Former Pakistan PM Bhutto, Executed In 1979, Was Denied Fair Trial: Supreme Court | World News


Islamabad: In a significant development, the Pakistan Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that the late Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto did not receive a fair trial leading to his execution 44 years ago, as reported by The Express Tribune. The apex court underscored that the trial proceedings conducted by the Lahore High Court (LHC) and the subsequent appeal by the Supreme Court failed to meet the essential requirements of fundamental rights for a fair trial and due process, as outlined in Articles 4 and 9 of the Constitution.

Responding to a presidential reference filed a dozen years ago, Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa emphasized, “We didn’t find that the fair trial and due process requirements were met.”

Historical Background

On March 18, 1978, the LHC sentenced Bhutto to death for his alleged involvement in the assassination of Ahmed Reza Kasuri, a founding member of the PPP. The Supreme Court, with a narrow majority vote of 4 to 3, upheld the LHC verdict on February 6, 1979, leading to Bhutto’s execution on April 4 of the same year.

Assessment Of Bhutto’s Trial

The nine-member bench, including Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, and others, posed pertinent questions regarding Bhutto’s trial. The court questioned whether the decisions met the constitutional requirements of fundamental rights, due process, and fairness.

Judiciary’s Self-Accountability

CJP Isa, announcing the majority opinion, emphasized the need for judges to decide cases impartially, acknowledging the importance of self-accountability within the judiciary. “There should be self-accountability within the judiciary,” he stated, emphasizing that progress cannot occur without acknowledging past errors.

The apex court, in its short order, raised questions about the justification of maintaining the death sentence and the possibility of deliberate murder given the perceived bias against Bhutto. The court also noted that the referenced questions did not specify the legal principles enunciated in the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto case.

During the PPP’s rule from 2008 to 2013, former president Asif Ali Zardari filed a reference with the Supreme Court, seeking an opinion after analyzing judgments in the ZAB case based on fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court reserved its opinion on the matter. CJP Qazi Faez Isa mentioned that the court is reserving its opinion, with a brief version expected before the retirement of SC’s Senior Puisne Judge Sardar Tariq Masood on March 8.

Utilizing Article 187 For Justice

Justice Isa inquired about the possibility of issuing a brief opinion, to which Raza Rabbani, one of the amici curiae and a PPP member, responded affirmatively. The suggestion of utilizing Article 187 of the Constitution for complete justice was put forward, with Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar noting that this would lead to a verdict rather than just an opinion.


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