Despite the passage of almost half a century of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's time in power, from December 1971 to July 1977, at least five policies and programmes initiated by him not only remain relevant but are considered vital for Pakistan. These initiatives - namely, Pakistan's nuclear programme; the Constitution of 1973; the Islamic Summit and subsequent export of manpower to Middle East; the development of Pak-China relations; and the Simla Agreement, which ushered in the longest spell of peace in South Asia - can rightfully be considered Bhutto's true legacy.

Here is a brief overview of these policies and programmes...

Nuclear Programme

Bhutto took over the leadership of Pakistan after the war with India, in which Pakistan lost its eastern wing, and about 56 percent of its population. The country had never felt so demoralised and vulnerable as at this juncture of history. The war demonstrated that, in a conventional war, Pakistan stood no chance against the multiple-times larger and powerful India. Bhutto realised that the only viable defence for Pakistan would be a nuclear deterrent, which would also 'restore Pakistan's place in the world after the defeat,' wrote Ian Talbot in Pakistan: A New History.

About a month after assuming the office of the President, on January 24, 1972, he 'gathered the country's fifty top scientists (including future Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam) at a secret meeting in Multan at the home of local PPP [Pakistan Peoples Party] leader Nawab Sadiq Hussain Qureshi, challenging them to build a nuclear bomb,' wrote Pakistan's noted military historian Shuja Nawaz in his book Crossed Swords. 'He had great charisma, and he really moved those people. They cheered him and they said they could do it. Everyone believed in Bhutto,' Nawaz quoted a participant of the meeting.

Former president and prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's 95th birth anniversary was on January 5. Fifty years after he came to power, he remains one of the most polarising figures of Pakistan's history and his life and untimely death continue to cast a shadow across the country's politics to this day. But his true legacy for the state often gets obscured...

While Pakistan's nuclear programme was going through birth pains, India exploded its first nuclear device on May 18, 1974 in the Rajasthan desert, code-worded as 'The Buddha is Smiling'. This put Pakistan under immense pressure. At that stage, two factors hampering progress were the financial constraints...

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