In its verdict on the Benazir Bhutto assassination case, Pakistan’s anti-terrorism court on Thursday sentenced two senior police officers to 17 years in jail and declared former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf an absconder. The court also ordered the seizure of Musharraf’s property. Five other were acquitted in the case.
Bhutto, the Pakistan Peoples Party chief and two-time prime minister of Pakistan, 54, was killed along with more than 20 people in a gun and bombing attack in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007 when she came out of a park after addressing an election rally.
Judge Asghar Khan announced the verdict in court, where former Rawalpindi CPO Saud Aziz and former Rawal Town SP Khurram Shahzad — suspects out on bail — were also present. Aziz and Shahzad were sentenced to 17 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of Rs 5 lakh each. Both police officers – who were present in the court, were arrested from Adiala Jail. The case was registered soon after the assassination and the trial went through many ups and down until concluded on Wednesday in Rawalpindi.
Five Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) suspects have been acquitted over lack of evidence. The suspects – Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul, Sher Zaman,Aitzaz Shah and Abdul Rashid – were arrested soon after the crime and have been in jail. They had denied the charges. All accused were present at the time of announcement of trial except Musharraf. The trial of five suspects started in January 2008, while Musharraf, Aziz and Shahezad were implicated in 2009 after fresh probe by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
“10 years later and we still await justice. Abettors punished but those truly guilty of my mothers murder roam free,” Bhutto’s daughter Aseefa Bhutto Zardari tweeted soon after the verdict was announced. “There will be no justice till Pervez Musharraf answers for his crimes,” she tweeted.
Bhutto’s another daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari tweeted, “Musharraf ordered crime scene washed & doors locked trapping SMBB vehicle inside #ArrestMusharraf.”
Pakistan Peoples Party leader Sheila Raza also expressed dissatisfaction over the verdict. “We had reservations over the probe and the FIR lodged by the government,” she said.
Eight different judges heard the case during this period who were changed due to different reasons. Initially TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud was blamed for murder and Musharraf government issued a taped conversation of Mehsud with a certain operator in which he was congratulating the operator for the murder. But FIA Chief Prosecutor Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry in his concluding arguments disowned the evidence of audio record and transcript of telephonic conversation. He termed it a cooked up story by Musharraf to mislead the investigators and to save himself.