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War, Peace and Bhutto

By Dr Muhammad Reza Kazimi

Is Zulfikar Ali Bhutto dead, or is he alive? He is dead, because the death sentence passed on him has been judicially challenged. He is alive because he is ever present in our discourse. Pakistan has seen both popular and unpopular rulers, but Zulfikar Ali Bhutto enjoys the distinction that that even those politicians who had opposed him in his lifetime joined together to pay him tribute – years after he had passed into history. Two separate meetings were held on the 18th of September and the 5th of October 2004 in which the services of the late leader were extolled. Even earlier, on the 5th of July, 1989, the two surviving members of the three-member Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) team, NawabzadaNasrullah and Professor Ghafoor Ahmad, had stated on Pakistan Television that an agreement between the PNA and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had been finalized by the 5th of July, 1977 – and that the imposition of Martial Law had been unwarranted.


The movement for the ouster of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the P.P.P. Government had been called the Nizam-i-Mustafa (PBUH) Movement. The head of the PNA, the nine-party alliance, Air Marshal M. Asghar Khan, has himself recorded how he had to prevent an agreement between the two sides: “Before this press conference at about 21:30, Mufti Mahmud, NawabzadaNasrullah Khan and Prof.Ghafoor went to see Bhutto to convey to him the rejection by the PNA Council of his proposals. Prof.Ghafoor had to be pushed to go. He was refusing to go. He was refusing to go as he felt that our stand was a volte face from the commitment the team had already made.” [M. Asghar Khan, My Political Struggle, Karachi, Oxford University Press, 2008, p.107]

This revelation is not the climax. The climax came 30 years after Z.A.Bhutto’s execution. While receiving the Jinnah Awards, Asghar Khan had upbraided Liaquat Ali Khan for destroying Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s secular vision by his Objectives Resolution of 1949. He went on to say that “he did not like the Islamization of Pakistan”. [Dawn, April 26, 2009] Had Asghar Khan made his preference known in 1977 when he was addressing mammoth crowds, Pakistan would have been spared the destabilization from which it has never recovered. Let us have a glimpse of what Bhutto’s opponents said:

Professor Ghafoor (Jama’at-i-Islami) said that the most important achievements of Mr. Bhutto were the 1973 Constitution and the launching of the country’s nuclear program. “Mr. Bhutto involved the Opposition parties in the making of the Constitution despite the fact that he did not need the support of the Opposition…The whole nation is grateful and indebted to Bhutto for making this country a nuclear power.”

President Ayub under the blandishments of Sir Morrice James, the British High Commissioner, was evading the help of China, whilst Z. A. Bhutto was in favour of enlisting Chinese help

We regret having got ahead of the narrative, but this was needed to establish the validity of our submission. We can now go back to the 7th of October, 1958, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at the young age of 30 was sworn in as a member of the Martial Law Cabinet. Under President M. Ayub Khan he served first as Minister of Commerce, then of Power and Mineral Resources and finally in 1930 as Foreign Minister.

His first achievement in the domain of foreign affairs was negotiating a border agreement with the People’s Republic of China. After the terms had been settled, the Protocol was set to be signed on the 3rd of March 1963 by President Li Shaoqi and President M. Ayub Khan, but the latter backed down under pressure from U.S. President John F. Kennedy. It was then decided that the two Foreign Ministers, Marshal Chen Yi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, ought to sign instead. On the Chinese side the President and the Prime Minister Zhou Enlai were to be present.

Let Muhammad Yunus, then Secretary at Peking recount what happened:

Then it was Bhutto’s turn to speak. [He left a noticeable impression on the Chinese leaders. He was dissatisfied with the low tone of my draft.] He took it out of his pocket, and held it behind his back shaking it to and fro to taunt me. General Raza could see the act also. Bhutto was clearly defying the instructions of President Ayub. After the preliminaries, Bhutto launched into a warm-hearted speech, praising the revolutionary leaders of China and promising an expanding vista of co-operation between Pakistan and China to cover all fields of national activity – exactly the opposite of the caution of my draft. To increase its impact Bhutto’s speech was greeted by standing ovations by the 10,000-strong audience and left a noticeable impression on the Chinese leaders [Mohammad Yunus, Awakened China Shakes the World, Islamabad, The Institute of Policy Studies, 2015,99]

To our misfortune, such a cautious approach to China predominated during the 1965 war as well. President Ayub under the blandishments of Sir Morrice James, the British High Commissioner, was evading the help of China, whilst Z. A. Bhutto was in favor of enlisting Chinese help. He became the diplomatic face of the valour of the Armed Forces. It was while this war was raging that Bhutto reached the height of his popularity – but it was also with reference to this war that Bhutto first became an object of criticism. [Details in my monograph, The 1965 Indo-Pakistan War A Historical Appraisal, Karachi, SAMA, 2015]

The first accusation is that Bhutto deliberately set off the 1965 war. In the first place, the then Commander-in-Chief has said that the advice to retaliate in Kashmir did not originate with Z. A. Bhutto or Aziz Ahmad, the Foreign Secretary – it originated from Major-General Akhtar Husain Malik, G.O.C., Kashmir [Muhammad Musa, My Version, Lahore, 1983] In the second place, the earliest date given by Air Marshal Nur Khan for infiltration is the 6th of August, 1965 [Dawn, August 2, 2005] whereas the conflict as President Ayub mentioned in his September 6 speech, began on the 15th of May, when the Indians occupied Kargil.

