Pak SC for larger bench to hear petition in Bhutto case

Islamabad: Pakistan`s Supreme Court today ordered the formation of a larger bench to hear an application seeking the registration of a fresh FIR against 12 people, including former President Pervez Musharraf and Interior Minister Rehman Malik, for alleged involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate Benazir Bhutto.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry issued the order after hearing arguments on the application filed by Mohammad Aslam Chaudhry, who served as Bhutto`s protocol officer for about two decades.

The bench sought responses from the Attorney General and the 12 respondents, including Musharraf, PML-Q leader and former Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Pakistan People`s Party leader Babar Awan, former Intelligence Bureau chief Ejaz Shah, former Interior Secretary Kamal Shah and former caretaker Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz Khan.

The apex court also sought the records of the trial by an anti-terrorism court of several suspects charged with involvement in the December 2007 assassination of Bhutto. The court said in its order that a larger bench would take up the case after two weeks.

Aslam Chaudhry had approached the apex court after the Lahore High Court turned down his petition for registering a fresh FIR against the 12 people, whom he alleged were involved in a conspiracy against Bhutto.

The former protocol officer was injured in the suicide attack that killed Bhutto.
During today`s proceedings, the bench headed by the Chief Justice observed that no legal heir of Bhutto had filed an FIR regarding her assassination.

The Chief Justice, in his remarks, said Bhutto`s widower, President Asif Ali Zardari, had questioned the judiciary`s role in probing the assassination during a public speech last month. The bench questioned why no one was listening to Aslam Chaudhry though he had been running from pillar to post.

Aslam Chaudhry has in the past sought proceedings against former President Musharraf and others for allegedly "preparing and executing the plan to assassinate" Bhutto.

He claimed Musharraf was the "key person" who benefited from Bhutto`s assassination because she was set to do well in the 2008 general election. In his application, he said the cause of Bhutto`s death was yet to be ascertained. He also contended the crime scene was hosed down before any forensic examination was carried out.

Bhutto was assassinated by a suicide bomber shortly after addressing an election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi in December 2007. Five suspects have been arrested and put on trial on charges of involvement in her killing. The anti-terrorism court conducting the trial has issued an arrest warrant for Musharraf for failing to cooperate with investigators.