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Bhutto faced custodial killing before his execution: SC told

04 May, 2011

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was informed on Tuesday that former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was killed in custody before his execution and no medical officer was present in the prison when he was hanged to death.

An 11-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heard the presidential reference for revisiting the case of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Babar Awan, counsel for the federation, submitted that the former premier had suffered custodial killing as Maulvi Mushtaq Hussain, then acting chief justice of Lahore High Court, had given three different dates for issuing execution warrants for Bhutto in violation of the law.

He contended that according to the jail superintendent, there was no medical officer present in the jail when Bhutto was executed and judges were part of the whole plan. “On March 25, 1979, Maulvi Mushtaq Hussain passed an order, stating Bhutto may be executed on 2nd, 3rd or 4th of April, 1979. Maulvi Mushtaq acted as an executor against Bhutto instead of rendering professional obligation as a judge,” Babar Awan added. The learned counsel contended that Benazir Bhutto had mentioned this fact in her book ‘Daughter of the East’.

However, Justice Jawwad asked Baba Awan: “We need to look at all things dispassionately and objectively, and have to answer the question asked in the presidential reference”. Babar Awan submitted the then LHC acting chief justice Maulvi Mushtaq in reply to Bhutto’s application regarding bias of judges had written in his order: ‘We have taken your application and made it part of the record. It would be disposed of after the trial’.

The court asked Babar Awan better make point of biasness out of the order. Babar Awan; however, submitted that manipulating record was worst bias. He said the judges had said: “For the interest of justice we would conduct the proceedings of Bhutto case in-camera”. “They passed an order in this regard on October 24, 1978, and another order was passed on October 25, 1978 for its justification,” he added.

During the course of proceedings, the chief justice inquired from Babar Awan as towhether there was any conflict between Justice (R) Maulvi Mushtaq and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Babar Awan replied that Maulvi Mushtaq was twice superseded during the tenure of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Tariq Mehmood, while assisting the court as amicus curiae quoting from Hamid Ali Khan’s book, said: “When Maulvi Mushtaq was superseded he left the country and for two years lived in Switzerland. He came back when there was martial law in the country. Justice Aslam Riaz, who was junior to seven judges of the Lahore High Court, was made the chief justice”.

At one point the chief justice observed the details provided by the learned counsel Babar Awan were neither mentioned in the LHC judgment nor in the Supreme verdict. The chief justice asked Babar Awan to compile the details in the shape of a book and present before the court.

“The people should know about the facts happened some 32 years back,” the chief justice observed, adding the court had appointed learned jurists to assist the court and give their valuable insight in the case.

Babar Awan said: “We could not get the record from Ichhra Police Station about the FIR lodged in 1974 upon which Shafiur Rehman also compiled a report”. At this the court directed Punjab Advocate General Khwaja Haris to provide the FIR and supplementary reports of the investigations related to the ZAB murder from Ichhra Police Station. The court also ordered him to get the Punjab government’s response as to whether the Shafiur Rehman report should be made public or not.

At one point, Justice Jawwad S Khwaja observed that when these kinds of things would happen in the judiciary and the judges, who had supported dictators in the past, might do so in the future.

Justice Javed Iqbal; however, said: “We have blocked the dictator’s way”. Tariq Mehmood said the miscarriage of justice had been done with Bhutto. He said there was examples in India where it’s Supreme Court had reversed its own judgment. He said things should be done in accordance with law.

During the course of the proceedings, Babar Awan informed the court that Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani was also interested in witnessing the proceeding of the ZAB reference. The chief justice said: “We will welcome the prime minister”.

Babar Awan submitted Masood Mehmood, who was one of the main accused, confessed to committing murder before the high court. The chief justice said Masood had made confession in an attack on Asghar Khan at Railway Station, not in the Bhutto case, adding the confession had not been made in the High Court, but before the magistrate.

Babar Awan said the court concealed half of the facts and the chief martial law administrator had exercised the powers of the area magistrate. “Masood Mehmood should not have been believed, as his statement is not credible.”

Babar Awan was still arguing when the court’s time was over and it adjourned hearing for today (Wednesday). Other members of the bench included Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, Justice Nasirul Mulk, Justice Muhammad Sair Ali, Justice Mahmood Akhtar Shahid Siddiqui, Justice Jawwad S Khwaja, Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany and Justice Ghulam Rabbani.

End.

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