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Saturday May 18, 2024

Bailable warrant issued in Murtaza Bhutto murder case

By Jamal Khurshid
April 23, 2024
Murtaza Bhutto (late) brother of the then prime minister and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chief Benazir Bhutto (late). — Facebook/Mir Murtaza Bhutto Fan Club/File
Murtaza Bhutto (late) brother of the then prime minister and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chief Benazir Bhutto (late). — Facebook/Mir Murtaza Bhutto Fan Club/File

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday issued a bailable warrant for a respondent in the Mir Murtaza Bhutto murder case for his failure to appear at the hearing, and directed all the respondents to attend the proceedings on the next date of hearing.

The SHC was hearing appeals against the acquittal of all the accused, including police officials, in the murder case. Murtaza, brother of the then prime minister and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chief Benazir Bhutto, was killed on September 20, 1996, in an alleged shoot-out in Clifton, along with seven others, including his close aide Ashiq Jatoi.

Former District South SSP Wajid Ali Durrani, then DIG Shoaib Suddle, former Intelligence Bureau director Masood Sharif, then Saddar ASP Shahid Hayat, then Clifton ASP Rai Mohammad Tahir and other police officials had been acquitted by an additional district & sessions court (South) on December 5, 2009, of the murders. Police also filed an appeal against the acquittal of PPP-Shaheed Bhutto activists.

An SHC division bench headed by Justice Naimatullah Phulpoto said that the SHO concerned had been directed to submit verification reports as regards the death of the respondents Sharif, Hayat, Shabbir Ahmed Qaimkhani, Agha Mohammad Jamil and Muslim Shah, but no report had been submitted yet.

The court issued a show-cause notice to the SHO asking why he failed to submit the reports, and directed the SP concerned to submit the verification reports. The court also directed the SHO to verify the death of the respondent Ghulam Shabbir and submit his death verification on the next date of hearing.

The court was informed that the respondent Zulfiqar Ahmed was absent. The court directed the office to issue a bailable warrant against him for his production through the SHO concerned. The court also directed Durrani’s counsel to produce his client’s medical certificate as he had not appeared in court due to illness.

The court also issued notices on the application of Tahir, who sought dispensing of his personal appearance in court, and called a report from the prosecutor general on May 29. The SHC directed the respondents to attend the hearing on the next date.

The appeal filed on behalf of the complainant Noor Mohammad reads that in an astonishing judgment, the trial court had acquitted all the defendants and, hence, indirectly adjudicated that no one was responsible for the eight deaths and four injuries caused by the police on the night of September 20, 1996.

The appellant’s counsel questioned the legality of the trial court’s judgment, saying that the judgment had been passed through a short oral order on December 5, 2009. He said that the written judgment had been issued on December 8, so the impugned judgment was a nullity in the eyes of the law because it had been announced without it having been written or signed by the trial court judge. The SHC was requested to set aside the trial court’s judgment because it was empowered and justified to re-examine the evidence and draw its own conclusions from it.