‘Musharraf’s threatening call to Benazir could not be traced’

Islamabad, May 6 (IANS) The head of the joint investigation team probing former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination said on Thursday that the team could not trace the threatening call allegedly made by then president Pervez Musharraf to Bhutto.

Mohammad Khalid Qureshi, the JIT chief, was the last prosecution witness in the high-profile assassination case, Dawn online reported.

During cross-examination by Barrister Farogh Nasim, counsel for Musharraf, in the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) at Rawalpindi, Qureshi admitted that JIT could not trace the call.

However, Qureshi expressed the possibility that Musharraf might have made the call from any of his official phones.

The prosecution case was based on a 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.

Bhutto said that 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.

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

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

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

The prosecution had alleged that Aziz got the crime scene washed to destroy the evidence at the direction of Musharraf.

In the written statement recorded with the ATC, Qureshi said: “During the investigation of this case, I also personally recorded statements of … retired General Hameed Gul, retired Brigadier Ejaz Shah, retired General Tauqeer Zia, Senator Rehman Malik, Khusro Pervez and many others. I issued a questionnaires to a number of people, including former secretary interior Syed Kamal Shah.”

He also said that he included Musharraf, Deputy Inspector General Aziz and Senior Superintendent of Police Khurram Shahzad in the high-profile murder case.

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

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



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