Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto


Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a Pakistani politician who served as the President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973 and as Prime Minister from 1973 to 1977. He was the founder of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), largest and most influential political party of Pakistan. Bhutto was executed in 1979 following a controversial trial in which he was convicted of authorizing the murder of a political opponent. His daughter Benazir Bhutto afterwards became leader of the PPP, serving twice as Prime Minister of Pakistan before her assassination on 27 December 2007.


  • Pakistan was once called the most allied ally of the United States. We are now the most non-allied.
    • As quoted in The New York Times (6 July 1973)

  • They are going to kill me. It doesn't matter what evidence you or anyone comes up with. They are going to murder me for murder I didn't commit.
    • Speaking to a his daughter Benazir Bhutto, as quoted in her book Daughter of the East (1989)

  • I did not kill that man. My God is aware of it. I am big enough to admit if I had done it, that admission would have been less of an ordeal and humiliation than this barbarous trial which no self respecting man can endure. I am a Muslim. A Muslim's fate is in the hands of God Almighty I can face Him with a clear conscience and tell Him that I rebuilt His Islamic State of Pakistan from ashes into a respectable Nation. I am entirely at peace with my conscience in this black whole of Kot Lakhpat. I am not afraid of death. You have seen what fires I have passed through.

  • If the people wanted my head I would bow without demur. If I had lost the confidence or respect of the people I would not want to live. The tragedy of the drama is that the very opposite is true.
    • Letter to his attorney, Yahya Bakhtiar, after his death sentence, as quoted in My Dearest Daughter : A letter from the Death Cell (2007)

Letter to his daughter (1978)

Quotes from a letter to his daughter, Benazir Bhutto (21 June 1978), as published in My Dearest Daughter : A letter from the Death Cell (2007)

  • If things do not change, there will be nothing left to change. Either power must pass to the people or everything will perish.
    • p. 14

  • Your grand-father taught me the politics of pride, your grandmother taught me the politics of poverty. I am beholden to both for the fine synthesis. To you, my darling daughter, I give only one message. It is the message of the morrow, the message of history. Believe only in the people, work only for their emancipation and equality. The paradise of God lies under the feet of your mother. The paradise of politics lies under the feet of the people.
    • p. 14

  • You cannot be big unless you are prepared to kiss the ground. You cannot defend the soil unless you know the smell of that soil. I know the smell of our soil. I know the rhythm of our rivers. I know the beat of our drums. The theories, the dogmas and the scripts stand outside the gates of history. The dominant factor is the aspiration of the people and the ability to seek total identification with it. Once the significance of the symphony is grasped, the lines fall into place, the dogmas and theories get legs to move in time to the majesty of that music. This does not mean that I am preaching pragmatism. There is a lot of expediency in pragmatism. I am trying to trace the roots of the problems, the genesis of the challenges, the cause of the struggle.
    • p. 15

  • What gift can I give you from this cell out of which my hand cannot pass? I give you the hand of the people. What celebration can I hold for you? I give you the celebration of a celebrated memory and a celebrated name. You are the heir to and inheritor of the most ancient civilization. Please make your full contribution to making this ancient civilization the most progressive and the most powerful. By progressive and powerful I do not mean the most dreaded. A dreaded society is not a civilized society. The most progressive and powerful society in the civilized sense, is a society which has recognized its ethos, and come to terms with the past and the present, with religion and science, with modernism and mysticism, with materialism and spirituality; a society free of tension, a society rich in culture. Such a society cannot come with hocus-pocus formulas and with fraud. It has to flow from the depth of a divine search. In other words, a classless society has to emerge but not necessarily a Marxist society. The Marxist society has created its own class structure.
    • p. 15

  • The favourite slogan, the one that caught on during the May 1968 fête in France was "it is forbidden to forbid". There is nothing to forbid the youth of Europe to reject both communism and capitalism. What will they build in the absence of both systems? Will their concept of building a new structure with a new philosophy mean willful self-destruction? This sounds insane but the youth of Europe is not insane.
    • p. 20

  • We badly need to gather our thoughts and clear our minds. We need a political ceasefire without conceding ideological territory. We need a ceasefire to bury dead thoughts and to overcome fatigue. The modus vivendi has to be honourable and above board. Both sides have lost or, should I say, neither side can win. During the ceasefire a combination of existing forces might create a new order or a new equation between existing forces. Whatever the formula, it cannot be evolved on the battlefield of the old or new cold wars. The new international order has to emerge through the demands of a Third World summit conference. The answer to the North-South conflict, which is more serious than the East-West conflict, has to be found honestly and with unimpeachable integrity. Genuine disarmament will not come on its own or by platitudes at special sessions of the United Nations on disarmament, although, I was among the first to propose such a conference eighteen years ago.
    • p. 28

