Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: The Bright Star Lighting up the Sky. – By Mohtarmah Benazir Bhutto.

4 Apr

559846_422606894494865_1012360678_nWhen I was a little child, my Father would pick me up and throw me into the air and I would laugh with delight. He took such joy in us, his children. He was a wonderful Father whom we all adored. Each one of us would have done anything he asked of us, such was the loyalty he inspired.

Other would do even more. They would burn themselves alive, go to the gallows, accept the excruciating lash of the whip on their backs and be prepared for electric shocks and torture. Such was his call and his cause that ordinary mortals became extraordinary when they followed him.

His personality and cause inspired poets and writers to new heights of literature enriching our culture and our heritage.

So what was this giant of a man like whose shadow has followed the destiny of Pakistan for four decades and more.

He was rather shy and had a shy and endearing smile. As I learnt when I met a fellow student of his in California last month, who knew him when he was eighteen, that he had the whole University in thrall. He was tall, handsome, charming, witty, a great debater, had a fantastic memory and was always well dressed in well cut and well designed clothes shipped specially from England to America for him to wear.

He was a man of privilege who turned his back on his class. In so doing, he invited the wrath of influential elites who never forgave him for challenging the status quo.

In Washington, a Minister from Jordan told me how Quaid-e-Awam had inspired a whole generation of diplomats with his stirring speeches at the United Nations. He said that they watched the videos of his speech to learn from him.

Such was his power of speech that he never needed notes. He spoke from the heart. He made his audiences laugh, he made them cry, he could whip them into frenzy and he could motivate them to shed aside despair to rise and build a great nation.

The President of Kyrghiztan and the Prime Minister of Nepal both told me how his judicial murder had changed their lives and the nature of their nations. The first demonstrations, which snowballed into movements of freedom and democracy for their countries, began protesting his unjust hanging.

His fellow student said to me, he had a grand passion for Pan Islamism.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was passionately committed as a Muslim to the concept of Muslim unity. He spoke of the Soldiers of Islam and of an Islamic Nuclear Power to bring Islam at par with other civilisations. He spoke of an Islamic Common market. He sent the armed forces of Pakistan to defend Arab lands threatened with Israeli aggression in the Middle East war of 1973 known as the Ramadan war.

At his initiative, the Organisation of Islamic Countries held an Islamic Conference in Lahore in 1974. That Conference was co hosted by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Both of them would be assassinated in quick succession ending a dramatic moment of leadership in Muslim history which could have forever altered its course.

It was an historic conference, beyond platitude. It was the conference which recognised Yasser Arafat as the sole spokesman of the Palestinian people. In so doing, it undid the fractious nature of the Palestinian movement. It laid the groundwork which would enable President Arafat to legitimately negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people for a Middle East settlement.

That conference also enabled Pakistan and Bangladesh to reconcile after a bitter war of separation.

In Simla, he did the impossible. He went there as the leader of a vanquished nation that had been divided in half by force. He went there with ninety thousand prisoners of war held as hostages, with territory lost, threats of Nuremberg style trials against the Officers and men of the Pakistan army. He went there at a time when General Manekshaw was threatening the break up of residual Pakistan.

But he took with him his intellect, his vision of history, the support and prayers of the Pakistani people.

And he succeeded in getting back the territory Pakistan had lost in the Western wing. Compare that glory to the attempts still made to get back parts lost by General Zia in Siachen. He succeeded in building with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi the Simla Agreement, which, although strained at times, has held peace in place for nearly three decades. He also got back the POWs without compromising on national honour or respect and prevented war trials.

All over the world, he inspired a generation with his stand against colonialism, imperialism and the unjust war in Vietnam where Asian blood was being shed. He took pride in being an Asian and had good terms with Third World leaders. President Sukarno of Indonesia treated him as a son whilst President Nasser of Egypt gave him affection. President De Gaulle, Yugoslavia’s Tito and the giants of the time held him in esteem for his intellect had a power that inspired awe. When he met the young American President, Kennedy took his hands in his own and said, If you had been an American, you would have been the President of the United States.

Powerful statesmen, the American President George Bush and National Security Advisor Henry Kissenger, praised him for his brilliance and his statesmanship. The Chinese leaders Mao Tse Tung and

Premier Chou en Lai treated him like family. King Fahd of Saudi Arabia regarded him as a brother and told me, I said it then and I say it now: his was an unjust murder. The Shah of Iran never knew whether to envy him or admire him.

The list is endless illustrating his special brand of intellect, charm and vision. And an ability to impress born of the politics of conviction and principle.

