Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has urged Pakistan to "Let Bhutto Live." He acknowledges that he has "very little knowledge of the causes and complaints of the Pakistani people." His perception of the Bhutto trial is obviously based on his friend Murtaza Bhutto's version, which is as objective as Julie Nixon's version of the Watergate affair.
Most Americans seem to be obsessed by the fact that Pakistan is now under army rule and, therefore, the trial was political and manipulated by the army.
Suppose a U.S. senator with well publicized differences with a U.S. president 1) formally accuses the president of complicity in the murder of his father; 2) the ammunition used in the murder is identified as the kind available only to the secret service, and 3) the FBI closes the case in a couple of weeks as unsolvable. What would be the inescapable conclusion?
In 1974, Ahmad Raza Kasuri, a member of parliament, formally accused the then-prime minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, of complicity in the murder of his father. The ammunition used was only available to Bhutto's paramilitary organization, and the police closed the case as unsolvable. Earlier Bhutto had told Kasuri on the parliament floor: "I have had enough of you. ... I will not tolerate your nuisance."
With this background, I will refute Kennedy's rather unsound reasons for clemency:
There is no "risk of civil war" if Bhutto is executed, and the "majority of... population" does not support him. He was not brought down by a traditional military coup as is popularly believed in the United States. There were Iranian-style demonstrations against him, and his martial law, his personal force of armed thugs and indiscriminate killing of civilians for several months failed to keep him in power. The army finally withdrew its support because the country was faced with civil war. He had the army's support for a long time, and if the majority of the population was also behind him then, how come millions showed up in the cities day after day to face death showered from automatic weapons?
Contrary to Kennedy's claim, only one person "immolated" himself for Bhutto. That person's family has now sued Bhutto, saying that the victim had been promised money and land to perform his act.He was also promised that, as soon as he set himself on fire, someone would throw a blanket on him. The blanket never came, and the man burned to death.
Kennedy's comparison of Churchill with this political opportunist and murderer amounts to an insult to the entire free world. Churchill did not win election by breaking ballot boxes or excluding opposition from state-controlled media; he was never accused of ordering kidnappings or murders of his political opponents, and he did not maintain a personal armed militia to protect him.
Bhutto had nothing to do with the release of the Pakistani POWs from India. India was forced to release them because the POWs had become an economic and political liability. Moreover, the 85 million Moslems of India, who had traditionally voted for Indira Gandhi's Congress Party, were showing sings of unrest at the prolonged detention of 90,000 fellow Moslems. With the world attention focused on the POWs Gandhi could not keep them indefinitely, and she finally found a face saving way to release them.
Mao Tse-tung never called Bhutto the "Most brilliant leader outside China." It is a white lie. Both Mao and Chou En-lai carefully refrained from praising individual leaders. I have known Bhutto since 1965. I have been to his press conferences and private gatherings. President Hohnson was always "scared of him." Then the Russians were "out to get him." The Indians "knew" that if he came into power he would take Kashmir "by force," etc., etc. I have heard them all.
The wealthy Punjabis were not adversely affected by his regime, as Kennedy says. Only those who opposed him were destroyed, and he did not show any regional bias when it came to that. If the Punjabi judges voted against him for regional reasons, then wouldn't it be true that those who voted for him also did so for regional reasons? I do not understand one thing: If 22 members of the Democratic Party can objectively conduct impeachment hearings against a Republican president, then why cannot four Punjabi judges rise above their regional loyalties?
Sparing Bhutto's life would indeed set a bad precedent. He has been found guilty of murder in a criminal suit filed by a private citizen. If he is spared, then the future leaders of Pakistan would continue to kidnap and kill, because later on they could claim to be political prisoners and manipulate international opinion in their favor.
It is a shame that the U.S. media and its leaders, who were so outraged at something called "obstruction of justice" during the Watergate era, are now pleading to save the life of a murderer. What shall we call it?
An obstruction of justice.