Zardari to seek SC's opinion on a review of Zulfiqar's trial

Zardari to seek SC's opinion on a review of Zulfiqar's trial

The federal cabinet formally approved a move for reopening the conviction of Bhutto and Zardari will file a reference in the Supreme Court, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan told the media after a meeting of the cabinet chaired yesterday by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Awan said the PPP-led government was under "immense pressure" to reopen the case and the Law Minister would apprise the media about legal issues related to the matter.
The PPP has for long contended that Bhutto's trial was unfair and that he was the victim of a "judicial murder".

Top PPP leaders have said that they intend to get the decision reviewed.
However, legal experts have questioned the legality of the step proposed by the PPP.
The President is expected to approach the apex court under Article 186 of the Constitution, Law Minister Babar Awan has said.

Article 186 states that the President can seek the opinion of the Supreme Court "on any question of law which he considers of public importance".

The apex court will then report "its opinion on the question to the President".
Legal experts told the Dawn newspaper that they were of the opinion that a simple review petition for the correction of the judgement should have been filed in the court instead of a presidential reference as the latter is limited to questions of law and not the revision of past judgements.

Former Supreme Court judge Fakhruddin Ebrahim said he believes that an international commission should be set up to revisit the case "in light of the evidence provided by the government to clear Mr Bhutto of the charges on which he was hanged".

"Till today, on paper, Mr Bhutto is a murderer" and this needs to be rectified, he said.
Former Balochistan High Court judge Tariq Mehmood said the government's efforts were "more political in nature" and it may be difficult to prove this was a "fit case for Article 186".

Mehmood claimed the government intended to use this case "to its advantage against the Supreme Court".

The PPP had not used its past two stints in power to move on this issue and it was impossible to forget that its decision to do so now coincided with a tense phase of its relationship with the judiciary, he said.

Chaudhry Naseer Ahmad, a Supreme Court lawyer, said: "A reference after the lapse of 32 years of Bhutto's hanging will only put the superior judiciary in a difficult position. Chances are that the judges would reject it on technical grounds."

Political observers feel the PPP is taking the step to gain political mileage at a time when its government is facing pressure.

The Dawn reported that the cabinet was not unanimous in giving the go-ahead to the President and a few ministers opposed the idea, arguing it would reopen old wounds and aggravate the already tense relations between the judiciary and the government