The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had some strong words for the country’s judiciary – past and present – on Tuesday and the one delivering the tirade was none other than the party’s young chairperson, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.
The heir apparent to the PPP throne even weighed in heavily on the current standoff between the government and judiciary in the prime minister’s contempt case.
Speaking at the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), convened at Naudero on the 33rd death anniversary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Bilawal plainly asked the Supreme Court to apologise for the “judicial murder” of his grandfather, the former prime minister, in 1979.
“I expect the Supreme Court to finally provide us justice … we expect the Supreme Court to apologise for the role it played in the judicial murder of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
“The Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto reference case is a golden opportunity for the Supreme Court,” he added. A presidential reference, seeking the reopening of the ZA Bhutto case, is currently being heard in the Supreme Court, but has been delayed for a number of reasons — inviting muted criticism from the PPP.
But Bilawal minced no words on Tuesday.
Though his speech was about the judiciary in general, there were direct messages for the current apex court, and its top adjudicator.
On one occasion, he spoke of how former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had his name cleared from the courts.
“The Sharifs of Lahore have had their trumped up charges squashed by the courts. I do not believe there will be double standards. I do not believe that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Larkana is hanged but he does not get justice from these courts while the Sharifs of Lahore are vindicated.”
Then, he spoke of how the notorious Asghar Khan case, dealing with intelligence agencies’ funding of politicians, was reopened recently – and on whose call.
“Similarly, the Asghar Khan case has finally been taken up by the Supreme Court. Shaheed Benazir Bhutto fought for more than a decade for this case to be heard. It is a positive development that following Imran Khan of Lahore’s demand the case has finally been heard.”
He urged the same treatment for the “Bhuttos of Larkana.”
There were some direct questions for the courts – dealing with some contentious decisions.
“More than 50% of terrorists presented before our courts have been freed. I am told there is a lack of evidence and the fault lies with the prosecution. The rapists of our sister Mukhtara Mai have been freed by the courts. Presumably for the same reasons. How can there be enough evidence to hang SZAB but not enough evidence to keep terrorists and rapists in prison,” he questioned.
And then he let loose an even stronger question, referring to the standoff between the government and the Supreme Court over the writing of a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against his mother and father: “How can there be enough evidence to attempt to try the grave of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto but rapists and terrorists are set free?”
The speech did not relent, and only got stronger.
“I urge the courts to proceed with caution. I urge the courts to revisit their flawed decision in the Mukhtara Mai case. I urge the court to help keep our country safe by convicting terrorists for the atrocities they have committed. I urge the court to remember how they got where they are today. On May 12, 2007, 40 members of my party lost their lives supporting this chief justice and the cause of an independent judiciary … The courts are dangerously close to repeating the mistakes of the past.
“They should resist the temptation to obey the dictation of the establishment.”
He continued: “Were our hopes raised for naught? Must we learn the hard way that once a PCO judge always a PCO judge?”
He said that ZA Bhutto’s hanging was not the first nor the last flawed decision of the courts. ”Unfortunately our courts have often stood on the wrong side of history.”
On the Supreme Court’s order to the prime minister to write to Swiss authorities, failing which he could stand disqualified and spend prison time, the ‘chief’ of the PPP also had some orders of his own.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who is also PPP’s vice-chairman, was told plainly: “We cannot allow the court to dig up my mother’s grave … Mr Prime Minister you will not violate the Vienna Convention, you will not violate the Constitution of Pakistan, you will not desecrate the graves of our martyrs.
“There is not only the Supreme Court, there is also the court of the people and the court of history … Just as Shaheed Bhutto was vindicated, you too shall be vindicated. They can threaten to send Yousaf Raza Gilani of Multan to prison but he is a follower of Bhutto Shaheed. We do not fear prison cells. We do not fear death cells.
He once again referred to “double standards” - “Let us pray … that Shaheed Bhutto of Sindh was hanged but another prime minister from Punjab is freed. That Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto fought in every court in this country and around the world to maintain her innocence. While a former prime minister from Punjab, a self-confessing, convicted accused is vindicated, but Shaheed BB is put on trial from her grave. That a prime minister who ransacked the Supreme Court is given better treatment over our Seraiki-speaking prime minister who obeys the Constitution and presents himself before the court is stripped of his constitutional rights.”
And for good measure, he repeated: “We will get justice. If not now. If not by this court. We will be vindicated in the courts of history. The people have spoken. We are all agreed. ‘Hum Benazir Bhutto Shaheed ki Qabar ka trial nahi honay den gay’”
Meanwhile the CEC also unanimously passed a resolution expressing full confidence over the leadership of its Co-Chairman, President Asif Ali Zardari and Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. (With additional input from APP)
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2012.
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