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China’s Himalayan Climb-Down: edit in The Wall St Journal

A three-month standoff between Chinese and Indian troops in a remote corner of the Himalayas ended this week with both sides agreeing to withdraw. Beijing is claiming victory, but this is face-saving bravado. New Delhi successfully repulsed a Chinese attempt to assert control over the disputed region.

In June China quietly began construction of a road across the Doklam Plateau, an area that Indian ally Bhutan also claims. The area overlooks the Siliguri Corridor, a stretch of territory 27 kilometers wide at its narrowest point that leads to the country’s landlocked northeastern states. The Indian government was understandably alarmed because the new road would allow the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to move tanks and artillery within striking range of the corridor, also known as the “Chicken’s Neck.”

Lightly armed Indian troops entered the disputed area in mid-June, bringing the Chinese road construction to a halt. Some 300 soldiers from each side camped about 100 meters from each other.

Beijing demanded that Indian forces withdraw unconditionally and kept up a barrage of threats and maneuvers. The Indian government remained largely silent, appealing for a diplomatic solution.

The PLA regularly crosses the Himalayan frontier to expand its area of control and poses as the victim when challenged. These tactics are similar to those used by the Chinese Navy in the South and East China Seas, where it seeks to intimidate other claimants to islands and waters.

In 1962 China and India fought a brief border war after Chinese forces built a road across the disputed area of Aksai Chin. The PLA routed the Indian Army in that conflict. Over the past few months, Chinese officials and state-run media promised to teach India another lesson if it didn’t withdraw from Doklam.

India is better equipped to resist Chinese pressure today because it is a nuclear power and has considerable conventional forces near Doklam. The strategic vulnerability of the Chicken’s Neck also stiffened its resolve.

But the key difference was India’s willingness to wait out China rather than moving more of its forces into disputed areas, as it did in 1962. Unable to blame India for a military clash, Beijing had little choice but to open talks.

On Monday India got the resolution it wanted, an agreement that both sides would withdraw and China would cease its road-building. The bulldozers left along with the PLA troops.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserves most of the credit for the positive outcome. It chose to make its stand on high ground morally and militarily. As a responsible great power, New Delhi refused to be drawn into escalation by Beijing’s bellicose rhetoric. India’s deft handling of the dispute shows that principled resistance can face down China’s creeping aggression.https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-himalayan-climb-down-1504221994

September 1, 2017   No Comments

Mind of a killer: edit in Dawn, September 1st, 2017

THE JIT report of Mufti Shakir’s interrogation in Karachi’s Central Prison in March 2014 offers a chilling insight into the mindset of a violent extremist, while the events that followed illustrate the terrible failings of our criminal justice system. Mufti Shakir was arrested on suspicion of having masterminded the bombing that had killed Sindh’s counterterrorism chief Chaudhry Aslam in January that year. During his interrogation — which included the confession that he had also murdered 10 policemen and an army soldier — Mufti Shakir claimed he had offered to undertake the suicide mission against SP Aslam himself. However, a Lashkar-i-Jhangvi accomplice dissuaded him, saying that as a ‘religious scholar’ his skills as a preacher were too important to be sacrificed. So Mufti Shakir, says the JIT report, mentally prepared a 25-year-old named Naimatullah over the course of a week for the task. The success of the operation was a huge morale booster for the many extremist groups fighting the state and, conversely, a major setback for law-enforcement authorities.

