Tall like his father, handsome and charismatic, when Mir Murtaza Bhutto used to enter a room he would remind everyone of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Begum Nusrat Bhutto often commented on how Murtaza was a spitting image of his father.

The journey of my acquaintance with Mir Murtaza Bhutto began in 1978 when I had the opportunity to work with him. On March 18, 1978, the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, Molvi Mushtaq Hussain announced a death sentence for the then Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in a false murder case. As a result, there was a great public outrage not only nation-wide but also across the world. People from different walks of life from around the world protested and declared it a judicial murder.

At that time, Mir Murtaza Bhutto was studying at Oxford University. He moved to London after the news of his father’s horrendous sentence reached him. He began a movement to save his father by shaking the slumbering conscience of the international community and demanding justice for his father. Mir Murtaza was not merely fighting for a father, he was fighting for the leader of a nation and a unifying force in the Muslim world. To this end, he organized several protests in London and other major cities of England where a large number of Pakistanis stood by him. I myself joined these demonstrations. His younger brother Shahnawaz Bhutto had also discontinued his education in Switzerland and joined Mir Murtaza in the struggle to save their father.

Mir Murtaza accepted my support for this cause on the recommendation of Begum Nusrat Bhutto. This association soon budded into a close and cherished relationship with Mir Murtaza. We ran this campaign on an international level in a well-organized manner. Mir Murtaza met various leaders of the Muslim world and organized meetings with various Pakistanis. He personally oversaw the operations of Musawat Weekly and ensured that the public was informed of the truth that was otherwise shrouded under the cloak of censorship.

Both brothers spearheaded historic protests in London where Pakistanis from different cities participated. Those were extremely difficult times but owing to the efforts of Mir Murtaza and Shahnawaz, the brothers were able to bring the subject of their father’s false trial and unjust to the international front. The world could not hide away from the truth and there was great resentment against the forces ruling Pakistan at the time. Tragically, disregarding people’s wishes and pleas by world leaders, General Zia ul Haq martyred Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on April 4, 1979. Zia was afraid that if Mr. Bhutto had stayed alive, dictatorship would soon breathe its last.

The dictator did not stop at the father. He considered both, Mir Murtaza and Shahnawaz as a great threat after they demonstrated their influence on the international stage. Therefore, Zia continued to plot the demise of the Bhuttos by targeting Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s sons. As a result, Shahnawaz was murdered at the hands of his wife Rehana in Nice, France. She was held in custody for six months by the French state and then she was released under mysterious circumstances.

There was an important turn in the lives of these brothers when they went into self-exile as a result of emotional and rash decision-making. Kabul became the main centre of their activities which turned into an armed struggle. A number of PPPP workers left Pakistan to join the brothers in their endeavors. However, the powerful state and its resources were used to extinguish the fire of armed struggle. This situation compelled some of the workers to seek asylum in Europe. These people faced difficulties but today, their children are well assimilated into that society and are playing a constructive role as responsible citizens. Certain moles also infiltrated the armed struggle and later betrayed Mir Murtaza Bhutto, eventually resulting in his murder. Benazir Bhutto used to worry about her brother and even cautioned him to keep an eye on wolves in sheep’s clothing. Unfortunately, her fears came true when she lost her second brother, Mir Murtaza Bhutto, and once again, the Bhutto family was submerged in the grief resulting from yet another traumatic death.

On this day, I would like to remember September 9, 1996 when we had a dinner at my home to celebrate Mir Murtaza’s birthday in advance. Amina Paracha, her late husband Saleem Zulfikar Ali Khan, Mir Murtaza’s friend Najeeb Zafar and his wife were also present at the occasion. Benazir Bhutto called that day to wish him. It was a day filled with great happiness.

September marks both, the beginning and the ending of a gallant life filled with struggles against anti-democratic forces. Mir Murtaza’s birthday is on September 18 and death anniversary is on September 20. In a letter, he wrote to me, “I am sure you will continue with your mission with the same determination you have shown in the past. You have my complete trust, just as you have always enjoyed the trust and confidence of my entire family. Shaheed Badshah would have been proud of the struggle you launched for him.”

The relationship that began in March 1978 ended on September 20, 1996 but Mir Murtaza continues to live in our memories.