Both Sides of the Coin

Former Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter of Pak­istan, Zul­fiqar Ali Bhutto, re­mains an enig­matic per­son­al­ity.

Southasia - - Contents - By S.G. Ji­la­nee S. G. Ji­la­nee is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and former ed­i­tor of South Asia Mag­a­zine.

Pak­istan’s ninth prime min­is­ter and fourth pres­i­dent, Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto was as col­or­ful a per­son­al­ity as he was con­tro­ver­sial; loved and hated with equal pas­sion. Born on 5 Jan­uary 1928, he was ed­u­cated at U.C Berke­ley and Ox­ford Univer­sity and trained as a bar­ris­ter at the Lin­coln’s Inn. His fa­ther, Sir Shah­nawaz Bhutto was prime min­is­ter of the In­dian princely state of Ju­na­gadh. His mother, Khur­sheed Begum was a Hindu con­vert.

Bhutto en­tered pol­i­tics in 1957 as a cab­i­net mem­ber in Pres­i­dent Iskan­der Mirza’s government. When Ayub Khan took over from Mirza in 1958, Bhutto be­came the youngest Pak­istani ever to hold a cab­i­net post. He held sev­eral min­istries be­fore he was ap­pointed for­eign min­is­ter in 1963. How­ever, Bhutto’s re­la­tions with Ayub Khan soured af­ter he sup­ported send­ing in­fil­tra­tors into In­dian oc­cu­pied Kash­mir in Op­er­a­tion Gi­bral­tar. The plan back­fired and led to the 1965 war with In­dia, in which Pak­istan was se­verely hu­mil­i­ated. Af­ter Ayub signed the Tashkent Agree­ment with In­dia to end hos­til­i­ties, the gulf be­tween the two widened. Ul­ti­mately, Bhutto was sacked in 1966.

The next year he founded the Pak­istan Peo­ples’ Party (PPP). In the 1970 gen­eral elec­tions, the PPP emerged as the ma­jor­ity party in West Pak­istan. Af­ter East Pak­istan se­ceded in De­cem­ber 1971, Bhutto was of­fered the pres­i­dency by a shell­shocked na­tion. In 1973, he gave the coun­try a new con­sti­tu­tion and be­came prime min­is­ter. In the gen­eral elec­tions of 1977, Bhutto’s party swept the polls. The op­po­si­tion cried “foul,” al­leged large scale rig­ging and took to the streets. In July, the army de­posed Bhutto. He was jailed and later hanged on April 4, 1979, af­ter a trial for au­tho­ris­ing the mur­der of a po­lit­i­cal dis­senter, Nawab Mo­ham­mad Ah­mad Khan.

Bhutto’s achieve­ments are as numer­ous and shin­ing as his faults are ga­lore and se­ri­ous. His first ma­jor per­for­mance as for­eign min­is­ter was to con­clude the Sino-Pak­istan boundary agree­ment on March 2, 1963 un­der which China ceded 750 square miles of ter­ri­tory to Pak­istan. He forged strong ties with China, Saudi Arabia, In­done­sia and Libya as well as founded the Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion for De- vel­op­ment (RCD) with Iran and Turkey.

One of Bhutto’s most spec­tac­u­lar achieve­ments was the Simla Agree­ment of 1972. Barely seven months af­ter be­com­ing pres­i­dent, he se­cured the re­lease of 93,000 Pak­istani pris­on­ers of war and the re­turn of 5,000 square miles of Pak­istani ter­ri­tory that In­dia had oc­cu­pied dur­ing the 1971 war, all with­out any quid pro quo.

In 1973, he gave the coun­try its first con­sen­sus con­sti­tu­tion. In 1974, he hosted the sec­ond Is­lamic Sum­mit in La­hore. The same year he ini­ti­ated the coun­try’s nu­clear pro­gram, af­ter In­dia ex­ploded its first nu­clear de­vice, Smil­ing Bud­dha. To Bhutto, also goes the credit for hold­ing Pak­istan’s First Seerat Con­fer­ence in 1976.

