Witnesses against Musharraf back off

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RAWALPINDI: Progress of the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) probe into former premier Benazir Bhutto’s murder stands frozen: police refuse to produce the key accused, former general (retd) Pervez Musharraf, to court in view of security threats, while nominated witnesses are shying away from the case, Daily Express has learnt.

Amidst all these challenges, a hearing has been scheduled at the Rawalpindi Anti-Terrorism Court-1 for July 9 (today).

The FIA had listed six ‘very strong witnesses’ against Musharraf – all of whom are evading the court. If any of them is forced to see a judge, he/she will not testify against the former general, they informed authorities.

The key witness, American journalist Mark Siegel, has flatly refused to fly to Pakistan for court proceedings. Instead, he suggested that if the court desired evidence from him, ‘it’ should come to the US. Another American journalist, Ron Sexton, has also declined to visit Pakistan to testify.

Similarly, witnesses such as former director general of the Intelligence Bureau Brig (retd) Ejaz Shah, former spokesperson of the foreign office Brig (retd) Javed Iqbal Cheema and former interior secretary Syed Kamal Shah, all of whom have been nominated in the challan, refuse to testify against the key accused, who is also their former boss.

The FIA itself seems unnerved by the high-profile case as officials in the agency are also reported to be uncertain about testifying.

Hopes of receiving evidence by police officers, whose names were included as witnesses against former DIG Saud Aziz, are also dim. Aziz, who rounded up five accused in the case, was himself accused of murder by the FIA during the Pakistan Peoples Party government.

The five accused had confessed to their involvement in the former prime minister’s murder on the instructions of Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud.

Moreover, none of the slain premier’s blood relations, including her sister Sanam Bhutto, husband President Asif Ali Zardari, son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, or daughters Aseefa Bhutto and Bakhtawar Bhutto, have ever pursued the assassination case.

Family members of the 23 Pakistan Peoples Party workers who died in the incident, or the other 80 who were injured, have never pursued the case either.

Meanwhile, the police and the jail administration have decided not to bring Musharraf to court from his sub-jail in Chak Shehzad in the outskirts of Islamabad. The application prepared in this regard says that he cannot be produced before the court for severe security threats.

The accused also has filed an application in the court seeking exemption from attending the court till judgment of the case. The hearing of his application will also be held today.

Sources: The Express Tribune

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