ISLAMABAD, Aug 29: About six years after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has filed an application with the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) of Rawalpindi for becoming a party in the murder case.
Ms Bhutto was killed in a terrorist attack in Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.
The proceedings in the murder case commenced in February 2008 after the police initially arrested three persons and produced them before the ATC.
Senior lawyer and PPP secretary general Sardar Latif Khan Khosa along with other lawyers submitted the papers of attorney (wakalatnama) to the ATC to pursue the case. He also sought from the court certified documents, including the investigation reports and copies of the challan.
The ATC will hear the preliminary arguments of Mr Khosa on September 3.
The panel of PPP lawyers included Barrister Khurram Latif Khosa, Amir Fida Paracha, Barrister Mehmood Chaudhry and Husnain Rind.
Mr Khosa told Dawn that initially the PPP did not become party in the case as the state was the prosecution and Asif Ali Zardari head of the state.
“Since Mr Zardari will leave the presidency next week, the party has decided to become a party in the matter,” he observed.
He said the case had been delayed for quite a long time due to which the people of Pakistan were criticising the PPP.
“In fact, our judicial system should be blamed for this inordinate delay as the lengthy exercise of recording the statements of witnesses and cross-examining them has been repeated after joining of the accused persons and absconders at different stages.”
However, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) special prosecutor in the murder case Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry, when contacted, said becoming a party in the murder case at this particular juncture would not make any difference.
“Under the law, the aggrieved party could engage a counsel to monitor the proceedings but the production of witnesses and assisting the court in examining the evidence is the sole responsibility of the prosecution,” he added.
Senior lawyer Mohammad Ikram Chaudhry told Dawn that it was a criminal proceeding not a constitutional matter in which after becoming a party the aggrieved party could influence, manipulate or expedite the court proceedings.
“They can share the evidence if that is not already on the court record,” he said.
“In my view, there was no need for becoming a party in the said matter as it will not help the prosecution in anyway,” said Mr Chaudhry.
It may be noted that recently the proceedings of the case were re-started for the third time as the prosecution submitted a challan after arresting General (retired) Pervez Musharraf in April this year.
“In order to expedite the trial, we will request the court not to discard the statements of the witnesses it had recorded so far as there are judgments of the superior courts according to which these statements could be used,” Mr Khosa added.
The PPP lawyers also submitted to the ATC a resolution which was passed by the party at a meeting on August 8, 2013.
The resolution paid tribute to Ms Bhutto for her services to the country.
It said she valiantly fought the tyrannical rule of former military dictator Ziaul Haq and suffered prison, torture and consequent exile during which she continued her struggle for democracy.
The resolution said inadequate security provided to Ms Bhutto offered the attackers an opportunity to assassinate her.
Non-conducting a postmortem on the body followed by official release of a tape, issuance of a statement by a state official that it was a terrorist attack and the registration of an FIR by a police official as well as subsequent investigations speak volume about a planned masterminded murder, it said.
The resolution added: “It is thus imperative that PPP takes ownership and ensure due punishment to the culprits, so that the rule of law prevails and the mother land is not deprived of such leaders who are born in centuries.”