ISLAMABAD - The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Tuesday questioned the reinstatement of a senior police officer who was a co-accused in former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder case.

The PPP Secretary Information, Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed, said that the re-appointment of Khurram Shehzad as the senior superintendent of police (Special Branch) was an “outrageous conspiracy” by Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif against the Bhutto family.

He alleged that Shehbaz Sharif wanted to save the killer of Benazir Bhutto and had given Shehzad the task to achieve this goal.

In August, the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC)’s in Rawalpindi declared former military ruler Pervez Musharraf an absconder in the Benazir Bhutto case.  The court directed to forfeit Musharraf’s property. The ATC sentenced former Rawalpindi City Police Offer Saud Aziz and former Rawal Town Superintendent Police Khurram Shahzad to 17 years in prison, and fined them Rs500,000 each.

The Lahore High Court (LHC) later released the senior cops and suspended the penalty imposed by the ATC.

The ATC had earlier released the other five suspects over lack of evidence against them.  The five suspects – allegedly affiliated with Taliban – identified as Rafaqat, Hasnain, Rasheed Ahmed, Sher Zaman and Aitzaz Shah were set free. Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in a gun-and-bomb attack outside Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh on December 27, 2007 when Musharraf was in power.

After the much-awaited verdict was announced, PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted: “BB case decision is disappointing and unacceptable. Release of terrorists (is) not only unjust but also dangerous. PPP will explore legal options.”

In a statement, Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed said Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi and Shehbaz Sharif had appointed Khurram Shehzad in the same city, which raised many eyebrows.

“These politicians use the names of Bhuttos when they are in trouble but do not hesitate to show their real selves through their actions,” he said.

Ahmed said that the PPP had no enmity with Saud Aziz or Khurram Shehzad.

“They only have to tell us who is the real killer,” he added.  The PPP leader demanded of the government to cancel Khurram Shehzad’s appointment and take the Benazir Bhutto case seriously.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar proposed reducing offences carrying death penalty.

“We need to have a wider public debate on death penalty engaging all sections of society in all provinces and not merely among politicians and opinion makers,” he said.

Speaking at a demonstration organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan here on the international day against death penalty, Babar said that even if initially it was not possible to abolish death penalty “what can and must be done is to ensure basic legal guarantees in cases of death penalty.”

Regardless of one's opinion, there can be no disagreement on presumption of innocence until proven guilty, he said, the right to proper legal defence and declaring confession extracted through torture as illegal.

Some jurists, the lawmaker said, had proposed a time gap between conviction and pronouncement of sentence as a safeguard against hasty death penalty.

He said that there were laws with locus in religion that could not be changed.

However, as against only two crimes that carried death penalty in religion, at present there were 27 crimes that carried death penalty and called for a review.

The senator said that in Pakistan death penalty was almost abolished for the rich and the privileged because of the mis-application of Qisas (revenge) and Diyat (blood money).

He said that the moratorium on death penalty was lifted only in case of jet black terrorists.

“We ought to know how many of the hundreds executed during the past three years were terrorists and how many were ordinary criminals,” Babar said.

He added: “Let us spare a thought on not to hang a minor and a mentally sick at least.”

Babar said that people should not be sent to the gallows even before the appeal was accepted as happened last year in the case of two brothers.

Separately, PPP leader Saeed Ghani said on Tuesday that there was no comparison between Zardari family and Imran Khan’s background.

He said that the PPP co-Chairman, Asif Ali Zardari's father was a well-known businessman in Sindh and his grandfather had established Sindh Madressatul Islam where Father of the Nation Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was educated, whereas Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan's father was dismissed from government employment on corruption charges.

In a statement, Saeed Ghani said that Imran Khan was facing money laundering charges in courts and he was surrounded by criminal and corrupt individuals.

He said that it was ironic that Imran Khan had been declared absconder by the court but he was roaming free.