Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was undeniably a popular leader. His incredible charisma and aura rallied millions behind him, it didn’t hurt that the slogan was ‘roti, kapra aur makaan‘. However as history would have it, Bhutto was embroiled in political turmoil that led to his hanging on this very day, almost 40 years ago.
Source: History Pak
Here’s what happened and how Bhutto went down in history as a controversial figure yet a hero for many:
On the 3rd of September 1977, Bhutto was arrested on charges of the murder of his political opponent Muhammad Ahmed Khan Kasuri.
The Bhutto family fought back, even winning the first case leading to Zulfikar’s release by Justice Samdani who was later removed from his bench by the military government of the time. Bhutto was arrested on the same charges three days later under “martial law” and was sentenced to death on the 18th of March 1978.
In the days leading up to his death, Bhutto went through a very emotionally turbulent journey. Since Benazir Bhutto, herself the Prime Minister of Pakistan, later, was the only child of his in the country at the time, they both spent time a considerable amount of time together during his imprisonment. Of course their meetings were always kept short and were heavily monitored. In many interviews after her father’s hanging, Benazir described these meetings as intimate where they discussed matters of family and the party.
It is said that Bhutto was terribly heartbroken because of the people of Pakistan.
What may have disturbed and maybe disappointed Bhutto at the time was the lack of public dissent at his arrest and death sentence. Colonel Rafi, the security in-charge of Rawalpindi Jail at the time, has recounted stories of Bhutto always anticipating news of mass protests and riots. According to Colonel Rafi, Bhutto once exclaimed ‘Where are all the bastards who were willing to lay down their lives for me?’
Source: History Pak
However as time passed, Bhutto surrendered himself to the fact that his death was near and started to try and find peace with that.
Colonel Rafi, and others under his command, told of a Bhutto who was quite in his last days. He would write a lot but soon would realize no one would read his writings anymore and would burn the papers away.
The exact day and time that Bhutto was to be hanged was unknown to most people, everyone just knew it was close.
It was under these circumstances that Benazir along with Nusrat Bhutto, Bhutto’s wife, met Zulfikar for one last time during Zulfikar’s confinement. In later interviews, Benazir revealed that every time she met her father she took it as the last meeting.
Source: Express Tribune
It was midnight on April 4th 1979 when he was told about his fate. He requested time for himself to rest since he was unable to do so the night before. At 1:10 AM he awoke, took a shower, shaved and wore new clothes. Bhutto said “If I am to meet my Lord today, I want to do so while I am paak“.
His last words were “God help me, for I am innocent!”.
At 2:04 AM, on April 4 1979, the lever was pulled and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged.
Cover Image via: Dawn
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