Chief Justice Lahore High Court (LHC) Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif Monday allowed de-sealing of three decades old record of famous trial of Zulfikar Bhutto for inspection and provision of copies to the petitioner Muhammad Azhar Siddique advocate.
Azhar had moved an application to the Registrar LHC seeking permission to inspect and obtain certified copies of the record after PM Yousuf Raza Gilani hinted to re-open much controversial Bhutto’s case so that truth could be brought before the nation. The petitioner would inspect the record at 3:00 pm today (Tuesday) at the Registrar’s Office in the presence of Additional Registrar Atta-ur-Rehman.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged on April 4, 1979 after the Supreme Court had dismissed his appeal against the death sentence awarded by the LHC. After declaring Martial Law in the country on July 5, 1977, General Ziaul Haq had arrested the deposed Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on September 3, 1977.
He was charged with conspiracy to murder Nawab Mohammed Ahmed Qasuri, father of a politician Ahmad Raza Qasuri, the alleged target in an assault on his car on November 11, 1974. But ten days later, Justice KMA Samdani of the Lahore High Court granted bail to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as the case did not hold any legal ground.
Not surprisingly, within next three days Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s bail was cancelled under the Martial Law and he was rearrested on September 16.
The justice who had granted him bail was transferred back to the Sindh High Court and the courageously independent Chief Justice of Pakistan Yaqub Ali Khan was forced to retire by September 22 of the same month. Only three days before his forced retirement, he had admitted Begum Nusrat Bhutto’s petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan challenging the constitutionality of her husband’s detention.
Sheikh Anwar-ul-Haq was appointed as the Chief Justice of Pakistan on September 23. The trial against the deposed prime minister began on October 24. Maulvi Mushtaq, acting CJ of the LHC, and his full bench found Zulfikar Ali Bhutto guilty of murder and sentenced him to death on March 18, 1978.
An appeal against the Lahore High Court’s decision was filed in the SC. A full bench consisting of nine justices was formed to decide the matter. But as the case prolonged Justice Qaiser Khan retired and Justice Wahiduddin got so sick that he could no longer remain on the bench. The SC upheld the LHC verdict with a margin of 4 to 3 in February 1979.
The three judges who voted for Bhutto’s acquittal were Justice Dorab Patel of Balochistan, Justice Safdar Shah of NWFP and Justice Muhammad Haleem of Sindh. After rejecting appeals of mercy from around the Islamic world, Gen Zia ordered execution of Bhutto.