Bhutto case


It would be doing injustice to ZAB and the nation at large to take the reference questioning the hanging of the first elected prime minister lightly. The punishment meted out to him by the courts under Zia-ul-Haqs influence had made millions unhappy in this country while many outside Pakistan also shared their grief. The verdict continues to perturb many even today. Babar Awan took a great responsibility on himself when he volunteered to pursue the reference in the SC. One had expected that being a senior SC advocate he would make full use of his legal knowledge and would not even hesitate to seek the views of prominent lawyers to prepare a well-thought out plea. It was surprising to note that he failed to frame any question of law which is the most basic requirement under Article 186 which states, If, at any time, the President considers that it is desirable to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court on any question of law which he considers of public importance, he may refer the question to the Supreme Court for consideration. The wording of the reference has further strengthened the perception that it was not the result of the best efforts by a senior lawyer.

If the idea behind the reference was to vindicate Bhutto, no better forum would have been available than the present SC with judges who have had a first hand experience of a how a military dictator tries to influence the judges and in fact succeeds with the weak-willed amongst them. This explains why the apex court has been helpful and encouraging to Awan during the last two appearances. The SC is a however a place for cool and logical presentation of arguments rather than a display of effusiveness. The reference is too important to be assigned to one man alone even if he has resigned from the cabinet to pursue it. The government can still decide to associate a prominent lawyer to be able to better assist the court. Any perception that the intention behind the reference was not to redeem Bhutto but to gain political mileage from the case would be highly damaging. .

In case the government fails to appoint other lawyers with the case, many would appreciate if the apex court appointed a number of prominent lawyers as amici curiae to assist it in the historic reference.