Pak Supreme Court to take up Zulfikar Bhutto reference on April 13

April 5th, 2011 - 4:40 pm ICT by ANI  

Islamabad, April 5(ANI): The Supreme Court of Pakistan has set April 13 for the hearing of a presidential reference seeking its opinion on revisiting the controversial death sentence passed against former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979.

Last Friday, President Asif Ali Zardari had signed the reference seeking to reopen the case of former Prime Minister and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founder Bhutto, who was hanged on April 4, 1979, in Rawalpindi.

“The Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, has been pleased to fix the Reference No.01/2011, received from the President, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, under Article 186 of the Constitution for revisiting the case of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the court on April 13, 2011,” the Dawn quoted the court announcement, as saying.

The development coincided with the 32nd anniversary of the execution of Pakistan’s first elected prime minister, which his supporters call a ‘judicial murder’.

Though the details of the legal questions raised by Zardari were not yet available, a legal source said that the reference had mentioned the admission of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Nasim Hasan Shah in a media interview that the decision of Bhutto’s appeal was given under coercion, which the document said did not leave any doubt in the mind of a sane and prudent person that it was a “judicial murder” decided and executed by General Ziaul Haq.

Nasim Hasan, who was a member of the bench that had upheld the death penalty awarded to Bhutto, had admitted in the interview that there was not enough evidence to put the former premier on death row, and that he should have voted against the hanging and felt bad for not doing so.

This admission amounted to a violation of the constitutional oath of office of the Chief Justice and judges of the superior judiciary and attracted cognisance under the Constitution’s Article 6 relating to high treason, the reference said.

According to the source, the reference also pointed out that Justice Ghulam Safdar Shah, who wrote a dissenting judgment in the Bhutto case, was subsequently witch-hunted and had to leave the country in a miserable condition.

The reference also questions as to why Bhutto was not first tried by a sessions court, which would have been legally bound to follow the case law developed up to the time of trial, whereas the high court ignored the same altogether.

It also noted that in this case, there was absolutely no precedent of conviction and sentence of capital punishment awarded on the testimony of an approver, up to the time of trial and conviction. (ANI)

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