Thirty years on: Your memories of April 4

Thirty years on: Your memories of April 4 invites its readers to share their memories of April 4, 1979, in this forum.

Thirty years ago, the nation awoke to learn that ex-Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had been hanged in Rawalpindi’s central jail. Although most Pakistanis were expecting Mr Bhutto to face severe punishment, no one was prepared for what happened at 2:00 a.m. on April 4, after all the mercy petitions made to General Ziaul Haq were rejected.

Gruesome details of Bhutto’s last hours circulated amongst the public. On April 5, Dawn carried the following description on its front page:

‘[Bhutto] was then told that his cell was about a furlong and half from the gallows, a distance which may be difficult for him to walk, and he should, therefore, lie down in a waiting stretcher to be carried by the jail warders. He protested and said that he would like to walk the distance himself. But he was made to lie down on the stretcher and carried to the gallows by the warders….

Before being taken to the gallows he had a ‘tasbih’ in his hand and was turning its beads and reciting something quietly. The ‘tasbih’ had not been seen with him before. It was either hidden in his luggage or handed over to him by Begum Nusrat Bhutto yesterday…. He did not misbehave or talked loudly till the end. He placed his tasbih round his neck when his hands were tied at his back….

‘Mr Bhutto was handed over to the hangman who tied his legs with a cord, placed the traditional veil on his face and fixed the hanging cord round his neck. His body remained hanging for half an hour.’

Do you remember how you heard about Mr Bhutto’s hanging? Do you have memories of that day, or of your or your family’s reactions to the events? Share memories of what you thought, did, or saw with


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51 Responses to “Thirty years on: Your memories of April 4”

  1. sagar says:

    Now doubt he was the future of Pakistan but now he is the the trade mark,identity politics of pakistan,as we say in politics is pro Bhutto or anti Bhutto.

  2. Zahid Hasan says:

    I have fond memories of Bhutto. I met him in YMCA Lahore, while I was govt. college student. It was a sad day for the country when he got hanged. I got the news in the U.S.A, where I was completing my Mba. Our country lost a brilliant leader.

  3. Abubakar Shad says:

    I was not at that time, but I know one thing that Bhutto was the greatest leader and Zia was the worst.

  4. Syed J. Husain says:

    Late Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was agreat leader Pakistan has ever Had.

  5. Nasir Shah says:

    I was in high school around that time & even then, I thought what a coward Zia was to not have given ZAB a fair trial.

  6. sehba says:

    I was twenty years old and lived in Karachi.
    I decided that day I did not want to belong to a nation that hangs its leaders!
    What kind of people are we?…twisted, regressive, hopeless!
    I migrated to the US in 1982.

  7. Hafeez Sirka says:

    We heard the sad news of Bhutto’s hanging by Zia when we were students. He was a secural, democratic leader but emerged in a wrong time. He could have lead Pakistan in a democratic and progressive path had not the villain Zia entered the scene. No such leader is found now-a-days in battered Pakistan

  8. Nisar Haider Abbas says:

    Every year on 4th April, Shaheed Bhutto’s death anniversary reminds me of 04-4-1979.Being an Airforce personnel, my (late)father, a war veteran and a great patriot, was posted at PAF Base Badin. I had to take my Federal Board’s 9th class exam of Chemistry at 3pm. Some orderly came to our house at around 11am. He was literally crying like a child. He told my mother that Bhutto had been hanged. Every one was shocked to still. Our Chemistry paper was postponed. In my life, I saw my father weeping only twice. First, on the fall of Decca(Dhaka, East Pakistan) and second time on the ill-fated day of Bhutto’s judicial murder. The Time has proved over the decades that It was not the loss of Pakistan, but that of the entire Muslim Ummah. Dictator Zia, with an evil smile on his face had sworn. He, during the honeymoon period of his regime had placed the seeds of Talibanisation, Kalashnikov, Heroin, & MQM in the womb of his government. His brutal tactics to prolong his tenure from 90 days to over 11 years, had brought the nation to an edge of terrorism and extremism. Zia’s even remains turned to ashes but ‘Kal bhi BHUTTO zinda tha Aaj bhi BHUTTO zinda hai’. Jiey Bhutto!

