LAHORE - The judicial career of former Chief Justice of Pakistan of Dr Nasim Hassan is specially known for decisions on cases which had deep political implications.

The late Dr Nasim had a record 26 years long service to the superior judiciary during which he witnessed many challenging moments. With remarkable academic career from school to doctorate in law from University of Paris, the professional life of Dr Shah was a happy blend of excellence and self-accountability.

In his social life he was quite decent and candid in expressing his inner feelings. He was upright and truthful who never hesitated to accept where he was wrong no matter what consequences it would yield to him. Late Dr Nasim Hassan loved Islam and Pakistan. He highly admired the life and struggle made by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and his associates including founder Nawa-i-Waqt Hamid Nizami, in the creation of Pakistan.

As member of the Supreme Court Bench, Justice Nasim Hassan Shah heard the famous murder case against the former prime minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto after the trial court, Lahore High Court, had ordered capital punishment to the accused on the abetment charges.

Then it was martial law of General Ziaul Haq, when a seven-member bench of the Apex Court in 1979 upheld the trial court verdict with majority of four to three and the late Justice stood with the majority. The PPP did not accept the decision and many of the diehard PPP workers went to jail and suffered public floggings.

Among the legal fraternity the death decision of Bhutto for being studded with various legal lacunae failed to find favour as a precedent in law although it remained a part of the law books. The daughter of Bhutto, Benazir in her book ‘Daughter of the East’ termed execution of her father a ‘judicial murder’ and that continues to be controversial even to date.

Justice Nasim Hassan Shah, who was not in the knack of holding back the truth, while appearing in a private TV show some five years ago, admitted flaws in Bhutto case and said his execution could have been mitigated to lesser punishment. But, he held the defence was primarily responsible for not pleading the case properly and also shed light on the working of then judiciary when shadow of military rule had spread deep and wide. However, in the programme, his heart did not go fully with the death verdict.

Taking a lead from his televised words, Peoples Lawyers Forum moved a petition with the LHC urging action against the former Chief Justice for being part of bench which executed Bhutto. But the plea was dismissed by a division bench for having factual technical shortcomings. In the same environ, the PPP which then ruled the country, filed a reference with the apex court to seek reopening of the Bhutto trial in view of the revelations made by Justice Shah along with other grounds. The reference passed through a few hearings during the tenure of Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Ch and is pending now.

Another case which holds the landmark value relates to the restoration of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif government in 1993 when it was dismissed along with dissolution of the National Assembly by then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan exercising the discretionary powers in terms of Article 58(b) of the constitution. Justice Nasim as Chief Justice of Pakistan then headed the bench.

The judicial verdict had restored the Sharif government but the gulf between the prime minister house and the presidency had widened alarmingly. In the background was the Benazir led opposition which stood much closer to the Presidency. In this scenario relations between the President and the Prime Minister remained highly bitter and acrimonious to the point of failing continuity of the state business and wrecking nerves of the nation. In the absence of working relation between the top offices, then Army Chief Abdul Wahid Kakar intervened and through an agreement made both President and the PM quit the office at the same time. So it happened and fresh elections were conducted as a result of which Benazir enthroned as PM and her party stalwart Sardar Farooq Khan Leghari as president.

Justice Nasim Hassan Shah at core loved Islam and Pakistan and may be that was the reason he advertently or inadvertently showed tilt to the Islamic ideas of General Ziaul Haq. He is believed to have contributed to incorporation Article 2(A) in the constitution which made Objective Resolution a substantive part of the Constitution. The resolution had a number of Islamic provisions and commands about independence of judiciary. It determined the basic structure of the Constitution which had to be built on the basic principles of Islam.

After referendum in 1984, when General Zia wearing the robe of President side by side the Army Chief, was present at Jinnah Garden on an occasion, the late CJP proudly showed him the mark of indelible ink on his thumb for voting in the referendum.

Justice Nasim Hassan Shah was the youngest judge who was appointed on ad-hoc basis in the Supreme Court. He also remained Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board in 1993-1994. With the demise of Justice Nasim Hassan Shah, an important chapter of national history stands closed. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has expressed deep sense of grief over death of Justice Nasim Hassan Shah and has prayed may Allah Almighty rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant strength to the bereaved family to bear the loss.