Witnesses in Benazir Bhutto case speak of threats

Rawalpindi (Dawn/ANN) - A key prosecution witness in the high profile murder case of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto did not testify in the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) of Rawalpindi after allegedly receiving threats from Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The witness is a police officer, Sub Inspector (SI) Ashfaq Ahmed. He is at present working in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Lahore.

The ATC had summoned him to record his statement but he did not appear before the court. Ashfaq Ahmed, according to an official of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), switched off his mobile phone. However, the FIA produced before the court a written complaint by the SI that he had received threats from the TTP.

Ashfaq Ahmed alleged that an unknown leader of TTP called him on his cellphone and threatened to kill him and other members of his family if he appeared before the ATC to testify against the accused in the murder case.

The FIA official also produced two other similar complaints by the Station House Officer (SHO) of Civil Lines, Rawalpindi, Inspector Ijaz Hussain Shah, and Gujrat SHO Inspector Mohammad Ilyas about threats from the TTP. But both these officers appeared before the court.

According to the two SHOs, they received a call from Afghanistan on February 26. The unknown caller identified himself as the Taliban's deputy chief and warned them of `revenge' if they testified before the ATC.

On the other hand, an FIA official told Dawn that his organisation had traced the number to Afghanistan. "The FIA is carrying out further investigations to reach the unknown caller."

According to him, the security for key witnesses in the Benazir murder case had been stepped up after the recent threats.

Inspector Shah, the Pindi SHO, had recovered some evidence from two of the accused in the Benazir murder case - Rafaqat Hussain and Husnain Gul.

Inspector Ilyas, the Gujrat SHO, was a witness to the recovery made from the two key accused persons. According to the prosecution, the two SHOs were key witnesses in the BB murder case.



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