Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto: a leader and statesman -by Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo

Pakistan Peoples’ Party is the name of continuous struggle till the full realization of the rights of have-nots, empowerment of women, mainstreaming of minorities in the national politics, fighting out terrorism and extremism, promotion of rights for the people of the federating units and above all unwavering commitment to the continuity and strengthening of democracy. PPP has been striving throughout to translate the vision of the Founder of the nation into reality in accordance with the dream and thoughts of PPP founder Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. PPP’s ideology also harmonizes with the ideology of Pakistan which was essentially a democratic struggle for attaining Pakistan. Pakistan came into being as a result of vote not bullet.
Similarly, PPP believes in democratic struggle for the attainment of political objectives and never sought the crutches of the establishment to come to power. It always came to power through the votes of the people whom it considers as the sole source of power. The track record of the civilian governments in Pakistan will bear out this exceptional distinction of PPP without an iota of contradiction PPP leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto steered the country out of the pall of despondency and gloom after the fall of East Pakistan in 1971. He lifted the morale of the demoralized and defeated nation when he committed, ‘we will build a new Pakistan, a democratic, prosperous and strong Pakistan’. The convening of the Islamic summit took the confidence of the nation to new heights as the leaders of the Muslim countries gathered in Lahore in 1974—a rare unity of Ummah with shared vision. The summit sent shockwaves in the important world capitals because the oil of the Middle East was fueling the world economies with cheap and uninterrupted oil supply. He advised the Muslim countries to use oil as weapon for the culmination of their strategic and economic vital interests. Their action on his advice earned them respectability at the world stage along with staggering increase in their oil revenues. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s bold and futuristic initiatives rang the alarm bells in the status quo world powers taking upon themselves to eliminate him when the time was right.
He was a leader of vision preceded by measured actions of quality and precision. After the breaking up of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto rightly concluded that the balance of power in the Sub-continent could only be restored with the country becoming nuclear power. He held a conference in 1972 in Multan in which he assigned the national responsibility to the Pakistani scientists to equip the country with nuclear weapons to deter the potential aggressor in absolute terms.
Today, Pakistan defense is impregnable only because Pakistan is a nuclear power with delivery capability added by Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto during her watch as Prime Minister. Peace is holding between Pakistan and India only due to the nuclear status of this country built during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s era. Also, Pakistan is safe from the nuclear blackmail of India that could have reduced the status of Pakistan and might have encouraged India to attack. The West was after his blood because of nuclear program. Henry Kissinger once said, if Mr. Bhutto you do not stop nuclear program we will make you a horrible example. They did finish him through dictator Zia-ul-Haq.
But his legacy lives on and will continue to live on without the limits of space and time.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto internationalized the Kashmir issue through diplomacy as he was master of it like a great statesman. He secured the membership of OIC in Casablanca for the Kashmir Hurriat Conference despite the fierce opposition from India. The other giant step in this direction was his declaration of Kashmir Day on 5th of February, the Day when all over the world the Kashmir Day is observed to express solidarity with the Kashmiri people with the clarion call for holding plebiscite in occupied Kashmir in pursuance of the UN Security Council resolution. Shaheed Mohtarma slogan during her visit to Azad Kashmir will be source of inspiration on the both sides of LOC. She said that slogan for Azadi is louder than the bomb explosions in occupied Kashmir. She exposed Indian atrocities and human rights violations in Indian held Kashmir at world forums
In the domestic front, after securing the Pakistan territory from Indian occupation and prisoners of war, his focus was to give constitution to the people of Pakistan reflective of their aspirations. It was big responsibility for the new government especially after the dismemberment of the federation in 1971. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, living up to the repute of a great leader, took up the challenge and after intensive consultations and persuasions gave the consensus constitution of 1973 to the people of Pakistan It has served as a powerful bond among the people of the federating units since then and undoubtedly keeping the federation intact as such even today. It is no exaggeration the federation of today owes all to the constitution of 1973 after the fall of Dhaka. The successive dictators mutilated it almost beyond recognition but they could not abrogate it simply because the unprecedented support it enjoyed of the people right across the country. Credit goes to the PPP not only for its enactment but also its restoration through the 18th amendment brought in with consensus. Former President Asif Ali Zardari voluntarily transferred his powers to the Parliament to make it much stronger than the office of President. It was a unique and unprecedented decision of him.
The successive Presidents, both civilians and military had axed elected governments by using the notorious 58 (2) b despite the governments enjoyed majority in the National Assembly. Former Presidents Asif Ali Zardari eliminated the chances of such, illegal, un-ceremonial and unethical dismissal of the democratic governments by the President at his whims. Other major achievements are stated below:
1) Devolution of 18 Ministries to the provinces under 18th amendment,
2) Increase of substantial financial resources from the “Divisible Pool” to the provinces under the 7th National Finance Award.
3) Appointment of judges of the Superior Courts by Parliament
4) Appointment of Services Chiefs by the Parliament.
5) Appointment of Governors.
6) Establishment of Caretaker Government in consultation with Opposition leader to hold impartial elections.
7) Appointment of Chief Election Commissioner with consensus.
