We will never forget nor ever forgive you, Mr Bhutto

Published: April 4, 2016

Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at the United Nations Security Council meeting in 1971. PHOTO: BHUTTO.ORG

It’s been 37 years since that morning when we awoke to find that you were no more among us. We were shocked beyond belief, although there were many who rejoiced that you had gotten what (in their opinion) you richly deserved. Like you, we never believed that they would hang you. Like you, we were convinced that Libya and UAE would prevail upon Ziaul Haq to send you into exile. But you had burnt your boats. There was only one grave and Zia knew that if he spared you, that grave would be his home for all eternity.

There have been times when we have wondered what kind of man you were. We know, of course, that you made many mistakes, mistakes which proved costly to you and to the country. But more of that later.

Let’s begin when you were around 30. You wrote that infamous letter to Iskander Mirza in which you said,

“Sir, history will record that you were a great man, greater even than Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah”.

Really? How could you even compare Mirza with the great Quaid? Okay, let’s overlook this. You were a young man in a hurry – you flattered the man so he could make you a minister.

But then, you did not oppose Ayub Khan’s coup. You even joined him as a minister.


If you were a real democrat, you’d never have supported a dictator like him. It’s not as if you didn’t have a choice. Oh, I forgot. You wanted to be great; you wanted to be powerful, so you had to support him.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto with General Ayub Khan. Photo: Dawn Library

In 1965, you got the country embroiled in a war which saw Lahore almost falling to the enemy. You should have had the foresight to anticipate that the Indians would never take the loss of Kashmir lying down. Fortunately, our brave armed forces repulsed the enemy and the country was saved.

Fast forward to 1968, you ditched Ayub, you made a brouhaha about the Tashkent Declaration (without telling us why that bothered you), you founded a new political party and you promised the masses what you knew you could never give. The poor were taken in by your slogan ‘roti, kapra, makaan’. The poor masses of Sindh and Punjab gave you their votes because they were duped. Did you really believe you could give a house to each and every poor man in the country? How could the people ever forgive you for deceiving them?

Then there was your role in the break-up of the country. You refused to accept the results of the 1970 elections, in which Mujibur Rehman emerged the winner. All you had to do was to accept gracefully and allow him to form the government.

Yet, you objected when Yahya Khan called him the future prime minister saying that a man who until the day before had been described as a traitor, was now being considered to be the prime minister. Realising that you could never be prime minister as long as East Pakistan was part of the country, you asked that power should be handed over to Mujib in East Pakistan, and you should form the government in West Pakistan, in your notorious ‘idhar hum, udhar tum’ speech.

That was the day when Jinnah’s Pakistan died, Mr Bhutto.


And when the National Assembly session was scheduled to be held in Dhaka, you threatened to break the legs of any of your party members who went there to attend (because that would have ensured the election of Mujibur Rehman as the prime minister of the country).

Left to right: Chaudhry Fazal Elahi, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Photo: AP

After that, matters got out of hand and Mujib was jailed. Yet in the nine months between March and December 1971, you could have played a decisive role and saved the country. You could have demanded that Mujib be released and the crisis be resolved. But no, you wanted to be prime minister at all costs, you did nothing, and so the inevitable happened. But even when the Indians had invaded the country, and adoption of the Polish resolution could have spared us the humiliation our army suffered, you made sure that the country would be dismembered. You tore up the resolution and walked out of the Security Council. Mr Bhutto, we can never forget that moment in our history. The loss of East Pakistan may not have meant much to you, but it was a death blow to those of us who loved the country.

Your supporters say that you were a democrat.

You, a democrat?

You were the most autocratic leader the country had ever had until then. You violated your own Constitution a few hours after it was adopted, suspending fundamental rights. And when you were in prison, you appointed your wife to lead your party, despite there being many competent persons around you. Would a democrat ever have dismissed the legally elected governments of Balochistan and K-P (previously known as NWFP) without due process?

And there is much more that we cannot forget, Mr Bhutto.

