The Bhutto family’s Junagadh connection

For the people of Junagadh, the gruesome death of Benazir Bhutto was akin to a personal loss. This historic town was once home to Bhutto family, though Benazir, of course, had never stayed here.

Benazir's grandfather, Shahnawaz Bhutto, was the last Diwan or Prime Minister of the erstwhile princely state of Junagadh. It was here at Aman Manzil— renamed Shanti Niwas after Independence and turned into Primary Teachers College—that Shahnawaz Bhutto along with his wife, two daughters and son, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, had stayed after shifting from Sindh in 1946. The building is located right behind Swami Vivekanand High School in Ram Niwas area.

According to noted Junagadh-based historian Pradhuman Khachar, the last Nawab of the state, Mahabat Khanji, had appointed Shahnawaz as Diwan on May 30, 1947.

He had served the state for five months and 11 days and his office, Jal Mahal, in the same locality, today houses a forensic science laboratory and water supply department.

The elderly here recall that on April 24, 1947, the Bhutto household had organised a grand reception at Aman Manzil to celebrate the marriage of one of Shahnawaz's daughters.

Meraj Sayed recalled that Bhutto family was one of their regular visitors during the time of his grandfather, Hakim Mohamed Husain.

"The family used to visit us during the month of Muharram and attend the "majlis" (religious gathering) at our house. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had some friends here, none of them are alive," he said.

The Diwan's office was the hotbed of politics during those turbulent days. According to Khachar, Shahnawaz had played a vital role in the Nawab's decision regarding the merging of Junagadh state with Pakistan. However, later Shahnawaz had instructed senior officers of the erstwhile princely state that Junagadh would merge with India, added Khachar.

On November 8, 1947, after signing some important documents at his office, Shahnawaz left Junagadh, never to return again. The very next day, British political agent and senior officer of the princely state, Captain Harve Jones, handed over Junagadh to an official of the Union of India. Thus ended the family's association with the town.

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