Pakistan: Bhutto case; SC judge says detailed verdict suggests disagreement among judges


ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa reiterated the court’s obligation to render a judgment on the presidential reference during the hearing regarding the death sentence of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on Monday.

Heading a nine-member larger bench, CJP Isa underscored the importance of the court’s role in such matters.

Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail said that it seems from the detailed judgments that the judges who gave the verdict themselves were not in agreement, which is why such detailed judgment was written.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah emphasised that the court’s focus lies in examining the transparency and fairness of the trial rather than delving into the merits of Bhutto’s case.

During the hearing, judicial assistant Khalid Javed Khan raised concerns about the impartiality of the trial, stating that during the period of the presidential reference, all state machinery, including the judiciary, was allegedly under the control of former dictator General Ziaul Haq.

“If the judiciary was independent, Bhutto would not have been hanged. In the appeal of Bhutto, the judicial bench in the Supreme Court which heard the case also included ad-hoc judges,” he said.

Attorney General Mansoor Awan highlighted the challenges to the rule of law during martial law, affirming that the Constitution was effectively abolished during that time.

The session saw the citation of an interview conducted by senior journalist Iftikhar Ahmed with Naseem Hasan Shah, where it was alleged that the then Chief Justice had animosity towards Bhutto.

In response to queries raised by Barrister Salahuddin regarding the conduct of Bhutto’s lawyer, CJP Isa clarified that a client cannot be punished for the conduct of his lawyer.

CJP Isa said that the court would delve into the criminal aspect of the matter in the next session. The hearing was adjourned till today (Tuesday).

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who took over as president of Pakistan immediately after the fall of Dhaka in December 1971, and later became the prime minister after the 1973 Constitution, was removed from the government through the martial law imposed on July 5, 1977, led by Gen Ziaul Haq.

On September 3, he was arrested in the case of March 1974 murder of Nawab Muhammad Ahmad Khan Kasuri. He was released 10 days later, after a court found the charges against him “contradictory and incomplete”. He was rearrested on the same charges and arraigned before the Lahore High Court (LHC).

On March 18, 1978, Bhutto was declared guilty of the murder, and was sentenced to death. The decision was challenged in the Supreme Court and on February 6, 1979, the Supreme Court voted 4-3 to issue a guilty verdict and upheld the high court decision.

On March 24, 1979 the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and Gen Zia upheld the death sentence. Bhutto was hanged at the Rawalpindi Central Jail on April 4, 1979 and was buried at his family mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Baksh.

On April 2, 2011, 32 years after Bhutto’s trial and execution, the PPP, then the ruling party, filed the reference for reopening of Bhutto’s trial. It is important to mention that the apex court judgment on the hanging of Bhutto has never been referred to as a precedent by the judges in any case.__Pakistan Today