Twist in the tale : Pakistan seeks reopening of Bhutto’s hanging case

April 13, 2011

Former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto prays at the grave of her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh near Larkana, 480 km (300 miles) from Karachi December 22, 2007. REUTERS/Nadeem Soomro

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has written a letter to the Supreme Court to review the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — the country’s first popularly-elected prime minister — over three decades ago.

The reopening of Bhutto’s case was one of the long-running demands of the supporters of the charismatic leader but critics say the timing of Zardari’s move was intriguing.

Opponents say Zardari’s move seems to be a political stunt to divert people’s attention from more pressing problems like  inflation, the growing energy crisis and deteriorating security situation. Zardari, who is accused of corruption by his opponents, has seen his popularity waning in recent years. 

“At a more practical level, people ask why the president has suddenly acquired so keen interest in the case, especially since far more pressing matters remain unresolved,” the daily The News wrote in its editorial.”The suspicion that this is the first step in  a political game of some kind makes the whole thing seem especially sinister. Who knows what is being planned, what plots are being hatched, and why.”

 Ehtesham Siddiqui, a resident of Islamabad, suggested Zardari  give more attention toward resolving the mystery surrounding the murder of his wife and Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir Bhutto, a more recent event  than Bhutto’s hanging that took place in 1979. Benazir was assassinated in a suicide bombing in Rawalpindi in 2007.

 ”The assassin (s), collaborators and perpetrators of the crime and all other elements linked with the ghastly murder (of Benazir) are believed to be very much alive and they are around,” Siddiqui said in a letter published in the Dawn newspaper. “It is beyond comprehension of the common man as to why the PPP is not serious in pursuing Benazir’s murder case and is trying to whip a dead horse instead.”

 After coming into power, Zardari vowed to bring  the killers of his wife to justice. However, critics say Zardari is dragging his feet on the case. A court in February issued an arrest warrant for former military President Pervez Musharraf who was in power when Bhutto killed. While Musharraf has dismissed accusations of involvement in Bhutto’s killing, a report by a United Nations Commission of inquiry released last year said any credible investigations into her killing should not rule out the possibility that members of Pakistan’s military and security establishment played a role.

Critics say Zardari was reluctant to aggressively pursue Benazir’s murder case fearing that it could annoy the powerful military.

 Aneela Chandio, a resident of Bhutto’s as well as Zardari’s home province of Sindh, was more blunt in her criticism of the government’s move to open Bhutto’s case. “The death sentence given to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto…was a miscarriage of justice. However, the government’s move to send a reference to the Supreme Court to revisit this decision seems politically motivated,” she wrote in her letter in The News.

Bhutto’s hanging by the military ruler General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq was one of the shocking events of Pakistan’s turbulent political history. Zia toppled Bhutto  in 1977. Bhutto was arrested on charges of conspiracy to kill an opposition politician. He was subsequently sentenced to death by a high court and then was eventually hanged in 1979 after his appeals were rejected.

Though Bhutto is criticised for some of his controversial actions he took during his rule like  the nationalisation of  industry and ordering of a military operation in the southwestern Baluchistan province, he was considered as one of the most charismatic leaders of Pakistan. He founded the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) whose slogan of roti, kapra aur makan (bread, cloth and shelter) became the rallying cry for millions of poor in the country.

Despite all his weaknesses, many Pakistanis, even Bhutto’s critics, believe that the murder trial held under the military regime was seriously flawed and it should be reopened. “The PPP had never intended to seek revenge but it wanted to put right a historic wrong and thereby vindicate the position of the founding chairman of the party,” Zardari’s office said in a statement after he signed a request for the Supreme Court to revisit the trial. The court began hearing the case on April 13.



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It’s fine to exonerate him for a crime he did not commit but let’s not idolize him either. He had tremendous potential, charm, skills, education, pedigree and he threw it all away for power. He set the stage for the east pakistan conflict, atrocities and break up. Some say his judicial murder was the right punishment for the wrong crime. Let’s stop worshipping names. Let’s fix our system. Let’s focus our energies on finding the murderers of Benazir. She deserves justice and her killers the death sentence.

Posted by shoaibo | Report as abusive

Not much difference of opinion here regarding Bhutto. Pakistan attacked India in 1965 on the insistence Bhutto brought on Ayub, who was more practical general (who in many ways took the developmental path of west pakistan and made pakistan a middle income country before bhutto frittered that away).

It is unfortunate for Pakistan as well as south Asians that they got the first democrat after decades of independence but then proved unworty,venal and corrupt inspite of his charming skills and political guile.
Pakistan’s Bamgladesh debacle rests on Bhutto and it is he who presided over the country’s break up inorder to rule the entire west pakistan all by himself.

In order to wrest influence from Army he devised even more ruthless campaign against India at the International agencies so as to steal the Army’s thunder paradoxically giving the Army the reason to continue as political party in deciding Pakistan’s fate.

In order to gain the rising fundementalism, he orchestrated anti-ahmediyya riots and eventually brought a law debarring ahemidyyas from Islam laying foundations for Afghan interference and finally the country’s radicalisation.

His Socialistic populism was only rhetoric mainly as a fodder to the masses and by allowing trade unionism and nationalising schools, he brought the country to utter illeterate mess which it is today. He weakened what is left of democratic institutions into centres of nepotism.

In lot of respects he was similiar to Indira Gandhi, but history took a turning point when India defeated Indira Gandhi politically, where people in millions voted her out of power enforcing the first real democratic change of Guard at the Centre, proving to the world that India indeed had a working democracy. while in Pakistan the Army took the baton of executing Bhutto even before people got a chance to vote him out, there by institutionalising the influence of Army as a political unit that we still see today.

Posted by sensiblepatriot | Report as abusive

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