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Benazir murder case: ATC acquits 5 accused, declares Musharraf an absconder

RAWALPINDI: (Web Desk) An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Rawalpindi on Thursday announced the verdict in the Benazir Bhutto murder case; the court acquitted five Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) suspects, announced 17-year imprisonment for both the police officials involved, and declared retired Gen Pervez Musharraf an absconder in the case.

Saud Aziz, who was police chief of Rawalpindi when Bhutto was assassinated in 2007, and Khurram Shahzad, a former Superintendent of Police (SP) at Rawal Town, were each awarded 17 years in prison. The two, who were out on bail, have already been arrested.

The five TTP suspects — Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul, Sher Zaman, Aitzaz Shah and Abdul Rashid — have beean cleared of all charges in the murder trial.

The two former policemen have each been awarded 10 years in prison under Section 119 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and seven years each under Section 201 of the PPC.

They have also been fined Rs500,000 each; in case they do not pay the fine, they will have to spend another six months in jail, said the court.

Court has directed authorities to seize Musharraf’s properties. Apart from Musharraf, five other men — Baitullah Mehsud, Ahmad Gul, Iqramullah, Abdullah, and Faizullah — have been declared absconders.

Perpetual arrest warrants have been issued for Musharraf.

Nearly 10-year long case

During the case, 68 witnesses appeared on behalf of the prosecution and recorded their testimonies. The police presented three challans before the court, wheras the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) presented five.

The judge hearing the case was changed eight times.

In 2013, FIA’s special prosecutor in the case was killed by unknown assailants. Doctors said he had been killed with 10 bullets targeting his chest and shoulder.

Saud Aziz and Khurram Shahzad, who had been released on bail in 2011, were accused of negligence in security arrangements which subsequently led to the assassination of the former prime minister in a gun-and-bomb attack outside Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh on Dec 27, 2007 when Musharraf was president.

Benazir Bhutto was killed shortly after addressing an election campaign rally in the city.

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