RAWALPINDI: A special anti-terrorism court is all set to announce verdict in the Benazir Bhutto murder case in Rawalpindi’s Adiyala Jail today (Thursday). The verdict comes after nine years, eight months and three days of the assassination.
Benzair Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, had been assassinated in a gun-and-bomb attack in Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. At least 23 PPP workers had also died in the incident.
Special anti-terrorism court judge Muhammad Asghar Khan would announce the judgement under strict security arrangements.
Seven men had been held accused in the murder case, including two police officials responsible for the breach of security at Liaquat Bagh. Five of the accused allegedly belong to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
During the course of the proceedings, seven challans of the case were presented and eight judges and three courts were changed.
Lawyers of the accused and the prosecutor completed their arguments on Wednesday (yesterday) after which the judge reserved judgment in the case.
Rao Abdul Raheem and Raja Ghanim Aaber, counsels for two accused, said that DNA samples had been sent to the laboratory for forensic tests, but they never received the test report.
They said it was still a mystery why the report was not received. And if it was received, where it disappeared, they said, expressing surprise.
Calling it a major lacuna in the case, they said doctors had mentioned the cause of BB’s death in their report after her medical examination and x-rays; and after that, the post-mortem examination had become unnecessary.
The counsel for CPO Saud Aziz, Ghanim Aaber, said that security staff of the slain PM had clearly been told that the situation was not safe and that she should avoid exposing herself out of the bullet-proof vehicle, but the police instructions were not followed.
He acknowledged that on July 15, a dispatch had been sent to all district officers and the police, stating that the situation was critical and the life of the former prime minister was at risk and she should be provided fool-proof security. “Steps were taken in this regard.”
A suicide attack had already been mounted at Karsaz in Karachi but the CPO or the SPO was not nominated as the accused.
“Under a conspiracy, the crime scene was washed [soon] after all the evidence was acquired. If the CPO had made a phone call to remove someone, why was the data of that call not presented? This did not happen. This is just an assumption. The security arrangement was in place. It was also wrong to assert that Commander of the Elite Force Azmat Dogar was not produced as a witness,” he said.
Naseer Tanoli, the counsel for accused Aitizaz Shah, said that his client had been arrested a month before his arrest was recorded. He is blamed to have known the conspiracy before it was executed, he said.
“This is wrong. The police recovered a Tasbeeh, a litre bottle and some cash from him. No arms or anything prohibited was recovered from his possession,” he said.
Defence counsel Rao Raheem said that there were discrepancies regarding the name of the suicide attacker.
According to the US forensic DNA report, pieces of the attacker’s body and blood seemed to be of African, European and South Western descent as if he was not a Pakistani while the prosecution holds him to be Pakistani.
“The whole case is a compilation of controversies. Innocent people are being used as scapegoats to avoid exposing the real culprits. Innocent people must be freed honourably,” he requested.
Prosecutors Chaudhry Azhar and Khawja Imtiaz contended that all solid evidence should have been presented.
Top police officials also agreed that the security cover of the former prime minister was removed. The police report also mentioned the security lapse.
The case of accused Pervez Musharraf was detached because of his absence and it would resume after his return.
Accused CPO Saud Aziz and SP Khurram Shehzad were also present in the court.
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