T.S Eliot’s line, “April is the cruelest month” has strong relevance in Pakistani politics, as the most charismatic Pakistani politician and founder of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Zulifkar Ali Bhutto was hanged in Rawalpindi Jail in April 1979. Bhutto’s dramatic rise to the echelons of power and PPP’s popularity with masses had proved time and again that he is the phoenix of Pakistani politics, and always rises from ashes.
Zulifkar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), a scion of Sindhi feudal origins, entered the Pakistani politics after joining Skindar Mirza’s cabinet as commerce minister in October 1958 after a military coup. Bhutto entry into politics entwined his fate with military and this love-hate relationship with army dominated rest of his life. His days as cabinet minister brought him into close circle of Ayub Khan and he become the Foreign Minister in 1962 and his stint is remarkable for Sino-Pakistan Boundary Agreement and 1965 war with India.
However, his parting of ways with Ayub Khan unpopular Tashkent agreement signed by Shastri and Ayub; Bhutto’s criticism of the agreement resulted into his resignation and formation of his own political party on November 30, 1967.
Pakistan Peoples Party
Following his resignation from Auyb Khan’s cabinet Bhutto started whirlwind tours of the country and in November 1967 formed Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) at Lahore and party’s slogan of rhetoric of ‘bread, clothing and shelter’ for the masse was something unheard then which brought the party to centre stage of Pakistani politics. This party set another benchmark in the elite dominated politics of the country and brought it to the doorstep of a common man and liberated it from the clutches of landlords and rich. Later, Ayub had to resign due to the growing opposition and Yahya Khan became president and held 1970s elections.
The exponential popularity and growth of this party was visible in 1970 elections when it emerged as dominant political force from West Pakistan while Awami League clean swept from East Pakistan. Unfortunately, these two political parties could not agree on power sharing and resultant discord and 1971 war with India resulted into dismemberment of Pakistan. Following the break up of the country Yahya resigned as president and handed over powers to the Bhutto.
Bhutto steered the country during tumultuous times following the Pakistan disintegration and also sowed the seeds of country’s nuclear program. In 1977, ZAB was overthrown and put behind the bars and later hanged on April 04, 1979 after a sham trial. His murder is remembered as ‘Judicial Murder’ in the annals of Pakistan judicial history.
Bhutto family’s misfortunes did not end with ZAB’s hanging, rather have pursued the family in a succession and a Bhutto has been killed in every decade, all in mysterious circumstances, since his hanging on April 04, 1979. The family has a tinge of tragedy, curse and trouble like Kennedys family in America and Nehru-Gandhi in India.
In 1985 ZAB’s younger son Shahnawaz Bhutto, 27, was found dead in a Southern France apartment and his murder still remains a mystery. Benazir became heir to ZAB political legacy upon her return from an exile in 1984, while her brothers took up arms following the execution of their father. Benazir became first female premier of a Muslim country in 1988, following Zia and his coterie perished in an air crash. In her second stint as a prime minister in 1996, her only brother Murtaza Bhutto was shot dead in mysterious circumstances by police.
Benazir Bhutto went on a self-imposed exile in 1999 and remained abroad for around eight years and came back to the country in 2007. Her homecoming rally turned into a mourning procession on October 18, 2007, when a suicide bomber targeted her rally and killed around 180 people. She barely escaped the attack. She was again attacked on December 27 while coming out of a public meeting at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi. She died when an unknown assassin fired shots on her and later a suicide bomber blew him up near her vehicle, while mystery is still shrouding her death.