Like his elder sister,
Benazir, Murtaza Bhutto was a novice to
active politics until 1978 when his father,
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was sentenced to death
by the Lahore High Court. In the span of 15 years,
however, Murtaza has managed to gain considerable
notoriety for a brand of politics that has moved in
diametrically opposing direction to
Born in Karachi on September 18, 1954, Mir Murtaza
received his early education at St. Mary's School,
Rawalpindi. He later passed his `O' levels from the
Karachi Grammar School in 1971.
In 1972, Murtaza went off to Harvard University where
he studied Government, specialising in strategic
studies. He graduated with honours in 1976, and his
thesis was entitled ``Modicum of Harmony'' which dealt
with the spread of nuclear weapons in general, and the
implications of India's nuclear capability for Pakistan
Murtaza went on to Christ Church College Oxford, his
father's alma mater, for a three-year course to read for
an M.Lit. degree. But the death penalty awarded to his
father in 1978 seriously disrupted his studies. Murtaza
was on the verge of rushing home when he received a
message from his father asking him to remain abroad
where he could mobilise an international campaign for
Murtaza had been present in Pakistan when Zulfikar
Ali Bhutto's government was overthrown on July 5, 1977.
Along with other family members, Murtaza had returned to
Al-Murtaza, Larkana, and at the time was busy helping in
the preparations for the elections schedule for October
1977. But on September 16, 1977 when Bhutto was arrested
from Al-Murtaza, he ordered his son to leave the
After Bhutto was sentenced, Murtaza joined hands with
his brother the late Shahnawaz Bhutto, to initiate a
campaign to muster international support to revoke the
death penalty looming over his father's head. Leaders
from Syria, Libya, and the PLO were particularly
supportive. Mercy appeals were sent by several heads of
state to General Ziaul Haq which failed, however, to
sway his decision.
Murtaza and Shahnawaz both cut short their respective
educations and decided to devote themselves to avenge
their father's death. Eventually they resorted to taking
up arms, their main target being General Ziaul Haq. This
marked the beginning of a new and more controversial era
in Murtaza's life.
The Al-Zulfikar Organization (AZO) was born at this
point, and disgruntled elements among the younger
members of the PPP, disappointed in the party's
leadership, flocked to Murtaza's side. The AZO, however,
went on to earn the terrorist charge, a label which has
dogged Murtaza ever since.
For his part, he has always denied the charge that he
espouses the politics of terrorism. "Why is the AZO
called a terrorist organisation? Why are we blamed for
treason or sedition? What General Zia did to the
constitution and to the elected prime minister of the
country was real treason. What we did was something that
every patriotic Pakistan should do in order to safeguard
the interest of the country," Murtaza maintains.
The most controversial episode of Murtaza's career
was the hijacking of PIA airliner by AZO activists,
which resulted in the death of a passenger. Murtaza
still faces a murder charge on this count.
From 1981, Mir Murtaza has spent most of his time in
Damascus. Earlier, in the early '80s, he was based in
Kabul and then in Libya.
With the mysterious death of Shahnawaz Bhutto in
Paris in 1985, Murtaza Bhutto was left alone to carry on
the struggle. During his period, his sister's politics
had drifted further away from Murtaza's. The PPP,
meanwhile, remained forever under the shadow of being
labelled a terrorist party, and many of its activists
were arrested and hounded for their alleged links with
the AZO. Over the years, the PPP has moved steadily
towards the center, coming to power once again, being
unceremoniously ousted and making yet another bid for
government again, but this time with a less hostile
establishment breathing down its neck than ever before.
Murtaza has stayed away from Pakistan for the last 16
years dring which time his name has been closely
associated with the AZO.
Murtaza now claims that the AZO has been disbanded
and it remains to be seen what new role he will take in
the machiavellian politics of the '90s.
In this exclusive interview with the Herald,
conducted long distance over the telephone, Murtaza
Bhutto finally breaks his silence about his plans to
return to Pakistan, criticises the line the PPP
leadership has taken in recent years, reveals his
decision to focus his attention on Sindh and
vehemently denies charges of being a pawn in the hands
of the intelligence agencies.