  9. Arshed K. Mahmud says:

    Mr.Bhutto was not just a great Pakistani leader he was a leader of the third world. He was head and shoulders above any leader of the Indian sub- continent except Jinnah.

    I was in London when the news came to me through an English friend who was also following the case proceedings. I had been very tensed seeing the overzealousness of Anwar ul Haq to ensure that ZAB was murdered in trying to push the dissenting judges to accept his verdict that he even called the counsels to his Chambers and asked then why he should put up with the dissenting judges who were not willing to sign the rejection of appeal. Was this behaviour of judge about to deliver justice? The convicting Judges the Generals who carried out the Coup were all conspirators in the pre-planned murder of Mr. Bhutto. They killed a statesman & a politician of outstanding stature. Once again like in 1971 disgraced the entire nation. Worst still some of those involved are still roaming free

  10. Mawali says:

    Zia wil forever live in infamy for what he did. What happened to ZAB was nothing short of a travesty. Regardless, of how I may feel about his accomplishments the fact is what happened to him was the result of a kangaroo court and the will of a tyrant. The Pakistani children through text books should be made aware of Zia’s dark legacy in the hope that it never happens again.

    Other then that. I think that Bhutto was a power hungry megalomaniac who could not tolerate any opposition. He also rolled back many of the programs brought about during the Ayub regime and as result Pakistan suffered with a growth rate hovering around 2 to 3 percent yearly. A great foreign minister but a third rate prime minister. Though I wish he was alive so our children could learn about the art of diplomacy and foregn relations from him. As a matter of fact one truly deserving way to pay tribute to the man is to establish an institute of Foreign Affairs in his name at a local university.

  11. I was 6 and on that day returning from school I met with somber faces of my family members at home. I dont know who did that but I found newspaper cuttings of Gen. Zia’s pictures. Some of these cuttings were burning in the cooking stove and others were lying under shoes. My mother told me that Bhutto is no longer with us. My grandmother said, “Zia nay ZAB ko marr dia ha”. I also took one big picture and made holes in the eyes and then burnt it. My father was saying that though he never liked “Mr. Bhutto”, from now on he will pray for Bhutto’s family and his departed soul for the rest of his life.

    It was an extremely sad day since morning of April 4,1979 when a Pakistani General approved the hanging of elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, ZAB. It is even now ZAB and his party which is keeping Pakistan united against the ugly desires of all bad wishers. Long Live PPP & Long Live Zardari and Bilawal.

    Sadly, however, his policies at home, became oppressive and dictatorial. He lost the sympathies of large sections of the people, including students, workers and intellectuals. Many radical elements were driven out from his party. He instead surrounded himself by those he had initially opposed.

    In a situation like this a movement was started against him. His party, still immature, could not respond appropriately. Bhutto, helpless and surrounded was waiting for the end.

    Bhutto was politically overthrown and yet hanged for an alleged personal crime. Had he been eliminated through a political process, he would have lost the charm, the sympathy and the mass appeal, he enjoys. But since he has been eliminated for an alleged criminal offense, his political charm continues. His ghost may continue to haunt the country for years to come.

    The lessons of our political life are numerous. Our people, through centuries of domination and impoverishment, could not soundly develop politically. They are led astray and are repeatedly deprived of their chances of political participation and self-reliance.

  12. Shahjehan Memon says:

    Bhutto who was hanged on that day it was Pakistan & Islam got hanged. I bet we will never ever have a leader like him in Pakistan.

  13. Pattabi Raman says:

    How can people be spectators at this event?

