THE WAY IT WAS: ZAB spoilt the servants —Mian Ijaz Ul Hassan

Once when I insisted that a ‘begum sahiba’ inform me what it actually was that Bhutto had done wrong, she thought I was being stupid but deigned to comply with a clouded brow: “Don’t you know? He spoiled the servants.” Of course, we have people artfully armed with more sophisticated answers touching on matters of national security, economy, law and order and political patronage

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto stepped out of the shadow of Ayub Khan like the sun after a long dark night, sending out rays that brightened the sombre brows of people across the country. He ushered in an era of rousing self-awareness and feelings that had not been experienced by the poor ever before. The anti-Ayub campaign was a spontaneous, multifaceted mass movement.

It is ironic that some leaders of the National Awami Party in West Pakistan then regarded the mass movement a CIA-inspired movement. They believed Ayub Khan to be a progressive leader because his government had established a strong bond with the People’s Republic of China. Maulana Bhashani, the NAP president — the Red Mullah who had once lead the peasant revolt in Sylhet, now in Bangladesh — seldom visited West Pakistan now because of the ideological split that led to formation of the pro-soviet NAP (Wali Khan) and bickering between the Lahore- and Karachi-based leaders of his party in here. I am certain that Bhashani did not endorse the views of the party leaders in Lahore. On his last visit to West Pakistan he did meet Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at the late Mian Iftikhar ud Din’s house at 21 Aikman Road. There was some talk about a possible merger of the parties but that did not happen. Even subsequently, NAP leaders in West Pakistan considered remaining aloof politically correct.

Soon Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had captured the so far leaderless anti-Ayub movement and totally isolated the NAP. The vast majority of NAP workers and supporters then abandoned the party. History is witness that political leaders who cannot keep pace with the times and fail to lead are overtaken by events and by-passed by the people. As a result of adopting a political thesis contrary to popular aspirations the NAP, that had been a major national party, was not merely left behind, it was simply shoved off the political stage. The party later split into splinters that have remained sterile on account of the arrogant ‘self esteem’ and political opportunism of their bosses. A striking feature of the ‘radical’ factions that have survived to this day has been their bitter hostility to the PPP.

Maulana Bhashani never visited West Pakistan ever again. He had better things to do in East Pakistan. Unfortunately because of the nationalist upsurge in East Pakistan against the martial law enforced by the generals, Bhashani and his party were marginalised even there.

Bhashani’s public meeting on the spacious front lawn of the Nedo’s Hotel — where the Avari Hotel is situated now — was the highlight of his visit. The main theme of his address was that the time was right and opportune for the people to gherao the wicked feudals and industrialists and capture the wealth they had appropriated from the hard labour of workers, peasants and honest citizens. Bhashani assured the assembly that the exploiters would not change. He narrated an anecdote about a person who had asked him how many buckets of water should be taken out to purify a well if a dog falls into it. He said he had replied, “The well cannot and will not be purified even if a million buckets are pulled out unless the dead dog is removed first.” The jagirdars and sarmayadars couldn’t be purified because their hearts were putrid with passion for wealth and profit.

Bhashani never had a moment to himself. Throughout his stay at the late Mian Iftikhar ud Din’s residence, visitors — ranging from CR Aslam, then president of West Pakistan NAP, to my friend Shehzada Alam — deluged him. I cannot resist recounting Mr Alam’s first meeting with him — I wonder if a second ever took place. I was already seated in the room with my dear friend late Sohail Iftikhar when Shezada Alam was quietly ushered in. Maulana Bhashani was seated on a sofa chair with his back to the door from where he had made the entry. After usual greetings Shehzada was introduced to the Maulana as one of the leading textile mill owners. Bhashani tuned aside and welcomed Shehzada with a beaming face and without the faintest note of sarcasm enquired of him, “Koi gherao kia?” Let me not describe the expression on Shehzada’s face but I noticed that after shifting his weight on his feet a few times he attempted the broadest grin. Sohail Iftikhar who always demonstrated an unusual sense of humour repaired to the corridor with great alacrity muffling his chuckles.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto held his meeting with Maulana Bhashani in the same room. He emerged less humoured, determined to change the course of national history. The landed and industrial aristocracy and the state functionaries have never forgiven him for that. Bhutto’s political agenda polarised Pakistani society. A judgement on whether that was good or bad depends on where one stands. I meet people who should have nothing to complain about in life. They live in elite sections of the city. Their houses have glistening marble floors, casually covered with Persian rugs, spotless teak dining tables, silk and leather upholstery, mirrored walls, bathrooms with gold fittings and gardens professionally designed by landscape architects. They drive around in 4x4s and have several slick vehicles in their spacious garages. Their children go to expensive schools and holiday abroad. When the name ‘Bhutto’ is ever mentioned, a terrible burning sensation surges up their liver. The rich and beautiful demeanour instantly pales as if a black cloud had darkened a sunny prospect. Once when I insisted that a begum sahiba inform me what it actually was that Bhutto had done wrong, she thought I was being stupid but deigned to comply with a clouded brow: “Don’t you know? He spoiled the servants.” Indeed he did, I thought to myself. She was a simple lady who had given me an honest answer. We have people — intellectuals and members of our civil and military bureaucracies — who are artfully armed with more sophisticated answers touching subjects ranging from matters of national security, economy, law and order, political patronage and what not. I will not enter into an argument with them here. They have well-rehearsed positions and will not forget or change their lines. The charming lady’s lament said it all.

In short, what Zulfikar Ali Bhutto did was not to be achieved in half a century. He inspired the people to change their destiny. He pleaded to his people that their kismet was not engraved on the palm of their hands but lay in their fist. The unity of the masses symbolised by their curled fingers would give them strength and power to carve out their future. I find no need to list Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s services to the country and the nation. Almost every one knows of them. There are others who will not under any circumstances acknowledge them. But even his enemies cannot deny that he unshackled the minds of our people, freed them from the bondage of culture and beliefs that held them enslaved to their exploiters. His enemies will not deny this claim because this is the principal charge — forget the FIR — for which he was parted from the people.

Prof Ijaz Ul Hassan is a painter, author and political activist