  • This is not a letter on Pakistan. If it were, I could have written a small book entitled "Glimpses of Pakistan's history". Time does not permit it. The nation is gripped in her worst crisis, standing in the middle of the road between survival and disintegration. Since the birth of Pakistan, crisis has followed crisis in rapid escalation. Millions of lives were sacrificed to create this country. Pakistan is said to be the dream of Mohammad Iqbal and the creation of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam. Was anything wrong with the dream or with the one who made the dream come true? Opinions have differed and continue to differ. The next few years will most probably decide the issue, perhaps once and for all, and not without bloodshed. This process is not inevitable but the present policies of the ruling junta are driving this country towards a sad inevitability
    • p. 37

  • Tin-pot dictators have ravaged Asia, Latin America and Africa. In the aftermath, they have done more to promote communism than the works of Marx and Engels, Lenin and Mao. They are the worst tyrants of the post-colonial period. They have destroyed time-honoured institutions and treated their people like animals. They have caused internal divisions and external confusion. The dictator is the one animal who needs to be caged. He betrays his profession and his constitution. He betrays the people and destroys human values. He destroys culture. He binds the youth. He makes the structure collapse. He rules by fluke and freak. He is the scourge and the ogre. He is a leper. Anyone who touches him also becomes a leper. He is the upstart who is devoid of ideals and ideology. Not a single one of them has made a moment's contribution to history.
    • p. 63

  • A military junta is the herald communism. The failure to realize this axiomatic fact is the cause of the confusion in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Military rule turns the people totally and irrevocably against the bemedalled generals and their patrons. Where else can the people turn? If freedom, democracy and the rights of man are to be put on the counter to see whether copper and coffee is to cost ten cents more or ten cents less and bargained away with so little consideration, then freedom is a very cheap commodity and the rights of man are not worth a nickel.
    • p. 68

  • in Western estimation it is preferable to be a communist leader of a communist state, than to be a non-communist leader of a non-communist state having friendly relations with communist states. The anomaly does not cease here. It is even more dangerous to be pro-West. One disagreement in defence of a national cause, and out goes that civilian leader by a coup d'etat. He gets replaced by a tin-pot military dictator who would not dare to disagree about anything, including the vital national interests of his country.
    • p. 69

  • For Christians, the teaching and directives of Christ are more Sacred than those of a Messenger of God. According to the Christians, those teaching and directives are of God Himself. Most of the problems of the Third World would be solved if the Christian West implemented in letter and spirit only one directive of Jesus Christ. The directive to "Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar and to God that which belongs to God". The Third World only want what belongs to it and nothing more. For over two hundred years, the Christian civilization of the West has been mercilessly violating this directive of Jesus Christ. The West has been taking everything belonging to Ceasar and everything belonging to God. The West is not dividing the share equitably. It is not rendering to us what belongs to us. This division relates to the economic, social, racial and political rights of the Third World.
    • p. 72

  • I am guiding you to seek truth from the facts of the historical conditions of our society and to identify the problems. The correct solutions will come with the correct identification of the problems.
    • p. 78

  • Earlier, I have cautioned you against an outright pragmatist approach. Now I am cautioning you against an outright populist approach. Sometimes a populist decision is, in the long run, not beneficial to the masses. Neither pragmatism nor populism are fundamental political and socio-economic doctrines. Nor do I say that you should play it by ear. I have made this melancholy analysis in anguish. My jail surroundings have not influenced my objectivity. I do not want to see the whole world in a death-cell merely because I am in a death cell. I do not say that the High Court has pronounced a death sentence on the world because a law court has pronounced a perverse death sentence on me. I would be the happiest man if the gloomy winter of mankind were to give way to a shaft of sunlight and to coloured flowers. The world is very beautiful. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever". There is the beauty of the landscape, of the tall mountain, the green plains, the humped deserts. There is the beauty of the flowers and the forests, of the azure oceans and the meandering rivers. There is the splendour of architecture, the magnificence of music, and the sparkle of the dance. Above all, there is the beauty of man and woman, the most perfect creations of God.
    • p. 78 - 79

  • I am partial to the pantheism of Shelley. There is beauty everywhere. Even in a total war of annihiliation it will not be possible to wipe out all of it. Beauty is too beautiful to perish altogether. In this period of twelve months in solitary confinement I have rarely recalled an unpleasant or ugly glimpse of the past.
    • p. 79

  • Life is a love affair. There is a romance with every beauty of nature. I have no hesitation in saving that my most passionate love affair, my most thrilling romance has been with the people. There is an indissoluble marriage between politics and the people. That is why "Man is a political animal" and the state a political theatre. I have been on this stage of the masters for over twenty tumultuous years. I believe I still have a role to play. I believe the people still want me on this stage, but if I have to bow out, 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.
    • pp 79 - 80

