KARACHI, April 9: The Sindh High Court accepted on Wednesday a revision plea of PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and acquitted him in the Mir Murtaza Bhutto murder case.

The application was moved under Section 561-A of the Criminal Procedure Code read with Sections 435 and 439 of CrPC by Mr Zardari’s counsel for revision of a trial court order rejecting Mr Zardari’s acquittal plea.

In his short order, Justice Syed Pir Ali Shah of the SHC allowed the revision plea and acquitted Mr Zardari after hearing final arguments.

The applicant’s counsel, Mr Shaukat Zubadi, on the order of the court, produced a copy of an earlier acquittal application which had been rejected in 2005 by a trial court.

The court asked the counsel to read out the grounds adopted in the previous acquittal plea. Mr Zubadi told the court that Ms Benazir Bhutto and Mr Asif Ali Zardari had cordial relations with Mr Murtaza Bhutto, except for some political differences, and the couple had offered Mr Bhutto financial assistance when he was in Syria in the early 90s.

The counsel said that Mr Bhutto had never accused Mr Zardari of hatching a conspiracy against him.

He also said that medico-legal officer Dr Ayaz Ali, in his statement recorded in the trial court, had said that Mr Bhutto was seriously injured when he was brought to the hospital and he was not in a position to speak and medical reports confirmed that he could not speak since he had suffered serious injuries in the head, and the prosecution’s version that Mr Bhutto had stated that “they have won and we have lost” appeared to be false.

He said that this addition had been made by the last investigation officer, adding that the prosecution was relying on the so-called conspiracy witnesses, which were included in the last FIR.

State counsel Illyas Khan told the court that a conspirator could not be acquitted because that would affect the case against the co-accused.

Sarfaraz Khan Tanoli advocate, representing the widow of Mr Ashique Jatoi, submitted that the trial court order rejecting the acquittal plea was legal and in accordance with the findings of the evidence and witnesses examined by the court.

When the court asked Mr Tanoli and the state counsel to provide the names of conspirators in the case, Mr Tanoli said the names were mentioned in the trial court’s order.

State counsel Illyas mentioned the names of Asif Ali Zardari, Shoaib Suddle, Wajid Ali Durrani, Masood Sharif and Abdullah Shah. Mir Murtaza Bhutto, his close aide Ashique Hussain Jatoi and six workers and supporters of PPP (Shaheed Bhutto) were killed on Sept 20, 1996, near Mr Bhutto’s residence in Clifton in an alleged shootout with police.

Mr Zardari, Shoaib Suddle, Wajid Durrani, Masood Sharif, Shahid Hayat, Rai Mohammed Tahir, Shabbir Ahmed Qaimkhani, Agha Mohammed Jameel and other policemen were the accused in the case which had been pending in the court of additional district and sessions judge-II, East, since 1996.

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