Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf said he would return to Pakistan to face trial in the murder case of ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto. His announcement came on Sunday, days after the Rawalpindi Anti Terrorism Court pronounced him a fugitive in a trial for his alleged involvement in the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
An overview of the trial
The court has let off five others accused in the same case. It has ordered Musharraf’s property to be confiscated and has also sentenced two former senior policemen to 17 years in prison and acquitted five others in the case. Bhutto was the first woman Prime Minister of a Muslim country.
Musharraf said, “I will certainly come back to Pakistan and face the trial, as and when I am medically fit.” He said that he has been framed in Benazir Bhutto murder case owing to political victimization and that the entire case is pitched against him is false and fabricated. He further added that the case is a result of political intrigue.
The anti-terrorism court has branded Musharraf as an absconder as well. He must be legally arrested and brought to trial if he returns to Pakistan.
The decade-long legal process, spanning more than 300 hearings from 121 witnesses, was marred by irregularities and delay until it was concluded in Rawalpindi, yesterday. The court also found Saud Aziz and another former police officer, Kurrum Shehzad, guilty of “mishandling the crime scene”. They have been sentenced to 17 years in the prison and each has been fined 5,00,000 Pakistani rupees.
Both of them were arrested soon after the assassination but were released on bail in 2011. The court acquitted five men who had been accused of being Taliban militants involved in the conspiracy to murder Ms Bhutto.
In 2013, the chief prosecutor investigating Musharraf in Bhutto murder case was shot dead in his car in Islamabad. By blaming security forces for Bhutto’s murder, the verdict gives some credence to Bhutto’s supporters though many of them think, justice cannot be served until he is brought and made to stand in a trial.
Pervez Musharraf’s government blamed the assassination of Pakistani Taliban Chief, Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement. He was killed in a US drone attack in 2009.
According to a report by The Guardian, Bhutto’s party, Pakistan People’s Party said in a written statement said, “The acquittal of al-Qaida/Taliban terrorists against whom evidence has been provided is most surprising and raises several questions. On its face it seems triumph of al-Qaida militants.”
One of Bhutto’s daughters, Aseefa tweeted, “10 years later and we still want justice. Abettors punished but those truly guilty of my mother’s murder roam free.”
Assassination of Bhutto
The twice former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto was killed on December 27, 2007. She was the leader of the opposition, Pakistan People’s Party and was campaigning ahead of elections scheduled for January 2008. Shots were fired at her after a political rally at Liaquat National Bagh and a suicide bomb was detonated immediately after the shooting. She was declared dead at the Rawalpindi General Hospital.
An initial investigation claimed she died from fracturing her skull on the sunroof latch in the blast. However, her party denied those claims, insisting that she died from gunshot wounds.
Twenty four other people were killed in the bombing. This was the second attempt at her life and the previous attempt had killed at least 180 people.
Musharraf is alleged to have been part of a broad conspiracy to have his political rival killed before elections. He has denied all allegation. He was charged with murder, criminal conspiracy for murder and facilitation of murder in 2013 against an ex-army chief – challenging beliefs that the military is immune from prosecution.
Musharraf has been in a self-imposed exile in Dubai since the travel ban was lifted three years later. In 2010, a UN report accused Pervez Musharraf’s government of failing to give Bhutto adequate protection and said her death could have been prevented.