Innocent Bhutto was sent to the gallows: SC

In detailed verdict top court notes if ZA Bhutto was acquitted he could have proceeded to prosecute 
Gen (r) Zia-ul-Haq for high treason.

ISLAMABAD   -  The Supreme Court of Pakistan Monday said that when judges take oath of allegiance to dictators the courts no longer belong to people.

It was stated in a detailed judgment by a nine-member SC bench, headed by the Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, and comprising 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 which unanimously delivered opinion on Presidential Reference on March 6, 2024.

In the detailed verdict, the Supreme Court noted that due process and fair trial not complied with in the murder trial of founder Pakistan Peoples’ Party Zulfikar Ali Bhutto by the Lahore High Court and of appeal by the apex court.

In the 48-page judgment, authored by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, the apex court said that the trial and Appellate Courts, which conducted the trial and heard the appeal, were not true courts under the Constitution. The country was captive to Martial Law and so too were its courts.

It noted that no attention was paid to the exceptionalism, and untouchability of General Zia-ul-Haq, the Chief Martial Law Administrator, who had gathered, in himself, all the powers of an absolute monarch.

The judgment said that the Trial Court, which had tried and convicted Zulfikar Bhutto, and the Appellate Court, which had dismissed his appeal, were operating when there was no constitutional rule in the country and one man’s will (and whim) became legislation and his person had replaced the entire democratic order. Unfortunately, the Chief Martial Law Administrator was adulated in another case. 85 He was stated to have ‘stepped in to save the country.’

The expression of such incredulous admiration undermined the credibility of the Appellate Court. Was it not obvious that General Zia-ul-Haq would be the direct beneficiary of a guilty verdict. If Bhutto was acquitted he may have proceeded to prosecute General Zia-ul-Haq for the crime of high treason. General Zia-ul-Haq’s personal survival depended on Mr. Bhutto being found guilty. The continuation of usurped power required Mr. Bhutto to be convicted.

General Zia-ul-Haq’s unconstitutional act was ‘construed in the nature of a mandate from the people of Pakistan.’ 87 It was not at all necessary, nor desirable, to state how popular he was. It was not for the Supreme Court to measure populism, nor what it entailed.

The judgment said the Supreme Court, including three SC judges who acquitted Bhutto, had also declared, ‘that the Fundamental Rights stand validly suspended since 5th of July 1977.’ Therefore, and admittedly, the trial was conducted and the appeal heard without Bhutto having the constitutional protection of the Fundamental Rights and other rights guaranteed in the Constitution. Any single one of the aforesaid noted transgressions may have vitiated the trial and the conviction, however, cumulatively they destroyed any semblance of due process and fair trial, and revealed that innocent men were rushed to the gallows.

PPP government on April 02, 2011 had filed a reference in the apex court to reopen case of former prime minister and founder Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged on April 4, 1979, in Rawalpindi. Former President Asif Ali Zardari forwarded reference to the SC under clause 1 and 2 of Article 186 of the Constitution for revisiting the case of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Babar Awan had argued the reference on behalf of the PPP government.

The proceedings of the Reference were broadcast live on the official website and the YouTube Channel of the Supreme Court. Makhdoom Ali Khan, Khalid Jawed Khan, Salahuddin Ahmed, Yasir Qureshi and Reema Umar were the amici, Zahid Ibrahim represented Zulfikar junior, Farooq H Naek appeared on behalf of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto, Raza Rabbani represented Sanum Bhutto, Aseef Bhutto and Bakhtawar Bhutto.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday accepted the request of Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) to become a party in an appeal against termination of civilians’ trials in army courts.

A seven-member larger bench of the top court headed by Justice Amin ud Din Khan and comprising Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Hassan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Shahid Waheed, Justice Irfaan Saadat Khan and Justice Shahid Bilal heard the appeals of federation.

At the outset of hearing, the court sought arguments from LHCBA’s lawyer Hamid Khan on next date of hearing.

Addressing the lawyer of Shuhada Foundation, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail said that according to the records Jinnah House Lahore was also set on fire during May 9, incidents. It will be seen later that how many days Quaid-e-Azam stayed in Jinnah House, he remarked.

The court asked the lawyer that Quaid-i-e-Azam’s residence was set on fire in Ziarat, where was the Shuhada Foundation on that incident and how many applications did it file?

The top court, however, also accepted the request of foundation to become party in the case. The PTI’s counsel during hearing withdrew the application for live streaming of the hearing.

The further hearing of the case was then adjourned till July 11.

SC issues written order regarding suspension of LHC’s decision

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a written order regarding suspension of Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) notification regarding the formation of election tribunals.

A five-member bench, presided by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, issued the written order comprising three pages.

It said that the decision of LHC and ECP notification would remain suspended till next date. The order said that the next hearing will be held after the meeting between the Election Commission and the Chief Justice of LHC. The meeting will be held in the LHC after the oath of the LHC Chief Justice.

The court said that the ECP wrote letters to the Registrar of four high courts on February 14, while on February 15, it wrote to the Registrar of LHC.

It said that the Registrar of the LHC forwarded the names of two judges in response to the letter and the ECP issued the notification on the same day.

The top court said that two judges were insufficient, at this the ECP asked for additional judges to constitute election tribunals.

The Supreme Court directed that the ECP and the Chief Justice of the LHC should meet and resolve the issue. The meeting should be held immediately after the new Chief Justice LHC assumes office, the appeal of the Election Commission will remain pending, it added.

It further said that both the ECP and the Office of the Chief Justice LHC are constitutional institutions and entitled to utmost respect. The Attorney General also agreed that there should be the meaningful consultation.

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