April 04, a new perspective

Bashir Riaz

APRIL 04 is the anniversary of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s judicial murder in 1979. Most people know it as the date when Pakistan saw its lowest. Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto gave his life but refused to bow down to the evil that Ziaul Haq represented. But for the new generation that may have only read or heard about the 1970s I would like to emphasize the significance of the July 05. This was also the cut-off date when a prosperous and tolerant Pakistan was thrown into dark ages. The seeds of terrorism and violence that we see all around us today were sown in that very year when Zia plunged Pakistan into Afghanistan as a US stooge.
I often wonder how Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto might have dealt with the multiple crises that we face today. We are despised as the patron of militant Islamists. We stand isolated as never before despite being the only Muslim nuclear power with fifth largest army in the world. We are intimidated by India in the East and face continued hostility on our western borders. We see the Middle East in utter chaos as Saudi Arabia and Iran fight through their proxies.
We miss Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto today more than ever before because now is the time when we need somebody like him. He had a great diplomatic sense and he would have found a way to mediate between Muslim countries in rivalry with each other besides playing a crucial role to stabilize the Middle East. He did that precisely when he brought Iran and Saudi Arabia on a single table at the famous 1974 Islamic Summit in Lahore.
The new generation may not realize in what difficult times Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was asked to play his innings. Pakistan was absolutely demoralized after the separation of Bangladesh with its 90000 troops languishing in Indian custody. Bhutto brought home its troops without conceding any compromise in Kashmir or otherwise at Shimla. It was not a small feat. He got the Phoenix of Pakistan rise from the ashes by restoring our self-respect as Pakistanis. He brought everybody together to forge the much needed 1973 constitution and set the country on the path to nuclear security. The man in the street loved him and the world looked at us with respect and envy. Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was respected internationally as a leader of great calibre.
Yet April 04 had to happen. I still wonder why. Perhaps our enemies got scared by our rising power; perhaps the West got threatened by Bhutto’s ability to gather Islamic counties in a common bloc; perhaps our ever growing relationship with China was thorn in the eyes of our enemies. Here I sit in the old attic of Bhutto Legacy Foundation and sift through files to understand that crucial chapter of our history. I am proud that I got the chance to know Bhutto and then worked with his great daughter, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed. And now I feel it important to bring out the duty files from my attic to remind the third generation represented by Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the rich legacy of the Bhuttos. Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a courageous man and he faced this ordeal with dignity and calm demeanour despite ill health. This day is a reminder for us to reiterate our commitment to follow Bhutto’s democratic ideals and political philosophy.
— The writer is Chairman Bhutto Legacy Foundation and senior advisor to Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
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