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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

(1928—1979) president and later prime minister of Pakistan


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(1928–1979)

President (1971–73) and subsequently prime minister (1973–77) of Pakistan. The first civilian president of Pakistan, he was an outspoken defender of Pakistani interests, who became internationally known for his anti-Indian views and the rapprochement he instigated with China.

Born in Larkana of Rajput descent, Bhutto was educated at a school in Bombay before studying at the University of California (1950), Christ Church, Oxford (1952), and Lincoln's Inn (1953), where he qualified as a barrister. He taught international law at the University of Southampton (1952–53) but returned to Pakistan in 1953 to practise and teach law at the University of Sind (1953–58).

Bhutto entered politics in 1957, when he was appointed leader of Pakistan's delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. The following year he became minister of commerce under President Ayub Khan, the first of several portfolios. In 1962 he became deputy head of the Muslim League and by 1963, when he was made foreign minister, he had established himself as a diplomat and international speaker for Pakistan. He resigned as foreign minister in 1966, over opposition to the Indo-Pakistan settlement reached at Tashkent, and in 1967 formed the Pakistan People's Party. Imprisoned (1968–69) for opposing Ayub Khan's regime, he became deputy prime minister and foreign minister (1971) under General Agha Yahya Khan (1917–80), who overthrew Ayub Khan in 1969. When Pakistan was defeated by India in 1971 and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) seceded, he took over from Agha Yahya Khan as president. He served in this position and then as prime minister (after constitutional changes in 1973) until 1977, when he was deposed in a military coup led by Zia ul-Haq. Arrested for conspiracy to murder shortly afterwards, he was sentenced to death (1978) and hanged (1979) despite pleas for clemency from the international community. He wrote several books, including The Myth of Independence (1969) and The Great Tragedy (1971).

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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