Thirty two years ago on 4th April 1979, a great injustice was done to the majority people of Pakistan. The first popularly elected Prime Minister & Chairman of the Islamic Summit was judicially murdered at the gallows by an ungrateful Islamo-fascist military junta with a subjugated Supreme Court that rendered four to three “guilty” verdict to physically eliminate Pakistan’s most popular leader.
Forty nine years ago in September 1961 another Muslim country hanged its elected Prime Minister after a military coup that ousted him. That country was Turkey and the Prime Minister Adnan Menderes. He was prime minister from 1950 to 1960, had formed the first opposition party, the Democratic Party, in the history of Turkey. As prime minister he brought sweeping urbanisation and industrialisation to his country. On May 27th, 1960, a military coup ousted the Menderes government and the prime minister was arrested and charged with violating the secular constitution. He was put on trial before a military court and sentenced to death. When Mr. Menderes was sentenced, Field Marshal Ayub Khan deputed Z A Bhutto to convince Turkish leaders not to hang him. Accordingly Mr. Bhutto met Gen Cemel Gursel (the coup leader) and conveyed to him Ayub’s message. General Gursel insisted that Turkey’s problems would end with the hanging. Bhutto retorted that Turkey’s problems would start with the hanging. When he came out foreign Minister Salim Sappar patted him and said ‘God Bless You’. Anyhow, Menderes was executed ironically to be followed by Bhutto 18 years later in 1979. In 1990, almost after 29 years later, the Turkish Government decided to pardon & revoke Mr. Mendres sentence and said it regretted the execution of Menderes and today several public buildings, universities are named after the former prime minister including the capital city Ankara airport. Turkey has been commemorating their beloved Mendres with gratitude and prayers for decades. Those who sent them to execution, however, could not get rid of the shame of this murder. He is also one of the three political leaders of Turkey along with Mustapha Kemal Ataturk & Tugut Ozal to have a mausoleum in his honour.
The case in which Mr. Bhutto was “convicted” was a fabricated case by the Islamo fascist military junta in order to eliminate him physically though they failed to do so politically. No impartial observer has given the least credence to the evidence on which he was convicted. A distinguished French lawyer, deputed to attend the Bhutto trial on behalf of the European human rights commission, has said that the case “would not stand in a French court for over a few minutes”. The former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark expressed the same view; he called it a “legalized judicial murder”. People who might think Pakistan’s judiciary at the time to be independent under military rule cannot deny the following:
- Mr. Bhutto was “convicted” by a special bench of the five judges of the Lahore High Court. The two judges who had earlier granted him a writ of habeas corpus were excluded from this bench. The chief justice of LHC, Maulvi Mushtaq was appointed by the military, and who was known to be an avowed enemy of Mr. Bhutto and should have been disqualified. He publicly commented on Mr. Bhutto’s “guilt” before the “conviction”.
- The evidence did not support the “guilty” verdict. The prosecution’s case rested heavily on the testimony of a police official who was first imprisoned by the military for two months, bailed out, then promised complete pardon. His testimony was contradicted by ballistics and other physical evidence. The rest of the evidence was flimsy, hearsay, indirect and circumstantial.
- The death sentence against Mr. Bhutto was confirmed by only four judges of the nine member bench of the Supreme Court. Mr. Bhutto’s appeal against the death sentence came before the full of the nine judges, but the decision was taken by only seven judges with three dissents for complete acquittal. If the full bench had decided the case it is possible that Mr. Bhutto would have been acquitted. One of the dissenting judges said that the prosecution failed beyond any doubt to “corroborate” the testimony of its chief witness. Another argued that there was nothing in the evidence regarding Mr. Bhutto’s so-called conspiracy in this case.
- Three of the seven judges belonging to minority provinces, Dorab Patel, Abdul Haleem and Safdar Shah straightaway acquitted him. Yahya Bakhtiar (Defense lawyer) maintained that position in the review petition which was rejected on technical grounds was pointed out by Justice Dorab Patel in his dissenting note that the ruling reproduced the views of the majority judges. Though it could not be expected from Supreme Court would have agreed to it but one view is that in this case the death sentence would have been set aside.
While the case was sub judice, Gen Zia, without any qualms of conscience, went around pronouncing the guilty verdict every other day. Not to be left behind, the Supreme Court Chief Justice Anwar ul Haque didn`t think it improper to discuss the case in the media while on a visit abroad to Jakarta — all this is forever etched in one`s memory and part of common knowledge to many like me who have lived through after Mr. Bhutto`s judicial murder.(Source)
With new evidence from none other than Justice (retd) Nasim Hasan Shah, one of the four judges pronouncing guilty verdict (who later became the Chief Justice), admitted a few years back on a popular TV channel that the 4-3 guilty verdict was a result of Zia`s pressure exerted on him and other members of the Bench through Chief Justice Anwar ul Haque. Never in the history of criminal cases with a split decision has an individual been sent to the gallows.
The execution of Mr. Bhutto has set a very bad precedent in the history of Pakistan. Pakistan since his execution has divided the country on provincial lines especially smaller provinces having animosity towards Punjab. The unity of the federation has been at stake ever since his execution. Sindh especially has felt alienated from the centre especially after his execution. The first Prime Minister of Pakistan was assassinated, the first elected Prime Minister was assassinated on the gallows by Islamo-fascist General and his corrupt judiciary. The first elected women Prime Minister was also assassinated by an Islamic fascist mindset with seeds dating back to the Zia era.
It is worth mentioning that Mr. Bhutto’s trial was conducted when the country was under the worst military dictatorship in its history. Constitution and basic civil rights were suspended. In other words there was no law in the country. Civilised and democratic countries like US & UK have gone back and re-visited cases that wrongly “convicted” people over decades ago. It is high time we as a nation correct the mistakes of the past and with the restoration of an independent judiciary in Pakistan, the case of Mohammad Khan Kasuri should be re-opened and do a complete declaration of innocence in case of Mr. Bhutto.
Almost every lawyer worthy of any standing and common man on the street knows that this was a political murder. This case is a terrible stigma on the judiciary’s independence and unless the judiciary breaks from its past, its image and reputation of an “independent” judiciary will continue to haunt and remain questionable. Not only the present judiciary should clear its name from the annals of history but the seat of Chief of Army Staff must also apologise to the nation for the political murder of Mr. Bhutto which was in reality carried out on the orders of his predecessor. It may not solve every problem Pakistan is facing today but it will certainly tranquilise the soul of Pakistan, haunted and divided since his execution. This is the only way Pakistan can progress and turn a new leaf keeping in view of our pluralistic society and for long term unity of the federation. Turkey turned a new leaf after twenty nice years of Adnan Mendres execution. It’s Pakistan’s turn now to do so.
Mr. Bhutto was a well respected and internationally esteemed leader. He was polished, articulate and had a brilliant mind. He was considered both inside and outside Pakistan as the man the country needed to keep it together- unifying factor of the federation. Most people assumed that he would rule Pakistan for a long time to come. ‘I think I’ll last longer than anyone else who’s governed Pakistan,’ he said, soon after he became President in 1971. But he did not; he was dead before the decade was over. It may not be wrong to say that he has indeed governed longer than anyone else. It is Mr. Bhutto who still commands majority of votes in any election in Pakistan and continues to rule this hapless country from his grave. His name and reputation deserves better. Are you listening honourable Chief Justice Mr. Iftikhar Mohammed Choudhry? It’s important to correct this dreadful wrong right.
Mr. Urooj A Hussein is an investment banker in London. Presently in Karachi.