Bhutto’s legacy

By Saad Hafiz

Thirty-six years have passed since Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s first elected prime minister, was executed by a military dictatorship on April 4, 1979. However, Bhutto’s legacy and significance in the country’s troubled political history remain the focus of heated debate even today. His passionate supporters remember him as the populist reformer and spellbinding orator who restored national pride after a humiliating defeat by the Indian army in 1971, the man who returned Pakistan to civilian rule. Bhutto’s detractors see him as a polarising figure who squandered enormous possibilities. They point to acts of repression — the tortures and imprisonments during his rule — and the charges of a rigged election in 1977, which was his final bid to retain power.

See also: Understanding an Enigma

Bhutto’s political life can be divided into three distinct periods: a minister in military dictator Ayub Khan’s cabinet (1958 to 1966), dissident politician (1967 to 1970) and president/prime minister (1971 to 1977). During these periods, Bhutto, the ultimate political animal and tactician, adapted his actions to suit prevailing conditions and realities. During his political obscurity, searching for opportunities to advance himself, Bhutto played the hyper-nationalist, establishment man and obsequious minister to Ayub. After 1966, with a weakened Ayub, Bhutto sought power on a platform of democracy, socialism and an anti-army stance. Once firmly ensconced in power, Bhutto alternated as a champion of democracy and a civilian autocrat, continually oscillating between the left and the right in his political actions. These shifting stances led to charges that Bhutto was a political chameleon who could change colours when it suited his personal ambitions. Generally speaking, Bhutto did gravitate towards the more pragmatic rather than the inconvenient moral dimension of politics and impediments posed by the rule of law.

Nevertheless, the Bhutto era had a profound impact on Pakistani politics. First, it revealed the inadequacy of military rule and military hegemony as a stable basis of Pakistani political life. Secondly, in foreign affairs, Bhutto realised that parity with India in diplomatic and military affairs was no longer a realistic goal. He committed Pakistan to the path of peaceful (non-military) or competitive coexistence and bilateralism. The Kashmir issue was put on the backburner and the Simla Accord was signed in 1972. Thirdly, Bhutto sought and gained a new consensus on constitutional issues. In 1973, a new Constitution was adopted. The principle of power sharing between the federal government and the provinces was recognised. Lastly, it revealed the inadequacy of populist authoritarianism as a stable basis on which to organise Pakistani affairs. Ironically, this realisation came from Bhutto’s own failure to organise a broad-based Pakistani political coalition. The lesson about the utility of power sharing was slowly grasped by Pakistani elites in the post-Bhutto era, albeit in a limited and tentative way.

Bhutto forever changed Pakistani politics, which too often veered too far in the direction of mere sloganeering over substance. All the while, as a minority Sindhi, Bhutto had to be wary of the dangers of overstepping in Pakistan’s minefield of the majority Punjabi-led power politics, shadow of coup d’états, ideological divisions and active secessionist movements. Bhutto came to power on the strength of one new factor in Pakistan politics: he had aroused the political consciousness of the masses and he had created an atmosphere for the masses to engage in mass politics. By developing the PPP as an institutional force in Pakistani politics he created a new and powerful institutional participant in the search to redefine the basis of Pakistani politics. However, the PPP’s organisation and decision making was not democratic, which had lasting consequences for the party and the country.

The other major critique of Bhutto is his failure to grasp the power and the opportunity he had to mobilise Pakistanis to his causes and that as a consequence of his policies and authoritarian manner he reinforced the system’s constraints instead of reducing them by creative political action. Bhutto ignored long-term restructuring of Pakistan’s political system for short-term gain. He failed to understand that in a society where political and economic power is divided, entrenched and polarised, it is necessary to develop political mechanisms to accommodate competing interests: by developing transactional (exchange) relationships, by inducing a rethinking of competitive group interests and generally by sharing power and developing coalition politics. Bhutto also abandoned the socialism that had helped catapult him to power. As a result of his massive and public turn against the Pakistani left, Bhutto alienated his mass constituency.

