RAWALPINDI, April 23: Former president General (retired) Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday surrendered to the anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Rawalpindi which had declared him a proclaimed offender in 2011 in the Benazir Bhutto murder case.

During the hearing of the case, a group of lawyers and supporters of Pervez Musharraf scuffled outside the court, leaving three black coats and five workers of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) injured.

The police on the occasion remained a silent spectator and did not try to control the situation. However, Haroon Joya, the superintendent of police Pothohar Town, blocked the access of mediapersons to the ATC despite the fact that it was an open proceeding and the judge had not issued any direction to keep the media away.

After the proceedings, Barrister Salman Safdar, the counsel for the former president, told reporters that he sought three relieves from the ATC judge.

“I requested the court to release the property of the former president which the ATC had attached in August 2011 after declaring him a proclaimed offender.”

After surrendering to the ATC, Mr Musharraf is no more a proclaimed offender and he is ready to join the investigation, said the counsel.

He contended that the property of his client had been attached to ensure his presence in the court and after his surrender there was no need to keep the property attached.

He also requested the court for directions to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to record the statement of Mr Musharraf in connection with the Benazir assassination case.

Barrister Salman told Dawn that the case against Mr Musharraf was ‘very weak.’ He was implicated in the case in 2010 while Ms Bhutto was murdered on December 27, 2007. “The delay in naming my client in the case cannot easily be condoned,” he added.

FIA special prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali told the court that he would examine the request and respond to the court on the next date of hearing.

It may be mentioned that Mr Musharraf was accused of hatching a conspiracy in the Benazir murder case.

Scuffle

It has become customary for violent lawyers to attack the APML workers during the appearance of the former president in courts.

On Tuesday, the APML workers equipped with rods and stones retaliated in the same manner and the scuffle resulted in the injury to at least three lawyers and five APML workers.

Anti-Musharraf lawyers were also prepared for the fight and holding wooden sticks and raising slogans, they attacked his supporters. The APML activists became harsh when the lawyers beat up two of their colleagues.

Chaotic scenes were witnessed outside the court premises as police failed to control the rowdy lawyers and APML supporters.

The anti-Musharraf lawyers also used abusive language against women supporters of the APML. In return, the women showed their shoes to the black coats.

Common people, motorists, passengers particularly Fatima Jinnah Women University students faced difficulties due to the clash at the Katchery Chowk which continued for an hour.

The lawyers and APML supporters also pelted public and private transports with stones. The police just played the role of a silent spectator and did not try to calm down the situation.

After the incident when the lawyers gathered outside the district courts, Musharraf’s supporters had vanished. At this, the angry lawyers started beating the passersby suspecting them to be supporters of Musharraf and did not spare even women.

Musharraf escape case

In the Islamabad High Court (IHC), Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui resumed hearing of the case related to the escape of the former president from the court after his pre-arrest bail was dismissed on April 18.

Additional inspector general Sultan Azam Temori appeared informed the judge that DSP Idrees Rathore, who was deployed at the IHC, had been suspended.

He said the disciplinary action against the low-ranking police officials had been stopped after the court set aside the proceedings against them in connection with the case.

The judge asked the police officer what action had been taken against the IGP Islamabad, Bani Amin Khan, because he had tried to mislead the court regarding the matter.

Mr Temori replied that the matter pertained to the ministry of interior as it was the secretary interior who had had been directed to take action against the IGP.

The court then summoned the secretary interior and after about two and half hours, additional secretary interior Tariq Hayat Khan appeared in the court and informed the judge that the ministry had started proceedings against the IGP and the caretaker interior minister Malik Habib would take a final decision soon.

The court adjourned hearing of the matter till April 25 and directed the additional secretary interior to submit a compliance report to the court on that day.

Petition against sub-jail

Justice Riaz Ahmed Khan of the IHC sought reply from chief commissioner Islamabad Tariq Mehmood Pirzada, IGP Bani Amin Khan and the SHOs of Shahzad Town and Secretariat on a petition seeking the transfer of Gen Musharraf from his Chak Shahzad farmhouse to the Adiala Jail.

Complainant Mohammad Aslam Ghumman through his counsel Chaudhry Mohammad Ashraf Gujjar adopted before the court that being an accused of terrorism, Musharraf was not entitled to be kept in his farmhouse-turned-sub-jail.

He pointed out that under section 3 of the prisoners act local government can convert any building into a sub-jail for more than one prisoner.

Justice Riaz remarked that in the past the government had declared a number of places as sub-jail and asked had anybody ever challenged the legal status of a sub-jail?

Advocate Ashraf replied that in the past nobody had challenged the decision of converting a place into a sub-jail and this was the first time that he had filed such a petition.

He claimed that in the past while declaring the residences as sub-jail legal requirements were not fulfilled but the wrong practices cannot be cited as a precedence.

The court put off the hearing of the matter till next week.

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