Two ex-police officers granted bail in Bhutto murder case

Islamabad: A Pakistani court has granted bail to two ex-senior police officers arrested on charges of negligence in providing security to former premier Benazir Bhutto on the day she was assassinated by a suicide bomber in Rawalpindi in December 2007.

A division bench of the Lahore High Court yesterday granted bail to former Rawalpindi police chief Saud Aziz and former SP Khurram Shehzad.

The bench led by Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry directed them to submit surety bonds of Rs 10 lakh each.

The court also ordered them to submit their passports to the anti-terrorism court conducting the trial of suspects in the assassination case so that they could not leave the country till a final decision is announced.

The two officers were deputed to ensure Bhutto`s security at Liaquat Bagh, where she addressed a rally on December 27, 2007 shortly before she was assassinated.

The officers were held responsible for hosing down the crime scene hours after her death and for creating hurdles in conducting the ex-premier`s autopsy.

They have denied the charges and contended that they had been implicated in the case by others who wanted to save their own skin.

Their counsel Khwaja Sultan told the court that it was on the instructions of Bhutto`s widower Asif Ali Zardari that an autopsy was not conducted.

Sultan contended that the washing of the crime scene was ordered by a Major from the Military Intelligence but the blame was shifted to his clients.

Prosecution lawyer Azhar Chaudhry argued that higher authorities had assigned the security of Bhutto at Liaquat Bagh to Saud but he neglected his duty and left the scene unprotected.

He said Saud knew that Bhutto was facing threats from late Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mahsud and intelligence agencies had informed him about the entry of two terrorists in Rawalpindi.

However, the officer failed to adequately perform his duty and this resulted in Bhutto`s killing, he claimed.