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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa questioned whether the Supreme Court has an option to say it does not hear the Presidential Reference on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s murder under Article 186 of the constitution.

A nine-member SC bench, headed by the chief justice, and comprising Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Musarrat Hilali, on Monday, heard the Presidential Reference.

In the last hearing, the bench had appointed Khawaja Haris, Makhdoom Ali Khan, Salahuddin Ahmed, and former attorney general Khalid Jawed Khan and Zahid Ibrahim, amicus curiae.

Nine-member SC bench to hear ‘judicial murder’ case

However, Ibrahim informed that as he has been engaged by paternal grandchildren of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – Fatima Bhutto and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, therefore, withdrawing from amici.

Salahuddin revealed to the Court that his wife is the maternal granddaughter of Nawab Ahmed Kasuri. Khawaja Haris said that his father was counsel of Masood Mehmood, who was co-accused and later became the approver in the Bhutto murder case; therefore, if there is any objection then he would withdraw.

Raza Rabbani, who is representing Sanum Bhutto, Bakhtawar Bhutto, and Aseefa Bhutto, objected to Khawaja Haris’s appointment, therefore, he later withdrew. The chief justice asked do we have an option to say the Court does not like to hear the Presidential Reference on Zulfikar Bhutto’s murder under Article 186 of the constitution.

Justice Mansoor said the question in the reference needs to be answered, and if the Court response says there is no question of law then what would happen? He, however, said the court’s opinion in reference would be binding on everyone.

He further said that the execution of the person (Bhutto) cannot be reversed by the Supreme Court, but the stigma attached to the person may be removed. The court noted that the review and appeal of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto have already been dismissed. If the case is reopened, then will it not open a floodgate?

Makhdoom Ali Khan, another amicus curiae said where a judge favours a majority verdict and later on he gives an interview to a private channel, then this must be considered by the Court.

During the hearing, a recording of the interview of former chief justice of Pakistan Dr Naseem Hassan Shah was played, who was part of the seven-judge bench that affirmed the Lahore High Court’s judgment on the death sentence to Zulfikar Bhutto.

The decision of the Supreme Court was a split one (4/3) for the sentencing. For (sentencing) were Anwar-ul-Haq, Muhammad Akram, Karam Chauhan, and Nasim Hasan Shah. Dissenting (acquittal) were Dorab Patel, Muhammad Haleem and Safdar Shah. However, the review petition was dismissed unanimously.

One of the dissenting judges, Muhammad Haleem, was appointed by General Zia to succeed Anwar-ul-Haq as the chief justice and served in that capacity from 1981 until 1989. The court was informed that Zulfikar Bhutto’s sister had filed the mercy petition before the President General Zia-ul-Haq (retd), which he had turned down.

Makhdoom said Bhutto’s conviction and sentence not be treated as an ordinary criminal case. It was the rarest case, wherein, the accused who was not even present at the crime scene was awarded a death sentence. He contended that as per the press statement of ex-CJP Naseem Hassan the order of the death sentence was obtained by force.

Makhdoom further said that the judgment was “fraud and biased”. Referring to Article 4 of the constitution, he said every citizen enjoys the protection of the law and must be treated in accordance with the law.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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Parvez Jan 09, 2024 01:37pm
The " quality " of justice being handed out by our superior courts has driven the credibility graph of justice in Pakistan to a new low.
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KU Jan 09, 2024 05:53pm
Justice shall be done when records and details of witnesses as well as the four individuals, who were also hanged for their role in the murder, are discussed and brought in the public knowledge. If injustice is indeed to be admitted and stigma removed.
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Ch K A Nye Jan 13, 2024 06:15am
Stigma? The biggest stigma is the title of the first civilian martial law administrator.
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