Much has been written about Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as a statesman, as a politician, as a leader of the masses, and as a proponent of the Third World causes but not much writings focus on Bhutto as a writer.
In the course of his political career he skilfully employed the power of the word, both written and spoken, to mesmerise a generation. A compilation of his written words and an analysis of it will certainly be a useful addition to our national history.
Bhutto's writings can be classified under three heads: the minutes that he recorded on office files and periodic instructions issued under his signatures; his speeches, statements and interviews; the long treatises that he wrote on national and international issues.
His publications include: If I am Assassinated, The Myth of Independence, The Great Tragedy, and My Dearest Daughter, which he wrote to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto from the death cell. These are in addition to several volumes containing his speeches, statements and interviews.
A feature that distinguishes Bhutto's writings from that of other rulers is that he wrote himself and not through ghost writers. This can be claimed neither in the case of Ayub's Friends, Not Master nor Musharraf's In the Line of Fire.
Bhutto's written words are studded with dramatic and musical expressions. At many places he uses words that are piercing and strike a sympathetic cord with and inspire a reader.
He wrote with a passion and conviction that is moving. The treatise that he wrote from his death cell is a most striking example of his courage of conviction, "Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is not made of wood that burns easily."
His words were piercing and transcended all barriers. "How does a condemned prisoner write a letter of birthday greetings to a beautiful and brilliant daughter being in bondage herself. How would the message of affection and sympathy pass from one prison to the other, from one chain to the other," he began his letter to his daughter from the jail, words that transcended the barriers.
His writings contain a constant refrain against the interference of the military in politics. In 1976, in The Third World--New Directions, he said, "The events of the last 20 years have made me arrive at the unambiguous conclusion that the greatest threat to the unity and progress of the Third World is from coup hegemony." Again, "If coups become a permanent part of the political infrastructure it means the falling the last petal of the last withered rose." There are reasons to take the warning seriously.
"One antidote to the cancer of coup hegemony is the backing of the people," he wrote. That is why plotters and coup makers have been trying not to let leaders with popular backing emerge.
He was a strong advocate of the Third World. "The new international order has to emerge through the demands of a Third World conference. The answer to the North-South Conflict, which is more serious that the East-West conflict, has to be found honestly and with unimpeachable integrity," He declared.
"The western attitude needs be changed towards Africa. The pride and the sensitivity of the 'ugly black man' has to be understood. The diplomacy of lip service will not do. The plunder of Africa with both hands must stop. It is not enough of a concession to sit next to an African in an omnibus."
Former IB chief Rao Rashid recalled before the Supreme Court a conversation he had with a trusted member of the Zia junta, a brigadier, which showed that the writer who proposed an "antidote to coup hegemony" would not be tolerated.
Question: Do you think that we can afford to see Mr. Bhutto back in power?
Rao Rashid keeps a discreet silence.
The questioner then answers his own question and says, "Obviously not."
Before departing, Rao Rashid was advised; "Please cooperate with …"