A tale of how Syed Mushtaq Ali turned down Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

In a chat with Sportstar, Syed Mushtaq Ali's son reveals how Mushtaq turned down requests from former Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to take up a Pakistani citizenship, twice.

“I remember dad (Mushtaq Ali) telling me stories about how he clearly told Bhutto that India was his mother and he would not leave her and move to Pakistan,” Syed Gulrez Ali told Sportstar on Sunday.   -  Shayan Acharya

As Pakistan prepares to celebrate the 90th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on January 5, Syed Gulrez Ali, remembers how his father, the Indian cricketing legend, Syed Mushtaq Ali, had turned down Bhutto’s proposal of taking a Pakistani citizenship, twice.

A dear friend of the erstwhile Pakistan Prime Minister, Mushtaq was approached by Bhutto to shift base to Pakistan twice — once in 1948, right after the partition, and the other time during the Shimla Peace Accord in 1972. However, Mushtaq turned down the offer on both the occasions.

“I remember dad telling me stories about how he clearly told Bhutto that India was his mother and he would not leave her and move to Pakistan,” Gulrez told Sportstar on Sunday.

Even though he had his requests turned down, Bhutto — a great fan of Mushtaq — had invited the Indian cricketer to Pakistan, but that too could not materialise due to ‘the political situation at the time.’

The two struck up a relationship in pre-independence era, when Bhutto would come to watch Mushtaq bat in Mumbai and  would often stay over with him. Perhaps, due to this bond, Bhutto had asked Mushtaq to settle down in Pakistan. “Father was offered everything in Pakistan, but he clearly told Bhutto that he should not be talking about such things in the future,” Gulrez said.

But there was great camaraderie between the two, which is very evident as Mushtaq named his grandson (Gulrez’s son), Abbas Ali — also a former cricketer — as ‘Zulfi’.

“Bhutto’s nickname was Zulfi, and when Abbas was born, my father fondly called him Zulfi. Maybe, that way he could remember his old friend Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto,” Gulrez said.

By then, both the friends were divided by borders. Even though the Mushtaq lost touch with the Bhuttos post Zulfiqar’s death, the family still remembers the former Pakistan first family quite fondly. “Perhaps, most of the people would not know why my father named Abbas as Zulfi. They were great friends,” he said.

Gulrez, who too has played for Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy, reveals that before his death, Mushtaq wanted to see Madhya Pradesh win a Ranji Trophy title. But that never happened. He passed away in 2005 and even after that, the state has failed to reach the final.

“When Abbas started training at Sanjay Jagdale’s academy, my father would watch him play. He would observe him closely. But then, at home they never discussed much about cricket,” Gulrez said.

While the state government had decided to set up a cricket museum in Mushtaq’s name, nothing has been done since. Caught in red-tapism, even Gulrez has no idea whether the project would ever see the light of the day.

It’s been twelve years since his father’s demise, but Gulrez still remembers how his father was passionate about the game. After all, that was the love of Mushtaq’s life.