Individuals, not army as institution take decision on martial law: CJP

  • Says ZAB case gives opportunity to institutions to disassociate from wrongdoing to these individuals

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa on Tuesday that the imposition of martial law is not an action taken by the army as an institution but rather by specific individuals.

“Martial law is not implemented by the army as a whole, rather certain individuals act independently. Perhaps it’s time for a fresh start. Could this be a way for institutions to disassociate themselves by attributing wrongdoing to these individuals?” CJP Isa remarked during the hearing of a presidential reference filed by former president Asif Ali Zardari on April 2, 2011, under Article 186 of the Constitution, aiming to review the trial of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s murder.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah highlighted the significance of due process in the court proceedings. CJP Isa emphasized the clarity of the court’s jurisdiction, asserting that a case cannot be reviewed multiple times.

During the session, attention was drawn to remarks made in an interview by a judge, indicating pressure while announcing the verdict. Responding to this, CJP Isa emphasised the importance of bearing pressure and maintaining impartiality on the bench.

The discussion delved into the procedural aspects of the case, with Justice Mansoor Ali Shah raising questions on how to proceed under Article 186 and the admissibility of evidence. Justice Jamal posed inquiries regarding external pressures and requested relevant records.

The CJP also highlighted the need for the prosecution to maintain transparency. The hearing was adjourned until February 26, as the Supreme Court continues to deliberate on the matter.

History of the case

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who took over as president of Pakistan immediately after the fall of Dhaka in December 1971, and later became the prime minister after the 1973 Constitution, was removed from the government through the martial law imposed on July 5, 1977, led by Gen Ziaul Haq.

On September 3, he was arrested in the case of March 1974 murder of Nawab Muhammad Ahmad Khan Kasuri. He was released 10 days later, after a court found the charges against him “contradictory and incomplete”. He was rearrested on the same charges and arraigned before the Lahore High Court (LHC).

On March 18, 1978, Bhutto was declared guilty of the murder, and was sentenced to death. The decision was challenged in the Supreme Court and on February 6, 1979, the Supreme Court voted 4-3 to issue a guilty verdict and upheld the high court decision.

On March 24, 1979, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and Gen Zia upheld the death sentence. Bhutto was hanged at the Rawalpindi Central Jail on April 4, 1979 and was buried at his family mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Baksh.

On April 2, 2011, 32 years after Bhutto’s trial and execution, the PPP, then the ruling party, filed the reference for reopening of Bhutto’s trial. It is important to mention that the apex court judgment on the hanging of Bhutto has never been referred to as a precedent by the judges in any case.


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