Remembering Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
by Major General (R) Naseerullah Babar - April 4, 2000
As the years roll-by, the human mind ruminates with past events - events that are either of personal interest or are of great national importance. These ruminations become even sharper on occasions like the birth and death anniversaries. On occasions like these the mind, acting as a Kaleidoscope churns out vignettes of the past and picks up suitable events to reflect upon. However, even this becomes difficult when the personality involved is a colossus like Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Having undertaken an exercise in this vein, I have picked up, after considerable sifting, three aspects of the late Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's life. These are:
a. A champion of national integration.
c. As a seer and visionary.
As A Champion of National Integration
In 1947, at the advent of Pakistan, the Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in his sagacity and prophetic vision withdrew the armed forces from the cantonments around the tribal areas as a gesture of good-will and a first measure towards integration of the tribal areas with the rest of the country. In the ensuing years the successive governments however decided to leave the tribal areas to their own devices and only minimal social projects were undertaken. In 1971-72 the total developmental budget for six agencies (equivalent of districts) was a paltry Rs. 4.4 million. Thus, for twenty five long years, the tribal areas, 10,500 square miles in extent and with a population of around 4 million were little more than a sociological curiosity. The tribal areas were considered as beyond the pale of Pakistan and these years were, but naturally, marked by the hum of that political bogey—Pakhtunistan.
After the traumatic events of 1971 and with the advent of the Bhutto Government, the tribal areas too, began to be considered as within the pale of social and developmental activity. For the first time Pakistan had been blessed with a head of state/ government who had a profound sense of history, was endowed with prophetic vision, was humane (reflected in the party manifesto of roti, kapra aur makan) and above all had a deep sense of geo-political compulsions. Resultantly, in 1972, he decided to embark upon a deliberate and massive developmental programme in the tribal areas. It can be gauged from the fact that developmental allocation had risen from a paltry 4.4 million in 1971-72 to a staggering 300 million by 1977—excluding allocations by autonomous bodies like WAPDA etc. What were till then considered the back waters of Pakistan began to gradually enter the social and economic mainstream—Mr. Bhutto, being only too aware that economic realities were the cornerstone of national integration and, in effect, the most important element of national integration.
Kakar Kharasan, in Zhob is an area of 3,500 square miles bordering on Afghanistan. The British had vacated this area as an administrative unit in 1919. The Pakistani administration as true successors, decided to forsake the area totally—so completely—that it was not only void of any governmental presence, but the people to settle their disputes made reference to Afghan officialdom. In April 1973 Bhutto brought the area under control of the government. In the early 90s the same area was to ring with names like Mullah Rocketty, who would kidnap the local administration officials for ransom till brought in chains by the government of the Daughter of the East!
Tribal Areas of NWFP
Mr. Bhutto being thoroughly steeped in the historical perspective had identified the fact (overlooked by all predecessors) that after the departure the British, Afghanistan was no more the traditional/ historic buffer—if at all, it was unidirectional in effect. With the political changes of April 1973 in Afghanistan (coup by Sardar Daud) Mr. Bhutto the macro-politician that he was, immediately sensed the "vacuum" of power that had resulted—there being no legitimate line of succession. He immediately identified the threat emanating from the fact that "vacuums" near a big power automatically get filled. It is inevitable and throughout history this has been the pattern of power politics—amply proved by events of April 1978 and December 1979. These visualisations coupled with the psycho-political residue of the 1971 trauma, necessitated emergent measures to fill these "vacuums" within our territory and, simultaneously, initiate action so as to establish and maintains option within Afghanistan. The measures adopted were: -
a. Forward Move
1. Central Waziristan (North & South Waziristan) the hunting ground of the erstwhile Faqir of Ipi and presently, Niaz Ali, his nephew. The Frontier Corps moved into the old and historic cantonment and posts and by end 1976, a Cadet College had been conceived at Razmak—something totally unthought of.
2. Mohmand Agency is the most heavily populated Agency with an area of 890 square miles and population of around 600,000. Since the Mohmands had no international highway nor did a road to an output of the empire run though their area, the British penetrated no deeper than the outer fringes of their land. The Mughals, Sikhs and the British had given them a wide berth —so much so that this was the only area left undemarcated (boundary pillars) when the Durand line was finalised. It would be pertinent to add that until 1973 the upper Mohmands by and large drew their allowances from the Afghans. The events of April 1973 spurred a rapid integration. Whereas there was no allocation of development fund, upto 1973—but between 1974 and 1977, it went up to 44 million.
