Civilian rule returned to Pakistan, from 1972 to 1977, after the 1971 Bangladesh war, under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto until he was deposed and later sentenced to death in what has been described as a judicial murder in 1979 by General Zia-ul-Haq, who became the third military president. Bhutto was a charismatic and populist leader. He rallied the masses with his call for “bread, clothes and housing” and “Islamic socialism.” He appealed to the poor in both the villages and cities, particularly in the Sindh, and initially gave them hope. His policies were essentially leftists and his base was comprised of trade unionists and left wing students and activists. In 1973, he established a new constitution. He was the father of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan first female prime minister.

Zulfikar Bhutto (1928 – 1979) had the opportunity to resolve many of Pakistan's political problems. But although the country finally seemed to be on a democratic course, Bhutto lost this opportunity because of series of repressive actions against the political opposition that made it appear he was working to establish a one-party state. In a final step, he suddenly called national elections in March 1977, hoping to catch the opposition unprepared and give his party total control of the National Assembly.

When Bhutto's party overwhelmingly won the election, the opposition charged voting irregularities and launched mass disturbances requiring action by the army to restore law and order. Bhutto was ousted by the military, which again took control. This action resulted not solely from sheer political ambition but from the military's belief that the law and order situation had dangerously deteriorated.

According to the English Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: “In the 1970 elections, the Pakistan People's Party of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto won most seats in West Pakistan. Bhutto had campaigned on a platform of land reforms and state control of financial and economic institutions. His populism failed because of his inability to keep together the broad coalition of his supporters—economic and social groups with divergent interests linked only by a common opposition to twelve years of martial rule. Charges of corruption, nepotism, and authoritarianism against the Bhutto regime were used by the army to reassert control in 1977 against a backdrop of widespread social unrest.General Mohammad Ziaul-Haq (1924–1988) dismissed this first ever democratically elected government and hanged Bhutto in 1979. [Source: English Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, Thomson Gale, 2006]

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's Early Life and Political Career

Bhutto was a member of a rich, West Pakistani, feudal Muslim Rajput, landlord family. He was the third child born, in 1928, to Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto and Khursheed Begum near Larkana. Zulfikar. Nawaz Bhutto was the dewan of the princely state of Junagadh, and enjoyed an influential relationship with the officials of the British Raj. As a young boy, Bhutto studied at the Cathedral and John Connon School at Worli Seaface in Bombay. He then became an activist in the Pakistan Movement.

In 1947, Bhutto entered the University of Southern California to study political science. Two years later he transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a B.A. (honours) degree in political science in 1950. There, Bhutto became interested in the theories of socialism, delivering a series of lectures on their feasibility in Islamic countries. After Bhutto studied law at Christ Church, Oxford and received an LLB, followed by an LLM degree in law and an M.Sc. (honours) degree in political science. After graduating he was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1953. During this time, Bhutto's father played a controversial role in the affairs of Junagadh. Coming to power in a palace coup, he secured the accession of his state to Pakistan, which was ultimately negated by Indian intervention in 1947.

In 1943, at the age of 15, Bhutto entered an arranged marriage with Shireen Amir Begum. Bhutto married his second wife, Nusrat Ispahani, an Iranian-Kurdish woman, in Karachi in 1951. Their first child, Benazir, was born in 1953, followed by Murtaza in 1954, Sanam in 1957 and Shahnawaz in 1958.

In 1957, Bhutto became the youngest member of Pakistan's delegation to the United Nations. In 1958 he became Pakistan's youngest cabinet minister, a Minister of Commerce., by President Iskander Mirza, pre-coup d'état government. In 1960, he was promoted to Minister of Water and Power, Communications and Industry. Bhutto became trusted ally and advisor of Ayub Khan, rising in influence and power despite his youth and relative inexperience. Bhutto served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, negotiating the Indus Water Treaty in India in 1960 and an oil-exploration agreement in 1961 with the Soviet Union, which agreed to provide economic and technical aid to Pakistan.

After losing the 1965 War with India over Kashmir, Ayub Khan's stature declined. Bhutto resigned from his administration and became a vocal opposition leader, and founded the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). In 1968 in West Pakistan, Bhutto's PPP called for a "revolution"; in the east. Ayub suffered a number of setbacks in 1968. His health was poor, and he was almost assassinated at a ceremony marking ten years of his rule. Riots followed, and Bhutto was arrested as the instigator.

1970 Elections

In early 1969, Ayub resigned and handed the government over to Gen. Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, the head of the army, who then declared martial law. Yahya announced plans for a national election on December 1970, and urged voters to elect candidates who were committed to the integrity and unity of Pakistan. The elections were the first in the history of Pakistan in which voters were able to elect members of the National Assembly directly.

