Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a man of enormous political and intellectual talents.

He could stand in peasant dress before a crowd of 100,000 and bring it to a fever pitch and then just as readily cool the throng with soothing words. In a matter of hours, he could be equally at ease in a tete-a-tete with a diplomat, speaking with charm and sophisticationof intricate matters of world affairs.

History is likely to judge thathe rescued his country in its hour of greatest need, emerging as president following the shattering loss of East Pakistan in the 1971 war with India and rebuilding the nation's confidence and institutions.

And history is also likely to record that he had flaws of character so great that they led him to the gallows.

After months and months of excruciatingly precise legal procedures, Bhutto was hanged early today for complicityin the murder of the father of a minor political rival. Bhutto was 51.

The nighttime ambush at a Lahore traffic circle in November 1974 was but one of a series of incidents in which political figures who dared to cross swords with Bhutto were summarily dismissed and in some cases physically intimidated.

It was the dark side of the character of a man who excelled as a student at the University of California at Berkeley and atOxford, who served as diplomat and foreign minister and ultimately was called upon to lead his country.

Bhutto is not often remembered for theharshness with which he treated political foes and those whom he suspected of seeking to share his power.

Nor is he thought of as a man who was politically blind to a fundamental aspect of his country's existence-its deep roots in Islam and the role of Islamic conservatism in Pakistanisociety. Pakistan was founded as a Moslem homeland in the partition ofthe Indian subcontinent. Yet, for Bhutto, the mullahs, the Islamic leaders, were figures for disdain.

Wrapping himself in populist rhetoric and the political ideals of a Western-educated modernist, Bhutto forgot to cover his political flanks, much like the Shah of Iran lost sight of the religious underpinnings of his country.

One visitor to his office recalled how their conversation was interrupted by a telephone call, apparently about an issue affecting his Pakistan People's Party.After Bhutto hung up the phone, the visitor recalled, he slammed his hand against the desk and muttered, "Those damn beards, the beards," referring to the Moslem clergy.

When his control began to wane, however, and the opposition became more open, it was the "beards" and the Islamic-based parties that poured into the streets, crying for an end to his rule. And in theend, it was a general with deep fundamentalist befiefs, Zia Ul-Haq, whospurned international appeals for clemency and ordered him to the gallows.

Bhutto built his political base as a man of the people, one who stood for the rights of Pakistan's downtrodden peasantry, but his roots were in one of the country's great landowning families and the feudal tradition of its Sind Province.

Born on Jan. 5, 1928, into a style of life characteristic of wealthy families under the British Raj, he was no stranger to the good life of Karachi and Bombay, where he was sent to school, and is said to have picked up a taste for expensive scotch-something which became a political liability in Pakistan's Islamic-oriented society.

He entered the university of California at Berkeley in 1947 and went on to receive an honors degree in political science. During his senior year at Berkeley, he worked in the unsuccessful senatorial campaign of Helen Gahagan Douglas against Richard M. Nixon, a man he later came to admire for his views on international politics.

Bhutto went from Berkeley to Christ Church College at Oxford where he received his master's degreein jurisprudence in 1952, following which he became a barrister at London's Lincoln's Inn and began lecturing in international politics at the University of Southampton-the first Asian to teach at the university. It was this western-oriented view of the world and an accompanying disdain for his less refined countrymen that Bhutto brought back with him to Pakistan when he launched himself into the country's turbulent politics in 1954.

His political advance was a rapid one and within four years he was minister of commerce in the martial-law government to Gen. Ayub Khan, the first of a variety of positions he held in domestic and foreign affairs, including sensitive negotiations with the Soviet Union and with India over the status of Kashmir.

By 1962, Bhutto was emerging as the architect of Pakistan's foreign policy, a role that was recognized formally with his appointment as foreign minister the following year.

For the next three years, he skillfully played the game of geopolitics, buildingties to China as protection against India and playing on Pakistan's Islamic and Third World status to build ties with both camps.

Throughout this period Bhutto was aligned with the right wing of the Moslem League, a link he maintained until he broke with Ayub Khan over an agreement to meet with Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in Tashkent.

Bhuttorailed against the agreement, saying Ayub had sold out Pakistan's interests under pressure from the United States. It was the opening shot in his drive for his own political base and in his on-again, off-again campaign against the United States.

