Musharraf remanded for 14 days; Mallik might be interrogated

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FIA gathers evidence, Musharraf remanded
Islamabad, April 30: Pervez Musharraf was sent to judicial custody for a fortnight by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Tuesday, in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case.

The Federal Investigative Agency's (FIA) joint investigation team had completed its investigation against Parvez Musharraf and gathered "solid evidence" that directly connects the accused with the commission of the offences with which he has been charged, said FIA's chief prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali.

"Musharraf has tried to shift liability and responsibility on others but there is solid evidence which proves he is guilty," he said. Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf was sent to judicial custody for a fortnight by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court in the two-time Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto assassination case, whose Pakistan People's Party (PPP) came to power in February 2008. As the investigation had been completed, there was no need for the FIA to seek an extension in Musharraf's physical custody.

Though Musharraf was remanded to judicial custody for 14 days, the 69-year-old former military strongman will be held at his plush farmhouse at Chak Shahzad on the outskirts of Islamabad, which has been declared a "sub-jail". His party complains that he has been confined to two rooms and stripped of his personal staff. He also has been threatened with death by the Taliban.

Explaining the FIA's decision not to produce Musharraf in court, Ali told reporters that the Interior Ministry has issued an order, which said that the former president "faces the highest level of security threat". "Due to this very reason, he was not presented in court but he was sent on judicial remand," he said.

Bhutto was assassinated by a suicide bomber in December 2007, after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi. Musharraf was formally arrested by the FIA on April 25 after the anti-terrorism court directed investigators to include him in the probe into the assassination. He has been accused of failing to provide adequate security to Bhutto after she returned to Pakistan from self-exile. He was also declared a fugitive by the anti-terrorism court after he refused to cooperate with investigators.

The FIA is also planning to interrogate Pakistan's former Interior Minister Rehman Malik in this case after former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf told interrogators that Malik had decided details of security for the Dec 27, 2007, public meeting in Rawalpindi where Bhutto was assassinated.

FIA sources said that during interrogation Musharraf had denied his involvement in the murder and said Bhutto had been killed because of security breach for which Malik, being in-charge of her internal security, was responsible. The joint investigation team (JIT) for this case was constituted by Malik and it never examined him in connection with the murder case.

According to the sources, Musharraf said that it was Malik's responsibility to persuade Benazir not to come out of her bullet-proof car because police could not force her to remain inside.

Benazir Bhutto and 23 other people were killed in a terrorist attack outside the park after the rally, although 1,371 policemen had been deployed for her security.

The anti-terrorism court has adjourned the case till May 14.

Read: Musharraf permanently banned from contesting polls

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