We cannot even touch SC verdict in Bhutto case: Justice Mansoor Ali Shah

Bhutto case

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has appointed nine amici curiae (assistants) to assist the court in adjudicating the presidential reference challenging the conviction and excution of former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

A nine-member Supreme Court larger bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa was formed to hear the presidential reference filed by former president Asif Ali Zardari.

Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandukhel, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Musrat Hilali are included in the larged bench.

PPP lawyer Farooq H Naik and Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman appeared before the court.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari were also present in the courtroom.

Farooq H Naik thanked the court for broadcasting the proceedings live, while Bilawal Bhutto Zardari requested to be a party in the case.

At the beginning of the hearing, the court wrote down the names of the lawyers appearing in the reference.

The chief justice spoke to Farooq Naik saying that before your request, we had decided to broadcast live; every legal heir has the right to be heard. The chief justice asked if the government still wants to pursue the reference since this is a presidential reference.

On this, the attorney general said that I have instructions that the government wants to pursue the presidential reference.

The chief justice asked from the attorney general “what the president wants from us in the presidential reference. Which president has filed this reference?”

The attorney general said that Asif Zardari had sent the reference as the president.

Bhutto reference hearing adjourned until second week of January

Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa said that “if a president has not withdrawn a presidential reference, it is still under the jurisdiction of the court.”

The chief justice directed the attorney general to read out the reference, on which the attorney general told the court that the reference consists of 15 pages.

During the hearing, Ahmed Raza Kasuri came to the rostrum and referred to the interview of former judge Naseem Hasan Shah in a newspaper. Upon which, Justice Jamal Khan Mandukhel inquired whether you will rely on the interview of Justice Naseem Hasan Shah.

The chief justice said that it would be better to let the attorney general present his arguments. The attorney general said that a presidential order was issued on April 21, 2011, and the Bhutto reference questions were framed through the presidential order.

During the hearing, the chief justice said that one senior member did not want to join the bench; two more judges excused themselves from the hearing on personal grounds, after which a nine-member bench was constituted.

During the hearing, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah raised questions on the presidential reference and said that the Supreme Court has given its verdict in the Bhutto case, and the review petition had also been dismissed.

“The Supreme Court cannot hear a second revision; the case is over. Tell the court what is the legal question in this case. Even if the decision was bad, the decision of the Supreme Court is final and cannot be changed. These are constitutional questions that need to be answered,” Justice Mansoor Ali Shah said.

Justice Mansoor spoke to Farooq Naik stating that “if you give any legal reference to the court, the decisions of the Supreme Court cannot be reviewed through the presidential reference filed under Article 186. Now we cannot even touch the Bhutto verdict. Tell the court that how to reopen the case after it has been finalized?”

On this, Farooq Naik said that the Bhutto case was a case of public importance. Justice Mansoor said that the president had to look at the question of public importance; the court will look at the legal question. “Whatever the case may be, how can the court decide without legal questions? Under which law should the court run this reference?”, Justice Mansoor said.

Later, the court adjourned the hearing of the case till January.

The Supreme Court said that Justice (retd) Manzoor Malik is appointed as a judicial assistant, and his assistance will be subject to his consent. He can appear in person or through a written response to assist the court.

Khawaja Haris is also appointed as a judicial assistant, while Barrister Salman Safdar is also appointed as a judicial assistant, the Supreme Court said.

The Supreme Court said that the presidential reference was filed under Article 186, and the last time the presidential reference was heard was in 2012. Unfortunately, the reference was not heard thereafter and remained pending, Supreme Court said.

The court said that records of interviews and clips related to the Zulfiqar Bhutto case should be provided to court. The court also sought the record of the interview of Justice Durab Patel.

The court adjourned the hearing of the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto reference till the second week of January. The court order said that from January, the hearing of the presidential reference will be conducted on a daily basis, and no adjournment will be granted.

 Bilawal’s plea

Earlier, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari filed a request in the Supreme Court for the live broadcast of the presidential reference hearing.

He said that as the grandson of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, he pleads for justice.

“Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto always played a role for the supremacy of law; his killing is a stain on the justice system,” Bilawal said in the petition adding that the live telecasting of the case was very important to put the facts before the public.

In 2011, the then president Asif Ali Zardari filed a reference related to the judicial killing of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry conducted six hearings of the case till December 2012, but no decision could not be made.

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