Rafi Raza was Federal Minister in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Government under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB). He was associated with ZAB in forming the PPP in 1967 to oppose Field Marshal Ayub Khan. At a time when ZAB was persona non grata, Rafi Raza represented him in a defamation case against a leading daily newspaper in July 1967. He was also the party’s constitutional law expert.
In 1971, Rafi Raza helped ZAB write The Great Tragedy, describing the disastrous events of 1971 and negotiations with the Awami League of East Pakistan. ZAB inscribed the book on 28 September 1971: ‘Thank you for all the trouble you took to lessen the tragedy in more ways than one. For this and other reasons, I have much pleasure in presenting the first copy of our effort to you.’
1971 saw the break-up of Pakistan, the end of military government, and the creation of Bangladesh after a bitter civil war. Rafi Raza accompanied ZAB in the abortive constitutional negotiations in Dacca in January and March 1971, and later in December was the only PPP member with ZAB at the UN Security Council meeting held to end the war between Pakistan and India.
When ZAB took over from the military government and became President, on 20 December 1971, Rafi Raza was appointed Special Assistant (Federal Minister), and was his chief of staff. He played a key role in all political negotiations and diplomatic developments, and in constitution making. He was instrumental in drafting the interim Constitution in 1972, and then the permanent Constitution of 1973.
The Constitution Committee’s Report praised and thanked Rafi Raza ‘for the original and constructive proposals…which contributed in large measure to the evolution of the Constitution’. This Constitution remains a lasting testament to the ZAB government, though subsequently mutilated by General Zia.
Rafi Raza played a critical role in the negotiations leading to the Shimla Accord, which was reached by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Bhutto in July 1972 to resolve the issues resulting from the 1971 war. He was also subsequently involved in the implementation of the Accord.
He participated in most official meetings held by ZAB with other foreign governments, notably the Soviet Union, China, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Libya, Algeria and Iraq. He also led the Pakistan delegation to the Islamic Foreign Ministers’ Conference in Libya in 1972.
After resigning as Special Assistant in June 1973, he was elected a Senator from 1973 to 1977 in the first Senate of Pakistan.
In 1974, he was appointed Federal Minister for Production, Industries and Commerce. He remained a Federal Minister till he resigned at the end of March 1977. During this period as Minister, major developments were undertaken, including the implementation of the first steel mills with the Soviet Union, heavy engineering projects with China, and several fertiliser and cement plants. Contracts were awarded on merit following international tendering; nevertheless, friction resulted with the USA because, unlike in the past, no major contract was awarded to American parties.
Rafi Raza was a member of the Defence, Economic and all other important committees of the Cabinet. He also led the Pakistan delegation at several important discussions including with the Soviet Union, China, Indonesia and the EEC.
He formally left government at the end of March 1977, having resigned earlier that year. In 1990, he was again appointed Federal Minister in the Interim Government under President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.