“We shall fight a thousand years to liberate Kashmir and we shall eat grass, but we will make an atomic bomb,” uttered then-Foreign Minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a speech to the United Nations in 1965. A charismatic and popular leader who did not bow down to pressure even on death table, Bhutto took politics from drawing rooms to the common people, working towards empowering the people. He was a trailblazing icon; he was unique in bringing his followers to parliament. A master of dialogue, he bridged the gap between Pakistan and the western world, without compromising on even a shred of dignity. His efforts of maintaining friendly relations with China continues to bear fruits to this day.
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It is no doubt that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s achievements are remarkable, and the reforms he set out to accomplish were aplenty.
In 1972, Pakistan implemented land reforms that restricted individual holdings to 150 acres of irrigated and 300 acres of unirrigated land. The Federal Flood Commission was also established in order to prepare national flood protection plans, provide flood forecasting, and conduct research to harness floodwater.
Labour reforms were introduced in July 1972 and further elaborated on in August 1972. The Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) was created, becoming the only pension scheme in Asia at the time. Ten basic industries were immediately taken over by the government in an effort to protect the common man. An Economic Reforms Order was promulgated in January 1972 to remove the Boards of Directors and managing agencies of twenty large-scale industries. The National Credit Consultative Committee was formed and a Rs. 1,560 million bank credit plan was formulated for small loans for low-cost housing and agricultural production. Pakistani identity cards were introduced for the first time in 1973.
New education reforms were announced in 1972, providing free education up to the 10th class throughout the country. The Quaid-e-Azam University, Allama Iqbal Open University, and Gomal University were established. The 1972 Drug Act increased the availability of medicines to the common man by prohibiting the manufacture and import of any brand-name drugs. The English law was abolished and the judiciary was separated from the executive.
The Life Insurance Corporation was established in November 1972 with a paid up capital of Rs. 10 million. A rural development programme launched in July 1972 aimed to improve the socio-economic life for village-dwellers. A massive people’s works programme was launched, utilising the country’s vast manpower resources. The National Volunteer Development Programme, launched in May 1973, provided interim employment to unemployed scientists, engineers, and technicians with the goal of utilizing the ability and energy of over 20,000 young technocrats. Police Reforms were announced in 1972, providing better training facilities and better service conditions for police officers nationwide.
All service cadres and classes were abolished and administrative reforms were implemented during Bhutto’s tenure. Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Programme was initiated, despite limited financial resources and strong western opposition. An agreement was made with India to refrain from attacking Pakistan. The Islamic Summit Conference at Lahore, held from 22nd to 24th February 1974, was a tremendous success. China agreed to write off some of their earlier loans to Pakistan and provided Pakistan with 60 MiG-19 fighters and 100 T-54 and T-59 tanks as part of a new $300 million economic and military aid package.
The Bhutto-era Minister for Industries visited Moscow in December 1974 and secured a Soviet agreement to advance 4.5 billion rupees to help Pakistan build a steel mill near Karachi. The mill has provided employment to some 40,000 people and aided in the development of Port Qasim. Pakistan developed relationships of mutual respect with several Arab leaders, including Muammar Gaddafi, Yasser Arafat, and Sheikh Zayed.
The Pakistan Peoples Party was established in 1967 and won a majority in the 1970 elections. The government nationalized many industries and institutions, including banks, insurance companies, and the press. The government also established several new institutions, including the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and the Pakistan Steel Mills.
Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s contributions in such a short period have been recorded forever in the annals of history. Today, people remember him as the leader who lived for the poor. He continues to serve as a retrospective example for rulers to stand firm in their core principles and never abandon their foundational beliefs.