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CJ Iftikhar may form larger bench for Bhutto case

14 April, 2011

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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Wednesday hinted at constituting a larger bench for hearing the presidential reference for revisiting the case of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged in 1979.

A three-member bench of the apex court, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Muhammad Sair Ali and Justice Ghulam Rabbani, was hearing the presidential reference.

The chief justice observed that keeping in view the importance of the case, a larger bench could be constituted to hear the case while at least 10 learned advocates from the four provinces would be asked to assist the court as amici curiae (friends of the court) during the hearing of the presidential reference.

The chief justice further said that after examining the case, they would give their opinion to the president under the law.

Law Minister Babar Awan appeared before the court and submitted his resignation as the law minister and said that he preferred pleading this case to working as a minister.

During the course of the hearing, the chief justice said that ZAB was held in high esteem not only in the country but also abroad. “I have read those books which Bhutto wrote in the jail cell,” the chief justice recalled.

“It would be a great privilege for me to assist the court and to argue the case on behalf of the Federation,” Babar Awan submitted and presented his resignation from the ministerial post to the Supreme Court to fully qualify for pleading the retrial case.

Then indulging in some political grandstanding, he went on to state that he was not speaking in the court as Babar Awan but as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The chief justice appreciated his gesture of resigning to argue the case but asked him to tender his resignation to the relevant authorities. The chief justice further directed Babar Awan to first consult the Pakistan Bar Council for the revival of his licence after which he could plead the case. “The law does not permit you to argue before the court as law minister,” the chief justice said, adding that the court does not want to repeat the history of military dictator in the courtroom wherein law ministers used to plead cases in the courts. The court adjourned the hearing for today (Thursday)

During the course of hearing, several federal ministers, leaders and a large number of workers of the Pakistan People’s Party were present in the courtroom.

Later, while talking to newsmen outside the court, Babar Awan said that after hearing of the case, he went straight to the office of the Pakistan Bar Council in the Supreme Court building and asked for revival of his licence as an advocate of the apex court.

Babar Awan said that he was thankful to President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and the PPP leaders for honouring him to plead the case of ZAB. He said that they wanted to end the last story of injustice in the country forever and wanted to appear before the court as an aggrieved party. He said that he wanted to do away with injustice.

He said ZAB did not discourage the institutions of the country and always fought the war of justice. He was a great champion of the cause of the downtrodden people of the country. He said that he had tendered his resignation as a minister to qualify to argue the case. He added that even if he had been prime minister, he would have quit the slot and preferred to plead the ZAB case.

He said for the first time in 32 years, they had given an opportunity to hear the votaries of Bhutto in the court, adding that he would assist the court with his full commitment while pleading the case of the former prime minister.

Dr Babar Awan declined to comment when asked that he was facing corruption charges in the Bar Council and said, “No comments.”

A large number of party leaders, ministers and workers arrived in the Supreme Court to be present on the occasion. Extra security measures were taken in and around the Supreme Court premises where personnel of law enforcement agencies were deputed. After the hearing, the PPP leaders and workers chanted slogans in favour of party and their leaders Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

APP adds: Addressing Dr Babar Awan at the outset of the proceedings, the chief justice said that they also knew the importance of the reference filed to invoke its advisory jurisdiction.

“The reference is filed by no less than the President of Pakistan. We understand its importance. There should be no such things that people might say that the Court has compromised. The reference is about a personality seen globally with great honour,” he added.

Referring to the book titled “If I am Assassinated” written by late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), he said that it was worth reading, especially its chapter ‘Death cell and history.’

“I am not made of wood that I will easily burn,” the chief justice quoted a line from the book, terming Bhutto a man of principles. The Chief Justice said, “You people are writing history. People would say that Dr Babar has prevailed over the court and rewritten the history.”

End.

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