Rest in peace?

After three years at the helm of state affairs, the PPP government has decided that it is high time now to open a Pandora’s Box, one which, if prodded, has the ability to stir a frenzy of buried emotions and matters that had been brushed under the rug a long time ago. On Monday, the federal cabinet gave the green signal to Mr Babar Awan’s ministry of law and justice to seek the Supreme Court’s (SC) opinion on the matter of revisiting the verdict of the hangman’s noose on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a sentence that was carried out in 1979. President Asif Ali Zardari himself has said that his government is not seeking a “clash of institutions” by revisiting the demons of the past but, in effect, wished only to redeem the memory and legacy of the PPP’s founding father. It is reportedly because of this reason that the president is using his discretion under Article 186 of the constitution, which allows the head of state to obtain the opinion of the SC on any matter considered of national importance. Hence, President Zardari is all set to file a judicial reference on April 4 after taking party leaders into confidence.While speculation remains rife about the emergence of this seemingly sudden interest in reviving the past, one must first consider the legality of the issue at hand and the route this new initiative might take. Where legal matters are concerned there are many factors that must be considered before a reference is allowed to proceed. One of these is the time limitation that is always in place in the case of matters that simply stretch too far back and the late 1970s are long ago indeed. Such technical matters can very easily be grounds for a dismissal of this petition. Also, it must be considered that this is essentially a criminal case and in Pakistan criminal cases are almost never reopened; it is unlikely that a precedent is going to be set now. It also remains to be seen in what manner the SC responds to the federal government’s move for a reference.Some corners are speculating that this is the government’s attempt to embarrass the judiciary due to the fact that the PPP has been taking a beating of late by the SC, whether in the NRO case or termination of the NAB chief.

However, the loudest voices, in the end, will be those of the masses. The PPP has been in power for a good three years now and in all this time it has failed on a rather spectacular level to bring any solace or prosperity to citizens. Speculations exist that the government is now playing politics to divert attention from its failings and to open up the past for its own future: by reviving the memory and legacy of Bhutto, they may be looking to re-enthuse their electorate, which consists of many PPP supporters disillusioned by the present conjuncture but still enamoured of the charisma and policies of Bhutto. However, it is the same citizenry that is also at the receiving end of backbreaking inflation, a major dearth of energy, loss of valuable industry and jobs. The masses may not buy into a bid that plays on their sentiments but does little for their welfare. When day-to-day living is so taxing, the people may not be interested in a case that is so long gone and has no bearing on their lives in any significant way.It remains to be seen which route this particular case takes but it can be asked: when the present and the future of this country look so bleak, can a return to the past offer any relevance? – Dailytimes