All countries of the world had admired Pakistan for its industrialisation, since it had started from scratch in 1947, and in about 25 years, it had become a country for nations like South Korea to emulate. You nationalised industries and almost every successful enterprise that existed. This was another death blow to what remained of Pakistan. All the inefficiency and corruption we see today in government, in the steel millsin PIA, have their roots in the destructive policies of your reign in those days. No, Sir, we can never forget nor forgive you for what you did to Pakistan.

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Shakir Lakhani

Shakir Lakhani

Engineer, former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, industrialist, associated with petroleum/chemical industries for many years. Loves writing, and (in the opinion of most of those who know him), mentally unbalanced. He tweets @shakirlakhani (twitter.com/shakirlakhani)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Shah (Berlin)

    This is how an engineer writes…simple, do the point with no fancy words…A perfect summary of Bhutto era…Recommend

  • Fahimuddin

    A leader who ruined Pakistan through communism.Recommend

  • Zahoorul Haq

    100 percent true. I have been witness to all this. Recommend

  • Dr. Ahmed Ali Khan

    Was hanged for being a murderer just like Mumtaz Qadri! Deserved it as much as Mumtaz Qadri as wellRecommend

  • Kamrul Miah

    I’ve always thought it was odd how [many] Pakistanis revered ZAB. There is the notion that he single-handedly set in motion the events that led to the creation of Pakistan’s atomic bomb. But all indications are that even without his efforts, Pakistan would have become nuclear-armed anyway. Forget the East Pakistan debacle, which should never really have been part of Pakistan anyway. Just look at what he did to Pakistan’s economy, by nationalizing previously competitive private industries. If there is any man that seems to have had a legend grow up around non-accomplishments, it would be ZAB.Recommend

  • Ravian

    A true depiction of life and political career of a man that people in Pakistan literally worshipped. This is the kind that the Pakistani people choose as their leaders, condone their flaws and praise them for the things that they never did.Recommend

  • Fahad

    Allhamdulilah. somebody had the guts to call out a thug a thug. Yes Bhutto is still alive… alive in the form of the misery of Sindh, the delapitated industries, the corrupt beauracracy, the money in the pockets of politicians. Recommend

  • Desi

    Finally….one person who shares the same point of view as me. Great Piece of work sir.Recommend

  • Kamran Ali

    Bhutto was a complex person and this article is a disservice to his legacy. It takes liberty with facts, using particular sayings and events to prove its point and ignoring others that may undermine the argument. Again, Bhutto may have had major faults, but this is a disingenuous portrayal. Just take the issue of Bangladesh, let’s be clear… whatever the allegations against Bhutto, he was not the President of the country between January and December of 1971. Bhutto did not postpone the calling of the national assembly twice after the December 1970 elections, those who were in power did. Let’s not play fast and loose with history just because we do not like someone… be fair.Recommend

  • AH

    I agree 100%. I can’t believe so many well informed and reasonable thinking people totally overlook all the damage Bhutto has caused in just trying to come into power. He is totally responsible for Dec 1971 because he couldn’t accept that he lost to Mujib ur Rehman. Everyone needs to stop treating him like some great saint. He may have had many followers and even great ideas on paper. Maybe even a good vision for Pakistan. But he was very power hungry and his “mai” was more important for him than Pakistan. That’s how I see it.Recommend

  • Anwaar

    well socialism it was …however fake socialism was imposed by BhuttoRecommend

  • sattar rind

    you knowing nothing about the Pakistan and its history and intriguing politics which was introduced by the immigrants who started ruling this country. this is all being repeated by JI since long time who destroyed this country almost. fixed mind.Recommend

  • Najeeb Shah

    capitalism isnt any better eitherRecommend

  • Naseer Akhter

    I agree with the writer but not with the bit about ” not forgiving”. Recommend

  • M Waqas Sajid

    Great article !
    I agree 100% with Shakir Lakhani Sb.
    Yet, we see Bhutto everywhere in Pakistan..
    Pity the nation.. :(Recommend

