Rawalpindi’s anti-terrorism court formally indicted former Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf in connection with the 2007 murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto weeks after she returned to her home country after years of self-imposed exile.
Public prosecutor Chaudhry Muhammad Azhar said General Musharraf was charged on three counts -- murder, criminal conspiracy and facilitation of murder.
Benazir died in a suicide gun and bomb attack. The attack took place after a campaign rally in Rawalpindi, not far from court room where the charges were read out on Tuesday.
General Musharraf was president of Pakistan at the time of the Benazir’s murder. As chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party, she was campaigning before the country’s general elections. At the time, different inquiries held the government responsible for negligence that lead to Benazir’s killing.
General Musharraf appeared under heavy security at the Rawalpindi court as the charges were read out against him and six others who were also nominated in the case. These include government officials charged with the security of Benazir or those officials responsible for the possible cover-up of the murder incident.
Musharraf and the six men denied the charges against them and the court adjourned the hearing to August 27 when all accused will again be presented.
When the court resumes its proceedings, Musharraf will be tried for the murder of Benazir, say legal experts. If this happens, this will be the first time in Pakistan’s history that a former army chief will be tried on murder charges in any court.
For his part, General Musharraf did not make any statement. Instead, he let his lawyer, Ilyas Siddiqui, to deny all the charges. He appealed to the court to exempt Musharraf from further appearances considering the security risk involved. The court accepted the petition and allowed Musharraf exemption from further hearings.
Currently, Musharraf lives in his farmhouse on the outskirts of Islamabad which has been declared a sub-jail.
(With agency inputs)