Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto cries as she lands at Karachi international airport after leaving Dubai, 18 October 2007. Bhutto is returning to the country after eight years of self imposed exile when she faced charges of corruption. U.S officials have backed a possible power-sharing deal between Bhutto and currrent Pakistani President, General Pervez Musharraf. Almost 20,000 troops and police have been deployed in Karachi amid threats by Islamist militants to assassinate both Musharraf and Bhutto on her return. AFP PHOTO/CARL DE SOUZA

FIA challenges ATC verdict in Benazir Bhutto murder case

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) has filed a petition in the Lahore High Court challenging the Anti-Terrorism Court’s decision in the Benazir Bhutto murder case.

The petition, filed in the LHC’s Rawalpindi bench, maintains that the FIA has irrefutable evidence against the acquitted suspects.

The verdict announced by ATC Judge Asghar Khan at Adiala Jail had cleared the five accused in the case, sentenced two former police officials and declared former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf as an absconder.

Aitzaz Shah, Sher Zaman, Abdul Rasheed, Rafaqat Hussain and Hasnain Gul, who were indicted by the ATC in November 2008, were cleared of all charges.

The five accused had been charged for killing, hatching criminal conspiracy to kill, abetting the perpetrators, using illegal explosive material and spreading terrorism on Dec 27, 2007 when 22 people, including the former premier, were killed in a gun-and-bomb attack outside Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh, when she was leaving after holding an election rally.

Saud Aziz, who was the police chief in Rawalpindi at the time of Bhutto’s assassination, and former Rawal Town SP Khurram Shahzad, were sentenced to 17 years each and were ordered to pay a fine of Rs0.5 million each by the ATC.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) has also challenged the ATC’s decision.

Speaking to the media earlier this month, PPP’s Latif Khosa, who was also a counsel in the case, said Benazir had repeatedly stated that Musharraf was not providing her security. Khosa claimed Musharraf did not even let Benazir keep her own private security.

“She had said that Musharraf would be directly responsible in case anything happened to her,” he said. On September 11, the LHC’s Rawalpindi bench approved for hearing appeals submitted by the two policemen convicted in the case.

Aziz and Khurram Shahzad were sentenced to 17 years each and ordered to pay a fine of Rs0.5 million each for their negligence in investigating the case properly. Shahzad was SP Rawal Town at the time of the incident.

The case was heard by LHC’s Justice Tariq Abbasi and Justice Habibullah Amir, who issued notices to the respondents and adjourned the hearing.