ZA Bhutto was put on trial, why not Musharraf?

Published: January 18, 2014

Our history is as fraught with corrupt military leaders as it is with corrupt politicians. Then, why have we always held politicians accountable but not military men?

There is no doubt that Pakistan has suffered at the hands of corrupt politicians since its very inception. These politicians came and led the state to ruin, forcing/enabling the military to intervene on multiple occasions.

This ultimately led to a nation where martial law governed for more than half of its life. However, our history shows that these military coups were never successful for the country.

Many wonder if these military dictatorships were more beneficial for Pakistan or for the foreign policies of the US. After all, General Ziaul Haq served the US and that helped the country, or so we thought until much later. Pervez Musharraf also served the US but he was not smart enough, and we ended up with our own blood on our hands.

So I have some serious concerns.

When the government was found to be corrupt, our army came in to ‘save the day’, right?

When democracy failed in the past, we abolished it by imposing martial law in the country.

Now that the army has failed, should we treat the institution the same way?

Of course we cannot do that since we have enemies on our east and west, and the never-ending ‘Kashmir issue’, which requires a vigilant and alert military at all times. But can’t we put the army under civilian leadership and curtail its interference in matters of governance?

Can’t we reduce the defence budget and utilise it for the development and education of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and other less-developed areas so that we may not need to have army operations in the future?

Let me take you down memory lane and remind you of certain faux pas that took place in our history and you can judge for yourself how beneficial military rule has been for this country.

Did you know that General Ayub Khan made the first Five Year Plan in which East Pakistan got Rs1 for every Rs8 that was spent on West Pakistan? This was the first formal discriminatory government policy which clearly indicated that East Pakistan was less important than West Pakistan.

Did you know that the 10 years when hate flourished between East and West Pakistan were also termed the ‘green’ years of General Ayub Khan? When you remember growth under Ayub Khan’s era, please remember what we were losing at the same time.

It was during the 1960s that the gap between East and West Pakistan widened due to the negative attitude of the government towards East Pakistanis. They were not given their deserved place in matters related to budget, strategy, governance and autonomy.

Do you remember who was ruling Pakistan in 1971 when we lost East Pakistan?

It was General Yahya Khan and it was his support to Bhutto that led to the fall of Dhaka. But Bhutto was jailed, put on trial and hanged.

There are many who may dislike Bhutto and his policies but he ruled like a man and died like a man.

For Bhutto we saw the death penalty as a punishment fit for his crimes but now that we are faced with putting an ex-army man on trial for adopting a foreign war and suicidal strategies within the boundaries of Pakistan, we are hesitating and coming up with excuses?

Even Asif Ali Zardari was put on trial, jailed and tortured. He was released only when charges against him were not proven. So why then, are we selective about punishing ‘corrupt’ civilians only, while the army is allowed to run scot free?

Now that an ex-military general is to be put on trial, people are doubtful. Words such as ‘biased’, ‘blind’ and ‘selective trial’ can be heard all around.

But who is being selective here?

In all our history, we have never put any uniformed culprit behind bars.

We did not punish General Yahya for the fall of Dhaka nor did we put General Zia on trial for the weaponisation of the state, poor Afghan policy, Ojhri camp disaster and many more. Similarly, Pervez Musharraf was never held accountable for poor intelligence, the Balochistan issue or his weak Afghan policy.

People who claim that this trial is biased and selective need to understand that this is not hatred for an institution; it is a call for much-needed justice.

We are not taking any sides simply because no person or institution is worthy enough to be sided with. If you still think we must take sides, then in this case I choose to take the side of all civilians who died in drone attacks which began under Musharraf.

I choose to call for justice for my Baloch brothers.

I choose to cry out against the thousands of visas given to foreign spies and intelligence.

I choose to ask for justice against thousands of missing people.

I choose to raise my voice against all the injustices that took place during his regime, by him or because of him.

It is time for Musharraf to be put to trial. Let us put a military dictator behind bars and end this fuss over dictatorship and democracy – not by taking sides – but by ensuring a fair trial.

We, the people of Pakistan want to hold all those accountable who went against Pakistan, whether they were civilians, politicians or military dictators. We need to put an end to our biased justice system that only punishes civilians and politicians but chooses to let the crimes of military rulers go unpunished.

Let us put Musharraf on trial for his grave misdeed to the state and set an example for all time to come.

Let us be as focused and determined in bringing him to justice because if we let him run scot free now, we will never hear the end of it. And the next time that we wish to put someone guilty on trial, we will be presented with the argument,

“Musharraf was let off, why not this person?”

