An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan on Thursday acquitted five Taliban members accused of assassinating former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi.
Two senior police officials have been sentenced to 17 years in prison for their criminal negligence in washing the crime scene immediately after the murder.
The court has declared former president and military ruler General Pervez Musharraf as absconder in the case for repeatedly failing to appear before it.
Judge Mohammed Asghar Khan of the Anti-Terrorist Court announced the decision in the high-security Adiala prison.
The judge’s reader later told the media about the ruling.
The two police officials convicted by the court are former Rawalpindi Police Chief Saud Aziz and SSP Operations Khurram Shahzad. They were arrested after the judge announced the ruling as they were out on bail earlier.
Justice not done, says PPP
The Pakistan People’s Party expressed disappointment and shock over the verdict in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case announced on Thursday by the Anti-Terrorism court in Rawalpindi.
It said justice has not been done, nor seems to have been done.
The acquittal of Al Qaeda/Taliban terrorists against whom evidence had been provided was most surprising and raised several questions. On its face it seemed a triumph of Al Qaeda militants, the party said.
Two police officers have been convicted and sentenced. But the question as to who had ordered them to wash the place of occurrence and destroy crucial evidence had not been addressed. The conviction of the police officers will remain weak unless those giving orders to them were also tried and convicted.
The prosecutor in the case Chaudhry Zulfiqar was assassinated just when he had reached the critical stage and set to oppose the bail application of General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf
The FIR in the case was registered by the Punjab police without consulting the family and without making the PPP a party to it.
The Party recalled the apprehensions expressed by Benazir about the plot to assassinate her. It is common knowledge and she had stated it in so many words that Gen. Musharraf had threatened her that if she returned to Pakistan before the elections her life would be in danger.
Since the PPP was not a party to the case it demanded that the government immediately file an appeal against the verdict. The PPP would also employ legal instruments to mount its claim to become a party to the case and file an appeal against the verdict.
The Party will give a detailed response after the full judgment has been made public.
Those acquitted by the anti-terrorism court on Thursday were Taliban members Rafqat Hussain, Hasnain Gul, Abdul Rashid, Sher Zaman and Aitzaz Shah. Former Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud was believed to have hatched the conspiracy to kill Benazir Bhutto. Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistani tribal agency South Waziristan in August 2009.
The two-time Prime Minister was killed on December 27 2007 after she concluded her election rally in Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi. Her car was attacked by a suicide bomber and a shooter. But investigations said she was killed after she fell inside her sun-roof and hit the ledge. Many still believe she was shot in her head.
A United Nations-led investigation team by Scotland Yard also concluded that she was killed but did not probe the cause of her death or her killers or their objective as it was not in its mandate.