I am quite perturbed that you would see fit to publish Nayyar Zaidi's provocative article "Justice in the Bhutto Case" [op-ed, March 1]. Mr. Zaidi makes no pretense of the fact that his article was intended to rebut Robert Kennedy Jr.'s plea for clemency and forgiveness of Mr. Bhutto [op-ed, Feb. 25].
The reasons behind Mr. Bhutto's conviction by the Punjab High Court for complicity in the murder of a political opponent's kinsman, and subsequent upholding of the sentence by the Supreme Court, are quite obvious. First, it is no secret that the chief justice, Anwar ul-Haq, originally passed over for promotion by Mr. Bhutto, was elevated to his present position by the military government. Being a human endowed with the common frailties, it is obvious that he bore a grudge against Mr. Bhutto while being beholden to his present benefactors -- the military. Second, since Me. Bhutto came to power through the efforts of the oppressed masses, his political theme and avowed philosophy was the narrowing of the economic gap between the poor working classes and the big landowners, industrialists and the wealthy who had enriched themselves on the blood and sweat of the common working people. The four Punjabi judges come from this class of citizens who had, directly or indirectly, been adversely affected by Mr. Bhutto's well-publicized economic and agrarian reforms in Pakistan. If Mr. Bhutto's guilt and involvement in the murder case were indeed so apparent, why did three non-Punjabi judges sitting on the same bench vote for Mr. Bhutto's outright acquittal?
Lastly, everyone knows that Mr. Bhutto single-handedly salvaged his country following its humiliating defeat in the Bangladesh war and was instrumental in negotiating the release of 90,000 prisoners of war taken by India. It was a stark realization for the military that what they had lost by war, Mr. Bhutto attained through peace.
Gen. Zia, the Pakistani strongman, keeps harping about the impartiality of his country's judiciary and its ability to objectively try Mr. Bhutto. Is it not true that the same judiciary, bowing to political pressures, was responsible for the incarceration for over 20 years of Wali Khan, a Pathan freedom fighter? After Mr. Bhutto had been jailed and the military came into power, the same judiciary conveniently reversed its decisions of 20 years and set Mr. Khan free.
The hanging of Mr. Bhutto will brand Pakistan as a barbaric society devoid of the two most publicized Islamic tenets of mercy and compassion. I hope Gen. Zia will be conscious of that while pondering the fate of a political adversary who has done no harm to him, nor to the people of Pakistan.