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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto—A Charismatic Leader
by Sajjad Bokhari - January 5, 2003


Stanley Wolpert, professor of South Asian History at the university of California, Los Angeles, in his book “Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan” writes:

“Millions of Pakistanis still hail Zulfi Bhutto as their Quaid-e-Awam (Leader of the People) even as they do Muhammad Ali Jinnah as Pakistan’s Quaid-I-Azam (Great Leader).” Professor Stanley Wolpert is absolutely right in his words and there is no denying the truth of this reality that next to Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the only personality, honourable and formidable, who fought for the common people with indomitable will and preferred to live the independent life of a lion, rather then to live the abject life of slavery like a jackal.

Progressive in his ideas, persuasive in their advocacy and persistent in their implementation Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s exposure to politics began at an early age. As a student in Bombay he took part in the Pakistan Movement. In Pakistan’s early years Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was abroad studying political science, Jurisprudence and International Law in Los Angeles at the university of Southern California and in Berkeley at the university of California from where he graduated in 1950 with Honours in Political Science, and at Christ Church College of Oxford university from where in 1952, he got his M.A with Honours in Jurisprudence. He was called to the bar in London in Lincoln’s Inn in 1953 and was then appointed Lecturer in the International Law, University of Southampton.

On his return to Pakistan he taught constitutional Law in the Sindh Muslim Law College, Karachi and at about the same time, (1954-58), practiced as a barrister at the West Pakistan High Court in Karachi.

Before his appointment as Commerce Minister in the Pakistan Government in 1958—the youngest Central Minister in the Subcontinent—he had represented Pakistan at the United Nations General Assembly in 1957, making an impressive debut with his statement on defining “aggression” and led the Pakistan delegation to the Law of the Sea Conference at Geneva in March, 1958. After holding various other portfolios he was appointed in 1963 as Minister for Foreign Affairs, a field in which he had already made significant contributions. As Minister for Fuel, Power and Natural Resources of a Government fully committed to CENTO and CEATO, he signed an Oil agreement with the Soviet Union in 1960, led the Pakistan delegation in 1962 for six rounds of talks with India on the Kashmir Issue, and was chairman of the Pakistan delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in 1959 and 1960. After he became foreign Minister he again led the Pakistan delegation to the General Assembly in 1963, 1964 and 1965, and to several meetings of the Security Council. He resigned from the Government in 1966 following his differences, with Ayub Khan over the Tashkent Declaration. After leaving government Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, organized a new political party, Pakistan Peoples Party, which soon had a mass following.

Pakistan Peoples Party won 1970 general elections with an overwhelming majority in West Pakistan, while in East Pakistan Awami League stood victorious. Unfortunately the ruling Army Junta did not comply with the results of the elections and tried to prolong their rule at any cost.

Quaid-e-Awam Zulfikar Ali Bhutto addressed a public rally on 11th of September 1971, at Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum in Karachi. He said:

Oh my Quaid, you created this country for the people, not for the few who are today holding absolute power. Oh my Quaid, I have come to you today to protest. I have come to protest because workers are being laid off, because peasants are being ejected. Was this the Pakistan you had struggled for? Today students are being lashed. For the last 23 years, my Quaid, your people have groaned under repression. We cannot even speak at your resting place. What sin have we committed? What is our crime? We divided the subcontinent so that we should be free, so as to be able to live our own lives. Today we are forbidden to open our mouths. Silence has been imposed on us. When will this night of oppression end? When will the Sun of oppression finally set? We have forgotten what happened to the rule of law. We have forgotten its meaning. We do not understand what Justice means. We have forgotten what an egalitarian order is like. My friends! I am holding in my hand a book containing the Quaid’s sayings, his thoughts. He made Pakistan and he told us that there will be peoples rule in Pakistan. Why are we being denied that? Why are we not getting our democratic rights.”

The denial of democratic rights of the people of Pakistan entailed the great tragedy of the “fall of Dhaka” on December 16, 1971.

The circumstances under which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was called to take over the ship of state on the 20th of December, 1971, are well known and well understood. Desperate men who were blinded by their lust for power and seemed to have been possessed by a death wish had first destroyed and then surrendered half of the country to an aggression. The other half was in imminent danger of destruction. The people of Pakistan were lost and completely demoralized. Every Institution worth the name, every field of human endeavour, was in total disarray. The air was thick with intrigue and conspiracy. An appalling defeat and disgrace had been inflicted on our unprepared people. Above all, the enemies of Pakistan were on top of us. Despite these catastrophic circumstances Zulfikar Ali Bhutto considered himself duty bound to the people to take over responsibility on that fateful day. It certainly was not a hunger of power that influenced his decision…He was only inheriting death, destruction and humiliation, a virtual skeleton of a state. But he was compelled to accept that challenge because of his commitment to the people and to his motherland. He believed that in the hour of supreme crisis, it was his bounden national duty to try and save the burning ship of state even if he perished in the effort. His first speech on radio and television was momentous and he thundered, “My dear countrymen, my dear friends, my dear students, labourers, peasants…those who fought for Pakistan…I have come in at a very late hour, at a decisive moment in the history of Pakistan. We are facing the worst crisis in our country’s life, a deadly crisis. We have to pick up the pieces, very small pieces, but we will make a new Pakistan, a prosperous and progressive Pakistan, a Pakistan free of exploitation, a Pakistan envisaged by the Quaid-e-Azam. This is my faith. I will do my best”. His first priority was to restore the shattered morale of the people. So within a matter of hours of his accepting the awesome responsibility, he initiated several steps to come to grip with the situation, physically and psychologically. The generals who had brought disgrace and destruction to the nation were removed and civilian authority established over the Armed Forces. A commission of inquiry, headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was appointed to inquire into the military debacle. Those swift actions and the demonstration of his Government’s unshakable resolve to preserve Pakistan in honour and dignity dispelled the gloom and restored a measure of confidence amongst the people. A ray of light penetrated the depths of darkness in which the people had been made to fall. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto struggled for a democratic polity, which could give the people an initiative to struggle for existence. By establishing mass contact, he aroused political awareness and feeling of dignity, the sum total of all human freedoms. The people started developing a sense of realization about their human rights and the dignity of labour, be it that of workers, peasants or the other disadvantaged section of the people.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s relentless struggle led to the return of the democratic polity. The 1973 Constitution was enacted to govern the country with special emphasis on human rights and with principles of policy for the betterment of the economy, removal of illiteracy and emancipation of the citizens of Pakistan from the dreary past.

It was an historic era of awakening of the people, which gave initiative and opportunities to them to improve their lot both for internal as well as international exposure. Alongside were his very effective dealings with other countries in establishing a Muslim World fraternity, a Third World intimacy, and a marked impact on the Super Powers.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had a charismatic image, which cast a spell on the masses right from Peshawar to Karachi. He worked unabated for the cause of the masses for giving them a better Pakistan, a progressive Pakistan.
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