PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday approached the Supreme Court for live streaming of proceedings on a presidential reference seeking to revisit the controversial death sentence awarded to former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

A nine-member larger bench of the Supreme Court will take up the reference tomorrow (Dec 12).

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, the larger bench will consist of Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Musarrat Hilali.

The reference was filed on behalf of former president Asif Ali Zardari on April 2, 2011, for an opinion on revisiting the death sentence awarded to the former premier under the Supreme Court’s advisory jurisdiction.

Today, Bilawal, through his lawyer Farooq H. Naek, filed a petition in the top court requesting that the hearing of the case should be “live/on-air” so that the entire country could hear it.

“The reference was filed by the then president of Pakistan namely Asif Ali Zardari, who is the father of the present applicant, hence, the applicant is the son of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and the grandson of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was the founder of the Pakistan People’s Party and a great leader of unprecedented scale, caliber, and character,” the plea, copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said.

It stated that Bhutto was a “man who arose from the masses, he worked for them, he led them, gave his life for them and till this day live in their hearts”.

The petition said that throughout his life, Bhutto wanted to uphold the rule of law. “His motto of ‘roti, kapra, and makan’ was a testament to his yearning that every man gets his fair due. It was a loud cry wechoing the chords of justice, that ‘Let Justice be done though the heavens may fall’,” it stated.

“This passion of the applicant’s grandfather, however, did not derail the irony that was to befall him. The spirit of justice that he so admired, was nowhere to be found when he himself was adorned with the noose of injustice.

“He was charged, convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, sentenced and executed on the testimony of an approver in the greatest miscarriage of justice that was ever to befall this country,” the plea said.

It added that Bhutto’s ideology remains intact to date and his sentence “is not just on the history of the family but a wretched stain on the entire judicial system of Pakistan and remains so till date”.

“It is in order to remove this stain and correct the wrong in history that the applicant has preferred the instant reference to bring on record the reality of the life of his grandfather, hence, the applicant wants that the hearing of this case, should be live/on Air, so that the whole Pakistan can hear it and this would be transparent for everyone,” the application said.

It subsequently prayed that permission be granted for the live broadcast of the said reference, which will be heard tomorrow. “This would meet the ends of justice,” the plea added.

Speaking to the media in Islamabad, Bilawal said that his “bare minimum” expectation from the SC was that it exposed all the individuals who were involved in the “crime”.

Bilawal said those who had died could not be brought back but said he expected justice from the courts to “correct the past”.

‘Opportunity to correct historic wrong,’ says Rabbani

Separately, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani issued a statement, saying that the hearing was an “opportunity to correct a historic wrong”.

“The judicial murder of Shaheed Bhutto is seeded in a conspiracy between Pakistan’s ruling elite, internal reactionaries and international imperialist powers,” Rabbani said.

He added that it was up to the students of history to “sift the similarities of the coup in 1953 against Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh of Iran and Zia’s military takeover”.

According to Rabbani, the “judicial murder” was sought by the ruling elite to stem several developments, including socialist economic reforms, the establishment of a federal, democratic, parliamentary system, the establishment of a liberal, progressive democratic society, the supremacy of Parliament leading to civilian ascendancy in affairs of governance, the drive against capitalism and cartels and an independent foreign policy.

He said that the reference would also “expose” the collaborators within the ruling elite.

Bilawal wants SC to right a wrong

A day earlier, while speaking at a PPP worker’s convention in Kohat, Bilawal had pinned hopes on Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa to right a wrong by doing justice to the much-awaited case.

He had said that the verdict must be given in a manner that the whole world should know the reality of the “illegal hanging”.

“It is a big challenge for the judiciary to wash the black scar on it and identify the involved judges, facilitators, lawyers, influential, and motive behind the horrific incident that led to awarding capital punishment to an innocent politician. His family and the nation still demand justice for him,” the former foreign minister had said, adding that it would provide a big relief to them.

Earlier, Bilawal had also presided over a meeting to review the presidential reference. The meeting was attended by central and provincial leaders and legal experts part of the Peoples Lawyers Forum (PLF), PPP’s legal wing.

Zardari has moved the SC under Article 186 (1) and (2) of the Constitution, which empowers the president to refer any question of public importance to the apex court for its opinion.

Headed by then chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, an 11-judge bench held the reference’s last hearing in Jan 2012.

In March 1978, a four-member bench of Lahore High Court had awarded the death sentence to Bhutto, which was later challenged in the Supreme Court.

In a four to three split verdict, a seven-judge SC had bench upheld the sentence during the military regime of the then-army chief Gen Ziaul Haq in March 1979.


Additional input from Nadir Guramani

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