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TTP members arrested for Benazir Bhutto murder granted bail

08 May, 2018

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RAWALPINDI: The five suspected Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members who had been arrested for conspiring to assassinate Pakistan Peoples Party chairperson and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 were granted bail on surety bonds worth Rs500,000 each on Monday.

A two-member Rawal­pindi bench of the Lahore High Court comprising Justice Mirza Waqas and Justice Sardar Serfraz granted bail to the TTP suspects — Abdul Rashid, Aitzaz Shah, Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul and Sher Zaman — who were shifted to the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore from the Adiala jail on Nov 28, 2017.

Ms Bhutto was assassinated in a gun-and-bomb attack after her election rally in Liaquat Bagh on Dec 27, 2007. For her assassination, the then government of Gen Pervez Musharraf had blamed TTP chief Baituallah Mehsud, who later denied any involvement in her killing.

When the Punjab prison authorities were contacted, the officials said they had not received the court orders for the release on bail of the five TTP suspects from the Kot Lakhpat jail.

However, an official of the prison department said the release orders were likely to be received on Tuesday or Wednesday. He added that the provincial government could extend their detention as the Punjab government had the legal authority to do so.

On Monday, the two-member LHC bench accepted the plea of the father of Aitzaz Shah, one of the five suspects, who said he had nothing left to pay fee to his lawyers. The court ordered their release on submission of surety bonds worth Rs 500,000 by each suspect.

The bench further directed the authorities concerned to ensure their presence at every hearing of the case.

Earlier, an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Rawalpindi in its Aug 31, 2017 verdict acquitted the five TTP suspects and handed down 17-year jail terms to two police officers for criminal negligence in ordering the hosing down of the crime-scene and their failure to provide security to Ms Bhutto. The ATC also declared retired Gen Pervez Musharraf an absconder in the case.

Soon after their acquittal by the ATC, the five TTP suspects were detained for 30 days at the Adiala central jail on the recommendation of the Counter-Terrorism Department of the Punjab police. On Sept 1, 2017, a CTD district officer informed the Rawalpindi district administration through a letter that the release from jail of Sher Zaman, resident of North Wazirstan, would be prejudicial to public safety and maintenance of public order. The district administration subsequently issued detention orders under Section 26 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) ordinance for the five suspects for a period of one month. After the completion of the month-long detention, they were detained for another 60 days.

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