Benazir murder: Pakistan’s investigative agency challenges verdict

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Friday challenged the verdict of an anti-terrorism court in the assassination case of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, arguing that the two guilty policemen as well as the five men acquitted of all charges deserve capital punishment.

The anti-terrorism court in its August 31 verdict had acquitted five Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan suspects and announced 17-year imprisonment for two former police officers.

The court had also declared former President Pervez Musharraf an absconder in the case.

The FIA moved the Lahore High Court (LHC) against the sentence through two separate petitions submitted on Friday. The counsel for the agency also said that the anti-terrorism court passed the verdict in a hurry without fulfilling legal requirements, Dawn online reported.

According to the petition, the two police officers — former Rawalpindi Central Police Office Saud Aziz and former Rawalpindi Town Superintendent Khurram Shahzad — were sentenced under only two clauses each, whereas several other clauses, including terrorism, were also part of the case.

The petition said that the 17-year imprisonment for the two police officials was “much less than what they deserved”, demanding capital punishment for them.

The second petition stated that the five accused who were set free had also confessed to their involvement before a magistrate, so they also deserved “rigorous sentences”.

Bhutto, the Pakistan Peoples Party chief and a two-time Prime Minister, was killed along with 21 people in a gun-and-bomb attack outside Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh during an election campaign rally on December 27, 2007.

The FIA asked the LHC to overturn the anti-terrorism court’s decision and the court, accepting the petition, will hear the case on October 2.

PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari also challenged the anti-terrorism court’s verdict in LHC’s Rawalpindi bench earlier this month, seeking death penalty for Musharraf and the two senior police officers.

A bench will hear Zardari’s appeals on November 27.