ZAB retrial: Mother of all cases – by Abbas Ather

The PPP government has requested the court to reopen the Bhutto case to rectify the history and expect justice from the independent judiciary. According to Kamrab Rehmat:

The 1974 murder of Nawab Mohamed Ahmed Khan, a dissident of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), was used in 1977 when Zia toppled Bhutto as the ground for the PPP leader’s physical elimination for the simple reason that the military ruler felt he could not survive Bhutto’s return to power in a popular election that he promised but conveniently, reneged on.

Former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, who attended the trial, wrote: the “prosecution’s case was based entirely on several witnesses who were detained until they confessed, who changed and expanded their confessions and testimony with each reiteration, who contradicted themselves and each other, who, except for Masood Mahmood … were relating what others said, whose testimony led to four different theories of what happened, absolutely uncorroborated by an eyewitness, direct evidence, or physical evidence.

Unsurprisingly, Masood, the director-general of Federal Security Force, was imprisoned for two months by Zia before he took the stand against Bhutto. Maulvi Mushtaq, the judge presiding over the trial, was a compulsive Bhutto-hater, and drew perverse pleasure from humiliating the object of his ire — even going to the extent of rewriting what was said in court by Bhutto!

Judges sympathetic to the merit of Bhutto’s argument were replaced, and in one particularly obvious instance, the hearing was delayed to wait out the retirement of a judge, who disputed the authenticity of the charges brought on by the prosecution.

Retired former chief justice Nasim Hasan Shah, who was one of the judges in Bhutto trial, is on record having expressed his regret over the decision to execute the toppled prime minister.

This first came to the fore in 1996 when Suhail Warraich, a seasoned journalist, interviewed him. An excerpt from Warraich’s work entitled Adlia Key Arooj-o-Zawal Ki Kahani (The Rise and Fall of The Judiciary):

Q: “Do we have any other example in Pakistan of a person being hanged on the basis of advice?” A: “No, never. During the case, there was a view that Bhutto was not directly involved in the murder but it was done on his advice. During the hearing of the case, I asked Yahya Bakhtiar if he wanted to argue for remission of his punishment but he refused. Later this became a major issue in the review petition. In my personal view, Bhutto’s punishment could have been reduced …”

In response to another question about there being any pressure on judges, he said: “Justice Haleem was under pressure. We had different kinds of pressures. His only son lived in Karachi. He said that his life is in danger and he was very scared … basically, what could the poor judges do? There was one witness testimony after the other.”

“Couldn’t you have been kinder to Bhutto as he was ex-prime minister?”

The “sentiments at that time were different and one has to do what one has to do.”

Justice Shah also made similar confessions on a TV show entitled Jawab De (Answerable), hosted by Iftikhar Ahmed.

The following is an excerpt from the televised interview:

Q: Is there an example in Pakistani judicial history where someone was hanged because of a conspiring role?

A: I don’t think this was a conspiring role. He ordered his subordinates to kill Raza Kasuri …

Q: Imagine I am a criminal and I say that I don’t trust you and don’t expect you to be fair to me. What should you do as a judge?

A: It depends on what reasoning you present…

Q: I am talking about Maulvi Mushtaq. This is what he was told by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

A: Yes. I think this was unfair of him (Maulvi Mushtaq). He should not have sat on the bench.

Q: You are on record saying that during the hearings of the Bhutto case, the punishment could have been reduced and that the case was very strong …?

A: Yes.

Q: You could’ve given a dissenting note?

A: It could have been done but his lawyer’s argument was that he didn’t care about the punishment. We had some limitations and Yahya Bakhtiar (Bhutto’s counsel) had stubbornness, which annoyed us.

Here is a collection of Abbas Ather’s articles on the review of the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto case by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.


Video clip

Justice (R) Dr. Nasim Hasan Shah and Judicial Murder of Bhutto (GEO TV APR 2011)



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