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Victoria Schofield
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Bhutto: the divided judgement

The Spectator, 10 February 1979

Excerpt:

Judgment in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s appeal against the death sentence came swiftly. It took only a few minutes for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to state that, by a majority decision, the appeal of the former prime minister was dismissed. Foreign and local journalists packed the court. They, along with a few of the regular spectators, had been given permission to hear the Chief Justice solemnly announce that Mr Bhutto still stood convicted of the murder he allegedly conspired to commit in 1974 through the agency of the Federal Security Force – a national police force which Bhutto supposedly used to carry out his personal vendettas. The intended victim was not killed, but, instead, his father died after the shooting.

Outside the Supreme Court a handful of expectant supporters and opponents gathered on opposite sides of the entrance. The road leading to the Supreme Court was empty of cars. Traffic was diverted. Police vans and jeeps and a number of police prevented any interloper who did not have a pass from entering the court. Schools and educational institutions had been closed for the occasion. The atmosphere was tense throughout the country. Ever since the end of the appeal, lasting eight months from May to December 1978, people had been anticipating the verdict. But when it came it was still a shock to those who had attended the proceedings and been aware of the judicial and political implications of whatever verdict would eventually be given. …

Bhutto’s family were not present at the reading of the judgment. Both mother and daughter were under house arrest: Benazir, Bhutto’s daughter, had been detained since October last year for creating a ‘law and order situation’ when she was touring the Punjab in support of her father. Her mother had just been issued with a detention order the night before the judgment was announced.

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