Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali

views updated May 14 2018


BHUTTO, ZULFIKAR ALI (1928–1979), president (1971–1977) and prime minister (1973–1977) of Pakistan. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was Pakistan's most popular political leader and its only prime minister to be hanged. Born in Sind's Larkhana, Zulfi was the youngest son of wealthy Sindi "landowner" (wadero) and princely state premier Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto and his second wife, young Hindu Lakhi Bai, who converted to Islam, changing her name to Khurshid. Zulfi's formal education started in Bombay's Cathedral High. In September 1947, a few weeks after partition tore India apart with the birth of Pakistan, he flew from Bombay to New York and Los Angeles, enrolling at the University of Southern California (USC).

Impact of Study Abroad

Zulfi was less interested in USC course work than in fraternity pranks and parties. After two years at USC, he transferred to Berkeley, majoring in political science, fascinated by Napoleon Bonaparte, his role model. Though he had been married as a boy to one of his Larkhana child cousins, Zulfi met his true wife, Nusrat Ispahani, at his sister's wedding on his first trip to Pakistan from Berkeley. Two years later they married in Karachi, flew to London and then to Oxford, where Zulfi enrolled at Christ Church College. A year later, their first of four children, Benazir, was born. Zulfi taught his daughter everything he loved about realpolitik; eventually, Benazir would follow in his footsteps to the pinnacle of Pakistani power.

Lincoln's Inn Barrister Bhutto returned to Pakistan in 1953, briefly practicing law in Karachi before abandoning it for politics. Soon after General Ayub Khan's coup in 1958, Bhutto became his foreign minister, urging his older martial "president" in 1965 to ignore the "cease-fire line" in Kashmir and quickly "liberate" that state's Muslim majority from India's army "of occupation." Bhutto assured Ayub that Kashmir's people would "rise up" as soon as Pakistan's tanks moved east. No popular welcome awaited them, however, only Indian bombs, floodwaters unleashed by India's engineers, trapping Pakistan's heavy armor in deep mud. India's tanks then rolled west to the outskirts of Lahore, and Ayub was forced to accept a cease-fire, flying with Bhutto to Tashkent for a peace conference with Indian prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, hosted by Russian premier Aleksey Kosygin. The frail Shastri died the day after the armistice agreement was signed in January 1966, succeeded by Indira Gandhi. Ayub, depressed by the war he had lost, soon succumbed to heart failure, turning over his martial rule to General Yahya Khan.

Bhutto alone emerged after Tashkent stronger than ever. He started a new Pakistan People's Party (PPP), winning popular acclaim wherever he spoke in West Pakistan. But East Pakistanis showed little interest in anything Bhutto said. Most Bengalis understood none of his Urdu or English rhetoric. Bengal's Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, head of his Awami (People's) League, was the only politician supported by most Bengalis. They voted overwhelmingly for him in Pakistan's first nationwide election of 1970. Bhutto's PPP won a majority in West Pakistan, but East Pakistan had 10 million more people, so Mujib's Awami League won a majority of National Assembly seats. Mujib should have become Pakistan's first democratically elected prime minister, but Bhutto refused to accept him and persuaded Pakistan's weak-minded martial "president" Yahya Khan to launch a bloody war against "Bangla-Desh" (Land of Bengalis) in March 1971 instead. Pakistan's army suffered a humiliating defeat as Indian troops, supported by heavy Russian artillery and tanks, rolled across Bangladesh in early December. Bhutto blustered to the United Nations Security Council that Pakistan would "never surrender." But two days later it did.

Bhutto flew home in the aftermath of that debacle to take Yayha's job as "martial law president," vowing to "pick up the pieces" of battered Pakistan. He soon nationalized Pakistan's banks, took control of Pakistan's shipping, and began funding the development of a secret nuclear arms program. In midsummer of 1972, Bhutto flew with his daughter to Simla for a summit with Indira Gandhi. They agreed to turn Jammu and Kashmir's cease-fire line into a redrawn "line of control" and formally ended the Bangladesh War. Pakistan soon recognized the totally independent "nation of Bengal," losing more than half its population and most of its foreign-currency earnings from jute. India promised to return its more than 90,000 Pakistani prisoners. Bhutto flew home to cheering crowds and a hero's welcome in Lahore, Karachi, and Larkhana, where he kept his huge arsenal of guns and ammunition for festive annual shooting parties.