The election pitted the dominant party in West Pakistan, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Bhutto against the Awami League of Sheik Mujibur Rahman, the dominant party of East Pakistan. An intense election campaign took place in 1970 as restrictions on press, speech, and assembly were removed. Bhutto campaigned in the West Wing on a strongly nationalist and leftist platform. The slogan of his party was "Islam our Faith, Democracy our Policy, Socialism our Economy." He said that the PPP would provide "roti, kapra, aur makhan" (bread, clothing, and shelter) to all. He also proclaimed a "thousand year war with India," although this pronouncement was played down later in the campaign. In the East Wing, the Awami League gained widespread support for the six-point program. Its cause was further strengthened because West Pakistani politicians were perceived as callously indifferent to the Bengali victims of the October cyclone and slow to come to their aid. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994]

In a convincing demonstration of Bengali dissatisfaction with the West Pakistani regime, the Awami League won all but 2 of the 162 seats allotted East Pakistan in the National Assembly. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party came in a poor second nationally, winning 81 out of the 138 West Pakistani seats in the National Assembly. The PPP won a large majority in the West Wing, especially in Punjab and Sindh, but no seats in the East Wing. In the North- West Frontier Province and Balochistan, the National Awami Party won a plurality of the seats. The Muslim League and the Islamic parties did poorly in the west and were not represented in the east.

The Awami League's electoral victory promised it control of the government, with Mujib as the country's prime minister, but the inaugural assembly never met. Yahya and Bhutto vehemently opposed Mujib's idea of a confederated Pakistan. Mujib was adamant that the constitution be based on his six-point program. Bhutto, meanwhile, pleaded for unity in Pakistan under his leadership. As tensions mounted, Mujib suggested he become prime minister of East Pakistan while Bhutto be made prime minister of West Pakistan. It was this action that triggered mass civil disobedience in East Pakistan. Mujib called for a general strike until the government was given over to the "people's representatives." Tiring of the interminable game of politics he was playing with the Bengali leader, Yahya decided to ignore Mujib's demands and on March 1 postponed indefinitely the convening of the National Assembly, which had been scheduled for March 3.

After the Elections in 1970

Instead of accepting his loss in the 1970 election Bhutto refused to join the Bengali dominated National Assembly in Dakka and joined forces with the military that launched a brutal crackdown that lead to the civil war that created Bangladesh.

Bengalis were incensed that they were denied power. Riots broke out in East Pakistan and Sheik Mujib urged his people to "make every home a fortress." The military fell into disgrace. President Muhammad Agha Yahya Khan, hoping to avert a political confrontation between East and West Pakistan,

Any constitutional agreement clearly depended on the consent of three persons: Mujib of the East Wing, Bhutto of the West Wing, and Yahya Khan, as the ultimate authenticator representing the military government. In his role as intermediary and head of state, Yahya Khan tried to persuade Bhutto and Mujib to come to some kind of accommodation. This effort proved unsuccessful as Mujib insisted on his right as leader of the majority to form a government — a stand at variance with Bhutto, who claimed there were "two majorities" in Pakistan.

Bhutto declared that the PPP would not attend the inaugural session of the assembly, thereby making the establishment of civilian government impossible. On March 1, 1971, Yahya Khan, who earlier had referred to Mujib as the "future prime minister of Pakistan," dissolved his civilian cabinet and declared an indefinite postponement of the National Assembly. In East Pakistan, the reaction was immediate. Strikes, demonstrations, and civil disobedience increased in tempo until there was open revolt. Prodded by Mujib, Bengalis declared they would pay no taxes and would ignore martial law regulations on press and radio censorship. The writ of the central government all but ceased to exist in East Pakistan. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994]

Also on March 1, 1970 Yahya named General Tikka Khan, who in later years was to earn the dubious title "Butcher of Balochistan" for his suppression of Baloch separatists, as East Pakistan's military governor. The number of West Pakistani troops entering East Pakistan had increased sharply in the preceding weeks, climbing from a precrisis level of 25,000 to about 60,000, bringing the army close to a state of readiness. As tensions rose, however, Yahya continued desperate negotiations with Mujib, flying to Dhaka in mid-March.

Talks between Yahya and Muhib, joined by Bhutto, were held in late March in a last-ditch attempt to defuse the growing crisis but soon collapsed. At the same time General Tikka Khan, who commanded the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan, prepared a contingency plan for a military takeover and called for troop reinforcements to be flown in via Sri Lanka.On March 23 Bengalis following Mujib's lead defiantly celebrated "Resistance Day" in East Pakistan instead of the traditional all-Pakistan "Republic Day." Yahya decided to "solve" the problem of East Pakistan by repression. On the evening of March 25 he flew back to Islamabad. The military crackdown in East Pakistan began that same night, marking the beginning of the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.

