Home Anniversary Homage to Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Champion of Democracy

Homage to Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Champion of Democracy

Homage to Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Champion of Democracy

Bhutto’s execution has been described as Judicial Murder. He was a political leader of high caliber and a great statesman  

By Dr. Abdul Razak Shaikh

On April 4, 1979, first elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was executed in Rawalpindi. He was sentenced to death accusing him of authorizing the murder of a political rival. His execution was controversial, which had sparking protests and condemnation from around the world. His execution has been described as Judicial Murder.  Bhutto, a political leader of high caliber and a great statesman is hailed by a majority as a champion of democracy and human rights, while criticized by others for his authoritarian style of governance.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto belonging to a Sindhi family, was born to Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto and Khursheed Begum (née Lakhi Bai) on 5th January 1928. His father was the Dewan of the princely state of Junagadh and enjoyed an influential relationship with the officials of the British Raj. As a young boy, Bhutto moved to Bombay to study at the Cathedral and John Cannon School.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto married twice in his lifetime. His first wedding took place in 1943 with his cousin Shireen Amir Begum. He married Begum Nusrat Ispahani on September 8, 1951.

Bhutto served as the 9th Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977. Prior to that he became 4th President after the dismemberment of country in 1971 and remained in office till 1973 when the new constitution was passed unanimously. He was also the founder of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and served as its chairman till 1979.

Educated at Berkeley and Oxford, Bhutto was trained as a barrister at Lincoln Inn. He entered politics as one of President Iskander Mirza’s cabinet members, and before being assigned several ministries during President Ayub Khan’s rule from 1958, he was appointed Foreign Minister in 1963. After the Tashkent Treaty for ending Ino-Pak War, Bhutto resigned from government.

Bhutto-Shaheed-Sindh-Courier-1He founded the PPP in 1967, contesting general elections held by President Yahya Khan in 1970. While the Awami League had swept the polls in former East Pakistan, the PPP won a majority of seats in West Pakistan; the two parties were unable to agree on a new constitution, in particular on the issue of 6-point charter which many in West Pakistan saw as a way to break up the country. Subsequent developments led to the fall of Dhaka as a result of 1971 war and creation of Bangladesh.

At this juncture, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was handed over the presidency in December 1971 and emergency rule was imposed.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto sought a peace through diplomatic efforts, signed Shimla agreement with Mrs. Indra Gandhi, then Premier of India, and brought back 90,000 prisoners of war to Pakistan and secured 5,000 sq. miles area held by India without compromising on Kashmir or recognizing Bangladesh which were the key Indian demands.

He strengthened ties with China and Saudi Arabia, recognized Bangladesh at later stage, and hosted the second Organization of the Islamic Conference in Lahore in 1974.

Domestically, Bhutto’s reign saw parliament unanimously approve a new constitution in 1973, upon which he appointed Fazal Ellahi Choudhry as President and himself held the office of Prime Minister.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the founder of Pakistan’s atomic energy program and due to his administrative and aggressive leadership to lead this nuclear deterrence program, Bhutto is often known as Father of Nuclear deterrence program.

The Bhutto government carried out a number of reforms in the industrial sector. His reforms were twofold: nationalization and the improvement of workers’ rights. In the first phase, basic industries like steel, chemical, and cement were nationalized. This was done in 1972. The next major step in nationalization took place on 1 January 1974, when Bhutto nationalized all banks. The last step in the series was the nationalization of all flour, rice and cotton mills throughout the country. This nationalization process was not as successful as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto expected.

During his period as prime minister, a number of land reforms were also introduced. The important land reforms included the reduction of land ceilings and introducing the security of tenancy to tenant farmers. The land ceiling was fixed at 150 acres of irrigated land and 300 acres of non-irrigated land. Another step that Bhutto took was to democratize Pakistan’s Civil Service. In Balochistan, the pernicious practice of Shishak and Sardari System was abolished.

Bhutto was a strong advocate of empowering small farmers. He argued that if farmers were weak and demoralized then Pakistan’s agricultural strength would be fragile, believing that farmers would not feel psychologically safe unless the country achieved self-sufficiency in food.

Bhutto also made Pakistan a prominent member of the Non-Aligned Movement. Since no single leader could replace him and no single party could challenge his party, the state establishment forged an alliance of his political adversaries of all ideological colors before the 1977 parliamentary elections which he was accused of rigging. The allegations led to a violent opposition movement that his government unsuccessfully tried to suppress. It was eventually followed by a military takeover.

The last and crucial phase of his political career started in July 1977, after his government was overthrown. He was tried and convicted for murder in a highly controversial trial and finally hanged on April 4, 1979 during the military regime of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto faced those tough times with courage and conviction. He never budged under pressure from an oppressive military ruler. The last two years of his life are entirely opposite to his eight years in politics when he was working with non-elected rulers.

For his supporters, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto symbolizes the best elements in politics, the struggle against poverty and inequality as well as sacrifices for democracy and civilian supremacy.

History will never forget the personality like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and he is really a Shaheed 9Martyr) who sacrificed his life for the cause of poor people, democracy and sovereignty of the country. Although, Shaheed Bhutto remains a contentious figure in Pakistan’s history, his party exists very much in country’s politics, his daughter Benazir Bhutto was twice elected Prime Minister, and his son-in-law and Benazir Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, served as President of Pakistan. The PPP will pay tribute to the great leader on 4th April 2023 at district level instead of the main public meeting at Garhi Khuda Bux due to the holy month of Ramadan.


Dr Abdul Razak Shaikh - Sindh CourierDr. Abdul Razak Shaikh has retired from Sindh Health Department and is President, People’s Doctors’ Forum, Sindh 



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here