Healing old wounds

Published December 9, 2023

IN a development that will surely shine a spotlight on one of the darkest chapters in Pakistan’s democracy, the Supreme Court has agreed to take up a reference seeking its opinion on the controversial death sentence of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The story of Bhutto, a pivotal figure in Pakistan’s political landscape, came to a tragic end after a contentious trial. He was overthrown by Gen Ziaul Haq in 1977 and subsequently charged with the murder of a political opponent.

Despite international appeals for clemency, he was executed in 1979, a decision that has for nearly five decades been dogged by allegations of judicial prejudice. The reopening of the reference by the apex court underscores the need for a historical reckoning.

However, the task ahead is daunting. The apex court will not only have to navigate through the legal intricacies of the case but also address the broader implications of its verdict. The original trial was conducted under Zia’s watch, raising questions about the independence of the judiciary.

A presidential reference was filed in the Supreme Court in 2011 on behalf of Asif Ali Zardari to seek its opinion on the verdict. The court’s decision to revisit the reference, many years after the Iftikhar Chaudhry-led court was unable to conclude the matter, will be a test of its determination to shed the questionable legacy of its past ruling.

It is a move that promises to not only bring closure to a controversial chapter but also to strengthen the foundations of the judiciary. The endeavour is not merely about revisiting a historical verdict: it is about restoring faith in a judicial system that is free from political influence and capable of self-correction.

For the people of Pakistan, it is a moment of solemn reflection and a reminder of the country’s tumultuous political history. As the nation watches, it is hoped that justice will prevail, untainted by the shadows of the past.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2023

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