1971 War in Bangladesh and Its Aftermath

Maybe one million died during the 10 month civil war. About ten million fled to India. Another 30 million were displaced within Bangladesh. No accurate estimate can be made of the numbers of people killed or wounded or the numbers women of raped, but the assessment of international human rights organizations is that the Pakistani crackdown was particularly alarming in its ferocity. Many Bangladeshis refer to the atrocities committed by the Pakistani army as genocide, an assertion backed up by many academics.

"A real genocide took place," Moudud Ahmed, a Cambridge-educated lawyer and friend of Mujibur told Newsweek. "The army killed Bengalis, thinking they were inferior, disobedient, uncultured and uneducated. They killed their fellow Muslims. They raped Muslim women. And Bhutto watched it all begin from his hotel suite...The next day he flew back to Karachi and announced, 'Allah has saved Pakistan."

Members of the Pakistani military and supporting militias engaged in mass murder, deportation and genocidal rape. The capital Dhaka was the scene of numerous massacres, including Operation Searchlight and the Dhaka University massacre. Sectarian violence broke out between Bengalis and Urdu-speaking immigrants. Supporters of West Pakistan systematically sought out political opponents and executed Hindu men on sight.

On March 7, 1971, the independence of Bangladesh (East Pakistan) had been declared by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Suhrawardy Garden in Dhaka. Yahya Khan called Rahman a traitor. The civilian government of Bhutto came to power in West Pakistan. By April the Bengalis were in open conflict with the Pakistani military. West Pakistan was defeated in December 1971 when India entered the conflict on side of Bangladesh. Yahya Khan was humiliated by the defeat in Bangladesh.

After the 1971 war West Pakistan became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Violent demonstrations against the military government broke out at the news of Pakistan's defeat. Yahya Khan resigned on December 20. Bhutto assumed power as President and the first civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator over a disgraced military, a shattered government, and a bewildered and demoralized population. Martial law was lifted in 1972. Democracy was sort of restored for six years. Formal relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh were not established until 1976. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Impact of the 1971 Bangladesh War on Pakistan

The armed forces were shattered and their equipment destroyed; 9,000 troops were lost, and 90,000 prisoners of war were in the hands of Indians and Bengalis in Bangladesh (the former East Pakistan). Yahya Khan resigned in disgrace, and the winner of the elections in West Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, succeeded him as CMLA and president. Pakistan, a country originally created in the name of religion, lost its raison d'être as the homeland of Muslims in the subcontinent and was much reduced in size. Although the politicians were ultimately responsible for the events of 1971, the army and its leaders were the obvious villains. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The security situation of the nation also changed. Any illusions of parity vis-à-vis India were demolished. Although both China and the United States had tilted toward Pakistan politically, it was abundantly clear that neither of those superpowers was in a position to offset Indian primacy in the region, especially in view of the friendship treaty that India had signed with the Soviet Union in August 1971, just before the outbreak of hostilities. The Soviet Union, forced to choose sides, opted for India, and the rapprochement that had taken place between Pakistan and the Soviet Union evaporated. Pakistan stood largely alone and at the mercy of India. The 1972 bilateral Simla Agreement restored most of the status quo ante the 1971 war in the relations between the two nations. The agreement states that "the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them." Although India maintained the more narrow interpretation that disputes be settled bilaterally, Pakistan in subsequent years favored a looser interpretation — one that did not exclude a multilateral settlement of the Kashmir dispute.*

Yet the loss of East Pakistan also had positive implications for Pakistan's security. The loss of the East Pakistani population as a recruitment pool was only of minor significance. By shedding its most dissident and poorest province, Pakistan emerged stronger and was able to focus its energies more effectively. A major strategic problem — the geographic division of the country — was eliminated. The loss of East Pakistan also removed the need for a Pakistani role in Southeast Asia. Pakistan withdrew from SEATO, and Bhutto refocused national attention toward Muslim West Asia. He apparently tried to develop ways of putting the Kashmir issue to rest so that Pakistan could greatly reduce its preoccupation with South Asia. No longer closely tied to the United States, Bhutto sought a larger role for Pakistan among the nonaligned countries and, especially, within the Islamic world. A brilliant diplomat, he was able in a very few years to restore Pakistan's prestige, stake out a leading role for Pakistan among Muslim nations, court the superpowers, and even establish cordial relations with Bangladesh.*

