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Z.A Bhutto as President of Pakistan (1972-73)
Z.A Bhutto was 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 the 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. To materialize his dream and fulfill the promises he made with the masses necessitated the introduction of wide-ranging reforms in all areas. Therefore, following his party manifesto soon after becoming president, the process of reforms was initiated with vigor and rigor. He started with consolidation of his position in relation to the military 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 the formation of service groups with combined training for all the groups. Moreover, through the Lateral Entry Scheme, more than 5000 officers were recruited and Federal Security Force was created in 1973 to assist the civil administration in 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 the ceiling for irrigated land at 150 acres and in the case of un-irrigated land at 300 acres.
On the foreign front, Bhutto made some bold decisions 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 the Simla Accord.
However, the center-province relations presented an uneasy situation. NAP-JUI coalition government in Baluchistan was dismissed in Feb 1973 followed by the resignation of the same coalition in NWFP. He also resorted to stern action against his political opponents and critics. Numerous opposition leaders, journalists, labor leaders, and student leaders were arrested and detained. This demonstrated a lack of respect for democratic values and credentials with a manifest tendency for establishing an autocratic regime. However, the mass popular support and charisma of his personality enabled him to carry on with all these deeds and actions.