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. Jamshed Bashir says:

    4th April 1979

    I was 18 and lived in Karachi at the time. Although my father liked Bhutto, I had discovered religion and Jamaat-e-Islami and therefore, regularly participated in the PNA agitation against Bhutto, which was in full swing in Karachi, as it was the hub of Anti-Bhutto protests. I realised at the time that, in fact, I secretly admired Bhutto, the fashion icon of that generation of youth, with his open necked shirt, open cuffs, brilliant oratory, unbelievable charisma and (afraid to admit) his command of English. Although I continued to attend PNA rallies, I did not want Bhutto hanged. Somehow it did not appear to be just or fair. As the days of his eventual demise approached, I started to feel more and more sympathy towards him and anger against General Zia, Jamaat-e-Islami and Allah Baksh Brohi.

    I had started my first year at Dow Medical College in 1979, but I and my friends had had arguments about Islam and Socialism for many months before that. My belief in Islam as the best system of government and a perfect code of life had taken a knock as a result, but I continued to rage for Islam although I did not pray or participated in any of the religious rituals except of course, Eid.

    I vividly remember the day I heard the news of his tragic death. I went out for a walk when a friend came out of his house, saw me and excitedly rushed to share the hot news just off the press, with barely suppressed glee. I was shocked. He looked at me, slightly surprised at my unexpected reaction, and said as if to console, “Well, it had to happen. We can’t rejoice at a death, even of an enemy”. But for me, Bhutto had ceased to be an enemy long time ago. In fact at some imprecise point during this period when I was shouting stupid slogans against him, I had undergone a conversion and he had become my hero. Subconsciously, I had ditched Islamic System of Jamaat-e-Islami and Nizam-e-Mustafa of Noorani and embraced Bhutto’s brand of Socialism, even if it was not the true Socialism of the NSF, the student party I joined in my medical school.

    My mother cried and my father was sad and so was I. But at the same time I was also filled with a sense of self-loathing and shame for going to the rallies of Asghar Khan and Mullas for their reactionary, medieval and inhuman brand of religion. And of course, I started to detest General Zia and have to admit (to my shame) that I was overjoyed at the news of the general’s death many years later.

    I became an ardent supporter of Benazir and went to numerous PPP rallies in Karachi, attended her wedding (shame at her choice of moustachioed Zardari, Makhdoom Khaeeq appeared to be the most eligible at the time) and rejoiced when she won the elections first time round. It was the least I could do as penance for my sins.

    I live in the UK now (Yes ditched the ship, sorry to say) but ardently follow all the twists and turns of Pakistan, and cringe at the juvenile antics of politicians, the sad decline of my country into an abyss of violence, poverty, intolerance and chaos. We need another Bhutto, the real ZAB to take us out of this mess we are in.

    The current leadership of PPP is a disgrace to the memory of the great charismatic hero of our time, ZAB. May he live in peace?

  2. Saifur Rahman says:

    Without going into the argument of Mr. Bhutto’s involvement in the murder of Mr. Kasuri, I remember there were quite a few politician murdered during his regime. Dr. Nazir’s and Khawaja Rafiq’s names come to my mind. After Mr. Bhutto was hanged the other politicians may have learned their lesson that even though there was political victimization there was no murder authorized by the governing body after that.

  3. A. Khan says:

    In 1979 I was an Intermediate student at Government College Lahore. The Late Z.A. Bhutto was no doubt a phenomena. I admit this in spite of a strong ideological difference I have with late’s socialistic philosophy. May Allah rest his soul in peace, forgive his mistakes and give him a high place. At times I pull up the late’s speeches on YouTube, especially the ones he made in the UN. In my eyes, all responsible for Z.A. Bhutto’s assassination, including the judges, were in fact enemies of Pakistan.

  4. Asif Alam says:

    I was 8 years old returning from Lahore to Karachi on a train with my father when all of a sudden the news spread like a fire. The train was passing by interior Sindh and everyone was worried that a big riot will start soon. Everyone was shell shocked…not sure if the news was a rumor or a reality…it was confirmed before we arrived at the Karachi Cant Station…

  5. Sadeeq J says:

    I feel sad for Mr Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto’s death and consider it be very tragic that all his children lost their lives so young in age. May Allah Mian rest their souls in peace in heaven. Amin.

    Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto was not a saint as he is made to be by the PPP for cheap propaganda and publicity reasons. People’s Party exits as long as it can exploit Bhutto’s’ name. He was not a practicing Muslim but was a very westernized secular man who adopted western ways of life. He was to some extent responsible for breaking up Pakistan.

