The Attorney General of Pakistan Maulvi Anwarul Haq said on Wednesday that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in haste and that the Supreme Court needs to re-examine his murder trial.
An eleven-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is hearing the Bhutto reference case, where this request was made.
The attorney general said that Bhutto was hanged within 12 hours of the issuance of a black warrant against him. However, he said, the high court rules state that no sentence can be implemented within seven days of the issuance of a black warrant.
The chief justice observed that the case was not presented clearly in court and that the AG’s arguments were in the same line as that of PPP lawyer Babar Awan.
The court also told the AG to mention which laws had been violated in Bhutto’s murder trial.
The hearing has been adjourned till July and the date will be announced later after considering the availability of the bench.
Updated from print edition (below)
SC asks Awan to present proof of judges’ bias
The Supreme Court may refer the high-profile reference filed by President Zardari to revisit the death penalty awarded to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for the murder of a political opponent to a trial court for review if the counsel succeeds in convincing the bench that the judges were biased.
Concluding his arguments, the president’s counsel Dr Babar Awan contended that he only wants to prove three points before the court. First, legal requirements were not fulfilled in Bhutto’s case, second, the judges were biased and finally, fundamental rights of citizens guaranteed in the Constitution were violated. The apex court awarded the wrong sentence to Bhutto which was a ratification of the high court’s decision. Presiding over an 11-member bench, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary asked Awan to present concrete arguments instead of just maligning the judges who had pronounced the verdict.
The court asked the counsel to point out instances of bias in the judgment. Awan said former chief justice Anwarul Haq gave benefit of doubt to the Lahore High Court, whereas in principle if there was an iota of doubt, it should have gone in favour of the convict. Maulvi Mushtaq had submitted an application to the police in which he had stated that Bhutto was to be held responsible in the event of his death, he added. Awan questioned how a judge who was a complainant against an under-trial prisoner could have been neutral. He said Justice Durab Patel, one of three dissenting judges, had said that there was no case against Bhutto.
The bench observed the case would be referred to a trial court for a review because the counsel has failed to present new evidence before the court. It is the trial court’s jurisdiction to review evidence. State approvers will also have to appear before the court. Awan said the government would like to restrict itself to the reference since the president has raised questions of law under Article 186 which authorises him to solicit the Supreme Court for its opinion on a case. He referred to cases in various countries where the judiciary, the parliament and the executive pardoned convicts after their execution. “The cases you are referring to were reopened on the basis of new evidence whereas that is not true in this instance,” remarked Justice Javed Iqbal. “It is not appropriate to seek ‘pardon’ for ZA Bhutto,” the chief justice observed. “Neither Bhutto nor his family had asked for pardon when he was on death row,” said Awan and clarified he was reading from the record.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2011.