ATC opens Benazir Bhutto Murder case proceedings

An anti-terrorism court judge on Monday ordered the opening of fresh proceedings into the Benazir Bhutto murder case following the return of former president Pervez Musharraf, who had been declared a proclaimed offender in 2011.

Judge Chaudhry Habibur Rehman said the move was prompted by Musharraf’s homecoming on March 24. The former president, who was accused of involvement in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, failed to appear before the court despite repeated summons and was subsequently declared a proclaimed offender in 2011.

According to a 57-page report submitted by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in 2011, Musharraf was accused of failing to provide requisite security despite being aware of the imminent danger to the PPP leader’s life.

The court on Monday rejected an application submitted by FIA which sought a separate trial for the former president. Special prosecutor for the FIA Chaudhry Zulfiqar, while submitting a fresh application requested the court to separately try Musharraf in the Benazir Bhutto murder case saying that the case would suffer undue delays.

Accusing Musharraf’s counsel of employing delaying tactics, FIA maintained that only 24 witnesses had recorded their statements in five years. Since 2008, five judges have been replaced in ATC and over 24 witnesses have recorded their statements.

FIA’s counsel argued that the Sindh High Court (SHC) had extended Musharraf’s protective bail, apprehending that the proceedings would be delayed. He informed the court that Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench had directed the trial court to conclude the hearing in three months. However, the court has rejected his plea and observed Musharraf has returned to the country and there is no need to separately try him in the case.

Special Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali said that he will challenge this decision before LHC Rawalpindi bench. He said that the division bench of high court has clearly directed the trial court to start hearing on a daily basis. “I will challenge this decision before LHC Rawalpindi bench,’’ he added.