In short order, he left the Moslem League and in 1967 launched his own Pakistan People's Party, the vehicle that would take him to power three years later. But not before he played acrucial role in his people's most traumatic crisis since the partition of the subcontinent two decades earlier.

Bhutto built his party on opposition to Ayub and in November 1968, after violent antigovernment demonstrations, he was jailed. By the time of his release in February 1969, his popularity was immensely enhanced, a popularity that carried over to a landslide victory for his party in West Pakistan in the country's first general election in December 1970.

While Bhutto and his party swept to power in West Pakistan, an equally charismatic figure, Sheik Mujibur Rahman, carried the field in the country's populous eastern wing and laidclaim to national leadership. Bhutto, reflecting the control the Pakistanis in the west had exercised over their Bengali compatriots, forbade his party members to attend a joint congress that would have anointed Mujibur's leadership.

Pakistan was thrown into a downward spiral of political mistrust and violence, the end result of which was harsh repressionin the Eastern wing, revolt, Indian intervention and a disastrous war.

Bhutto is often remembered for the role he assumed after the loss of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and it is often forgotten that he played a prominent role in the events that led up to the cataclysmic events of 1971.

Those events were a watershed for the Indian subcontinent, splitting and demoralizing Pakistan and establishing Indian supremacy. Into this morass of despair and defeatism Bhutto moved with a sense of purpose, eshorting his countrymen to have heart, cracking down on the country's elite, nationalizing major industries, grabbing hold of the strings of power that had been left flapping in the winds of military defeat.

In short order, but not without a bit of prodding from friendly Western diplomats and friends, he introduced a new constitution and established a parliamentary system of government.Almost alone, he took a defeated and humiliated nation and gave it, self-respect once again.

Behind the headlines that spoke of democratic principles and parliamentary rule, however, Bhutto maintained martial law powers, and there is ample evidence that the men who surrounded him were no less willing to exercise the intimidating powers of control and reap the financial benefits than the militaryoligarchy that had preceded them.

Slowly but efficiently his politicalpolice compiled dossiers on actual and potential opponents. More than a few foes-some real, some imagined-were threatened or beaten. It may well have been the overzealous responses of political underlings, but there were too many incidents for Bhutto not to have known what was happening.

While his political heavy-handed-ness and love for fine wines builtresentment at home, Bhutto's image abroad was continually polished. With his Savile Row suits and sophisticated knowledge of world affairs, hewas good copy for the world press, which also could see his obvious popularity among Pakistan's peasantry.

Over the years, however, the list of enemies grew and the promises of food, shelter and land reform proved hollow. If the peasants could overlook the wines and peccadillos in which he indulged-after all, the great Mughal princes were above the laws that govern ordinary men-they could not overlood the ruinous inflation and the harsh repression that affected their daily lives.

Bhutto was a man of uncommon brilliance. But even brilliant men need the advice of others when they are called upon to lead a nation. It was Bhutto's great flaw that he could not tolerate sound advice and surrounded himself with sycophants.

When challenged by rebelling Baluchi tribesmen in 1975, Bhutto could not bring himself to conpromise. He poured thousands of troops into the Baluchi homelands in western Pakistan, creating an occupying army and a resentful population. When prudent men cautioned economic conservatism, Bhutto moved ahead with grandiose schemes of technological and nuclear development. The result was a ruinous inflation and nuclear development. The result was a ruinous inflation and a restive population.

Slowly Bhutto saw the cards stacking up against him-not only among the middle class, which always was distrustful, but also in the peasantry. Before it was too late, he called an election in 1977, but like Chicago's Mayor Daly he let it be known that he would appreciate a sound victory. His blind minions assured an overwhelming one, sparking widely believed charges of vote fraud in an election many believe Bhutto still could have won cleanly.

The opposition took their grievances into the streets and the military, as it has so often before in Pakistan's history, took power. Bhutto, once supreme, became a prisoner in the dock, chargedand convicted of conspiracy to murder.

In the end, it was a kaleidiscope of images of a most complex man: Bhutto, the middleman between the United States and China; Bhutto the peacemaker going to Bangladesh; Bhutto the political spellbinder; Bhutto the defendant, standing before the supreme court defiantly challenging it to do justice in the name of the country; Bhutto the prisoner, sick but adamant in ordering his wife, sonsand daughters not to ask clemency of Zia Ul-Haq, the man who threw him from office and stood firm as the law took its course and led him to thegallows. CAPTION: Picture, Pakistan's former foreign minister Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged yesterday. AP