In the end, Bhutto did not achieve a stable Pakistan and fell into the quicksand of radicalised and polarised Pakistani politics and society. However, he did develop inputs into Pakistani political life that political choices are legitimate if they reflect the will of the people, which have outlasted his period of ascendancy. Furthermore, Bhutto was one from that rare breed of politicians who could lead effectively in extraordinary times. One could have hoped that his first commitment would have been to common decency and the common good, not to holding power. Even so, if Pakistan is to make it through its various crises successfully, parts of his important legacy must remain alive.

  • Mohan

    Drinking milk from non-Indian cows ‘could make children turn to crime’
    India’s middle class gated communities should keep their own cow herds with cows from India, Shankar Lal, leader of an influential Hindu nationalist group, says

  • Ranger99

    Drinking milk from non-Indian cows ‘could make children turn to crime’
    India’s middle class gated communities should keep their own cow herds with cows from India, Shankar Lal, leader of an influential Hindu nationalist group, says


  • Ranger99

    India has no hope because 25% of the country are like Tajendar and 40% are gone cases who want the country to fail..that leaves 35% of us to take care of the country, and it looks impossible. Just take care of yourself and your family, ensure your finances are right and that you have a job…that’s all you can do. There’s nothing you can do about the country, just forget about it.

  • Ranger99

    These 5 years from Modi, and he will only be there for 5 years, no more than that, is the last bit of breathing space available to India before the nation and its people head for a terminal decline. That’s it. Nothing more to say. Party is over. Just take care of yourself. The Titanic will go down, whether you like it or not, no matter who the captain is – that’s because the passengers of the Titanic are scum of the worst kind. You think Tajendar bhaiyya is sh!t? 25% of INdians are like that. You will have to carry them along as well. What will you do about that? It’s over. Let’s just face it.

  • Mohan

    Athiesm cannot explain the nature’s fury but religion will definitely misguide.

  • tajender

    Shankar Lal, leader of an influential Hindu nationalist group, says

    mohan these prople have no brain at all.cow is not indian indus valley civilization there was no cow.had buffalos.cow aryan brought with them.actually they hate cows.they were cow eater,when reached extinction budhdhist banned cow poor cow dies with 30 kilo plastic bags in stomach.using cow to bully others.just to divert attention from progress.they destroyed 5000 crores industry in bombay,while export of buffalo meat increased by 17%.

  • tajender

    ranger for me modi is last hope i support him as well but his party people dont want him to succeed.

  • silkroute

    no one knows whom tajender refers to when he uses the word “they”.

    they kill, they rob, they lie, they are zionists, they are brahmins, they are brahminists, they are clerks of Aurangzeb, they helped mahmud of Gazni, they are not muslims, they are jews, they are CIA, their staple food is lies, they are VHP, they are ..

    He himself does not know how and how much to use bad-words about “them”.

    He wakes up at night sweating and realizing that he himself is all this “they”.

    PTH = Psychiatry for Tajender’s Halucinations

    I hope it helps after some years of PTH activity.

  • silkroute

    to Mohan and romain

    who says ahem hates arabs.
    the one who critcizes is the true friend.
    arab have only one good friend and that is ahem.
    those who praise arabs – like done by rex and tajender – are real enemies of arabs.

    we all should hate any fascist ideology like this 7th century religion imposed by some arabs on all other arabs and on non-arabs.

    Soon arabs too will be sick of this religion and this can be read in the passage quoted by Mohan.

    After arabs junk it the paki bootlickers of arabs too will follow suit.
    Arabs hate pakistanis because pakistanis are bootlickers of arabs.
    Any self-resepcting person does not like bootlickers and arabs are self-respecting people. So hate pakistanis.

