ISLAMABAD, April 27: The Supreme Court constituted on Wednesday an 11-judge larger bench which will take up for hearing on May 2 a presidential reference seeking its opinion on revisiting the 1979 death sentence awarded to former prime minister and founder of PPP Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, which critics call a “judicial murder”. The reference was filed by President Asif Ali Zardari in line with a decision taken by the Pakistan People’s Party and endorsed by the cabinet of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
The larger bench is headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and comprises Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, Justice Muhammad Sair Ali, Justice Mahmood Akhtar Shahid Siddiqui, Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja, Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Sarmand Jalal Osmany and Justice Ghulam Rabbani.
The court has already nominated 10 senior jurists as amici curiae from the four provinces to assist it in view of the significance of the case. They are: Ali Ahmed Kurd, Tariq Mahmood, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Khalid Anwar, Makhdoom Ali Khan, S.M. Zafar, Aitzaz Ahsan, Barrister Zahoorul Haq and Abdul Latif Afridi.
Supreme Court Bar Association President Asma Jahangir, Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq and advocates general of the four provinces will also assist the court.
At the last hearing a three-judge bench had announced that a larger bench would be formed to start regular hearing on the reference after five questions were formerly submitted to it. The court had earlier suggested that the reference should be sent back to the presidency to enable it to clarify what it meant by asking the court to revisit the Bhutto trial.
The five questions read out by Dr Babar Awan before the court are: (1) Whether the decision of the Lahore High Court as well as the Supreme Court in the murder trial against former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto meets the requirements of fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Constitution under Article 4 (1) and (2a) (right of individuals to be dealt with in accordance with law), 8 (laws inconsistent with or in derogation of fundamental rights to be void), 9 (security of persons), 10A (due process), 14 (inviolability of dignity of man) and 25 (equality of citizens)? If it does not, its effect and consequences?
(2) Whether the conviction leading to execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto could be termed as a decision of the Supreme Court binding on all other courts being based upon or enunciating the principle of law in terms of Article 189 that asks the courts to follow apex court’s judgment? If not, its effect and consequences?
(3) Whether in the peculiar circumstances of this case awarding and maintaining of the death sentence was justified or it could amount to deliberate murder keeping in view the glaring bias against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto?
(4) Whether the decision in the case of murder trial against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto fulfils the requirements of Islamic laws as codified in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (SAW)? If so, whether present case is covered by doctrine of repentance specifically mentioned in different Suras of the Holy Quran: Sura Al-Nisa: verses 17 and 18; Sura Al-Baqara: verses 159, 160 and 222; Sura Al-Maida: verse 39; Sura Al-Aaraaf: verse 153; Sura Al-Nehal: verse 119; Sura Al-Taha: verse 82 as well as Sunan Ibn-e-Maaja, Chapter 171, Hadith No 395. What are effects and consequences of doctrine of repentance?
(5) Whether on the basis of conclusions arrived at and inferences drawn from the evidence/material in the case an order for conviction and sentence against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto could have been recorded?
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