Trial revives Bhutto memories
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The conviction of ousted Pakistani premier, Nawaz Sharif, has brought back memories of the trial of another former Pakistani prime minister.
Nearly 21 years ago to the day, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in a Rawalpindi jail after being convicted of conspiracy to murder.

Mr. Bhutto had been overthrown nearly two years before in a bloodless military coup, led by the army's Chief of Staff, General Zia-ul-Haq.

The trial galvanised both the Pakistani public and the international community, with calls for Mr. Bhutto's death sentence to be commuted.

Striking similarities

Zulfikar Bhutto was overthrown in circumstances strikingly similar to the way in which Nawaz Sharif was ousted.

Mr. Bhutto was deposed by his army chief on 5 July, 1977, on the grounds that he had "destabilized Pakistan".

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged 22 years ago

Just as Mr. Sharif handpicked General Musharraf to head his army, Prime Minister Bhutto chose General Zia as chief of staff, over many senior officers.

Ironically, General Zia - a relatively junior officer - was seen as being personally loyal to the prime minister, with no political ambitions.

Arrest and trial

The military coup, staged by General Zia, followed allegations that Mr Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party had rigged parliamentary elections held in March 1977, which returned him to power.

Mr Bhutto was held under house arrest for a month before being released.

The trial was conducted in the Lahore High Court

In September, he was arrested again and charged with

authorising the murder of a political opponent in 1974.

During the trial, held in the Lahore High Court, Mr. Bhutto

insisted that the allegations against him were false. But he

was convicted and sentenced to death.

Lawyers for the convicted prime minister appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the sentence by a 4 to 3 vote.

Despite several international appeals to grant clemency, Mr Bhutto was hanged on 4 April, 1979.

His death was seen by his party as part of an international conspiracy against the man who laid the foundations of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme.



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