Benazir Bhutto murder case: ATC acquits five suspects, declares Musharraf absconder
RAWALPINDI: After a marathon trial, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) announced the verdict in December 27, 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, declaring former army chief Pervez Musharraf as absconder while acquitting five accused said to be associated with banned outfit over lack of evidence.
The court also ordered confiscation of the movable and immovable property of Musharraf, who was implicated in the case in February 2011.
The five suspects – Rafaqat Hussain, Hasnain Gul, Sher Zaman, Aitzaz Shah and Abdul Rasheed were exonerated from the murder charges.
The court awarded imprisonment of 17 years to Saud Aziz, who was the city police chief at the time of the assassination of Bhutto, and Khurram Shahzad, former Superintendent of Police (SP) Rawal Town in Rawalpindi.
It also imposed a penalty of Rs500,000 each on both the convicts and ruled that in case of non-payment of the fine they will have to undergo additional imprisonment of six months.
The court had earlier reserved verdict in the case of the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Wednesday after the counsels of the suspects concluded their arguments.
The ATC has been hearing the case for last nine years since Benazir Bhutto was assassinated during a public gathering at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.
During the court proceedings on Wednesday (yesterday), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) public prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar presented his arguments and said that then Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) leader Babar Awan was in Bhutto’s backup vehicle, and another party leader Farhatullah Babar was controlling the vehicle.
He apprised the court that the vehicle was later recovered from Zardari House in Islamabad when the investigation was handed over to the FIA. The public prosecutor said that former President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf had excused himself from appearing before the court for receiving life threats from global terror outfit Al Qaeda.
He further informed the ATC judge that statements of only 68 witnesses were recorded out of 121. In February 2008, the trial of five suspects began after they were apprehended by the police following an FIR over the incident registered on behalf of the state. However, once PPP won the 2008 elections, the investigation was handed over to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
It merits to mention here that former president Pervez Musharraf is also a suspect in the case, who has remained absconding since the beginning.