Will justice be served after it was denied?

April 23, 2011 - 0:0

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Kaamyabi@gmail.com) -- Thirty-two years after his execution following a highly controversial conviction over charges of abetment to the murder of a political opponent, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto continues to prick the Pakistani conscience.

The country’s first popularly-elected prime minister did not get justice in life because in the words of a commoner, “two swords cannot be kept in the same scabbard”. 
The reference is to military despot General Ziaul Haq, who overthrew his benefactor — some irony given that Bhutto had chosen him to be the army chief over and above the heads of several senior generals — and hanged him following a trial that was particularly noted for its bizarre manipulation.
The 1974 murder of Nawab Mohamed Ahmed Khan, a dissident of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), was used in 1977 when Zia toppled Bhutto as the ground for the PPP leader’s physical elimination for the simple reason that the military ruler felt he could not survive Bhutto’s return to power in a popular election that he promised but conveniently, reneged on.
Former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, who attended the trial, wrote: the “prosecution’s case was based entirely on several witnesses who were detained until they confessed, who changed and expanded their confessions and testimony with each reiteration, who contradicted themselves and each other, who, except for Masood Mahmood … were relating what others said, whose testimony led to four different theories of what happened, absolutely uncorroborated by an eyewitness, direct evidence, or physical evidence.
Unsurprisingly, Masood, the director-general of Federal Security Force, was imprisoned for two months by Zia before he took the stand against Bhutto. Maulvi Mushtaq, the judge presiding over the trial, was a compulsive Bhutto-hater, and drew perverse pleasure from humiliating the object of his ire — even going to the extent of rewriting what was said in court by Bhutto!
Judges sympathetic to the merit of Bhutto’s argument were replaced, and in one particularly obvious instance, the hearing was delayed to wait out the retirement of a judge, who disputed the authenticity of the charges brought on by the prosecution.
Cut to the chase, a reference has been made to the Supreme Court by Asif Zardari, the sitting president and Bhutto’s son-in-law, early this month to set aside a “historic wrong.”
-------Flogging a “dead horse”
However, not everyone in Pakistan is convinced that it is necessarily borne out of conviction. In fact, critics accuse Zardari of flogging a “dead horse” only to take the heat off his own continuing cases in the apex court on charges of corruption and, by implication, to cast the “morality” and “uprightness” of the judiciary’s role — even if it is removed from the current lot — in negative light.
The criticism has stuck because — in mother of all ironies — the man chosen to defend the reference, Babar Awan, is a close confidante of the president and historically, reviled for distributing sweets when Bhutto was hanged!
It was succinctly put by Ayaz Amir, a parliamentarian and erudite commentator. Said he: “Pity Mr. Bhutto. First his enemies hanged him and now the so-called keepers of his legacy are not sparing his memory.”
“Many a circumstance since his hanging, not least the transformation of the PPP and its hijacking at the hands of a crowd Mr. Bhutto would have been hard put to recognize, would have made him turn in his grave. But none, I suspect, more so than the thought that after all these years who should be defending him in court but someone like Babar Awan, whose first steps in politics consisted of Bhutto-baiting.”
Retired former chief justice Nasim Hasan Shah, who was one of the judges in Bhutto trial, is on record having expressed his regret over the decision to execute the toppled prime minister.
This first came to the fore in 1996 when Suhail Warraich, a seasoned journalist, interviewed him. An excerpt from Warraich’s work entitled Adlia Key Arooj-o-Zawal Ki Kahani (The Rise and Fall of The Judiciary):
Q: “Do we have any other example in Pakistan of a person being hanged on the basis of advice?” A: “No, never. During the case, there was a view that Bhutto was not directly involved in the murder but it was done on his advice. During the hearing of the case, I asked Yahya Bakhtiar if he wanted to argue for remission of his punishment but he refused. Later this became a major issue in the review petition. In my personal view, Bhutto’s punishment could have been reduced …”
In response to another question about there being any pressure on judges, he said: “Justice Haleem was under pressure. We had different kinds of pressures. His only son lived in Karachi. He said that his life is in danger and he was very scared … basically, what could the poor judges do? There was one witness testimony after the other.”
“Couldn’t you have been kinder to Bhutto as he was ex-prime minister?”
The “sentiments at that time were different and one has to do what one has to do.”
Justice Shah also made similar confessions on a TV show entitled Jawab De (Answerable), hosted by Iftikhar Ahmed.
The following is an excerpt from the televised interview:
Q: Is there an example in Pakistani judicial history where someone was hanged because of a conspiring role?
A: I don’t think this was a conspiring role. He ordered his subordinates to kill Raza Kasuri …
Q: Imagine I am a criminal and I say that I don’t trust you and don’t expect you to be fair to me. What should you do as a judge?
A: It depends on what reasoning you present…
Q: I am talking about Maulvi Mushtaq. This is what he was told by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
A: Yes. I think this was unfair of him (Maulvi Mushtaq). He should not have sat on the bench.
Q: You are on record saying that during the hearings of the Bhutto case, the punishment could have been reduced and that the case was very strong …?
A: Yes.
Q: You could’ve given a dissenting note?
A: It could have been done but his lawyer’s argument was that he didn’t care about the punishment. We had some limitations and Yahya Bakhtiar (Bhutto’s counsel) had stubbornness, which annoyed us.