Reaction on ZAB’s execution
While the Supreme Court hearing was on, I had to go to Turkey as my niece – Sofia Elias, daughter of my elder sister was getting married to a Turk, Muzzafer Ozkan, her fellow student in the University. She had gone to Ankara to study at the Middle East Technical University. According to Turkish law, a foreign girl has to be married by her parents or nearest direct blood relation. After landing at Istanbul, I was received by my niece and Muzaffer at Istanbul Esenbuga Air Port and drove straight to Ankara. On arrival I was taken to the flat of her father in law to be. General Hosnu Ozkan, who had been Chief of Staff of Turkish Air Force when Menderes was toppled and hanged. Hosnu Pasha had been member of that Military Junta who toppled Menderes, and had become a life Senator. I had hardly sat down. after welcome by the General and Khanum Ozkan, the first thing Hosnu Pasha spoke to me was about ZAB’s trial. He said: “You should not hang Bhutto. I replied, “ Pasha, I have nothing to do with the trials.” May be he thought that I was a military officer sent out as ambassador He said, “If you hang him, Pakistan will be strongly polarized.” I replied “ Why do you presume that the Supreme Court will confirm the death sentence of the Lahore High Court” He snicaly smiled and said nothing, as if the remark was to be ignored, and repeated that Bhutto should not be hanged. I am telling you as a friend of Pakistan We wish Pakistan well “I replied “ I am surprised you are saying so. You were in the National Unity Committee (which was the name the Military Junta had taken for itself). “ You were one of those who hanged Mendres.” He said, “Yes, this is why I am telling you not to hang Bhutto. He went on to say,” After we hanged Mendres Turkey never became one. It was polarized. If we had the foresight of what will be the repercussions of our decision, we would not have hanged him”. After the Supreme Court confirmed ZAB’s death sentence, there was gloom in Egypt I will mention only a few glimpses of the reaction. I drove down to Port Said from Cairo As I parked my flagged car in front of a shop, a few ordinary people gathered round my car asking me why we were hanging Bhutto. In the shop the owner was more interested in venting his anger on me and grief for ZAB than selling me any thing. On 23rd March, the Deputy Chief of Protocol came to the embassy to greet Pakistan on behalf of President Sadat and talked to me after he had done his official job. He said the jurists in Egypt do not believe that Bhutto could be sentenced to death. The day the Supreme Court delivered its judgment sentencing ZAB to death, and the news was carried on the Egyptian TV and radio, I saw another cruelty of history. As I came out of my room to give a file to my Social Secretary in her office, adjacent to mine, I was stopped by an elderly person whose face was heavily lined with age and seemed very familiar to me. It was a very kindly face, no trace of arrogance, sad. Apparently he wanted to see me right away “Ambassador… “He said, wanting to stop me while I was walking to my secretary’s desk and had the file in my hand. “ Just a minute, Sir, I will be with you “Just then Rashad, the local assistant, a Pakistani-Egyptian whispered in my ears “General Naguib!” to identify the person. I immediately stopped and very courteously opened the door of my office to usher him in. “No, I am in a great hurry. They are hanging Butto. I want this telegram to go right away to Dia ul Haq. I am asking pardon for his life. Right away “General Naguib said ” here is my telegram I want you to send it to Dia ul Haq, can you send it. I suggested that he did it himself. I assured him ZAB could not be hanged right after the judgment” “What is Dia’s address?” I replied “Excellency, just General Zia ul Haq, President of Pakistan Rawalpindi is enough of address for him. It will reach him”. He wanted to leave right away for the Telegraph Office. I escorted him out to his old dusty car standing in front of the embassy gate with its chauffeur. I opened the door and put him in it. As the car moved on the Egyptian militia on guard duty at the embassy asked me “Man huva?” who is he? “General Naguib”, Here was the man who had played a role in the history of his country. He was getting into a dusty old car and a militia of his country was asking “Man huva? “ and shrugged his shoulders “ Genraal” Naguib? ” Here was the man who created history in Egypt and in 1979 a soldier was asking “who he is? “man hua”
The unkindest cut of it all was when official instructions arrived asking us to have the residence and the Chancery illuminated on the night before he was hanged on the pretext of some festival that occurred on that day or so. “Sir, we have instructions to have illuminations ‘I wondered whether he was doing it purposely. “Well, do what you have to do Leave me out of it.” It was not a question of right or wrong, it was a sad day, black day, I did not want to be part of this act of cruelty and worst of it all to make illuminations on this saddest day. Hanging of a very popular although equally controversial prime minister of the country was no ordinary thing to do. Reaction in the public on this hanging was of hatred for Pakistan. During this time I visited Port Saeed. Pakistan flag flying on my car – to pass through Duty Free Area,-, the public gathered round me. Although I had a favourable image in the public, I faced a hostile gathering round my car. “Why are you hanging Butto” It was said with anger, with a sharp tone, as if I was the Judge. The shop owner would talk only this topic. You are hanging a great friend of Arabs, a great leader. What has happened to you.. Are you in your senses” I witnessed the same scene when I went to a shop on Nile Street, Cairo’s main road. It was my habit to personally drive round Cairo, in the evenings, without a flag and without a driver. As I entered the shop the owner would not talk to me. “You cruel people, you are killing a great leader. Are you not ashamed of yourself.” Scenes like this were plenty. My daughter, who was a medical student in Cairo University, went to the embassy’s dentist, a Coptic Christian. He put her on the dentist’s chair, forgot what she had gone him for , and started giving her a piece of his mind on the crime of hanging of a great progressive leader of the Third World. Of course it would not have escaped notice that I heard these harangues silently, with a sad face, stolidly, speaking not a word in defence of the judgment. Except for the military staff, all from the embassy were tongue-tied. Silence was eloquent.
But the most difficult acting for me was when Sadat’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Usama El Baz called me to give a formal note asking for amnesty for ZAB. He was speaking and my mind was blocked with grief. I had to keep control of my self. I heard him say that lawyers in Egypt do not agree that this could be counted as first-degree murder etc. Later I recalled another of Regina’s prophesy she (Regina Lutfi, wife of a Deputy Minister of Justice) had made when my wife and I visited her on X mas evening- she was a Palestinian Catholic- to wish her happy Christmas in 1978. “I see blood blood, from here to your country, revolutions, assassinations, toppling of regimes” This happened. Shah (of Iran) was thrown out by Islamic Revolution, ZAB was hanged, Sadat was assassinated. Regina was a well-known seer who could forecast the future.