Thursday June 08, 2023

A leader forever

April 06, 2018

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto has the distinction of being the first elected prime minister of Pakistan. Regardless of the PPP’s present policies, Bhutto’s charismatic personality fascinates even after 39 years of his death.

After Quaid-e-Azam, Bhutto emerged as a strong political personality in Pakistan. Bhutto’s name can be counter among those few distinguished personalities of history who are remembered with devotion even after they have died. He will live in people’s hearts forever.

In General Ayub Khan’s cabinet, Bhutto was assigned important ministries such as of commerce, mines and foreign affairs. However, the most amount of respect he earned was as the foreign minister. He initiated a foreign policy of independence for Pakistan, and during the Pakistan-India War of 1965, he convinced China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria and many other countries to support Pakistan financially, diplomatically and morally.

Bhutto boldly presented Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue before the UNSC and made a historic speech on the occasion, announcing to fight for Kashmir even if it took thousands of years. It was these moments that Bhutto’s political struggle gained huge popularity. Having developed differences over the Tashkent Agreement, he left Gen Ayub’s government and decided to become a public leader. As he travelled from Rawalpindi to Lahore on train, he so perfectly used the art of rhetoric in his public addresses that a large number of people would come out of their homes just to catch a glimpse of Bhutto. By the time he arrived in Lahore, thousands had gathered to accord him a warm welcome.

After having gained much public support, Bhutto held lengthy discussions with a few close associates and later laid the foundation of the PPP, at the residence of Dr Mubashir Hassan. The pioneers of the party were progressives and socialists – they included J A Rahim, Dr Mubashir Hasan, Ghulam Mustafa Khar, Basit Jahangir, Kamal Azfar, Rafi Raza, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, Hayat Sherpao and Meraj Muhammad Khan.

Bhutto had himself designed the three-coloured party flag so as to reflect a plural and socially and religiously diverse Pakistani society. Under Bhutto’s leadership, the PPP vowed to struggle for moderation, democracy and basic necessities for the poor. In this regard, the party prepared a revolutionary manifesto that called for Pakistan to be declared a welfare state – a state where everyone has equal opportunities to progress and prosper.

As a result of Bhutto’s successful political movement that led to Ayub Khan’s ouster, elections were announced by General Yahya Khan in 1970. It was on this occasion that Bhutto raised the most popular slogan of ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makan’ (food, clothing and shelter). The demand continues to remain the PPP’s most popular slogan till today. However, in the elections, Bhutto and Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman of the Awami League succeeded in attaining heavy mandates in the western and eastern parts of Pakistan respectively. For a long time now, a huge debate has surrounded the division of Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan, but holding only Bhutto responsible for this tragic incident would be an injustice to history. Due to various social and cultural differences, East Pakistan, located thousands of miles away from West Pakistan, would have separated one day or the other.

Pakistan was passing through a critical juncture when Bhutto came into power. But he successfully overcame all challenges, on both internal and foreign fronts. During his tenure, not only did 90,000 prisoners of war return home but 5,139 square miles of occupied territory was also recovered under the Simla Accord. He founded the nuclear programme with the determination to face all kinds of bitter circumstances that would come in the way of Pakistan becoming a nuclear power. Time has proved that our national defence is unconquerable today because of Bhutto’s political vision that enabled him to take the right decisions at the right time.

Drafting Pakistan’s first ever consensus constitution in 1973 was Bhutto’s major achievement. The constitution is parliamentary in nature and ensures a free and independent judiciary. For equal representation of all units, the Senate was introduced as the Upper House of parliament. he gave every Pakistani citizen the right to hold a passport, and millions of Pakistanis were sent abroad to seek job opportunities.

Bhutto’s contributions for the people of all sections of society are endless, especially provision of employment opportunities to non-Muslim minorities in national institutions. Today, he may not be physically among us, but his ideology continues to remain popular among the public. Following his ouster, he wrote his final testament in the form of a book titled ‘If I Am Assassinated’.

Despite being accused of corruption and wrong practices, PPP’s politics revolves around Bhutto only to seek votes in his name. Bhutto’s teachings, on the other hand, demand every politician to serve people tirelessly to be forever remembered.

The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of thePakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani