Zulfikar Ali Bhutto served as Minister of Commerce in 1958; Foreign Minister, 1963-6;President and then Prime Minister, 1971-7. He was born in Larkana, Sindh, in a wealthy landowning family, he graduated in law from California and Oxford Universities. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became well known for his strong criticism of India as a campaigner on behalf of the poor. He was recognized around the world as was keen to promote Pakistan International image. In 1967 Bhutto set up the People party of Pakistan (PPP). Zulfikar Ali Bhutto proposed policy of Islamic Socialism. After being removed from power by a military coup in 1977, he was found of conspiracy to murder a political opponent. In spite of a worldwide appeal for his life, and serious doubts about the prosecution case, he was executed as Rawalpindi Central jail. He is buried at his ancestral village, Garhi Khuda Baksh, near his family home, Al-Murtaza in Sindh. His daughter, Benazir, became Prime Minister in 1988. (

On 20 December 1971, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became the President and Chief Martial Law Administrator. Pakistan was a t very low ebb. the army had received a “shock” defeat in a war against India. East Pakistan had seceded and the country was still under martial law. The 1970 election, however, had given the Pakistan People’s Party [PPP] an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly. Bhutto now intended to use that majority to introduce radical measures to bring about changes in Pakistan. First he had to establish himself in power.


The policies of Pakistan People Party were demonstrated by their slogan, Islam is our faith, democracy is our polity; socialism is our economic creed; all power to the people. Bhutto described his programme as Islamic Socialism. In December 1971 Pakistan faced serious difficulties. The loss of East Pakistan created new economic problems, as nearly 80 % of the nation’s foreign exchange had come from jute and rice exports from East Pakistan. The cotton and textile industry in West Pakistan had depended on sales to East Pakistan. Roti, Kapra aur Makan (food, clothes and shelter.) had been Bhutto’s campaign call in the 1970 elections. He gained great support from millions of poor people in both the towns and the country. In many ways he tried to keep that support. Bhutto’s words: ” I belong to the people and love them. You have created me. My bond with you must always remain”.


Although he was not a military man, Bhutto was Chief Martial Law in a country under military rule. He was determined to limit the powers of the army so that it would not intervene to thwart his policies. Unless he did so, PPP would not have a free hand to make changes. Control was established by :

  • Removing the most army leaders (29 in Bhutto’s first four months in power). Amongst these were the head of the Air Force, Air Marshal Rahim Khan and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Gul Hassan.
  • Appointing his own leaders for example, General Tikka Khan was placed in charge of the army in a new post named, Chief of Army staff.
  • Setting up the Federal Security Force [ FSF] from October 1972, a government controlled military force was set up to Assist the police force.


It was vital to restore diplomatic relations with India, so that the prisoners’ of war captured by the Indians in East Pakistan could be returned. On 2 July 1972 Bhutto signed the Simla Agreement with the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. India agreed to return prisoners’ of war to Pakistan in return for a promise from Pakistan that the Kashmir problem would be discussed directly with India and in international forums, such as the United Nations. Importantly for Bhutto, he had not given up the claim that Pakistan spoke for Kashmir because it was rightly a part of Pakistan. What he had done, however was :

  • Reduced his dependence on the army by making further fighting with India less likely.
  • Improved his government’s international reputation, by being seen as willing to negotiate to maintain peace.
  • Increased his popularity in Pakistan by bringing home the prisoners’ of war.


Bhutto came to power under martial law and was determined to return Pakistan to Parliamentary democracy. In April 1972 martial law was lifted and a new Assembly was called, reflecting the voting in the 1970 elections, in which the PPP had gained an overwhelming majority. A committee was set up with representatives from different parties in the assembly to draw up a new constitution. The committee reported in April 1973 and its recommendations received almost unanimous support in the Assembly.

On 14 August 1973, the new constitution, which relied heavily on the principles of the 1956 constitution, became law. The most significant features of the new constitution were :

  • There would be two houses, Senate and the Assembly. The Assembly would be elected for a elected of 5 years and the members of the senate would be nominated in equal numbers from each of the four provinces.
  • The leader of the party with a majority in the Assembly would become Prime Minister and select a Cabinet.
  • The President became largely a figurehead, whose orders had to be signed by the Prime Minister.
  • Pakistan was an Islamic Republic and both the Prime and President had to be Muslims.
  • Pakistan was a federal state. each Province had its own Assembly, elected by universal adult suffrage, with the majority party forming the provincial government. The National Assembly could only change the political leadership in the provinces by amending the constitution, which required at least a 75 % majority in a vote.
  • All fundamental basic human rights were guaranteed.

As leader of the PPP, Bhutto became Prime Minister and Chaudhari Fazal Elahi was elected President.


Between 1971 and 1973 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto governed under Martial Law. He was the firs civilian martial law administrator. In 1973, with the introduction of a new constitution, Bhutto became Prime Minister.

  • Pakistan to be a Federal republic with a parliamentary system of government. The Prime minister, chosen by the majority party, to be head of the government.
  • Pakistan to be an Islamic Republic. Islam, as the the state Religion, to be emphasised and the Prime Minister and the President to be Muslims.
  • Fundamental human Rights to be guaranteed but subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law.
  • The supreme court and High courts to have the powers and responsibility to enforce fundamental rights.
  • The president to accept the binding advice of the Prime Minister and all orders of the President to be agreed by the Prime Minster.
  • The upper House, the senate, to be elected by the provincial governments and must not be dissolved.
  • In an emergency the Federal government to have authority to pass any law and even suspend fundamental freedoms.
  • Members of the armed forces to take an oath promising not to take part in any political activities.

One month after the constitution came into force, a law was passed which made anyone found guilty to destroy or damage the constitution punishable by death or a life prison sentence.


The 1973 Constitution revived the power of the National Assembly and as a result political parties became more important. The PPP was the biggest and most important party in the National Assembly and in the Sindh and Punjab Provincial Assemblies. In the Balouchistan and NWFP Provincial Assemblies did not have many seats because the National Awami Party [NAP] and Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Islam [JUI] parties were stronger there and, working together as a coalition, held the most seats. This gave the 2 parties enough strength together to try to force through changes that would maintain the autonomy of the Provincial Assemblies.

On 27 April 1972 the PPP and the NAP/JUI coalition signed an agreement. This stated that :

  • The National Assembly could not appoint provincial governors without the agreement of the Provincial Assembly concerned.
  • In return for their support for the PPP in the National Assembly, the NAP/JUI could have a free hand in their provinces. However the agreement came to an end just one year later when the central government dismissed the governors of Balouchistan and the NWFP. The Balouchistan government was dismissed and an uprising by Balochis ensued that took almost five years to suppress. After committing thousands of troops and large supplies of military equipment loaned by Iran, the Pakistan army was eventually successful. The uprising, however, had destroyed any ideas of provincial autonomy. It had also once again brought the army into politics at the very time when the new constitution was trying to re-establish parliamentary democracy. good government meant that several steps had to be taken which limited the benefits of the new constitution.
  • In April 1974 a constitutional amendment allowed the government to limit press freedom and ban any political parties it felt were a threat to the “sovereignty” and “Integrity” of the country.
  • In 1975 laws were passed allowing the security forces to detain suspects indefinitely and took away the right of bail for those held by FSF. This organization became increasingly active. On the orders of Bhutto, one of the founding members of the PPP, J.A Rahim was seriously beaten by the FSF. Any person thought to be a threat to the government might find himself a victim of FSF brutality.


Bhutto was now able to concentrate on putting into practice the promise of Food, Shelter and clothing; which he had promised his supporters in the campaign for the 1970 elections. There were basic needs, but for many people in Pakistan they were not being met. So the government had to make reforms that would raise production, create more jobs and provide a better welfare system. All these would require money and take time to be implemented properly.


Bhutto wanted to promote economic growth and bring inflation down from its unacceptably high level of 25 %. A major part of its economic policy was the introduction of a programme of nationalism. The sugar, cotton, vegetable oil and rice industries, together with the banking and insurance sectors were taken under government control. In all, 70 major industrial units were placed under the control of a Federal Ministry of Production. these changes were designed to help the government.

  • Control industrial output and channel investment into industrialization.
  • Raise the workers living and working standards, including the provision of cheap housing.
  • Allow the workers to set up unions.
  • Even out the inequalities that had collected most of the industrial wealth into a few hands.
  • Twenty industrial houses owned 80 % of Pakistan’s large-scale industry.
  • Raise the popularity of the PPP with he urban populace, which was an important sector of the party’s support.


  • Pakistan’s education system was not yet producing sufficiently educated workers to take managerial positions in the industries under the Federal Ministry of Production. capable factory owners were often replaced by civil servants with little understanding of commerce.
  • The Federal Ministry had a huge job to do, coordinating nationalization across the country. The system often got bogged down in bureaucratic muddle.
  • The changes took place at a time when the world was going through a recession. The newly nationalized industries faced a declining demand for their goods, in keeping with reduced demand across the world. Private companies would have been forced to close; Pakistan’s nationalized industries continued to operate.

Despite these problems, Bhutto’s industrial reforms did have some success and inflation fell to just 6 % in 1976. Economic growth also began to increase.


Bhutto’s government passed two major reforms, intending to introduce a new ceiling on ownership of land and security of tenancy.


Under Ayub, the ceiling on Land ownership had been 500 acres of irrigated land and 1000 acres of non-irrigated land. Bhutto believed that improved technology and better farming methods (such as the use of tractors, pesticides and tube well for irrigation) had raised production. So landowners could maintain their income on smaller, more productive, areas of land. He therefore cut the ceiling to 250 acres (irrigated) or 500 acres (unirrigated). The surplus land could be sold to smaller peasant farmers to make better profits. Land would also be available to allow many people to own their farms for the first time. Unfortunately, Bhutto’s reforms were undermined by the cunning of big landowners. Many of them had anticipated Bhutto’s reform (which they had actually feared would be much harsher) and transferred some of their landholding to members of the extended family. Others transferred some of their tenants and then leased it back on long-term leases. Even when such measures had not been carried out, they remained the power of personal influence or bribery to persuade officials to overlook transgressions to the new new law.


Bhutto wanted to give tenants security of tenure of the land they farmed. He introduced a measure giving tenants the first right to purchase of land farmed by them. This meant that landowners could not sell land to a third party who might then evict the tenants. Such a measure encouraged tenants to make improvements on their lands as they knew they would not be evicted. Once again, however, the landowners undermined the impact of the reform. In advance of to prevent them receiving security of tenure. Bhutto government also under-estimated the influence of the landowners in their community. If a landowner did not want to sell to a tenant, it was extremely difficult for the tenant to stand up to the landowner, to raise finance to buy land, and, if necessary, find the funds to fight a legal case. It was also true that many landowners used their social position to persuade revenue officers to record land as ” owner-cultivated when actually it was in the hands of tenants.


The government was concerned about education. Only about a half of all children were attending school and the official literacy rate was just 25 % .Article 37 of the 1973 constitution stated that it was the duty of the government to provide free and compulsory education. Bhutto introduced reforms to put this into effect. His government outlined eight ambitious goals.

  • To eradicate ignorance.
  • T provide education for all, including women, the mentally impaired all illiterate adults.
  • to ensure that the school curriculum meets Pakistan’s social, economic and political needs.
  • To ensure uniformity of education in each subject in every school and college of Pakistan.
  • To raise the self-confidence of the common man.
  • To raise aspirations for higher education among the youth.
  • To develop each person’s personality and potential.
  • To develop a Pakistan culture and identity and national pride.

The changes the government wanted to make were sweeping. they could not be implemented overnight and, in the first few years, were bound to face difficulties. The main problems were:

  • The administration needed to coordinate the reforms was not yet in place. Both the planning and the administration of the system were introduced with efficiency where there were sufficient administrations, but in other areas it had little impact.
  • Only 13 % of the government education budget was allocated to primary schools and so implementation was difficult.
  • Many people in rural areas did not see the need for education or literacy.
  • Even when education was free many poor people could not afford the loss of learning they faced if they sent a child to school instead of sending it out to work.
  • There was a drop in the standard of education in many of the selective schools that had been nationalized as they were unable to cater tot he increased number of students without additional trained staff.
  • Education takes time. It is not possible to change the curriculum, train teachers and provide the necessary equipment in a short time. Consequently even after five years the literacy rate had not risen by more than 1%.


Pakistan had poor health care facilities and it had one of the highest infant mortality rate in the world. life expectancy was also very slow. In August 1972 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto launched a health scheme, designed to correct these anomalies.

  • The central plank of the reforms was the introduction of Rural Health centres [RHCs] and Basic Health Units [ BHUs] in urban areas to provide more widespread healthcare. The plan was to set up 1 RHC for every 60,000 people and 1 BHU for every 20,000 people.
  • Training colleges for doctors and nurses were expected to admit students on merit. Once qualified, doctors had to work the first year wherever the government placed them. So that insisted of working only in big cities they could be assigned a post in any small town or village.
  • The sale of medicines under brand names was also banned. This practice, common in the West, allows drug companies to sell new medicines under patented name and stops other companies manufacturing the drug under its medical name. This measure reduced the cost of medicine dramatically. Medicines ere made available without prescription. they could be bought at any pharmacy.
  • The reforms did improve medical services in Pakistan, but there was always a shortage of doctors and nurses. (Pakistan had fewer of both in 1977 than in 1970). the removal of brand names from medicines also saw a fall in the income of chemist and many international drug companies closed down their operations in Pakistan, as they could not make a profit.


To administer his reforms, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto wanted a modern and efficient civil Service. He felt that the civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) was corrupt, inefficient and full of unnecessary rules and regulation. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto organized the civil service into a small number of levels and unified pay scales. This remove some of the old, unnecessary distinctions between types of civil Servant. He also reformed entry requirements so that people could join at any level, even the more senior ones, without having to work their way up. He said that this would enable CSP to recruit high quality staff, but opponents complained that all he was doing was setting up a system of patronage where he could reward his followers with posts in the civil Service.


In February 1974 Bhutto organized a meeting of 35 Muslim countries and the head of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Lahore. The summit organized the PLO leader Yasir Arafat as the genuine voice of the Palestine people and pledged support for their struggle. In turn this led to the Oslo Peace talks and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. Bringing together so many Muslim Leaders was quite an achievement. The meeting projected Pakistan as a leading Muslim nation.


The kings, heads of state and government and the representative of the Islamic countries and organizations proclaimed:

  • Their conviction that their common faith is an indissoluble bond between their people, that the solidarity of the Islamic peoples is based, not on hostility towards any other human communities nor on distinctions of race and culture, but on the positive and eternal precepts of equality and dignity of ,an, freedom from discrimination and exploitation, and struggle against oppression and injustice;
  • Their identification with the joint struggle of Asia, Africa and Latin America for Social and economic progress and prosperity of all nations of the world;
  • Their desire that their endeavours in promoting world peace based on freedom and social justice will be imbued with the spirit of amicability and cooperation with other faith, in accordance with the tenets of Islam.


In 1977 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto called a general election. He was confident that his government’s record and the lack of effective opposition would result in an easy PPP victory. However, once the election was called, nine of the various opposition parties combined to form the Pakistan National Alliance [PAN]. There were two issues which united the opposition in the election campaign. They all wanted to end the rule of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the PPP and they were united in their desire to rule Pakistan according to Islamic law. The PNA began to attract big audiences at its election rallies and was clearly gaining support. The government introduced a law limiting public gatherings to just five people. This was to stop public demonstrations of support for the PNA and to ensure law and order during the election. the results of the election showed a landslide victory for the PPP. Of the 200 seats contested it won 154, against the PNA’s 38. There was an immediate outcry of protest from the PNA, which accused the government of rigging the results and demanded new elections. However, there is little doubt that the election result was correct in showing that the majority of people in Pakistan supported the PPP. There is little doubt that the government did interfere with the vote, and on one occasion the results for one constituency were announced on television before the count had even started. Some historians believe such vote rigging was a serious error because the PPP was likely to have won the election without it.


Zulfikar Ali Bhutto refused to agree fresh elections and the PNA organized mass protest against the government. Soon there was rioting in many towns and cities and the Federal Security Force could not stop the unrest. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was forced to negotiate with the PNA. He offered fresh elections in some of the disputed constituencies and to appease the religious factions, banned gambling, restricted the scale of alcohol and declared Friday to the weekly holiday.

However, at the same time he turned tot he army of help. On 19 April he declared a state of emergency, placing Pakistan under martial law. The PNA leadership were arrested and by the beginning of June, some 10,000 of their supporters were in prison.

Bringing the army into politics is a dangerous game, as game Zulfikar Ali Bhutto found to his cost. The army leaders saw the concessions Bhutto was making as a sign of weakness which would lead to even greater unrest. Consequently on 5 July the army staged a coup, named “Operation Fairplay”. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and all other major political leaders were arrested that night. Two days later, the Chief of Army Staff, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, announced the suspending of the constitution and the dissolution of all national and provincial assemblies. Once more the army was in control in Pakistan.


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