RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has announced that it will seek the extradition of former President Pervez Musharraf after his refusal to appear before a Rawalpindi court on charges that he had failed to provide adequate security to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
“We have decided to write to the home secretary of the UK for General Musharraf’s extradition,” said a senior official of FIA on condition of anonymity. The decision was taken after a meeting on Saturday chaired by Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
Earlier on Saturday, an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi issued a warrant for the arrest of the former president after the special prosecutor handling the case alleged that Musharraf had not been cooperating with the investigation into the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto.
Later, a spokesperson for Musharraf’s new political party – the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) – said the former president would not be returning to Pakistan following the issuance of the arrest warrant. He also challenged the basis of the allegations against his party leader.
“How can the president of a country be made responsible for the non-provision of security?” asked Fawad Chaudhry, spokesman for the APML. “It is totally ridiculous. You cannot pin criminal responsibility on a president for that.”
Barrister Saif Ali Khan, the former president’s legal advisor, said that his client would contest the charges against him in court.
Pakistan and Britain do not have a formal extradition treaty, which is likely to make the process complicated, said Salman Akram Raja, a legal expert. Ultimately, the extradition request will depend upon relevant British laws, he added.
The prosecution, meanwhile, seems to be dealing with its own issues, including a change of guard at the helm of its team.
The interior minister has appointed Director FIA Wajid Zia as the new head of the team investigating the former premier’s murder. Zia replaced Khalid Qureshi who will leave this week for a seniority course at the Lahore Staff College to qualify as an Additional Inspector General of Police.
However some observers believe that the government was unhappy with Qureshi because he implicated Musharraf without taking the interior minister on board and revealed his findings in court. They also criticised Rehman Malik’s decision to appoint a junior official to head the JIT, fearing it might slow down the momentum of the investigation.
While the prosecution does not allege any direct conspiracy between Baitullah Mehsud, the former leader of the Pakistani Taliban, and former President Musharraf, it names both as jointly responsible for Bhutto’s death.
“Musharraf was equally responsible for facilitation and complicitiy in the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto through failure in providing her the requisite security that her status demanded as a twice-elected premier,” said a 57-page report submitted by the prosecution to the court.
According the prosecution, the former president was aware of the imminent danger to former Prime Minister Bhutto’s life but did not take enough actions to prevent her assassination. The prosecution also alleges that, in an e-mail he sent to the former premier, Musharraf linked the degree of security the government would provide Bhutto with her political cooperation to his efforts to stay in power after the 2008 elections.
Of particular concern to investigators is a meeting that took place immediately after the assassination on 27 December 2007 in which the former president allegedly gave orders for a government denial of responsibility to be issued. The prosecution claims that the government had determined the cause of the former premier’s death before it had received any autopsy reports. WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING FROM AFP
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2011.