39th death anniversary: When Bhutto called the Opposition potatoes and onions

The man who gave Pakistanis their first taste of democracy would have been 90 years old today. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto left us 39 years ago. His  death anniversary is being observed countrywide and the main gatherings will take place at Garhi Khuda Bux Bhutto.

His grandson, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and son-in-law, former President Asif Ali Zardari will be giving speeches in front of the mausoleum of the Bhutto family Wednesday afternoon.

Bhutto’s speeches have in some way formed the inspiration for many PPP leaders when they give their speeches. But Bhutto was hard imitate.

He is perhaps most well known for his speech at the UN in 1971. “My country hearkens for me. Why should I waste my time here…”

Bhutto delivered some stunning oratory in Sindhi too.

On his 39th death anniversary, we decided to revisit his moving words in the language of Sindh.

“My brothers! Listen carefully, I will not let them [opposition] eat Pakistan as a ‘mava’ [sweet], it’s my promise. They intend to run campaigns against me but I know them very well. I have X-rayed them like a doctor,” Bhutto said while addressing his supporters in 1972 when he was President of Pakistan.

Bhutto spoke of riots that followed Sindhi language bill. He was upset by the opposition’s protest.

“I know whether or not they are capable of wrestling, I’m well aware of these potatoes and onions. I’m not afraid of their unity. No one can overthrow this government. Everything is in the hands of God, who is the Master of the Day of Judgment. He can do anything. He can even end my life here.”

ZAB knew he had massive public support. “This is why I make it clear that only one force can remove me, and that is your power, the power of poor; those who are destitute and hungry. Students, labourers and the farmers of this country can remove me, but you can’t do so despite all the conspiracies,” he said in the same speech.

Nearly 40 years have gone by, but Bhutto is still alive in people’s hearts. His slogans ‘Roti Kapra aur Makan’ are still popular among the masses.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the pioneer of Pakistan’s nuclear program. While commenting on India’s nuclear program, Bhutto famously declared that, “Pakistan will fight for a thousand years. If India builds the atom bomb, Pakistan will eat grass, even go hungry, but will get the bomb. We have no other choice!”

He wanted the country to be taken seriously on the global stage. “This is not leadership. Leaders will come and go, but people don’t remember leaders, they only remember the decisions of the leaders,” he said at a Sukkur rally in 1972.

This was the same year that Bhutto recovered 93,000 prisoners of war and 5,000 square miles of Indian-held territory after signing the Simla Agreement.

“I’m your representative, your servant, how can I forget in any case, oh the poor! No matter where I am, on what position I serve, I can’t forget you…” said Bhutto in Shahdadkot in 1973.

The year 1973 added another feather to Bhutto’s cap after he supervised the promulgation of a unanimous constitution.

“He gave ideological foundations to the politics and the country. He spoke of common people and their problems,” said PPP leader Safdar Abbasi. “Bhutto is being remembered due to variety of his achievements and unprecedented performance of his government.”

“From Sindh to Gilgit and Fata, his footprints can be found everywhere in Pakistan,” Abbasi said.

Abbasi hails Bhutto for restoring the respect of a political worker.

“The basic difference between the politics of today and the politics of Bhutto’s era is that he revived the honour of a political worker,” said Abbasi when asked about the slogan ‘one Bhutto is you and one Bhutto is me.’

Abbasi said Pakistan does not have any towering figure like Bhutto today. “We can only compare Benazir Bhutto to her father, and not anyone else, not even PPP’s present leadership.”