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Social habits and political methods of Mr. Bhutto

The following secret airgram from the Lahore American Consulate to the Department of State, Washington DC, makes an interesting reading about Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's stay at the Intercontinental Hotel (predecessor of the present Pearl Continental Hotel) at Lahore in the 1970-71. Bhutto was at that time the most popular political leader in West Pakistan and his Pakistan People's Party had gained a sweeping victory in Sindh and Punjab in the elections held in December 1970.

Social habits and political methods of Mr. Bhutto

Department of State


TO: Department of State, Wash DC

INFO: American Embassy, ISLAMABAD; American Consulate, DACCA; American Consulate, KARACHI

FROM: American Consulate, LAHORE

Date: June 28, 1971

SUBJECT: Social Habits And Political Methods of Mr. Bhutto

The files of the United States Government are replete with Bhutto stories, but a few more are always an agreeable way to relieve monotony, and add fresh insights into the character of the man who may become the predominant figure in the government if any real transfer of power is to take place.

Recently, noting that I had called (with Laingen and Hataway) at rooms 538-42, Intercontinental Hotel, the manager of the hotel an Austrian named Rudolph Richter, discoursed at some length on the problems he had encountered during Mr. Bhutto's most recent sojourn in Lahore.

It seems that every time Mr. Bhutto moves into the Intercontinental a certain matron who controls a stable of girls moves in at the same time. Richter said these girls are not prostitutes and there is no prostitution "as such." However, each evening the girls go to Mr. Bhutto's suite where they perform songs and dances for Mr. Bhutto's guests. Richter said many men come in from the nearby villages wanting to see Bhutto or ask a favor from him. However, Bhutto is usually too busy during the day talking to leading officials or politicians. Therefore, he keeps the villagers waiting in the corridors until nightfall. But in the evenings he invites them in to watch the songs and dances performed by the girls. Liquor flows copiously and the singing and dancing, abetted by stamping and clapping of the villagers goes on until the early hours of the morning. Richter said on Bhutto's last visit these "orgies" kept up until 4 a.m. for three straight nights and could be heard all over the hotel, including by him sleeping two floors below. Naturally he received numerous complaints from the other guests, including one from a colonel in the Army who said that if it did not stop he was going to "shoot" Bhutto. At several points Mr. Richter was on the verge of calling the police, but finally brought the matter to the attention of Mr. Bhutto himself and Bhutto immediately apologized and curtailed the noise.

Richter said that on the whole he gets along fine with Bhutto, who is a very obliging guest, and he believes the reason is that prior to the election he "had it out" with Bhutto over what he considered an unpardonable breach of ethics. One evening he heard a great commotion in the hotel kitchen and found Mr. Bhutto standing on the kitchen table making a speech to the hotel workers. Bhutto was saying, in effect, that the workers should make plans to take over the jobs in the hotel that they really wanted, for soon the hotel would belong to them.

Richter said that he told Bhutto outright that he considered this a violation of the rights of hotel guests and that if Bhutto made any more such speeches he would personally "throw him out." Richter said that he thinks he caught Bhutto by surprise by the boldness of his challenge for after muttering something like "You do not dare," Bhutto immediately started to apologize. Bhutto said that the workers had asked for him and that he had felt obliged to respond.

To this Richter replied "What you do in the privacy of your hotel room is your own business, but you have no right going down to the kitchen and making speeches." Ever since that time Bhutto has been extremely courteous to him. Richter believes Bhutto sensed that he might carry through with his threat and that the result could be some nasty publicity that would not be helpful to Bhutto.

Richter's evaluation of Bhutto is that he is a brilliant man of tremendous energy. He can go through a vigorous working day and stay up and party all night. By some of the flamboyant methods just described, he has a charismatic appeal to uneducated people who absolutely dote on him and swallow anything he has to say. However, Richter considers him a very dangerous man precisely because of these qualities.


Source: The American Papers: Secret and Confidential India-Pakistan-Bangladesh Documents 1965-1973
Compiled and Selected by Roedad Khan (1999). Oxford University Press, Karachi.

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