March 25, 1979, Forty Years Ago: Bhutto Sentence

The front page of The Indian Express.

The death sentence on former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was re-confirmed when the Pakistan Supreme Court unanimously rejected his petition for a review of the sentence in a murder-conspiracy case. In a 4-3 verdict on February 6, a seven-member bench of the court had confirmed the original sentence passed by the Lahore High Court on March 18 last year. Bhutto then filed a review petition. Radio Pakistan reporting the rejection of the petition, quoted Chief Justice Anwarul Haq as saying "all of us have unanimously decided to reject the petition". However, the judges included a paragraph recommending clemency. Seizing on this paragraph, Bhutto's lawyer, Yahya Bakhtiar, said: "The death sentence is out. I feel relieved. But I am disappointed in the rest of the judgment. Bhutto should not be hanged after this."

Mercy Petition

Pakistan President Gen Zia-ul-Haq may not be in a hurry to hang Bhutto. The procedure itself spreads over many days. The Supreme Court will inform the Lahore High Court, which will issue the execution orders to the Rawalpindi jail where Bhutto is detained. Bhutto will be formally informed about the confirmation of the death sentence. Then he, any of his relatives or any citizen of Pakistan, can file a petition of mercy within seven days. This petition, will be sent to the province concerned, Punjab, where the murder of Ahmed Raza Kasuri took place. The provincial government will forward its recommendation to the Ministry of Interior at Islamabad. Later, the law ministry will scrutinise it and then it will reach Zia's desk.

JP's Health

Jayaprakash Narayan gave some anxious moments during the dialysis at Bombay's Jaslok Hospital. But he maintained a slight improvement towards night. The hospital bulletin said: "The condition of JP continues to be the same. His drowsiness is less."