  • Ajay

    Sir, Bhutto did not kill Jinnah’s dream of Pakistan. The theory of creating a Nation just because people follow the same religion was a fallacy which was bound to fail. In todays world, democracy, secularism and a broad minded attitude to keep people of various cultures and religions togethar is the only way to form a thriving and progressive society. India is a shining example of this which the whole World acknowledges. However Pakistan and Muslims have the medieval mindset of brotherhood on the basis of religion is the most outdated and self destructive theory.Recommend

  • infidel

    in the opinion of those qho know him, mentally unbalanced. wowRecommend

  • Imtiaz

    Agree 100%. I wish he would have been hung atleast 16 years ealier.Recommend

  • KGBeast

    Why was it bound to fail? A similar idea is working extremely well in Israel, even though Jews are both a racial and religious group. You can say whatever you want about their policies; but it is also a nation founded as a homeland for one diverse group of people, just like Pakistan. I think Jinnah died too soon into the formation of the country to properly define what Pakistan meant according to his vision. In addition, there simply weren’t any strong or visionary people around him to continue and build on his vision. India, on the other hand, had multiple people to lead on various fronts (political, social, etc) in it’s infancy.

    The only reason Pakistan was arguably “bound to fail” is because it’s identity was poorly defined as a state. Was it to be a state primarily for Muslims but tolerant of other religious groups as well? Or, was it to be a state exclusively for Muslims according to some twisted version of Islam? Jinnah’s vision was the former, but as mentioned earlier he didn’t live long enough to set the precedents to allow it to work. it also didn’t help that his right hand man (Liaqat Ali Khan) was murdered in a military coup soon after his death. I’m assuming you’re Indian sir?Recommend

  • Najeeb Shah

    First time i am agreeing with the pessimist tribuneRecommend

  • Mr. Khan

    Bravo – simply Bravo and the incompetency, corruption and exclusive focus on personal power got worse under Benazir and of course Zardari. Woe to this family and all the injustice they have committed for money, greed and power.Recommend

  • Sridhar

    Well written. Succinct.
    Bhutto, like Indira Gandhi in India, was a great political disaster for Pakistan.Recommend

  • AZK

    Loved the article, precise and profound.Recommend

  • Awais

    so you recommend to know about bhutto one need to read books written by his adviser ??Recommend

  • Umair Nathani

    I feel Pity for you, how can you blame the fall of East Pakistan on ZAB ? Bhutto is on the record to have warned in two public meetings — one in Karachi on 11 September and the other in Multan on 8 October — that the integrity of the country was at stake, at which Yahya called him and told to be not “so pessimistic” because his regime “would not allow the dismemberment of Pakistan”. As Yahya had virtually divorced any meaningful political option and intended to pursue the military solution, Bhutto left the country in disgust.

    Shakir Lakhani give some credit to Yahya / establishment who planned this and executed ???Recommend

  • Adeel

    Excellent Article and also excellent for the students who never seen the real face of Bhuttoism.
    Hats off to the Writer.Recommend

  • Khan

    The comments suggest the traversity of today’s Pakistan where a most balanced and dignified writer is considered imbalanced. This nation needs help from most Shakir Lakhanis.Recommend

  • Khan

    You need help the most.Recommend

  • Ahmad Zahir Khan

    Now his generations putting dent in the country ,Bilawal the son of a corrupt mother and father ,is dreaming to ruin pakistan which is left ,and some idiots making him hero ,This country will always be ruled by greedy businessmen ,and chronic feudals sons .Unless people rise against this status quo ,


  • shrabani

    Awesome writeup .. Simple and crisp.Recommend

  • Azhar

    I think he has nailed it..Recommend

  • Sarah

    I would like to hear more about why you think that East Pakistan should have never been a part of Pakistan. Recommend

  • Mustafa

    A very well summarised. A classic to the point text book history.Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Mao Tse Tung the leader who made China a superpower through Communism Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Socialism where Bhutto lived in palaces?Recommend

