RAWALPINDI – Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi Bench Wednesday ordered Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Number 1, proceeding former premier Benazir Bhutto (BB) assassination case, to conduct day-to-day hearing in the case.

The court also ordered the ATC No 1 to conclude the trial in BB murder case within three months and submit the copy of the verdict with Registrar Office of LHC. LHC Rawalpindi Bench Justice Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Ali Baqir Najafi laid down this verdict while disposing of the application of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) filed by its Special Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali seeking early conclusion of the trial pending for the last 6 years.

In its application, the Prosecutor added that the defense lawyers have been using dilly-delaying tactics to obtain undue adjournments in the high profile case. Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, while arguing before the court, said that under Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 the ATC was bound to conduct day to day hearings and end the trial in 7 days.

But in BB murder case, filed on December 27, 2007 when 24 persons lost their life in a gun-and-bomb attack outside Liaquat Bagh, the law was not being implemented. He added that ATC under ATA would be given precedence over the normal trials being conducted in other courts.

Chaudhry contended that under the ATA the trial judge was directed not to allow two consecutive adjournments and if the defence lawyers did not appear in the court the judge could appoint a state counsel for the accused.

FIA Special Prosecutor stated that if the trial judge did not act according to the provisions of the ATA he might be liable to disciplinary action by the administrative judge of the high court.

“The defence lawyers in BB murder case had been avoiding the court proceedings and wasting the time by filing one after another application before ATC No 1” the prosecutor contested and presented the order sheets of the ATC judge.

Countering the FIA Prosecutor, Malik Raffique Ahmed, the defence lawyer in the case, said that the investigators made delay in completing the probe and then submitted 7 interim challans consuming lots of time.

“The lawyers, representing the accused in BB murder case, have to appear before other courts to contest their cases, that is why it would be difficult for them to come in ATC 1 on daily basis” he added.

So far, in BB assassination case, the five arrested men Sher Zaman, Husnain Gul, Rafaqat Hussain, Aitzaz Shah and Abdul Rasheed have been trying by ATC 1 whereas former City Police Officer (CPO) Rawalpindi Syed Saud Aziz and former Superintendent of Police (SP) Rawal Town Khurram Shehzad are on bails. ATC No1 also declared former military dictator and President General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf and some men linked with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as proclaimed offenders in the BB assassination case.