  6. Faraz Paracha says:

    I remember my dad and my mom telling me this all the time how they saw the leaders and governments of Pakistan change throughout their time together after they got married in 71. And my dad always used to specify that the death of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a defining moment in our history and that he and his family were absolutely delighted when they heard he was hanged. My dad always blamed him for parting East Pakistan with the West and it was one of his many sins my dad couldn’t forgive for. He also told me that 4th April was when justice was actually done in Pakistan.

  7. Shoaib Hussain Daudpoto says:

    i’m the fan of Bhuttos i won’t forget anything which Bhuttos did for us, for this country they were not only will wisher of this country but they gave alot of advantages to “Urab”. dictattor are bad by heart and by face. any one can guess by seeing their faces like Yaya Khan, Ayub Khan and Zia. they were enemy of their own country.

  8. Shoaib Hussain Daudpoto says:

    in this era, like these great leader won’t come. these great leaders come in centuries. Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was great leader as well as great man. the nerve man. he did alot for this country.

  9. Saqib Khan says:

    It should also be remembered that Pakistan was broken up on Mr Bhutto watch and many pundits blamed him for this ignonimous chaper in the Pakistan’s history but time will judge him according to those events when history will be written by the neutral referees. He was a brilliant politicians and highly intelligent man who knew who to win masses hearts and minds without giving them any thing in return and succeeded. He was not only popular with 100% Pakistan shias and got their block votes because he was Shia himself but also was loved by the poor who hope that he will change their destinies but unfortunately, he was martyed for political reasons.

  10. salman says:

    i am shocked that how people perceptions vary. i am even shocked that why people try to create a controversy for every sacrifice a hero makes, still i am not shocked by the fact that they are very less numbered. if bhutto was a dictator, i was just wondering what will gen. zia be then? to be honest leaders like bhutto are pride for a nation. when being hanged, he was still the prime minister of pakistan. i dont think any leader will be ever born with such a courage. if bhutto was alive pakistan would had been a different place to be lived in. you will always live in our hearts and mind mr bhutto.

  11. Assad Khan says:

    My parents were Party members and even though I was not born then, I have grown up being taught the ways of Bhutto sahib. He was a great leader and taught us how the true soul of Pakistan is not in the lavish cafes and coffee houses that dot m.m alam road or zamzama but rather in the roadside tea stalls. People describe Bhutto sahib as arrogant, however what people fail to realise is that he did not have patience for the arrogance of the upper class towards the poor.

    The elite will always taint Bhutto’s memory with superficial stats and figures. But how can you quantify the worth of a man who helped reunite a fragmented nation after 1971? How can you measure his contribution in getting our soldiers freed from Bangladesh? Or the nuclear programme, steel mill, development work in FATA? I know he had some faults but to say that he (and in that case Benazir) stifled talent is far from the truth. If that were the case then after his murder no one was stopping people like Abdul Hafeez Pirzada and in todays scenario Aitzaz from stepping forward.

    He was Pakistans greatest leader and will always be remembered. History has vindicated him.

  12. Ijaz Chaudhry says:

    Bhutto won the 1970 election from my home constituency in Lahore. He was again contesting the 90 days election promised by Zia from the same constituency and would have easily won against Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi, father of Shaujjat Hussain but Zia went back on his promise. The way Zia framed him and trialed him will always remain a stigma on Pakistan’s army and judiciary. And people of smaller provinces would always feel that a Sindhi was treated unfairly. At that point of Pakistan’s history we appeared to have some sense of direction for the first time in our history after independence. Pakistan had a demoratically elected govt, had a constitution, about to become a nuclear power, successful foreign policy and a charismatic leader like Bhutto. He was the hope of the poor who for the first time realised that they also had some rights in this country.
    But all was shattered by Bhutto’s hanging and eversince we have been going from bad to worse.

  13. Foad Khan says:

    bless him

  14. Shabbir Sayed says:

    Soon after his death I was working at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with a British Consulting firm. A Sudani old man used to serve tea. He would not serve me. I thought he was prejudiced because I was the only non-white technical man in the firm. Finally, one day I asked him for tea. He gave me an angry look and put the cup on the table with a bang spilling tea all over me and said in Arabic something to the effect “you b******s killed Bhutto”. That brought tears in my eyes. I was pleasantly surprised how could a half-mad old Sudani feel the way millions of Pakistani felt.

    A friend of mine, working as minister at Pakistan Embassy at Canberra Australia (also accredited to Fiji), was traveling with the leader of opposition of Fiji. The latter protested on Bhutto’s hanging and said “we used to see the world through Bhutto’s eyes; you people have made us blind”.

