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سوموار، 4 اپریل، 2011

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: the man and his legacy

Despite the desperate attempts by the forces opposed to Bhuttoism, Bhutto still lives in the hearts of millions of the people of Pakistan. Even the forced exile of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and her assassination during the reign og General Musharraf have not eroded the power base of the PPP.


By Dr Rashid Ahmad Khan

Thirty two years ago in the wee hours of this day of April, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged as a result of a Supreme Court decision, which has been described as a clear act of judicial murder. General Ziaul Haq, the third military ruler of Pakistan, manipulated the court verdict out of fear for his own life as he had himself committed an act of high treason under Article 6 of the constitution carrying capital punishment. Just as Socrates, while addressing the jury that had sentenced him to death told them that it will not be he who will die, in fact they had signed their own verdict of death, the name of Bhutto and the legacy that he has left behind still lives on as a vivid tribute to his genius.

Looking back at the times, when General Ziaul Haq overthrew Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on July 5, 1977, one is amazed to find how Bhutto was right and his captors wrong in reading history and on predicting the course of events that followed his removal from power and subsequent arrest and assassination.

General Ziaul Haq in his first address to the nation after overthrowing the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had promised to hold elections within 90 days. He had announced this commitment publicly in the belief that the strength of Bhutto lay in his being in power and once he had been removed from power, he and his party would lose popular support. But the tumultuous welcome that Bhutto received at the Lahore airport on his arrival from Karachi on August 8, 1977 frightened Zia and, as Hafeez Pirzada has stated in one of his TV interviews, on that day Zia decided to eliminate Bhutto. In order to prepare the ground for that, the military dictator who had proclaimed himself as chief martial law administrator implicated Bhutto in a murder case and postponed elections that were scheduled to be held in October 1977. Bhutto had himself said while commenting on this decision that there was no other reason for the postponement of elections except that Pakistan People’s Party was going to win.

Then General Zia secured a death verdict for Bhutto from the higher judiciary of the country in the belief that the physical elimination of Bhutto would put an end to the ideology and politics he represented. But here too the dictator was proved wrong. After his death, the valiant daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, raised and held high the banner of defiance against the military dictator. Under her leadership, the Pakistan People’s Party won the 1988 elections and formed the government in the Centre as well as in three of the four provinces of the county. Despite the desperate attempts by the forces opposed to Bhuttoism, Bhutto still lives in the hearts of millions of the people of Pakistan. Even the forced exile of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and her assassination during the reign of General Musharraf have not eroded the power base of the PPP.

Today, more than three decades after his death at the hands of a treacherous military ruler, the PPP is intact as a united and strong political force under the able and sincere leadership of Asif Ali Zardari.

What is the secret of PPP’s strength and sustainability as a powerful political force in Pakistan’s politics? To get an answer to this question, one will have to again take one’s mind back to the times when Bhutto built up the legacy inherited by the present generation. The well-known German philosopher Frederick Hegel, who is famous for his philosophy of history, had remarked: “History leads the wise and drags the fool.” Bhutto made history his guide. He identified himself with the historical trends of his epoch. Again, to quote from Hegel, the true genius consists in identifying with the principles of history. Bhutto followed the principles and laws of history. The prominent feature of this epoch was an urge among the people of the Third World countries to get rid of the exploitative socio-economic system and assert themselves on the centre-stage of national and international politics by becoming participants in the decision-making process. In Pakistan people were fed up with Ayub Khan’s long authoritarian rule but were unable to remove him from power, as there was lack of a committed leadership. Bhutto provided them with leadership and fired the imagination of young and old, men and women, especially the downtrodden, with ideas that were transformed into a powerful political movement and promised freedom from want, hunger, deprivation and exploitation. The most significant aspect of Bhutto’s political discourse was that its message did not remain confined to Pakistan but reached each and every corner of the world, especially in the Third World countries because it reflected their aspirations.

This is why when the death sentence for Bhutto was announced, there was a flood of appeals for its remission from leaders of almost all major countries of the world. The people of the Third World countries felt so strongly on this case that when the execution of Bhutto was announced on April 4, 1979, there was a spontaneous eruption of a worldwide violent protest movement against the then government of Pakistan. The protestors staged sit-ins in front of Pakistani embassies in foreign countries. In some countries the protest movement resulted in a number of casualties. It is also important to note that the movement for democracy in Nepal, which culminated in stripping the Nepali King of his dictatorial powers and the induction of a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government in 1991, started as a student protest movement in the country against the execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The writer is a professor of International Relations at Sargodha University. He can be reached at rashid_khan192@yahoo.com
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