These triumphs were not shared with the military, as Bhutto moved to create a "professional but docile" military. Senior officers were dismissed, and their replacements were chosen by Bhutto. The military establishment was reorganized so that it would be under more effective civilian control. Bhutto's 1973 constitution narrowly defined the role of the military as defending Pakistan against external aggression and "subject to law" acting in aid-to-the-civil power when called on so to do. Any attempt to abrogate the constitution was deemed high treason (see Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and a New Constitutional System).*

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto After Taking Power

Bhutto assumed power as president on December 20, 1971 after Yahya’s resignation. Bhutto’s populist Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had won a majority of seats in West Pakistan in the 1970 election. Bhutto, who had served as the deputy prime minister and foreign minister under Yahya, moved decisively to restore national confidence, promising to make a new Pakistan out of the West Wing and to restore national confidence. He conveniently laid the entire blame for the 1971 war and Pakistan's defeat on Yahya Khan and his junta. Asserting the principle of civilian leadership, Bhutto introduced a new constitution with a modified parliamentary and federal system. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Bhutto quickly charted an independent course for West Pakistan, which became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. He distanced Pakistan from former close ties with the United States and Europe, seeking a much more active role in the Third World, especially in the growing international Islamic movement. Bhutto began limited land reform, nationalized banks and industries, and obtained support among all parties for a new constitution. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, Thomson Gale. 2007]

Bhutto lifted martial law within several months, and after an "interim constitution" granting him broad powers as president, a new constitution was promulgated that came into effect on August 14, 1973, the 26th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence. The main points addressed by the constitution were: 1) the role of Islam; 2) the sharing of power between the federal government and the provinces; and 3) the division of duties of the president and the prime minister, with greater powers given to the latter. Bhutto then stepped down as president and became prime minister. In order to allay fears of the smaller provinces concerning domination by Punjab, the constitution established a bicameral legislature with a Senate, providing equal provincial representation, and a National Assembly, allocating seats according to population. Islam was declared the state religion of Pakistan.

Bangladesh, Pakistan and India After the 1971 War

Following Pakistan's defeat, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, came to power in West Pakistan. Bangladesh’s leader Sheikh Mujib rejected Pakistan's call for a reunited country but was released from prison and eventually allowed to return to Bangladesh. India was Bangladesh’s biggest supporter. Even so, armed Bengali "freedom fighters" fought Bihari civilians, who originated in Bihar, India, in Bangladesh, particularly after Indian troops withdrew from Bangladesh in March, 1972.

Relations with Pakistan were hostile for some time. Pakistan withheld recognition from Bangladesh, and Bangladesh and India refused to repatriate more than 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war who had surrendered at the end of the conflict over Pakistan's refusal to recognize Bangladesh, and over Bangladesh's declared intention to bring to trial some Pakistani soldiers on war-crimes charges.

A summit meeting held in Shimla, India, in July, 1972, resulted in an easing of tensions and an agreement to settle differences between the two nations peacefully. Pakistan President Bhutto and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India agreed to settle their differences. In August 1973, India and Pakistan reached an agreement on the release of Pakistani prisoners-of-war and the exchange of hostage populations in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh—especially of the Bengalis in Pakistan and the Biharis in Bangladesh. Pakistan officially recognized Bangladesh in February, 1974 prior to the start of a world Islamic summit conference in Lahore. Formal relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh were not established until 1976.

Reforms Made by Zulfikar Bhutto

Domestically, Bhutto pursued a populist agenda and nationalized major industries and the banking system and launched limited land reform and reforms of the education and health system. He engineered the government’s heavy involvement in the economy and attempted to control and reform the civil service and took steps to revitalize a stagnant economy and ameliorate conditions for the poor under the banner of Islamic socialism. Kingdoms in the north came under direct control of the government. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The PPP manifesto was couched in socialist terms. When Bhutto issued the Economic Reform Order on January 3, 1972, banking and insurance institutions were nationalized, and seventy other industrial enterprises were taken over by the government. The Ministry of Production, which incorporated the Board of Industrial Management, was established to oversee industry. Investment in the public sector increased substantially, and Bhutto maneuvered to break the power of the approximately twenty elite families who had dominated the nation's economy during the Ayub Khan period. Trade unions were strengthened, and welfare measures for labor were announced. Although Bhutto's initial zeal diminished as he came face-to-face with economic realities and the shortage of capital, he tried to refurbish his populist image with another spate of nationalizations in 1976.

Bhutto proceeded cautiously in the field of land reform and did not fulfill earlier promises of distributing land to the landless on the scale he had promised, as he was forced to recognize and to cultivate the sociopolitical influence of landowners. However, he did not impede the process of consolidation of tenancy rights and acquisition of mid-sized holdings by servicemen. Punjab was the vital agricultural region of Pakistan; it remained a bastion of support for the government.

Bhutto specifically targeted the powerful and privileged Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) and introduced measures of administrative reform with the declared purpose of limiting the paternalistic power of the bureaucracy. The CSP, however, had played the role of guardian alongside the army since independence. Many of its members reacted badly to Bhutto's politicizing appointments, for which patronage seemed a more important criterion than merit or seniority.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the Pakistani Military

In 1972, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto established the Federal Security Force of some 18,000 men to provide assistance to the civil administration and police and to do civic action work. Not under military control, the Federal Security Force was, in effect, Bhutto's private political army. The military, beaten and demoralized, had no choice but to accept this further setback, even as it harbored deep concerns over the impact Bhutto was having on the integrity of the army and its ability to defend Pakistan. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

In 1973 Bhutto began to focus on rebuilding the tamed military because Pakistan continued to face serious security threats from abroad, highlighted by the Indian nuclear test in 1974, and at home — a major insurgency from 1973 to 1977 in Balochistan, which ultimately required the involvement of 80,000 army troops. New military production facilities and a navy air wing were established. Bhutto's diplomacy resulted in a partial lifting of the United States embargo on military sales to Pakistan in 1973 and a complete removal of the embargo in 1977. He also used diplomacy to tap into the burgeoning oil revenues of the Middle East; still, Pakistan could not afford to buy much, and its inventories of weapons were increasingly made up of outdated and ill-matched equipment from a variety of sources. Nonetheless, the army's self-confidence again began to grow. Expenditures on defense by 1974 had reattained the 1969 level — even though the gross national product (GNP) was little more than half of the amount that had been produced before Bangladesh became independent. The defense budget continued to increase over the next several years, supporting a somewhat expanded strength — 428,000 personnel in 1976. Pakistan's nuclear program was also established by Bhutto.)

Bhutto's domestic position, however, eroded rapidly in the mid-1970s, and, as his charisma waned, he turned to the army to deal with domestic unrest. The rigged elections of March 1977 resulted in mass demonstrations demanding Bhutto's resignation. General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, chief of the army staff — a new title for service chiefs replacing the former title of commander in chief — saw that the army was unwilling to engage in the violence that would be necessary to put down the unrest. In a stunning move, Zia arrested Bhutto and other political leaders on July 5, 1977, and declared Pakistan's third period of martial law.*

Bhutto’s Military and Constitution Reform

Bhutto purged the military ranks of about 1,400 officers. He also created a paramilitary force called the Federal Security Force (which functioned almost as his personal bodyguard), a watchdog on the armed forces, and an internal security force. A white paper on defense issued in 1976 firmly subordinated the armed forces to civilian control and gave Bhutto, then also prime minister, the decisive voice in all matters relating to national security. In that role, Bhutto took credit for bringing home more than 90,000 prisoners of war without allowing any of them to come to trial in Bangladesh for war crimes. In 1976 Bhutto replaced Tikka Khan, whose term had expired, with General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq as chief of staff of the army. Like Ayub Khan, Zia was appointed over several more senior generals. Also like Ayub Khan, Zia came from a community not heavily represented in the armed forces (the Arains from Punjab) and was thought to be without political ambition. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

In April 1972, Bhutto lifted martial law and convened the National Assembly, which consisted of members elected from the West Wing in December 1970 (plus two from the East Wing who decided their loyalties were with a united Pakistan). The standing controversies about the role of Islam, provincial autonomy, and the form of government — presidential or parliamentary — remained on the agenda. There was much jostling for position among the three major political groups: the PPP, most powerful in Punjab and Sindh; the National Awami Party (NAP) and the Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Islam (JUI), both based in the North- West Frontier Province and Balochistan. The provincial assemblies were constituted from those elected in December 1970. There was much tension during the process of drafting a new constitution, especially from members from the North-West Frontier Province and Balochistan. Bhutto reached some accommodation with opposition leaders from those two provinces on the matter of gubernatorial appointment and constitutional principle. *

Pakistan's third constitution was formally submitted on December 31, 1972, approved on April 10, 1973, and promulgated on independence day, August 14, 1973. The constitution was heavily concerned with the role of Islam, the distribution of power between the federal and provincial governments, and the division of responsibilities between the president and prime minister, the latter assuming greater authority than before.

