Zulfikar (the name means “sword”) Ali Bhutto (1928-1979) came from Sind, that region of Asia that is now southern Pakistan. His family roots were distinguished and his Sindhi heritage proud. In 1934, Zulfi’s father moved his family from Larkana, in Sind, to Bombay, where Zulfi attended school. In September, 1947, just after Pakistan achieved nationhood, Zulfi left to study for two years at the University of Southern California; from 1950 to 1953, he studied law at Oxford. In 1951, he married his second wife, the Karachi debutante Nusrat Ispahani. One of their children, Benazir Bhutto, is famous in her own right in Pakistani politics.
After his return to Pakistan in 1953, Zulfi Bhutto’s ascent through Pakistan’s political power structure was swift. His natural quick wit, his charisma, and his education earned him a cabinet post at age thirty; five years later, in 1963, he became foreign minister. The bloody suppression of East Pakistan’s aspirations led to Pakistan’s humiliation by Indian troops and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, but it helped bring Bhutto to power. The unpopular General Yahya Khan had ruled Pakistan under martial law after taking over as President from Ayub Khan in March, 1969, and in December, 1971 he in turn yielded the presidency to Bhutto, who in August, 1973 proclaimed himself prime minister.
Bhutto was ambitious to achieve Muslim solidarity; he harassed India over the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, and he yearned to be a world leader. Despite his considerable popularity with the Pakistani people, however, he kept postponing free elections, became encumbered by factional disputes, and naively let himself be blindsided by General Zia ul-Haq. A military coup in July, 1977 left Zia in power and Bhutto in detention until the inevitable outcome: Bhutto’s death by hanging on April 4, 1979.
Stanley Wolpert’s command of detail and his balanced sympathies give ZULFI BHUTTO OF PAKISTAN the narrative flow of excellent biographical writing.