  15. I had seen Bhutto sahib many times since he was Minister in Ayub cabinet. I had listened to him in private gatheings. I have vivid memory of his informal and relaxed talk on many topics at Hala where he spent night on Makhdoom Talib-ul Mola after the victory of 71 elections.All the top PPP men were there.

    Soon after his death I was working at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with a British Consulting firm. A Sudani old man used to serve tea. He would not serve me. I thought he was prejudiced because I was the only non-white technical man in the firm. Finally, one day I asked him for tea. A gave me an angry look and put the cup on the table with a bang spilling tea all over me and said in Arabic something to the effect “you people killed Bhutto”. That brought tears in my eyes. I was pleasantly surprized how could a half-mad old Sudani feel the way millions of Pakistani felt. Since then he used to serve me tea but with the same angry look and I used to feel happy.

    A friend of mine, working as minister at Pakistan Embassy at Canberra Australia (also accridited to Fiji), was travelling with the leader of opposition of Fiji. The latter protested on Bhutto’s hanging and said “we used to see the world through Bhutto’s eyes; you people have made us blind”.

  16. Saleem Jat says:

    I was 11 year old at that time in Sahiwal Punjab and we were for Moulana Mufti Mahmood’s Quami Ithad but the news of his death still was hard to accept. He was gifted and generally liked by his opponents. My mother cried and several other people in our family also wept when they heard the news of his death. I think people in our town generally liked him despite his failures and thought he was wrongfully hanged. In retrospect, I think, His remarkable act of uniting and bringing the top Islamic leaders to Lahore Pakistan was heroic.

  17. 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.

  18. Satbir Singh says:

    I was 22 then and serving in a bank at Calcutta (India). April 4, 1979 was, incidently, a bank holiday in Calcutta. It was 1 pm, when in the english news bulletin from AIR, the famous news reader Surojit Sen reported, ” Reuter reports from Islamabad that the former prime minister of Pakistan, Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhotto, has been hanged”. I was siting in the house of my best friend and planning to go to a matinee show of a movie, when the news broke. The news was uncomfortable and no one felt like going to the movie any more. The entire afternoon was spent in listening about the life of undivided Punjab from my friend’s father, who was an erstwhile student of Government College Lahore.

  19. zahid hussain says:

    i have no words about the greatness of great ZAB.

  20. SAAQ says:

    I was only seven at that time and the only thing i remember was the tears of my mother going out of her eyes while listening to the radio Pakistan

  21. Rasool Bakhsh Maree says:

    My uncle tells that he became fond of listening to BBC news since the imprisonment of Bhutto. He had promised to sacrifice a goat if bhutto was not hanged. though my uncle was not a politician rather he was a poor labourer yet he held immeasurable hopes of change and prosperity with bhutto. He always remembers bhutto with his simple words that “Bhutto was sincere to unite the muslim world and during Islamic conference 1972 in Lahore, and all muslim leaders selected him their leader”

  22. Tanweer Dada Sabir says:

    I was in 7th class in Lahore and we learned about his death on the radio. Some people in our neighborhood were crying but everybody was upset. I remember that everybody looked very shocked. He was killed in some secrecy that first people did not believe it had happened. Though, people looked very sad as it had really happened . Those who agreed or disagreed with his politics equally thought that he did not deserve death. People were afraid to talk about it and there was fear and sadness among the people.

  23. Mohammad Ali Changazi says:

    Amazing leadership such as by great Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto must continue to guide us or else there is no hope. condolences to his family. nice thoughts by Dawn news paper.

  24. Shahid Shakur says:

    Late Z.A. Bhutto borrowed many of the styles of Soekarno; his slogans and his approach to politics. Like Soekarno, he proclaimed socialism, nationalism and Islam as the moving forces of his political struggle. Though differing in history and development from Soekerno, Bhutto gradually and slowly began to champion the cause of the developing world.

    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 yet 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.

  25. Faizan says:

    I was not born then. I agree with what Irfan Husain wrote today in dawn. His description is absolutely correct, in my family I also see the hate for him and grew up knowing the myths of his life. after what I read in history i am surprised by his accomplishments.

    everything he faced, the war crimes in 1971, army brutality,the way he took on all of those challenges and the outcry of Pakistan after the Dhaka fall. It was fascinating to know how he went about things,his ideology,of course having said that he also had his flaws but what happened to him in the end have no justification. Hanged without people knowing and by a dictator who when I growing up was said to be the saviour of Pakistan, but who is now thought to be the root cause of many of our current problems.

    We all have to be honest of telling the correct history of Pakistan to the next and coming generations. on Facebook on Facebook