Echoes Of Justice: The Courtroom Speaks On Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Case

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Pakistan’s largest court, the Supreme Court, has overturned a controversial decision made by itself 45 years ago. 

This decision pertains to the case of the assassination of Nawab Ahmed Khan, the father of a political rival, for which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was convicted and sentenced to death. 

From the outset, the handling of this case raised suspicions, leading legal experts worldwide to label it as a judicial murder orchestrated by General Zia-ul-Haq to remove Bhutto from his path, as Bhutto’s popularity posed a significant threat to Zia’s regime. 

On the other hand, American imperialism also found shelter under General Zia, fearing Bhutto’s anti-imperialist policies, including his opposition to Pakistan’s nuclearization and the signing of the reprocessing plant deal with France. 

Instead of upholding justice, Pakistan’s highest judiciary sided with a constitutional dictator and cemented Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s judicial murder. 

Despite relentless state propaganda, the majority of the people refused to accept this one-sided narrative and continued to regard Bhutto not as a murderer but as a national hero. 

This sentiment was demonstrated through the electoral success of the People’s Party despite widespread electoral fraud. 

Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad once remarked in 1922 during the Indian sedition case that even though courts are great institutions of justice, they have also witnessed immense injustices throughout history, with some of the most unfair decisions being handed down within their hallowed halls post-war. 

However, beyond the justice of time lies the justice of history, which requires centuries to unfold. The recent decision regarding Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s judicial murder not only validates the existence of historical justice but also highlights how the pace of contemporary time has accelerated to the point where historical judgments are rendered not in centuries but in decades. 

I had written a poem immediately after Bhutto’s assassination predicting this judgment. I am pleased that I have lived to witness the verdict of history. The poem is at your service:

One day, the courtroom will speak, 

In every court, my friends, 

There’s something unique, 

It neither laughs nor weeps, 

This courtroom has seen what hasn’t been seen yet, 

Criminals from Mansoor to Majrooh, 

Deniers from Socrates to the sincere, 

Here, even Sufis have arrived, 

Traitors have also come upon it, 

The devotees of freedom too, 

Have sung their songs here, 

This is the same courtroom, 

Where heroes of every nation come, 

Some drink poison, 

Some hang from the gallows, 

What a thing this courtroom is, 

What kinds of games are played here, 

One moment there’s baraabba, 

And another, there was Jesus, 

Then this same courtroom saw, 

Justice unfold the truth, 

A murderer turned out to be innocent, 

And Jesus swung on the cross, 

The just of the chair of justice, 

Who kept writing, 

who kept saying, 

The silent courtroom kept listening, 

For it was guarded by the hands of time, 

When the time struck, 

And history delivered justice, 

That day, the courtroom broke its silence, 

And only the courtroom spoke, 

It had broken the seal of its lips, 

Revealing every secret, 

That day history announced, 

All were false, only Jesus was true, 

When history once again dispensed justice, 

That day, the courtroom spoke, 

Who became the Jesus of this era, 

All old secrets were revealed, 

One day, the courtroom will speak.

Note: This is the translation of his Urdu column published in Jang. 

Dr. Khalid Javed Jan
Dr. Khalid Javed Jan
Dr. Khalid Javed Jan is a writer and documentary filmmaker who was born in Lahore. He is the author of 5 books of poetry and 15 books on medical and political subjects. He also writes a column on political and social issues in the largest Urdu-language newspaper — “Daily Jang”. His book “Main Baghi Hoon” was translated in India into Hindi, Punjabi and Manipuri Languages. A graduate of Rawalpindi Medical College, with a degree in Law and a master degree in Political Science and Urdu Literature, he was a known student leader, political activist and poet. His poetry took a turn when the military dictator, Gen. Zia Ul Haq, imposed Martial Law in Pakistan in 1977. At the time when Zia hanged the elected Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Dr. Jan wrote his best known poem – “Main Baghi Hoon” (I am a rebel). This soon became a poem of resistance against oppression and social evils. As a result he was imprisoned and tortured by the military regime, with his arm and leg broken. This poem is still widely read among students, labourers and political activists.

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