DR FIRDOUS ASHIQ AWAN

On this day in 1979, a tragedy of unfathomable proportions unfurled in the shape of martyrdom of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a leader of the masses who had given them identity and hope and who strived for their deliverance from the never ending exploitation. But those who perpetrated this heinous crime on the people of Pakistan did not realise that though they could eliminate the man physically they could not decimate the spirit which Bhutto had instilled in the hearts of the teeming millions and the vision that he had bequeathed for the future of Pakistan.

It is said that there are leaders who are created by History and catapulted to the dizzying heights and there are also leaders who create history and barge into the hall of fame through their contribution to the national and global causes. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was undoubtedly a leader who created history. He was a born leader and a man of irrepressible strength, destined to play the role of a saviour for the down-trodden masses and charter a constitutional path for Pakistan in line with the vision of its creator. Though he had a feudal background and received education at the western universities but the political philosophy and the brand of politics he practiced, were an antithesis of his roots. These claims about Bhutto are not rhetoric of a demagogue or passionate convulsions of a diehard devotee. His achievements stand substantiated and corroborated by history. After the Dacca debacle, he lifted the spirit of the crest-fallen nation and re-invigorated the urge to make a fresh start. He gave the country a consensus constitution that set the direction the country had to follow to achieve the objectives of its creation. He successfully negotiated the repatriation of ninety thousand POWs and the retrieval of the territory captured by India.

A visionary like him could not remain oblivious to the changes occurring in the geo-political and security situation in the region and the future course of events on the global level. To ward off the dangers to the security of Pakistan on permanent basis he initiated the nuclear programme to achieve parity with India. He triggered the process of building regional linkages and laid a firm foundation for an eternal friendship with China; a policy that has benefited Pakistan in many ways. He had very strong commitment to the cause of Kashmir and advocated hard line posture towards India. In fact his differences with Ayub Khan on the Kashmir issue were the cause of estrangement between the two and ultimately the launching of the PPP in 1967.

The cornerstone of his foreign policy was building an ambience of bonhomie and cooperation between the Islamic countries which he set into motion through the holding of Islamic Summit in Lahore in 1974. He emerged as an unrivalled leader of the Islamic world as well. The initiative tremendously benefited Pakistan as it received generous assistance from the oil rich Gulf States and Saudi Arabia for its development needs. Millions of Pakistani skilled and unskilled workers got jobs in those countries as well as had the opportunity to travel to European countries owing to the fact that the Bhutto regime had extended the facility of passport to each and every Pakistani which hitherto was the privilege of the elite. He announced a new labour policy, increasing rights of the workers and the powers of the trade unions. He gave voice to the voiceless masses, a voice and power hitherto denied to the marginalised sections of the society. He introduced land reforms under which one million acres of land were taken over and distributed among the landless farmers. He was aware of the significance of strengthening the economy. He nudged and nurtured the growth process by establishing heavy industries like steel mills, Heavy Mechanical Complex and Karma Aeronautical Complex.

Unfortunately his successes on the external and internal front turned out to be his nemesis. Through an international conspiracy he was removed from power and eventually physically eliminated through a judicial murder. He stood true to his conviction that he expressed in his letter to Benazir Bhutto while in jail “It is better to die at the hands of a dictator than to die in the history”. He preferred to sacrifice his life for the masses and the cause of democracy and attained immortality in the history. He indeed is a benefactor of Pakistan.

When the present government was voted into power in 2008, the country faced an existential threat from the phenomenon of terrorism and religious extremism, the economy was in shambles, Balochistan was seething with insurgency, constitution needed to be restored to its original shape. After four years we can look back with satisfaction due to the fact that most of these issues have been resolved an discernible headway has been made in the other fields. Above all, President Zardari guided by the vision of our martyred leaders has successfully staved off the anti-democracy forces and the elected government is poised to complete its mandated tenure.