By Syed Haider Raza Haider Mehdi
As the PPP celebrates 5th July as a day of darkness, which it certainly was, here’s a perspective on how Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto betrayed the people of Pakistan as well.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was part Devil, part Saint and an enigma. Unfortunately the Devil won!
A person who was brilliant and brutal with inordinate ambition and a massive ego, finally falling victim to the betrayal of his own political values and the end he deserved!
Not for that crime of murder, which was a tragic travesty of justice, but for unspeakable horrors he committed against his own, like J.A Rahim and his son and Mairaj Mohammed Khan his own cabinet minister, and his political opponents like Mian Tufail of Jamaat e Islami.
Horrors that cannot be repeated here! But such is Nature’s nemesis.
With his brilliance, his amazing grasp of history, and the adulation by the masses, the nation at his feet, broken and shattered after its breakup, Bhutto could have turned and moulded this nation into a great power.
But tragically for him and Pakistan, he couldn’t rise above his own terrible inconsistencies and his personal ambitions and failed us!
His politics were schizophrenic. His pendulum swinging from the man of the masses to a ruthless fascist dictator. A flawed Angel and a Devil incarnate, he was directly responsible for the breakup of Pakistan.
Brilliant and cunning, calling Iskander Mirza a leader greater than the Quaid, addressing Ayub as “Daddy”, Bhutto wormed his way into the corridors of power, and as always happens to people of inordinate ambition, finally turned against his own benefactor. Ayub.
And as his own chosen Army Chief, Gen. Zia, who once reportedly followed him meekly a few steps behind him, carrying his glass of scotch at a military function, turned against him and hanged him!
His period and that of Gen. Zia’s, in my opinion, caused perhaps the greatest damage to our country.
On 1st January, 1972, Chief Martial Law Administrator Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, with one stroke of the pen, destroyed everything that we had achieved since independence.
He destroyed Pakistan’s economic engine, its industries, its financial sector, it’s educational and health care systems by nationalizing them all and setting us back decades.
He marginalized the Mohajir community by closing the chapter on evacuee trust property. His nationalization hit the Mohajirs badly as they had been the main drivers behind Pakistan’s industrial and educational sectors. And concurrently he let loose the monster of ethnic Sindhi nationalism.
These actions eventually giving rise to the MQM fascist monster we saw emerge in later years.
But a little discussed act with huge repercussions was his destruction of the Civil Services of Pakistan. He removed their constitutional protection of service and tenure and allowed direct lateral entry into the Civil Services.
For the first time in our history political favorites were appointed directly into government positions. And It was for the first time we saw the blatant rise of political control and patronage of ‘loyal and pliant government servants”.
This culture, later extensively used by Benazir and Zardari to loot and plunder and finally transformed into an art form by the Sharif brothers.
The rot and destruction of our institions we see today, was started by Bhutto.
Bhutto also attempted to curb the power and influence of the Army by creating the Federal Security Force, a new para military force. Ironically this eventually led to his death, convicted for Nawab Kasuri’s murder, who was murdered by Bhutto’s own FSF goons.
My late father, Col. S.G. Mehdi M.C, was initially offered the post to create and head the FSF by Bhutto’s National Security Advisor, General Akber. He politely refused, saying that it would become ZAB’s private militia, much like Mussolini’s and Hitler’s Blackshirts and Brownshrts! This they eventually did under his handpicked man, Mahmood Masood who ironically turned state witness against Bhutto in the murder trial.
To his credit. He gave hope to the poor and the exploited. But then, tragically betrayed them.
As a person, Bhutto was cruel, sadistic, vindictive, unforgiving, petty and mean.
He never forgot a slight. And this last attribute finally got him to the gallows!
By 1977, Bhutto’s luck had run out.
Economic distress, erratic policies, angry business people who had been ruined, fuelled the street agitation against him.
Then the large-scale attempt by him to rig the 1977 elections, another first, and use the Army to browbeat his political opponents eventually caused his downfall.
Theories of international hands cannot also be discounted in the context of our nuclear program.
Sufficeth, that he created the perfect storm against himself!
He left behind a devastated economy, a highly politicised bureaucracy and a divided nation!
And into the hands of the Army and a decade of infamy and darkness under Gen. Zia!
Brilliant he was, no doubt. But not in the mould of great leaders, but that of a charismatic con man!