More than six years after former president Asif Ali Zardari filed a presidential reference in the Supreme Court (SC) to revisit Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s controversial trial, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) still awaits a formal hearing.
As the president, Zardari had on April 2, 2011 approached the SC through a presidential reference under Article 186 of the constitution seeking opinion on revisiting Bhutto’s murder trial.
“The PPP had never intended to seek revenge but it wanted to put right a historic wrong and thereby vindicate the position of the founding chairman of the party,” Zardari’s office had said in a statement after he signed a request for the SC to revisit the trial. Forty years ago on July 5, 1977, then army chief Ziaul Haq had overthrown the democratically-elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The PPP won the 1977 parliamentary elections but a conservative alliance alleged widespread rigging and launched agitation. On July 5, 1977, General Ziaul Haq deposed Bhutto in a coup.
Bhutto was controversially tried by the Supreme Court for authorising the murder of a political opponent.
He was later controversially convicted and executed in 1979.
PPP leader Senator Farhatullah Babar told The Nation that the party was determined to ensure justice for the country’s most popular leader.
“We have been waiting for the SC to act. We cannot pressurise the SC but have been trying to raise the issue as much as we can,” he said. Babar said that Bhutto’s execution was a disgrace to the county’s history and should be corrected. “We have taken the first big step [of filing the presidential reference]. We have been pursuing it and hopefully we will be able to clear Bhutto’s name,” he added. The senator said that the former chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, threw the case into the deep freezer after preliminary hearing. “We demand that the case should be heard soon,” he stressed.
PPP leader Maula Bux Chandio said that the party was actively pursuing the reopening of the Bhutto execution trial to “expose the killers” but it was for the SC to start the hearing. “Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry himself remarked that Bhutto did not get a fair trial. There should be an official verdict to clear Bhutto’s name,” he maintained.
Chandio said that the PPP would not go slow on the Bhutto case.
“We want justice for Bhutto. This should be done as soon as possible,” he remarked. When the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) assumed power in 2013, there were speculations that they might withdraw the presidential reference on Bhutto’s execution. However, the PML-N did not touch the case.
Legal expert Tariq Mehmood said that President Mamnoon Hussain had the authority to withdraw the presidential reference.
“Legally he can do it but I don’t think he will do it. He has not done it for around four years so he won’t do it now. It is of course a difficult decision,” he said. In 2011, the PML-N had opposed the idea of seeking reopening of the Bhutto trial but never uttered a word on it after forming the federal government in 2013. In 2011, the PML-N ruled the Punjab province, while the PPP led government in the centre.
Wednesday, on the call of PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the party observed black day to condemn the 1977 coup that ousted Bhutto as the prime minister.
Bilawal accused that extremism, terrorism, Kalashnikov and drug culture were all the nasty gifts of Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship, which “unleashed a reign of terror against democratic, liberal and truly patriotic people of Pakistan.” “July 5, 1977 shall remain a black day in Pakistan’s history because the hopes and aspirations of our nation were crushed by a dictator who remains the root of every evil, which continues to haunt the people,” he said. Meanwhile, PPP Senator Aajiz Dhamra criticised the government for providing “official protocol” to Maryam Nawaz – the daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – when she appeared before the joint investigation team (JIT) in connection with the Panama leaks case on Wednesday. “This is the difference between the accountability of the Bhutto family and Nawaz Sharif’s family.
Our leadership was baton-charged, while their family is being saluted by police,” he said in a statement. The accountability process, Dhamra said, should be across the board and fair to all. “The Sharif family will have to answer the nation’s questions,” he added.