July 5th: 37 years since Zia toppled Bhutto’s democratic government
“What is the Constitution? It is a booklet with ten or twelve pages. I can tear them up and say that from tomorrow, we shall live under a different system. Is there anybody to stop me? Today the people will follow wherever I lead. All the politicians, including the once mighty Mr Bhutto, will follow me with their tails wagging.”
— General Ziaul Haq
Reported by Iranian publication, Kayhan International, on September 18, 1977
On July 5, 1977, General Zia-ul-Haq announced that martial law had been imposed, the constitution is in abeyance and all assemblies stand dissolved.
Moreover, he pledged to hold the elections within ninety days.
Zia also ordered the arrest of senior PPP leaders but promised elections in October.
Bhutto was released on 29 July and was received by a large crowd of supporters in his Larkana, his home town. He immediately started tours across the country, delivering speeches to large crowds to come back politically but was arrested again on 3 September and was charged with conspiracy to murder Nawab Mohammed Ahmed Qasuri , the father of a party politician Ahmad Raza Qasuri, the alleged target in an assault on his car on 11 November 1974
Former Prime Minister Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, writes in her autobiography ‘Daughter of the East’: “The case against my father rested primarily on the confession of Masood Mahmood, the Director General of the Federal Security Force. Masood Mahmood was one of the public servants who was arrested soon after the coup and who we had been told was tortured to give false evidence against my father. After almost two months of detention by the military, Masood Mahmood had decided to become an ‘approver’, a witness who claims to be an accomplice in a crime and is pardoned on the promise that he will tell the ‘truth’ about the other participants. Now Masood Mahmood was claiming that my father ordered him to murder the politician Kasuri… There were no eye-witnesses to the attack.” So much so that the “FSF guns, which the ‘confessing accused’ claimed to have used in the murder attempt did not match the empty cartridges found at the scene”
Expecting a fair trial from a person like Maulvi Mushtaq was very much unlikely. The whole nation witnessed in disgust how the judicial process was blatantly transgressed and the principles of justice and impartiality were trampled upon. The “Acting Chief Justice Maulvi Mushtaq never so much as attempted to suppress or hide his personal animus. It never occurred to him that he should refuse himself from the trial.” Stanley Wolpert wrote in Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan .
“The witnesses were briefed on what they should say” and favorable answers were deliberately whittled down. “At the end of the trial, not one of the objections raised or the contradictions in the evidence pointed out by the defense appeared in the record 706 pages of testimony”. (Daughter of the East by Benazir Bhutto)
As expected and feared, Maulvi Mushtaq and his full bench found Zulfikar Ali Bhutto guilty of murder and sentenced him to death on March 18, 1978.
One cannot say that democracy in Pakistan died on 5th July or not, but it was no doubt the beginning of an end to a democratic and progressive Pakistan.