In response to President Asif Ali Zardari’s speech on December 27 criticising the judiciary, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday that it may constitute a larger bench to address the Benazir Bhutto assassination case.
The court also issued notices to former president Pervez Musharraf, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Vice President of the Pakistan Peoples Party Dr Babar Awan and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid leader Pervaiz Elahi, along with others allegedly involved in the case, to submit replies to the court.
Heading a three-member bench, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry asked Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq to take directives from the government in this regard.
The chief justice also ordered the special judge of an anti-terrorism court to submit photocopies of the FIR registered in the case, reports and records, and a summary of the progress made in the case so far, by the next hearing.
The court observed that the case was serious in nature and that people wanted to know the truth behind Bhutto’s assassination.
The three-member bench, comprising the chief justice, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Tariq Pervaiz, said that the court was concerned because President Zardari had earlier remarked publicly that the court was not taking the matter seriously.
The chief justice observed that the court would have taken a suo motu action in the case, but did not because a petition was submitted to the court.
Referring to the grievances of Ch Aslam, the petitioner in the case, Justice Chaudhry asked the attorney general why the government was not giving preference to record the statement of an eyewitness who had received injuries when Bhutto was assassinated.
The AG replied that as per investigation conducted by three independent bodies other aspects of the case are also being considered and cases against Musharraf and other officials as mentioned in the petition are already pending before the courts.
During the hearing, the chief justice asked the attorney general if he was satisfied with the progress of the investigation. The AG said that, there was no problem in the case so far, and that the investigations were ongoing.
He also specified that there have so far been three different probes into Bhutto’s assassination – one by the Scotland Yard, a United Nations Commission’s report and by a joint investigation team.
In response, the chief justice said that the UN commission’s report was civil in nature, not criminal. He added that it was the government’s job to take assistance from the report and carry out an independent investigation.
The court, while questioning the Federal Investigation Agency’s credibility, observed that it was compulsory to have an independent investigation body comprising senior officials from all four provinces.
Meanwhile, lawyer Chaudhry Amjad Iqbal submitted an affidavit to the court on behalf of the two alleged suspects in the case – Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema and Kamal Shah, saying that his clients were not involved in the case.
A petition was filed earlier in the court, requesting that a new FIR in BB assassination case be lodged.
The petitioner, Advocate Chaudhry Aslam, who was Bhutto’s former chief protocol officer, prayed to the court that the first FIR submitted in the case did not mention the names of the ‘real culprits’.
The court adjourned the hearing for two weeks.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2012.