For the fourth anniversary of his government, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto deliberately kept last week's celebration low-keyed. For one thing, he was well aware that former President Muhammad Ayub Khan had staged a lavish anniversary celebration in 1969, only to be forced from power three months later. For another, he recognized that he was under the strongest attack yet from his political opposition, which declared last Friday a nationwide "Black Day." The opposition's aim: to force Bhutto's resignation.
Bhutto did not resign, but the rising tide of bitterness signaled the end of an era of good will that had accompanied his takeover of power after Pakistan's defeat in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war. Bhutto tried to repair the damage wrought by his predecessor, General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan, whose brutal excesses in East Pakistan forced the province to break away and form the nation of Bangladesh. He pushed through a land reform program, gave the country a constitution that changed the government from a presidential to a parliamentary system, and reaped a windfall in aid (almost $1 billion over the past three years) by improving Pakistan's relations with the Arab world.
But Pakistan's ancient quarrels with India and Afghanistan continue. Moreover, Bhutto's hope of a return to close relations with Bangladesh following the August assassination of President Sheik Mujibur Rahman was shattered by a series of coups and countercoups (TIME, Aug. 25), even though Islamabad and
Dacca early this month announced a forthcoming exchange of ambassadors. Pakistan has also been beset by recession, soaring inflation (25% a year) and devastating floods.
All these have provided ammunition for the political opposition, as has Bhutto's own highhanded tactics in putting them down. When his provincial cabinet minister for the Northwest Frontier province was murdered last February, Bhutto banned the National Awami Party—the principal party in the province—and arrested 300 of its leaders, including Khan Abdul Wali Khan, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. Most are still in jail. The battle grew more heated when security forces last month threw the opposition members out of the National Assembly, following a quarrel over passage of a constitutional amendment.
Last week Bhutto, 47, talked at his home in Larkana with TIME'S New Delhi bureau chief William Smith about Pakistan's problems; he had flown there to celebrate the Moslem holiday of 'Id al-Adha before making a four-day state visit to Sri Lanka. Sipping tea on the veranda of the rambling country house, he reminisced about his days at the University of Southern California during the late 1940s. Smith, who was then a student at California Occidental College and vividly recalls Bhutto's championship debating style, reported that "the Prime Minister's powers of persuasion are undiminished. He is also a very emotional man and clearly troubled by the mood of the citizenry, the sporadic agitation against him and charges that he is becoming increasingly undemocratic." Excerpts from the interview: