Arguably, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto continues to be the most charismatic politician of Pakistan. Nurtured by the Pakistan Army, he entered politics through the backdoor. Hailing from an aristocratic family – his father was the Diwan of Junagadh – Bhutto was made Foreign Minister by Field Martial Ayub Khan in his government after the latter usurped the power by staging a coup. Following bitter feud between them, Bhutto was sacked. Later, he became the biggest critic of the Army.
According to some Pakistani observers, Bhutto can be described in four words — brilliant, arrogant, autocratic and opportunist. In 1965, Bhutto advised Ayub Khan to mount a military onslaught against India – as, according to Bhutto, Indian military was vulnerable after it was defeated by the Chinese army in 1962 — in a bid to cut the Field Marshal to size. Ayub Khan always held Bhutto responsible for the disastrous misstep he took. It is said Bhutto had confided in Iskandar Mirza, the first President of Pakistan, that war was the only option, as “there was no other way to weaken Ayub Khan and remove him.”
Annoyed by Bhutto’s failure to turn up even after hours of waiting, Rahim said: ‘I am not waiting for the Maharaja of Larkana anymore!’ Bhutto did not take the comment lightly. The next day, Bhutto’s special security force raided his mentor’s house, dragged him and his son out and locked them up in prison.
After he was sacked from the Ayub Khan ministry in 1966, Bhutto was “wandering aimlessly in the political wilderness”. In desperation, he left Pakistan and settled down in the UK.
During this time, it was J A Rahim who encouraged Bhutto to return and start a political party, as there was enough scope for a populist progressive political force back home. Rahim, a retired Bengali civil servant, was a staunch Marxist and a secret member of the banned Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP). As a student, like his Communist colleagues in British India, Rahim campaigned for the creation of Pakistan. “…He chose to be politically inactive, until he saw how Bhutto was hailed as a hero by the youth in 1965…. In 1967, Rahim became one of the founding members of such a party: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Bhutto became the party’s chairman,” writes Pakistani journalist Nadeem F. Paracha.
According to Paracha, Rahim along with socialists Hassan and S. Mohammad Rashid contributed immensely to build the party from scratch. Exploiting Bhutto’s popularity to the hilt, they built a formidable political force. In 1970 general election, PPP swept in West Pakistan’s two largest provinces of Punjab and Sindh, winning 81 seats. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s National Awami League won a landslide victory by winning an absolute majority of 160 seats in the National Assembly and 288 of the 300 seats in the Provincial Assembly of East Pakistan in the provincial elections held ten days later. The Marxist National Awami Party emerged victorious in Northwest Frontier Province and Balochistan. President Yahya Khan and the PPP did not want a party from East Pakistan to form government. This led to civil war in East Pakistan. India was forced to intervene, resulting in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. In the aftermath, Bhutto became first President and then Prime Minister in 1973, after the post was recreated by the new Constitution.
Rahim was made a minister in the Bhutto’s Cabinet. “Along with other top PPP ideologues, he began the party’s project to turn Pakistan into a socialist economy and polity. However, by 1973 when a dramatic increase in oil prices by oil-rich Arab states triggered a global economic crisis, Bhutto began to drastically scale back his government’s socialist initiatives,” writes Paracha.
Rahim was sent to France as ambassador. Once, Rahim was invited for dinner in his house. Punctuality was never a virtue of Bhutto. He used to make his guests wait for hours together. Annoyed by Bhutto’s failure to turn up even after hours of waiting, Rahim said: ‘I am not waiting for the Maharaja of Larkana anymore!’ Bhutto did not take the comment lightly. The next day, Bhutto’s special security force raided his mentor’s house, dragged him and his son out and locked them up in prison. Another Pakistani commentator says Bhutto got the father-son duo sodomised ‘in front of each other’ in the police station after brutalising them.
Bhutto used police to settle political scores with rivals in his party and outside. A respected politician Mairaj Mohammad Khan, former PPP minister and Tehreek-e-Insaf leader lost one eye in police torture. Many Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, including Mian Tufail, a relative of General Zia-ul-Haq, were also arrested and tortured in police custody.
In 1977, Bhutto’s hand-picked Army chief General Zia — who he thought would be loyal — staged a coup and imprisoned him. Rahim breathed his last in the same year. Rahim’s son welcomed the coup. Bhutto was later executed after a phoney trial.