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April 3, 2021

Remembering Z A Bhutto

Opinion

April 3, 2021

This year marks 42 years since the judicial killing of the founder of the Pakistan People’s Party, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – a truly charismatic and popular leader whose legacy of politics for the common people of Pakistan continues to inspire even today. He might be polarizing for some because of his strong stance on matters but he was never tainted by allegations of corruption.

The Lahore High Court announced the ruling of death penalty for Bhutto on March 18, 1978. Not only heads of various countries but even the secretary general of the United Nations made appeals for clemency to General Zia. It was an open secret that bias and personal grudge was evident in the conduct of the then CJ of the Lahore High Court, Molvi Mushtaq Hussain.

On April 4, 1979, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged. Ziaul Haq killed his most daunting rival in a false murder case. This news generated a strong protest from around the world. World leaders condemned this act and international newspapers deemed it as a political murder. The common consensus: ‘Bhutto was denied justice’.

Pakistanis residing abroad, especially in London and Europe, registered their protest in large demonstrations. Mir Murtaza Bhutto launched a global protest movement from Birmingham. The Pakistani and Kashmiri community came together in an exemplary chain of unity. A large number of people attended his funeral in Hyde Park. This was followed by a demonstration where the streets of London resounded with ‘Jiye Bhutto!’

Everyone across the world who believed in democracy was devastated on the eve of April 4, 1979, as they mourned the death of the strongest voice for the people of Pakistan. A voice that brought together the Muslim World. A voice that spoke against the callousness of the world on the plight of the Kashmiri people. This voice was silenced. It was a great loss and a severe setback to the dream of an independent, democratic Pakistan ruled by the common people.

There is no doubt that Bhutto was a master of the table and of dialogue. His successes in foreign policy are innumerable. He was a bridge between the third world countries and the rich and mighty, without compromising dignity. He promoted friendly relations with China and our country is still reaping the benefits of that. His determination in setting up an atomic reprocessing plant meant that Pakistan could become a nuclear power.

Bhutto chose to be a voice for the downtrodden, and highlighted the issue of Kashmir in the UN. He took politics from the drawing rooms to the common people. In true spirit, he worked towards empowering the people and brought them to the parliament. One of his many noteworthy achievements include the 1973 constitution that provided the framework for relations between the federal and provincial levels.

The military dictator, Ziaul Haq, could not accept a popular leader who had such a stronghold on the hearts of the common people and so he devised a way to sever this connection. In a special interview to Masawat Weekly London, Begum Nusrat Bhutto said, “This was not a murder case against the prime minister but a murder of justice. We want justice for an innocent person who was the elected representative of the people. His people demand justice.”

Justice was not easy to come – but the people won, and Bhutto’s legacy was carried forward by his children and his grandchildren. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s contributions have been recorded forever in the annals of history and his memory is etched in the hearts and minds of people of all generations of this nation.

The writer is the former press secretary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.