Years have passed but 5 July 1977 is indelibly etched on the consciousness of virtually every Pakistani. That was the hour when the country’s first popularly elected government led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was toppled by General Ziaul Haq, who thrust the longest martial law on Pakistan’s nascent democracy. Bhutto was hanged, the ultimate price he had to pay while struggling to establish civilian supremacy over military. But Bhutto and all that he fought for keeps coming back, even though in the years that followed his execution, saw his sons, Shahnawaz Bhutto, Murtaza Bhutto and two-time Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto eliminated.

To say that Bhutto did not have character would be unfair. From his last days in the jail cell, he seemed a man of conviction as though he did not believe in looking back once he had started off with something. And it is that character that despite many attempts by the detractors to deter from going about what it believed was worth pursuing still fails to lose currency. When Bhutto had settled on a decision, however flamboyant and risky, he had a good reason for that; after his arrest, there were calls from many a quarter suggesting that he save himself from the gallows, perhaps the idea was to make a compromise with the junta something Bhutto only scoffed at. Cringing or shrivelling was what the Zia regime expected from him but were disappointed.

Granted he made mistakes but that is only human. His vision and those of his comrades gave us the constitution of the 1973 and at least in theory settled for once and for all that democracy was the only saviour. Consider in contrast – though there is not much ground for comparison -- the irreparable harm done by General Zia; it was so deleterious that even before it started to take the country in its tentacles, it first lunged at the General himself; the horrific scene of mid-air explosion a few hundreds meters from Bahawalpur airport proved to be his day of judgement but marked the start of an era that was to hit Pakistan in ways far too appalling for anyone to imagine.