Pakistan’s former Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), had four children. Stories of three of them have been told from multiple angles, including that of a daughter, Sanam, who, unlike her siblings, never ventured into politics. However, the story of one of his sons, Shahnawaz, has never gone any deeper than the sad fact that he died in mysterious circumstances in 1985, aged just 26.ZAB’s rise to power was dramatic. After getting degrees from the University of Berkley in the US and Oxford in the UK, he became a lecturer at Karachi’s then prestigious SM Law College. In 1951 he had married Nusrat Ispahani, a head-strong woman. ZAB was just 29 when he became a member of the Pakistani delegation at the United Nations (UN). He then became a minister in President Iskander Mirza’s cabinet. He was retained as minister when Mirza and military chief Ayub Khan imposed Pakistan’s first martial law in 1958. When Ayub also ousted Mirza, ZAB became a favored protégé of the new President and Field Marshal.In 1965 ZAB clashed with Ayub and was eased out of the government. In 1967 he formed a populist and left-leaning party (the Pakistan People’s Party [PPP]) with Marxist ideologue, JA Rahim. The PPP swept the 1970 election in West Pakistan’s two largest provinces, the Punjab and Sindh. When a vicious civil war in the Bengali-majority East Pakistan saw the region become Bangladesh (December 1971), a group of disgruntled military officers forced General Yahya Khan (who had replaced Ayub in 1969) to resign. They then invited ZAB to take over the presidency. In 1973 ZAB was elected the country’s prime minister when the national assembly dominated by PPP MNAs passed the 1973 Constitution.In March and April of 1977 ZAB faced a concentrated protest movement by an alliance of right-wing and centre-right parties. In July 1977 his regime was toppled in a reactionary military coup. In April 1979 he was hanged through a controversial trial (on charges of ordering a 1973 murder). He was 51. A new beginning: A 1968 pro-Bhutto rally held in Karachi by the left-wing student outfit, the National Students Federation (NSF).Bhutto’s widow, Nusrat, and his eldest daughter, Benazir, took the reins of the party after Bhutto’s demise. Both led various protest movements against the military regime of Gen Zia. In August 1988, Zia died in a plane crash. Sabotage was suspected.Benazir led the PPP to victory in the 1988 election and became PM. She would become PM again in 1993 before being assassinated in December 2007. She had shone the brightest among the Bhutto children, becoming a local and international political celebrity.The other well-known Bhutto child was Murtaza. In 1979 he had formed an urban guerrilla outfit to oust Zia. The outfit operated from the then communist Afghanistan. Benazir disapproved of Murtaza’s tactics and both eventually had a falling out.Murtaza returned to Pakistan in 1993 to challenge Benazir’s leadership of the PPP. He formed the PPP-Shaheed Bhutto (PPP-SB) faction. But it failed to gain any momentum and Murtaza was eventually killed in a controversial police raid on his convoy in Karachi in 1996.Sanam, who had remained away from politics, tried to mend fences between Benazir and Murtaza. She then came close to Murtaza’s children after the latter’s death and played a prominent role in comforting Benazir’s three children after her assassination in December 2007. And then there was also Shah Today, out of the five ZAB children, only one survives (Sanam). The mother, Nusrat, passed away in 2011 after witnessing the tragic deaths of her husband and four of their children – even though, as a blessing in disguise, she was suffering from Alzheimer’s when a suicide bomber murdered her husband’s favorite, Benazir, in 2007, along with dozens of her supporters in Rawalpindi.But the first of the ZAB children to die was also the youngest. He was the last-born. Shahnawaz (aka Shah) expired under mysterious circumstances in Cannes, France in 1985. Over the years numerous accounts of his death have appeared in newspapers, yet everything else about his life before his demise has been weighed down by the hefty stories of his more prominent siblings.Shah was born in November 1958. He was a pampered child. Even though Benazir would become ZAB’s favorite, in a 2014 article, Bashir Riaz – a journalist who was close to the Bhutto family – wrote that ZAB and Nusrat doted on their youngest son and the rest of Shah’s siblings were very protective of him. Shah idealized his elder brother, Murtaza who was four years older. Author and journalist Raja Anwar who was a former student leader and an advisor in the ZAB regime wrote in his book, The Terrorist Prince, that unlike Benazir and Murtaza, Shah as a child was ’emotionally fragile’ and would remain that way till his untimely death.The June 17, 1972 edition of the now defunct Morning News ran a photo of a tent erected in the lush garden of ZAB’s home in Karachi (70 Clifton). The tent was erected there by the then 18-year-old Murtaza who spent most of his time in this tent, surrounded by books on Marxism and posters of revolutionary leaders such as Che Guevara, Lenin, Mao Tse Tung and Ho Chi Minnh. Shah who was 14 would often follow his elder brother into this tent and try to act like him.The same Morning News report quotes a servant of the Bhuttos as saying (in Sindhi): ‘Murtaza Baba says he will help his father to bring a peoples revolution in Pakistan. But Bhutto Sain (ZAB) doesn’t take him seriously. He has politely asked Murtaza Baba to get rid of the tent and spend more time on his studies …’In his excellent biography of