Musharraf's Threat Call to Benazir Could Not be Traced: JIT

Sajjad Hussain/Islamabad
Musharraf's Threat Call to Benazir Could Not be Traced: JIT

Former Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf's alleged threatening call to ex-premier Benazir Bhutto in 2007 could not be traced, according to the joint investigation team probing her assassination.

During cross-examination by Barrister Farogh Nasim, Musharraf's counsel, in the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Rawalpindi, joint investigation team (JIT) chief Mohammad Khalid Qureshi admitted that his team could not trace the call either from the two mobile phones of Bhutto or the ex-military chief's cellphone.

However, he said that there was a possibility that the then President Musharraf may have made the call from any of his official phones.

Qureshi, who is a former additional director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), was the last prosecution witness in the high-profile murder case, Dawn News reported.

The prosecution's case was based on the threatening call which Musharraf allegedly made to Bhutto while she was at the office of US Congressman Tom Lantos.

According to the prosecution, US lobbyist Mark Siegel claimed that on September 25, 2007, in his presence at the office of Congressman Lantos in Washington, Bhutto received a telephone call which she later described as "a very bad call" from Musharraf.

The statement said the former military ruler had warned Bhutto that "her safety depends on the state of their (Musharraf and Benazir's) relationship".

According to Siegel, Bhutto sent him an email on October 26, 2007, in which she expressed her sense of insecurity. She also said if something happened to her, she would hold the military ruler responsible, apart from the individuals mentioned in her letter to Musharraf on October 16, 2007.

The individuals Bhutto had mentioned in the letter were -- retired Brigadier Ejaz Shah, retired Lt Gen Hameed Gul and former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi.

During the cross-examination, Nasim asked Qureshi whether he submitted any forensic report of the email to the ATC.

In response, Qureshi admitted that no forensic report was submitted to the court and said the email was sent from two official accounts of Bhutto and did not need any forensic audit.

Qureshi also denied of having any direct evidence of the conversation between Musharraf and the then city police officer Rawalpindi Saud Aziz.

The prosecution had alleged that Aziz washed the crime scene to destroy the evidence on Musharraf's direction.

Bhutto, former two-time premier, was killed on December 27, 2007, when she was coming out of a park in Rawalpindi after addressing an election rally.

In the written statement recorded with the ATC, Qureshi said, "during the investigation of this (Benazir murder) case, I also personally recorded statements of...Retired General Hameed Gul, retired Brigadier Ejaz Shah, Zamurd Khan (former MD Baitul Maal), Farhatullah Babar, retired General Tauqeer Zia, Senator Rehman Malik, Khusro Pervez, retired Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema and issued questionnaires to a number of people, including former secretary interior Syed Kamal Shah."

He also said he included Musharraf, DIG Aziz and SSP Khurram Shahzad in the high-profile murder case.

When Nasim told him that he had some personal grudge with Musharraf due to which he implicated him in the murder case, Qureshi replied that he was the head of the counter-terrorism wing of the FIA and had probed several high-profile cases.

He denied having any personal grudge with Musharraf and said he was also the investigating officer in a terrorist attack on Musharraf in 2003 in which the court awarded life imprisonment to six persons.

On the request of senior lawyer Malik Rafique, ATC Judge Rai Ayub Khan Marth adjourned the proceedings yesterday to May 11 when Rafique would cross examine the JIT head.

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