If given credence, the account confirms in several ways what is thus far known about the ‘traditional’ path to militancy for many in the ’90s: poverty, a madressah education with a lack of any substantial formal schooling, and a family with equally hard-line religious beliefs. To this country’s enduring misfortune, there were at the time numerous jihadi outfits that young men with extremist mindsets could join and where their inclination to violence would be nurtured and given an outlet. Having worked his way through several of them, Mufti Shakir joined the TTP in 2012. As a ‘commander’ he proceeded to radicalise the next generation of recruits — such as the young man who was cannon fodder in the elimination of SP Aslam. With his violent past and clear potential for further mayhem, not to mention the findings of the JIT report, it can scarcely be comprehended how this high-level militant managed to get bail. The abject failure by investigative authorities to build a prosecutable case against him has had deadly consequences. It is believed that having fled to Afghanistan where he is running a training camp for militants, Mufti Shakir has since dispatched operatives to target police officials in Karachi. The confluence of single-minded militants and a criminal justice system whose weaknesses defy belief amounts to a scenario in which it will be near impossible for Pakistan to win its battle against terrorism. https://www.dawn.com/news/1355189/mind-of-a-killer

September 1, 2017   No Comments

Musharraf belonged to anti-bomb lobby,Hashmi quotes Qadeer as saying

Report in The News, Sept 1, 2017
MULTAN: Senior politician Javed Hashmi said on Thursday that Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan once revealed to him that General Pervez Musharraf belonged to that lobby of the army that was opposed to making nuclear bomb and was ready to make compromises on it.

He condemned former president Pervez Musharraf’s recent interview regarding supplying nuclear material to North Korea was a huge conspiracy against Pakistan. Speaking at a press conference, Hashmi described Musharraf as a traitor who divulged information for his own publicity and said the timing of his interview was very alarming. He said Musharraf insulted Dr AQ Khan and, according to Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, wanted to hand him over to the US.

Recalling his past memories, Hashmi said AQ Khan informed him about the threat from the former dictator during an Iftar hosted by the Saudi ambassador in 2003 and stated that Musharraf had made his [AQ Khan’s] life miserable.

He claimed that former federal minister Mushahid Hussain and the then naval chief Abdul Aziz Khan were witness to the interaction. He praised AQ Khan, calling him a hero of the nation, who did great service for making the country an atomic power. The nation was capable of protecting AQ Khan as well as the atomic programme, Hashmi added.

He said all rulers sacrificed for the atomic programme and never divulged secret at any level. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, he added, started the atomic programme and Zia ul Haq took it to its peak. He said Americans thought Benazir would shut down the N-programme but she not only refused rather also launched missile programme.

He said the US should remember that the Pakistani nation would teach it an appropriate lesson and it would forget the USSR. “Pakistan would grow stronger but the US will be divided soon,” he said. Answering a question, he said Musharraf was responsible for Benazir Bhutto’s murder as he refused to provide security to her. The former dictator was the main accused in the case and the army chief should bring him back to the country, Hashmi demanded. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/227476-Musharraf-belonged-to-anti-bomb-lobbyHashmi-quotes-Qadeer-as-saying

Musharraf’s remarks: edit in Dawn, September 1st, 2017
IF retired Gen Pervez Musharraf is unable to resist commenting on Pakistani politics and his time in office, politicians are unable to resist responding to Musharrafian provocations, large or small. On Wednesday, the Senate resounded with speeches denouncing the former military dictator after he spoke yet again, carelessly and glibly, in the media about the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation saga that became public on the general’s watch. The former army chief’s comments were neither wholly new nor surprising. The episode was deeply humiliating for the country and personally embarrassing for Mr Musharraf, who had cast himself then as a strongman in total control and alone in a position to put the country on the path of progress and good global standing. Unhappily, greater considerations of the national good continue to escape Mr Musharraf, who speaks in an off-the-cuff manner about issues that could have unpleasant ramifications for the country he once led.

