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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: A Legendry Leader of Pakistan

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (January 5, 1928′ April 4, 1979) was a Pakistani politician who served as the President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973 and as the Prime Minister Pakistan from 1973 to 1977. He was the founder of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which is one of the largest political parties in Pakistan. His daughter, Benazir Bhutto has also served twice as prime minister. Bhutto is often addressed as the Quaid-e-Awam.

Born in a wealthy and influential family, Bhutto became one of the youngest politicians in Pakistan when he entered the government led by President Ayub Khan.

In 1957, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became the youngest member of Pakistan’s delegation to the United Nations. He addressed the United Nations Sixth Committee on Aggression on October 25, 1957 and led Pakistan’s deputation to the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Seas in 1958. In the same year, Bhutto became the youngest Pakistani cabinet minister when he was given charge of the energy ministry by President Muhammad Ayub Khan, who had seized power and declared martial law. He was subsequently promoted to head the ministries of commerce, information and industries. Bhutto become a close and trusted advisor to Ayub, rising in influence and power despite his youth and relative inexperience in politics. Bhutto aided Ayub in negotiating the Indus Water Treaty with India in 1960. In 1961, Bhutto negotiated an oil exploration agreement with the Soviet Union, which also agreed to provide economic and technical aid to Pakistan. Bhutto also became the de facto foreign policy spokesman for Ayub. In 1963, he was appointed Pakistan’s foreign minister. His swift rise to power also brought him national prominence and popularity.

As foreign minister, Bhutto significantly transformed Pakistan’s hitherto pro-Western foreign policy. While maintaining a prominent role for Pakistan within the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization and the Central Treaty Organization, Bhutto began asserting a foreign policy course for Pakistan that was independent of U.S. influence. Bhutto criticised the U.S. for providing military aid to India during and after the Sino-Indian War of 1962, which was seen as an abrogation of Pakistan’s alliance with the U.S. Bhutto worked to establish stronger relations with the People’s Republic of China.[4] Bhutto visited Beijing and helped Ayub negotiate trade and military agreements with the Chinese regime, which agreed to help Pakistan in a large number of military and industrial projects. Bhutto also signed the Sino-Pakistan Boundary Agreement on March 2, 1963 that transferred 750 kilometres of territory from Pakistan-administered Kashmir to Chinese control. Bhutto asserted his belief in non-alignment, making Pakistan an influential member in non-aligned organisations. Believing in pan-Islamic unity, Bhutto developed closer relations with Muslim nations such as Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.

Under Bhutto, Pakistan adopted a new constitution. Transferring to the post of prime minister, Bhutto nationalised many industries. Pioneering Islamic socialism in Pakistan, he undertook land redistribution and other socialist policies. Bhutto also ordered the Pakistan Army to suppress the insurgency in Balochistan and suppress a military coup attempt in 1973.
Bhutto advocated hardline and confrontational policies against India over the Kashmir conflict and other issues. After a brief skirmish in August 1965 between Indian and Pakistani forces near the international boundary in the Rann of Kutch, Bhutto counselled Ayub to launch an invasion of Indian Kashmir in September, which came to be known as Operation Grandslam. After the incursion of Pakistani forces was detected, India launched a full-scale military operation in Kashmir and the Punjab region. Following the outbreak of war, Bhutto delivered a fiery speech at the UN Security Council condemning India for aggression and declaring “we will fight for a thousand years” before storming out of the hall. After two weeks of fierce fighting, both nations faced considerable political pressure from the U.S., the U.K. and the Soviet Union and agreed to a ceasefire sponsored by the UN. Although the conflict had resulted in a stalemate, the advance of Indian forces into close proximity with the city of Lahore caused widespread criticism of Ayub’s management of the war. Bhutto joined Ayub in Tashkent to negotiate a peace treaty with the Indian Prime Minister  Bahadur Shastri. Ayub and Shastri agreed to exchange prisoners of war and withdraw respective forces to pre-war boundaries. This agreement was deeply unpopular in Pakistan, causing major political unrest against Ayub’s regime. Bhutto’s criticism of the final agreement caused a major rift between him and Ayub Khan. Initially denying the rumours, Bhutto resigned in June, 1967 and expressed strong opposition to Ayub’s regime.

Falling out with Ayub after the war, Bhutto founded the Pakistan People’s Party, which won a majority of seats from West Pakistan in 1970. Bhutto refused to accept the victory of the Awami League, leading to a political and sectarian crisis. After the Bangladesh Liberation War, Bhutto took over as president and the first civilian chief martial law adminstrator of Pakistan. In this capacity, he negotiated the Shimla Agreement with Indian leader Indira Gandhi to establish peace.

Under Bhutto, Pakistan adopted a new constitution. Transferring to the post of prime minister, Bhutto nationalised many industries. Pioneering Islamic socialism in Pakistan, he undertook land redistribution and other socialist policies. Bhutto also ordered the Pakistan Army to suppress the insurgency in Balochistan and suppressed a military coup attempt in 1973. However, Bhutto became increasingly unpopular over allegations of corruption and suppression of political opponents. The boycott of the 1977 elections by opposition parties created a political crisis that ended when Bhutto was deposed by the army chief Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Despite a controversial trial and protests, he was executed.

Bhutto is often referred to with respect as Shaheed (Martyr) or with the honorific title Quaid-e-Awam. Bhutto and his family remain widely popular in many parts of Pakistan, especially in Sindh. Bhutto is the namesake of many public institutions in Pakistan. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto remains an icon of the PPP and one of the most influential Pakistani politicians in history.

By: Fawaz Niaz

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