Bhutto reference hearing adjourned until second week of January


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ISLAMABAD: Nine-member larger bench of the Supreme Court took up Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto murder reference case after 11 years.

The hearing of the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto murder reference was presided over by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and was broadcast live on national media.

The bench included Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Aminuddin, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Musarrat Hilali.

Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan and Pakistan People’s Party’s counsel Farooq H. Naek presented arguments on behalf of PPP, in this high-profile case that revisits the legacy of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Farooq Naek said, “I will represent Bilawal Bhutto Zardari”, to which Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa presiding over the full bench hearing said, “We can also hear your arguments as heirs”.

The proceedings brought to light various aspects of the case, including the historical context, legal inquiries, and the role of key figures.

The AGP provided insights into the reference, noting that it was initiated by former President Asif Ali Zardari. Chief Justice Isa, inquiring about subsequent presidents, learned that two presidents had followed Zardari, and none had withdrawn the reference.

Expressing regret, CJ Isa mentioned the delayed consideration of the case, stating that the Supreme Court should have taken it up earlier.

During the hearing, the AGP read out the questions raised in the reference, responding to the inquiry of Justice Mansoor Ali Shah. The discussion also touched upon applications filed during the trial in the Lahore High Court (LHC) to object to the bench, with the AGP confirming the submission of several applications.

The Chief Justice also engaged Ali Ahmad Kurd regarding his assistance to the court in the case, receiving an affirmative response. The court also questioned the neglect of the case for 11 years.

Mehmood Raza Kasuri sought an adjournment after the elections, but the CJ emphasised that the reference is already being heard after 11 years.

At one point, the court interrupted senior advocate Ali Ahmed Kurd from elaborating on his perspectives since the case’s inception in 2011, highlighting the absence of a single bench acknowledging the demise of amicus curiae – “friend of the court”.

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The bench discussed potential amicus curiae, considering names like Yasir Qurreshi, Zahid Ibrahim, Salauddin Ahmed, Faisal Siddique, Khalid Javed Khan, Khawaja Harris, Salman Safdar, and Justice (rtd) Mansoor Malik, contingent upon their consent.

CJ Isa also inquired with Raza Rabbani during the proceedings. PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari were also present in the court.

After hearing preliminary arguments, the SC bench adjourned the hearing until the second week of January 2024.

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