A Pakistani court has formally charged seven persons, including two senior police officers and five suspected Taliban fighters, for their alleged role in the killing of Benazir Bhutto, officials said.
Bhutto, who had twice been prime minster, was killed in a shooting and suicide attack in 2007 in the garrison city of Rawalpindi near the capital Islamabad as she was leaving a park after addressing an election rally.
Chaudhry Azhar, the public prosecutor, said the judge of the anti-terrorist court read out the indictment on Saturday in the presence of the accused who denied the charges. The proceedings were held in a high security prison in Rawalpindi.
Two police officers, Saud Aziz and Khurrum Shehzad, who were in charge of the security for Bhutto, were accused of negligence by failing to provide adequate protection on the day of the assassination.
The five militants were charged with criminal conspiracy. They allegedly helped the bomber and the gunman.
Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who was president when Bhutto was killed, was not charged.
He is wanted by the police in the case after the court issued an arrest warrant early this year, but has not been taken into custody. Property was officially confiscated from him in August after his failure to appear in court for his alleged negligence over security.
“Putting charges on these people, we must understand one thing. The court decides cases on the basis of investigations put before them. And if we look at the investigation of this case, it has been badly politicised. Politicised by the government and the international agencies that came over here. It wasn’t able to reach to the basics and to the main culprits,” Nadeem Iqbal, a Pakistani political commentator told Al Jazeera from Islamabad.
“Now you are just accusing and putting charges on a few police officers and making them the scapegoats, but what about the senior hands who gave orders and passed orders to these police officers.
“One cannot expect from a country which is badly politically ridden and where the corruption is on the helm of affairs, there you cannot expect free and fair investigations. The public at large is also not satisfied with the investigations. even the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the old guard and the majority of the political workers are not satisfied and [they are] showing their concerns.
“Musharraf has to be brought in… Until and unless the main suspect in the eyes of the public – that it Pervez Musharraf – until and unless you will not bring him in, things will not resolve. If we want justice to prevail, we must forget that Musharraf belongs to the Pakistan army or some other influences; we must bring him to the court,” Nadeem Iqbal said.
The killing of Bhutto swept her Pakistan People’s Party to power in 2008 and her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, became president.
So far nobody has been convicted, as the court proceedings have moved at a snail’s pace. In 1988, Bhutto became the first female prime minister of any Muslim country.