And where will that leave us?

We, as Pakistanis, are proud of our army, perhaps, more than we are of any other institution in Pakistan. We proudly recount stories of pilot officer Rashid Minhas, Major Aziz Bhatti, Squadron Leader Muhammad Mahmood Alam and many more. Standing against Musharraf does not mean going against our military. It means standing against a person who misused his powers against his own people.

If you want to take sides, then take the side of Pakistan.

Pakistan deserves to see Musharraf tried for all the blood that we see in our streets today.

Aziz Hamza

Aziz Hamza

A Masters in Entrepreneurship and Internationalization from Sweden, a business case writer and researcher at UMT, he tweets as @azi_hamza (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Khalid Khan

    “In all our history, we have never put any uniformed culprit behind bars.” Why start with Musharraf, the LEAST deserving of a trial out of all the “uniformed culprits”?Recommend

  • Hamza

    Because these democratic parties loot the country. Currently the government is privatising PIA and selling 25% shares to a company which the Sharif family holds stakes in! Wake up people… Musharraf did not loot any money from the country! These stories are created to distract us from the real issues going on in the country!Recommend

  • raza

    Army which can only invade its own country is the cheapest of all… only Egypt and Pakistan are on the list..Recommend

  • Shahid Khan

    You’re naive and too young to remember history. The argument is not so simple. All political parties are extensions of establishments. The questions is local vs foreign. ZAB was really a unique case it was the US vs USSR battling for control of Pakistan. The military was allied with the US then and ZAB the former USSR. Now the roles are reversed: Musharraf is the symbol of local establishment vs those gunning for his trail as of a foreign regional establishment. Democracy to date hasn’t given you those fundamental rights. Good luck!Recommend

  • Dipak

    ZAB was responsible for the division of Pakistan. Musharaf did not.Recommend

  • TheJakal

    Bhutto introduced the quota system which discriminated against Mohajirs…
    Zardari was never tortured and he was released on bail after which he claimed he was mental.

    I understand the burning desire for some Pakistanis to have a trial on Musharraf but it is undeniable that Musharraf era was a good, prosperous and strong era for most Pakistanis.

    A lot of the high-level politically motivated cases are diversions from the real problem and to the best of my knowledge most common Pakistanis who have the luxury to remember the early – mid 2000s speak highly of it.

    We’ve really blamed Musharraf for pretty much everything, its time that people accept the fact that he wasn’t and isn’t the root cause of every problem. Past governments performance was terrible, my cat could have probably run the government better.

    This government isn’t doing such a great job either.

    To end my random comment, Pakistan needs more leaders like Musharraf not the same but like Musharraf who get the job done. Free trial or paid trial, I personally don’t care.Recommend

  • Nasir Jadran

    Don’t compare Bhutto to Musharraf. Bhutto was no pious man nor a prophet. Plus Bhutto was made a sign just like Bhutto’s successor Zia ul Haq, for both were destined to die an accursed death after what they did in 1974 and in 1984 respectively. That is declaring Ahmadis non Muslims in 1974 and in 1984 Zia promulgated Ordinance XX against the same community. Both deaths are warnings to those who are silent majority in Pakistan.

    Musharraf is paying the price of the hypocricy which prevails in Pakistani culture. He had a good opprtunity to crush Mullahas but he instead bowed infront of them under pressure and reversed his decision of justice by excluding Ahmadis only from joint electorate.

    Untill and unless Pakistan and its people truley embrace justice you cannot get justice for yourself. The road to justice and the road to peace lies with Ahmadis. Not a sermon just a thought.Recommend

  • Muneer

    ZA Bhutto was tried because he was involved in a murder case.Todays blood in streets is the result of Bhutto and Zia’s ( more by Zia), encouragement of Muslim extremisim in Pakistan.Had Bhutto been tried along with Yayha for break up of Pakistan then your argument could atleast make some sense.By trying Musharraf you are trying to take revenge from only him of combined follies of Politicians,Army and people since 1947. Recommend

  • SLF

    You are deadly right Musharraf should be punished for what he did, but before that a huge debate is that; Whether the trial should be based on October 12 or Nov 3 ????Now at this instance in time the so called Supreme Court of Pakistan is trying him to be punished under Nov 3 Case. Why not October 12 ???As in my opinion ” November 3 Martial Law was AN ILLEGAL CHILD OF OCTOBER 12. So why not from October. Its not justice its Vengeance ; Furthermore to aggravate heat of moment ” Only Parliament is trying him under article 6 why not Article 6 as a whole. Selective Justice is no Justice. I would be much happy if and only if case should be filed on the basis of October 12Recommend