Pinnacle of Power

In 1973 Bhutto persuaded his National Assembly to adopt a new Constitution for the "Islamic Republic of Pakistan," over which he would preside as its first prime minister. He then flew to Washington, welcomed warmly by his patrons, President Richard M. Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, as Pakistan's "savior." February 1974 marked the peak of Bhutto's power. He regally hosted an Islamic summit of thirty-eight Muslim heads of state in Lahore, including Bangladesh's prime minister, and every "king, royal highness and excellency" of the Islamic world.

But that May 1974, Indira Gandhi triggered India's first underground nuclear explosions in Rajasthan, close enough to Pakistan's Sind to be felt by Bhutto himself. Zulfi inveighed against such "nuclear blackmail," vowing that his people would sooner "eat grass" than allow India to use its bombs against a less powerfully armed Pakistan. South Asia's most lethal arms race thus moved into high gear. The Peace of Tashkent and the harmony of the 1972 summit at Simla were buried under nuclear bomb blasts and angry rhetoric.

Decline and Fall

Before year's end, the father of one of Bhutto's outspoken critics and political opponents, Ahmad Raza Kasuri, was gunned down inside a car driven by his son. The son accused Bhutto of murdering his father by "mistake," aiming to kill him instead. Bhutto denied it, but on the night of 4 July 1977, Bhutto's handpicked choice for Pakistan's chief of army staff job, General Zia ul-Haq, ordered Prime Minister Bhutto arrested. Zia's midnight coup was followed a few months later by Bhutto's trial for the "murder" with which he had previously been charged. In March 1978 Bhutto was found guilty as charged, sentenced to death, and after a series of appeals, all of which failed, was hanged before dawn on 4 April 1979.

Bhutto was hailed by millions of Pakistanis as Shaheed (martyr)—"Zulfi Bhutto lives on!" they cried. His daughter, Benazir, began her first term as Pakistan's prime minister a decade later, shortly after Zia ul-Haq and most of his loyal staff went down in flames in 1988 in a mysterious crash of their C-130 plane almost immediately after it took off.

Stanley Wolpert

See alsoPakistan


Batra, J. C. The Trial and Execution of Bhutto. Delhi: Kunj, 1979.

Bhutto, Benazir. Daughter of the East: An Autobiography. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1988.

Burki, Shahid Javed. Pakistan under Bhutto, 1971–1977. London: Macmillan, 1988.

Chishti, Faiz Ali. Betrayals of Another Kind. London: Asia, 1989.

Jalal, Ayesha. The State of Martial Rule. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Kak, B. L. Z. A. Bhutto's Notes from the Death Cell. New Delhi: Rada Krishna Prakashan, 1979.

Kaushik, S. N. Pakistan under Bhutto's Leadership. New Delhi: Uppal, 1985.

Mody, Piloo. Zulfi, My Friend. Delhi: Thomson Press, 1973.

Mukherjee, Dilip. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto: Quest for Power. New Delhi: Vikar, 1972.

Schofield, Victoria. Bhutto: Trial and Execution. London: Cassell, 1979.

Taseer, Salmaan. Bhutto: A Political Biography. London: Ithaca Press, 1979.

Wolpert, Stanley. Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan: His Life and Times. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

views updated Jun 11 2018

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1928-1979), Pakistan's president and then prime minister, mobilized his country's first mass-based political party around a socialist ideology and highly independent foreign policy.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was born on January 5, 1928, in Larkana, a small town in the province of Sind. Although he came from a major landowning family in Larkana, he was brought up in cosmopolitan Bombay, away from the feudal environment of his ancestral home. After completing his high school education in Bombay, he proceeded to the University of California at Berkeley from which he graduated in 1950 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. At Berkeley he became interested in socialism and delivered several lectures on the feasibility of socialism in Islamic countries—a theme which would dominate his party's manifesto 20 years later. Bhutto continued his education at Oxford, where he studied law.

Bhutto advocated a nonaligned foreign policy for Pakistan and opposed Pakistan's alliances with the United States. He believed that the United States was exerting pressure on Pakistan to adopt a conciliatory attitude towards neighboring India. The lingering post-partition animosity between India and Pakistan influenced Bhutto's hard-line thinking towards India. He was intent on gaining international support against India and securing Pakistan from a possible Indian attack. With this in mind Bhutto cultivated relations with China, which had been involved in a border conflict with India in 1962. Bhutto's astuteness in developing relations with China was later useful for the Nixon administration, which used Pakistan as a channel for initiating a dialogue with China. Bhutto also sought to strengthen relations with other Islamic countries, envisaging Pakistan's role as a leader not only of Muslim countries but also of other developing states.