ZAB, Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan, famous author, Stanley Wolpert, wrote that ZAB took his children’s education very seriously. Wolpert informs that ZAB was convinced that Benazir would do well at Harvard University and then Oxford, but he was concerned about his sons.Murtaza had begun to get into trouble at school (The Karachi Grammar School) and also had some run-ins with the police in the early 1970s. ZAB was too glad to pack him off to Harvard University in 1973. Shahnawaz was heartbroken. Missing his elder brother, he too started to get into brawls at school. This irritated ZAB who used to work for long hours.After consulting Nusrat, ZAB sent Shahnawaz to the American School in Islamabad. But Shahnawaz continued to get into trouble, disappointing and even embarrassing his father who had by then become the PM of the country.Raja Anwar wrote that at one point in the mid-1970s, Shah had a ‘nervous breakdown.’ Anwar again attributes this to Shah’s ’emotionally fragile’ disposition. His academic life was dwarfed by those of his elder siblings. And the fact that he was the son of a powerful and popular PM too weighed heavily on his psyche.Worried by the troubled and agitated nature of Shah’s personality, ZAB and Nusrat concluded that they had failed to instill in him the discipline which they had in their other children. So in 1976 they packed him off to a school in Switzerland known for imparting strict discipline in its students.In her autobiography, Daughter of the East, Benazir wrote that Shah was very close to his siblings (and vice versa), and when all of them went abroad to study, he used to miss them dearly and became depressed and disconcerted. ZAB was just too busy running the country and Nusrat did all she could to rein in her troubled son.Anwar wrote that during one summer break when Shah returned from Switzerland to Pakistan, he told his father that he wanted to do something for the expansion of tourism in the country. This delighted ZAB. ZAB’s regime had already expanded the Tourism Ministry because tourism had been growing exponentially in Pakistan between the early 1960s (under Ayub) and the mid-1970s.Anwar also described Shah as someone who was more interested in music and romantic flings than he was in politics. But fate had something else in store for him. The accidental guerrilla On July 5, 1977, the ZAB regime was toppled by Gen Zia in a reactionary military coup. ZAB was arrested and put under house arrest. Shah and Benazir were in Pakistan at the time. Bashir Riaz informs that Nusrat took over the reins of the PPP and sent Benazir and Shah to Lahore ‘to boost the morale of party workers’. This was the first time Shah delivered a political speech. At the time, Punjab in general and Lahore in particular were the epicenters of PPP’s electoral prowess.Anwar wrote that Nusrat formed secret cells of young, passionate PPP activists to evade the spree of arrests and crackdown that the Zia dictatorship had launched against PPP workers. When a controversial court verdict in a murky murder case against ZAB threatened to send him to the gallows, some working-class supporters of the PPP set themselves on fire in the Punjab.Nusrat asked Murtaza and Shah to travel to the UK to drum up international support for ZAB’s release. Both Nusrat and Benazir remained in Pakistan. Sanam too was in Pakistan and had gotten married in 1977.As Murtaza and Shah led anti-Zia rallies in the UK, Nusrat and Benazir were eventually arrested and put behind bars.ZAB was hanged in April, 1979. Wolpert wrote that despite pleas for clemency from a number of heads of state and governments from around the world, Zia went ahead with the execution. Wolpert suggests that Zia told his aids that if he let ZAB go, he (ZAB) would return to put his (Zia’s) neck around the noose. So to the dictator, it was either ZAB’s neck or his.Murtaza flew into a rage after his father’s hanging. With his mother and sister loitering in jail in Pakistan, he decided to topple the Zia regime through force. Disoriented by his father’s demise, Shah followed his elder brother’s lead. He accompanied Murtaza to Beirut where both were given a crash course in guerrilla warfare by a group of Palestinian militants. Beirut at the time was in grip of a civil war.After securing a deal (of acquiring arms) from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and funding from the radical Libyan leader, Col. Qaddafi, Murtaza sent Shahnawaz and a batch of young PPP activists to Libya. Qaddafi had allowed Murtaza to set up training camps in Tripoli where Murtaza’s men were further trained in guerrilla warfare by the group of Palestinian militants who were being backed by Qaddafi.Murtaza named his outfit the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In a late 1979 communique, the PLA described itself as a Marxist organization ‘dedicated to the overthrow of the usurper Zia (sic).’Murtaza soon moved the PLA to Kabul in the then Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. Shah moved to Kabul as well. Here Murtaza changed the name of the outfit to Al-Zulfikar (AZO). AZO’s first batch was almost entirely lost to arrests when it returned to Pakistan to pull off bank robberies and assassinate one of the judges who had sent ZAB to his death.The second batch who crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan’s rugged tribal areas arrived in 1981. Prominent among them was the notorious president of the PPP’s student-wing (PSF) in Karachi, Salamullah Tipu. Tipu came from a lower-middle-class Urdu-speaking family. In a 1981 gun battle between PSF and Jamat-i-Islami’s student-wing, the IJT, at the Karachi University, he had already killed an IJT activist.He escaped to Kabul and joined the AZO. Anwar too had joined the AZO in 1980 but was jailed by the Afghan intelligence agency on the Murtaza’s insistence, who accused him of being ‘Zia’s agent’. Anwar wrote in his book that Shah had seemed ‘out of place’ in Kabul. Shah often asked Murtaza to send him to Pakistan with the other AZO militants, but Murtaza always refused. He was convinced that Shah would most definitely be arrested or killed.In 1981, Tipu and two other AZO operatives from Karachi hijacked a PIA plane from the city’s busy airport. Tipu shot dead a passenger who both Tipu and Murtaza believed was ‘Zia’s man.’ He wasn’t. Anwar wrote that the passenger had actually worked for ZAB!Tipu managed to get the Zia regime to release over 50 political prisoners from Pakistani jails. Zia had refused to release them until Tipu and his men threatened to kill the US passengers on the flight. This finally made Zia buckle and he agreed to set the prisoners free.Anwar says that even though Tipu was the mastermind behind the hijacking, Murtaza knew about it. Murtaza also congratulated Tipu when the plane landed in Kabul. However, Murtaza’s daughter, Fatima Bhutto, in her book Songs of Blood & Sword quotes her father as saying that he had no clue what Tipu was up to and that most probably he (Tipu) had unknowingly become Zia’s pawn.Fatima was indicating what Benazir had also alluded to in her autobiography: i.e. Tipu was ‘allowed’ (by Zia) to conveniently hijack the plane so that Zia could built a pretext on which to order a harsh crackdown against opposition parties which were about to launch a countrywide movement against him.But Anwar quotes Tipu as saying that Murtaza had hailed the hijacking, even though Benazir had denounced it. Interestingly, Shah is not mentioned at all. Anwar suggests that most probably Shah had no clue what was transpiring. He was more interested in the romantic affair he was having with an Afghan girl in Kabul.He married the girl whose sister then married Murtaza.Murtaza and Shah moved to France where they were accommodated by a French minister who had been a good friend of ZAB’s. The brothers left behind a dozen or so AZO operatives in Kabul. Soon a war broke out between the AZO faction sympathetic to Tipu and one close to Murtaza. Even though eventually Murtaza restored his relations with Tipu, a murder committed in Kabul by Tipu saw him being thrown in jail.Anwar quotes Tipu as saying that Murtaza had ordered the murder but he then convinced the Afghan intelligence chief that Tipu had become a liability and was most probably ‘Zia’s agent.’ Tipu pleaded that he was a more committed Marxist revolutionary than ‘the feudal Murtaza.’ But this did not stop the Afghan authorities to execute him in 1984 on charges of murder. He was just 28.By 1984 Shah had begun to pull out of AZO activities. He wanted to start a business in France but for that he needed money.In her book, Benazir wrote that when she was exiled from Pakistan and met Shah in France, he seemed troubled. This young man who had just wanted to expand tourism in Pakistan and loved music and romantic flings, had been dragged into a tense, violent and paranoid realm of urban guerilla warfare by his father’s execution and his elder brother’s wayward, angry impulses.Shah’s marriage with his Afghan wife was also falling apart. Benazir wrote that Murtaza told her that he was worried about Shah. Former Pakistani diplomat and author, Jamshed Marker, who was Pakistan’s ambassador in France wrote that on July 18, 1985, Shah had an argument with Murtaza at a restaurant. Marker says it was about money. Qaddafi and a UAE prince who was close to the Bhutto family had gifted money to the brothers to help them make ends meet in France. Murtaza wanted to invest the money in AZO whereas Shah insisted that he be given his share so he could start a business. Murtaza disagreed, suggesting that at least Qaddafi’s money was for the AZO alone.Marker wrote that Benazir was also there and tried to cool the brothers down, but to no avail. She was already trying to convince Murtaza to wrap up AZO and return to Pakistan to politically challenge Zia.During the argument between the brothers, Shah stormed out of the restaurant. Murtaza went after him and both had another argument at Shah’s apartment. Murtaza also admonished Shah’s wife for ‘her cold behavior’ towards Shah. She shouted back, asking for a divorce. The same day Shah collapsed on his kitchen floor. Doctors could not revive him and he died the same day.Murtaza and Benazir claimed he was poisoned, most probably by his wife who they believed had been ‘compromised by Zia’s agencies.’ The French police arrested her, but soon released her for lack of evidence.The Zia regime told the press that Shah had died due to drugs and alcohol, whereas Marker stated that Shah had taken a lethal dose of anti-depressants and overdosed.Shah’s body was flown back to Pakistan to be buried in the Bhuttos’ ancestral graveyard in Larkana. His funeral took place in Karachi’s large working-class area, Lyari, which was a PPP’s stronghold in the city. The funeral turned violent when mourners started to chant anti-Zia slogans and attacked the police who began to fire tear gas shells at the swelling crowds. The police then began to fire bullets. A group of men began to retaliate with pistol fire from the narrow lanes of the area.The young man who had wanted nothing but a stress-free life failed to get it even in death. He was finally laid to rest in Larkana. The writer is a columnist, author and a cultural critic Published in Daily Times, July 23rd 2017.