Although Bhutto campaigned in 1970 for the restoration of a parliamentary system, by 1972 he preferred a presidential system with himself as president. However, in deference to the wishes of the opposition and some in his own cabinet, Bhutto accepted a formal parliamentary system in which the executive was responsible to the legislature. Supposedly, in the interests of government stability, provisions were also included that made it almost impossible for the National Assembly to remove the prime minister. The 1973 constitution provided for a federal structure in which residuary powers were reserved for the provinces. However, Bhutto dismissed the coalition NAP-JUI ministries in Balochistan and the North- West Frontier Province, revealing his preference for a powerful center without opposition in the provinces. *

Problems with Reforms Made by Zulfikar Bhutto

Bhutto's program appeared to be laudable but fell short in performance. His near-monopoly of decision-making power prevented democratic institutions from taking root, and his overreaching ambitions managed in time to antagonize all but his closest friends. The major reorganization and reorientation of the bureaucracy resulted in a decline in morale and efficiency in the bureaucracy.

Bhutto contributed to Pakistan’s desperate economic condition. The government’s heavy involvement in the economy would have enduring economic repercussions. His massive nationalization program did more to further interests of his cronies than it did to help the Pakistani people. Baloch revolted because they felt they didn’t get their fair share. Some 50,000 tribesmen faced off against 70,000 government troops. Massive ariel bombing helped with the war but not before 10,000 tribesmen were killed.

Bhutto's predilection for a strong center and for provincial governments in the hands of the PPP inevitably aroused opposition in provinces where regional and ethnic identity was strong. Feelings of Sindhi solidarity were maintained by Bhutto's personal connections with the feudal leaders (wadera) of Sindh and his ability to manipulate offices and officeholders. He did not enjoy the same leverage in the North-West Frontier Province or Balochistan.

Bhutto's power derived less from the 1973 constitution than from his charismatic appeal to the people and from the vigor of the PPP. Its socialist program and Bhutto's oratory had done much to radicalize the urban sectors in the late 1960s and were responsible for the popular optimism accompanying the restoration of democracy. The ideological appeal of the PPP to the masses sat uneasily with the compromises Bhutto reached with the holders of economic and political influence--the landlords and commercial elites. Factionalism and patrimonialism became rife in the PPP, especially in Punjab. The internal cohesion of the PPP and its standing in public esteem were affected adversely by the ubiquitous political and bureaucratic corruption that accompanied state intervention in the economy and, equally, by the rising incidence of political violence, which included beating, arresting, and even murdering opponents. The PPP had started as a movement mobilizing people to overthrow a military regime, but in Bhutto's lifetime it failed to change into a political party organized for peaceful functioning in an open polity. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Balochistan Crisis

The Baloch revolted 1973 because they felt they didn’t get their fair share. Some 50,000 tribesmen faced off against 70,000 government troops. Massive ariel bombing helped with the war but not before 10,000 tribesmen were killed. A long-dormant crisis erupted in Balochistan in 1973 into an insurgency that lasted four years and became increasingly bitter. The insurgency was put down by the Pakistan Army, which employed brutal methods and equipment, including Huey-Cobra helicopter gunships, provided by Iran and flown by Iranian pilots. The deep-seated Baloch nationalism based on tribal identity had international as well as domestic aspects. Divided in the nineteenth century among Iran, Afghanistan, and British India, the Baloch found their aspirations and traditional nomadic life frustrated by the presence of national boundaries and the extension of central administration over their lands. Moreover, many of the most militant Baloch nationalists were also vaguely Marxist-Leninist and willing to risk Soviet protection for an autonomous Balochistan. As the insurgency wore on, the influence of a relatively small but disciplined liberation front seemed to increase. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Bhutto was able to mobilize domestic support for his drive against the Baloch. Punjab's support was most tangibly represented in the use of the army to put down the insurgency. One of the main Baloch grievances was the influx of Punjabi settlers, miners, and traders into their resource-rich but sparsely populated lands. Bhutto could also invoke the idea of national integration with effect in the aftermath of Bengali secession. External assistance to Bhutto was generously given by the shah of Iran, who feared a spread of the insurrection among the Iranian Baloch. Some foreign governments feared that an independent or autonomous Balochistan might allow the Soviet Union to develop and use the port at Gwadar, and no outside power was willing to assist the Baloch openly or to sponsor the cause of Baloch autonomy. During the mid-1970s, Afghanistan was preoccupied with its own internal problems and seemingly anxious to normalize relations with Pakistan. India was fearful of further balkanization of the subcontinent after Bangladesh, and the Soviet Union did not wish to jeopardize the leverage it was gaining with Pakistan. However, during the Bhutto regime hostilities in Balochistan were protracted. The succeeding Zia ul-Haq government took a more moderate approach, relying more on economic development to placate the Baloch.

