The late Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the victim of a two-layered conspiracy hatched and carried out against him because he refused to compromise on his country’s vital interests.
In April 1977, Mr. Bhutto had warned in Parliament that “the bloodhounds are after my blood”. Mr. Bhutto became the target of an international conspiracy aimed at destabilizing his elected Government, because Mr. Bhutto refused to cancel or modify the Nuclear Reprocessing Plant Agreement which he had signed with France. In the very same city of Lahore where the death sentence was pronounced against him, Mr. Bhutto had been warned by a Super Power in August 1976, that if he did not change his position on the Nuclear Reprocessing Plant, then “a horrible example will be made out of you”. This Super Power felt that if Pakistan acquired nuclear technology, it might transfer this technology to the Muslim states with whom Mr. Bhutto had cultivated very close relations. If the Arabs acquired nuclear technology, the oil fields upon which the entire Western civilization depended would be so well fortified that in the event of another Oil embargo, they would be beyond the reach and might of the West. A Super Power felt that the civilization of the “advanced West” could not be placed at the “whim” of the “backward” Muslim Nations. Although the Reprocessing Agreement included cast-iron “safeguards” to ensure that the Plant acquired for peaceful purposes did not lead to proliferation of Nuclear weapons, the Super Power believed that even the minimum risk of Pakistan acquiring nuclear weapons could not be entertained. That is why the decision was made to destabilize the Government of a man whose services to Pakistan, the Islamic world, and the Third World are internationally acknowledged and respected.
A combination of Foreign Powers and obstructionist internal elements spearheaded by a few Generals overthrew the legitimate, popularly elected Government of Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the early hours of July 5, 1977, through a nocturnal coup. The first layer of the conspiracy came to a conclusion with the destabilization and fall of the PPP Government, headed by Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Seeking to consolidate their newly-acquired positions of power resting not on the will and consent of the people, but on brute force, the General embarked on a road of systematic terror and repression, which has found its logical conclusion in the threat of destabilization of not only Pakistan, but of the entire region.
The subcontinent witnessed the ugliest character assassination campaign and the most vicious vendetta against Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, his family, his cabinet colleagues, and his party. Driven by senseless, primitive passions, the junta has crossed all levels of human decency and civilized conduct to destroy and eliminate Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The junta had hatched a conspiracy to murder its undisputed political rival through the ingenious method of accusing, trying, and sentencing the popular leader to death on, ironically, a charge of murder. The farce that took place in the Lahore High Court called the trial of murder was in fact a murder of trial.
With the exception of Mr. Ahmad Raza Kasuri, whose father’s death the Court was theoretically investigating, each and every one of over 40 prosecution witnesses was a Government servant, at the mercy of the junta. All of the top, key witnesses had spent many months in military and police custody before they “testified”.
Mr. Ahmad Raza Kasuri, wrongly labeled Mr. Bhutto’s political opponent, is also a de facto government servant. Neither he nor his family has won a single election either national, provincial, or municipal other than the one Mr. Kasuri won when Chairman Bhutto granted him a Pakistan Peoples Party ticket in the 1970 elections. Mr. Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party was founded in 1967 and at the time of its inception it was infiltrated by the agents of the then President Yahya Khan. When the PPP assumed power in December 1971, it came across evidence that Mr. Kasuri was on the payroll of the intelligence agencies and acting on their orders. Just as he cooperated in exchange for monetary remuneration with the military regime of General Yahya Khan, so Mr. Kasuri cooperated with the militar4y regime of General Zia-ul-Haq. For two months, Mr. Kasuri had toured the West along with his wife on the country’s expense to “educate” the West on the “fairness” of the Lahore High court Judgment. Mr. Kasuri and the junta justify Mr. Kasuri’s claim as a “political opponent” of Mr. Bhutto’s on the ground that Mr. Kasuri criticized the former Prime Minister and his policies during his tenure of office. A glance at the proceedings of the Pakistani Parliament shows that there were many others who criticized the former Prime Minister. Criticism, debate, and sometimes acrimonious ex-changes on the floor of Parliament, through the media or in public speeches are part and parcel of the make-up of democratic society. Countries familiar with democratic institutions and traditions would immediately conclude that the charge is ludicrous and, indeed, stupid. It would be a laughing matter in Pakistan, too, if the life of Pakistan’s leader were not at stake.
The entire case was fabricated by a special Martial Law Team headed by a Major-General, and assisted by Mr. Saghir Anwar, the Director-General of the Federal Investigating Agency, the late Mr. Anwar, Special Public Prosecutor, and Mr. Justice Maulvi Mushtaq, who later presided over the Full Bench trying Mr. Bhutto. The team reported each stage of its manufactured case to Lt. General Faiz Ahmad Chishti, who heads the “Ele3ction Cell” and who, in turn, reported the progress to the Chief Martial Law Administrator.
