Was Bhutto the Catylist for the Creation of Bangladesh ?

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ZA Bhutto was a charismatic leader of Pakistan, but he had a major role in the breakup of Paksitan.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the ex-leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party is a man who ignites strong passions. Many people in Pakistan swear by his name. However many others assert that he was just a gas bag who did more harm than good for Pakistan. In this connection the role of Bhutto in the break up of Pakistan is worth examining.

Creation of Pakistan

Pakistan was carved out of India in 1947.The basis for the creation of Pakistan was the two nation theory that envisaged a separate homeland for the Moslems of the subcontinent. Pakistan emerged in two parts separated by 1500 miles of India. The two parts of Pakistan had nothing in common, except religion. The people had a different culture and spoke a different language. People in East Pakistan spoke Bengali, while in the west they spoke Urdu and Punjabi. Racially the East Pakistanis were comparatively dark-skinned and had a smaller body built than the West Pakistanis. In addition their culture was entirely different from the west. Generally they were considered inferior by the Punjabi’s. To compound matters, the resources of the eastern wing were diverted to the west. They also had much less representation in the army, police and other government jobs.

Most Pakistanis blame the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as the person who broke up Pakistan. However this is not entirely correct, though it cannot be denied that she exploited an opportunity to break up Pakistan. But the seeds of disintegration lay in Pakistan itself and ZA Bhutto will have to answer posterity for it. The important point is that the two nation theory of Jinnah and the Muslim league fell by the way side.

Victory of Sheikh Mujib

East Pakistan was the more heavily populated state in Pakistan. Thus after the removal of General Ayub Khan in 1968, it had a greater number of seats in the Pakistan parliament. Sheikh Mujibar Rehman the leader of the Awami party articulated the sentiments of Bengalis and they in one voice supported him. In the 1970 elections called by Gen Yahiya Khan, the successor of Ayub Khan, the Awami league got the majority in the Pakistan Parliament.

The Awami league won 99% of the parliamentary seats in the east and emerged with a majority and logically the Sheikh should have been invited to form the government. But ZA Bhutto whose party had won in the west was loathe to hand over power to the Bengali leader. Though he won 60% of the seats in the western wing he was in a minority and this played heavily on his psyche. He started a campaign against handing over power to the Awami party.

Bhutto and the Crackdown of the Army

This was a fatal mistake. The apologists for Bhutto have never been able to explain this stand of their leader, as it precipitated the break up of Pakistan. Egged on by Bhutto, the Martial law administrator Yahiya Khan did not honor the verdict of the electorate and cases were filed against Sheik Mujibar Rehman for sedition. He was arrested and flown to Pakistan and put on trial. In the meantime Yahiya with complete support from Bhutto ordered a crackdown in the east and the Pakistan army started a campaign against the local Bengali leadership. Indira Gandhi of course took advantage of the situation and helped form the Mukti Bahini a revolutionary group, which wanted independence from Pakistan.

This action of the Army and the stand of Bhutto, that he was the winner in West Pakistan and Mujibar a winner in the east added fuel to fire. Bhutto for personal ambition egged on the army and was responsible for the break up that took place. He was a brilliant man but with a convoluted logic. Born of a Hindu mother he seemed to harbor distinct megalomaniacal tendencies. This was the one single reason he did not allow power to be handed over to Sheikh Mujib. The rest is history as the Pakistan army was resoundingly beaten and the state of Bangladesh was created.

Last Word

Bhutto in turn did become the Prime Minister of Pakistan, but his own army chief (General Zia-Ul-Haq) deposed him and after a farcical trial had him hanged. Much as one sympathizes with Bhutto on his hanging, the fact remains that men who ride the tiger are eaten by the tiger at some stage.

References Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan, His life and Times by Stanley Wolpert (1993) Harper

Zulfikar Bhutto and break up of Pakistan


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