Certainly, a more open and frank national conversation on a dark chapter in the country’s history is needed. In one sense, the state’s claims that it has tightened the safety and security of the nuclear complex to world-class standards that make accidents or deliberate mischief unlikely in the extreme is borne out by the fact that there have been no publicly known incidents of attempted proliferation since the network was dismantled. Surely, given the hostility and suspicion with which the Pakistani nuclear programme is viewed by much of the outside world, if there had been a breakdown in safety and security measures it would have been used to heap further pressure on Pakistan. But the senators’ fulminations on Wednesday point to an uncomfortable reality: the political class is unwilling and unable to seek greater input on nuclear matters; at most, the issue is used as a means to politically attack perceived opponents. Nuclear safety and security are matters of national security and should be treated as such, but that should not preclude civilian input. https://www.dawn.com/news/1355188/musharrafs-remarks

September 1, 2017   No Comments

Benazir verdict: edits

‘Disappointing and Unacceptable’: edit in The Nation, September 01, 2017
The ten year long Benazir Bhutto murder case has come spluttering to an end, and consistent with its botched, influenced and erratic trial process the judgment is equally fragmented. Two police officers – accused of hosing down the crime scene and otherwise impeding investigation – have been handed town 17 year sentences for negligence.

The main accused, former President Pervez Musharraf has been declared a ‘fugitive’ and the seizure of his properties ordered.The five Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) suspects have curiously all been released.

The differing fate of all the parties in this trial only goes to show how partial the process was.The judge hearing the trial was changed eight times and the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) special prosecutor gunned down in 2013 – despite this, and perhaps because of this, the court granted Pervez Musharraf bail, and eventually he was even taken off the Exit Control List, paving his way to a well appointed exile.The court declaring him a fugitive and issuing arrest warrant in his name is a futile exercise now, it might as well scream at the wind to bring him back.Convicting him is a separate issue, the state agencies and the justice system could not even make the former military dictator face trial.

A the moment there is nothing to doubt the legal basis on which this sentence was handed out, but as an exercise of the rule of law, this case has been appalling.

Billawal Bhutto is correct in condemning the outcome as “disappointing and unacceptable”; justice was not done.However he must know that a large part of this trial was conducted while Pakistan People’s Party was in power, with his father – and Benazir’s husband – at the helm.If the prosecution was influenced and intimidated, or the police failed to lay down the basic investigative framework on which the prosecution would be built, then it is also the fault of his party.

Of course, the trial may be over, but the case will probably still continue.The option to appeal the release of the five TTP suspects is being mulled, and Musharraf’s case still hangs in the balance.The convictions for the two police officers have only confirmed the existence of foul play.

The former dictator has boasted about his bravery and his willing to come back and face trial but all that seems like bluster at the moment.Declaring him a fugitive may generate pressure on him, but it seems unlikely it will make him return.Instead we would be listening to a declared fugitive’s comments on national television and interviews to foreign publications.The pressure on the government to muzzle Pervez Musharraf – the way it did Altaf Hussain – will only grow larger.In the absence of providing a free and fair trial, it is the least they can do.http://nation.com.pk/editorials/01-Sep-2017/disappointing-and-unacceptable

A controversial verdict: edit in Dawn, September 1st, 2017

A CATACLYSMIC event in the country’s history appears to have ended with a whimper in court. Nearly a decade since Benazir Bhutto’s tragic assassination, an anti-terrorism court has delivered its questionable verdict in a case that was controversially investigated and prosecuted. Five suspects accused of involvement in the planning and execution of the attack on Bhutto in Rawalpindi on Dec 27, 2007, have been acquitted; two senior police officers responsible for protecting her on that fateful day and, later, securing the site of the attack for evidentiary purposes have been convicted; and former military dictator and then president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf has been declared an absconder in the case. It is a thoroughly unsatisfactory conclusion to a case that raised more questions than it purported to answer. While criticism has been directed at the court, the problem originated with a weak prosecution. The possibility that the state may appeal the verdict should be considered seriously, and this time the state should assemble a stronger case that is scrupulously backed up by evidence and the law.

