When Bhutto flew too close to the Sun - II

Javid Ali Khan was witness to the 1974 Islamic Summit in Lahore. Could Pakistan’s charismatic ZAB have permanently alienated the West here?

When Bhutto flew too close to the Sun - II
Most of the important speakers at the 1974 Islamic Summit Conference were showering praise on Bhutto as the spearhead and main architect of this very important initiative to unite and rally the Third World and Muslim-majority countries. As intended, Bhutto was clearly emerging as the shining star of this whole show.

Tun Abdul Razzak, welcoming Bangladesh’s Mujibur Rahman “admired the sagacity shown by the Prime Minister of Pakistan in this regard.” It was his view that with this initiative “a new era would dawn on the region.”

Dr. Adam Malik, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia representing President Suharto, agreed that the summit provided “a unique and golden opportunity” for forging the Islamic community into a “collective political force.” He thanked Bhutto for providing that opportunity.

Religious leaders of Christian populations joined in the condemnation of Israel and called for the rights of Palestinians and the liberation of Jerusalem. His Beatitude the Patriarch of Antioch and all the Orient, Elias IV, representing churches based in Damascus and the East, described the creation of Israel from Palestinian land as “an act of theft - a base act”. He announced at the summit that the Christian view was that “Jerusalem and Palestine shall always remain Arab.”

Before coming to the all-important closing session of the Summit, which probably provided the last nail in Bhutto’s coffin, a resolution was agreed upon and passed unanimously – it was something rare and unique for Islamic countries to be on the same page and unanimous without abstentions. It would take too much space and be far too tedious to reproduce the full Resolution, aptly called The Lahore Declaration, passed at this Summit Conference. So only the salient points are given below:

After listing all the countries that participated, including Palestine represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), as well as the Patriarch of Antioch and all the Orient, the Declaration had six different chapters.
His Beatitude the Patriarch of Antioch and all the Orient, Elias IV, representing churches based in Damascus and the East, described the creation of Israel from Palestinian land as “an act of theft - a base act”


The first, to do with only the Muslim countries, declared their unity by common faith and identification with the Third World and stated that:

The Kings, Heads of State and Government and the Representatives of the Islamic countries and organisations proclaimed:

1.) The conviction that their common faith is an indissoluble bond between their peoples: that the solidarity of the Islamic peoples is based, not on hostility towards any other human communities nor on distinctions of race and culture, but on the positive and eternal precepts of equality, fraternity and dignity of man, freedom from discrimination and exploitation and struggle against oppression and injustice.

2.) Their identification with the joint struggle of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America for social and economic progress and prosperity of all nations of the world.

There were four more points emphasizing cooperation, unity, solidarity and appreciation of the heroic role played by the Palestinian resistance and last but not least, appreciation of the activities of the Islamic Conference and its organization itself.

The second part was dedicated to the Arab cause and opposing aggression and use of force, demanding the recovery by all means available, of all their occupied lands and the restoration of the national rights of Palestinians to their own homeland. It had five points, the last of which was an exact repeat from Bhutto’s earlier speech where he said, “The international community and particularly those States which sponsored the partition of Palestine in 1947 bear the heavy responsibility to redress the injustice perpetrated on the Palestinian people.”

The third part is dedicated to the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims and their dedication to recover it and put it under Arab sovereignty. The issue it raises rings true today just as much as it did back then.

His Beatitude Elias IV, Patriarch of Antioch and all the Orient, in Lahore for the Islamic Summit, 1974

“Any measure taken by Israel to change the character of the occupied Arab territories and in particular, of the holy city of Jerusalem, is a flagrant violation of international law and is repugnant to the feelings of the State members of this Islamic Conference and of the Islamic world in general.”

The declaration was drafted mostly by Bhutto himself and contained parts of his speech from the opening session. It shows his foresight in anticipating what is happening today openly and highhandedly against all laws and protests and in violation of UN resolutions.
Bhutto then got a bit carried away, and pointing a dramatic finger at Yasser Arafat, he announced that “the day is not far when Inshallah, we shall enter Bait-ul-Muqaddas together as brothers-in-arms!”

The fourth part deals with economic matters and development, and refers to and is guided by the addresses made by the President of the Summit Conference (Bhutto), the President of Algeria (Boumedienne) and the President of Libya (Gaddafi) and the recommendations made by them for “realising the need for 1.) Eradication of poverty, disease and ignorance from Islamic countries. 2.) Ending exploitation of developing countries by the developed countries. 3.) Regulating the terms of trade between developed countries and developing countries. 4.) Ensuring the sovereignty and full control of the developing countries over their natural resources.”