The fabricated murder case, so specially conceived and manufactured by the full force of the coercive machinery of Martial Law, nonetheless has inherent contradictions which reveal the falsity of the charge. It is perhaps the first case in the annals of criminal law which has two official Approvers and three unofficial Approvers. The three unofficial Approvers are the confessing accused, who say they actually committed the murder although their recollection of the event is at variance with each other and mutually destructive. For their “confession” extracted after torture at the infamous dungeons of Lahore Fort, the three have been assured that they will not be sent to the gallows. For “confessing” their “crime”, they will be given their liberty in about a year and handsomely rewarded financially. Thus, for all purposes, the three “confessing” accused are Approvers in the case along with two other official Approvers. (There are three if one includes Sayed Ahmed).
Mr. Mian Abbas, the fourth confessing accused, who later retracted his statement, and later retracted his retraction, gave a detailed account of how his “confession” was extracted. The biased and prejudiced Bench ensured that this account did not see the light of day by declaring that the proceedings would be held in camera, when the accused gave their statements under the Criminal Procedure Code’s Section 342.
The entire Prosecution case with its lurid tales of a Pakistan run by a modern Borgia Prince were sensationalized and dramatized in the controlled papers, journals, and the radio and television, in an attempt to create a climate of hysteria against the former Prime Minister. As soon as the time came for Defence proceedings (only Mian Abbas gave a Defence, Mr. Bhutto boycotted the proceedings in protest over its blatant bias and prejudice), the Court was converted into a dark room for camera proceedings. The trial Bench made a farce even of the camera proceedings by permitting full publicity on the media to the diametric falsehoods of the three confessing accused and prohibiting the statements of the former Prime Minister from coming on the media. The Bench even refused to supply him with copies of his own statements.
Every legal system recognizes the right of an accused in a murder charge to a public trial. The concept of a public trial is inherent in Islamic jurisprudence and in the common law traditions on which Pakistan’s legal system is based. The right to a public trial is a fundamental pillar of all legal systems not in order for the accused to receive undue publicity, as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court snidely remarked, but so that, under the full glare of public scrutiny, the judges do not commit injustice. The Lahore High Court Brazenly and blatantly over-rode this inviolable principle, common to all civilized judicial systems, so that in the darkness of the camera proceedings, the Court could commit murder by sentencing to death an innocent man, the authentic leader of the people.
The hypocrisy of the Lahore High court is obvious when one recalls that, after declaring, for international ears, that the trial would take place “in the full light of day”, the Bench transformed it into a closed Court. Mr. Justice Maulvi Mushtaq, promoted to Chief Justice during the trial, twice superceded by Mr. Bhutto, handpicked his favourite colleagues to sit in judgment of the former Prime Minister. He did not include on this Bench the two judges who had granted Mr. Bhutto bail on Raza Kasuri’s private complaint. This had been turned into a State base after the two judges on the Divisional bench had dared to ensure justice and set Mr. Bhutto at liberty.
By trying the case immediately at the High Court level and not at the Sessions Court level, the junta and the Lahore High Court deliberately deprived Mr. Bhutto of his first right of Appeal. This was the first in many serious departures from legal procedure.
The chronicle of the judges’ behaviour during the trial proceedings before the Lahore High Court is a sickening tale of the travesty of justice. It is best summed up in the words of the former Governor and Chief Minister of the Punjab, who stated in London that Maulvi Mushtaq had told him in 1975, that “the only way to get rid of Bhutto is to put a bullet through his head”. This very same man insisted on sitting in judgment of the former Prime Minister and passing the death sentence against him.
Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was elected President and Prime Minister in the General elections held in 1970, Mr. Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party was elected again with an overwhelming majority in March 1977. The elections of October 1977 were abruptly postponed on 1st October 1977 because it was clear beyond doubt that Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his Party were again going to win by a landslide. In Pakistan’s thirty-year history, Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is the only leader who has won a popular mandate, not once but twice. A leader cannot have deep roots with the masses if he denies them their rights and liberties. The manner in which Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was supported by the people of Pakistan and the extent of his support, demonstrates that, rather than having deprived the people of their rights, Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto brilliantly articulated their hopes and their aspirations. He gave dignity and respect to the faceless ones, the nameless ones, the shirtless ones for the first time since Mohenjodaro was built. For the first time, the resources of the nation were utilized in favour of the broad section of society and not for a select few. The poor man’s identification with and support of Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his Party, originates in the belief that the late Mr. Bhutto’s government brought economic and political benefits to him. Support based on substantial grounds such as these cannot be eroded merely because a usurper calls the people’s Prime Minister a “Modern Machiavelli”. That is why all efforts at character assassination and false cases on charges of murder to mineral water have failed to affect one obol of the support of the former Prime Minister.