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Supreme Court reserves its verdict on ZAB presidential reference

SC told martial law scuttled govt, opposition agreement on elections: Also informed that judges in late 70s were not judges as per constitution

By News Desk

March 4, 2024 02:29 PM


Supreme Court reserves its verdict in ZAB presidential reference

Late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has reserved its verdict on a presidential reference seeking review of the apex court’s 1979 decision in the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto murder case as it concluded proceedings on Monday, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

A nine-judge bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa heard the presidential reference filed in 2011. Other members on the bench included Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Musarrat Hilali.

Wrapping up the hearing on Monday, CJP Qazi Faez Isa remarked ““Not today, but some other day we may sit down and reach a verdict.”

Speaking on the occasion, Raza Rabbani said that basic human rights were suspended at that time since there was martial law in the country. “At that time military dictator General Ziaul Haq was the only prosecutor,” he said, and added, “On the other hand, the government and the opposition had sorted out their differences on elections.”

The chief justice asked whether an agreement had also been signed between the two sides.

Rabbani replied in the affirmative and said the document was ready for the signatures, but at that very time, martial law was imposed in the country. “On July 24, ASF inspectors were arrested, and in the next two days they issued their confessional statements,” he informed.

He recalled that in those days, Justice Aslam Riaz Hussain was not the only Supreme Court judge but also the acting governor of Punjab.

Justice Jamal Mandokhel remarked that anything was possible during the times of martial law. “Even a governor can hold trials during military rule,” he added. 

Rabbani said when there was martial law, the army was in complete control of the country. “It can do anything,” he said.

He went on to say that wife of the late prime minister Begum Nusrat Bhutto had moved the Supreme Court against the arrest of PPP leaders. “Justice Yaqoob was the chief justice of the apex court then,” he said, and added, “The moment the judge admitted Begum Nusrat’s petition for the hearing, he was removed from the home. Justice Anwaarul Haq was made the chief justice instead.”

The CJP asked whether the SC could give its opinion in brief on the reference.

Rabbani replied, “Yes,” and said that the apex court could also invoke Article 187 for the provision of complete justice to the aggrieved party.

Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar remarked that if the court invoked the article, it would no longer remain an ‘opinion’, but would become a ‘decision.’

Justice Yahya Afridi asked Rabbani to inform the bench in writing about the facts related to prejudice that came to light after the hanging.

Rabbani said that the judges had taken oath under the ‘Martial Law Regulation’, and the word ‘constitution’ had been removed from the text of the oath.   

If seen in this context, those judges were not judges in the light of the constitution. “The point to be noted is that at that time the Supreme Court and high courts were not functioning as per the constitution.”

“To cut a long story short, the trial held in the Bhutto case was not ‘fair’,” he argued.

Rabbani said that General Zia factor could not be overlooked either. “As many as six cases of attacks on Kasuri sab were registered between 1972 and 1976, and not in a single FIR, the late prime minister had been nominated,” he informed.

The chief justice then remarked that the court had asked about the role of Mehmood Masood.

The additional attorney general (AAG) replied that despite the fact that NADRA did not have that individual’s record, still efforts were being made to get information about him. “We have written to three ministries for the purpose,” the AAG informed.

Then addressing  Ahmad Raza Kasuri, CJP Isa said surely he would not like to meet his father’s assassin. “You again joined the party and applied for the ticket.”

Kasuri said he knew he had been marked. “I was a good speaker. That is why I had been asked to become part of the movement against Bhutto,” he said and added, “But I was sure that the late prime minister would get me killed.”

The reference was filed on behalf of former president Asif Ali Zardari on April 2, 2011, to seek an opinion on revisiting the death sentence awarded to former prime minister Bhutto under the Supreme Court’s advisory jurisdiction. The reference was filed before the top court under Article 186 (1 and 2) of the Constitution, empowering the president to refer any question of public importance to the Supreme Court to seek its opinion on an issue.

On October 9, 2018, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari requested the apex court to allow him to become a party in the case, stating that the applicant’s grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was brutally executed.

In a split verdict of four to three, a seven-judge Supreme Court bench upheld a Lahore High Court verdict, awarding the death sentence to the former prime minister in March 1979 during the regime of military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq. Gen Zia had overthrown the PPP government in July 1977.

 

Reporter Amanat Gishkori


News Desk


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