Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (5 January 1928 – 4 April 1979) the bravest and the most popular leader of Pakistan, was the symbol of democracy and voice against dictatorship. His political stature is matchless; his political sagacity, pragmatism gave Pakistan a political party system (earlier, Ayub crushed political parties), socio-economic development, nuclear deterrence, economic independence, Constitution of 1973, land reforms and a parliamentary system.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was 9th Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977, and prior to that, 4th President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973. Bhutto was the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – the largest and most influential political party in Pakistan – and served as its chairman until his shahdaat in 1979. His elder daughter, Benazir Bhutto, also served as prime minister later on. He was the youngest parliamentarian elected in 1957. He was one of the youngest foreign ministers in Ayub Khan’s cabinet. Later on, he resigned and agitated against Ayub regime because he believed that Ayub’s rule was embedding the seeds of agitation, discontentment and deprivation among the general masses. He struggled for democracy and rule of people. Bhutto also agitated against Yayha Khan’s Martial Law and strived for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan with the support of masses. He was the leader of the masses. He founded the PPP which became the most popular party of Pakistan and won general elections in 70s. He believed in an agenda that was geared to the causes of the common man and offered tangible solutions to his problems. He raised the slogan of “roti, kapra aur makan” (food, clothing and shelter) which attracted millions from every corner of the country .

Bhutto was noted for his progressive economic initiatives, industrialization, education, and foreign policy, and his intellectualism. In addition to national security issues, Bhutto promoted his policies on nationalization, health care, and social reforms. Under his premiership, Pakistan's Parliament gave approval and passed unanimously the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, a landmark in the political and constitutional history that provides a parliamentary system to Pakistan. During his regime, he strived for strengthening relations among the Third World nations. hosting the Second Summit of Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in 1974 at Lahore in which leaders from the Muslim world participated. It was one of the most remarkable initiatives he took for the formation of United Muslim Ummah. In July 1972, Bhutto successfully signed the Shimla treaty with Indira Gandhi of India, brought 93,000 prisoners of war back to Pakistan, and secured 5,000 sq miles (13,000 km) held by India. In 20 January 1972, weeks after the Indo-Pakistani 1971 winter war, Bhutto authorized scientific research on nuclear weapons; for this, he is known in the world as "Father of the Pakistan's nuclear deterrent programme”. Bhutto selected Munir Ahmad Khan and Abdus Salam to supervise the programme.

Being a true believer in the supremacy of people’s rule, he relentlessly struggled for democracy in the country. He was the most acceptable popular leader of Pakistan and was rated highly in  the international community. Bhutto staunchly supported Beijing in the UN, and in the UNSC, while he continued to keep building bridges to the United States. Bhutto was a strong advocate of developing ties with China.

It will not be out of place to mention one of his speeches which he made while addressing the nation in the backdrop of the separation of East Pakistan:

“My dear countrymen, my dear friends, my dear students, labourers, peasants... those who fought for Pakistan... We are facing the worst crisis in our country's life, a deadly crisis. We have to pick up the pieces, very small pieces, but we will make a new Pakistan, a prosperous and progressive Pakistan, a Pakistan free of exploitation, a Pakistan envisaged by the Quaid-i-Azam.”

Bhutto is considered the main architect of 1973 Constitution as part of his vision to put Pakistan to road to parliamentary democracy. One of the major achievements of his life was the drafting of Pakistan's first ever consensus Constitution to the country which is still in vogue despite all hurdles dictatorships have been creating during the past four decades. The present PPP regime has rightly claimed credit for the party for restoring the 1973 Constitution in its true spirit after the passage of 18th Amendement.

Bhutto was also a strong advocate of Afro-Asian Solidarity and had cemented ties with Afro-Asian and Islamic countries and by 1976 had emerged as the Leader of the Third World Bhutto sought to improve Pakistan's ties with the Arab world, and sided with them during the Arab-Israeli conflict. He also strengthened relations with the Western world, the US and Russia.  

General Ziaul Haq abrogated the 1973 Constitution, arrested Z.A. Bhutto and initiated a fake case against him. On April 4, 1979, the day when Bhutto was executed, The New York Times published its final report giving the entire chronological events surrounding Bhutto's trial. "The way they did it, (Bhutto) is going to grow into a legend that will some day backfire ".

Bhutto felt pain for the masses in his heart and struggled for their welfare and betterment. His political philosophy has survived despite the strenuous efforts of dictators. He still remains in the hearts of the masses in all parts of the country. His legacy of democratic struggle and vision is being carried forward by his grandchildren and President of Pakistan, his son-in-law. Bhutto once said that “If things do not change, there will be nothing left to change. Either power must pass to the people or everything will perish.”  

Bhutto was an undoubted champion of democracy and the rights of the poor in Pakistan. He was a beacon of light to promote democracy and kept it on with the sacrifice of his life. He did not bow before dictatorship. He still lives and will continue to live in the hearts and minds of the public. His ideas would be cherished by them forever. The need of the hour, however, is to understand and follow the political philosophy of the most charismatic leader after the Founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.  The nation has rightly given him the title of Quaid-i-Awam.

The writer is a freelance columnist.