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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

After war, a country is thrown back 50 years. Pakistan too was in the same position after the war of 1971. Yet it was stabled and was progressing with leaps and bounds under the vibrant leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He is a towering figure of the twentieth century. He commanded the allegiance of millions of people inside Pakistan, across the Muslim world and in the Third World as a hero of the people. His leadership gave pride to his followers, to his Nation and to exploited people everywhere.

Bhutto was symbol of Reform and Reconstruction. Bhutto master minded Pakistan's first Steel Mill, a second Port and commissioned Pakistan's first hydro electric dam on the mighty Indus at Tarbela. He made Pakistan self sufficient in the field of fertilizers, sugar, and cement. He nationalized Banks and Life Insurance Companies; he also initiated Pakistan’s Nuclear Program.

“Quaid e Awam” as he was called, was the youngest Federal Cabinet member in the history of Pakistan at the age of 29. He set up a Gas and Mineral Development Corporation in 1961 and Pakistan's first Oil refinery in 1962 at Karachi. In fact he discovered oil in Pakistan and presented it to an astonished Parliament which was impressed with this notable achievement.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was born on January 5, 1928 in Larkana at Al Murtaza to Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto and Lady Khursheed Bhutto. He was their first son. Bhutto grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai), receiving his secondary education at the elite Doon School. At age 13 he was married to his cousin, an heiress. As a student, Bhutto met Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the future founding father of Pakistan, and participated in the movement to partition India in order to create Pakistan as an independent state for Indian Muslims.

Bhutto attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles from 1947 to 1949 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950. He then studied law at the University of Oxford, in England, earning a Master of Arts degree in 1953. In 1951, while still a student, Bhutto married Begum Nusrat Ispahani of Karachi, with whom he had four children. (Bhutto had had no children with his first wife.) After finishing his studies, Bhutto returned to Pakistan, which had won its independence in 1947, and set up a successful legal practice in Karachi.

Bhutto had his first major political experience as a member of a delegation to the United Nations (UN), where he addressed the General Assembly in 1957 on India-Pakistan relations. He also chaired the Pakistan delegation to the first UN Conference on the Law of the Sea, held in Geneva, Switzerland, in March 1958.

Bhutto made indelible imprints on world community by his inimitable oratorical skills in United Nation's General Assembly and the Security Council. He had the vision to build a strategic relationship with China at a time when it was isolated. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto believed in an independent Foreign Policy. His opposition to the Tashkent accord between India and Pakistan led to his resignation from the government.

Bhutto assumed positions of increasing responsibility in Ayub Khan’s government, culminating in his appointment as foreign minister in 1963. Bhutto restructured Pakistan’s political commitments to rely less heavily on the West and instead achieve nonaligned neutrality. As part of this policy, he forged closer ties with China. Bhutto pursued a strident anti-India campaign over the disputed territory of Kashmir, encouraging Ayub Khan to invade the region.

After the war of 1965 with India over Kashmīr ending with no gains Bhutto resigned from Ayub’s cabinet. He then began to publicly attack Pakistan’s military for mishandling the war. He also criticized the presence of continued restrictions on democratic institutions in Ayub Khan’s government. In 1967 Bhutto formed the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to oppose Ayub Khan’s regime. He adopted a uniform similar to those worn by China’s Communist Party leaders and called for the introduction of "Islamic socialism" in Pakistan and the commencement of a "thousand year war" against India. Using the title "Leader of the People," Bhutto launched a nationwide tour, agitating against the military dictatorship. He was arrested in connection with these activities in November 1968 and detained for three 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.

However after Yahya Khan resigned, and Bhutto was inaugurated as president and chief martial law administrator on December 20, 1971, the country took a U-turn and progressed very swiftly.
His was a period of macro economic stability and economic growth. Quaid e Awam's governance laid the foundations for a professional and middle class to emerge bridging the gap between the very rich and the very poor. Bhutto was a poet and a revolutionary who dedicated his life to the oppressed, suppressed masses, who waged a war against poverty and for human dignity, who stood by the poor and lived and died for them.

To redress the balance of power, he created the new institution of the Senate of Pakistan in which the provinces had equal representation. He turned Baluchistan from an agency into a province and gave it its own Baluchistan High Court so that the people did not have to trek to Karachi to get justice. He created the Council of Common Interest to give the provinces greater weight in the federal dispensation. He also created the Council of Islamic Ideology so that the definition of Islamic laws could be discussed with the best Islamic intellectuals and taken out of the hands of those who wished to achieve political ends by exploiting the name of religion to gain power. At the same time the Bhutto Constitution reiterated the basic principle of equality: "from each according to his ability to each according to his work".

