Yesterday, as the country remembered Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on the anniversary of his execution, the news was rife with the ongoing controversy surrounding his “judicial murder” even after 35 years. A year’s worth of newspapers is as much evidence as anyone needs of the public’s short memory. Politics in fact, thrives on this principle: that people forget, that people are easy to guide and misguide at will, and that they will forgive if the cards are played right. It is a theatre played out before a perpetually ill-informed audience. ZAB’s hanging resulted in the romanticizing of events surrounding his life and death, in the glorification of his person and leadership. In death, he is the kind of immortal hero that he was not in his life, and perhaps would never have been if he were alive now. Perhaps this is the fate all political trials are doomed to; this lack of coherency, fact and closure.
Though it is unlikely that he will ever be convicted, it is prudent to pay heed to the narrative that surrounds the ongoing trial of President Musharraf; another high profile and highly politicized trial in this country’s history. His defense counsel has been accused of not preparing any real defense, but perhaps they are shrewd enough to understand the nature of political trials in this country. They are not open-shut cases and the legalities are a cocktail laced heavily with theatrics and macho-rhetoric. Add to this, a 24/7 media news cycle which confuses as much as it informs, and the explosion of social media. From details of his emotional state, to the security threats amidst which our brave hero fights his unwell heart, his ailing mother, the inner pain of a general charged with high treason, his firm hand as he salutes the court; the trial contains all the makings of turning Musharraf into the luminary he isn’t. The media best be wary. It is not difficult to turn the court of public opinion.