Why dig up the past?

Published: April 16, 2011

The writer served as executive director of the Pakistan American Cultural Center from 1990-2004 anwer.mooraj@tribune.com.pk

Pakistan doesn’t have history. It has current affairs with a long memory — a tartan panorama of provincial bias and special pleading, where the grievances of yesterday are the defining characteristics of today. And in all these bright and beastly years, somebody or other has been frothing with special interests and pre-presumed truths. This is no more evident than in the case of the trial of Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founder of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, in which the president’s adviser has been caught napping. In agreeing to exhume and review the judgement handed down by their peers, the Supreme Court is making a supreme gesture. The decision might end up as the Rosetta stone of jurisprudence in this blighted country. It will probably be talked about for the next 10 years. However, as the matter is sub judice, one is proscribed from commenting on it. All one can say is, this contentious issue will be finally put to rest… or will it?

The trial is basically of interest to the president whose popularity is waning and who is trying to score a point, the surviving members of the Bhutto family, the apparatchiks and freeloaders of the PPP, a clutch of lawyers and the odd journalist, like this writer who plans to write a book some day on the judgement that tossed out the constituent assembly of Pakistan in 1954. But what is about to happen in Islamabad can’t be of much interest to the man in the street who doesn’t have a job and is terminally hampered by the rising cost of living. As it is, he has to, on a daily basis — often three times a day — witness the uglier side of democracy, as practiced in Pakistan. The sight of those elected representatives in their monstrous four-wheel drives without number plates — flags fluttering in the breeze on both fenders — breaking traffic rules they are supposed to uphold, pushing other motorists off the road. And if that is not all, there are the private guards, who look as if they have just escaped from a maximum detention cell in the Andaman Islands. The climax came on the day when the chief minister (CM) of Sindh called a meeting to discuss the law and order situation in the province! The road outside the CM’s office looked like a war zone. There were 19 police mobiles each, with a screaming siren.

The chief minister appears to be hell-bent on disenchanting the public. In this, he is certainly on the right track. Has anybody in the excise department ever asked if these four-wheelers that carry the chaps, who believe they are gracing the streets with their presence, ever been properly registered? The time has come to stop calling these functionaries the peoples’ representatives because they stopped serving the people a long time ago.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Apr 16, 2011 - 9:50PM

    The trial serves Zardarietes well. The case will go nowhere and help reinvigorate the PPP base. If the SC passes a judgement against ZA Bhutto or comes out in favor of the original verdict, it will help situate PPP supporters against the SC. If the SC passes a judgement as the government hopes it would, that will be another feather in Zardari’s camp. Recommend

  • John
    Apr 16, 2011 - 10:27PM

    I thought all issues of jurisprudence and constitutional law were settled. Then came this digging of ZAB trial.

    As much as I understand the significance of this re-trial to PAK, I am equally appalled by the quagmire of Government prosecuting itself, and the accused SC becomes its own Judge and Jury in rendering the new verdict., whatever it may be.

    A classic case for a class on ethics and law, and I am already writing a book since I know the ending. Recommend

  • Umayr Masud
    Apr 16, 2011 - 11:21PM

    If a wrong is set right by the courts it would be a great step. The Court has been taking suo motos on almost everything , so I personally don’t think this will in anyway effect the courts working. Other than that once this is done , lets open the 1971 Hamood ur Rehman Commission report. Let us get the history straight .. otherwise we’d keep going around in circles.Recommend

  • Apr 16, 2011 - 11:37PM

    I am extremely sorry Sir, but this article should never have found place in The ET. What the author is trying to say is difficult to fathom. He only demeans himself by saying that the ZAB case is of interest only to a small segment and that too for ‘point scoring’. The article is hollow, without any content and seems to have been written only as an essay in self satisfaction. More shocking is the fact that the ET, which I love and read daily, has stooped so low in allowing this to be published. Probably it is the familiar sounding name of the author that let it through. At a loss for words, really!Recommend

  • News 101
    Apr 17, 2011 - 3:29AM

    This editorial is vague and doesn’t have a stance. Half of it doesn’t even conform to the title. Recommend

  • Feroze A Ursani
    Apr 17, 2011 - 6:03AM

    @Naushad Shafkat
    I believe it couldnot have been better said. I applaud the clarity of Mr Shaukat’s comments, and abhor the malicious and deliberate muddling of the issue at hand by Mr Mooraj. There could not have been a more stark departure of miscarriage of justice than the trial of ZAB by the minions of the LHC, and there could not have been a more vicious circumvention of settled criminal jurisprudence by the four judges of the SC who shamelessly (and later admittedly) upheld that judgement. Mr Mooraj has either not read the LHC trial documentation (even in the yellow press of the time) or is deliberately dragging red-herrings to cloud an issue of national importance, I think it is the later, knowing his pro-establishment bent.
    FEROZERecommend

  • Mirza
    Apr 17, 2011 - 8:06AM

    The way some people are shaking and making excuses is amazing. They have been hiding facts in Pakistani history very successfully, but now there is a chance independent judiciary can do the justice. The traitors, murderers and their associates be put to jail and shame.

