From Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to My Kaptaan
By Dr Arif Alvi
The crowd was pulsating as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) continued to
talk about Afro-Asian solidarity. Some of us raised anti-Ayub slogans.
ZAB stopped us and said ‘abhi naheen’. He was into the third
hour of his first public speech after ditching his mentor and the venue
was Government College Lahore. The 60s were an era of healthy debate
between the left and the right. My mother insisted that I stop reading
comics and novels and she thrust upon a young mind The dialogues of Plato.
I graduated to Maududi, Marx and Engels to understand socialism,
religion and the exploitation of man by laissez faire capitalism. Iqbal
fired up a passion and pride, and Bhutto’s book The Myth of Independence
gave me a nationalist perspective, though I disagreed with his
political philosophy. People dislodged Ayub Khan and yours truly still
carries a couple of bullets in his right arm as a memento of a people’s
struggle gone awry, somewhat like Egypt of today with no real change.
Our lot since then has gotten from worse to worst and beyond.
Forty years later I am travelling with Imran Khan from Lahore to Faisalabad for a PTI jalsa. His recent upsurge started from the Peshawar dharna.
Karachi was the watershed where people of all ethnicities joined in to
make a statement that there is a breath of fresh air in this miserable
political arena. Multan was a notch higher and we reached there in time
from Lahore despite many receptions on the way.
We started at 2:30 pm, planning to reach the Dhobi Ghat ground in
Faisalabad at 6 pm. But it was not to be despite Imran Khans urgings, as
the crowd in every village on the way had come on the roads to welcome
him. There was a sea of passionate people every mile of the road we
An old man almost got trampled making it to his side of the car and
with tears in his eyes exhorted Imran Khan to “save Pakistan”. Women
pushed through the crowd of men, shouted greetings, and those who could
not reach the car would give the traditional blessing from a distance.
Huge crowds would not allow us to move despite our portable speaker
announcements that tens of thousands were waiting for us in Faisalabad.
Khan blamed me for the lack of organisation and discipline in the
welcoming crowds. But it was evident that the paradigm shift and tsunami
which he had been predicting had arrived. It was incredible to see the
rising passion of the people which gives a leader strength, but also
puts on his shoulders a great burden of responsibility.
For me, this was déjà vu’ plus, from the Bhutto era. I welcomed
Asghar Khan in Karachi in ’67. Then I followed Bhutto, though I
disagreed with his pseudo leftist philosophy. I never forgave him his
role in the breakaway of East Pakistan, but I imbibed the hope of his
‘we-will-make-a-new-Pakistan’ speech after the debacle. I admired him
for his brilliant link to the people and the dignity which he gave to
the common man. What has been done to his legacy is nothing short of
Mubashir Hasan and others like Rafi Raza have dissected Bhutto’s
contradictions in their books and have concluded that he had two
personalities which struggled within him, that of a wadera and that of an awami
leader. He loved the latter but frequently succumbed to the compromises
of the former. Khan has no schism. What you see is what you get. Let me
sound the bugle that the tides have turned and for those who have seen
or read about the Bhutto ‘sailab’, this is an emerging ‘tsunami’, as the people have found a leader they can trust and who will deliver.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.
Dr Arif Alvi