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Pakistanis in California Celebrate Z.A. Bhutto's Birthday
By Ras H. Siddiqui

(Feb. 2004)The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of California in the San Francisco Bay Area celebrated the 76th birthday of party founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) in Concord, California with a great deal of enthusiasm and somber reflection. Close to a hundred people gathered at a local residence here to remember a man who has polarized Pakistani political life more than any other and one who continues to energize the PPP (the largest political party of that country) through his daughter Benazir almost 25 years after his death.
Born in the Larkana District of Sind on January 5, 1928, Z.A. Bhutto attended Cathedral School in Bombay, India. He joined the University of Southern California (USC) in 1947 and transferred later to the University of California at Berkeley (not too far away from where this birthday was celebrated). He graduated from Berkeley in 1950 with a political science degree and went on to finish his education from Oxford University. Besides being the first Asian student at Berkeley to be elected to the University Student Council, he quickly joined the Pakistani Cabinet of President Iskander Mirza in 1958 and later became the youngest Minister in the Ayub Khan Government. In 1963 he took over as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, resigned in 1966 and founded the Pakistan Peoples Party in 1967. He became the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1973, experimented with a mixed economy model whose Socialist content made him many enemies but endeared him to the poor masses of Pakistan. He became a symbol of hope for them. His overthrow in 1977 and execution by the Zia Dictatorship in 1979 has permanently embedded his persona into the political landscape of Pakistan.
The evening event Jan. 5 started off with a recitation from the Holy Quran. Najma Bhutto of the PPP women’s wing welcomed everyone and rekindled some memories of the legacy left behind by ZAB. Chief Guest Syed M. Hasanain followed by thanking Khuda Bux “KB” Bhutto for organizing this event and his efforts on behalf of the PPP in America and invited him to speak.
K.B. Bhutto spoke of the work of Pakistan’s People’s leader and wished that he were with the audience that day in body even though he was always present in spirit being a “Shaheed”. He said that no political figure in Pakistan has been able to duplicate Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s feats. He added that his daughter Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto keeps the flame of Bhuttoism alive today and remains the leader of the largest political party in Pakistan, continuing to contribute to the betterment of the country. “We want BB to know that we are with her,” he said. He ended his speech with “Jab Tak Suraj Chand Rahay Ga, Bhutto tera naam rahay ga” and that dictators have come and gone but Z.A. Bhutto remains in our hearts.
After Najma Bhutto presented a poem in the Leader’s honor, Zahid Saif the other organizer and spokesperson for the event presented his views. “Our caravan of hope continues. We are celebrating the birthday of the man who gave a voice to the oppressed of Pakistan.”He added that the PPP is the only party that keeps its power base intact amongst the poor and struggling people of Pakistan. He said that those who die in the battle against injustice are called “Shaheeds” and that Z.A. Bhutto qualified for that title on all counts. “He did not bend,” he said. He ended his speech with “Jiyay Bhutto, Jiyay Pakistan.”
Mrs. Najma Bhutto continued with her wish to see the return of Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan and an end to her exile. “We will support her. She will return,” said Najma Sahiba. Mr. M. Ashraf concluded the speaking segment by asking everyone to continue to work for Pakistan.
What followed was the cutting of a cake in PPP colors with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s picture, with the numbers “76” in candles lighted. A dinner of traditional and delicious Pakistani food accompanied by Afghan bread was served as all gathered to recall their memories of their leader.
In conclusion thanks are in order to “KB” and Najma Butto and Zahid Sahib & Mr. Ashraf along with the California, Bay Area group members of the PPP for putting together this memorable evening. It was a joy to hear the Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Sindhi and Urdu languages spoken freely amongst the group, a reflection of the PPP’s diverse base of support within Pakistan. And it certainly brought back a lot of memories not all of them pleasant. It took this reporter back to the time before my hyphenated Pakistani-American existence began. It was in April 1979 after hearing of ZAB’s execution that I began to consider staying permanently in the United States. It was a wise choice as I reflect on it today. But that soft corner for my old leader and the PPP remains. And as one observes the difficulties facing General Musharraf today (and wishes him well in his efforts), as he attempts to implement much needed corrections in Pakistan to regain what was once a much more civil society, a strange sadness comes to mind. Let us hope that such past errors in judgment on both the civil and the military sides that culminated in the tragic end of ZAB in Pakistan are never repeated.

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