RAWALPINDI: Two senior police officers who were sentenced to 17 years in prison for security lapses that led to the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007, on Thursday challenged the judgement against them in the Rawalpindi bench of Lahore High Court (LHC).
An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Rawalpindi had last week convicted additional inspector general Saud Aziz and senior superintendent of police (SSP) Khurram Shehzad, and fined them Rs1 million each. But five suspects allegedly linked with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were acquitted for lack of evidence.
The appeals filed by the police officers’ counsels urge the high court to release the convicts after overturning the sentences handed to them.
The applications state that the police officers had provided adequate security at Liaquat Bagh, the venue of the rally addressed by Bhutto. They said that the two officers have been made “scapegoats” even though the prosecution did not have any solid evidence against them.
The police officers claimed that the statements given by prosecution witnesses in the court are full of contradictions and that the trial of the case had not been conducted according to criminal laws under the Qanoon-i-Shahadat (Law of Evidence). The ATC verdict also did not consider the enquiry reports, they claimed.
The ATC issued the judgement in a rush by acquitting the five TTP suspects, the applications further alleged, adding that the two police officers “who are not even remotely linked to Benazir Bhutto’s murder” were sentenced to 17 years in prison each.
AIG Saud Aziz had been accused of removing SP Ashfaq Anwar from Liaquat Bagh, leaving Bhutto at the mercy of the attackers. He was also accused of not ordering an autopsy of her body.
SSP Khurram Shehzad was charged with washing the crime scene and destroying potential evidence that may have led investigators to the terrorists.
Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in a gun and bomb attack after an election rally in Liaquat Bagh on Dec 27, 2007. The then government of Pervez Musharraf had blamed TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud for the killing but Mehsud had denied any involvement in the murder.