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The Supreme Court has noted that due process and fair trial were not complied with in the murder trial of the founder of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) by the Lahore High Court (LHC) and of appeal by the apex court.

“The proceedings of the trial by the Lahore High Court and of the appeal by the Supreme Court of Pakistan do not meet the requirements of the fundamental right to a fair trial and due process enshrined in Articles 4 and 9 of the Constitution,” said Chief Justice Faez Isa Qazi while announcing the unanimous opinion of the court under is advisory jurisdiction.

Bhutto was hanged in 1979 following one of the country’s most controversial cases. The present-day apex court’s opinion has been rightly seen by Bhutto’s family and political associates as “correcting of history”. Yes, you cannot reverse history but you can always correct it.

The apex court therefore deserves a lot of commendation for arriving at a decision through which it can offer a plausible answer to a question that legal experts have always raised about the glaring flaws in Bhutto’s trial at Lahore High Court and then unjust rejection of his appeal by the apex court.

That is why Bhutto’s execution is widely considered as a judicial murder in the checkered history of Pakistan. It is important to note that the apex court led by Justice Faez Isa Qazi has pointed out, among other things, that the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto reference was filed during the PPP government (2008-13) “but the successive governments of other political parties, including the interim governments, carried forward this inquiry and did not opt to withdraw this reference”.

In my view, therefore, the political parties that formed the government since the exit of PPP government—Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)— along with interim setups that were led by Mir Hazar Khan Khoso (2013), Justice Nasirul Mulk (retd) (2018) and Anwaarul Haq Kakar (2023-24), too, deserve commendation for their approach to this reference that will surely contribute to the efforts aimed at attaining the lofty ideals of democracy, rule of law and civilian supremacy in the country.

The institution of the armed forces also deserves a lot of praise for creating no impediments to the ZAB reference case at all. Through its opinion, the Supreme Court has now declared that the history that we were told was not correct. Many thanks, your lordships for offering to this nation of over 220 million people a highly plausible explanation of a very important historical event.

Abdul Sattar Chughtai

Karachi

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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