BB murder case: PPP government paid $0.9 million to Siegel

ISLAMABAD: The counsel for former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf (Retd) on Wednesday told an anti-terrorism court (ATC) that the previous government of Pakistan People’s Party paid $900,000 to US lobbyist Mark Siegel for the projection of a ‘soft image’ of Pakistan.

During the cross examination of Mark Siegel in the Benazir Bhutto murder case, Barrister Farogh Nasim also said that prior to signing of the $900,000 contract Siegel had signed a contract of lobbying for international investigation of Benazir Bhutto as pro bono (free of cost in public interest).

The counsel also raised the question that since Siegel was a paid lobbyist his testimony can’t be treated as an independent and impartial statement. Nasim also shared the photocopies of the contract with Mark Siegel for the verification purpose, which he rejected, saying these are not original but the photocopies. Seeking time from the court to submit the original documents, Barrister Nasim asserted that these documents are available on the website of US Department of Justice.

During cross examination Siegel insisted that he was a friend of the Bhutto family and he lobbied for them and after 2008 he got engaged by the then government for the same purpose. During proceedings Siegel informed the ATC that he is a Jew who has taken oath to the Old Testament, and was a paid lobbyist. Judge questioned the credibility of Siegel and warned him when Barrister Nasim produced the copies of US Justice Department regarding these contracts.

Earlier, Siegel had recorded his statement before an ATC on October 1, where he had linked General Musharraf to Bhutto’s murder on the basis that the former military ruler, despite imminent threats to her life, deliberately deprived her of the security detail she deserved being a former prime minister.

According to Siegel, Benazir sent him an email on October 26, 2007, which she expressed her sense of insecurity. She also said purportedly that if something happened to her, she would hold the military ruler responsible, apart from the individuals mentioned in her letter to General Musharraf on October 16, 2007.

In the letter, she had named Brigadier Ejaz Shah (Retd), Lieutenant-General Hameed Gul (Retd) and the then Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi. While recording the statement through a video link from New York, when Siegel referred to some findings of the UN Commission report on the death of Bhutto, Ilyas Siddiqui, the counsel for Musharraf, objected and said that neither the UN Commission’s report was part of the court’s record nor the lobbyist had mentioned it its earlier statement; therefore, he cannot refer to the said report.

It may be mentioned that Mark Siegel is the fourth witness the prosecution implicated against General Musharraf. Two witnesses namely former secretary interior Kamal Shah and former director general National Crisis Management Cell, according to defence counsel, did not support the prosecution’s case. The third witness, the former director general intelligence bureau Ejaz Shah, was dropped by the prosecution. The prosecution may call former interior minister Rehman Malik to corroborate the statement of Siegel, said a senior prosecutor.

Source: Business Recorder