    “Justice delayed is justice denied”. It is about time we unmask the truth about ZAB’s elimination and the Rehman Commission Report. The dozens of judges of SC were not doing anything of historic significance or importance. They have been pouncing on each and every opportunity and appointment. It is about time they do some real constitutional work and decide this case once and for all. This would not only un-mask the worst dictator and his crimes but also his associates both civilians and military. Let us go no matter how much hue and cry by these people to hide the truth against the first elected PM of Pakistan.

    Mirza, USARecommend

  • Munir Saami
    Apr 17, 2011 - 8:10AM

    Presidential reference on the ZAB case is the need of time and correction of history. Under article 188 the SC has the authority to revise its own judgements. This is an authority as well as the constitutional responsibility. This is how the article reads:
    “188. Review of Judgments or Orders by the Supreme Court.
    The Supreme Court shall have power, subject to the provisions of any Act of [169] [Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] and of any rules made by the Supreme Court, to review any judgment pronounced or any order made by it.”
    Mr. Mooraj is entitled to his opinion, and it is unfortunate that he is not willing to support the sanctity of fundamental rights, as well as the constitutional right of a president to seek the opinion of the SC on a matter which have substantial public interest.
    It is universally recognized that ZAB died as result of usurpation of constitution by an adventurer who then led Pakistan towards a dark cul-de-sac from where it was very hard to return.
    We are fortunate that we are taking baby steps towards democracy and we are fortunate that Pakistan’s supreme judiciary is try to correct the wrongs of its own past.
    Mr. Zardari may not be liked by many with vested interests, however we have had weaker presidents. Anyone who declared himself as a president after abrogating the constitution or after usurpation of constitution,was a criminal as per our constitution.Please refer to, “6. High treason.
    [4A][(1) Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.]
    (2) Any person aiding or abetting [4B][or collaborating] the acts mentioned in clause (1) shall likewise be guilty of high treason.
    [4C][(2A) An act of high treason mentioned in clause (1) or clause (2) shall not be validated by any court including the Supreme Court and a High Court.]
    (3) [5] [Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] shall by law provide for the punishment of persons found guilty of high treason.”
    Mr. Zardari was at least elected by a large majority of his electoral college as per the constitution, that reads, “[18][(3) The President [18A][*] shall be elected in accordance with the provisions of the Second Schedule by the members of an electoral college consisting of:
    (a) the members of both Houses; and
    (b) the members of the Provincial Assemblies.] ”
    Has any one denied that Mr. Zardari was duly elected, or has anyone challenged that election in a court of law. If not then we have to wait for the next elections.
    In the meantime we should continue to wash the stains from our national conscience. One such exercise was the 18th amendment and another essential exercise is the review of ZAB verdict by SC itself under the constitution.Recommend

  • observer
    Apr 17, 2011 - 10:56AM

    The past has this strange propensity of revisiting those of its victims who rfuse to learn from it. Therefore revisit,re-revisit and keep on repeating it, till it is understood fully and ways of preventing a revisit by the past are found.Recommend

  • parvez
    Apr 17, 2011 - 1:51PM

    What ever the CJ and the SC do they should do it quickly, which is very unlikely. Recommend

  • Patriot
    Apr 17, 2011 - 7:38PM

    Before correcting history, zardari and co. should consider correcting geography, law and order, corruption, bad governancr and above alla, economy of the country.
    .Recommend

  • Munir Saami
    Apr 18, 2011 - 1:09AM

    @Patriot
    Unless the constitution is made supreme, all adventurism and all that is bad will continue. Patriotism requires that we strengthen our institutions. It is the bad acts of those criminals (as per the constitution), who have darkened our face and pushed us against the wall. Let all patriots stand up and show the world that we also have human conscience.Recommend

  • Asif Ali
    Apr 19, 2011 - 8:26PM

    if government try to wash stain from the history of pakistan why people oppose it, ZAB was,is will be in the heart of people of pakistan. GA BHUTTO.Recommend

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