Pervez Musharraf arrest warrant for Benazir Bhutto slaying

A PAKISTANI court has issued an arrest warrant for former President Pervez Musharraf over the assassination of ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

“Judge Rana Nisar Ahmad has issued non-bailable warrant for former President Pervez Musharraf and directed him to appear before the court on February 19,” public prosectur Chaudhry Zulfiqar told AFP.

He said that “a joint investigation team that had been formed to probe the assassination said in its report Musharraf had involvement in the case and was equally responsible.”

“The report said it was a broad conspiracy involving Pervez Musharraf, two police officials and terrorists,” Ali said after the closed-door hearing that took place in Rawalpindi’s Adiala prison.

Musharraf, who was president when Bhutto was killed in 2007, is in self-imposed exile in London.

Musharraf’s spokesman in London said that he will not comply with the warrant.

“No, he won’t be going back for this hearing,” Fawad Chaudhry said, adding that the warrant was “totally ridiculous”.

Asked what would happen if Musharraf did not appear in the court on the next date of the hearing, the prosecutor said: “We will see when the time comes.”

In December, police arrested two senior police officers, Saud Aziz and Khurram Shahzad, for alleged dereliction of duty over the assassination of Bhutto after a court issued their arrest warrants.

Aziz, who was city police chief at the time of the killing, and Shahzad, another senior policeman in Rawalpindi, had been arrested for their “failure” to protect Bhutto.

Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide attack after addressing an election campaign rally in the garrison city, near the capital Islamabad, on December 27, 2007.

Bhutto, who served two terms as prime minister, returned from exile two months before she was assassinated to stand for election.

Her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, led her Pakistan People’s Party to election victory in February 2008 and is now president.

In April, a UN panel accused the government of failing to provide Bhutto with adequate protection and said investigations were hampered by intelligence agencies and other officials who impeded “an unfettered search for the truth”.

Former military leader Musharraf has lived in London since he was replaced by the elected Zardari.

At the time of Bhutto’s death, Musharraf’s government blamed the assassination on Pakistan’s Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement.

Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack in August 2009, one of the most high-profile casualties of the covert American campaign targeting Al-Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border.

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