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Musharraf may caught in hot waters for Bhutto’s murder case

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf may get into hot waters if he is prosecuted for the murder of slain leader Benazir Bhutto as the country’s top investigation agency accused him in her murder charge, jurists told media on Thursday. According to them, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), though presented only interim charge sheet of the case before the anti-terrorism court but believed Musharraf was involved in assassination.

Pakistan’s two-time Prime Minister Bhutto was killed by a suicide bomb attack followed by gunshots in Pakistan’s garrison city Rawalpindi on Dec. 27, 2007 when she was leaving after addressing a public gathering for then upcoming elections. Currently, the Anti-terrorism Court in Rawalpindi is conducting the trial of five suspects who have been charged with planning and facilitating the assassination.

Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008, was nominated accused in the First Information Report (FIR) but he did not agree to reply to the questioner of the joint investigation team. Musharraf, living in Britain on self exile since April 2009, had formed his political party and announced occasionally that he intended to return to Pakistan before the next general election in 2013.

Investigating officer of FIA, after failing to get any response from Musharraf, presented the interim charge sheet on Feb. 7 in the court declaring Musharraf an absconder, mentioning that the accused would be declared as “wanted” if he did not appear before the investigation team.

FIA Public Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar told the court that Musharraf was directly advising two police officers, Saud Aziz and Khurram Shahzad, responsible for Bhutto’s security, on the day of the incident. “The phone records confirm contact between Musharraf and Aziz,” Zulfiqar said. The court also rejected the bail plea of detained former chief of city police Aziz and superintendent of police Shahzad, as they had been accused for secretly changing Bhutto’s security plan, hosing down the crime scene and destroying the evidences.

Jurists said that the rope around Musharraf’s neck was being tightened after Aziz claimed in his statement to the police that Bhutto’s security was changed and the crime scene was washed on Musharraf’s orders. Musharraf’s two close aids during his era have agreed to become witnesses against him to prove that former president was responsible of Bhutto’s murder, well-placed sources told media.

According to the forensic report of Bhutto’s recently-found blackberry phones, sources said, Musharraf sent a threatening email to her with the subject “BB (Benazir Bhutto) your arrival in Pakistan and security is due to your relations with me.” The prosecutor told the court Bhutto forwarded the threatening email from Musharraf to her Washington-based journalist friend Mark Seigel, stating that she was in danger.

The Musharraf regime had blamed then Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud for Bhutto’s assassination but the latter denied all charges. A United Nations Commission that probe into the Bhutto assassination, on the request of the current Pakistani government of Bhutto’s party Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), had also blamed Musharraf for failing to provide satisfactory security to Bhutto.

Riasat Ali Azad, an advocate and expert in criminology, told media that once an accused is declared Proclaimed Offender (PO), the investigators can confiscate the property under his name. Azad added:

“The Anti-Terrorism Law being a special law allows ex parte proceedings and punishment to the accused in absentia, but a superior court judgment have declared sentence in absentia not meeting the end of justice hence not permissible,”

On the other hand, Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif, a spokesman for Musharraf in Pakistan, dismissed the FIA report as politically motivated and said it was aimed at hiding the real causes of the Bhutto’s murder. “The court, on the next hearing of the case on Feb. 12, can declare Musharraf as ‘Wanted’ person in the case and then there would be a question whether to contact Interpol or not,” sources said.

But some sources in FIA revealed that Musharraf, through his one lawyer, contacted the agency on Thursday to show will to record his statement. Experts opined that he appears to have missed the first option getting himself declared “absconder” by the investigators but if he had contacted it will be better for him to defend him in the murder charge.-Xinhua

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