Foreign Policy

Bhutto's most visible success was in international relations, where he employed his diplomatic skills, and pursued a robust foreign policy agenda. He negotiated a satisfactory peace settlement with India in 1972, built new links between Pakistan and the oil-exporting Islamic countries to the west, and generally was effective in repairing Pakistan's image in the aftermath of the war. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Bhutto distanced Pakistan from former close ties with the United States and the west, seeking security from India by a much more active role in the Third World and especially in the growing international Islamic movement fueled by petrodollars. Bhutto took a leading role in Islamic and Third World forums. Although Pakistan did not formally join the Non-Aligned Movement until 1979, the position of the Bhutto government coincided largely with that of the non-aligned nations. In 1972, Pakistan withdrew form the British Commonwealth over is recognition of Bangladesh as an independent state. Bhutto pursued close relations with other Muslim states as well as China and the Soviet Union. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Relations with India had its ups and downs. Bhutto accomplished the return of the prisoners of war taken during the 1971 Bangladesh conflict through the Simla Agreement of 1972, but no settlement of the key problem of Kashmir was possible beyond an agreement that any settlement should be peaceful. The demarcation of the truce line in Kashmir was finally completed in December 1972. Bhutto reacted strongly to the detonation of a nuclear device by India in 1974 and pledged that Pakistan would match that development even if Pakistanis had to "eat grass" to cover the cost.

Bangladesh's leader Sheik Mujibur Rahman was assassinated on August 15, 1975. The diplomatic status of Bangladesh changed overnight. One day after Mujib's assassination President Bhutto of Pakistan announced that his country would immediately recognize the new regime and offered a gift of 50,000 tons of rice in addition to a generous gift of clothing. India, however, under the rule of Indira Gandhi, suffered a setback in its relations with Bangladesh. The end of the Mujib period once again brought serious bilateral differences to the fore. Many Bangladeshis, although grateful for India's help against Pakistan during the struggle for independence, thought Indian troops had lingered too long after the Pakistan Army was defeated. Mujibist dissidents who continued to resist central authority found shelter in India. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

The country appeared to be democratizing, but political opposition grew against Bhutto’s repression of political opponents and alleged voting irregularities. In July 1977, Bhutto was overthrown, and General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq became chief martial law administrator. Bhutto eventually was sentenced to death on charges of conspiring to murder a political opponent and was executed in 1979. [Source: Library of Congress, February 2005 **]

Zulfikar Bhutto Becomes More Authoritarian and Unpopular

The 1973 constitution created a strong prime ministership, which tried to make the most of after taking the position. In the years that followed, Bhutto became more powerful, more capricious, and autocratic. His regime became increasingly dependent on harassment and imprisonment of foes and his popular support seriously eroded by the time he called for elections in March 1977. His PPP had lost many of its supporters, and he came to rely increasingly on discredited former PML members for support. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Bhutto was a divisive populist leader who surrounded himself with sycophants and used his brutal security forces to intimidate and instill fear. A military coup against him 1973 failed because one of the officers involved spilled the beans at the last minute to Bhutto. In the mid-1970s Bhutto's government faced increasing regional tensions among Pakistan's various ethnic groups.

Bhutto was attacked continually during his tenure. His enemies included tribesmen who opposed his secularist policies, businessmen who opposed his economic polices and members of his own party for the way he ruled through the sheer force of personality. As his rule became more unpopular he cracked down on opposition groups and purged his own paramilitary the Federal Security Service. Islamists led the opposition against Bhutto. He tried to placate them bu banning alcohol and gambling but that was not enough.

Although Bhutto continued his populist and socialist rhetoric, he increasingly relied on Pakistan's urban industrialists and rural landlords. Over time the economy stagnated, largely as a result of the dislocation and uncertainty produced by Bhutto's frequently changing economic policies. [Source: Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009, Gale]

Elections in 1977

Bhutto claimed success for his economic policies. The gross national product (GNP) and the rate of economic growth climbed. Inflation fell from 25 percent in fiscal year (FY) 1972 to 6 percent in FY 1976, although other economic measures he introduced did not perform as well. Bhutto pointed out that his foreign policy had brought Pakistan prestige in the Islamic world, peace if not friendship with India, and self-respect in dealings with the great powers. He felt assured of victory in any election. Therefore, with commitment to a constitutional order at stake, in January 1977 he announced he would hold national and provincial assembly elections in March. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The response of the opposition to this news was vigorous. Nine political parties ranging across the ideological spectrum formed a united front — the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA). The main parties were the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) on the Islamic right, the National Democratic Party on the secular left, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML/Pagaro) in the center, and Asghar Khan's Tehrik Istiqlal (TI) on the secular right. Islamists were satisfied by the adoption of Nizam-i-Mustafa, meaning "Rule of the Prophet," as the front's slogan. Modern secular elements, however, respected the association of Air Marshal Asghar Khan. The PNA ran candidates for almost all national and provincial seats. As curbs on the press and political activity were relaxed for the election campaign, an apparently strong wave of support for the PNA swept Pakistan's cities. This prompted a whirlwind tour of the country by Bhutto, with all his winning charm in the forefront. In the background lurked indirect curbs on free expression as well as political gangsterism.

