Mumtaz Bhutto: Oxford, Feudalism and Pakistani Politics
by Aajiz Jamali
Translated by Shahnilla Fayaz
The 70s were a decisive decade in Pakistan’s politics, literature, TV drama, revolutionary movements, parliament and also in context of global background. For the last half century our society as a whole has been rounding the seventies, probably till today.
In the 70’s, a PTV’s Sindhi play was became very famous, in today terminology became viral. The play was later televised in Urdu with title as “Chhoti see Dunya” (Small World). The playwright late Abdul Qadir Junejo lively dialogues mixed in Sindhi, Urdu and English words that the ” Small World ” became well-known all over the world,
Raees Murad Ali Khan’s Chhotti see dunya
The play was also translated into English and German. The axis of the Small World was something like this: “The beacon of the feudal family of Sindh (Raees Murad Ali Khan) goes to England to get education. Raees Murad Ali Khan’s dialogue “London Sweet London” and “Oh My God” were on lips of every child and adult. Raees Murad Ali Khan reaches the villages and tries hard to eradicate ignorance, but eventually gets tired and becomes part of the same system.
Bhutto dynasty and politics
The history of the Bhutto dynasty in Sindh is a story, but the Bhutto dynasty played a vital role in Pakistani politics since the 1960s that there are still only two facets of politics in Sindh, one is Bhutto politics and the other is anti-Bhutto politics.
Two sons of Ghulam Murtaza Khan Bhutto namely Shah Nawaz Bhutto and Nabi Bakhsh Khan Bhutto – played important political roles in the British Raj. Ghulam Murtaza was grandfather of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Mumtaz Bhutto. Then the descendants of these two brothers are still active in Pakistani politics.
Two cousins with opposite personality traits
Two cousins Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Mumtaz Ali Bhutto were close friends within the family. Mumtaz Bhutto used to call Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto as his elder brother and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto used to call him a talented cousin.
But these two were very different from each other in personal life and in politics. Rather, they were opposite to each other. Yes, of course, both of them had British degrees and were highly educated. Mumtaz Bhutto also graduated from Oxford University after doing Bar at Law.
Britain returned but still with feudal mind
When Mumtaz Bhutto returned from Britain, his greatest hobby was ranging from hunting in the Bhutto estate to raising a variety of animals. In addition to having race-winning horses and pig-hunting dogs, he kept literature books from around the world in his personal library. Mumtaz Bhutto was an educated feudal. He used to go to Europe for holidays, but in addition he also befriended the local Waderas and Sardars, as well as dacoits.
How Mumtaz entered politics?
Mumtaz Bhutto was elected member of the National Assembly from the platform of the Convention Muslim League in 1965 in Ayub era. When differences between Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Field Marshal General Ayub Khan cropped up, Mumtaz Bhutto made a fiery speech against President Ayub Khan. Anyway, Mumtaz Bhutto was good a good speaker.
When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto decided to form the PPP in 1967, Mumtaz Bhutto was one of the founding members of the PPP.
Mumtaz Bhutto defeated the veteran politician Qazi Fazlullah from Larkana in the 1970 elections. When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto became Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mumtaz Bhutto was appointed first the Governor of Sindh and then the Chief Minister.
Controversial Sindh Chief Minister
Mumtaz Bhutto’s tenure as Chief Minister remained controversial in Sindh in two or three respects. Ashok Kumar, a lecturer in the Mehan Engineering College of Sindh University, went missing after being arrested during Mumtaz Bhutto’s tenure. Hassan Mujtaba, a renowned journalist from Sindh now based in the United States, writes: the first missing person case was during Mumtaz Bhutto government.” Hassan Mujtba says, Ashok was reportedly arrested by DSP Niaz Pirzado on the orders of Mumtaz Bhutto.
Later, Pir Mazharul Haq the former law minister also narrated the same story on the floor of the Sindh Assembly when Mumtaz Bhutto was on opposition benches in the Sindh Assembly.
Following linguistic riots Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto replaced Sindh Chief Minister Mumtaz Ali Bhutto in December 1973. The riots erupted after a bill was passed in the Sindh Assembly to give language status. The Sindhi Language Bill was passed by the Sindh Assembly in 1972.
Mumtaz Bhutto was removed and Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi was appointed Chief Minister of Sindh. Once I asked Mumtaz Bhutto about it in an interview: “You are accused for promoting linguistics when you introduced the Sindhi language bill in the Sindh Assembly, what you would say?” Mumtaz Bhutto said, “This is a completely wrong impression. I have never been against the Urdu language but the purpose of the Sindhi Language Act was to give official status to the Sindhi language, spoken in the region for thousands of years, which was the right of the Sindhi language and the demand of the people of Sindh. Mumtaz Bhutto continued that Raees Amrohi and some other people had incited the people unjustifiably, which led to riots.
In my thirty years of journalistic career, I have conducted ten to twelve detailed interviews with Mumtaz Bhutto, which have been published in newspapers or aired on TV channels.
Left for abroad as Bhutto was sentenced
Mumtaz Bhutto was the President of PPP Sindh and later became the Federal Minister. When Gen Zia imposed martial law in the country on July 5, 1977, Mumtaz Bhutto was also arrested. Later when Lahore High Court announced death verdict to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto launched struggle to save her father’s life, she was arrested, but Mumtaz Bhutto, a close associate of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto left the country. Due to this, Benazir Bhutto appointed Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi as the President of PPP Sindh. After the martyrdom of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, his differences with PPP began in early 1980s.