  • zafar

    This post’s last line says it all, the mindset of the writer, he want Musharraf to be tried for the terrorist activities in Pakistan. Great !Recommend

  • Gp65

    Neither ZAB nor any general was punished for division of Pakistan. ZAB was tried for ordinary murder.Recommend

  • Betty

    How 90% uneducated can choose a wise leader/ ruler. This is beyond my knowledge?? Western democracy is for educated and progressive people. There have been no elections ( popular voting) during golden period of muslims.Recommend

  • Safwan

    If you want to put Mussharaf on trial then you have to put him on trial for 1999 coup as well. But that would mean putting on trial everyone else as well, from the Supreme Court who validated that coup to the PPP and PMLN leadership who in 2008 took oath under the consistition violator president Mussharaf. But of course they do want to do that, that is why this is a farce trial. Recommend

  • AM Baloch

    sick minded approach from writer side ,Recommend

  • Jamala

    How can some one like you be so dumb? Read AND understand your history. Bhutto (a person I admire) screwed Pakistan on many fronts. Pakistan saw the biggest growth (economical, social, cultural and education) in Musharraf’s time. 1000s of student got the privilege to go aboard to get their PhDs – something which no other country has done. For this alone he should be thanked for centuries to come. Recommend

  • abid Mohiuddin

    ZAB was responsible for the division of Pakistan an Musharraf united Pakistan Pakistan First !!Recommend

  • Sayyed Tayyeb Riza

    Balouchistan issue is not related to Musharaf only as Ayub & ZAB also used army in 70’s & earlier over there.Recommend

  • Waqas

    One of most pathetic articles.
    I do not know why this website is open to every one to waist the time of others.Recommend

  • Az. Hamza

    1. No one is taking side of ZAB or PPP or NS or Musharraf here. They all are culprits one way or the other. Interestingly, they all are related to each through this same “military bone”. That is the thing we never worried about.

    2. For WHATEVER reason ZAB was hanged is not the point. The point is PUNISHED. Why didnt we punish any uniform culprit so far? I dont know how you people take a story in a different dimension. Everybody is taking it to somewhere.

    3. YES ZAB was responsible for Dhaka Fall. Where did i say he was not?

    4. Musharraf committed same mistakes of Yahya and ZAB in handling Balochistan. He killed Bhugti. There is a murder case on Musharraf too other than treason case. Did i talk specify any case in the article? No. You all pointed to different ones yourself.

    5. I honestly believe this is a waste of time on focusing on such issues. But there is need to set example. The ECONOMIC MYTH of Musharraf’s era has already been explained by Shahram Azhar 2 days back. Do comment on “economic features” after reading that.

    6. Before writing this blog, I read “In the line of fire”, “I, Bhutto and Zia”, “A case of exploding mangoes”, and “Military Inc.”.

    7. Here was one comment of “Pro-PPP Author”. That was seriously LOL. I didn’t take any side… and if i would, PPP would be the last option.

    8. There was one more paragraph in this blog “See! Worst of democracy is better than best of dictatorship, however democracy is becoming a BIG question globally.” The political system is not in debate here… and this post didnt propose towards any.Recommend

  • Az. Hamza

    I didnt propose for democracy anywhere. I was talking about fair trial sir.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Lked what you wrote and the underlying sentiment expressed.Recommend

  • aniza

    what the hack i just read!
    Na sar na paar!!Recommend

  • Tahir Bashir

    I agree with you but problem is that from last 65 years history of Pakistan we cant find any good civilian government example. we are confusing nation we didnt decide yet what is best for us.Recommend

  • Sunny811

    The writer has a biased opinion and needs to tried for wasting our time with complete nonsense. Recommend

  • Salman

    I think you are naive here SIR by taunting on age and not giving any solid counter argument , only age doesn’t ensure knowledge and to know the facts, one has to be well educated and informed about history. Being young does not make writer’s argument less effective or solid. He made a point and every one has right to stand opposing him. But one should criticize in a constructive manner. Recommend

  • Waqar

    lol hahahahahah Joke of the year :DRecommend

  • Ali

    well the article is not about fall of dhaka but trial and justice.
    And read again. the author mentioned bhutto as accomplice with yahya on that incident.Recommend

  • Ali

    yes he was. it is written in this post.
    musharraf is responsible for thousand other misdeeds.Recommend

