July 5, 1977 was one of the darkest days in the history of Pakistan, which shoved the advancement of the country decades back, and marked the beginning of the
authoritarian and atrocious regime of Zia ul Haq after a coup d’état overthrowing the civilian and democratic government of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto; viciousness, that continued for more than a decade. The Operation “Fair Play” marked the beginning of despotism – the dupes of persecution ranged from political activists to religious and ethnic minorities to communists, intellectuals, journalists, poets and many others. The coup was designed to oust the embryonic democracy – the democracy that had delivered more to the people of Pakistan than any of its precursors; the Prime Minister, who had gathered the broken pieces of this country left by the Generals, and made a new Pakistan, transforming it from cinders into a respectable nation.
The Pakistan Peoples Party has always been a prey to these domineering regimes ever since it’s underpinning. The founder Chairman, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto fought against the oppression of General Ayub Khan to place a conclusion to the ordeals of the masses. What was the PPP’s misdemeanor? – Numerous, but it’s really central to highlight a few “beyond the pale” peccadilloes of the regime.
a. Providing “Bread, Clothing and Shelter” to the people of Pakistan – despite being the nuts and bolts of survival, majority of the Pakistan population, at that time was deprived of them. The masses lived in dearth and miseries.
b. The preparation of a constitution (to which all the political parties unanimously agreed) to put Pakistan on the road to parliamentary democracy – The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, established in 1947 did not even have a charter till 1973! – The corroboration of the expertise of the Generals and the right wing political parties of Pakistan.
c. The successful “Simla Treaty” signed with Indira Gandhi of India, bringing back the 93,000 prisoners of war and securing 5,000 square miles of land, occupied by India during the War of 1971.
d. Labour policies increasing the workers’ rights, and the power of the trade unions; land reforms with government taking over more than a million acres of land to redistribute them among the poor peasants.
e. Making Pakistan a nuclear power – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave the Muslim World its first atomic bomb. He avowed that the people of Pakistan will eat grass and make an atom bomb. Calling for a test from his jail cell in 1978, Bhutto wrote : “We (Pakistan) know that Israel and South Africa have full nuclear capability – a Christian, Jewish and Hindu civilization have this nuclear capability … the Islamic civilization is without it, but the situation is about to change!”. The “Mighty” Generals did not have enough guts!
f. Educating the masses to enlighten them about their rights – The Bhutto government established a large number of rural and urban schools, including around 6,500 elementary schools, 900 middle schools, 407 high schools, 51 Intermediate Colleges and 21 junior colleges – a landmark in the history of Pakistan.
g. By 1974, exports exceeded one billion dollars, showing a 60% increase over the combined exports of East and West Pakistan before separation, it was achieved and benefited with world in the midst of the major 1973 oil crisis and in the middle of global recession, the national income of Pakistan increased by 15% and industrial production by as much as 20% in four years.
h. Giving the right of a passport to every citizen of Pakistan and facilitated millions of skilled and non-skilled Pakistanis to seek employment in the Middle Eastern countries through a signing a number combination of bilateral agreements. The remittances from overseas Pakistanis, which are now in the vicinity of $25 billion per anum, constitute a dependable source of foreign exchange for Pakistan.
i. Forming a foreign policy, strengthening Pakistan’s ties with China and the countries of the Muslim World. – Bhutto organized the largest Islamic Summit Conference at Lahore in 1974. He also cemented the Afro – Asian ties and by 1976 had emerged as “The Leader of the Third World”.
The Bhutto regime provided say to the voiceless, and rights to the dispossessed. It was these developments, which were put to a halt by the “FAIR” Play. Let’s have a pithy look at the accomplishments of the “Fair Play”:-
a. Dubbed as the “fundamentalist Sunni dictator”, the “Mard – e – Haq” promised the elections in 90 days after taking over the government. I fittingly heard “90 days” – His Highness, were those 90 days after the Dooms Day?
b. Mastering the idea of proxy war “Kabul must burn! Kabul must burn!” carrying out a covert operation in Afghanistan by arming the Islamic militants, blessing Pakistan with the present of fanaticism.
c. Replacement of the parliamentary democracy with the Shoora – a bludgeon of countering the politicians and their strongholds.
d. The “Eighth Amendment” to the constitution of Pakistan, which granted “reserve powers” to the President to dissolve the National Assembly.
e. Failure to disband Bhutto’s policy on nuclear weapons despite zia ul haq’s anti Bhutto sentiments.
f. Shariah Laws (Hudood, Zina, blasphemy laws etc.) hampering the freedom of women – spread of the fundamentalist ideology of Islam.
g. Promotion of pseudoscience by Muslim fundamentalists in Pakistani schools and universities. h. Ordinance XX of 1984: Classifying Ahmedi community into a minority in law, and murdering Shia Muslim personalities and politicians.
i. Introduction of the “Kalashankov” culture, Jihadist Islam and narcotics were the legacy of the “Fair Play”.