When Benazir Bhutto ended her exile and began a tour of Pakistan in 1986, Makhdoom Khaliq-ul-Zaman was the president of the PPP in Sindh. I once asked Mumtaz Bhutto during an interview, “Mr. Bhutto, are you accused of leaving the party and the Bhutto family at a difficult time and leaving the country?” Mumtaz Bhutto replied: “when Begum Sahiba (Begum Nusrat Bhutto) took over the party command, I had contact with Begum Sahiba, but I was not included in any consultation, when Begum Sahiba was removed from the party chairmanship and Mohtarma (Benazir) was appointed as chairperson.
“I opposed it and the other big reason for removing me from the party’s provincial head was that Bhutto’s enemies were being included in the party, which I opposed too.”
From federation to confederation
Mumtaz Bhutto, along with Sardar Ataullah Mengal, Hafeez Pirzado, Afzal Khan Bangash and other leaders, formed the Sindhi Baloch Pashtun Front in London during his self-exile. He said that the federal system has failed in the country, now the confederal system will work. After the death of Bangash, this front was later renamed as Sindh National Front.
Becoming personal in Anti-Benazir anti Zardari Stance
Mumtaz Bhutto’s story of his differences with Benazir Bhutto begins when Benazir started leading and active role in politics. During the 1988 elections, Mumtaz Bhutto used very vulgar language about Benazir Bhutto and Begum Nusrat Bhutto, for which the PPP staged protests across the Sindh. From then until now, after Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari has always been the target of Mumtaz Bhutto. Mumtaz Bhutto used to say that “Benazir Bhutto became Begum Zardari after marriage, she has no right to be called Bhutto and neither Mr. Zardari (Asif Zardari) has any right over the properties of Bhutto family.
In 1993, the PPP formed government and Murtaza Bhutto was arrested after coming to Pakistan, Mumtaz Bhutto supported Murtaza Bhutto’s family. And after the release of Murtaza Bhutto, he stayed with him.
Always wanted a driving seat
After his return from London, Mumtaz Bhutto turned to the nationalist political mainstream. He remained a part of every political alliance formed in Sindh, but could not work in alliances.
Sindhi nationalist leaders have always complained about him that he wanted a driving seat in every alliance when his party does not have that status. Mumtaz Bhutto kept saying that he is available whatever service he can do to Sindh.
Since Mumtaz Bhutto is the only Bhutto in Sindh who was considered a strong opponent of Bhutto politics and Benazir Bhutto.
Frustration for Sindhi Press
When Murtaza Bhutto, the brother of the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in 1996 and President Farooq Laghari dismissed the Benazir Bhutto’s government. Mumtaz Bhutto was appointed the caretaker Chief Minister of Sindh.
I remember two important incidents of that period. One was that the caretaker Chief Minister summoned the then SSP South AD Khawaja to the Chief Minister’s House and told him that the police investigation into the Murtaza Bhutto murder case was not going in the right direction. Why Asif Zardari is not yet fixed in this case? SSP AD Khawaja said that the case is being investigated and the police will do whatever is permissible under law. We cannot fervently add anyone’s name.
In the evening after this meeting, a notification was issued for the transfer of AD Khawaja, who was sent to Dadu from Karachi South. When we published this news in a popular Sindhi newspaper, the Chief Minister was angry with the owners of the newspaper.
How NFC award signed?
Another second incident of the same period became the second major cause of resentment in Sindhi newspapers. That was, President Farooq Laghari wanted to announce the NFC award at any cost, in the last days of the caretaker government. One evening, the Presidency suddenly ordered that representatives from Sindh be flown to Islamabad on a Chief Minister’s House plane to sign the NFC Award.
The caretaker Sindh finance minister was former chief secretary Kanwar Idrees and the other
representative of Sindh province was senior caretaker minister Nabi Bakhsh Khan Bhurgari, who was in Badin that day. It was reported that Nabi Bakhsh Bhargari was airlifted to Karachi from Badin helicopter and then both were sent to Islamabad. In the last two or three days of the caretaker government, President Farooq Laghari announced the NFC Award, which later became the controversial NFC Award.
Regarding the same award, a journalist of a Sindhi newspaper reported that Mumtaz Bhutto had been given a valuable dog as a gift in exchange for signing the award. Following such news, the journalist was fatally assaulted and severely tortured. Copies of the newspaper were also burnt.
Before the 2013 elections, Mumtaz Bhutto merged his Sindh National Front into the PML-N and became part of the PML-N, then his son Amir Bakhsh Bhutto was active in politics. There was a written agreement between Mumtaz Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, but during the five years of his rule, he always complained about the Muslim League-N.
Later, he met Imran Khan and joined PTI politics, although he remained inactive in politics for last few years. He also withdrew from politics due to illness and his son Amir Bakhsh Bhutto and his other associates are part of PTI.
Mumtaz Ali Bhutto passed away in Karachi on July 18, and was buried in his native village Rato Dero, Larkana.
Mumtaz Bhutto was one of the most important and controversial figures in the political history of Sindh from 1970s to 2015s. Mumtaz Bhutto, an intelligent student of Oxford University, had got elected himself the chieftain of the Bhutto tribe a few years ago and used to call himself Sardar Mumtaz Ali Khan Bhutto. He was a strong believer in the values of feudalism and but fond of reading English novels. He was worked as Governor Sindh, Chief Minister and Federal Minister. He was a nationalist as well as a supporter of the federal system, but he ideologically he did not give up in the idea of confederation till the last days.
Mumtaz Bhutto lost to history
Mumtaz Bhutto had world of his own in Pakistan’s political history. In the PTV drama Samll World, Raees Murad Ali Khan, who returns home from abroad, loses the English speaking contest to a peasant, and similarly, Mumtaz Bhutto, a key figure in history, may have lost the contest to history.
Ajiz Jamali is a well-known journalist, writer and broadcaster has remained associated with the field of journalism for the last 30 years. He held key positions in major TV channels and newspapers. He is currently the Editor of a web.