The Supreme Court on Monday advised suspects in the Benazir Bhutto murder case, including Interior Minister Rehman Malik, to step down from public offices so that an independent investigation can take place.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Tariq Pervez and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, also 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.
In this regard, it observed that, as long as high profile suspects hold offices, an independent investigation is not possible. “How can a sub-inspector have enough courage to probe someone at the helm of affairs?” questioned the chief justice.
Questioning the intentions of the PPP-led government, the court noted that Malik and another federal minister, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, were opposing the registration of a second FIR.
The advice came when Rehman Malik’s counsel Anwar Mansoor Khan sought one week’s time from the court to submit a reply. The chief justice rebutted: “You want to create obstacles in the proceedings? How much longer do you want to linger?”
Chief Justice Chaudhry then told the counsel that Rehman 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 then observed that, at the end of the day, a fair probe was not possible till the accused held the government office. Justice Khilji Arif Hussain noted the trend was that investigation teams were changed to hinder an independent probe.
Justice Tariq Pervez pointed out that Rehman 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. 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 Bhutto, 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.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2012.