Born to Be Hanged: Political Biography of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto by Syeda Saiyidain Hameed- Review

Title: Born to be hanged: Political biography of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

Author: Syeda Hamid

Publisher: Rupa

Pages: 264

Price: Rs 500

People in Pakistan continue to remember Zulfikar Ali Bhutto even after 39 years of his hanging. Pakistan’s former Prime Minister was hanged on April 4th, 1979 in Rawalpindi. It was termed as ‘judicial murder’. Syeda Hamid, the former member of Planning Commission of India, has come out with another book, Born to be hanged: Political biography of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The author did research on ZAB over 2 decades and met a couple of ZAB’s contemporaries and visited Pakistan a many time.

The book is a fascinating read. The author got hold of many letters written by ZAB from Sahiwal prison. The book highlights the ambition of ZAB and his phenomenon rise. ZAB mesmerised Pakistan in early 70s with his speech in UNSC and slogan of Roti, Kapda Aur Makan. He spoke of Socialism. The book also narrates ZAB’s limitations. Once he became the PM, he started believing in intelligence agencies much more than his old comrades. Some of his best comrades left the party disillusioned within 1973-74.

The title of the book is taken from one of the last dispatches of Sir Morrice James, British High Commissioner in Islamabad in the 60s. He said, “In 1965, I so reported in one of my last dispatches from Pakistan as British High Commissioner. I wrote by way of clinching that Bhutto was born to be hanged. 14 years later, that was it turned out to be.”

The leaders like J. A. Rahim, Mubashir Hasan believed in leftist ideology. They were pillars of the party initially, but after the party was formed, ZAB never wanted to alienate the right-wing parties. ZAB wrote to them from Sahiwal jail that PPP is not a tomb of the Communist party. He issued instruction from prison how they should deal with the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami Maulana Maudoodi. He asked Mubashir Hasan to meet Maudoodi. Mubashir ignored instructions as he did not want to meet Maudoodi. This indicates how complex ZAB was. The founding policy documents of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) clearly stood for Socialist Pakistan.

ZAB declared Ahmediya community as non-Muslims by second amendment in the Constitution. Ahmediyas contributed significantly in making Pakistan a reality, but ZAB under the pressure of religious clergy declared them non-Muslims. This indicates how he changed progressive laws for his own survival. Once you compromise with the religious fundamentalists and amend the laws, then it becomes virtually impossible to revoke it.

Still, PPP supporters recall his speech at UN Security Council on September 1965 following Indo-Pak war. In his speech, then foreign minister of Pakistan, ZAB said, “We will wage a war for a thousand years, a war of defence.” During his speech the message of Ayub Khan, Pakistan’s President, was lying on his desk. Ultimately, he read the message. The message said, “In the interest of international peace and in order to enable the Security Council to evolve a self-executing procedure, which will lead to an honourable settlement of the root cause of the present conflict – namely, the Jammu and Kashmir dispute – I have issued the following order to the Pakistan armed forces. They will stop fighting as from 12.05 hours West Pakistan time today.” ZAB did not stop there. He went on and said, “It is the moral responsibility of the Security Council to address itself to a meaningful, a lasting solution of the problem of Jammu and Kashmir.”

The first general elections in Pakistan were held in December 1970. The Awami League (AL) led by Mujib ur Rehman won 151 out of 153 seats in the then East Pakistan.  ZAB’s PPP won 81 seats out of 131 seats in West Pakistan. But military regime did not hand over power to AL. The rest is history. Bangladesh, a new nation state came into existence. Hamid writes, “In West Pakistan, General Yahya Khan was forced out by his army commanders and the power was transferred to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his PPP in December 1971.” Within 6 months of ZAB forming the government, India and Pakistan signed Simla agreement. Things were not going smoothly for ZAB. In October 1972, 3 ministers resigned. People were also getting disillusioned.

It was ZAB, who appointed Zia-ul-Haq as army chief by superseding a couple of officers against US’s advice. Zia subsequently arrested ZAB on September 3rd, 1977 accusing him of a conspiracy to murder his opponent. In the shootout, the father of opposition leader died. After a sham trial, he was hanged on April 4th, 1979 at the Rawalpindi prison.

The book gives the idea of rising and fall of ZAB. Even today his influence remains, and PPP is benefitted.

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