An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Rawalpindi announced the verdict in the Benazir Bhutto murder case on Thursday, acquitting five Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) suspects and announcing 17-year imprisonment for two police officials.

The ATC also declared retired Gen Pervez Musharraf an absconder in the case. The ATC had named Musharraf in the case in February 2011.

Saud Aziz, who was police chief of Rawalpindi when Bhutto was assassinated in 2007, and Khurram Shahzad, a former Superintendent of Police (SP) at Rawal Town, were each awarded 17 years in prison. The two, who were out on bail, have already been arrested.

The two former policemen have each been awarded 10 years in prison under Section 119 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and seven years each under Section 201 of the PPC.

They have also been fined Rs500,000 each; in case they do not pay the fine, they will have to spend another six months in jail, said the court.

Aziz and Shahzad, who had been released on bail in 2011, were accused of negligence in security arrangements which subsequently led to the assassination of the former prime minister in a gun-and-bomb attack outside Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh on Dec 27, 2007.

The five TTP suspects — Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul, Sher Zaman, Aitzaz Shah and Abdul Rashid — have been cleared of all charges in the murder trial.

Court has directed authorities to seize Musharraf's properties and issue perpetual arrest warrants for the former dictator.

A joint investigation team implicated Musharraf in the case, saying that his government did not provide adequate security to the former prime minister despite her repeated requests.

Apart from Musharraf, five other men — Baitullah Mehsud, Ahmad Gul, Iqramullah, Abdullah, and Faizullah — have been declared absconders.

Nearly 10-year long case

During the case, 68 witnesses appeared on behalf of the prosecution and recorded their testimonies. The police presented three challans before the court, wheras the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) presented five.

The judge hearing the case was changed eight times.

In 2013, FIA's special prosecutor in the case was killed by unknown assailants. Doctors said he had been killed with 10 bullets targeting his chest and shoulder.

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