Bhutto's treachery

Print edition : June 15, 2007

Bhutto was a resident of Bombay at the time of Partition and owned properties there.

ZULFIKAR ALI BHUTTO was one of those persons who, however talented, were inherently incapable of being truthful. He was treacherous to India, his country of birth, and simultaneously to Pakistan, the country of adoption. In India, he pursued cases to establish that he was an Indian citizen, whose properties could not be declared evacuee property, while pursuing, around the same period, claims for compensation in Pakistan as its citizen who had lost properties in India.

Ayub Khan's Diaries have two entries of March 3 and June 30, 1967. One of them reads thus: "Certain documents from India came into my hands, stating that Mr. Bhutto had been, till 1958, claiming that he was an Indian citizen and that he was staying in Karachi only temporarily. I have asked for further confirmation. It just shows how unscrupulous and soulless this man is."

The second entry reads: "An awkward question was asked in the National Assembly. Up to the time he became a Minister in 1958, Bhutto had been declaring before the Indian courts that he was an Indian citizen residing in Karachi. The object was to get some compensation for the property left by his parents in India. In fact, he was selling his soul for about one lakh fifty thousand rupees. All this was not known to us till recently when the matter was discussed in the Indian Parliament and came out in that press."

The official report of the proceedings in the Rajya Sabha on November 19, 1965 (Vol. LIV; No.12) and court records establish the charge incontestably. Mahavir Tyagi, the Minister for Rehabilitation, said: "Shri Z.A. Bhutto, Minister for External Affairs, in Pakistan was a resident of Bombay along with his parents at the time of Partition and owned properties there. He was declared as an evacuee on 6th July, 1949 by the Deputy Custodian and his properties were taken over as evacuee property. Shri Bhutto contested the declaration order in various proceedings taken by him before the Custodian, Custodian General, Bombay and Punjab High Court and ultimately before the Supreme Court of India for 9 years. While on the one hand he was contesting the decision that he was an evacuee and disowned any connection with Pakistan, its nationality or domicile, on the other hand he had filed an application in Pakistan as an evacuee, claiming payment of a court deposit lying with the High Court, Bombay. However, in November 1958, the year in which he became a Minister in Pakistan and took oath of secrecy there, on a petition made by Shri Z.A. Bhutto that he had then settled in Pakistan and that his appeal be dismissed as withdrawn, the Supreme Court granted the prayer and passed an order accordingly.

"Extracts from his various petitions and statements recorded in the course of proceedings are contained in the statement which I place on the Table of the House (See Appendix XLIV, Annexure No. 19)."

Those documents reveal a lot. He gave the details to the Deputy Custodian of Evacuee Property on oath on July 27, 1949 and to the Custodian on November 17, 1951: "After passing the Senior Cambridge examination, the applicant on or about 8th September 1947, left for the United States of America from Bombay where he had been permanently residing. The applicant further says that when he so left for abroad on 8th September, 1947, he did so on an Indian passport."

On July 27, 1949, he had said earlier, also on oath: "I do not know when my mother or sisters left Bombay. I made applications to several universities from 1945 onwards. My father received replies from them. I returned to Karachi after 10 years. My education was in Bombay. I am not residing in Karachi."

In his appeal to the Custodian-General on January 30, 1956, he described himself as temporarily residing in Karachi. "The applicant was sui juris and had attained majority and merely because the applicant's parents resided in Karachi and his marriage took place there, it did not follow therefrom that the applicant's home was also in Karachi."

He added in his appeal: "That the learned Custodian failed to appreciate that the applicant went to the United States of America as an Indian national on an Indian passport and continued to be an Indian national at the relevant time. That the learned Custodian erred in holding without any evidence on record that the applicant after obtaining majority has at any relevant time accepted Karachi as his domicile."

On September 11, 1957, he filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of India praying that all the proceedings against him as evacuee be quashed. He became in 1957 a member of Pakistan's delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, which commences its session in September every year. He became a member of Ayub Khan's Cabinet as Minister of Commerce in 1958. He withdrew his appeal in the Supreme Court stating "that the petitioner is, however, now settled in Karachi and does not propose to prosecute appeal No. 489 of 1957 pending in this honourable court any further". That was on August 13, 1958. The Court allowed the withdrawal on November 3, 1958. He had become a member of Ayub Khan's Cabinet three weeks earlier.

Before that he wrote an obsequious letter to President Iskandar Mirza in April 1958 from Geneva, where he had Pakistan's delegation to the Conference on the Law of the Sea. He wrote: "When the history of our country is written by objective historians, your name will be placed even before that of Mr. Jinnah. I say this because I mean to, and not because you are the President of my country" (emphasis added, throughout).

Meanwhile in Pakistan, Bhutto was pursuing his claims under the Registration of Claims Act, 1955. He filed them in 1956. He owned the Astoria Hotel at Churchgate in Bombay and the proceeds of a bungalow, `My Nest,' at Worli which his father, Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto had sold. He was Dewan of Junagadh, which acceded to Pakistan in August 1947. In November 1947, Sir Shah Nawaz settled down in Karachi.

In the claim that he filed, Bhutto assessed the value of the Astoria Hotel in Bombay at Rs.12 lakh and that of the house at Rs.1,40,000. The Claims Officer, however, verified the first claim for Rs.3,93,952; as to the second, he held that he was entitled to securities of the value of Rs.1,40,000.

Bhutto appealed to the Deputy Claims Commissioner who, by his order dated October 6, 1956, raised the value of the hotel for purposes of compensation to Rs.9,97,991. This enhancement of nearly Rs.6 lakh did not satisfy Bhutto. He went in revision to the Claims Commissioner, who, applying the revised compensation formula approved by the government (40 times the gross annual rental in 1946), assessed the capital value of the property at Rs.44,30,400.

This final order was passed on September 18, 1957 - exactly one week after Bhutto submitted his appeal to the Supreme Court of India claiming as an Indian citizen the same property against which he was simultaneously claiming compensation in Pakistan as a Pakistani citizen. All this for filthy lucre.

A letter from the Editor


Dear reader,

The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

Subscribing to the online edition, I am confident, will make it mutually beneficial.

Sincerely,

R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor