Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto has been the most loved and most maligned person for the last 50 years. He is loved by the people in general, by the mob and by those who fell in love with him because of his oratorial skills and personality.

Our historians have not paid any attention to the period of 150 years which illustrated the great distance between the Hindus and the Muslims. Ultimately, Muslim rulers violently resisted British occupation everywhere in India. In the process, hundreds of thousands of Muslim families lost all they had, millions of refugees moved from one place to another, and there was destruction, most of all, of the cultural values the Muslims held dear.

After taking over, the British favoured the Hindus and rightly considered the Muslims their enemies. During the period of resistance between 1858 and 1947, it was the Muslims who opposed the British with violence, while the Hindus cooperated.

For 150 years, generation after generation of the Muslims carried a grudge against the Hindus and the Hindus carried similar grudges against the Muslims. This was a big reason why Muslims all over India rallied round Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a man who spoke neither Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Sindhi, Pushto, Balochi, or in fact, any other language except perhaps Gujarati. Jinnah ignited a flame in the hearts of Muslims by the 1940 resolutions, and his leadership gave us Pakistan.

From 1947 to 1965, substantial forces existed in India who wanted to undo Pakistan. For 18 years from 1947- 1965, Pakistani newspapers were full of stories of India being unjust to Pakistan. Mostly these were true, though some were exaggerated. And then, in 1965, in burst the prince, declaring he would fight the Hindus for a thousand years if need be. Lo and behold! Almost everybody in the Punjab and in the border areas where the 1965 war took place, became ‘Bhutto-ites;’ allow me to say, quite unknown to Bhutto himself. It took Mr. Bhutto one and a half years to make up his mind about founding a new political party. He won a landslide victory in the 1970 elections, and his ultimate judicial execution gave him the status of a great Shaheed.

Mr. Bhutto is mostly maligned by a small group of people of wealth and high ups in the civil and military officer’s class. The capitalists and zamindars hate him for his socialist policies; nationalising banks, insurance companies, big industry, means of energy etc. They do so, not merely because of his economic policies, but Mr. Bhutto’s clear declarations of his support for third world countries and his opposition to imperialism- praising China, Cuba, Ho Chi Minh, Achmed Sukarno, Gamal Abdul Nasser, Muammar Gaddafi and so on.

Most of the allegations against Mr. Bhutto are false; there was never corruption, loot or the plunder of public money. His nationalisation policies, in fact, cannot be opposed by any lover of democracy. All of them are enshrined in the 1973 constitution which was passed unanimously. And so it was the verdict of the people (unacceptable, of course to the United States, to Zia ul Haq and some of his generals). Another much touted and serious allegation levelled against Mr. Bhutto is that he was party to the secession of East Pakistan, which is completely untrue. It is not in the interests of the Pakistan army, the Bangladesh army and the past and present Bangladesh governments to address the fact that President Yahya Khan had told Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman to wait for a few months until after the 1970 elections following which Yahya Khan would be President and Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman Prime Minister of Pakistan. It was a case of deception. After three months, the agreement was ready to be signed. The T’s had been crossed and I’s had been dotted. 23rd March 1971 was the date set. On that day, Mujib’s party kept telephoning Yahya Khan’s Government House in Dhaka asking “When shall we come?” There was no answer. Mujib-ur-Rehman realised that evening that he had been cheated. Yahya Khan flew out of Dhaka and on the night of the 24th, action to crush Mujib-ur-Rehman’s party began. So badly deceived were Mujib ur Rehman and his friends, that they spurned all of Bhutto’s offers from January to March 1971, to work something out together and save the democratic government of Pakistan. But it was not to be. Despite our party proclaiming in writing that Pakistan had an internal colonial order, during the last 24 years, East Pakistan had drifted away from the rulers of West Pakistan.

The hate for Mr. Bhutto became so patently clear that in 1979, there was no newspaper or TV channel which did not call him a criminal. And now, there is no newspaper or media channel, which is not holding a program (mostly) in favour of him.

And then, there are those who oppose Mr. Bhutto on their perception of his personal character. Do these accusers not know that the head of state is never judged on the basis of his personal character? Mr. Bhutto was, on a personal level, a kind man. It was difficult to be in his presence and not be overwhelmed by his arguments and his charm. He would argue with you, and almost always convince you that he was right. He was ready to make friends with his worst political enemies. He loved literature, he loved music, and most of all he loved the people. Once we were going from Kharian to Islamabad by car, and as labourers broke stones along the way he wept and said, “When will my people not have to go through this?” Another time near Essa Khel in the month of June, he saw farmers, their bare backs bent in the great heat cutting their crop. Then too, I saw him cry.

And here is the story, that perhaps best illustrates his gentle humanity, and the love inside him for the country: when we had just been elected, a Canadian writer, who we were having dinner with at the time, asked Mr. Bhutto, “You were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Where did you pick up all this love for the poor?” Tears welled up in Mr. Bhutto’s eyes, and quietly he said, “From my mother.”

The writer is a co-founder of the Pakistan People’s Party.