Ex-PM Bhutto, Hanged in 1979, was Denied Fair Trial, Says Pakistan Supreme Court

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on March 7, 2024, 19:17:28


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Pakistan's highest court has declared that former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was executed in 1979, did not receive a fair trial.
Bhutto, the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), was hanged in a Rawalpindi prison on April 4, 1979, after being found guilty of orchestrating the murder of a political opponent.

The Supreme Court's Chief Justice, Qazi Faez Isa, made the announcement in response to a presidential reference filed 12 years ago. He stated, "We didn’t find that the fair trial and due process requirements were met."

Bhutto's hanging occurred under the rule of military dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul Haq, who had ousted him from power two years earlier and continued to rule until his death in a plane crash in 1988.

The court's ruling concludes a lengthy hearing initiated by Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto's son-in-law and the husband of Benazir Bhutto, who served as prime minister twice before being assassinated in 2007. Zardari sought the court's opinion on whether Bhutto's murder trial adhered to due process and fair trial standards.

Bhutto's execution was widely condemned by legal experts in Pakistan as a "judicial murder" carried out under military influence. Chief Justice Isa acknowledged past instances where the judiciary's actions had been influenced by fear or favor, emphasising the need for accountability and commitment to justice.

Bhutto's grandson, Bhutto Zardari, expressed relief at the court's decision, stating, "Our family waited 3 generations to hear these words." However, he also highlighted the challenges faced by the Pakistani people in trusting the court to deliver justice, especially in high-profile cases.

The court's verdict has been hailed by politicians and human rights advocates as a significant step towards rectifying past injustices. Taj Haider, a PPP leader, described it as "massive in its impact," expressing hope for positive changes in the judicial system's approach to delivering justice.

Saroop Ijaz, a senior counsel for Human Rights Watch, emphasized the importance of the court's acknowledgment of past injustices, particularly under Zia-ul Haq's regime. He urged for meaningful reforms and the rebuilding of public trust in the justice system.

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