Bhutto was born in India the only son of Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto. He completed his early education in Bombay. After completing his initial education, he went to the United States in 1947 to study at the University of Southern California and later transferred to the University of California, Berkeley. While at Berkeley he was the first Asian student to be elected to the Berkeley Student Council. From Berkeley he earned a degree in political science, after which he went to Oxford and studied at Christ Church College from where he graduated with honors.
Following his time at Oxford, he was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1953 (which had also been attended by Allama Iqbal and Muhammed Ali Jinnah). The same year, his first child was born, a daughter Benazir, who would later become prime minister herself. In 1958 he joined the cabinet of Iskander Mirza. From there, he was active in the Pakistani government working at various posts.
In 1966 he resigned from the cabinet, after serving as foreign minister. The next year, he founded the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in Lahore. He then became an advocate for the return of democracy to Pakistan and increased his political influence.
1970 brought great victories for the PPP in Pakistani elections, which gave Bhutto great power. Following Pakistans defeat in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, he took over control of Pakistan from Ayub Khan. In 1973, he was officially made prime minister. His time as prime minister saw many reforms passed such as land reform and nationalization of industries, which reflected the socialist values of the PPP.
Bhutto also oversaw the beginning of the development of nuclear weapons by Pakistan. In 1976, he was warned by Henry Kissinger that Bhutto would pay a great price if Pakistan continued with that path. In 1977, Bhutto was overthrown by General Zia-ul-Haq who declared martial law and had Bhutto arrested. In 1979, Bhutto was executed by hanging on charges that he had murdered political opponents.
He is buried in his ancestral village next to his father.