PPP challenges ATC’s verdict in Benazir murder case

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RAWALPINDI: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Monday challenged the anti-terrorism court’s verdict in the Benazir Bhutto murder case in the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench.

On August 31, the court hearing the former prime minister’s murder case for over 10 years cleared five accused in the case, convicted two former police officials and declared former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf a proclaimed offender.

The PPP leaders, including Sherry Rehman, Nayyar Bhukhari, and Latif Khosa—who was also a counsel in the case—addressed the media outside the court after filing the appeal.

They said that Benazir had repeatedly stated that Musharraf was not providing her security. Musharraf did not even let Benazir keep her own private security, they claimed.

“She [Benazir] had said that Musharraf would be directly responsible in case anything happened to her,” reiterated Khosa.

He also claimed that Musharraf got Saud Aziz, one of the two police officials sentenced to 17 years imprisonment in the case, posted as the Rawalpindi city police officer to ensure his role in the murder. He accused Aziz of ordering the removal of a security cordon around Liaquat Bagh on December 27, 2007, so Benazir could be easily killed.

The PPP has filed three appeals, one challenging the order separating Musharraf’s trial from the case, the other is against the ‘lenient’ sentences against the police officers and the last against the suspected militants exonerated in the case.

Convicted police officials challenge the verdict:

Earlier, the 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, challenged the judgement against them in the Rawalpindi bench of Lahore High Court (LHC).

The appeals filed by the police officers’ counsels had urged 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.

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.