Shahnwaz Bhutto died mysteriously 31 years ago on July 18, 1985. He was spending holidays with all his family members in the south of France. They were up late night and having a nice family time. Next morning, his wife Rehana informed Begum Nusrat Bhutto that Shahnawaz was dead.
The French police detained Rehana on charges of not helping her dying husband, according to French law. After six months of detention, she was released and she moved to California, USA. There were stories that some important authorities played a role in her release. There were also rumours that since she moved to California, she had been living a comfortable life.
The sudden death of Shahnawaz was a great shock for the Bhutto family. Mir Murtaza Bhutto immediately divorced his wife Fouzia on suspicion that her sister Rehana had a hand in his brother’s death. Shahnawaz and Murtaza had married two Afghan sisters. Shahnawaz’ death was the greatest shock to Begum Nusrat Bhutto and also to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Begum Nusrat Bhutto loved him so much that it became unbearable for her to cope with this tragedy.
Shahnawaz was also very close to his sister Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and she was greatly pained by her brother’s death. Sanam Bhutto was also going through the same pain because the two were not only close, they were also good friends.
Shahnawaz was an idealist. He dedicated his youth to revolution for the sake of the poor. His life was like a storm. He decided to give up all the good things in life. He even gave up his education and all the comforts of life and devoted himself to a mission. The mission was end of martial law and restoration of democratic rights of the people. He and his brother Mir Murtaza Bhutto worked very hard to save his father’s life by raising the issue on the international level.
On April 4, 1979 military dictator General Ziaul Haq assassinated the elected prime minister of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the darkness of night. This act of brutality changed the course of Shahnawaz Bhutto’s life and he chose to follow the path of revolutionary politics.
When the military coup took place against prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on July 5, 1977, Shahnawaz was on holidays in Pakistan. He went back to Switzerland to continue his studies on the instructions of his parents. When Bhutto was sentenced to death by chief justice of Lahore High Court on March 18, 1978, Shahnawaz left Switzerland and joined his brother in London. He helped Mir Murtza Bhutto in his international campaign to save his father’s life very effectively. Shahnawaz had his own ideas and plans and knew how to materialise them. Both brothers loved each other very much.
Shahnawaz Bhutto had personal relations with many international leaders. When Imam Khomeini and his followers came to power after the revolution in Iran, Shahnawaz contacted the new Iranian government and managed to secure a meeting with Imam Khomeini in a short time. Both brothers were invited to visit Iran as guests. They met Imam Khomeini in Qum. He assured them that their father’s life will be spared. Iranian leaders had contacted the dictator, Zia, in this regard. This initiative of the Iranian government was prominently reported in the Iranian press.
After the judicial murder of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on April 4, 1979, Shahnawaz found it difficult to accept this horrible reality. He said: “I don’t believe that Papa has left this world; he is alive and is around and will appear before us any time.”
Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto called me on July 18, and informed me about the sad news of Shahnawaz’ death. She came to London on July 26 to meet the workers who wanted to condole the untimely death of Shahnawaz.
All the top PPP leadership as well as leaders of other parties came and condoled with BB. She was shattered and tears flowed from her eyes all the time.
She told the visitors who were coming to condole that, Shahnawaz, his wife and daughter were with them the night before. Her aunt Bijhet and her husband were also there.
“We talked till very late that night. Shahnawaz left with a promise that he would take me to walk next morning but who knew that we will never meet again,” Benazir said at the time.
Shahnawaz was very happy in our last meeting. When Shahnawaz’ wife phoned and informed about his death in the morning, I felt lifeless. His daughter went to wake her father and found him dead. He always told his daughter Sassi, I will take you to my home in Larkana. He used to tell me: “I want to see the Mazar of my Shaheed father.” But that was not in the stars.
Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto announced that she would take his brother’s body to Pakistan and bury him in their ancestors’ graveyard. This announcement made the government of the day nervous and the administration did everything so that the body does not arrive in Pakistan. The arrival had been scheduled for August 14, the Independence Day. The military government used delaying tactics to stop BB from coming to Pakistan with her brother’s body fearing that thousands of people will attend his funeral.
After a month-long agony, Shahnawaz’ body was at last released. It was decided to take his body to Pakistan a Singapore Airlines flight via Zurich. There was a lot of international press at the airport. When BB spoke to them, she was in tears all the time. Her heart was bleeding that she would never see her brother again. Her face reflected her inner feelings and her broken heart.
We arrived at the Karachi Airport on the morning of August 22 at about 8:00 AM. The airport was shrouded with sadness. Armed commandos surrounded the Singapore Airlines flight. In the meantime, Shahnawaz’ body was transferred to a Fokker plane, destined for Larkana, which was covered with PPP flags and roses.
Thousands of people gathered at Mohanjodaro Airport despite travel restrictions. A huge number of people could be seen all around. Benazir Bhutto went to Garhi Khuda Bakhsh directly from the airport. She selected a grave for Shahnawaz which was 33 feet away from his father’s Mazar. After returning to Al-Murtaza, Shahnawaz’ body was given final bath and then Namaz-e-Janaza was offered at the Larkana Stadiuam. His body was then taken to Garhi Khuda Bakhsh and he was put to rest in a flag of the PPP.
After a very hectic day, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto addressed thousands of people who had travelled from all over Pakistan to share the grief and condole with BB. In her address she said, “The pain of the people of Pakistan is my pain. Shahnawaz’ death is not just my personal loss, it has saddened the whole nation. Everyone knows how many difficulties we have faced. We will continue the mission of Shaheed Bhutto. We will continue our war against injustice and poverty which has been inflicted on the people. I am your sister and will be with you at every step. My feelings are the same as yours and our goal will remain the same too.”
After her address, a foreign journalist asked BB, “Why do you say Shahnawaz’ death is mysterious?” This question upset her greatly and she asked the journalist, “Do you know what is the cause of Shahnawaz’ death?” No, he replied. BB said, “That is why I say my brother died in mysterious circumstances. Many investigations have been carried out since July 18 up till now but we got no report. Under these circumstances, if we don’t say Shahnawaz’ death is mysterious then you tell what I should call it.”