Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank.
“The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” Oscar Wilde.
Thirty years back this day much of Pakistan was in tears. This tragedy was not ordained but was caused by its rulers who had hanged the elected prime Minister and the most popular politician country had ever produced, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. In its short history of 60 years Pakistan has experienced more misfortunes and troubles than it deserves and this killing ranks very high in the chart of national tragedies. All these years have been unable to reduce the pain of this tragedy which still haunts at the most distressing moments although the nation has learnt to live with it.
In his first address PM Gillani called it a judicial murder; a very strong statement coming from a very responsible person, and the nation relived the pain. This term was in use unofficially for quite some time but coming from an elected PM puts it at a different pedestal requiring proper attention.
Was it a murder and that also a judicial one? Crime, like virtue has its degrees and if it is true it was the worst kind of murder imaginable, handed down by those with the responsibility to dispense justice. Many people involved in this crime are still alive and we should waste no time putting the record straight. If it was a legal murder then it should be proven and the criminals tried like murderers and if not, the doubters like the PM and the author should be tried for contempt of court. We must not let it stay in a limbo any longer.
It is a well known fact that despite being a reported case the trial of ZAB was never accepted as a reference in any court of law in Pakistan or abroad. Some of our mischievous lawyer friends tell us that mention of Kasuri murder case is a known way of teasing the judges who get embarrassed upon its mention. Its standing internationally is nothing but a terrible embarrassment for Pakistan and its judiciary.
This unofficial argument is well supported by a statement or confession given by the CJ who handed over the death penalty; yes I am talking about Justice Anwar ul Haq. More than one highly respected gentlemen, having no relation or admiration for ZAB narrated this in front of many people including the author and we have no reason to doubt their truthfulness. Retired Justice Anwar used to pray in the mosque in Lahore Cant these people also prayed. Once some of these retired people confronted him in the mosque and he confessed’ “Gen Zia promised me taking oath under the holy Quran that if I hand over death punishment to Bhutto he will pardon him. Zia claimed that he just wanted to deflate Bhutto’s ego and wanted his help in this endeavor”. Although this statement did reach the press just before his demise, Justice Anwar denied it 9in public and secured the benefits of a retired CJ he was enjoying. Maybe this wrong denial was his cruelty of the same magnitude.
Bhutto’s hanging had many far reaching effects in Pakistan and the world. To begin with Pakistan lost much of its respect as a democratic nation and since then has been under dictatorial rule directly or indirectly. Then it acquired a very dubious distinction of hanging its elected PM, something it shares with Turkey. It got into many wars of all kind seriously harming its internal cohesion. Foreign elements became major players in Pakistani power politics raising pertinent questions about its sovereignty and it was forced to deal with crime, violence, extremism and other problems. Pakistan a land of peace and friendly people became a pariah and the Pakistanis are now humiliated at all airports across the world. Bhutto’s certainly suffered a personal tragedy but this was a catastrophe for the whole nation.
Many Pakistanis habitually look for conspiracies and feel absolved by finding foreign hand in their problems. We will avoid this counter productive practice as schemers would never succeed without collaborators. British needed Mir Jaffars and Mir Qasims to fulfill their designs. We can’t control the foreign enemies but must control their local toadies. We must identify our Mir Jaffars.
If Bhutto’s hanging was really a judicial murder as mentioned by the new PM then mere passage of resolutions would be highly inadequate. It should be treated as a murder which is a crime against the state. Murdering an elected PM of a hundred million people through judiciary makes it more serious calling for urgent and serious action. Some might argue that what is done is done and the past can’t be corrected but they forget that justice is the greatest virtue which must be strived for. Then people might argue against offending the powerful power centers in the name of pragmatism and forgiveness. Let’s not forget we have been practicing this twisted pragmatism for long and have gotten more and more in trouble. It is taking us nowhere and we must reassess our strategy. Pragmatism should not reach the stage of immorality and forgiveness must not become cowardice or gullibility.
We should pass a resolution about Bhutto’s judicial murder but only after we have officially proven it as such. A fact finding commission must be made soon as we are fast losing the witnesses and players of this saga. After the collection of the facts the supreme court should be request to hold a retrial and dispense justice to the Bhutto’s and the nation. It would certainly be too late coming but still better than never.
Once we correct our history we must treat it as a simple murder and bring as many culprits as possible to justice making sure our constitution and the written law is applied. Justice without force is impotent and force without justice is tyranny. We can’t afford to delay it anymore. Wherever we have responsible people alive we can bring them to justice and where they have passed away, we can certainly confiscate their ill-gotten wealth they amassed due to this crime. Society invites crime and the criminals accept the invitation and this might send a message that the invitation is over.
Unfortunately this day 30 years back while most eyes were wet many were delighted also. Bhutto commanded great love and admiration of the most but hatred of many also. Without making it an epilogue we can certainly say that he was an extraordinary man but no angel. He was a great man so his strengths were great and if there is an iota of truth in allegations against him, his weaknesses were also extraordinary. These days it is difficult to differentiate between actual weaknesses and the malicious rumors attributed to politicians for nefarious reasons by different groups.
ZAB predicted in his book that if he were assassinated Khyber till Karachi will soak in blood and tears. For once he was incorrect as was the rest of the world. He failed to see the magnitude of the evil forces his murder would unleash and we saw one Afghan war after another and terrorism along with many other problems. Ultimately these forces soaked the entire world in blood and tears.
We might be well advised to bestow ZAB the status that he deserves. Without being judgmental we can certainly say that if imparting self esteem to a defeated nation, rights to the downtrodden, acquiring nuclear power, uniting Muslim world, stabilizing Pakistan after a shameful military defeat and standing up to the US defending domestic interests was good, then ZAB should be labeled a great Pakistani hero. This will automatically create a host of national villains also. Time has mellowed down even his worst enemies who are finally discovering his strengths. We as a nation were very unkind and unjust to a great man and must do whatever we can to redress it. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and we must try to correct this historical injustice.