Perhaps, the greatest victim to his terror was the Bhutto family and the Pakistan Peoples Party. The “judicial murder” of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto persists to be the most sinister chapter in the narration of Pakistan. I might have personal wrath for zia ul haq, but it is history, which links his name with barbarism and despotism. :-
Commenting on General Zia regime’s repression the Economist said the army has been ruthless in its crackdown.
“Relatives, many of them teenagers, have in some cases been held temporarily as hostages until a wanted person was found. Bhutto’s Attorney General, Yahya Bakhtiar was beaten up in his cell in Quetta jail this month: his family was given his bloodstained clothes for cleaning.”
“The Chief Justice who heard the case was known to have a deep personal antipathy towards him. The Government controlled press poisoned the atmosphere in which the five justices considered the evidence with constant attacks on Mr. Bhutto’s character and record. Half of the case was heard in camera. The quality of the evidence was highly questionable. The prosecution witnesses were a shady bunch. But the task set for the five justices by the soldiers who have ruled Pakistan since last July’s coup was quite clear: Mr. Bhutto must be removed.”
The Economist [London] (25 March 1978)
The Tiger of the Third World and the greatest man in our living history was assassinated by this coward fox look alike. His wife and daughter, who came out to oppose this Martial Law government and the phony charges against Mr. Bhutto were flogged and imprisoned. Everyone who came out to dissent met a vile fate.
The Amnesty International, in a report released on 15 May 1978 expressed that, “We are very concerned at the use of flogging in Pakistan and are disturbed that this unusual punishment is also being inflicted on political prisoners for committing acts which often appear to be no more than exercise of the right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed in the constitution.
“As of September, more than 130 prisoners were serving sentences of between seven and 42 years after special military courts convicted them of political offenses or politically motivated criminal offenses. The military courts regularly use as evidence confessions extracted by torture while prisoners are hung upside down and beaten, given electric shocks, strapped to blocks of ice, deprived of food and sleep for two or three days and burned with cigarettes. Many prisoners are held in fetters and chains. People often are tried in courts held in closed session and denied the right of appeal to a higher court.”
The ICJ report cited reports by villagers who said their villages were raided and looted by soldiers sometimes accompanied by local police. “Some male villagers were shot to death and women beaten, in at least two cases pregnant women, who subsequently miscarried.” “Certainly, no defender of democracy or human rights is going to shed tears over General zia’s death,” wrote the reputed Paris daily Le Monde on August 18, 1988.
An estimated 20,000 political workers were hunted down and executed during the regime whereas thousands more fled around Western Europe, the Middle East and United States to seek asylums.
Such was the “triumphant” legacy of the Operation “Fair Play”.
“I give you the gift of my feelings. You will fight the fight better than me. Your speeches will be more eloquent than my speeches. Your commitment equally total. There will be more youth and vitality in your struggle. Your deeds ill be more
daring. I transmit to you the blessing to the most blessed mission. This is the only present I can give you on your birthdays.”
And this was the legacy of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – How superlative, how celebrated!
The PPP Government gave the country, which a military dictatorship could NOT. Never mind, after four decades too, the catchphrases of Jeyay Bhutto emerge as an undying phenomenon. The soil of Garhi Khuda Bux Bhutto is regarded as “sacred”, a soil filled with blood of the martyrs, which continues to exert a pull on the masses throughout the world. Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s legacy endures – his daughter Shaheed Benazir Bhutto too laid down her life, but repudiated to stoop in front of a dictator. Instead of being coerced, she gave her blood for the people of Pakistan, who were too dear to Mr. Bhutto. It is the same cause for which the PPP continues its fight for an egalitarian and liberal Pakistan under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari.
Jab Tak Souraj Chand Rehay Ga,
Bhutto Tera Naam Rehay Ga!
Salute to the Bhuttos! The people of Pakistan will never forget you!
Well, by the way, I keep interrogating, but never find a riposte to one question “Where are zia’s remains”? Perhaps, they do exist in the form of poverty, totalitarianism, prejudice and radicalism. We are at war with each of them.
Jeay Bhutto, Jeay Jeay Bhutto!
“You can kill a man, but not an idea”!