Benazir Bhutto murder case: Pakistan court acquitted five suspected Taliban members

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International desk, August 31: A special Pakistani court has acquitted five suspected Taliban members of conspiracy to murder former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

The judges cited lack of evidence against them, but jailed two others, who were policemen, for negligence in failing to prevent the killing.

The court also declared ex-President Pervez Musharraf, who has been charged in the case, a fugitive from justice.

Ms Bhutto was killed in a gun and bomb attack after an election rally.

Mr Musharraf, an ex-army chief, has lived in self-imposed exile since last year, and faces having his property confiscated. He has not commented on the verdict and has denied having any role in the killing.

His government blamed the assassination on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement. He was killed in a US drone attack in 2009.

The chairman of Ms Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, said on Twitter that Thursday’s court ruling was “unacceptable” and that it would explore legal options.

Her daughter, Aseefa Bhuto Zardari, said: “We still await justice. Abettors punished but those truly guilty of my mothers murder roam free.”

She added: “There will be no justice till Pervez Musharraf answers for his crimes.”

A dominant figure in Pakistani politics, Ms Bhutto served twice as the country’s prime minister, from 1988 to 1990 and from 1993 to 1996.

Young and glamorous, she successfully portrayed herself as a refreshing contrast to the male-dominated political establishment.

But after her second fall from power, she became associated in the eyes of some with corruption and bad governance.

Ms Bhutto left Pakistan in 1999, but returned in October 2007 after then-President Musharraf granted her and others an amnesty from corruption charges.

She was set to take part in an election called by Mr Musharraf for January 2008.

But her homecoming procession in Karachi was bombed by suspected militants. She survived the attack, which killed well over 150 people, but would be assassinated two months later.

Source: Agencies