LAHORE: Dr Nasim Hasan Shah, a former chief justice of Pakistan, died here on Tuesday after a protracted illness. He was 86.
He was a friend of the late Majeed Nizami and was considered to be close to both Gen Ziaul Haq and Nawaz Sharif.
Dr Shah was member of the Supreme Court bench that upheld the death sentence handed down to then prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Mr Bhutto had been handed down the sentence by the Lahore High Court (LHC) and the apex court had rejected his appeal against the decision.
After his retirement, Dr Shah had declared in two media interviews that it was a wrong decision, as it was a fit case for lesser punishment.
In reaction to his remarks, a petition was filed against him in the LHC, the first one against any former CJP, seeking registration of a case against him on charges of abetting in the murder of the former prime minister.
The petition was dismissed on Feb 12, 2004.
As chief justice of Pakistan Dr Shah also restored the Nawaz Sharif-led National Assembly dissolved by then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan under the Constitution’s controversial Article 58-2(b) in 1993.
He had become controversial even before Mr Bhutto’s trial because he was a member of the Supreme Court bench that had validated Gen Zia’s martial law in the Nusrat Bhutto case.
He, however, was named “Man of the Decade” for services to democracy and rule of law by the American-Pakistan Alliance, Washington DC, on Sept 26, 1993.
Dr Nasim Hasan Shah was born on April 15, 1929. His father Syed Mohsin Shah was a lawyer and political activist.
Only four feet and eight inches tall, Dr Shah overcame his shortcomings with sound education and a sharp sense of humour, winning arguments with his wit.
He did his LLB from the Punjab University in 1949 and MA in political science from the Government College, Lahore, in 1951.
He held two doctorates — in jurisprudence and political science — which he obtained at the University of Paris.
Dr Shah was elected as member of the West Pakistan Bar Council in 1964 and of the Pakistan Bar Council in 1966 and was elevated as judge of the high court of West Pakistan on March 11, 1968 at the age of 39.
He was appointed as ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court on May 18, 1977, becoming its youngest judge in history. He was made permanent judge of the court on June 14, 1979.
Dr Shah was appointed chief justice of Pakistan and Pakistan Law Commission chairman on April 26, 1993. He served as president of the Board for Control of Cricket in Pakistan from 1992 to 1994.
He was named as one of Pakistan’s nominees to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague in 1959 and served in the position till 1977.
A former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Hamid Khan, said that because Dr Shah served as superior court judge for a long time he witnessed tumultuous times in the history of the country.
He saw martial laws and “obeyed them”. His was the “casting vote” in the Bhutto case.
“During martial laws and under stress, he proved himself to be a pliable judge,” Mr Khan said. “Otherwise he was a good judge and a fine human being.”
Dr Shah’s funeral prayers will be offered at 58-D, Sir Syed Road, Gulberg-III, on Wednesday (today) at 9am.
Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2015