Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Date of Birth: January 5, 1928
Date of Death: April 4, 1979
President of Pakistan
Tenure Order: 4th President
Term in Office: December 20, 1971
August 13, 1973
Predecessor: Yahya Khan
Successor: Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Tenure Order: 8th Prime Minister of Pakistan
Term in Office: July 3, 1972July 5, 1977
Predecessor: Sir Feroz Khan Noon
Successor: Muhammad Khan Junejo

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (January 5, 1928April 4, 1979) was a Pakistani politician, active in the early years of the Pakistani Government. Bhutto served in the possition of President (from 1971 to 1973) and as Prime Minister, from 1973 to 1977, of Pakistan. He has the rare distinction of being a civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator. Deposed in a coup by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, he was hanged on charges of authorizing the murder of a political opponent in 1974.



Early Years

Bhutto was born in Larkana (in what is now Pakistan) the only son of Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto. He completed his early education in Bombay. After completing his initial education, he went to the United States in 1947 to study at the University of Southern California, and later transferred to the University of California, Berkeley. He applied to Harvard and was accepted, but chose to stay at Berkeley. He was the first Asian student to be elected to the Berkeley Student Council. From Berkeley he earned a degree in political science, after which he went to Oxford and studied at Christ Church College from where he graduated with honors.

Following his time at Oxford, he was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1953 (which had also been attended by Allama Iqbal and Muhammed Ali Jinnah). The same year, his first child was born, a daughter Benazir, who would later become prime minister herself.

Political career

In 1958 he joined the cabinet of President Iskander Mirza. From this point, he was active in the Pakistani government, working at various posts. In 1966 he resigned from the cabinet, after serving as Foreign Minister.

In 1967 Bhutto formed the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to oppose President Ayub Khan's regime. He adopted a uniform similar to those worn by the Chinese Communist Party leaders and called for the introduction of "Islamic socialism" in Pakistan and the commencement of a "thousand years war" against India. Using the title "Leader of the People," Bhutto launched a nationwide tour, agitating against the military dictatorship.

Bhutto was arrested in connection with these activities in November 1968, and detained for three months. The movement he helped unleash in West Pakistan (coextensive with the country's current boundaries), in conjunction with agitation for greater autonomy taking place in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), forced the resignation of Ayub Khan in March 1969. Ayub Khan handed power over to the army commander in chief, Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, who assumed the presidency and reimposed martial law.

The issue of an autonomous East Pakistan continued to plague Yahya's Administration. In the elections held in 1970, the pro-autonomy Awami League won by a landslide in East Pakistan, capturing enough parliamentary seats to control any government that might be formed. On the other side, Bhutto's PPP captured the majority of seats in West Pakistan. When Yahya and the PPP delayed the transfer of power to the newly elected representatives in March 1971, public unrest erupted in East Pakistan. East Pakistani leaders demanded the establishment of an independent nation of Bangladesh, and the Pakistani Army cracked down brutally on civilians as well as on armed revolutionaries in East Pakistan.

President of Pakistan (1971 – 1973)

When India intervened in the civil war in December, the Pakistani Army was swiftly defeated, and East Pakistan emerged as the state of Bangladesh (Bangladesh Liberation War and Indo-Pakistani War of 1971). Yahya Khan resigned, and Bhutto was inaugurated as President and Chief Martial Law Administrator on December 20, 1971. For a brief period, Bhutto appointed General Gul Hassan as the Commander-in-chief of the then demoralized Pakistani Army.

However, Bhutto dismissed Gul Hassan in March 1972 and appointed General Tikka Khan as Chief of the Army staff. General Tikka Khan felt that the army should not intrude in politics, and ensured that it would remained apolitical. Bhutto could now enact his policies knowing that there was no institution to challenge him.

Bhutto introduced socialist economic reforms while working to prevent any further division of the country. He nationalized Pakistan's major industries, life insurance companies, and private schools and colleges. Although still a major landholder, dubbed by his opponents the "Raja of Lārkāna," Bhutto enacted tax relief for the country’s poorest agricultural workers and placed ceilings on land ownership.