And it ends by calling for mutual economic cooperation and solidarity amongst Muslim countries. The resolution established a committee of experts from eight different countries, Pakistan being one of the eight.

Part five was just one sentence approving the resolutions passed on Jerusalem, the Middle East and the   Palestinian cause, a Muslim Solidarity Fund etc. which as annexures formed part of the Declaration.

The sixth was again a short sentence directing their representatives at the UN and other International bodies to further these objectives.

Poster from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the
second-largest faction of the PLO, from the 1970s


But most of the drama took place in the closing session. First Yasser Arafat, representing PLO and Palestine, was given a hero’s welcome and applause when he spoke. He had been granted the status of a Head of State and Government – thereby bestowing upon Palestine the honour of being an independent country and nation despite the Israeli occupation. Arafat called upon all the nations, Islamic or not, to recognize Palestine as a nation and fight to get it that status in the world polity and United Nations. He praised the Conference, emotionally pleading that “the torch of Islamic brotherhood lighted here should be kept aflame to fight and humble the forces of darkness and tyranny.”

And then he waxed eloquent in praising Bhutto, his brilliance and personality and initiative. He moved a resolution paying tributes to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in calling for, hosting, organizing and making the Summit so successful. The resolution was unanimously adopted amidst thundering applause and indirectly conferred upon Bhutto the leadership role. To cement this symbolically, Arafat walked across to Bhutto and presented him with a replica model of the Holy Dome of the Rock (the place of ascension for the Meraj of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him). He then embraced Bhutto warmly amidst great applause.

In this highly charged emotional atmosphere, Bhutto made his closing remarks. The speech for the official closing session had been drafted and written for him by the Foreign Office under the supervision of the Foreign Secretary. I was, personally, keen to hear what they had come up with and how it would match with the one made at the opening session, in the writing of which I had a part.

Bhutto pulled out the speech from his coat pocket, put on his reading glasses, looked at the papers in front of him and seemed to be lost in thought whilst the gathering waited in silent suspense. Then he folded the papers and put them back in his pocket, took off his reading glasses and started to speak extempore. Bhutto had an uncanny feel for the pulse of any crowd he was addressing, which he used to gauge their mood and improvise accordingly. He was an accomplished orator and also a master of drama when delivering a speech. Almost everyone has witnessed his extempore speech at the United Nations in 1971 when he knew we had lost the war and Bangladesh and his tearing up of his “written speech” in a most dramatic manner and striding out. (Some people claim that there was no speech and it was just blank papers that he tore up – but whatever the truth, speech or no written speech, the dramatic gesture was there.)

Here too, he launched into a highly emotional and sentimental speech, which drew repeated long and loud applauses. He probably realized that enough had been said about unity and cooperation, and the written speech probably contained more exhortations and platitudes regarding the same.

He first thanked everyone, the Kings and Heads of State, the delegations, the participants, even the citizens of Lahore for their forbearance and in making the Conference so historic and such a resounding success. He endeared himself and Pakistan to these powerful people by his humility (true or false) and yet in a dignified and proud manner. About Pakistan’s contribution to the Islamic polity, he said,

“We are a poor nation. We may not be able to contribute funds to the development of the Islamic world, but with Allah as my witness, I declare here today that we, the people of Pakistan, shall give our blood for the cause of Islam.” (Long applause). He continued to more applause “the people of Pakistan are dedicated to the cause of Islamic solidarity.”

But even more was yet to come:

“The people of Pakistan are the soldiers of Islam and its armies are the armies of Islam. Whenever any occasion arises the Islamic world would never find us wanting in any future conflict.”

Having committed himself so far on an international forum, he then got a bit carried away, and pointing a dramatic finger at Yasser Arafat, he announced that “the day is not far when Inshallah, we shall enter Bait-ul-Muqaddas together as brothers-in-arms!”

To the USA and Israel who must have already declared him Public Enemy Number One, this clarion call of liberating Jerusalem together with the PLO must have put the last nail in his coffin – which he had started preparing for himself by calling for, initiating, organizing and very successfully delivering this Islamic brotherhood and Third World unity conference.

After the summit Bhutto persuaded Libya’s Gaddafi to stay back as an honoured and popular State Guest. What happened next is believed by many in Pakistan to have turned the US foreign policy and intelligence community against Bhutto.