The Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi on Tuesday directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to include General (retd) Pervez Musharraf in its investigation into Benazir Bhutto’s murder and granted his request to meet his lawyers.
The former president, who appeared before the ATC for the first time, rose from his seat to show respect to the judge when he entered the courtroom.
Earlier in the day, FIA’s Special Public Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali had obtained an order to present Musharraf before the court from the judge and the Rawalpindi police was directed to present him in court. He obtained the order after a rift developed between Islamabad and Rawalpindi police on who would transport Musharraf from his Chak Shahzad farmhouse, now a sub-jail, to ATC-1.
At the start of the proceedings, Ali informed ATC-1 Special Judge Chaudhry Habibur Rehman that the agency formally arrested Musharraf, who is accused of conspiracy to murder former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
The FIA prosecutor told Rehman that the former president did not appear before the agency’s investigators after obtaining pre-arrest interim bail from the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench on April 17.
However, the retired general’s counsel, Advocate Salman Safdar, said his client was unable to appear before the FIA, because he was placed under house arrest in the judges’ sacking case.
Safdar also filed three appeals requesting the court to unfreeze Musharraf’s assets and bank accounts, repeal the decision to declare him a proclaimed offender and to allow his lawyers to meet him, the third of which was granted.
The court also admitted his appeal to unfreeze the assets and bank accounts and issued a notice to the FIA in this regard.
Regarding the court’s decision to declare Musharraf a proclaimed offender, Safdar asked the court to withdraw it, saying he had surrendered himself. However, the ATC decided to discuss the matter at the next hearing.
The prosecutor and the FIA were asked to complete their investigation against the ex-general and submit a challan at the next hearing on May 3.
Lawyers, APML supporters clash outside court
Outside the court premises, dozens of lawyers and supporters of the ex-president clashed, leaving several injured.
The clashes began after an All Pakistan Muslim League activist pushed a lawyer.
A heavy police and paramilitary troop presence failed to break up the clashes between the APML activists and anti-Musharraf lawyers.
Musharraf’s supporters were armed with sticks and pelted the lawyers with stones. The lawyers retaliated in kind.
Clashes between the police and APML workers were also triggered when an activist slapped a police officer. Police baton-charged and arrested some of them.
Some of the lawyers also abused journalists at the scene, accusing them of supporting Musharraf’s sympathisers. They also vandalised a vehicle carrying banners of the APML chief.
Members of the legal fraternity also attacked some passersby after mistaking them for Musharraf’s supporters. The police only intervened at the end when APML workers dispersed.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2013.