  • Mohan

    @timesofindia: JUST IN: ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi dead: Radio Iran

  • Mohan

    Ahem reminds of Sant Kabir’s doha

    “Nindak niyare rakhiye aangan kuti chhabay, Bin pani sabun bina nirmal karat subhav”

  • kaalchakra

    How Tajender and I Love India

    Anybody who loves Islam and is dedicated to it has to loves the entire world that has been blessed by its Light (the more blessed by Islam a place is, the more we love it). It is the unIslamic part of the world that we detest – the darkness, the history, the oppression, the injustices.

    India was a barbaric place until enlightened Muslims came and built its universities, its hospitals, and its arts. They turned a hopeless wasteland of humanity into a civilized place by rescuing Buddhists and Indians from the clutches of Brahmins. Tajender and I are proud of India’s Islamic history, of how Muslims ruled over India with justice, tolerance, and progressive enlightenment transforming India into the ‘golden bird’ that was the envy of the world.

    Unfortunately, cow-worshippers want to return India to its inherent barbarism. That’s why the most important Islamic obligation for an Indian Muslim has always been to kill cows and eat them. Cow-worshippers are preventing Indian Muslims from following the part of Islam that is most dear to them. Cow-worshippers are, quite rightly, to enlightened Indian Muslims what astrology believers are to enlightened Indian liberals and rationalists – harbingers of the The Great Darkness.

    Just as nobody in the US believes in astrology and other crazy ideas and just as the world of Islam has always been one of justice, peace and enlightenment, Islamists and liberals wish to make India just and enlightened. I agree with them. The Islamists, the liberals, and I – we all love India and the world that benefits from the great things we represent.

  • kaalchakra

    For Tajender bhai and me, because we love how the world and India benefited from Islam, ‘history’ is most important. As a dedicated Muslim, tajender bhai loves ‘history’ and describe in detail how ‘things were in the past’. We want the future to be a reflection of Islamic history. So it is very important to know detailed Indian history – from how Babasaheb Ambedkar betrayed dalits because Brahmins seduced him by sending their daughter to him to how Aurangzeb was a tolerant and just ruler to how Ghaznavi destroyed Somanath only ‘for its gold’ and not because of any religious fanaticism.

    Ahem detests Islam and Islamic ideas that he believes are harmful. He thinks he can convince people by simply repeating his view.

  • RajToo


    Just curious!
    1) Are mangoes grown in Pushtun areas like Parachinar?
    2) What does Parachinar actually mean?
    3) I see many places around Peshawar ending in “Payan”. What does “Payan” mean?
    4) There is a place called Badama there! Do really Almonds grow there? If yes, what kind?

  • romain

    Tejinder Mian,

    I dont care what you say. You are a Paki zionist as per your own writings and you support ISIS. I take it you are mourning these days because your leader died.

  • silkroute

    to kaalchakra and Mohan

    How some names become eternal lights of guidance – so does the name ahem on PTH.
    …even after his demise (caused by lovers of islamic fascism) he is the benchmark on PTH.
    How lovingly they all remember him.

    I can only bring you only a fraction of ahem’s wisdom. But even that little is too much for you – but not unexpectedly.

    Ahem is surely an (partial) incarnation of Kabir.
    Was Kabir also not a nindak?
    How he destroyed the egos of the mullahs with his pithy sayings!
    Just as I do about the PTH mullahs!

    by saying the nindak should be your honored guest and neighbour, Kabir was affirming his own place in India’s brave history against islamic (and the mullahs’) fascism, conceit and arrogance.

  • Mohan

    Bura Jo dekhan mein chala, bura na milya koye,
    Jo dil khoja aapna, mujhse bura na koye.

    Sant Kabir

  • romain

    Mohan Mian,

    its not going to work. Ahem is a gone case. I think he is the alter ego of pork eating alcohol guzzling rexie.

  • tajender
  • Mohan

    Sakshi Mehraj’s says Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Kedarnath caused earthquake.
    Owaisi says idol worship causes earthquakes.
    A US pastor says not to rebuild pagan shrines (temples) destroyed in earthquake as Jesus is only the saviour of mankind.
    All in the business of selling their Gods.