National Assembly election results were announced on March 7, proclaiming the PPP the winner with 155 seats versus thirty-six seats for the PNA. Expecting trouble, Bhutto invoked Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which restricted assembly for political reasons. The PNA immediately challenged the election results. as rigged and demanded a new election — not a recount. Bhutto refused, and a mass protest movement was launched against him.

After the 1977 Election

Bhutto was finally brought down by the embittered and violent reactions to the March 1977 elections. Bhutto called the elections suddenly and nine opposition parties united to form the opposition — Pakistan National Alliance. Bhutto was popular among the masses but his landslide victory (155 out of 200 seats) was regarded as too good to believe.

When Bhutto proclaimed victory after the March 1977 national elections, the opposition Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) denounced the results as fraudulent and demanded new elections. Bhutto resisted and later arrested the PNA leadership. Widespread riots ensued.

Religious symbols were used by both sides to mobilize agitation; for example, Bhutto imposed prohibitions on the consumption of alcoholic beverages and on gambling. There was a month of anti-government demonstrations, including a general strike that paralyzed Karachi. Riots broke out; soldiers fired at people in the streets. In clashes with police more than 150 opposition supporters were killed, 1,500 were injured and 25,000 were arrested.

Bhutto Ousted in a Military Coup

Despite talks between Bhutto and opposition leaders, the disorders persisted as a multitude of frustrations were vented. The army intervened on July 5, took all political leaders including Bhutto into custody, and proclaimed martial law. This bloodless military coup was led by Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq. Bhutto was arrested and charged with conspiring to kill a political rival. He was deposed not long after he referred to Zia as "my monkey general" in public.

General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq partially suspended the 1973 constitution and extended martial despite repeated broken promises to hold popular elections. According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”: “Zia-ul-Haq assumed the post of Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA). As calm returned to Pakistan, Zia promised elections for October 1977, but for the first of many times to come, he reversed himself before the event, arguing that he needed more time to set matters aright. And as the months passed, he began to assume more of the trappings of power, creating a cabinet-like Council of Advisers of made up of serving military officers and senior civil servants, chief among whom was longtime Defense Secretary, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who became Finance Advisor and Zia's strong right arm. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Zia initially released Bhutto and asserted that he could contest new elections scheduled for October 1977. However, after it became clear that Bhutto's popularity had survived his government, Zia postponed the elections and began criminal investigations of the senior PPP leadership. [Source: Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009, Gale]

In mid-1978, Zia brought Bhutto to trial for conspiracy to murder a political rival in which the rival's father was killed. Zia also expanded his "cabinet" with the addition of several PNA leaders as advisors, and, when the incumbent resigned, he assumed the added responsibilities (and title) of president. He allowed a return of limited political activity but put off elections scheduled for fall when he was unable to get agreement among the PNA parties on ground rules that would keep the PPP from returning to power. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Bhutto's conspiracy conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court in March 1979. In the fall, and with the PNA now in disarray, Zia again scheduled, then postponed elections and restricted political activity. But he did hold "nonparty" polling for district and municipal councils, only to find at year's end confirmation of his concerns about PPP strength when PPP members, identifying themselves as "Friends of the People," showed continuing appeal among the electorate.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's Death

Bhutto was arrested in September 1977 and charged with the murder of political rival — Muhammed Ahamd Khan Kasurii in Lahore. A Lahore High Court found him guilty and gave him a death sentence. He appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court and lost by a vote of four to three. Despite appeals from leader all over the world for clemency. Zia refused to act.

On January 1, 1979, Bhutto emerged from 15 months of solitary confinement to appeal his death sentence. He described how he had been placed in a cell next to 15 screaming "lunatics." "Because I am a leader, I was able to survive this treatment," he said. "A lesser man would have dissipated long ago." He then added I am not a criminal. I am an important national leader. Is this the way you treat national leaders?"

The 50-year-old Bhutto was hanged in Rawalpindi on April 4, 1979. His body was flown to his hometown of Larkana in the Sindh and buried before his death was publically announced. Instead of flowers, supporters brought shirts stained with blood from government torture session to Bhutto's tomb in the Sindh province. Zia felt Bhutto’s death was justified because Bhutto brought chaos and upheaval and made a mockery of democracy. Bhutto's two sons began a militant campaign against Zia that achieved little more tan the hijacking of a single plane.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (tourism.gov.pk), Official Gateway to the Government of Pakistan (pakistan.gov.pk), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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