Benazir case may face further delays
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By Malik Asad | 3/19/2016 12:00:00 AM
ISLAMABAD: The Benazir Bhutto murder case may face further delays after one of the accused, former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, left for Dubai early Friday morning after his name was removed from the exit control list (ECL).

The announcement to remove Mr Musharraf`s name from ECL was made on Thursday by Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan who said at a press conference that the government has decided to allow the retired general to travel abroad for treatment after the Supreme Court lifted a ban on his foreign travels a day ago.

Mr Musharraf was implicated as an accused by the then PPP government in 2010 for the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was killed at a rally in Liaquat Bagh in December 2007.

The PPP government also implicated deputy inspector general Saud Aziz and SSP Khurram Shahzad as accused persons, alleging they did not provide adequate security to the former prime minister, which led to her death in a terrorist attack.

The prosecution in the Benazir murdercase had planned to summon its last three witnesses in the coming week, after which the former president and the other accused men were required to give their statements under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) before the court.

According to Khawaja Imtiaz, special prosecutor in the case, the trial would have been complete in a couple of weel(s and that because the retired generalleft for abroad, it may now drag on for a few months.

He said the former president was required to cross examine the three remaining witnesses through his counsel and that the process may slow down because of his absence.

Mr Imtiaz said that because Mr Musharraf may not be in the country to testify under section 342 of CrPC, and in case he does not return, the prosecution will be requesting the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi to record his statement via a video link.

`Recording his statement and cross examining him through a video linl( may take a month or two after which the court will be able to conclude the trial proceedings and issue its verdict,` Mr Imtiaz said.

The trial has already been delayed before because the former president wasout of the country, Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, PPP secretary general said.

He recalled that the court had declared the former military ruler a proclaimed offender and had also started the process of the attachment of his properties before he returned.

When Mr Musharraf had come bacl< the trial was halfway through and 35 prosecution witnesses had been examined, he said.

`The court started a de-novo trial after Musharraf was indicted, as was required by the law and those 35 witnesses had to be re-examined, which took a couple of years,` Mr Khosa explained.

Mr Khosa said that about 30 arrest warrants were issued for the former dictator and yet, he had never appeared before a court in this regard and that the government had not tried to procure his attendance through law enforcement agencies either.

The Supreme Court had never directed the government to remove Mr Musharraf`s name from ECL and it was the government which was `eager` to send him back, Mr Khosa said.

However, talking to Dawn, the lead counsel for the retired general, Barrister Farogh Nasim, maintained that his client`s departure may not affect the pace of the trial.