Almost four decades have passed since the prosecuting authorities arbitrarily sealed fate of the people of Pakistan with a verdict against Pakistan’s most celebrated leader, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Yet the millions of his followers continue to march towards an egalitarian society jingling his mantras of democracy.
Bhutto with his charisma had filled the leadership void created after Jinnah – a void that remained unfilled till several years of political vulnerability eventually resulting in a martial rule, followed by the split of Pakistan in 1971. Today, he is idolized by every aspiring leader. Even by the competitors of his party.
It was his charisma that not only inspired his followers but also the foes. A former dictator, in a recent TV interview, recalled how he cried out of hopelessness after the embarrassing Dacca surrender while a civilian leader ZA Bhutto appeared as the only hope for the country which was bearing the brunt of defeat. He motivated the military as well as the public. He saved his homeland from disintegration, united the shattered nation, established real democracy and took Pakistan to the heights it never touched before.
A colossus in diplomatic jockeying, Bhutto gracefully grabbed peace from the jaws of discomfiture post Dacca surrender. He brought home 90,000 of our soldiers and recovered 6000 square miles of our territory through the remarkable Simla Accord. Like his principled stand on Tashkent Agreement, he stood up to the Indian aggression in Kashmir at every international forum. He endeavored to unify the third world countries, conducted the first grand Islamic Summit in Pakistan, and stood up for Pakistan’s right to nuclear deterrence in defiance of the West and all odds at the cost of his life – successfully enhanced the prestige of Pakistan, built a better image while erasing the preceding humiliating one.
In pursuit of a society devoid of lawlessness, inequity and destitution, the people’s darling moved the heaven and earth to eliminate the deprivation prevailing among the masses. He gave the abandoned the sense of identity, enlightened them about their right to question.
Bhutto was all about people. He left everlasting imprints on the minds of the people of Pakistan, making them a powerful force against usurpers. Constitutional supremacy, social reforms, nuclear technology, industrial structures contribute to the actualization of his vision for the economic and social well-being of the masses.
His quest for people’s emancipation enabled him to conquer the hearts and minds that he rules till the day. His name still reverberates as a hope where there is despair. For the people, loss of a leader who embraced struggle for the marginalized and dispossessed was a fate worse than death, but he was larger than life. He breathed life into them even with his blood, aroused their conscience to fight back. He empowered them to break the shackles of tyranny and reclaim what belonged to them.
His sacrifices stand as monuments of his commitment to the country, to the flag, to the people. They imprisoned him, hanged him but could not eliminate him. The divine love affair between him and the masses has been strengthening each day after he left the world. With the courage he embedded in his people, he still haunts the suppressing powers that be. People have resisted up to the hilt all the attempts aimed at halting the struggle he started. They have been sacrificing their lives in his name, for his cause. Such romance is too uncanny to find in rest of the political world.
To quote Former President of France Valéry Giscard d’Estaing: “Dead Bhutto governs the living.”
He is governing the hearts of the people for whom he accepted the gallows. He leads from the grave. If he was allowed to live, he would have been a giant at any age.
Today’s Pakistan needs a Bhutto-style figure to lead the country, who could intrude into the lives of the poor speaking in the vernacular to reach their hearts; who considers service to humanity above everything, at all costs. We are fortunate to have been bestowed with the heritage of democracy and the heroic legacy to follow; we must glance into his life and do justice to his legacy by our actions not empty rhetoric – for he lived by his acts; by deliverance of his promises.
Defiant in death, as in life, Bhutto shall always be Pakistan’s undisputed leader. Nothing would suffice as homage to a leader larger than life, except reverting back to the politics of and for the people – that would indeed be the best tribute to him. We must give back to him.