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Musharraf booked for Lal Masjid murders

Updated September 03, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Sept 2: Islamabad police registered on Monday an FIR against former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf for allegedly killing Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi and his mother after the Islamabad High Court expressed annoyance over non-compliance of its order and warned police officials of consequences.

Since police have not inserted any clause of the anti-terrorism act in the FIR, the case will be heard by the Islamabad sessions court.

The former military ruler is already facing three cases in anti-terrorism courts of Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Quetta -- relating to murders of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and detaining the judges of superior courts.

Justice Noorul Haq N. Qureshi of the IHC resumed the hearing on a contempt petition filed by Haroon Rashid, son of Abdul Rashid Ghazi, saying Islamabad police had not yet registered an FIR against Gen Musharraf in the case despite the court order.

The court had on July 12 directed police to proceed with the matter after recording the statement of petitioner Haroon and register an FIR if there was any cognizable offence.

The Aabpara police said in its report that there was no cognizable offence and, therefore, the FIR could not be registered.

This prompted Justice Qureshi to remind SHO Ghulam Qasim Khan that police were duty bound to register an FIR even if a matter appeared to be fake. “Your job is to register the FIR, conduct investigation, collect evidence and produce all record before the court,” he said, adding: “It is the discretion of the court to declare a person innocent or guilty after examining police record and hearing relevant stakeholders.” He directed the SHO to register the FIR and present a copy before the rising of the court.

SHO Ghulam Qasim complied with the order and registered the FIR against Gen Musharraf in the office of deputy attorney general on the court premises.

He informed the court that since this was the first high-profile case in his entire service, he was seeking guidance from the law ministry as well as legal branch before registering the FIR.

The FIR No 324/13 was registered against Gen Musharraf under sections 302 and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code relating to murder and abetment. It stated that Gen Musharraf had ordered a military operation in Lal Masjid in which Abdul Rashid Ghazi and his mother were killed along with scores of others.

In his complaint, Haroon Rashid said about 350 witnesses had recorded their statements before a judicial commission on the Lal Msjid operation and held Gen Musharraf responsible for the action. On July 7, 2007, he said, then president Musharraf had threatened Ghazi Rashid and others with dire consequences and asked them to surrender. He added that the operation had been planned to kill his father but several other innocent people were also killed.

Mr Haroon said in the petition that after the court’s July 12 order, he had gone to the Aabpara police station and recorded his statement, but police refused to register the FIR. The petitioner requested to the court to initiate contempt proceedings against Islamabad police officers for not complying with its order. The All Pakistan Muslim League, the party of Gen Musharraf, termed the registration of FIR ‘unjustified’ and a sign of victory for extremist elements.

“The registration of FIR against former president Musharraf for the death of ‘extremist cleric’ Abdul Rashid Ghazi in the military-led operation is unjustified and devoid of any form of legal merit,” Chaudhry Sarfraz Anjum Kahlon, political adviser to Mr Musharraf, said in a statement.

He said this would be seen as victory for the extremists who wanted to damage the ability of the government to defend the writ of the state. “It is also a sign of disrespect to the 10 martyred SSG commandos and Rangers personnel who were also killed by the cleric’s militants.” The statement said Ghazi Rashid, his son Haroon Rasheed and Lal Masjid Khateeb Maulana Abdul Aziz were responsible for the murder of 10 SSG commandos and requested the judiciary to take action against them for the death of the military men. “There is no evidence against the former president in the case, rather the move was purely politically motivated,” it said.

Contrary to the findings and recommendations of the Lal Masjid commission which had held Gen Musharraf, members of his cabinet and political allies responsible for the operation, the petitioner confined his case only to the extent of the former military ruler. Petitioner’s counsel Tariq Asad told Dawn that Gen Musharraf’s accomplices would be included in the case after an initial investigation. He alleged that the Aabpara police had delayed the registration of FIR for 50 days and kept demanding that the case be transferred to an investigation agency. Mohammad Shakeel Abbasi, standing counsel for the federal government, expressed the hope that police would conduct a fair investigation and submit the entire record to the court. He said police would arrest the former president in the case, but since he is already in the judicial custody, investigators could only record his statement at his farmhouse which had been declared a sub-jail.

Senior advocate Senator Syed Zafar Ali Shah said police could include Musharraf and his political allies in the murder case of Ghazi Rashid. He said the judicial commission constituted by the Supreme Court had already submitted its report in which it had not only fixed the responsibility but also made certain recommendations.

“Police may use information given in the commission’s report during their investigation into the case,” he said.

Referring to relevant sections of the criminal procedure code, Senator Shah said that after completing the investigation police would send a challan to the Islamabad sessions court through a prosecutor who would be appointed by the federal government.