  14. Tahir Mukhtar Ahmad says:

    I was 7 and on that day returning from school I met with somber faces of my family members at home. I dont know who did that but I found newspaper cuttings of Gen. Zia’s pictures. Some of these cuttings were burining in the cooking stove and others were lying under shoes. My monther told me that Bhutto is no longer with us. My grandmother said, “Zia nay ZAB ko marr dia ha”. I also took one big picture and made holes in the eyes and then burnt it. My father was saying that he never liked “Mr. Bhutto”, and that from now on he will pray for Bhutto’s famile and his departed soul for the rest of his life.

    Now, after three decades, my father says Bhutto was a legend. He now prays for both ZAB and BB.

  15. Said Ahmad Khan, Phoenix, AZ, USA says:

    Bhutto is beyond all the injustices, or the good, the world can do him. His place, and he knew it, is in the stars. He is bound to shine. We hope and pray, that his light, one day, takes Pakistan out of its dark days.

  16. Fawad Manzoor says:

    I was 12 years old at the time of Hanging of ZAB. I was ten at the time of 1977 election. I cannot remember why but he was my favourite personality on TV. My story of love affair with Bhutto is long but to make it short on the day of hanging I was in the kitchen with my younger brother & mother and she was listening to radio because some one had told her that ZAB is hanged. My younger brother who was 10 at the time was always teasing us for liking Bhutto and when he heard about ZAB’s hanging he started laughing and making fun of all of us that is when I saw my mother get so upset that she yelled at him and told him to get out of Kitchen and then tears started rolling down her eyes. To this day I cannot forget about hearing about his hanging on the radio.

  17. ZAB hanging by General Zia and company changed the direction of my life. I was in Montreal at that time and was in the process of either moving to Pakistan to start my own consulting company or accept a position with a multi national company in California.

    I distinctly remember going to work that morning and a colleaugue coming over to tell me that that ZAB has been murdered. It did not take me long after that to decide; I went immediately to my chief engineer and tendered my resignation and called my new employer in California to accept thie offer. My reason was more personal that in the new climate of uncertainity it will be hard to start a new business. I have lived in US since that time and worked for the same employer for 25 years until 2004.

    I believe my snap decision 30 years ago has been good for my family. I am not corrupt like most of class mates who work in Pakistan in civil engineering. On a recent visit to Pakistan, I found out that some of them are what they Arrab Pathi in ruppees. However, their health and personal affairs were in shambles. I at least practice Islam and live in peace.

  18. Fawad Manzoor says:

    To this day I cannot watch any programme which mentions anything about ZAB. I made myself to watch one such show with alot of courage and tears started pouring from my eyes and I had to change the channel. Bhutto is a promise that still lives on. With the pessage of time Bhutto is becoming a saint like figure.
    Long live Bhutto.

  19. Dr Muhammad Tariq Khokhar says:

    I first saw ZAB at the Lahore airport I think he was accompanying Mohtrima Fatima Jinnah, we (us students)escortde him to the car park. He was very ordinary feeling person. Second time I was introduced to him by my uncle in a PPP launch meeting being held behind Gangha Ram Hospital, Lahore. He was extremely elegant, smartly dressed in a pin strip greenish coloured suit, I could still feel fragile softness of his hands in my hands.

    We were shouting slogans that the Sword (election symbol for PPP) will slaghter the feudalists and bring the oridinary paesants to power.

    The whole Nation of Pakistan will remain sincere and loyal to Z A Bhutto & his family as they were and still are loyal to every ordinary man on the streets of Pakistan.

  20. Hikayat Shah says:

    I was Living In Karachi I remember that day I complete my Night shift duty at 6 Am and went home for sleep Because I have to go for Evening college.
    I heard A knock at my door it is 9 Am One of my teacher MRs Nargis told me did you know MR Bhutto has been hanged I shocked hearing this I was feeling that the earth is moving from under my foot. My tears was starting to flow then My teacher she told me we are all so sorry for that great men. Now this is fact that he is no more with us.
    Oh those days News papers, and radio all was full controlled by ZIA ul haq they could not write only BBC Radio was giving the true news 8 PM at Night the whole nation was lessoning to BBC Radio .
    Next day The only English Paper Dawn printed the editorial the other News papers just with a small columns That Bhutto has been buried at his Native town.

