KARACHI, May 6 Three policemen and a driver of the Edhi trust appeared before a sessions court on Wednesday as prosecution witnesses in the Murtaza Bhutto murder case and recorded their testimonies.

The four witnesses - SSP Farooq Awan, two sub-inspectors, Zaheeruddin and Azam Khan, and a driver of Edhi welfare trust, Mohammad Sarwar - appeared in court and recorded their testimonies.

SSP Farooq Awan, who was then the SHO of the Clifton police station, testified that on November 9, 1996, a man, Noor Mohammad, came to the police station and showed an order of the Sindh High Court directing the police to register another FIR of the Murtaza Bhutto murder case.

He said that the then duty officer registered the FIR (443/1996) and later he was informed that the then SSP, A.D. Khawaja, would investigate the case. He added that his statement was recorded on Nov 20, 1996.

Sub-Inspector Zaheeruddin said that he was posted as assistant sub-inspector at the Garden police station and on September 20, 1996 he was patrolling in the area in an armoured personnel carrier when he received directives to reach Clifton near Do Talwar Roundabout.

He deposed that on the directives of the then ASP Clifton he went to 70 Clifton where the rescue operation was going on and he remained there in the armoured vehicle.

Sub-Inspector Azam Khan testified that he was posted as assistant sub-inspector at the Kharadar police station and was deputed in the security squad of the then Sindh chief minister, adding that on Sept 20, 1996 he was asked to report to then SHO Clifton Haq Nawaz Siyal. He said that when he reached Clifton the SHO was present there along with then SSP Wajid Durrani and some other police officials.

He stated that SHO Siyal deployed him near the helipad where the CM's helicopter was about to land.

He said that the helicopter landed there and then took off, but he was unsure whether the CM was in the helicopter since he was asked to turn around and not look back. Later, he said his statement was recorded by the investigation officer.

The driver of the Edhi trust, Mohammad Sarwar, deposed that on Sept 20, 1996 he was asked to reach Clifton as there was an emergency. He added that he rushed to the spot and remained there for some hours. He said his statement was recorded on Nov 20, 1996.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Aftab Ahmed, who is conducting the trial, adjourned the hearing till May 9 and directed the SHO Clifton to produce other prosecution witnesses on the next date of hearing.

Mir Murtaza Bhutto, the chief of Shaheed Bhutto faction of the Pakistan People's Party, his close aide Ashique Jatoi, and his six comrades were shot dead in an alleged police encounter near his Clifton residence on Sept 20, 1996.

Shoaib Suddle, Wajid Durrani, Masood Sharif, Shahid Hayat, Rai Mohammed Tahir, Shabbir Ahmed Qaimkhani, Agha Mohammed Jameel and other policemen are facing trial in the case. President Asif Ali Zardari was also one of the accused in the case but the court acquitted him for want of evidence.

Dr Aafia's repatriation

An additional district and sessions judge (east) dismissed on Wednesday an application seeking registration of a case regarding the abduction of Dr Aafia Siddiqui and her children.The applicant, Khalid Mumtaz, had filed an application under Section 22-A of the Criminal Procedure Code in the court of district and sessions judge (east) who referred the application to the Vth additional district and sessions judge (east).

However, Judge Manawwar Sultana dismissed the plea and observed that the applicant had no relation with the victims.

The applicant said that on March 28, 2003 Dr Aafia Siddiqui was picked up with her children when she was on her way home in Block 7 of Gulshan-i-Iqbal apparently by the police and personnel of intelligence agencies and later she was handed over to the American authorities.

He further contended that the victim and her children were picked up at the behest of retired general Pervez Musharraf, the then inspector-general of Sindh police and the federal interior and provincial home secretaries.

The applicant concluded that the family members of the victims approached the Gulshan-i-Iqbal police station to lodge an FIR of the incident, but the police declined to register the case.

He appealed to the court to direct the SHO concerned to register a case against the responsible persons.

50 given in judicial custody

More than 50 suspects picked up in different parts of the city in connection with the recent acts of violence were remanded in jail custody.

The police produced the suspects in different courts of judicial magistrates on Wednesday. Earlier, they were remanded in police custody.

The suspects were arrested in different parts of the city in the aftermath of the ethnic violence that left over 30 people dead. The cases against them were registered at the Bilal Colony, New Karachi, Pirabad, Sharea Faisal, Shah Faisal Colony, Khawaja Ajmair Nagri, New Karachi Industrial Area and some other police stations.

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