Prime Minister of Pakistan (1973 – 1977)

He countered secessionist movements in all of Pakistan's provinces, lifted martial law in 1972, and pushed through a new constitution in 1973 that recognized Islam as the national religion. Under the parliamentary system established by the new constitution, Bhutto became prime minister. Bhutto's support for democratic processes was uneven. A popular leader, he engaged in meet-the-people tours that attracted huge crowds. However, he also repressed all disagreement by opposition parties in Pakistan's National Assembly.

On the international front, Bhutto resumed implementation of his policy of nonaligned neutrality. He withdrew Pakistan from the British Commonwealth of Nations and from the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), sponsored by the United States. In July 1972 he negotiated the Simla Agreement, which confirmed a line of control dividing Kashmīr and prompted the withdrawal of Indian troops from Pakistani territory. To forge closer ties with the Islamic world, in 1974 Bhutto hosted the second meeting of the Organization of Islamic States in the city of Lahore. He used this forum to announce Pakistan’s official recognition of Bangladesh. To bolster Pakistan’s military defense capabilities, Bhutto laid the groundwork for a nuclear weapons program.

During elections held in March 1977, nine opposition parties, united as the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), ran a popular campaign against Bhutto’s PPP. When the PPP won a decisive victory in the parliamentary round of the elections, the PNA accused Bhutto’s party of rigging the vote and withdrew in protest from upcoming provincial elections. Widespread street fighting broke out, and opposition politicians were arrested.

Downfall and trial

Missing image
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

On July 5 the military, led by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, staged a coup. Zia relieved Bhutto of power, holding him in detention for a month. Upon his release, Bhutto traveled the country amid adulatory crowds of PPP supporters.

In September the army arrested Bhutto again on charges of authorizing the murder of a political opponent in 1974. In 1974 a politician, Ahmed Reza Kasuri, had had a falling out with Bhutto. Later, while returning home from a wedding, the politicians car was attacked, and his father shot to death. The politician registered a case against Bhutto, but since he was then Prime Minister, he had immunity. The charge was that he had ordered Kasuris death.

The case against Bhutto, was thought by many ill-informed observers to be a "cooked up" one. It is not so, as we have seen the case was pending before he was removed from power. The main evidence was the testimony of two witnesses and the dicoverey at the crime scene of special calibre rounds.

One witness said that, he had heard Bhutto say that "Kasuri's days are numbered." The second witness related to the evidence discovered at the scene. The calibre of the cartridges found pointed to the Federal Security Force (since renamed the Federal Investigation Agency). Its director turned states witness and testified that an order had come from a "high up" to carry out the said operation.

Bhutto's trial took, place in the High Court and he was convicted, and was awarded the death sentence. At the time the death sentence was mandatory for a murder conviction (the law was changed in 1997, for reasons unrelated to this trial.) Bhutto appealed to the Supreme Court, and a seven member bench upheld the sentence, 4-3. Bhutto was executed by hanging on April 4th 1979 in Rawalpindi.

This has always been a controversial case and while some believe it was a conspiracy there is evidence that links Bhutto in some way to the murder. However, it was argued that the evidence was not sufficient to establish "guilt beyond resonable doubt" and this was the resoning of the minority view in the Supreme Court.

Political legacy

The Pakistani population was divided in its opinion of Bhutto. While a significant segment of the population viewed him as a demagogue who deserved his fate, others supported Bhutto’s populist and nationalist programs and viewed him as a martyr for democracy. After Zia died in an airplane crash in 1988, elections brought the PPP back to power, led by Bhutto's daughter, Benazir Bhutto.


  • The Myth of Independence (1969)
  • The Great Tragedy (1971)
  • Bilateralism: New Directions (1976)
  • If I Am Assassinated (1979).
  • S. Kulmar, The New Pakistan (1979)
  • S. J. Burki, Pakistan Under Bhutto, 19711977 (1980).

Collections of Speeches

  • Foreign Policy of Pakistan (1964)
  • The Quest for Peace (1966)
  • Marching Towards Democracy (1972).

Preceded by:
Feroz Khan Noon
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Succeeded by:
No Prime Minister during
Martial Law, then
Muhammad Khan Junejo
Preceded by:
Yahya Khan
President of Pakistan
Succeeded by:
Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry

Template:End box

See also

External Links

fr:Zulfikar Al Bhutto nl:Ali Bhutto


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