Home Editorial Editorial: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s ‘Judicial Murder’

Editorial: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s ‘Judicial Murder’

The Supreme Court’s validation of the PPP founder not receiving a fair trial corrects one of the worst cases of judicial overreach in Pakistan’s history

by Editorial

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The Supreme Court of Pakistan last week finally declared that former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was not given a fair trial in a murder case that led to his hanging 44 years ago. Reading out the short order, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa said the nine-member bench had not found “that the conditions of fair trial and due process were met.” While this admission of miscarriage of justice is laudable, a key question arises of how Pakistan can recompense those who suffered due to his execution, including but not limited to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which saw a period of decline as the country was ruled under martial law for over a decade.

Bhutto first rose to prominence in 1957, when he was named to Pakistan’s delegation to the United Nations. From that point till his death in 1979, he was witness to several momentous events in Pakistan’s history, including the first coup d’état of Gen. Muhammad Ayub Khan in 1958; the opening to China (1963); the September War with India (1965); the mass movement that overthrew Ayub Khan (1968-1969); the country’s first national full-franchise election (1970); the secession of Bangladesh (1971); the Simla Agreement with India (1972); the forging of a new Constitution (1973); the launch of the country’s nuclear program; the debacle of the 1977 elections; and the subsequent coup.

While in power, Bhutto took some unpopular and undemocratic steps, including establishing a federal police force—the Federal Security Force—whose sole purpose was to help police maintain law and order as a paramilitary force. As prime minister, Bhutto used the FSF for political designs, harassing his political opponents, sabotaging opposition rallies, and targeting all manner of rivals, including critics of such actions. A prime example was that of Ahmad Raza Kasuri, of the PPP, who openly criticized Bhutto’s dictatorial style of government and undemocratic actions. Bhutto allegedly ordered FSF to murder Kasuri, who was targeted in a drive-by shooting that left his father dead.

The final, and most crucial, phase of Bhutto’s political career started in July 1977 after his government was overthrown, and ended in April 1979 with his conviction and execution. Throughout, Bhutto faced all tough times with courage and conviction. He defied pressure from an oppressive military ruler and for his supporters came to symbolize the best in politics: struggle against poverty and inequality as well as sacrifices for democracy and civilian supremacy.

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