Right from the beginning, Pakistan Peoples’ Party’s position against extremism and terrorism is characterized by clarity and today’s consensus of political leadership of all spectrums to eliminate terrorists head on vindicate the stated position of PPP. Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto was against them as they were an embodiment of obscurantism, ignorance and intolerance. Chairman Bilawal Bhutto called them neither Pakistani nor human beings or Muslims and as such must be exterminated with the use of force, the only language they understand. PPP is the only political Party that has clear outlook of terrorism and extremism. PPP wants total melting away of their network and of them to make Pakistan a citadel of peace, prosperity, stability and Justice at ease within and without.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto co-related himself with the poor people of Pakistan consisting farmers, harries, labor, students, less privileged and have-nots, and stood up against the system of exploitation and injustice. He gave the voice to the voiceless. He jolted their conscience to speak out in the face of tyranny. He emboldened them to get their rights first through persuasion and later through collective struggle. His other biggest contribution for the less privileged was their empowerment by granting them right of vote on the basis of adult franchise. The elections of parliamentarians since then have been holding on that basis. Earlier, the BD members used to constitute Electoral College for the election of the lawmakers. It was synonymous to denial of political rights to the people.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto took a far reaching policy decision to simplify the procedure for issuance of passports to citizens in the wake of huge demand of labor in the Middle East due to the oil boom. Hundreds of thousands labor, both trained and untrained, accordingly went to the Middle East countries sending billions of dollars back home to keep the country’s economy afloat. The overseas remittances even today are playing the same vital role in the economy. In the absence of the remittances, no amount of planning and fiscal discipline could save the economy from being collapsing. Total remittances during the current financial year are expected to be 15 billion dollars. This staggering amount in foreign exchange is the result of the vision of great leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. His one decision led to reap the dividends of colossal proportion on long term basis. This is leadership at its best.
PPP has served the labor the most by making them stakeholders in industry by offering shares in eighty five Public Corporations under the Benazir Employees Stock Option Scheme. It was the motto of the PPP that the contended labor force and increased productivity were interlinked. Trade Unionism was restored with the collective bargaining mechanism to protect and promote the interests of the workers. PPP government increased the pay and pensions of the labor more than 135% along with the increase of Workers Death Grant from one hundred fifty thousand to five lacks and marriage grant for their daughters from fifty thousand rupees to one hundred thousand.
The PPP built more residential flats and colonies for workers during the five years than all the rest of the governments in the country put together.
The PPP reinstated and regularized thousands of government employees whose services were arbitrarily terminated by the government on flimsy grounds as political appointees. The PPP has warned the present government not to pursue privatization recklessly at the cost of the workers and their interests. PPP land reforms placed lacks of acres of land at the disposal of the government for distribution among the landless farmers and harries. It may be worth mentioning that Bhutto family surrendered two lacks acres of agricultural land in pursuance of land reforms. Reforms by other governments in the country were sheer hoax because the land owners transferred their holdings to their heirs and relatives or managed the retention of large chunk of holding through their political clout.
The PPP previous government’s increase in the support price of wheat was unparallel, from Rs. 625 to Rs. 950 per forty Kg in 2008. The result was that the country attained the status of wheat exporting country from wheat importing. Similarly, the price of cotton was Rs. 4500 and basmati rice more than Rs. 2000 per forty Kg. As a result, there was prosperity in the rural areas as Rs. 300 billion were pumped in the rural economy during 2010-11 financial years according to BBC. The PPP government secured the interests of farmers and growers by establishing Trading Corporation of Pakistan mandated to keep the market prices stable in the interest of the farmers and consumers at the same time. Now, the prices of cotton are about Rs. 2000, rice Rs. 1250 and sugarcane Rs. 150 that have devastated the farmers tantamount to their economic massacre.
PPP considers minorities and women as its constituency and the Party has proved worthy of its claim when judged from steps taken dedicated to their welfare. Chairman Bilawal Bhutto’s wish to see a non- Muslim as the Prime Minister of Pakistan is the physical manifestation of the level of commitment of the Party’s top leadership to minorities. PPP successive governments took worthwhile decisions for the uplift of the minorities. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto created a separate Ministry to look after the minorities. The PPP previous government reserved four seats for minorities in the Senate which was unprecedented. The same government declared 11 August as the Day of Minorities. Its significance is linked to Quaid-e-Azam’s speech on 11 August, 1947 when he declared that minorities in Pakistan would enjoy equal rights.
For women folk, Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto took a score of steps for their empowerment. A number of prestigious government’s positions were filled by appointing women of substance as ambassadors, judged of the Superior Court, senior government servants. First Women Bank was established at the instructions of Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto to encourage women role in the country’s economy. The previous government lunched Benazir Income Support Program which was a leap forward for women empowerment because only women head of the family was entitled to receive the financial assistance. The legislations to protect the women from gruesome social practices were passed by PPP governments. These included Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act (2011), Protection against Harassment of Women at Work Places and Domestic Violence Prevention Act (2010).
These acts criminalize honor killing, marriage to Quran, denial of inheritance, acid throwing and host of other injustices meted out to them. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto were the popular leaders in the real sense of the word. They mobilized the people at the grass roots level and challenged the status-quo forces in the country to free the down trodden from the fear of the elite who had been thriving on their miseries without compunction. They were the leaders who were the Prime Ministers worthy of the Chief Executive Office of the country.

The writer is the Punjab PPP president

Source: Daily Times

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