3. Bajaur Agency was administrated until 1973 from Malakand (70 miles away). It must be remembered that it was through Nawa Pass that Alexander the Great, Babar and Nadir Shah had entered the Sub-Continent. Here again there was an unprecedented raise in development funds—from a few million to around 40 million in 1976-77.
b. Political Changes
Mr. Bhutto also foresaw that administrative changes must be preceded by political changes and that as a preliminary there must be some political awakening. He therefore dispensed with the format jirga when only select elders, under the tutelage of the political agent, made easy renderings and transformed these into public meetings at most remote and peripheral places. At these meetings there were no question of Khan or non-Khan, Malik or non-Malik, Mashar (elder) or Kashar (young).
History is replete with instances where one single decision transformed the entire course of history. In the tribal areas, it was this single and singular measure of public meetings, which transformed their course. Its impact was immediate and profound. By 1977, it was decided that adult franchise be introduced for the impending 1978 elections and elections were to be held to both, the National and Provincial Assemblies—as, in the ultimate, integration had to take place with the province. The Election Commission was directed to initiate necessary measures but, their, or a request from Sardar Daud, it was postponed for a year (1978). A half hearted effort was made in this direction in the1997 election.
c. Humanitarian Aspects of Mr. Bhutto
I will touch upon only two incidents which were salutary and reflected his inhere anguish when he confronted abject poverty.
i. Cadet College Razmak: At Razmak, the site of the Cadet College (a revolutionary measure in itself) Mr. Bhutto declared, the poor people in the Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan will be happy to see the tribal areas developed—as they all had one thing in common—abject poverty. It was here that he announced the historic measure of integrated education—viz 60 % seats for the tribals and 40% to the remaining provinces on a reciprocal basis. Today, the Cadet College Razmak is a fine institution and graduating students into all aspects of national life including the defence forces. The tribals have truly, established a place in national endeavour and that, too, through merit.
ii. Chitral: In the winter of 1976-77, Mr. Bhutto, accompanied by the Agha Khan visited Chitral. The sight that one met that cold, icy morning was one of absolute and abject poverty. There were the people in the thousands dressed in the barest of clothing and their feet tied in bandages as they could not afford shoes even in the blisteringly cold. During his address, when he saw this sight, he could not hold back his feelings and wept publicly and unashamedly and remarked, "God has not destined the poor to remain poor. It is man and society that is maintaining this stark difference." He immediately directed to construction of the Lowari Tunnel so as to ensure an all weather and year round communication. The task was assigned to the Frontier Works Organisation who made a beginning but the succeeding dictator abandoned the project—having no sympathy for the poor.
iii. As a Seer and Visionary: Mr. Bhutto was convinced by the events of April 1973 (SAUR Revolution) that a fresh invasion of the Sub-Continent had taken place. The traditional hordes were for the present, absent—there being no Greek, Mongul, Tatar, or Moghul armies on the march. Yet the events in Afghanistan, were a precursor, to its traditional use as a halting place—a brief respite before the final thrust into the Sub-Continent. Being aware of the fate of Samarkand, Bokhara etc. in the wake of Peter the Great's will, he deemed it appropriate to use Afghanistan as the first bulwark of defence. Staking an option in Afghanistan was therefore necessary.
iv. The Birth of Afghan Resistance: Resultantly, when elements in Afghanistan ie Hikmat Yar, Rabbani, Ahmed Shah Masood and others arrived in Peshawar in October 1973 and offered to organise a resistance movement in Afghanistan—they were taken under the wings. Training camps were established and military training began to be imparted. However, the training had to be limited to creating only a nucleons in each of the Afghan provinces. Essentially, being a political animal he did endeavour to use political means a King Zaire Shah was contacted in Rome and invited to lead the movement into Afghanistan and arrest the impending disaster. He vacillated and events overtook the endeavour. This continued until July 1977 and it was this effort that enabled the Afghans to meet to Russian invasion in December 1979. It would be pertinent to add that General Zia-ul-Haq lacking the vision of Mr. Bhutto, suspended this moderate assistance—financial and military and thus divided the single composite group into seven small groups with obvious results.
After July 1977, it was a free for all. The Americans began their support in May, 1979; the religious parties joined hands when the dollars began to flow; and Zia-ul-Haq used the it to prolong his regime. An endeavour conceived by a giant was reduced to nought by pygmies that followed.