It was the end of the 60’s and this part of the world was also witnessing a wave of socialism. It came with the fall of Ayub and the emergence of a new phenomenon in Pakistani politics: Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, an icon of resilience and a symbol of democracy facing dictatorship with supreme courage.
One student at the time who later became a close aide to SZAB and a minister in his government was my father Abdullah Baloch whose memoirs of his leader were shared below in honor of the 42nd anniversary of SZAB’s death which falls today.
My father relates that: “During the late 60’s, one name resonated everywhere: people used to talk about and discuss Bhutto everywhere – from living rooms to tea cafes to public forums. As a young child, I was fascinated by Bhutto’s charisma and during one summer day in 1967 I made up my mind and went to Clifton 70 where Mr. Khar received me and took me to Bhutto Sahib who was drinking tea in his living room. with Hafeez Pirzada, Hayat Mohammad Sherpao and Meraj Mohammad Khan.
“I introduced myself and expressed my desire to work for the party; he asked me to visit the party office and get to work. PPP’s first party office in Karachi is at SMCHS; the office was rented in the name of Mohammad Khan Ghangro because it was Yahya’s martial law, and no one wanted to give us rental space for the party office.
“SZAB has the perfect style when it comes to clothes. Even the ministers are given specific dress codes – white for daytime and black for night with different collar strips for president, prime minister, senator, minister, MNA and MPA, very similar to clothes in China; this was later replaced in the Zia regime by the Sherwani. SZAB is so charismatic that many party leaders, including myself, have followed their fashion sense.
“He is a great admirer of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and as minister of Auqaf he commissioned me to install the golden gate given to him by the Shah of Iran; As a sign of respect, he always paid his respects when he entered the dargah.
“The late 60’s was the pinnacle of socialism; The red book was the pride of every leftist at that time. During the Hala convention, the leftist party led by Meraj Khan was of the view that the party should not take part in the elections, but SZAB said, “Don’t give me an example from the red book; You have read them, but I have had dialogue with them. We cannot serve the people unless we take part in elections and come to power. “
“In 1970, he formed a parliamentary council for general elections and nominated me as a member. He emerged as Job’s challenger, so feudals of that era usually avoided meeting Bhutto to avoid Job’s anger. And believe me, those are tough days – when Job’s government is struggling in the face of the power of the rising leader, Bhutto. In 1972, when I was still an MPA, my house was burned down in the Karachi riots. SZAB calls me to 70 Clifton, comforts me and pats me on the shoulder I say this is a very small sacrifice for a party and a cause. This brought a smile to his face and he replied: “I expect the same from you”.
“SZAB is very encouraging. Seeing my passion, he appointed me to be in charge of the party secretariat. He used to encourage competition within his party for the best of all. A classic example of this is to keep extreme leftist Meraj and Hafeez, both separate, together in the Karachi chapter. He instilled trust and trust in youth by including young people like me in the cabinet because I was only 28 years old at the time; he also appointed me the general secretary of Karachi with Kamal Azfar as president, once again separated.
“In 1976, when there was a super flood, even though I was already MPA from Karachi I was appointed minister of flood management by SZAB. I tried my best and saved Sehwan and Dadu from being flooded with his guidance. Then he appreciated me for my efforts in his historic speech. He held a labor conference every year in which I used to participate as minister of labor in Sindh and saw first-hand that he always wanted to control the pulse of the proletarian class.
“One time I went to see SZAB at Karachi Airport. He asked me: ‘where are you going from here?’ I answered home, because I was not feeling well. He immediately took several tablets from his pocket and told me: ‘although I am not well but still traveling; now you too have to go back to work. ‘He worked tirelessly and inspired all of us.
“Every year that passes, April 4, reminds me how much her death cost this country. Shaheed Bhutto is my mentor and leader. I will always cherish the time spent with her, the lessons learned from her and the pearls of wisdom she shared with me. His words still echo in my ears. Such leaders were born over the centuries. “
The author is a columnist and social activist.