VIEW: A burden in history —Azam Khalil - Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When the judgement of the Lahore High Court was announced, at least five judges, three from Punjab and two from Peshawar, offered to resign in protest, a proposition that was taken to Mr Bhutto by his lawyers

“The pain of the mind is worse than the pain of the body” — Syrus.

There are certain facts related to the farcical trial that was conducted against Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto by a group of generals and their collaborators in the judiciary, which put our entire nation to shame. For many, the decision taken by the present government to revisit the case of Mr Bhutto should have been taken long ago so that the stigma could be erased from the pages of the history of Pakistan. Briefly, this scribe will try to take the readers through that part of our history and narrate some facts, which have remained hidden from a vast majority of the people of Pakistan.

Everyone is aware that Justice Samdani, when presented with the case of Mr Bhutto, bailed him out of the murder charge of Nawab Ahmed Khan and Bhutto became a free man, much to the dislike of the military junta and his detractors in the judiciary. Therefore, when Maulvi Mushtaq Hussain was elevated to the job of the chief justice of the Lahore High Court, not many were surprised because most of us knew what was coming at that time. True to his ilk, Maulvi Mushtaq took the case of the murder of Nawab Ahmed Khan in his own hands and declared that the Lahore High Court will act as a trial court thus depriving all those who were charged in the case of their right to appeal because normally if due process of law is observed, it is the sessions court that acts as a trial court in a murder case.

The second atrocity that was committed by the military-judicial nexus was the denial of Mr Bhutto’s appeal that since Maulvi Mushtaq had a personal animosity against him because the prime minister had promoted someone else as the chief justice of the Lahore High Court, he should not hear his case. Several attempts made by the lawyers of Mr Bhutto to this effect were ignored as the trial continued not only in the court of Maulvi Mushtaq Hussain but also in the media.

During this time, General Zia, with the help of some right wing zealots associated with the media and the information ministry, collected certain documents, which portrayed a one-sided picture of Mr Bhutto, and published them under the erroneous name of ‘white papers’. Later on, Mr Bhutto, who was able to get hold of these papers due to the courtesy and bravery of a young civil officer in Rawalpindi jail, issued a forceful rebuttal of the lies that were spread by Ziaul Haq and his cohorts with the help of a white paper and a book was published titled If I am assassinated.

During the trial in the Lahore High Court, ominous signs had begun to emerge that three junior officials of the Federal Security Force (FSF) were being tutored by Chief Justice Maulvi Mushtaq, Mr M A Rehman and Mr M Anwar in the chamber of Mr M Anwar who was the chief prosecutor in that case. It also came out that Mian Tufail, the Ameer of the Jamat-e-Islami at that time, was a frequent visitor to the residences of these junior officials and had assured them that in case they deposed against Mr Bhutto and made a confessional statement, they would be spared afterwards. Another key witness, Mr Abbas, who was an officer in the FSF, was pressurised by the military regime and his withdrawal of the confessional statement taken from him under duress was also ignored.

While the media frenzy continued during the trial in Lahore, the time finally came for the recording of Mr Bhutto’s statement. Here again, the judges who were conducting the trial of the prime minister under the supervision of the military regime decided that the proceedings of the recording of the prime minister’s statement would be held in-camera so that the entire nation would be kept in the dark and therefore not a word of what Mr Bhutto said emerged in the press. When Rao Rashid, who was the inspector general of police at the time of the incident, expressed his wish to appear as a witness, his request was rejected. Instead, General Ziaul Haq, through Brigadier (retired) Muzaffar, who used to be chief secretary of Punjab and was later posted as Pakistan’s ambassador to Turkey, sent a message to Rao Rashid that if he kept his mouth shut he would be taken out of jail and given a choice posting of Pakistani ambassadorship, an offer that was declined by Rao Rashid. It is important to note that an affidavit filed by Rao Rashid was also ignored.

Before we review what happened in the Supreme Court, it would be of some interest for the readers to know that when Mr Hanif Ramay was enlisted as a prosecution witness, it was decided by the lawyers’ panel of Mr Bhutto to persuade Mr Ramay to at least speak the truth. Since this scribe had worked on the staff of Mr Ramay, I went to him with the message that if he lied in the court, certain aspects about his personality, his hypocrisy and his style of governance, which resembled the style of the former governor of West Pakistan, Nawab of Kalabagh, would be revealed and there was every likelihood that his soft image amongst the people would be destroyed. After several meetings, he finally agreed that if no tough questions were asked of him during his prosecution, he would depose before the high court in the agreed manner. After this, five questions were prepared by Mr D M Awan, the counsel of Mr Bhutto, and the five answers that were to be given by Mr Ramay were also prepared in writing and an agreement was struck between the two parties. It was well known that all the telephones in the chamber of Mr D M Awan were bugged. Therefore, one of the phones was used to call Mr Ramay and the finer elements of the agreement were discussed with him by this writer. The prosecutors must have got wind of this agreement. It was for this reason that the prosecutors did not call Mr Hanif Ramay to the podium when his turn came as a witness and on his protest the chief justice informed him that he had been declared a hostile witness by Mr M A Rahman who was one of the prosecutors in that case.

The second important incident that needs to be placed before the people of this country is that when the judgement of the Lahore High Court was announced, at least five judges, three from Punjab and two from Peshawar, offered to resign in protest, a proposition that was taken to Mr Bhutto by his lawyers. Mr Bhutto, through his lawyers, sent a message that the political ramifications of this offer should be discussed with Mr Mairaj Khalid. When this was done, Mr Mairaj Khalid betrayed his leader and informed General Ziaul Haq about the imminent resignations of the judges, who immediately swung into action causing a great deal of embarrassment for the gentlemen who had offered to resign.

Finally, it may be recalled that Mr Bhutto was allowed to address the Supreme Court where he uttered the famous sentence, “Mr Anwar-ul-Haq, you know me and I know you.” The background of this sentence was that at one time the prime minister had ordered an enquiry against Justice Anwar-ul-Haq who had falsified facts in a sworn affidavit about a piece of land and later on violated another undertaking by selling off that land after converting it into several plots. Justice Anwar-ul-Haq had asked for the mercy of Mr Bhutto, otherwise he could have been dismissed on these charges. Mr Bhutto wrote a famous line on the file to the investigating officer, “I asked you to get to the bottom of the case, you have gone to the bottom of the man.” However, Justice Anwar-ul-Haq forgot the favour he had received from Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and proceeded with the orders of General Ziaul Haq, a fact that was later on spilled by one of the judges on that bench, Justice (retired) Nasim Hassan Shah. Whether the judiciary or the people of Pakistan, meaning thereby parliament, will be able to remove this burden that has since been carried by the entire nation, the coming days and weeks will tell.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at

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