RAWALPINDI – As many as 35 prosecution witnesses still remained to be examined by the trial court in the former premier and PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto assassination case despite passage of five years of her killing in a gun-and-bomb attack outside the historic Liaquat Bagh soon after her culmination of electioneering on December 27, 2007.

So far, the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Rawalpindi Number 1 has recorded the statements of 17 prosecution witnesses, presented by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) probing into the murder case. However, 35 others are still remaining that can take more time.

This was shared by FIA Special Public Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar with TheNation here on Wednesday.

Chaudhry also admitted extraordinary delay in the case; however, he put the blame of the unprecedented delay in the high profile case over the trial court, the defense lawyers and the accused.

He said that in 2009 FIA was tasked to investigate into the case. Then agency had put the names of two Punjab police officers - former Rawalpindi CPO Saud Aziz and former Rawal Town SP Khurram Shahzad - in the list of accused besides former President Pervez Musharraf, who has been declared Proclaimed Offender (PO).

He said that in the light of the Judicial Policy terrorism cases hearing should be conducted on daily basis, but the BB murder case was being ignored.

The FIA prosecutor went on to say that the BB murder case is only case, which was not being heard on daily basis otherwise hearings of other cases have been conducting day to day basis. He said that FIA has also filed a petition in LHC, Rawalpindi bench seeking direction for conducting hearing of this case on daily basis. The court ordered the trial court to conclude the case on expeditionary basis, he added.

Expressing his anger over the trial court, the defense lawyers and the accused, Chaudhry Zulfiqar, said that the court did not record the statements of 38 witnesses including doctors, police men and other people despite their time and again appearances. He said that the lame excuses on the part of defense lawyers and the accused also made delay in the case.

“This is the height of delaying tactics by the accused and the defense lawyers,” he lamented. He said that the negligence of defense counsel could also be judged from the fact that it recorded the statement of Abdul Rasheed alias Abdul Rahim Turabi on 3/3/2012 but he could not be cross-examined to date. 

On the other hand, five years have passed to the assassination of BB, but the FIA has failed to submit complete challan of the twice elected Prime Minister’s murder case.

In this case, FIA submitted 8 challan so far and the last one was submitted in June this year, which is also said to be incomplete. While, FIA had included as many as 55 prosecution witnesses, but it recorded statement of only 17 witnesses so far.

Former army chief and president General Pervez Musharraf, who is PO in this case, has been living in self-exile in London and Dubai for the last four years. So far no serious effort was made from the government side to bring him back for his alleged involvement in BB murder case.  Five suspects including a minor are currently facing trial for allegedly killing BB at Liaquat Bagh.

The ATC No 1 Judge Chaudhry Habib-ur-Rehman on December 15, 2012 had issued notices to an American journalist Mark Segol to appear before the court as prosecution witness against former President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf in PPP Chairperson BB murder case.

Besides Segol, Rawalpindi Medical College (RMC) former Principal Dr Musaddiq Khan, former SSP (Operations) Rawalpindi Yasin Farooq, former SP Headquarters Rawalpindi Ashfaq Anwar and District Officer Rescue 1122 Rawalpindi Dr Abdul Rehman were also summoned by court in the witness box on January 5, 2013 the next date of hearing.

Advocate Naseer Tanoli, who is representing the above mentioned accused in the court, during an interaction with TheNation, said, “There is no concrete evidence on the surface against the nabbed accused. Law enforcers took them into custody in 2008 and subjected them to severe torture for getting confessional statement of killing BB.”

He said that there were several flaws in the investigation carried out by police and FIA. “Investigators claimed that accused used U-fone SIMs to complete their mission of killing BB but in the documents they recovered Warid SIM cards from the custody of nabbed accused.”

Whereas, Tanoli alleged that a statement of a police constable Haider Ali, who delivered few packets containing some evidences collected from crime scene by law enforcement agencies to Lahore for laboratory examination was also showed that some thing fishy in the case.

Tanoli said that Haider Ali recorded his statement on January 16, 2008, in which he mentioned that he delivered evidences to Lahore on January 21, 2008, which is not possible at least by any living being.

When contacted, Chaudhry Muhammad Aslam, former Protocol Officer of premier BB, who had also filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) for registration of second FIR in the BB murder case, in which he requested the court to nominate Pervez Musharraf, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Senator Babar Awan and others as accused, said, “Until and unless those who were responsible for BB security at Liaqat Bagh are not interrogated there is no chance that real killers would be unmasked ever.”

He said that back-up Mercedez-Benz car had left earlier than the BB’s convoy, which raised many important questions, which needed to be answered.

It may be noted here that Aslam’s petition was rejected as the court observed that only family member of BB could submit such petition.

Aslam Chaudhry, who is also the witness of BB killing, said that the murder of Khalid Shahensha, who was the key witness of BB murder, was also raised many questions. He said that Shahnsha murder should be properly investigated.

It is relevant to note here that Shahnsha was also with BB on December 27, 2007, when she was assassinated.

However, after few months after of BB’s killing Shahsha was also assassinated by unidentified killers.