RAWALPINDI, May 20: A perceivably friendly prosecution led to grant of bail to former president retired General Pervez Musharraf in the Benazir Bhutto murder case by the Anti-Terrorism Court here on Monday.

ATC Judge Chaudhry Habibur Rehman ordered release of the former army chief on bail on submission of Rs2 million surety bonds. But he will remain in his farmhouse till obtaining bail in cases pertaining to judges’ detention and Nawab Akbar Bugti’s murder.

During the course of arguments, the special prosecutor of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) raised no objection to the bail application of Mr Musharraf. Instead, he suggested a heavy surety amount.

He said: “Gen Musharraf would escape from the country if the court releases him on bail but depositing a heavy amount as surety might prevent him from going abroad.” If he went abroad, he said, the surety amount might be of some use to the national exchequer.

After the murder of Ms Bhutto on Dec 27, 2007 the Punjab government constituted a joint investigation team (JIT) which submitted a charge-sheet without nominating Gen Musharraf.

On Aug 6, 2009 the investigation was transferred to the FIA and the following year its JIT implicated Gen Musharraf in the case.

According to the JIT report, Gen Musharraf was upset by the speeches of Ms Bhutto against the imposition of emergency in November 2007. It said that the Musharraf government did not provide adequate security to the former prime minister despite her repeated requests.

After the assassination of Ms Bhutto, Gen Musharraf ordered then director general of the National Crisis Management Cell to hold a press conference “with the motive to influence subsequent police investigation”, it said. The report mentioned an email sent by Ms Bhutto to US lobbyist Mark Siegel on October 26, 2007 in which she said that Gen Musharraf should be held responsible if she was killed.

Before this, she had written a letter to Mr Musharraf, forewarning that then chief minister of Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, former director general of Inter Services Intelligence Hameed Gul and former chief of Intelligence Bureau Ejaz Shah had hatched a conspiracy to get her assassinated.

Mr Musharraf’s counsel Barrister Salman Safdar said his client had gone abroad after resigning as the president and the FIA had implicated him in the case during his stay abroad. He returned to the country on his own to prove his innocence.

He said Mr Musharraf had been implicated in the case merely on grounds of suspicion. Though Ms Bhutto had suspected that some people might get her killed, those people were never interrogated or made to face a trial.

He said the case had been lingering on for over five years which proved that the prosecution was not interested in bringing it to an end. Transfer of investigation from one to another agency and submission of two charge-sheets indicated that the case was being used for political purpose and not for reaching the ends of justice, he argued.

The court dismissed a post-arrest bail application of Abdul Rasheed, another accused in the Bhutto murder case, after hearing arguments of his counsel Rao Abdul Rahim and the FIA special prosecutor.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Rahim alleged that prosecution had not been “friendly” to his client unlike its attitude to Mr Musharraf. Legal expert Faisal Hussain Chaudhry said even if Mr Musharraf obtained bail in the cases of judges’ detention and Akbar Bugti’s murder, he could not go abroad because his name had been placed on the Exit Control List.

During the hearing of ‘high treason’ case, the Supreme Court ordered the interior ministry last month to place the name of Gen Musharraf on the ECL.

The counsel of Mr Musharraf has already moved the apex court for removing his name from the list.

Mr Musharraf’s lawyer in the high treason case, Ahmed Raza Kasuri, told AFP: “He will get free from all cases one by one…He will stay in the country and won’t go abroad…Rumours that he will go abroad before Nawaz Sharif takes charge of the prime minister office are false.”

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