  • tajender
  • tajender

    And then there will be those who will see a religious angle even in a human tragedy of this scale. Savages ! someone twitted me,
    Nepal : less chance of Muslim death
    Bihar : higher chance of Muslim death. can be called presstitude.

  • Mohan

    If Modi gave a Obama-esque speech at a 7 RCR Correspondents Dinner

    US President Barrack Obama, delivered a sharp, witty speech at the annual White House Coresspondents dinner on Sunday. He took potshots at his rivals, the media and some jokes were reserved for his colleagues. Hillary Clinton too wasnt spared. What would happen if Narendra Modi gave a similar speech? Would it look something like this:

    Good evening, everybody.

    Welcome to the 7 RCR Correspondents’ dinner. A night when Lutyens Delhi celebrates itself. As opposed to all the other nights, umm when they celebrate themselves. And welcome to the 2nd year of my PMShip. It’s true — that’s Advani cheering. Still 4 years bro. Still 4 years.

    The fact is I feel more loose and relaxed than ever. Those Harshvardhan shoulder massages — they’re like magic. You should try one. He will give it to you. Not like he is busy or something these days..

    Anyway, being Prime Minister is never easy. I still have to fix a broken irrigation system, set up industries for everything, and negotiate with China and Pakistan. All while finding time to plot the attacks on minorities in India. Which is strenuous.

    And it is no wonder that that people keep pointing out how the Prime Ministership has aged me. I look so old LK Advani ji called me uncle the other day.

    Fact is though, at this point my legacy is finally beginning to take shape. The economy is getting better. Scams have disappeared. Foreign policy is on track. Rahul Gandhi has finally started working. You are welcome Congress

    Look, it is true I have not managed to make everybody happy. An year into my Prime Ministership, some people still say I’m fascist, arrogant, narcissist. Some people are so dumb. Why do we even let them speak Amit Bhai. And that’s not all people say about me. Rahul Gandhi says he thinks I’m only interested in personal PR. Which is interesting because I think Rahul Gandhi is the biggest PR campaign of my lifetime. Quite a coincidence. I mean everybody’s got something to say these days.

    You know, I just have to put this stuff aside. I have to stay focused on my job. Because for many Indians this is still a time of deep uncertainty. For example, I have one friend just a few weeks ago, he was holidaying in Bangkok and is now having to climb on top of Mountains.

    Meanwhile, back here in our nation’s capital we’re always dealing with new challenges.

    I want to thank our host for the evening, the incredibly talented Gappistan Radio. Sometimes Gappistan Radio writes fake news, which is surprising, because usually the only people writing fake news are the ones working for Times Of India.

    NDTV is here, give them a big hand. Now why are you all looking at Arun Jaitley? I mean the actual employees of NDTV. Though its easy to get confused considering the amount of time Jaitley spends on NDTV.

    As always, the reporters here had a lot to cover over the last year here in Delhi. The rising pollution levels in the capital. Air pollution is rocketing up. Noise pollution is terrible and that is when Arnab is in Mumbai.

    But, of course, let’s face it, there is one issue on every reporter’s mind, and that is my Shawl. What is this man wearing?

    It turns out Sagarika Ghose identified it as Louis Vuitton which you know took me 2 days to learn how to pronounce. Who said Indian media doesn’t force politicians to work.

    In case anyone is wondering, I don’t have any ear piece today so you can carry on bitching about me in your pseudo-intellectual language, I won’t be able to understand. Plus, you won’t get bitch slapped on Twitter for saying I didn’t have an ear piece.

    Lot of politicians here too. Lot of politicians.

    We have MS Aiyar who is busy trying to find me on the tea counter. Hey Mani, I am up here!

    We have Arvind Kejriwal so we didn’t keep any Raita on the menu tonight. Don’t want Arvind to take that as a personal insult and start a dharna tonight.

    Janta Parivar is here. All of them and all of them are happy so I am assuming another one of Lalu’s children is getting married tonight.

