasuri by the Lahore High Court and awarded the death sentence on 4th April, 1979. But, it is said and widely believed that it was a judicial murder in the history of Pakistan.

After his martyrdom, his wife Nusrat Bhutto and daughter Benazir Bhutto continued the mission and struggle for democracy and civilian supremacy in the country and faced imprisonments and hardships by General Zia’s cruel and anti-democratic policies. However, General Zia died in a plane crash on 17th August, 1988 and that year general elections were held in which PPP got the victory and Benazir Bhutto became the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan as well as the Muslim world.

The writer is a graduate of the Institute of Management Sciences (IMSciences), Peshawar in business administration and has keen interest in modern South Asian history, cricket, films and history of the Subcontinent. He can be contacted at: osamasiddiqui21@yahoo.com.

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