Former military ruler claims he will contest charges in Bhutto trial once he is medically fit to return
Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf said he would return to Pakistan to face trial in the murder case of ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
An anti-terrorism court on Thursday pronounced Musharraf a fugitive in the murder trial but acquitted five men accused of involvement in the 2007 assassination of Bhutto, the first female prime minister of a Muslim country.
In a statement issued to the media on Sunday, Musharraf said the verdict of the Rawalpindi Anti-Terrorism Court was not against him. “I will certainly come back to Pakistan and face the trial, as and when I am medically fit,” he said. “I have been framed in the Benazir Bhutto murder case by way of political victimization, while I had nothing to do with her untimely and tragic death,” he said. “I have not been the beneficiary of prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder and the entire case as pitched against me is materially false, fictitious, fabricated and is a result of political intrigue,” the former Army chief said.
The anti-terrorism court branded Musharraf as an absconder and ordered the confiscation of his property.
The verdicts are the first to be issued since Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack nearly a decade ago, sparking street violence and plunging Pakistan into months of political turmoil. Former president and military ruler Musharraf is alleged to have been part of a broad conspiracy to have his political rival killed before elections. He has denied the allegation.
He was charged with murder, criminal conspiracy for murder, and facilitation for murder in 2013, in an unprecedented move against an ex-Army chief, challenging beliefs the military is immune from prosecution. But he has been in self-imposed exile in Dubai ever since a travel ban was lifted three years later.
Musharraf’s government blamed the assassination on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement. He was killed in a U.S. drone attack in 2009. In 2010, a U.N. report accused Musharraf’s government of failing to give Bhutto adequate protection and said her death could have been prevented.