  • Junaid

    Excellent Article, Express Tribune needs to print it on its first page… Accurate and an eye opener.Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Correct, Bhutto was a drunkard who was self medicating with alcohol. Bhutto was mentally ill lunatic who nearly plunged Pakistan into a bloody civil war, through his fascist army, the FSF, and PPP who were distributing weapons to civilians in a last ditch attempt to stay in power, when Gen. Zial Ul Haq removed him from office. Bhutto was nearly killed during the operation when the Rawalpindi Corps Commandant wanted Bhutto executed during the operation. Gen. Zia would not allow the execution turning him over to the civilian authorities for trial.Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Israel was the Samaritan kingdom, Judea was the Jewish kingdom, both were kingdoms of Palestine. Israel is a bogus nationality consisting of Ukrainian, Austrian, German and Russian converts who falsely claim to descend from Judean refugees an a psychotic attempt to play on American religious sympathies. Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    There is nothing complex about a convicted murderer who repeatedly endangered the Pakistani state. Being fair involves admitting the truth first. Your post is full of false rhetoric and cult worship of Bhutto.Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    92,000 troops who paid the price for Bhutto’s treachery to Pakistan.Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Typical of Indian terrorist operations, blame everything on the Pakistan Army. Terrorists used the same reasoning in East Pakistan. The “hate Army” mentality ignores the fact that in democracies Presidents and Prime Ministers are Commanders in Chief of the Army. You can say that Bhutto was Army while he was Prime Minister. Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Nonsense the nuclear program was developed long before Bhutto.Recommend

  • Rahman Khan

    And then to add insult to injury, he is called “Shaheed”. But then when Mumtaz Qadri could be nominated for that title in this country, why not this corrupt and greedy man. Leader my foot!!Recommend

  • Rajiv

    It’s the policies of Mao’s successor which made China superpower.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Yes it is.
    USA & UK, Japan,S.Korea,Taiwan are good examples.Recommend

  • Anwaar

    that’s why i said “fake socialism” .. jazbati …Recommend

  • Azhar Panni

    Agree >100%. Beautifully worded and precisely summed historical facts by Shakir about Butto-era. Can’t say any more to be added about a cunning and evil genius man. So sharp, he once replied to a sycophant who flattered by telling people say I have resemblance with you, “Yes – I know my father was a naughty man”.
    To our bad luck, Bhutto(ism) Zinda Hye. Recommend

  • Azhar Panni

    May Allah forgive Zia of his weaknesses in reward to saving Pakistan of ZAB. Recommend

  • Azhar Panni

    A must read for Bhutto lovers. Recommend

  • Kamath

    His body, I am told was buried in a massive mausoleum like those of historic kings, nawabs and shahs!Recommend

  • Fardad Ali Shah

    At last an honest and matter of fact writeup on the ‘legend’ of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Cheers to the writer.Recommend

  • Talal Taha (Dubai)

    I agree with you … he is dead 37 years. Beside his great achievements we people are unable to make a monument better than teen talwar or at the least The Star Gate … Pitty…Recommend

  • Fardad Ali Shah

    ZA Bhutto’s policies have had equally (if not more) disastrous effects on the society than those of Ziaul Haq. To mention some here; He promoted class hatred, prodded the people about their rights but never talked about their responsibilities, leading to a one sided dangerous culture which we are suffering till date. He ordered students to be promoted without taking exams. Such students are now in senior government positions. Asghar Khan in his book describes Bhutto’s offer to him when he asked the Air Marshal to stop opposing him and instead join him to rule the people for 20 years. When Asghar asked him “how can we rule the people for 20 years”, he promptly replied “by making a fool of them”.–Facts are sacred.Recommend

  • Bilal Qureshi

    The core crust where the writer shows his real inclination “our brave armed forces repulsed the enemy and the country was saved” :DRecommend

  • Maaz

    Real sadness is Bhutto is still alive :( .. Bhutto is a thought ai
    ming at destroying the economy of Pakistan for good!Recommend

  • Dost Mohammad Sikder

    True a good person is he who can forgive, but shouldn’t forget.Right you are to remind me. I am thankful to you. Recommend

  • Hameed

    “I would rather be ruled by Military men than Chowdrys and Bhuttos, who just cover up feudalism under the flag of democracy.” I disagree. The military does the same. They exploit feudalism equally if not more than the civilians. And please read up on Zia ul haqs era too before saying you would prefer a military general.Recommend

  • vinsin

    which cyclone?Recommend