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. Plants were built by the government and additional public companies were created for various functions, such as the export of cotton and rice. Although still a major landholder, dubbed by his opponents the "Raja of Lārkāna," Bhutto enacted tax relief for the country’s poorest agricultural workers and placed ceilings on land ownership.

He also instituted land reforms that benefited tenants and middle-class farmers. Ceilings on the size of landholdings were lowered, tenants were given greater security of tenure, and measures were enacted to tax farm income. Bhutto also supported large, but inadequately planned, long-term projects that tied up the country's development resources for long periods. The largest projects were an integrated iron and steel plant, a major highway on the west bank of the Indus River, and a highway tunnel in the mountainous north. He removed the armed forces from the process of decision making, but to placate the generals he allocated about 6 percent of the gross national product to defense.

He 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. 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.

Bhutto built the foundations of education and industrialization in the country. By modernizing labor laws, he gave labor a greater incentive to work and contribute to the welfare of the country. He liberated the small farmers and peasants from the repression and cruelty of big landlords and banished the jagirdari and sardari system declaring that all citizens are born equal and must live with equal rights.

He built the most modern schools, colleges, universities, professional colleges, vocational training institutes including Quaid-e-Azam University, Allama Iqbal Open University, Chandka Medical College and many others. He built hospitals to take care of the sick and poor. He introduced peaceful nuclear energy to help treat cancer setting up the first cancer treating institutes in the four provinces of Pakistan. He built roads in the tribal areas and the Northern areas knowing how poor and oppressed people in the distant areas of Pakistan were. Internationally, using his experience as Foreign Minister, He hosted the Islamic Summit Conference in Lahore. It was at this conference that the Palestinian Liberation Organization was recognized as the authentic voice of the Muslims. He advocated closer relations with the Muslim countries arguing for a common economic bloc with banking and other financial institutions long before regional blocs became identified as the economic way forward. When Syria was attacked, the Quaid sent his fighter planes to defend the Golan heights declaring that the armies of Pakistan were the armies of Islam.

He built the Steel Mill, the Karakorum Highway, the Kamra Aeronautical Complex, the Ship building industry, the Nuclear Program and the Simla Agreement which stopped India and Pakistan going to war. More importantly he rebuilt the honor and respect of a Nation that had disintegrated under a previous military rule. He brought back 90,000 prisoners of war with honor from Indian military camps and without threatened military trials. He won back territory lost in the 1971 war and saved Pakistan from the threat of Indian General Manekshaw that residual Pakistan would be broken up too.

On 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 Kashmīr 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 Islamic States 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.

The Islamic Summit that was held in Lahore was attended by all the heads of Muslim states. Thus making Pakistan a center of Islamic Unity. To his credit are the Electrical Mechanical Complex at Wah, The Aeronautic Complex at Kamrah, The Kahuta Project for Nuclear Bomb. He made education upto Matric free, provided books free to the students, provided allowances to unemployed graduates and two increments to Science Graduates in their salaries, thousands of Government employees who were not confirmed for over 5 to 15 years were confirmed in their jobs. The system of part time government employees was changed to whole time government employees. First May was declared public holiday.

John F. Kennedy was right when he said "The essence of democracy, faith in the wisdom of the people and their views no matter how poor that wisdom is better than all the wisdom that a non-representative ruler arrogates to himself." Wisdom in other words is a function of a relationship between the rulers and the ruled. That relationship cannot be accomplished if there are physical as well as psychic barriers. Pakistan’s rulers excel in both. The law and order agencies are forever putting the fear of God in the leaders. Psychic barriers are function of the mind. And where the mind is locked you can imagine the difficulties being faced by the common man.

Half a century later this great leader was murdered at the age of fifty at the hands of cowards who feared him in life and then feared him from his grave. Although his life and career were cruelly terminated, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's name will forever shine in history as the proud son of a proud motherland who contributed to the liberation of the Third World from exploitation, discrimination and oppression. He gave hope, respect, dignity, honor to his Nation and to the Muslim Ummah because he believed in the Rule of Law, in a basic framework with which a Nation must live. He believed in freedom and in emancipation. Today more than ever, the principles for which he lived and died are needed to save Pakistan and the Muslim world from a dangerous scenario where cruel dictators degrade the nation by destroying institutions and plunging society into chaos, anarchy, violence, death and destruction.
Published: 2008-01-10
Author: Zahra Habib

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