Monday November 28, 2022

Bhutto’s legacy

April 04, 2022

Forty-three years ago, on April 4, 1979, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged as a result of an unfair trial. Today, there is consensus on the fact that Pakistan’s most popular leader was killed a judicial murder by a military dictator.

Till the very end, Bhutto refused to cower in front of General Ziaul Haq. He refused to beg for mercy for a crime that he never committed. After hearing about his death sentence, he was quoted as saying, “I am not afraid of death. A Muslim’s fate is in the hands of God. I can face Him with a clear conscience and tell Him that I rebuilt His Islamic state of Pakistan from ashes into a respectable nation.”

Shaheed Bhutto’s courage was also reflected throughout his life and political career. He gave ordinary Pakistanis a voice. He brought his country respect and dignity on international political stage. Bhutto was a charismatic leader of great intellect and vision. He did not believe in a compromised foreign policy. He imagined Pakistan as a strong and independent nation of the Muslim World. He spoke about the Kashmir issue in the UN and always defended oppressed people on international forums. He started Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

These were the qualities that made the common people admire him. These same qualities, however, became a thorn in the side for his opponents. They became extremely fearful of Bhutto’s popularity. Perhaps Zia knew that Bhutto had the courage to invoke Article 6 of the constitution against him if freed. Article 6 states: “Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.”

To save himself, Ziaul Haq decided that releasing Bhutto was not an option and he proceeded to eliminate the Bhutto threat by executing him. However, he failed to remove Bhutto from the hearts and minds of the people. Those who opposed Bhutto at the time of Zia now regret their error. Even today, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is remembered as a man of principles and the master of dialogue. He remains an integral part of the landscape of Pakistan’s politics.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came from a comfortable background. He attended Christ Church College, Oxford, and briefly practised law in London. After returning to Pakistan, he started his law practice in Karachi. He was a well-off young lawyer who turned to politics and won people’s hearts. He wanted to make a difference in the lives of the ordinary people and he wanted to bring them respect as citizens of Pakistan.

When Bhutto became the foreign minister in Ayub Khan’s government, he started leaning towards China and turned against Ayub’s pro-American stance. After resigning from Ayub’s government, he founded the Pakistan Peoples Party and emerged as a beloved leader of the people.

Shaheed Bhutto’s biggest success is his legacy that is alive even today. After his death, his wife Begum Nusrat Bhutto and daughter Benazir Bhutto both faced house arrests and hardships during Zia’s time, who wanted to quash Bhutto’s political legacy once and for all. His nefarious plans were foiled.

Benazir Bhutto was determined to fight for democracy in Pakistan and became the first woman prime minister in the Muslim world. After her un-timely death, the torch of the Bhutto’s political legacy is now with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is determined to carry forward his grandfather’s legacy. The PPP is still an undeniable force in Pakistani politics, four decades after Shaheed Bhutto’s assassination. Zinda hai Bhutto, zinda hai!

The writer is the former press secretary for Benazir Bhutto, chairperson of the Bhutto Legacy Foundation, and senior adviser to PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.