Islamabad: Pakistan’s former dictator Pervez Musharraf was Thursday declared a fugitive by an anti-terrorism court which ordered seizure of his property and sentenced two senior police officers to 17 years in jail in the Benazir Bhutto murder case, nearly 10 years after her assassination.
Bhutto, the Pakistan Peoples Party chief and a two-time prime minister, was killed along with more than 20 people in a gun and bomb attack in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh during an election campaign rally on December 27, 2007. She was 54.
The case was registered soon after her assassination and the trial went through many ups and down until it concluded yesterday in Rawalpindi.
Judge Asghar Khan announced the verdict, declaring Musharraf a proclaimed offender and ordered seizure of his property.
A joint investigation team had implicated Musharraf in the case, saying that his government did not provide adequate security to the former prime minister despite her repeated requests.
Apart from Musharraf, five other men — Baitullah Mehsud, Ahmad Gul, Iqramullah, Abdullah, and Faizullah — have been declared absconders.
Musharraf, 74, is now living in Dubai since last year when he was allowed to leave Pakistan on pretext of medical treatment.
The judge sentenced former Rawalpindi City Police Officer Saud Aziz and former Rawal Town Superintendent of Police Khurram Shahzad — suspects out on bail — 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, have been arrested from Adiala Jail.
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.
Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the “decision is disappointing and unacceptable”, adding that the party would explore legal options.
“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 Federal Investigation Agency 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.