Pakistan: ‘Trial Of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto A Grave Miscarriage Of Justice’


By Sabih Ul Hussnain

Slain PM’s grandchildren Fatima and Zulfiqar contend revelations by Dr Justice Nasim Hasan Shah disclosed violation of basic Constitutional guarantees

The trial and subsequent sentencing of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a grave miscarriage of justice and thus in violation of basic Constitutional guarantees of a citizen to be dealt with in accordance with the law.

This has been contended by two grandchildren of Bhutto in a submission before the Supreme Court. Fatima Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto-Junior (Jr), through their counsel Zahid F. Ibrahim, have submitted their contentions before the top court in the Bhutto reference case.

“Given the unchallenged revelations made by Dr Justice Nasim Hasan Shah, it is plainly evident that the decision of the Lahore High Court (LHC) was led by a Chief Justice whose hatred for Bhutto was recognised by no less than Dr Justice Nasim Hasan Shah himself and the Supreme Court judgment in the Bhutto Trial was a grave miscarriage of justice and thus in violation of basic Constitutional guarantees of a citizen to be dealt in accordance with the law,” read the 21-page statement submitted to the top court.

In their concise statement, Fatima Bhutto and Zulfikar Junior have further contended that the inescapable conclusion from the confessions of Dr Justice Nasim Hasan Shah is that his inclusion on the bench, which he himself considered improbable, was manoeuvred by Justice Mushtaq Hussain and Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada.

“Justice Mushtaq Hussain, even after rendering the guilty verdict in the LHC, was pursuing the matter by facilitating fixing of the bench in the SC, which is clear evidence of his vendetta against Bhutto,” the concise statement stated.

“Justice Nasim Hasan Shah considered it likely that military authorities had approached Chief Justice Anwar ul Haq. He felt helpless in the face of what he described as “military occupation of the courts”,” it added.

“Justice Nasim Hasan Shah attempted to influence Justice Dorab Patel, which was spurned by the latter,” it further stated.

“Even though the majority led by Chief Justice Anwarul Haq knew that this was not a case of death sentence, they attempted to use this as a bargaining chip with the minority judges who were inclined to acquit and attempted to convince them to find Bhutto guilty.”

Both grandchildren next contended that Justice Nasim Hasan Shah handed the death sentence out of anger at Bhutto’s lawyer, Yahya Bakhtiar and that later, he regretted the same.

“The confession was his (Shah’s) penance.”

“Justice Nasim Hasan Shah violated not only the Code of Conduct but his Constitutional oath as a Judge under which he had solemnly sworn that “in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.” the statement added.

The two grandchildren of the former prime minister have further contended that there is now no doubt that an elected prime minister of Pakistan was overthrown in a military coup and a farcical judicial trial was orchestrated for no other reason but to murder Bhutto and to perpetuate a dictatorship.

“After all, how else can one read the speech of July 5, 1977, of General Ziaul Haq, who pledged that ‘I was obliged to step in to fill in the vacuum created by political leaders. I have accepted this challenge as a true soldier of Islam. My sole aim is to organise free and fair elections which would be held in October this year. Soon after the polls, power will be transferred to the elected representatives of the people’,” stated the concise statement.

Fatima and Zulfikar further contended that It is never too late to right a wrong.

“In fact, we will always be a prisoner to our crimes if we do not correct what we now know as plain miscarriage of justice,” the slain premier’s grandchildren stated.

The original case is the result of a 2011 Presidential Reference by former president Asif Ali Zardari which raised the question whether the decision of the LHC as well as the SC in the murder trial against Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto met the requirements of fundamental rights as guaranteed under Article 4, sub Articles (1) & (2)(a), Article 8, Article 9, Article 10A due process, Article 14, and Article 25 of the Constitution? The reference sought a review of the 44-year-old death sentence awarded by the top court with a majority of four to three in February 1979.

Both the grandchildren have requested the top court to answer the questions contained in the Presidential Reference in the negative.

A nine-member bench headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa is expected to take up the matter for hearing on February 26. Other members of the bench include Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Aminuddin, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Musarrat Hilali.

The concise statement filed by the grandchildren of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto also argues the maintainability of the presidential reference and the competence of the President to determine whether the matter is of public importance.

The 21-page concise statement further contain arguments on the finality principle of the top court’s judgment. It also includes arguments on the merits and legal submissions therein, citing precedents of different courts.

In December last year, the matter was fixed for hearing after spending more than 11 years gathering dust in the Supreme Court.

At the last hearing of the case, Chief Justice Isa had hinted at an early conclusion of the matter.

He had remarked that the case is an opportunity for both institutions — the armed forces and the Supreme Court — to get rid of the accusations against them and to correct history.__Courtesy The Friday Times Pakistan