Former president Pervez Musharraf. — File photo
ISLAMABAD: An anti-terrorist court in Rawalpindi has ordered former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf to be made part of the investigations into former premier Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.
It was the first time on Tuesday that the former military ruler appeared before the anti-terrorist court over Bhutto’s murder.
Musharraf was driven to the court in Rawalpindi from his plush villa on the edge of Islamabad where he is serving a two-week arrest order.
Musharraf is accused of conspiracy to murder Bhutto, who died in a gun and suicide attack in December 2007. It is one of a barrage of legal cases he is fighting in the courts since returning home last month after four years in self-imposed exile.
Despite a heavy police and paramilitary presence, scuffles broke out between lawyers and Musharraf supporters, who threw stones and beat each other with sticks outside the court building.
About 150 lawyers shouted in protest against the former president, while two dozen supporters chanted “Long live Musharraf!”
“Today it was routine hearing of Benazir murder case and General Musharraf appeared for the first time in this case,” his lawyer Salman Safdar.
Musharraf spent around 15 minutes in court and then another 15 minutes with his lawyer, before being driven back to his Chak Shahzad residence on the outskirts of Islamabad which has been declared as a sub-jail.
The court while adjourning the next hearing of the case until May 3, also ordered for Musharraf to be made part of investigations.
During the hearing, the court issued a notice to the Federal Investigations Agency (FIA) and sought a reply from the agency on the next hearing over the petitions submitted by the former military ruler against his declaration as a proclaimed offender and seeking resumption of his frozen assets and bank accounts.
Moreover, Salman Safdar, counsel of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) chief was allowed to meet the former president, who is under judicial custody at his farmhouse.
Earlier, the ATC had summoned all accused, including the retired general, for the case’s April 23 hearing.
The farmhouse was declared a sub-jail by the anti-terrorist court in Islamabad as it heard the judges’ detention case against the former military strongman.
Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in a gun-and-bomb attack outside Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh on December 27, 2007. She was killed after addressing an election campaign rally in the city.
Nobody has been convicted or jailed for Bhutto’s assassination yet.
‘No faith in Supreme Court bench’
Meanwhile, lawyers for the former military strongman argued in the Supreme Court that adding their client’s name to the exit control list was in violation of the Constitution and his fundamental rights.
Musharraf’s counsel Ahmed Raza Kasuri on Tuesday told the apex court that his client had no faith in the Supreme Court bench hearing the treason case against the former military strongman.
Another counsel for Musharraf, Ibrahim Satti, said there was no hint of a case for high treason against his client and therefore the addition of Musharraf’s name on ECL was a violation of his fundamental rights.
Furthermore, Kasuri said his client had no confidence in the apex court bench hearing the treason case against him.
“My client has no faith in the bench hearing the case,” Kasuri said, adding that the Supreme Court should first address the question of formation of a larger bench on the matter or hand the matter over to the full court.