The Supreme Court on Monday asked the suspects in Benazir Bhutto’s murder case, including interior minister Rehman Malik, to step down from their public offices so that an independent investigation can take place.
The three member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry comprised Justice Tariq Pervez and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain.
The court noted that a second FIR needs to be registered as the first did not include names of some of the key suspects such as Rehman Malik. It observed that as long as the senior ministers, the high profile suspects, hold offices, an independent investigation is not possible.
Malik’s counsel Anwar Mansoor Khan sought one week’s time from the court to submit a reply on which he was rebutted: “You want to create obstacles in the proceeding. How much longer do you want to linger the matter?”
Chief Justice Chaudhry told Mansoor that Malik should facilitate an independent probe by appearing before the court himself to clear his position as a suspect.
Mansoor replied that his client was ready to present himself, but the CJ said a fair probe was not possible till the accused held the government office. “How can a sub-inspector have enough courage to probe someone at the helm of affairs?”
Justice Hussain noted the trend was that investigation teams were changed to hinder an independent probe.
Justice Pervez pointed out that Malik had stated in his written reply submitted to the court that the accused were already in custody and their charge-sheets had been produced before the courts. The bench observed that the reply had also suggested that the case not be heard anymore.
Questioning the intentions of the PPP-led government, the court noted that Malik and another federal minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi were ‘opposing’ the registration of the second FIR.
The bench raised its concerns about the apathy plaguing the case. “Why did the government not publish the UN report on which Rs60 million of the taxpayers’ money was spent? Why have no steps been taken in light of the report? Why was the murder of an internationally acclaimed leader not taken up in the assemblies and relevant parliamentary forums?”
It also questioned the intentions of the petitioner Chaudhry Aslam, the protocol officer of Benazir, asking why he had not approached the court earlier.
No counsel appeared on behalf of former law minister Babar Awan. The case was adjourned till April 24.