By Aijaz Ahmed
|Zulfikar Ali Bhutto|
The president’s move to submit a reference for reopening of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto case at Supreme Court under Article 186 of the Constitution of Pakistan has sparked a new debate and certain questions have been raised including a million dollar question that where will Punjab stand? Undoubtedly, the move is a clever one, and will serve the government and the Peoples Party in many ways. One aspect of the reference is seen as an effort to mend fences with the higher judiciary as in the reference, president has shown his full confidence in the Supreme Court. Secondly it will on one hand give the higher court an opportunity to correct a historic mistake and on the other hand it will force the judiciary to admit blunders committed by judiciary itself exposing the nature and extent of injustice even at the highest judicial level. The favorable decision will also help in bringing the pro dictatorship elements in the establishment under scrutiny that have been in connivance with judiciary and civil bureaucracy against democratic leadership.
In case the present judiciary fails to correct a historic injustice to Bhutto family and the PPP, the onus will be shifted to the judiciary and the anti judiciary elements in smaller provinces particularly in Sindh will justify their sentiments, said a PPP insider, adding that: ‘we always remain victim of the establishment-judiciary nexus and this is the time for both to taste some hot waters. If the historic mistake was not corrected now, the reputation of the present independent judiciary will wither away and that will be more dangerous to the already fragile federation’.
‘Come what may, you have to give the decision, and it is we who can forgive’, said president Zardari while addressing the gathering held at Garhi Khudabakhsh to pay tribute to their leader on his 32nd anniversary. ‘How come the people who took oath under Zia’s PCO can be declared judges if Dogar is a not a judge’, asked furious president adding that ‘we want to correct a historic mistake’.
The reaction from political leadership from Punjab and smaller provinces will be more interesting as the initial reaction suggests that both seem to be poles apart. The reaction from the pioneers of the Q League will be understandable. Ch. Shujaat Hussain and Ch. Pervez Elahi are opposing the reference and that is understandable in view of the nature of the relations the family and the elder Ch. Zahoor Elahi had with Bhutto and Zia. They had a special role in the hanging of Bhutto. They had even kept as a souvenir the pen that Zia reportedly used to sign the hanging till death orders for ZAB. However, their newly engagement with PPP will be under pressure if the decision came other way from the apex court. Mushahid Hussain is playing neutral while PPP Patriot fame Faisal Saleh Hayat and Riaz Hussain Peerzada are feeling the heat as it is the case about their former Shaheed leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Imran Khan and Jamaat-e-Islami are as usual running against the wind but PML-N has surprisingly decided to oppose the reference as Ahmed Raza Qasuri did. Syed Zafar Ali Shah, a PML-N central leader and a legislature in the upper house i.e. Senate of Pakistan while strongly opposing the reference, made it clear that there is no such provision and judiciary could in no way change its own decision.
Apart from PPP, its ally ANP from KPK and Pashtunkhwa Mili Awami Party of Mehmood Khan Achakzai, the pro federation with nationalist stance from Balochistan are siding with PPP and the developing scenario clearly indicates the future politics. Zahid Khan, Secretary Information of ANP while commenting on the matter, maintained his party position that ZAB was hanged till death under dubious circumstances. He termed the sentence a judicial murder. Bilour brothers and Haji Adeel also shared his views as well. One is not certain of the MQM stance as it depends on the whims of its London-based supremo.
The PMLN position and the party’s initial decision to oppose will clearly widen the gulf between the biggest province and smaller units and will also decide further that the Punjab is siding with establishment once again.