Islamabad: A Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Tuesday directed former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, a "proclaimed offender", to cooperate with investigators probing the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. (Agencies)
Musharraf was driven to the Rawalpindi-based court from his plush villa on the outskirts of Islamabad where he is under house arrest for charges dating back to his 9-year rule.
The former President appeared before Judge Chaudhry Habib-ur-Rehman for the first time since the Rawalpindi-based court began hearing the case in 2008. His lawyer asked the judge to withdraw an order declaring Musharraf a fugitive and to lift a freeze on his bank accounts and assets.
The court, which is conducting hearings behind closed doors for security reasons, had declared Musharraf a "proclaimed offender" or fugitive and frozen his assets in 2011 after he failed to cooperate with sleuths investigating the assassination. The former army chief's lawyer said these orders should be withdrawn as he was now appearing in the court.
Musharraf, 69, was accused of providing inadequate security to Bhutto after she returned to Pakistan from self-exile in late 2007. She was assassinated during a political rally in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. The judge directed Musharraf to cooperate with investigators and adjourned the case till May 3.
Chief prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali of the Federal Investigation Agency told reporters that Musharraf had not cooperated with investigators. "While he was on bail for a month, he did not join the investigation. Today was the first time he appeared in the court," he said.
Musharraf has been living at his farmhouse at Chak Shahzad, which was declared a "sub-jail" last week after he was remanded to judicial custody for a fortnight. After the hearing, he was driven back to his farmhouse amidst tight security.
Outside the court, scores of lawyers scuffled with a group of Musharraf's supporters. The lawyers beat the former dictator's supporters with sticks and damaged several cars. Footage on television showed both groups lobbing stones at each other on a street outside the court complex.
In a separate development, the Supreme Court resumed hearing five identical petitions seeking Musharraf's trial for treason for imposing emergency rule in 2007. Ahmad Raza Kasuri, the head of Musharraf's legal team, told the Apex Court that his client had no faith in the bench hearing the treason case. "My client has no faith in the bench hearing the case," Kasuri said.
The Supreme Court should first address the issue of forming a larger bench or handing over the case to the full court. Ibrahim Satti, another of Musharraf's lawyers, said his client's name should be removed from the Exit Control List, which has the names of people barred from travelling out of Pakistan.
Satti claimed the charge of treason was yet to be proved and adding Musharraf's name to the Exit Control List was a violation of his fundamental rights. Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, a member of the bench, said Musharraf should apply to the court if he wants to travel abroad.
Pakistan's interim government, formed last month to conduct the May 11 general election, informed the Supreme Court on Monday that it would not file treason charges against Musharraf. In a reply submitted to the court, it said such a move was not part of its mandate.
The caretaker administration said a decision on filing treason charges against Musharraf should be left to the winner of the election. Musharraf was arrested last week after the Islamabad High Court revoked his bail in a case related to the detention of over 60 judges during the 2007 emergency. He returned to Pakistan last month after nearly four years of self-exile, promising to "save" the country from economic ruin and militancy. However, he was barred from running in the May 11 general election, which will mark the first democratic transition of power in Pakistan’s history.
Islamabad: A Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Tuesday directed former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, a "proclaimed offender", to cooperate with investigators probing the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.