    Hikayat shah

  21. Rizwan Akhtar says:

    I was only six and half years old and have faint memories of those turbulent 1979; images and images still churning around me–boots, curfew and General appearing on the State television. April 5th—in the morning I saw my mother sobbing and head bowed down and then I also heard a woman crying who was our upper storey tenant-my ancestral home in Ravi Park Lahore, a place close to the famous Minto Park where Jinnah electrified people for a democratic Pakistan. Today I still feel the dabs of pains when I see and read the gruesome details of ZAB’s hanging—one of the greatest leader of the Third world who understood the machinations of the Imperialist west.

  22. Rizwan Wasi says:

    First, I would like to thank “Dawn” to provide me this opportunity to give my recount of the darkest day in the history of Pakistan.

    I was in First Year – Intermediate in 1979.

    In the early morning of April 04, 1979, I went out at the gate to pick the newspaper and saw this chilling heading “Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto hanged”…

    I was immensely shocked & went in a state of disbelief. I still remember, I cried for the whole day and locked up in my room. It was my way of expressing my sorrow, anger and frustration.

    I feel that it was the darkest day in this history of Pakistan. This incident pushed this country towards chaos and destruction. The events there after are proving it.

    Even after 30 years of his death, people still remember him with respect & love and whoever was responsible for his death is lost in the dust of history.

    History only remembers those people who stand for their ideologies and values. History is fair and it has given its verdict that “Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was Innocent” and in the same way it has made Socrates a hero. The ruler of Athens forced him to drink poison for his ideologies in 399 BC. but could not erase his name from the chapters of history.

    I salute Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for his achievements and giving us respect and dignity and May God Bless his Soul.

  23. Siddique Malik, Louisville, KY, USA says:

    On the evening of April 3, 1979, I was at a restaurant in Chicago (11 hours behind Pakistan time) when a friend came and told me the gruesome news that Zulfqar Ali Bhutto had been hanged in Rawalpindi.

    I felt like someone had driven a knife in my chest. I had known that he had been tried under the drummed up charges of murder, had been sentenced to death by Pakistan’s dictator Ziaul Haq’s kangaroo courts, and that the dictator had rejected all appeals for clemency.

    Yet, deep in my heart I had nourished a hope that somehow Bhutto would survive, even though death had been closing in on him.

    I had detested Bhutto’s autocratic styles and had never been his ardent political supporter. However, his dynamic personality, his charisma, and his great mastery of the art of communication with any kind of audience had always mesmerized me.

    During most of Bhutto’s rule in Pakistan, I was too young to fully understand the mechanics of political evolution. Later in my life, I came to realize that a country must undergo this transformation before it could claim having attained a reasonable level of nationhood.

    Bhutto had set into motion exactly such a process in Pakistan. Although, he himself impeded this process many times, many had hoped that in the end he would not stand in the way of this process especially when it picked up the cascading effect of bulldozing all anti democratic forces in Pakistan.

    On that sad evening in Chicago, the news of his brutal murder at the hands of a fanatical and ignorant dictator took away the glimmer of hope from me, and in my despondency, I wept for a murdered leader and at the loss of the nation that he had left behind.

  24. Saifur Rahman says:

    He was like a giant among pygmies if one compares his caliber with the rest of the politicians of that time. It is still hard for me to fathom why he suppressed political activities. The pent up feeling because of suppression made these fellow politicians appear a much bigger force in the 77 election and he panicked. Then the wheel of destiny was not in his control anymore. I always feel that he could have put Pakistan on a much brighter path then where we find ourselves now.

  25. A.R.Batada says:

    Bhutto was a great leader. He was punished because he favored downtrodden people of the country.Man like him are born in centuries. on Facebook on Facebook