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Revisiting Bhutto Legacy


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The Bilawal House in Lahore was abuzz with an unusual air on Friday.

Even though it was a gathering to mark the 96th birth anniversary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the event was special in a sense that PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was attending a birth anniversary of his grandfather for the first time in Punjab.

Perhaps Punjab has a weak memory about Bhuttos.

Numerous individuals reach their nineties, some even surpass the century mark, yet few are truly remembered for the imprint they leave on history. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, born into the aristocratic Bhutto family, stands as one such figure.

Initially a privileged young man, Bhutto’s journey led him to pursue education at Berkeley, California, and Oxford. By his twenties, he had established a law practice in Karachi and immersed himself in the city’s elite social circles. His marriage to Nusrat Isfahani marked a significant personal chapter.

Despite his aristocratic background, Bhutto’s exposure to liberal democratic values during his overseas education shaped his political stance. Opting for engagement within the system, he aligned with figures like Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan, eventually becoming the Commerce Minister at the age of 30.

However, Bhutto’s departure from Ayub Khan’s government after the 1965 war marked a turning point. Discontent with post-war policies, he resigned, faced legal challenges, and spent time in jail. His subsequent journey involved a period of reflection in the UK, leading to the formation of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 1967.

Known for his charisma and populist politics, Bhutto swiftly gained popularity. The 1970 elections demonstrated this, with PPP securing a significant mandate in the Punjab. Yet, the aftermath of the elections and the military operation in 1971 challenged Bhutto’s political trajectory.

The surrender in Dhaka on December 16, 1971, prompted a power transition. Bhutto, now a key political figure, navigated the turbulent post-war period, eventually assuming the roles of President and Chief Martial Law Administrator at the age of 43.

Bhutto’s leadership style involved meticulous attention to detail. He worked tirelessly, delving into entire case files rather than summaries. A voracious reader, he incorporated historical and philosophical references into his decisions, distinguishing him as perhaps the most well-read politician in Pakistan history.

Despite achievements during his rule, Bhutto’s defining moments came in the face of adversity. Refusing exile or concessions from military dictators, he upheld his commitment to peaceful parliamentary politics. Even during his trial, he rejected opportunities to escape, embodying a steadfast dedication to his principles.

Tragically, Bhutto’s life concluded at the age of 51, a victim of an unjust dictator’s actions. As we reflect on his 96th birthday anniversary, we recognize a man whose life was not measured merely by years but by the profound impact he made in those years. Abraham Lincoln’s sentiment holds true for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – it’s not about the quantity of years in one’s life but the quality of life within those years.

As we commemorate the 96th Birthday Anniversary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, it is noteworthy that his legacy continues through his grandson, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who appears poised to step into his grandfather’s formidable shoes. Bilawal’s 10-point election manifesto for the upcoming 2024 elections underscores this commitment to carry forward Bhutto’s vision.

Bilawal’s manifesto encompasses a range of policy areas, echoing his grandfather’s emphasis on social justice and egalitarianism. The 10 points include initiatives for economic reform, healthcare accessibility, education enhancement, and social welfare programs. These proposals align with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s legacy of populist politics and efforts to bridge societal gaps.

The intricate blend of Bilawal’s vision and his grandfather’s political philosophy suggests a generational continuity within the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). As Bilawal prepares to enter the political arena with a commitment to addressing contemporary challenges, the echoes of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s influence are palpable.

In evaluating Bilawal’s 10-point agenda, it becomes apparent that the PPP aims to address pressing issues facing Pakistan. Whether it’s economic disparities, healthcare accessibility, or educational reform, the manifesto reflects a nuanced approach to governance reminiscent of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s legacy.

As we reflect on this milestone in the Bhutto family’s political journey, it remains to be seen how Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will navigate the complex landscape of Pakistani politics, carrying forward the torch lit by his grandfather six decades ago.

The party needs to remind Punjab and other parts of the country about Bhutto’s ideology, Bhutto’s services and Bhutto’s vision.

Had Pakistan had not forgotten Bhutto’s legacy, it would have been a better place to live for its inhabitants.

Hassan Naqvi
Hassan Naqvi
Hassan Naqvi is an award-winning digital, print, and broadcast investigative journalist who is the co-founder of The Scoop. He also hosts his web shows 'The Scoop' and 'The Hassan Naqvi Show'.


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