ZA Bhutto’s case: Law minister resigns to appear as counsel

Resignation accepted by acting president Farooq Naek.

Qaiser Zulfiqar April 14, 2011


A coveted cabinet position was sacrificed by Babar Awan, who resigned as federal law minister on Wednesday before a bench hearing the presidential reference on the 1979 ‘judicial murder’ of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Awan requested the three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to allow him to appear in the reference. Awan tendered his resignation to the bench after the chief justice observed that he could not be permitted to argue the case as the federal law minister.

The chief justice directed Awan to first present his resignation to the relevant authorities, surrender the portfolio of the law ministry as well as any other offices he holds, renew his licence from the Pakistan Bar Council, and then appear before the court.

“I have decided to resign today to appear in this reference in accordance with the rules of the Supreme Court and I have informed the prime minster of my decision,” Awan said. He went on to declare, “Bhutto and not Babar Awan will represent himself in the case”.

The chief justice observed that the case is of “historic significance.”

“A minister had appeared in the case during the dictatorship,” he said, referring to General Ziaul Haq’s regime. “We will not allow history to repeat itself.”

“Illegal traditions will not be allowed to continue in a democracy,” he added.

The chief justice remarked that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a person of international  stature who was equally popular in Pakistan and abroad.

“We will constitute a larger bench for the presidential reference. If need be, the court will hear this reference day and night,” he said. Court assistants will be hired from the provinces and the federation. The hearing of the reference was adjourned until Thursday (today).

After the adjournment,  Babar Awan applied to the Pakistan Bar Council for the renewal of his licence and submitted a copy of his resignation. His resignation has been accepted by the acting president and Senate Chairman Farooq Naek.

Babar Awan, who was surrounded by several federal ministers and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) workers, told reporters outside the Supreme Court that his sacrifice of a ministry paled in comparison to the people who had sacrificed their lives. “Had I been the prime minister, I would have forsaken the premiership to appear in the reference as a counsel.”

“It is an honour for me to assist the court in the Bhutto reference,” he added

Hearings of the case, which is set to be one of the most high-profile of the year, will be attended by the party leaders of as well.

On April 2, President Asif Ali Zardari sent a reference to the Supreme Court of Pakistan to revisit the case of the ‘judicial murder’ of the former prime minister. The reference was sent under Article 186 of the Constitution.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2011.

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Khadija Malik | 10 years ago | Reply It’s a unique moment in the chequered history of Pakistan. Z.A Bhutto was killed by the the dictator Zia through a decision of the superior court in 1979.It was a great national and international tragedy, it was not just a barbaric hanging of a citizen through judicial orders but the nation also lost one of its great leaders. From that day to his own death in the airs of Basti Lal Kamal,Zia was constantly haunted by the Bhutto ghost. Prolongation of his illegitimate rule and the decision to hold non-party election in 1985 were some of the reflections of his covert fear from Bhutto legacy and his party. It is welcoming that after a long time his son-in-law deserves special appreciation for reopening a thirty year old case which the people of this country still see with great reservations. Since the case is pending in the competent court of law and its illegal to discuss matters pending there, I would only like to congratulate those who know that the historians were still awaiting one impartial decision on this highly controversial case so the unfinished chapter of the history can be completed and truth may be exposed for the students of history and the public at large.
Yusuf Jan | 10 years ago | Reply I see this as a diversionary tactic to take away focus from more important matters. The respected court should have clear priorities and this matter should be of a much lower priority. The court should also insist that the government should carry out all its previous judgements first to show seriousness and a will to execute judgements before asking for another historical review.
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