RAWALPINDI - ISRAR AHMED/Agencies - Former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf and six others accused were on Tuesday indicted by a trial court in Benazir Bhutto assassination case, an unprecedented move against an ex-army chief.
It is the first time a head of the army has been charged with a crime, challenging beliefs that the military is immune from prosecution. While murder will be difficult to prove, it may embolden efforts to try Musharraf for treason for seizing power in 1999 and for violating the constitution by sacking judges and imposing emergency rule in 2007. Treason can carry the death penalty.
Former City Police Officer (CPO) Rawalpindi Syed Saud Aziz, former Superintendent of Police (SP) Khurram Shehzad, Rafaqat Hussain‚ Hussnain Gul‚ Sher Zaman and Abdul Rashid, the four accused who are in Adyala Jail in connection with BB murder case, are the others six accused who will face trial after being indicted on charges of murdering BB, the two-times elected prime minister of Pakistan.
The court also ordered the prosecution to produce its five witnesses before the court on August 27, the next date of hearing. Setting aside an appeal, the court also exempted the military dictator from physical appearance before the court till the trial ends.
During the much-awaited indictment, which gripped the whole world, the media men were not allowed to cover the event by law enforcement agencies and the court authorities.
Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Rawalpindi Number 1 Special Judge Chaudhry Habib-ur-Rehman while taking up the high profile case handed over the 8-page chargesheet to Musharraf, who was produced by the law enforcement agencies before the court amid tight security, indicting him on three charges including criminally conspiring, abetting and murdering the former premier BB.
However, the accused including Musharraf pleaded to be “non-guilty” when the judge was reading out the chargesheet.
According to sources, Musharraf denied all the charges. Muhammad Ilyas Siddiqui Advocate, counsel for former military dictator, pleaded before the court to exempt his client from appearance in the court as he was facing life threats.
Countering his version, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Special Public Prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar Ali asked what kind of security threats he was facing, adding that the former president was a murderer and could only be exempted on medical grounds.
After ending the arguments of both parties, the Judge exempted Musharraf from appearance before court in BB murder case.
Arguing before the court, former SP Rawal Division Khurram Shehzad requested the court for speedy trial and suggested hearing to be held on coming Monday and Tuesday.
The FIA special prosecutor, however, opposed the SP and said it was not possible for him to attend the proceedings.
The court, later, postponed the hearing in BB murder case till August 27, 2013 ordering the prosecution to present its five witnesses before the court.
Talking to media men outside the court, FIA Prosecutor Azhar said that Musharraf has been charged for criminal conspiracy, murder and facilitating the murder by not providing adequate security on the pattern of former prime ministers Shaukat Aziz and Shujat Hussain and hurling threats to BB. He said the accused would be tried under 11 accusations.
Aitzaz Shah, one of the 8 accused, had not been indicted by the trial court as he was still underage and could not be tried.
Bagh right after a public meeting.
Raza Bokhari, a spokesman for Musharraf, dismissed the indictment as “false, fabricated and fictitious” and “an undignified attempt to smear the honour and integrity of the former president”.
“We are not afraid of the proceedings. We will follow legal procedures in the court,” Musharraf’s lawyer Syeda Afshan Adil told AFP.
“There is a long way to go and it will be very, very difficult to prove that he engineered the murder conspiracy or that he was the mastermind,” political analyst Imtiaz Gul told AFP.