President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday formally approved the reopening of the ‘judicial murder’ case of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), former prime minister and founding chairperson of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party.
Bhutto was convicted in a murder case and sentenced to death by the Lahore High Court (LHC) in 1979 during the dictatorship of the then army chief General Ziaul Haq. Later the Supreme Court had also upheld the LHC verdict.
President Zardari signed a reference which will be filed in the Supreme Court pleading that the apex court revisit the case. The federal cabinet, in its last meeting, had approved the reopening of the case.
The law ministry will file the reference under Article 186 of the constitution which empowers the president to seek the Supreme Court’s opinion on any question of law which he considers of public importance.
Clause 2 of Article 186 states: “The Supreme Court shall consider a question so referred and report its opinion on the question to the president”.
Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the law ministry would now send the reference to the Supreme Court.
He added that the PPP had never intended to seek revenge but it wanted to rectify a ‘historic wrong’ and thereby vindicate the position of the PPP’s founding chairman. Babar recalled that a former judge on the Supreme Court bench which upheld the death sentence had publicly acknowledged that the split verdict was given under pressure.
Bhutto was executed on April 4, 1979 by then-military dictatorship.
His body was flown secretly in the night to Larkana, and buried without permitting the family to attend his last rites. The next day pictures of the funeral were published in newspapers to show that local residents had attended the burial. However, investigation proved that the mourners were not local residents and that they had been brought from elsewhere, Babar said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 02nd, 2011.