• Benazir Bhutto murder case: lawyers of six accused complete arguments

    Benazir Bhutto Benazir Bhutto

    The lawyers of six out of seven accused in the Benazir Bhutto murder case completed their arguments before an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Rawalpindi on Tuesday.

    Police held seven men accused in the murder case, including two police officials responsible for the breach of security at Liaquat Bagh, the venue of Bhutto's assassination. Five of the accused allegedly belong to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

    Counsel for the accused Malik Rafique today argued that Bhutto had been informed of the threat to her life by two members of Inter-Services Intelligence a day prior to the rally in Rawalpindi.

    Rafique, who was representing the then city police officer (CPO) Saud Aziz and former superintendent police (SP) Khurram Shahzad, argued that the officers who were performing their duties were being made scapegoats in the case.

    He also observed that Maj Imtiaz, Naheed Khan, Safdar Abbasi, Razzaq Meerani, Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Khalid Shehenshah were present in Bhutto's car at the time of the attack.

    "How was Khalid Shehenshah, a top-class criminal, allowed in Benazir Bhutto's car?" he asked.

    He also said that Meerani had two of Bhutto's Blackberry cellphones in his possession until he handed them over to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officer Wajid Zia in 2011.

    Rafique reminded the court that American journalist and lobbyist Mark Siegel claimed that former president General Pervez Musharraf threatened Bhutto via a phone call. Siegel is a key prosecution witness in the case.

    Malik Jawad Khalid, who represented three of the accused, questioned the investigative procedure, pointing out that the fingerprints of the suicide bomber were not acquired, whereas a jacket sent for DNA testing did not contain traces of explosives.

    The court questioned an FIA prosecutor about the DNA report. He informed the court that it was not on the case's record.

    Both the lawyers argued the innocence of their clients, saying that no evidence against the accused had been presented by the prosecutors.

    The court adjourned the case until Wednesday, which is when accused Aitzaz Shah's lawyer is expected to present his arguments.

    Bhutto was assassinated during a public gathering at Rawalpindi's Liaquat Bagh on Dec 27, 2007.

    Initially, a trial of five suspects had started in February 2008 after the Rawalpindi police arrested them in connection with the murder. However, when the PPP formed its government in the centre in 2008, the investigation was transferred to the FIA.

    In 2010, the team included ex-president Musharraf, DIG Saud Aziz and SSP Khurram Shahzad in the case as the accused persons.

    The trial recommenced when Aziz and Shahzad were arrested. When Musharraf returned to the country in 2013, the prosecution added him to the charge sheet and the trial began again.

    The ATC earlier this year separated the trial of Musharraf, as the counsel for the prosecution and the accused persons were of the view that since the former military ruler was an absconder, the continuation of the trial of other accused was not possible.

    Subsequently, the court separated his trial to conclude the proceedings against the five terrorism suspects and the two police officers.