ISLAMABAD: Expressing concern over a ‘broken criminal justice system’ and an inordinate delay in the Benazir Bhutto murder case, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has called for an overhaul of the justice system involving creating a separate constitutional court in the country besides the Supreme Court, provision of appeal against decisions in all suo motu cases and a review of the procedure for appointment of superior court judges.
The demand was made by PPP Secretary General Farhatullah Babar and former attorney general for Pakistan Latif Khosa at a news conference at Zardari House here on Tuesday.
Mr Khosa alleged that the judiciary had double standards in dealing terrorism-related cases. On one hand, he said, the Supreme Court had stayed the Peshawar High Court’s order of releasing 76 people who had been convicted by military courts on terrorism charges and on the other hand, the five accused of the Benazir Bhutto murder case had been set free despite the fact that they had made “judicial confessional statements” before a magistrate.
He claimed that two of these five acquitted persons had received the suicide bombers from a bus stand and kept them at a house in Rawalpindi and their involvement had been proved through the DNA tests of the bombers carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the US.
In September last year, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Rawalpindi had acquitted five suspects allegedly linked with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for lack of evidence while announcing its verdict in the Benazir Bhutto murder case. The ATC, however, had convicted two senior police officials Saud Aziz and Khurram Shehzad in the case for their failure to provide security to Ms Bhutto.
The ATC judge had announced the judgement during in-camera proceedings at Adiala jail, declaring former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf a proclaimed offender in the case and ordering the attachment of his movable and immovable properties.
The PPP leader said that former president Asif Zardari had filed an appeal against the ATC’s verdict, which was still pending. He said 11 years had passed since Ms Bhutto was assassinated outside Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi, but the case was still unresolved.
Mr Khosa, a lawyer by profession, criticised the authorities for not conducting a post-mortem on the slain leader. In response to allegations that her spouse had not allowed the authorities to conduct autopsy, he said no such permission from legal heirs was required. He said no one had the powers to allow or stop post-mortem in such cases.
The PPP leader said that no one was held answerable over such a huge incident and the police officials who were deputed on duty were allowed to continue to work for ensuring a “complete cover-up”.
He recalled Ms Bhutto had already complained that Gen Musharraf had withdrawn her security and “if anything happens to her he will be responsible for it” and said it was testified by American journalist and lobbyist Mark Siegel.
He said Gen Musharraf did not appear in the court and was even declared a proclaimed offender. However, he said, the former military dictator appeared before the court after five years and demanded that the proceedings should be initiated again at a time when they had already managed to record statements of 27 witnesses.
Responding to a question, Mr Khosa said the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had agreed in the Charter of Democracy that there should be a separate constitutional court in the country, besides the Supreme Court. However, he said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif backtracked from the agreement and now “he is facing the music”.
PPP Secretary General Farhatullah Babar said his party wanted a complete overhaul of the justice system in the country. He said the PPP also wanted an amendment to the Constitution to provide right of appeal against decisions in all suo motu cases under Article 184(3).
Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2018