ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court reserved its opinion on the Presidential Reference seeking to revisit the death sentence to the founder of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

At the conclusion of the submission by counsels of Sanum Bhutto, Aseefa Bhutto and Bakhtawar Bhutto, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Aamir Rehman, and advocate Ahmed Raza Kasuri, who was the complainant against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the chief justice said that after consulting among ourselves will announce the short opinion soon, but it would be made in two to four days.

The AAG, representing the federation, adopted the arguments of Justice Manzoor Malik, a former judge of the Supreme Court, who assisted the bench on the criminal aspect of the reference. He said; “Entire edifice of the trial of the case was built on the investigation which was illegal.” At the judicial stage there was interference of the executive, he added.

A nine-member SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, 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 MusarratHilali, on Monday, heard the Presidential Reference.

President Asif Ali Zardari on April 2, 2011, had filed a reference in the Supreme Court to reopen the case of ex-PM Zulfikar Bhutto, who was hanged on April 4, 1979, in Rawalpindi. Zardari had forwarded the reference under clauses 1 and 2 of Article 186 of the Constitution.

Kasuri argued that the court has yet to cross the bridge of admissibility of the reference. He said that as Bhutto had availed relief under Article 185 and Article 188 of the constitution, therefore, the judgments of the Lahore High Court (LHC) and the Supreme Court regarding the matter are res judicata. He contended if the Court reopens this case then tomorrow someone else would come in case of election symbol and demand to decide it afresh, adding this way the Supreme Court would become a laughing stock, and “I don’t want it, because dignity and respect of this institution is very dear to me.” However, he stated; “It is the Court to decide the future course of action”.

Earlier, Kasuri explained why after three years he had filed a private complaint against Zulfikar Bhutto. He said Bhutto was the Prime Minister when in 1974 his FIR regarding the murder of his father in a brutal attack on his car, was registered, but it was closed after a brief probe.

Justice Tariq Masood asked Kasuri that when Gen ZiaulHaq grabbed power after the removal of Bhutto then why the LHC, which acted as a trial court, at that time instead of taking up your private complaint heard the case (FIR), which was closed in 1974. He said under Section 374 of the CrPC, the High Court has to confirm the reference i.e. sentence of death. However, in the instant matter, it was not done. He questioned when in this case there was no death reference then how the execution took place.

The chief justice said the lawmakers have not written in the law (Section 374 of CrPC) that the murder trial can be carried out directly by the High Court (HC). Kasuri argued that for the first time, a murder case was registered against the sitting prime minister. He said the trial was conducted by HC because the executive did not want to give an impression to the world that the prime minister is above the law.

Upon that, Justice Tariq asked Kasuri you mean to say that there are separate laws for ordinary people and the prime minister. The chief justice told him that you have destroyed your own case by using the word “impression”. Justice Hilali remarked that the world has condemned this impression (application of law differently).

Justice Hassan said Bhutto was deprived of two opportunities – first, the LHC carried out the murder trial directly, and second, instead of Division Bench of the LHC, a larger bench (of five members) conducted the trial.

Kasuri told the bench that he was a very powerful member of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, but had some differences with Bhutto over the passage of time. “I was the first person who went to East Pakistan in 1971 despite Bhutto’s threats.” He said that had the session of the National Assembly been summoned at that time East Pakistan would have not been separated.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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