SHOULD WE REOPEN ZAB S CASE?

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Zahid Malik

Monday, April 12, 2010 – It is on record that the hanging of the PPP founding Chairman and former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto stunned majority of the nation in general and the Party cadres in particular. After recovering from the shock of the brutal hanging of the popularly elected Prime Minister, people from all walks of life started airing their views that this extreme action should have been avoided and thereafter, periodically demands surfaced to reopen the case. During Benazir Bhutto’s days a time came that she was near taking the decision to refer the case of murder of her father to the superior judiciary. What somewhat deepened the perception of judicial murder were irresponsible statements by some ex-Judges of Pakistan.

Anyhow, why I feel tempted to choose this subject for the current week is that Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani while talking to newsmen in Naudero on the 31st martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said that the Government was considering to reopen the case which, as he said, was a judicial murder. The statement from a person of the stature of the Prime Minister reflects the thinking in the corridors of powers.

I would say, in my considered opinion, ZAB’s case should not be reopened in any way. Before I come out with reasons for that, let us evaluate the personality and achievements of the late Prime Minister who became victim of circumstances.Historians, some retired Judges of the Superior Courts and many eminent lawyers are now almost unanimously of the view that Mr. Z.A Bhutto was hanged by orchestrating a judicial trial to get rid of a popular leader. Mr Bhutto was perceived and rightly so “Fakhr-e-Asia” and by any yardstick he was on a much higher pedestal as a vibrant leader of the masses and towering international personality. Leaving aside his achievement of gifting the nation with consensus Constitution of 1973, he also took a number of initiatives that brought dignity and respect to the country and the people when every one was in depression after the dismemberment of the country.

He empowered the downtrodden, gave them voice and message of hope and changed their destiny and future forty years ago, and same has been done by President Obama more recently.

Z.A. Bhutto was a great charismatic leader, man of masses, top class negotiator, excellent communicator, a visionary, known for mercurial brilliance, wit and a highly well read person. He attracted mammoth crowds wherever he addressed the public meetings even in remote regions of the country. He had a personal charm and charisma and the one who spoke the language of workers, labourers, peasants and the people in the streets. He would make the people feel that he was one of them, understood them, had solutions to their problems. One of his indelible marks is the political and social awareness that he gave to the people, which is considered today as a great asset of the country.

ZAB totally transformed the political culture in the country. His contributions can be judged by the fact that even after long over 30 years, the workers of the Party get inspiration from him and some virtually worship the “Sain Baba” and his Mausoleum is assuming an element of spirituality. At the time of his overthrow Bhutto was emerging as a spokesman of the world of Islam and the leader of the Third World. Although his life and political career were cruelly terminated, he is still remembered by millions.

There are, of course, some critics and analysts who strongly accuse the PPP and its late leader of the dismemberment of the country but this does not come in the scope of passing a judgement on such issues.

What happened in 1979 on the black day of April 4 plunged the whole nation of Pakistan into gloom and his admirers and supporters abroad felt pain and shock. Therefore if the Party decides to reopen the case, it is perfectly justified. I say so because without removing the stigma of aiding and abetting the murder, it would be a negative reflection on the person and leadership of such a towering personality.

However, now let me explain why I consider that it would not be a prudent decision to reopen the case:

First: Such a move may pacify the PPP ranks and they would feel exonerated but it will also reactivate those forces which have been critical of Mr Bhutto. For instance, Mr Ejaz ul Haq, the scion of late President Ziaul Haq in a statement immediately retorted that cases of Mir Murtaza Bhutto and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto should also be reopened. Former Governor Malik Ghulam Mustafa Khar, who misses no such opportunity, made a sensational disclosure that there were some Generals who met him in Dubai and volunteered to ensure safe exit of ZAB but Benazir Bhutto did not agree to that.

I fear that if the Government decides to go for a retrial of the case, there could be some legal hitches and a string of statements would start appearing on the media every day. There will be accusations and even some may try to become a party to the case. The atmosphere thus created will make late ZAB’s soul sad in his eternal abode, which will be a disservice to the former leader.

Also, if one case is reopened, then there will be demands for reopening of inquiries into the death of former President Ziaul Haq and even the father of the nation Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s death.

Another point which is not being given any consideration is that some kith and kin of the retired Generals, who were associated with late General Ziaul Haq are in the armed forces today and they would be feeling embarrassed and could develop grudge against the PPP which would not be in the interest of the Party.

Second: The focus of the nation and the Government will once again shift to the past from the real crucial issues facing the country today. The agony of the people is not yet over from the shock of the assassination of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto despite passage of over two years. It continues to depress the masses as the inquiry report by the UN Commission is awaited and is the subject of hot discussion at the public fora.

These issues, coupled with those relating to restoration of judiciary, NRO, CoD and terrorism have taken thousands of precious hours of the nation diverting attention from issues pertaining to the welfare of the masses.

Third: Major casualty would be the economy if we get involved in issues which had divided the nation in the past. Economy, which is already in dire straits, will have to be shifted to ICU. It means sovereign credit rating companies, international financial institutions and countries will certainly declare Pakistan as a failed State because we would be showing no inclination to move ahead and confront the economic challenges head-on. Not only the economy, if I may say, the system on the whole will also be destabilized.

Fourth: The reopening of the case will lead to a political confrontation and the temperature will become unbearable which may result once again in long marches and wheel jams. This will have negative repercussions over the present smooth relationship not only among the political parties but also various organs of the State.

Fifth: The society is already highly polarized due to political and sectarian divide and it can hardly afford opening of another Pandora’s box and that too at a time when the nation needs complete tranquillity, peace, unity and harmony to address the serious challenges confronting the State.

Therefore, I would urge the Government, particularly Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani that now as the nation is free from political tension with the adoption of the 18th Amendment, for God’s sake, he should avoid such diversionary tactics and instead focus on one point agenda for the rest of the three years of his Government i.e. economy, economy and economy.

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