Pakistan had been under military rule by a government headed by Ayub Khan since 1958. Bhutto, who served as minister of foreign affairs until asked to resign in 1966, realized that the toleration of the people for repressive government was diminishing. He felt that this adverse situation presented an ideal opportunity for him to assume leadership of Pakistan. In December 1967 Bhutto formed his own political party, the Pakistan People's Party, whose manifesto promised to alleviate the lot of the urban and rural workers and advocated an equitable distribution of wealth. His program not only appealed to the lower income groups but was supported by the urban intelligentsia which was seeking an end to the military regime and felt that Bhutto offered a new and dynamic plan and a necessary alternative to traditional religious parties.

Pakistan's defeat in the 1971 war with India led to the creation of Bangladesh. Bhutto, with the strongest party in the remaining western wing of the country, replaced Gen. Mohammad Yahya Khan as president. In April 1973 Bhutto became prime minister under a new constitution. His six years in office were marked by extensive nationalization of industries, banks, and educational institutions. Bhutto's policies, aimed at reducing the power of such traditional economic forces as major businessmen and feudal landlords, were well intentioned but lacked sufficient consideration of economic realities. His government's economic policies were implemented hastily by bureaucrats who did not have the requisite management skills and background. Consequently, the economy became chaotic and left most sections of society disaffected with the policies. Bhutto's frequently touted slogan of "Islamic Socialism" proved to be mere rhetoric in the face of daunting economic and social realities, especially the need to compromise with landed elites.

Confronted by increasing opposition, Bhutto introduced repressive measures which included press censorship and imprisonment of political opponents. In an attempt to show the "democratic" nature of his government and his continuing popular support, Bhutto decided to hold general elections in March 1977. Confident of his success, he underestimated the collaboration of the opposition parties. Although he won the 1977 elections, his opponents accused him of flagrant manipulation of votes and mounted a civil disobedience movement against his government. As public discontent and violence spread, Bhutto was forced to impose martial law in several major cities of Pakistan, paving the way for military involvement. He was deposed in a bloodless coup by Gen. Zia ul-Haq on July 5, 1977. Several charges were brought against him, including the murder while in power of a political opponent's father. He was sentenced to death and was hanged on April 4, 1979, despite appeals for clemency by world leaders and international organizations.

While Bhutto's policies in the domestic sphere were harshly criticized, his foreign policy won him some acclaim. He was intent on asserting Pakistan's role in international affairs and strove to fulfill his earlier ideal of Pakistan as a leader of developing countries. He attempted to pursue a foreign policy independent of both superpowers, which brought him into considerable conflict with the United States, especially over the issue of Pakistan's nuclear program.

In 1986, after two years of self-imposed exile, Benazir Bhutto, daughter of the executed president, returned to Pakistan. She became Prime Minister in 1988.

Further Reading

Shahid Javed Burki's Pakistan Under Bhutto, 1971-1977 provides a comprehensive and analytical account of Bhutto's government. It also gives considerable details of Pakistan's political history prior to 1971. Piloo Mody's Zulfi My Friend gives insights into Bhutto's personality based on their shared experiences. Politics in Pakistan: the Nature and Direction of Change by Khalid B. Sayeed provides useful background information and analyses of Bhutto's political career. Bhutto wrote several books stating his views on Pakistan's domestic politics as well as its foreign policy. His last work was If I Am Assassinated (1979). Some other books by Bhutto are The Great Tragedy (1971), Pakistan and the Alliances (1969), The Myth of Independence (1969), and Foreign Policy of Pakistan (1964).

Additional Sources

Batra, Jagdish Chander, The trial and execution of Bhutto, Delhi: Kunj, 1979.

Kak, B. L., Z. A. Bhutto: notes from the death cell, New Delhi: Raadhaa Krishna Pr, 1979.

Syed, Anwar Hussain, The discourse and politics of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.

Wolpert, Stanley A., Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan: his life and times, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Zaman, Fakhar, Z. A. Bhutto: the political thinker, Lahore, People's Publications, 1973. □

Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali

views updated May 14 2018

Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali (1928–79) Pakistani president (1971–73) and prime minister (1973–77), father of Benazir Bhutto. In 1967 he founded the Pakistan People's Party. In 1970 elections, Bhutto gained a majority in West Pakistan but the Awami League won in East Pakistan. Bhutto's refusal to grant autonomy to East Pakistan led to civil war in 1971, and defeat saw the formation of Bangladesh. Bhutto became prime minister under a new constitution in 1973. He was overthrown in a military coup led by General Zia. Bhutto was convicted of conspiracy to murder and executed.