Such was his charisma that fans fainted when they saw him or touched him. Women lost their hearts to him, including royal princesses, first ladies and international film stars. But he was devoted to his family and walked away leaving many a broken heart in his wake.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto joined the cabinet of President Ayub Khan as the youngest minister in the subcontinent. At first he adored Ayub as a son does a Father. But he soon became disenchanted. He thought Ayub too subservient to America. He disliked the politics of permits which saw the rise of a robber baron class of twenty-two families sucking the blood of the Pakistani people. He watched in dismay the nepotism where the relatives of Ayub enriched themselves. The final straw was the surrender at Tashkent where Pakistan, under superpower dictation, gave up what its sons and daughters in the 1965 war had won by shedding their blood as sacrifice.

He left and began a period of rumination and reflection. Ayub saw him as a threat and few dared to thwart Ayub’s will. The long line of cars outside 70, Clifton, his home, disappeared. It was a period of isolation. He threw himself into writing and came up with the Myth of Independence. He was a socialist and a philosopher, friends with Bertrand Russell, who wrote encouraging him.

At heart Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a socialist. He was determined to defy Ayub and save the people from the clutches of feudalism, imperialism and neo colonialism. And so he formed the Pakistan Peoples Party in 1967.

He travelled far and wide preaching its message. He went to dusty villages at a time when roads had yet to be built. He travelled in the sun and in storms with his message that the poor people of Pakistan could change their destiny.

His was a powerful message that stirred the masses even as the capitalist oligarchy united to fight him. His was a message of egalitarianism in a hierarchical society; a message of redemption for those who had been slaves to feudal lords, tribal warlords and industrial masters.

His tours electrified the masses and shook the Nation. He defied death even as the assassination squads followed him from the deserts of Sindh to the mountains of Khyber. Military titans fell before him, Ayub and Yahya, who had sworn that Bhutto would never take power. But the floodgates of the people had been opened and they swept him to power.

During his tenure, he gave Pakistan the first representative constitution with full fundamental human rights. It was a liberal constitution guaranteeing women and minorities full rights in Parliament. The provinces got autonomy and the neglected tribal and northern areas prospered.

Land was distributed, labour given bonuses, job security, health facilities and a safety net. Women were appointed to the subordinate judiciary, the foreign office, the police and bureaucracy. The Karakorum Highway was built, Port Qasim, Kamrah Aeronautical Complex, Heavy Mechanical Complex, the nuclear program and cancer treatment centres in the four corners of Pakistan. The doors of education were thrown open for the children of the peasants.

It was a true renaissance. Pakistan became a leading voice in the world with the statesman Bhutto to guide the ship of state. The country prospered.

But in every golden period of history comes the point of decline. Lurking in the shadows was a General, outwardly pious who had been seduced when he led the massacre of Palestinians in Jordan.

In his dark heart he bred evil forces of ambition, disloyalty, treachery. When he heard the bugle call from beyond the borders, he answered it even as his gun blasted the Muslim codes of chivalry and loyalty to his benefactor. The PPP government was overthrown by a man who committed high treason and murder. His brutal and violent rule raped the nation until finally nature scattered his body in a ball of fire.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto always prayed at the Mazaars of the great saints of the subcontinent. His signatures are there in the books of Ajmer Sharif and elsewhere. He regularly prayed at Data Sahib’s mazaar. In times of trouble he called out to Badshah Dastagir. For him, Omar was the greatest of Muslim Caliphs, Aurangzeb the greatest of Moghul Emperors.

The patron saint to whom he was most devoted was Lal Shabaz Qalander. His mother had prayed there when her new born son fell ill and doctors gave up hope. God heard the prayers of the young and beautiful Mother as she cradled her only son in her arms and called upon Lal Shabaz to beseech Allah to save him.

She dressed her son in the finest of clothes and made his bed of silken sheets. She was spared the horror of seeing her son, the hero of the people, imprisoned in a squalid death cell.

But even in that death cell, where the tyrants did not let him live before they killed him, his courage shone like a beacon encouraging men to take up arms to fight his tormentors, encouraging women to defy troops and encouraging children to protest an unholy incarceration. In him, the people of Pakistan, nay of the Muslim world, saw their hopes, their dreams and their aspirations.

He gave his life for the downtrodden, the discriminated, and the disadvantaged. He said he would show the usurpers how a leader of the people lives and dies. And he did.

Secretly he was murdered in the darkness of the night and his body flown to the land of his birth in Larkana while the Nation slept. A terrible hailstorm shook the desert land with huge pieces of ice falling abnormally as nature wept for a great man whose greatness was acknowledged the world over.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had said to his young Iranian bride Nusrat, when he married her, I shall be a shooting star brightening up the sky for one brief moment before disappearing forever.

He was Asia’s brightest star. There never shall be another like him.

Mohtarmah Benazir Bhutto.
April 4, 2000.


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