Benazir Bhutto assassination: Verdict likely on Thursday

Rawalpindi: As the defence and prosecution completed their arguments yesterday , Judge Muhammad Asghar Khan of the Anti-Terrorist Court, Rawalpindi, will announce its verdict in Benazir Bhutto assassination case on Thursday.

Benazir Bhutto, who was the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief and a two-time prime minister of Pakistan, was assassinated in a suicide attack at an election campaign rally at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.

It is expected that the judgement will be announced at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail this week, as Judge Khan earlier said he would require two days to scrutinise and compile all the records.

During the case, 68 witnesses appeared on behalf of the prosecution and recorded their testimonies. The police presented three challans before the court, whereas the FIA presented five. The judge hearing the case was changed eight times.

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar has said that former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf has been declared the “most wanted” in the case but could not appear before the court because he is under threat by the Al Qaeda.

Naseer Tanoli, the lawyer of Aitzaz Shah, who is accused of helping and financing the attack, told the court that the FIA’s investigation into the case is full of defects. Tanoli observed that the FIA had not asked any of the suspects about when they were arrested, the Dawn reported.

The FIA prosecutor argued that if there were discrepancies regarding the dates of the arrests of the suspects, the fault lies with the police, not the FIA.

He added that a person named Ismail, who was mentioned as an “operator” in the challan at the time of the assassination, had absconded from the court.

“The attack was carried out from outside the car [that Bhutto was riding in]. Why would we investigate those who were inside the car?” the prosecutor asked.

Police told the ATC that Ismail had tapped a phone call from Baitullah Mehsood – the former Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan chief who was killed in a US drone attack in August 2009 – who was declared “most wanted” in the murder case, along with Emad Gul, Akramullah, Abdullah and Faizullah.

In February 2008, a trial of five suspects began after they were apprehended by the police. However, once PPP won the 2008 elections, the investigation was handed over to the Federal Investigation Agency.

In 2013, FIA’s special prosecutor in the case was killed by unknown assailants. Doctors said he had been killed with 10 bullets targeting his chest and shoulder.(ANI)