  • yasir

    from reading your article, it doesnt seem like you are talking about a fair trial at all. “let us put him behind bars, let us put him behind bars”. thats talking about fair trial? people like you keep saying its not our war, mush fought the americans war and then make it seem so simple. like it was a easy decision to say no i dont wana help you guys. US would have trashed pakistan along with afghanistan. you guys are just hurt form what mush did to your crazy mullah brothers in lal masjid. accept it.Recommend

  • Kublai

    No, your comment is not random. You are right. This is just smoke and mirrors
    to distract the public. From the glaring, Govt. failures. The author, very clearly is a Baby Bhutto fan Through some strange, miserable, convoluted theory, he
    arrived at his strange twisted conclusions. He should consider the repatriation of $ 1.8 billions that Mr. 10% added to the family accounts of $1.5 billion collected by the Mohtarma.
    Even Nero had the gladiators,versus lions and such, to distract the public from the barbarians knocking at the door. The Barbarians,…are knocking at the door of this country.Recommend

  • Az. Hamza

    I mentioned thatRecommend

  • Az. Hamza

    well Kublai, first you need to re-read it. Then you will find that somewhere it is written “It was General Yahya Khan and it was his support to Bhutto that led to the fall of Dhaka.”
    There is no where any idea in support of PPP. I said there is not a single party worth to be sided with. This is not any pro-party post. It is simply for trial of a person who was in power from 1999 to 2007. And during that time all those miseries started that we see today including drones, load-shedding, war on terror, balochistan issue, FATA operations, etc.
    again saying, its about trial and justice, not about any party and institution. You have your point of view, i have mine and i respect that.Recommend

  • Az. Hamza

    Agreed. Todays blood is mainly because of Zia. But what did Musharraf do?
    Musharraf was unable to make peace in Karachi in 8 years.
    He made FATA terrorized which was peaceful state even during Soviet Invasion.
    He dismantled the whole country.
    Missing people
    There are like 100s of things which make the biggest culprit of our times. Whatever for Bhutto was trialed (I did not mention for what he was), we should trial Musharraf for the gravest of mistakes.
    And regarding revenge as you said, no we are going to take revenge since death of bhutto. Because bhutto’s death was revenge from combined follied of politicians and army and people since 1947 to 1979 (your anomaly)Recommend

  • Az. Hamza

    oh com’on. we have an army of 7 lac. We spend billions on it every year. But if are still as vulnerable as Afghanistan and Iraq then why we are feeding this army?Recommend

  • Az. Hamza

    I amd dumb and you said “Bhutto (a person I admire) screwed Pakistan on many fronts.”
    Touche Jamala. Thank God I am dumb.Recommend

  • Az. Hamza

    LOL I know you read the last line onlyRecommend

  • Az. Hamza

    This doesn’t justify military dictatorships and martial

  • Az. Hamza

    yo are vary raght mass anizaRecommend

  • Az. Hamza

    Dipak it is written in the post. Let me share that particular line:
    “It was General Yahya Khan and it was his support to Bhutto that led to the fall of Dhaka.”

    This article is not about siding with any person or party but the state.

  • stevenson

    I think corrupt dictators like Musharraf have done more harm to Pakistan than corrupt politicians! That’s why Musharraf should be charged to set a precedent that illegal take overs won’t be tolerated. If Turkey can control renegade generals, Pakistan can too.
    All of today’s problems in Pakistan are due to Musharraf and his decade long misrule.Recommend

  • Ghulam Ali

    this is called choti SochRecommend

  • Kublai

    Mr. Hamza, read the article again as you asked. And came up with examples of your twisted logic.,,Bhutto..’he ruled like a man died like a man’. You aggrandized a Marxist. A despot. He

    was hung for ordering a murder. Zardari,..jailed,..tortured. No sir. Not tortured. Had meals catered to plush cell. Had TV sir
    Slept on a comfortable bed. All whims catered to, sir.

    Claimed dementia, [a form of Alzheimers’s disease]. Made miraculous recovery sir. All memory came back intact, sir.
    The world renowned name Mr. 10% speaks for itself,.. sir
    So far, this is showing you are biased, sir. Heavily towards
    Bhutto/Zardari cabal. More than $ 1.5 billion [that’s only
    Mohtarma’s money] can buy you a lot of justice. Exoneration.
    It is not 30/40 years ago,.. now. More instant info. available, sir
    Cannot compare a bygone era with today’s culture,laws,.. sir.
    Lot of different laws in effect now ,…. sir.
    Twitter/Facebook/Google sir…public more informed sir.
    Should I continue.??Recommend

