A trial court hearing the assassination case of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto reserved judgment on Saturday on an application seeking the unfreezing of one of Pervez Musharraf’s bank accounts. The former president’s bank account was seized after he was declared a proclaimed offender.
Anti-Terrorism Court Special Judge Chaudhry Habibur Rehman reserved the decision till July 25 on the application filed by the Habib Bank Limited (HBL) management.
The court will also decide on an application filed by a juvenile accused in the same case about the separation of his trial from the other arrested accused during the next hearing.
In its application, the bank argued that the account in question is a trust account rather than a personal one. The account is not solely controlled by Musharraf as it is for a welfare trust registered in the UK and is jointly operated by another man, Arif Amin. The account holds Rs60 million.
Federal Investigation Agency Special Public Prosecutor Chuadhry Zulfiqar Ali argued that the bank did not have any legal standing to ask for the unfreezing of the account.
“Under the law, no one can seek relief on behalf of a proclaimed offender (PO). [The PO] either has to surrender before the law or get bail from the concerned court before seeking any relief,” the prosecutor argued.
Zulfiqar argued that the trust is not registered in Pakistan and thus the account cannot be declared a welfare account. In addition, no traction showing any relief activity or welfare purpose had been shown by the bank to prove that the account is personal.
Separately, the court also reserved its decision on the application of Aitzaz Shah, a juvenile accused in the case who is seeking trial by regular court instead of the ATC.
Representing the accused, Advocate Naseer Tanoli Shah argued that Aitzaz was under 18 when he was arrested from Dera Ismail Khan in January 2008. “A juvenile cannot be tried under terror laws and alongside adults,” the lawyer argued.
FIA Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar, however, argued that President Asif Ali Zardari issued an ordinance in April this year declaring that a juvenile could be tried by an ATC.
He added that it was the exclusive jurisdiction of anti-terrorism courts to try all accused under terror laws and no exemption should be given to Shah, who was closely involved in the conspiracy to kill Bhutto. The decision on Aitzaz Shah’s plea will also be announced on July 25.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2012.