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Supreme Court: General Zia Needed Bhutto’s Conviction for Political Survival

ISLAMABAD: In a landmark 48-page order issued on Monday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has acknowledged that former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was denied a fair trial, attributing this to the influence of former dictator General Zia-ul-Haq. This detailed order comes in response to a presidential reference filed by former president Asif Ali Zardari over a decade ago.

The Supreme Court’s detailed order emphasized that General Zia-ul-Haq’s personal survival and the continuation of his usurped power were contingent on Bhutto being found guilty. “The continuation of usurped power required Mr. Bhutto to be convicted,” the order stated, highlighting the compromised nature of the trial and appellate proceedings.

In March, the Supreme Court admitted that Bhutto was not provided the right to a fair trial, nearly 44 years after the Pakistan Peoples Party’s founding chairman was executed in a murder case. The short order pointed out that the proceedings of the trial by the Lahore High Court and the appeal by the Supreme Court did not fulfill the requirements of fundamental rights to a fair trial and due process.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, who authored the order, criticized the legal environment during Bhutto’s trial. He noted that both the trial court and the appellate court operated under a regime where constitutional rule was absent, and General Zia-ul-Haq’s will had replaced the democratic order. “Was it not obvious that General Zia-ul-Haq would be the direct beneficiary of a guilty verdict? If Mr. Bhutto was acquitted, he may have proceeded to prosecute General Zia-ul-Haq for the crime of high treason,” the order asserted.

The Supreme Court’s order further declared that the trial and appellate courts that conducted Bhutto’s trial were not genuine courts under the Constitution. It emphasized that during the Martial Law, the country’s judiciary was under the control of the dictatorship. “The country was captive to Martial Law and so too were its courts. When judges take an oath of allegiance to dictators, the courts are no longer of the people,” the order concluded.

This historic acknowledgment by the Supreme Court marks a significant moment in Pakistan’s judicial history, shedding light on the political manipulation and denial of justice that occurred during General Zia-ul-Haq’s regime.

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