April 4, 1979 was the darkest day in the history of Pakistan. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged as a dead man. Two army officers, along with a colonel, came with a last-minute offer that Bhutto confess he authorised the military coup — then he shall live. Bhutto replied, “I do not want a life of dishonour and lies”. To that, the men strangled him to death, trying to make him sign. He was taken to gallows, where the Christian hangman refused to hang him until he was forced to.
But peace won: the man re-lived through his legacy.
Bhutto, the first truly charismatic leader, blessed the country with a Constitution after 26 years of its creation.
A few years ago, I was asked to pick a peace hero for an essay for my peace studies class. I picked Bhutto. My teacher, who happened to be a Bangladeshi activist, whispered to me that other than the fact that he disagreed with Bhutto’s stance in the civil war of 1971, he celebrated the man for all that he was.
In enshrining him into the corridors of history, his remarkable iconoclasm, imaginative foreign policy, political education, his respect for the poor, his populist style, courage and all such characteristics combined to produce the marvels that came into play during his tenure. Believing in the ideal of ‘help from within’, he made Pakistan independent of Western dominance. Holding offices in energy, information, commerce and industries and foreign relations at such a young age, Bhutto took over the political landscape of Pakistan.
Negotiations with India over Indus Water Treaty, oil exploration agreement with Soviet Union, allying with China, maintaining relations with Washington, revitalising the relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries had been his few international endeavours. On domestic lines, Pakistan’s nuclear programme, Pakistan Steel Mills, Heavy Mechanical Complex in Taxila, the age of reforms (land, labour, industrial, economic, banking, exchange, education, health, law reforms) he achieved all that through his political acumen. Moreover, Bhutto brought in a federalist system, which was recently reinstated under the Eighteenth Amendment.
All I can do is hope that Pakistan is gifted with another peace hero soon, as the way things are going in the country, it doesn’t look like we are going anywhere. Maybe we can’t have ‘roti kapra makan’ for all, maybe we could have a peaceful, tolerant and progressive Pakistan. Jiye Bhutto!