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ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah has protested over a court order to grant bail to suspected plotters of the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, terming it another “black day in the history of the country’s judiciary”.

Speaking on a point of order during the budget debate in the assembly on Thursday, the opposition leader asked the politicians to demonstrate unity on the issue, saying that the whole parliament should “condemn” this act of the court.

“Who has got the assassins of Benazir Bhutto released? And why are they being released?” Mr Shah asked.

“Benazir Bhutto used to say that she will grant the people their rights. Today same Benazir Bhutto is not getting justice. The head of the whole nation should hang in shame,” the opposition leader said.

A two-member Rawal­pindi bench of the Lahore High Court on Monday had granted bail to five suspected members of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who had been arrested for conspiring to assassinate Ms Bhutto in 2007. Despite issuance of the court orders, the suspects have not been released from Kot Lakhpat jail yet due to some technical reasons.

Ms Bhutto was assassinated in a gun-and-bomb attack after a rally in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh on Dec 27, 2007. For her assassination, the then government of Gen Pervez Musharraf had blamed TTP chief Baituallah Mehsud, who had later denied any involvement in her killing.

Mr Shah recalled that when an attack was carried out on the convoy of the then military dictator Musharraf, the crime scene remained cordoned off for four days for collection of evidence whereas the authorities washed the site of Ms Bhutto’s assassination within a few hours. He regretted that the plotters of the attack on the dictator had been arrested whereas the “killers of a politician are being released”.

“Are we giving a message that those who kill politicians on getting signals from someone will be acquitted?” he asked.

After Mr Shah’s speech, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq termed Ms Bhutto a “national leader” and directed Law Minister Mahmood Bashir Virk to write a letter to the court to inquire about the reasons behind releasing the accused in the Benazir Bhutto murder case. He also asked the law minister why the 10-year-old case was not being heard on a daily basis.

The law minister, in an apparent reference to excessive exercise of suo motu powers by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, said that the politicians should collectively ask the courts to focus on huge backlog of cases, instead of paying attention to other matters. He said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was appearing in court almost daily but the politicians were still divided.

Mr Virk said that today the country was passing through a dangerous phase and attacks were being carried out on ministers under a “conspiracy against the state”.

Taking part in the budget debate, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party president Mehmood Khan Achakzai expressed concern over what he described as the “interference” of the armed forces in political affairs of the country.

Mr Achakzai asked Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to direct his “subordinates” not to “interfere” in political affairs. He said that the country had already suffered damage due to interference in the elections in the past. All institutions, including the judiciary, should remain within their constitutional limits, he said.

Mr Achakzai said that after disqualifying Pakistan Muslim League-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif for life, now efforts were being made to put him behind bars. He said that if Mr Sharif was sent to jail then his daughter (Maryam Nawaz) would lead the movement and he would fully support her.

Water shortage

The members from Sindh, mainly belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party, strongly protested over water shortage in their province and threatened to launch street protests over the issue.

Khursheed Shah claimed there was no water even for drinking of cattle in Sindh. He said that the federal government would not be able to face wrath of the people if they started taking to the streets. He asked the government to announce “water emergency” in the country and immediately convene a meeting of the Indus River System Authority.

Nawab Yousuf Talpur said that the people were protesting in Mirpurkhas and tomorrow (on Friday) there would be a protest in Umerkot. The PPP MNA said that a massive protest would be held in Hyderabad on May 16 which would be attended by the opposition leader and other important politicians.

Former speaker of the National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza expressed concern over non-implementation of the 1991 Water Accord. She said that the water situation in lower Sindh, including her home constituency of Badin, was worse than upper Sindh.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2018