  • Tanzeel Ahmad
  • Hazara

    Can anybody tell me how can one hanging/execution be excuse enough for another execution? … Why do you people ( those who are hell bent to see Sir Pervaiz Musharraf executed ) always knowingly/unknowingly imply that ZAB’s execution was a right decision? … “ZAB was hanged, why not Musharraf?”, are you guys kidding me? … It is like saying “We were a bunch of shameless people who let one of our leaders get hanged, why shouldn’t we repeat it and see what happens.” … I mean seriously man, you people need to realise this fact that 30 years from now (If we continued with the same attitude) our children will read about Pervaiz Musharraf and the stance he took against terrorism and things like that and believe me, they will judge us, they will judge our generation … The point is that everybody, somewhere in his life, reaches a point where he has got make a choice … Sir Pervaiz Musharraf also chose and I am not saying that what he chose was right or wrong, all I am saying is that he chose what he deemed was the right thing to do … He chose not to bow down unlike some Taliban Khans who despite knowing it is not the right thing to do, is pushing for peace talks with our killers …

    p.s. Pervaiz Musharraf is not responsible for the current situation, it is the attitude of the later governments which has made the terrorists bolder. Had Pervaiz Musharraf been in office, he would have faced the blasts and threats and ensure that the terrorists don’t gain the foothold they have gained in last 6 years !Recommend

  • Az. Hamza

    You all took me wrong Kublai. I like Bhutto for some of his works and his attitude (like one in UNO) for which i said he lived like a man… but i mentioned “like it or not”.
    I further mentioned that there is not a single person or party worthy enough to be sided with.
    Our democracy (which again is a questionable system) didnt get any chance because of consistent coups. Thats why i asked if democracy fails, political parties are abolished with a logic. But what did we get from coups? Precisely a whole lot of failures.
    I can continue as long as you can and we can end like any other debate. But for your ease i can mention that i read over 100 related articles and precisely these books:
    Military Inc. by Ayesha Siddiqua
    In the line of fire by Pervez Musharraf
    A case of exploding mangoes by M. Hanif
    Pakistan by Imran Khan
    Avoiding Armageddon by Bruce Riedel
    Failure of Democracy in Pakistan by Irshad Hussain

    In the end, i just want to say that i have a right to present my views, and i dont care if you agree or disagree. I will keep on saying what i believe is right and wrong. This is freedom of expression.
    You have your views and i respect that too.
    Thank youRecommend

  • Ex-Ahmadi

    Exactly the kind of foolish superstitions and ill conceived logic which,among other things, made me leave Jamaat-e-Ahmaddiya.
    Perhaps some other time you should also shed light on the hierarchical corruption and hypocrisy prevalent within jamaat which ostracizes those who raise their voice as ‘motariz’ and going so far as to expel whole families for the mistake of just one individual (usually over a very insignificant thing like attending a mixed wedding) yet don’t weed out the corrupt just because they’ve done ‘waseeyat’.
    Its not right to play innocent in front of the world and being no different within.

    Model Colony,

  • Nasir Jadran

    I don’t think I’m going to respondRecommend

  • Chakwali bunya.

    Last checked, Sharum’s economics theory regarding Musharraf
    was proven full of holes. Leaking like a sieve. He was being chased out
    of town with pitchforks.Recommend

  • Mike Mohammad

    First make Pakistan like Turkey, then act like Turkey. Right now in Pakistan all the politicians are corrupt. Does not hold good on 62 & 63 and they want to punish an honest person who has no corruption charge and has done so much for Pakistan.Recommend

  • umad

    M sorry to say but you don’t have minutest of knowledge of the have written this all without any of research book dead reckoning by sharmila Bose and tragedy of error by Jamal matin us din before writing about articles and books by think tanks of Pakistan ISSI and IPRI before commenting about musharraf and his policies about even don’t know what Pakistan is..?? You are misleading the people..doing Masters is not enough for writing this blog..Recommend

  • Hasnat Sheikh

    ZAB did face the music like a man.he faced framed cases even when he knew they were tailor made to accuse him,even his judges later confessed on being influenced to give judgements against him.But words like ”bravery” , ”charisma” or may be even ”uprightness” don’t suite dictators ..Recommend

  • Hasnat Sheikh

    Our civil leadership has been dragged from thrones to the courts,whereas when our retired dictators are tried they stay in cozy mansions and smoke cigars, When we speak in the favor of dictators ,we are supporting the military. When we speak for democracy ,suddenly we are traitors..Recommend

  • Ali Baloch

    No need for a trial, give Musharraf a hundred man and leave him in Dasht and let the Baloch and Musharraf settle their arguments.Recommend