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Z.A Bhutto as President of Pakistan

Z. A Bhutto sworn in as President and Chief Martial Law Administrator on December 20, 1971. Pakistan Peoples Party had won a landslide victory in the first general elections of the country in 1970 under his charismatic leadership but in West Pakistan only. The events that followed the general elections including the civil war in East Pakistan and Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 cost the country of her eastern half. All these developments paved the way for Bhutto’s accession to power who held the office of president and also acted in the capacity of Civilian Chief Martial Administrator till the enforcement of the interim constitution on April 21, 1972. The interim constitution provided for a presidential form of government and Bhutto held the office of president till 14th August 1973 when he switched over to premiership under the newly enforced constitution of 1973.

Bhutto was quite ambitious for transforming Pakistan in accordance with his vision. No doubt, the country he inherited was different than that founded and envisioned by the founding father. In order to materialize his dream and fulfill the promises he made with the masses necessitated introduction of wide ranging reforms in all areas. Therefore, following his party manifesto soon after becoming president, process of reforms was initiated with vigor and rigor. He started with consolidation of his position in relation to military in order to reassert civilian supremacy over the armed forces. Almost 43 senior officers were retired within four months of his coming to power including Lt. General Gul Hassan and Air Marshal Rahim Khan.

He also introduced multifaceted administrative reforms starting with the purging of the civil services from corrupt officials. Unified pay scale for all services was his innovation along with formation of service groups with combined training for all the groups. Moreover, through Lateral Entry Scheme more than 5000 officers were recruited and Federal Security Force was created in 1973 to assist civil administration for maintaining law and order.

The process of nationalizing the basic industries was also taken up. Ten basic categories of industries were nationalized in Jan 1972 though the program was later expanded to include banks and schools generating ramifications for Pakistan’s economy. Similarly, a program of land reforms was undertaken in 1972 fixing ceiling for irrigated land at 150 acres and in case of un-irrigated land at 300 acres.

On foreign front, Bhutto made some bold decision like unilateral withdrawal of Pakistan from the Commonwealth in Feb 1972 and also from SEATO in the same year. An agreement was reached with India in July 1972 for making possible the return of 90,000 soldiers, popularly known as Simla Accord.

However, the center-province relations presented an uneasy situation. NAP-JUI coalition government in Baluchistan was dismissed in Feb 1973 fallowed by the resignation the same coalition in NWFP. He also resorted to stern action against his political opponents and critics. Numerous opposition leaders, journalist, labor leader and student leaders were arrested and detained. This demonstrated lack of respect for democratic values and credentials with manifest tendency for establishing autocratic regime. However, the mass popular support and charisma of his personality enabled him to carry on with all these deeds and actions.

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