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SC to hear reference against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto death sentence next week

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  • Nine-member bench, headed by CJP, to hear reference.
  • Last hearing of reference was held on Nov 11, 2022.
  • SC to also hear IHC ex-judge Shaukat Siddiqui plea on removal.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court is set to take up the 12-year-old presidential reference on revisiting the controversial death sentence awarded to former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto next week, The News reported Friday. 

A nine-member larger bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, will hear the presidential reference on reconsideration of Bhutto’s death sentence judgment on December 12.

The decision to fix the instant case was made under Section 2(1) of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023, by a three-member committee comprising CJP Isa, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.

According to Supreme Court Registrar Jazeela Aslam, the other members of the larger bench are Justice Masood, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Aminud Din Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Musarrat Hilali.

It is pertinent to mention that former president Asif Ali Zardari, on April 2, 2011, had approached the apex court through a presidential reference under Article 186 of the Constitution to seek its opinion on revisiting the trial of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The last hearing of the reference was held on November 11, 2022.

Earlier, an 11-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had conducted five hearings in the presidential reference.

Babar Awan, the then federal law minister in the PPP regime, had earlier appeared as the federal government’s lawyer in the case and presented lengthy arguments. However, on January 17, 2012, Awan’s law practice license was suspended for criticising the court’s order in the Memogate case. Later, the case was adjourned due to a change of counsel who were appearing in the instant reference.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has also fixed the petition of sacked Islamabad High Court (IHC) Judge Shaukat Siddiqui challenging his removal for misconduct on December 14.

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36% of fresh faces make it to the National Assembly.

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Following the general elections of this year, a record 36% of new members have joined the National Assembly.

There are now 96 new legislators that have been elected to the assembly out of 265 total. In the general elections, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has elected the most number of fresh faces as Independents.

Of the new faces, eleven PPP and MQM members, as well as fifteen PML-N members, have become MNAs for the first time. The IPP’s Abdul Aleem Khan and Awn Chaudhry were elected to the National Assembly for the first time.

Ataullah Tarar of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, Mir Jamal Khan Raisani, the party’s youngest member, was also elected from Balochistan for the first time and made it to the lower house.

Sher Afzal Marwat, Latif Khosa, and Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, who is supported by the PTI, are some of the fresh faces. In the last parliament, Shandana Gulzar had a reserved seat; however, this time, she was elected to a general seat.

Arshad Vohra, Syed Mustafa Kamal, and Rauf Siddiqui of the MQM were also elected to the National Assembly for the first time.

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Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri’s JUI-F resignation from the Senate

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Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani received the JUI-F leader’s resignation, which he accepted.

In the National Assembly, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri will be sworn in as a member.

Following their victories in the general elections on February 8 for the Balochistan Assembly, Senators Sarfraz Bugti and Prince Umar Ahmedzai had already announced their resignations from the Senate.

Prior carer Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani received the resignation of Federal Interior Minister Bugti, which he accepted.

In a similar vein, Senator Prince Umar Ahmedzai of the Balochistan Awami Party resigned from the Senate following his election to the provincial legislature.

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NA session: The interim government addresses President Alvi’s concerns

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Details indicate that in response, the federal government informed Dr. Arif Alvi that Article 91 of the 1973 Constitution does not grant the president the “discretion or power” to adjourn the National Assembly session.

The sources quoted the federal administration and said, “Nowhere in Article 91 is it written that if the House is incomplete, the National Assembly session cannot be convened.”

It further said that Article 54 of the constitution allowed the president to adjourn the National Assembly’s “ordinary” session alone. According to the summary, the president was requested to call an extraordinary session of the National Assembly so that the newly elected members may take an oath of office.

Dr. Arif Alvi was asked to reconsider his choice and call a meeting of the National Assembly by the acting federal government on February 29.

The sources quoted the federal government and stated, “It is not written anywhere in the constitution that if specific seats are not allotted, the session cannot be called.”

It further said that the National Assembly must be called within 21 days following the election in accordance with Clause 2 of Article 91 of the constitution.

The caretaker administration responded, saying, “Even if the President does not call the National Assembly session by February 29, it would still be held on the same day.”

Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf called a session of the National Assembly on Thursday, February 29th, in order to administer the oath to the newly elected Members of Congress earlier on Monday.

According to specifics, President Arif Alvi declined to call a meeting under clause 2 of Article 91 of the constitution, arguing that the lower body is still unfinished because a decision on certain reserved seats has not yet been made. Consequently, the Speaker National Assembly called the meeting.

The National Assembly’s maiden session was called by Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. The freshly elected members of the National Assembly would take the oath of office from the Speaker. During the first session, the election schedules for speaker and deputy speaker will also be released.

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