A Pakistan anti-terrorism court declared former president and army general Pervez Musharraf [Britannica profile] a fugitive from the law [Reuters report] on Thursday concerning the assassination of former prime minister, and first female leader in the Muslim world, Benazir Bhutto [Britannica profile]. The court further ordered the seizure of Musharaf’s property in Pakistan and acquitted five members of the Pakistan wing of Taliban for lack of evidence of their involvement in the assassination. However, Khawaja Mohammad Imtiaz, the special prosecutor for the Pakistan Federal Investigation Agency, expressed his surprise at the acquittal, adding that three of the five men confessed to their roles in the assassination. Additionally, the court found a police officer guilty of mishandling security and another officer guilty of tampering with the crime scene. Specifically, Imtiaz said that one officer oversaw “a deliberate security lapse,” while the other washed away the crime scene within two hours of the assassination and also delayed the post mortem. Both officers have been sentenced to 17 years in prison and a fine [Al Jazeera report] of PKR 500,000 or US $4,700. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the current leader of the slain Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party [official website] called the release of the five individuals “dangerous” and “unacceptable,” while Bhutto’s daughter Aseefa Zardari stated in a tweet: “There will be no justice till Pervez Musharraf answers for his crimes!”
Musharraf has been actively pursued by Pakistan authorities for a number of years now. Musharraf was indicted in August 2013 [Al Jazeera report] for his involvement in Bhutto’s assassination, but was allowed to leave the country for health reasons in 2016, and has been in self-imposed exile ever since in Dubai. In March 2013, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] Pakistan to hold Musharraf accountable for alleged human rights abuses upon his return to the country. In August 2011, a court ordered [JURIST report] seizure of Musharraf’s property and froze his bank account after he failed to respond to multiple subpoenas regarding the assassination investigation. In February 2011, Pakistan authorities issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for Musharraf but were unable to serve the warrant because he was in London. The warrant was issued weeks after investigations revealed [JURIST report] that Musharraf had issued orders to the police officers accused of failing to protect Bhutto to remove security detail for her departure on the day of her assassination.