LARKANA, Pakistan, April 4, (Reuter): Supporters of executed Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto flocked to his grave by the thousands today to join his daughter Benazir in making the eighth anniversary of his death.
Witnesses estimated that some 200,000 people gathered at the Bhutto family graveyard in the southern village of Garhi Khuda Bux, several times more than in previous years.
‘He worked for the people, therefore, he is remembered”, Benazir Bhutto, 33, told the crowd spilling over the surrounding wheat fields under a blazing sun.
It was the first time that Benazir, who took up her father’s political mantle and the leadership of her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), had been free to join her supporters for the anniversary. In previous years, she was either abroad, or under detention and brought to the graveside by police guards.
Bhutto was hanged in a Rawalpindi jail on April 4, 1979, on charges of conspiring to murder a political opponent. The execution was ordered after a controversial trial which brought protests from international groups and pleas for clemency from world leaders.
But President Mohammad ZiaulHagq, the army chief who ousted Bhutto in a 1977 coup, ignored them and upheld the 43 split decision of the Pakistani High Court that he should hang.
Several leaders of other parties in the main opposition alliance, the movement for the restoration of democracy, joined PPP supporters from all four of Pakistan’s provinces at the grave.
People came from as far away as the Pakistan administered part of Kashmir and organizers said some had walked for days to get here. Afigies of Zia were burned and local people danced and played flutes in memory of Bhutto.
Benazir Bhutto, now Pakistan’s most prominent opposition figure, prayed at her father’s grave and that of her brother Shahnawaz, found poisoned in France in 1985.
In a 30minute speech outside the graveyard, she recalled the life of her populist father, who ruled for five and a half years, and read extracts from his speeches.
“He laid down his life for his principles, he never bowed his head before repression”, she said.
While abandoning many of her father’s policies since taking over the PPP leadership, Benazir Bhutto has steadfastly refused ‘to admit publicly that he made mistakes.
His opponents accused him of abusing his power to pursue political vendettas as well as rigging his reelection in 1977.
Article extracted from this publication >> April 10, 1987