“I am as surprised as you are. Before leaving for Shimla, she had asked me, ‘Can I trust Bhutto? People tell me that if I shake hands with him, I must immediately count my fingers’.”

–R N Kao – 1980

Opposition against Bhutto grew strong and there was a general feeling of disappointment amongst the masses towards the end of his reign. He had won a majority in West Pakistan in the December 1970 elections but his power soon began to decline due to unpopular policies of nationalisation and the misuse of power during PPP’s regime. He was also accused of rigging the 1971 elections. Even the industrial labour and the small business class that had supported Bhutto earlier, did not stand up in his favour to counter this movement. This made way for another military coup. On July 5, in what was termed as the “Operation Fair play”, General Zia peacefully took over. Zia was not only backed by the majority of opposition parties but also, there was international pressure for Bhutto’s removal. Zia, however, justified the army’s takeover by saying that there was a possibility of civil war in the country because of public demonstrations and political tensions. Bhutto was put under house arrest while elections were promised within 90 days. Since Zia had the fear that PPP might return due to rallies being carried out for Bhutto’s release, he started looking for other issues that could divert this attention. The first issue he raised was that of PPP’s accountability which led to the disqualification of some of the powerful members of PPP. Bhutto was tried and charged for the murder of Nawab Muhammad Ahmed Khan. He was subsequently hanged in 1979 after being found guilty amidst the cries of PPP that it was a rigged trial. Despite his chequered political career, Bhutto has been and still is respected as one of the most influential men in Pakistan’s history. His magnetic personality along with many of his successful policies that include overseeing the nuclear programme, earned him international fame.