ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari yesterday hailed Mir Murtza Bhutto as a man of great courage and conviction who lived an eventful life dedicated to fighting against dictatorship.

Paying tributes to Mir Murtaza Bhutto on his 19th death anniversary, Zardari said this scion of the Bhutto family endured the rigours of exile, witnessed the tormenting of his mother and sister, the assassination of his father and his younger brother but refused to bow down before dictatorship.

“On this day in 1996 Mir Murtaza was gunned down under mysterious circumstances near his residence in Karachi. More mysteriously the police officer investigating the assassination was also murdered. It lent credence to the suspicion that the assassination was a conspiracy to kill a Bhutto and lay blame on another Bhutto to discredit the Bhuttos and overthrow the PPP government of the time led by his sister,” he said.

“It is my conviction that his assassination will not remain a secret forever and as Benazir Bhutto had said the assassins would not only be exposed but also punished,” he added. Murtza had returned to Pakistan from exile in 1993 and was arrested for terrorism during the rule of Benazir Bhutto. Released on bail, Murtaza successfully contested elections to the Sindh Assembly, becoming a vocal critic of Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari. Amid increasing tensions between the two, he was shot dead along with six associates in a police encounter near his home in Karachi on September 20, 1996.

Benazir Bhutto’s government was dismissed a month later by then president Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari primarily citing Murtza Bhutto's death and corruption. Zardari was arrested and indicted for Murtaza Bhutto’s murder but acquitted in 2008. Murtaza Bhutto’s faction of his father's party, the PPP (Shaheed Bhutto), remains active in politics and is headed by his widow Ghinawa Bhutto.

Meanwhile, on Sunday Zardari called for increasing awareness among the people on issues of peace.

In a message on the eve of international peace day on September 21, the former president called for peace both within the communities inside national boundaries and among people across national boundaries and ethnic and religious divides. “Our religion Islam means peace. Let us spare a thought today to issues in peace and rededicate ourselves to the ideal of peace and harmony and take concrete steps to achieve them,” he said.

“Achieving the ideals of peace is a collective responsibility of all--of individuals, of communities and of governments across the world and across all divides. War is no solution to the problems confronting humanity. Let us all seek to build genuine harmony and peace,” he said in the statement.

“It is also a day to promote public awareness through seminars, discussion and other means on issues of peace and thereby contribute to strengthening humanity's collective resolve to banish war and live together in peace,” he concluded.