    And Prakash Karat is here. Still.

    Anyway, it’s amazing how time flies. Soon, the Bihar elections will be upon us which will be the 1st big challenge for me since my last big challenge which was yesterday, an election for a Group Housing society President in Ahmedabad.

    Anyway, as always, I want to close on a more serious note. You know, I often joke about tensions between me and the press, but honestly, what they say doesn’t bother me. I understand we’ve got an adversarial system. Whatever I say, they have to oppose and that is fine because whatever media says, public believe opposite so eventually, people end up supporting me. Not rocket science Sonia ji. Just get Indian media to hate you and you will get 282.

    Now that I got that off my chest — you know, investigative journalism, explanatory journalism, journalism that exposes corruption and justice gives voice to the different and the marginalized, the voiceless — that’s power. Imaginative journalism, gets TRPs.

    These imaginative journalists serve as a public good, an indispensable pillar of our society, people who take us out of our boring lives into the world of fantasy. Thank you Indian Express, Scroll, Tehelka for your powerful imaginations and the joys they bring. I raise a glass to them, Glass of Nimbu Paani by the way, and to all of you, Jai Hind. Vande.. VANDE.. VANDEEE..Chalo jaane do yaar, tumse na ho payega.

  • Rex Minor

    If Modi gave a Obama-esque speech at a 7 RCR Correspondents Dinner?

    Then the Chaiwala would be qualified to pass the examination in the Harvard school for imposters and crooks.

    Pakistani intellectuals are now becoming aware of the Afro American and even writing articles about him. Here are my comments on an article appearing in Express Tribune;
    The barrister author gives a neat and accurate description of the imposter who outsmarted Hillary Clinton, her opponents in the democratic establishment and even branded her as a war monger, the Commander in Chief as the President of the US calls himself even got elected twice on the hope of peace and even managed to obtain laurels from the Nobel Prize Committee. Today from Pakistan to Yemen and Baltimore in the USA the earth is spurting nothing but fire and ready to explode because of lawless killings of civilians.
    Who could have thought that an Afro Americn will cause so much sufferings in several continents of the world and be the first to inflame the European continent as well where his predicessors brought peace..

    Rex Minor

  • Mohan

    Generally Law takes its own course. In case of Jitendra Singh Tomar of AAP, Law minister has taken his own course.

  • silkroute

    Bhutto’s legacy consists of just these 126 comments on the PTH. That is all.

  • tajender

    quite a sweep, TMC leads in 115 of 144 KMC wards, Left in 14, BJP in 7, cong in 5 @IndianExpress ,repitition of delhi.

  • tajender

    Why does the BJP resort to lying so easily?

  • Mohan

    We did not touch the Pakistani aid’: Quake-struck Nepal launches inquiry as Pakistan sends ‘beef masala’ to country where cow slaughter is banned

    Read more:

  • kaal
  • kaal

    Why does Salman Khan remember his faith every time he faces the law ? The last time he went to jail he was spotted wearing a muslim cap !

  • Rex Minor

    Current status of Nepalese population;

    According to 2001 census, the adherents of Buddhism are as follows-
    Ethnic Group Total Population Total Buddhist Percentage Buddhist
    Tamang 1,282,304 1,157,461 90.3
    Magar 1,887,733 1,268,000 60
    Gurung 3,500,000 3,000,000 95.9
    Newar 1,242,232 190,629 15.3
    Sherpa 150,000 130,000 92.8
    Bhote 100,000 98,000 98%
    Thakali 50,000 35,000 65
    Chhantyal 30,000 18,000 64.2
    Jirel 20,500 19,600 87
    Lepcha 60,000 50,800 88.8
    Hyolmo 198,000 195,400 98.4

    Is it possible that the wikipedia statistics are inaccurate?

    Rex Minor

  • Mirpuri

    Salman Khan says he is a Hindu and a Muslim. He mentions his Muslim connection when he is caught in a criminal activity to explain where his criminal part comes from.