Press Trust of India
Islamabad, 1 October
A Pakistani anti-terrorism court today ordered a retrial in the case related to former premier Benazir Bhutto’s assassination following the naming of Pervez Musharraf as the main accused.
Judge Chaudhry Habib-ur-Rehman of the Rawalpindi-based court rejected requests from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) while ordering the retrial.
The judge directed the FIA to reproduce prosecution witnesses in court for recording their statements at the next hearing on 8 October.
On 25 June, the FIA submitted a final chargesheet against former President Musharraf that declared him the “prime accused”. The anti-terrorism court indicted Musharraf on 20 August.
Musharraf was arrested by the FIA on 26 April and later granted bail in the case against two surety bonds of Rs 1 million each. He has been exempted from appearing in the anti-terrorism court because of security concerns.
On 17 September, the judge had reserved his verdict after hearing arguments by all the parties. FIA Public Prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar and PPP lawyer Latif Khosa had asked the judge to advance the case proceedings without any further delay as a retrial would be tantamount to wastage of time.
Azhar told the judge that 23 witnesses had recorded their statements and they could be summoned for cross-examination. He argued that a retrial would be a “wastage of the court’s time and money and beneficial for the accused”.
Khosa said the PPP too was not in favour of a retrial as the case had been lingering on for over five years. He said proceedings should be advanced for early disposal of the case.
However, Musharraf’s counsel Ilyas Siddique argued there should be a retrial after the arrest of the former President so that statements of witnesses could be recorded in the presence of all the accused.
Bhutto was killed by a suicide bomber shortly after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi in December 2007.