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Supreme Court to Resume Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Reference Hearing Tomorrow

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

On Monday, a nine-member larger bench of the Supreme Court is set to hear a longstanding presidential reference aimed at revisiting the controversial 1979 death sentence of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Chaired by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, the bench includes Justices Sardar Tariq Masood, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Yahya Afridi, Amin Ud Din Khan, Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Musarrat Hilali.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) submitted written comments and additional documents, including transcripts and video recordings of various interviews, a day earlier. These comments referenced various books and included details from an interview with former Chief Justice Naseem Hassan Shah.

Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry previously conducted five hearings on the presidential reference, with the last one held on November 11, 2012. In 2011, former President Asif Ali Zardari approached the Supreme Court with the presidential reference under Article 186 of the Constitution, seeking a review of the trial of PPP Founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto received a death sentence during General Ziaul Haq’s regime for the murder of political rival Nawab Mohammed Ahmed Qasuri. Despite appeals for clemency and mercy from various Heads of States, Bhutto was hanged on April 4, 1979.

In the last hearing on December 12, 2023, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah questioned the maintainability of the presidential reference. He sought assistance in determining the legal questions, emphasizing that the court had already dismissed appeals against its verdict. Justice Shah expressed concerns about the president sending references and the court revisiting judgments, stating it was not the correct approach. The hearing was adjourned until January 2024.

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