  • It would be bad politics to try and summarize a situation which is dynamic. Have faith in mankind and its mission. God the Creator is the God of all mankind. God is omnipotent yet. The Creator of this World and the World after this one has imposed on Himself the obligation to be kind and forgiving. No tin-pot dictator of a palm-tree society is capable of imposing any such obligations on himself. On the contrary, he vainly boasts that he is answerable and accountable to nobody.
    • p. 80

  • Africa will rid herself of the maniacs. Africa will live to show that "Black is beautiful". Africa is ancient but Asia is ageless. Her nimble and graceful beauty has adorned civilization from the birth of mankind. Latin America has become the castanet of an international culture that links Andalusia to Arabia and the Caribbean. What beauty there is in the tap of her flamenco! Europe is glamorous and adorable, so seductive that she is still beautiful after a number of face lifts. America has been watergated. In that flow of stagnant waters you can behold beauty in its reflection. In etherial terms the whole world is beautiful. In physical terms I have rarely seen more scenic beauty than in California or in Texas. What pains me is to see how the blind power of that most powerful society is turning that beauty into something as sinister as the portrait of Dorian Grey.
    • p. 80

  • Religion is a link between God and man and man and man. Political ideology is a link between man and man. For this reason the great religions of the world like Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the last of all religions, have outlived and outlasted political ideologies. If an unlearned adventurer in his quest for political power and perpetuation brings religion down from its celestial plane to a mundane level by converting it into a narrow political ideology, the adventurer endangers the link between God and man and man and man.
    • p. 80

  • What I write is full of infirmities. I have been in solitary confinement for twelve months and in a death cell for three months, deprived of all facilities. I have written much of this by resting the paper on my thigh in unbearable heat. I have no reference material or library, I have rarely seen the blue sky. The quotations are from the few books I was permitted to read and from the journals and newspapers you and your mother bring once a week during your visits to my suffocating cell. I am not making excuses for my deficiencies but it is very difficult to rely on a fading memory in such physical and mental conditions.
    I am fifty years old and you are exactly half my age. By the time you reach my age, you must accomplish twice as much as I have achieved for the people.
    • p. 82

Quotes about Bhutto

  • 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)

  • He was the only one who appealed for clemency for his life.
    • Latif Afridi, president of the Peshawar Bar Association, and a member of the Awami National Party, speaking about Baloch leader Ghous Bux Buzenjo in an interview with NEWSLINE. After his trial, but there were many such appeals by international leaders.

  • He was a human being and also had his weaknesses as all human beings have, but he was an exceptionally brilliant politician and a very courageous man. Above all, he was an ardent patriot who loved his country, lived for it and died for it as a martyr. When the defeated military junta handed over the country to him after its dismemberment in 1971, he devoted all his energies with the single-minded purpose of re-building what was left of Pakistan.
    • Yahya Bakhtiar, his attorney at his trial on charges of authorizing a murder.

  • This is not a parliamentary government, but a Prime Minister's dictatorship.
    • Mahmud Ali Kasuri, former PPP Law Minister who resigned, speaking in reference to the 1973 constitution's draft

  • I had come from Kabul only after I was assured that there was democracy in the country ... but what I saw here was the worst ever dictatorship, it was virtually a one man rule.

  • Mr.Bhutto always accused his political opponents of the very actions which he intends to perform himself.

  • There is one possible grave for two people ... let us see who gets in first.

  • Ali Bhutto was a great man ... but he could be cruel.
    • Mairaj Muhammad Khan, Ex PPP Minister of Manpower and Labour under Bhutto, sacked by him, and tortured by the FSF, as quoted in Waiting for Allah by Christina Lamb.

  • I found him brilliant, charming, of global stature in his perceptions ... he did not suffer fools gladly. Since he had many to contend with with, this provided him with more than his ordinary share of enemies.

  • You bloody flunkies can wait as long as you like for the Maharaja of Larkana, I'm going home!
    • J. A Rahim, former Secratary General and Federal Minister of the PPP ... shouted in disgust at a dinner being hosted by Bhutto . Later that night he was beaten by FSF commando's and sent into exile)

  • He said "either I'll die or I'll be killed" ... he was obsessed with it ... At times he used to say, "I feel like giving up everything and going away" ... he was man of intuition, but he always talked about death.
    • Husna Sheikh, Bhutto's mistress and some say his third wife, as quoted in Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan: His Life and Times (1993) by Stanley Wolpert

  • What is a constitution? It is a booklet with twelve or ten pages. I can tear them away and say that tomorrow we shall live under a different system. Today, the people will folow wherever I lead. All the politicians including the once mighty Mr. Bhutto will follow me with tails wagging.

  • I hate anybody projecting as a leader ... if you want to serve the Islamic Ummah and Humanity, do it as a humble person. Amongst Muslims we are all Muslim brothers ... not leaders.

  • It is either his neck or mine! ... I have not convicted him, and if they hold him guilty, my God, I am not going to let him off!

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