Among his other gifts to the na­tion are three ma­jor univer­si­ties: Quaid-e-Azam, Al­lama Iqbal Open, and Go­mal be­sides the In­sti­tute of The­o­ret­i­cal Physics. Bhutto es­tab­lished a large num­ber of ru­ral and ur­ban schools, “in­clud­ing around 6,500 ele­men­tary schools, 900 mid­dle schools, 407 high schools, 51 In­ter­me­di­ate Col­leges and 21 ju­nior col­leges.” Bhutto’s land re­forms re-fixed the max­i­mum ceil­ing for land­hold­ing by re­duc­ing it from 500 acres to 150 acres of ir­ri­gated land and 1000 acres to 300 acres for semi-ir­ri­gated land. All lands in ex­cess of 100 acres al­lo­cated to government ser­vants was re­sumed and re­dis­tributed. Bhutto also led the foun­da­tion of Pak­istan’s first and largest steel mill; the coun­try’s sec­ond deep sea port at Port Qasim; and in­au­gu­rated the first Pak­istani atomic re­ac­tor. His la­bor re­forms gave more rights and perks to fac­tory work­ers, such as the scheme for work­ers’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in man­age­ment. This scheme pro­vided for 20% par­tic­i­pa­tion by work­ers in man­age­ment com­mit­tees set up at fac­tory level. The Work­ers’ con­tri­bu­tion to the So­cial Se­cu­rity Fund was abol­ished. In­stead, the em­ploy­ers were made to in­crease their con­tri­bu­tion from 4% to 6%. Com­pen­sa­tion rates for work­ers un­der the Worker’s Com­pen­sa­tion Act were also in­creased and pro­vi­sion was made for group in­surance un­der the Old Age Ben­e­fit Scheme be­sides pen­sion af­ter re­tire­ment. As a re­sult of Bhutto’s eco­nomic re­forms, con­cen­tra­tion of wealth had de­clined com­pared to the Ayub Khan era when 22 fam­i­lies owned 66% of in­dus­trial cap­i­tal and also con­trolled bank­ing and 97% of in­surance.

How­ever, not all was as rosy as it seemed.

Bhutto’s first crit­i­cal mis­step was to na­tion­alise ev­ery­thing he could lay his hands upon: ba­sic in­dus­tries like steel, chem­i­cal and ce­ment, banks, in­surance, flour, rice, cot­ton and ed­i­ble oil mills, heavy me­chan­i­cal and elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing in­dus­tries as well as schools. In­dis­crim­i­nate na­tion­al­i­sa­tion even of small rice husk­ing and wheat crush­ing mills led to eco­nomic stag­na­tion due to fall in in­vest­ment and flight of cap­i­tal. Next was the dis­so­lu­tion of as­sem­blies in Balochis­tan and army op­er­a­tion to con­trol un­rest in which thou­sands of civil­ians were killed. It was also Bhutto who de­clared the Ahmedis out of the pale of Is­lam un­der pres­sure from re­li­gious par­ties. His Fed­eral Se­cu­rity Force be­came the pro­to­type of the dreaded Gestapo, no­to­ri­ous for re­pres­sion of dis­si­dents.

Bhutto was dy­namic, res­o­lute, a skil­ful diplo­mat and a pow­er­ful dem­a­gogue. All th­ese at­tributes put him in good stead to achieve his goals. But he also had an acer­bic tongue, an ar­ro­gant mien, a short tem­per, a vin­dic­tive at­ti­tude and of­ten acted like an ab­so­lute monarch who must not be crossed.

For ex­am­ple, in re­ac­tion to a crit­i­cal re­mark on his in­or­di­nate de­lay in at­tend­ing a func­tion, Bhutto had J.A. Rahim roughed up by the FSF, even though Rahim was a min­is­ter and co-founder of the PPP. He was also to­tally un­prin­ci­pled. For him, it was the goal that mat­tered, not the means. Thus, he equated Ayub Khan with his fa­ther when he wanted to be­come a min­is­ter, but af­ter Tashkent de­nounced his bene­fac­tor pub­licly.

Ul­ti­mately his ar­ro­gant be­hav­ior with the army chief Zia-ul-Haq cost him his life. As Stan­ley Wolpert writes, once at a ban­quet for a vis­it­ing head of state, Bhutto called Zia to him ad­dress­ing Zia as “my mon­key!” Bhutto’s ex­e­cu­tion was Zia’s an­swer to that in­sult.

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