The U.N. Secretary-General U. Thant forced India to vacate Kargil, which brought about a strident complaint from Mrs. Indira Gandhi, then Information Minister. General Musa, in his book, downplays the importance of Kargil. First he complains that the terrain was difficult and inaccessible; then he recounts:
Despite these limitations, Indian troops who had re-occupied a few of the hill features were driven back. They found the occupation of those heights even by a small force very irksome as they overlooked the road connecting Srinagar to Leh” [My Version, 44]

Bhutto had to enter into a confrontation with Alexei Kosygin, the Soviet premier – in order to have Ayub’s undertaking cancelled.

Now this lacks clarity. Who are “they”? The Indians or the Pakistanis? How could Pakistani troops find it irksome occupying a strategic spot which could cut off Srinagar from Leh? The fact is that General Musa never ordered reoccupation of Kargil after the Indians were made to vacate it, and he wants to pass his negligence on to the troops. That the Indians were driven off, but they could reoccupy Kargil on the 15th of August 1965 without resistance, is hard to believe.

The more serious allegation comes from AltafGauhar. Although he does not name anyone, his allusion is quite clear: “Why was the cypher message sent by the Pakistani High Commissioner in New Delhi on 4 September about the Indian plan to attack Lahore on 6 September suppressed? Who was responsible for withholding this vital piece of information?” [AltafGauhar, Ayub Khan Pakistan’s First Military Ruler, Lahore, Sang-i-Meel, 1993,359] Such is the power of innuendo:

When AltafGauhar had first made this allegation he had named Aziz Ahmed, in his Foreword to Asghar Khan’s The First Round, London, Islamic Information Services, 1979, Aziz Ahmed’s rejoinder:

I expressed surprise that such an important message had not been seen by me at all and looked towards the Foreign Office officials for an explanation. One of them explained that it was received two days after the Indian attack. It had therefore not been put up because by that time it had lost its significance. I did not consider that a satisfactory explanation and said an inquiry must be made to find out how that extremely important message had been delayed in the course of transmission from Delhi.” [Aziz Ahmed, “The First Round: rejoinder” Dawn, 22 June 1979 p.7]

Thus the message was not suppressed, it was delayed – or since General M. Musa was acting on the basis of the message on the evening of the 4th of September, it had been diverted to the Commander-in-Chief, thus bypassing the Foreign Secretary.

Nevertheless, it was not of such serious import because General Musa tells us that on the evening of the 4th of September, he had intelligence of the impending attack. He writes that on the 4th of September, he heard on All-India Radio that the Pakistan Army was advancing to Jammu from Sialkot. Since this was not true, he deduced that India would attack Lahore on the 6th of September [My Version, 47]

At another place, according to Mukhtar Butt, a retired military officer, he had heard All-India Radio say that the Pakistan Air Force was bombarding Amritsar. Since he knew that this was not true, he deduced that India would attack on the 6th of September. [Dawn, September 22, 2015] How these broadcasts could result in precise calculation, Musa does not say. If the Commander-in-Chief was himself free to listen to All-India Radio, his priorities seem to be puzzling. It is clear that he wants to evade the admission that he learnt of the attack from the cypher message. There is no other reason why Musa would give two versions of the same broadcast.

From the 1965 war we go to Tashkent and the peace talks. Since Bhutto’s popularity was based on his opposition to the Tashkent Declaration, it is alleged that there was no secret attached to the Tashkent Summit and Bhutto was merely playing to the gallery. Even AltafGauhar’s version is not supportive of this version. KuldipNayar has given the photographic image of Ayub’s handwriting over the typed draft renouncing the use of force. [KuldipNayar, Distant Neighbours, New Delhi, Vikas, 1972, 136]
That was the whole point. India and the Soviet Union wanted a renunciation of force so that the status quo was not altered. This was what Bhutto was resisting and for which he had to enter into a confrontation with Alexei Kosygin, the Soviet premier – in order to have Ayub’s undertaking cancelled.

How differences between Ayub and Bhutto developed at Tashkent has been related by AltafGauhar himself: “When Ayub was relating how Shastri kept saying that he was answerable to the people Bhutto interrupted him sharply ‘but you too are answerable to the people. You don’t have a heavenly mandate’” [Ayub Khan Pakistan’s First Military Ruler, 382]