The Bhutto assassination consisted of a number of tragedies wrapped into a single traumatic episode. Surely, a broken criminal judicial and policing system must bear a great deal of the blame for the failure to identify and punish the architects of the former prime minister’s assassination. Similarly, the Musharraf regime ought to be held accountable for appearing to use Bhutto’s security as a negotiating tool in the political deal-making that was being attempted at the time. But there is another inescapable fact: the PPP won power in 2008, manoeuvred Mr Musharraf out of office and then proceeded to do virtually nothing to try and identify and hold accountable the perpetrators of Bhutto’s murder. The party and its sympathisers argue that the responsibility to sustain a nascent transition to democracy forced the PPP government to make unpleasant choices. While that may be true — the Asif Zardari-led PPP was under pressure on many fronts — it is also the case that the PPP itself opted to relegate the murder of its iconic leader to the bottom of its list of governance priorities.

Notions of self-survival and having to make unpleasant compromises tend to characterise politicians’ accounts of their time in office. But Bhutto was no ordinary leader and her death should never have been treated as merely another dark chapter in the history of a country that has seen many such incidents. The PPP government owed it to the nation, its own party and its assassinated leader to identify and prosecute those responsible for her death. The laments of PPP leaders today may be real, but so was their conscious decision to turn their back on their slain leader for the sake of power and public office. It is a heartbreaking disgrace to the memory of one of the country’s greatest leaders.

September 1, 2017   No Comments

Benazir`s party remained `disinterested` in murder trial

By Malik Asad in Dawn, Sept 1, 2017
ISLAMABAD: For all their protestadons against the verdict announced by a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court (ATC), the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) did not seem to take the slightest interest in the Benazir Bhutto murder trial, and no one from the party turned up to hear the judgment on Thursday.

Benazir Bhutto, who was twice elected prime minister of Pakistan, was assassinated when terrorists attacked her convoy, as it was leaving the historic Liaquat Bagh after addressing a public meeting on Dec 27, 2007.

After coming to power in the centre following the 2008 general elections, the PPP had ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to re-investigate the murder case, and requested the United Nations to carry out a probe into the tragic incident.

In August 2013, then-PPP secretary general Sardar Latif Khosa filed an applica-tion before the ATC to become party to the murder case, arguing that the party had a right to be a party to the case involving their martyred leader.

The party`s legal team included Barrister Khurram Latif Khosa, Amir Fida Paracha, Barrister Mehmood Chaudhry and Husnain Rind.

The court had turned down the plea, saying that a political party could not become party to a murder case. But in order to remain associated with the trial, Mr Khosa filed another application on behalf of the heirs of PPP activist Tanvir Kaira, who was also killed in the Dec 27, 2007 attack.

Mr Khosa attended few ATC hearings, and when proceeding slowed down, he discontinued pursuing the case altogether. A couple of weeks ago, the ATC had decided to conclude the case and started day-to-day proceedings, but neither Mr Khosa nor any of his associates appeared before the court.

When contacted, PPP Rawalpindi Chapter President Amir Fida Paracha saidthat since the ATC had rejected the party`s requesttojoin proceedings,theypreferred not to attend.

`Why should we appear in a case where we were not a party,` he asked.

Priorities In contrast, the PPP leadership took an active interest in a number of other cases it was not party too either, some of which were being heard alongside the Benazir murder case.

For example, PPP leaders took a keen interestin Panamagate proceedings before the Supreme Court, and attended the final hearings of the case against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif quite regularly. PPP was neither a party to the matter, nor a respondent.

Similarly, Mr Khosa appeared as the defence counsel for supermodel Ayyan Ali several times before a special customs and excise court, which is only a few steps f rom the ATC that was hearing the Benazir mur-der case.

Another senior PPP lawyer, former law minister Farooq H. Naek and his associates also appeared before a Rawalpindi accountability court that recently acquitted former president Asif Ali Zardari in the final corruption reference against him.

Even junior PPP lawyers did not attend the final hearings of the Benazir murder case, and there were only around half a dozen lawyers on hand when the ATC made the announcement.

However, they too left court premises upon being told that the decision would be announced at Adiala Jail.

Not a single political worker or lawyer from the PPP`s Lawyers Forum was present outside Adiala Jail when the ATC judge`s reader read out the operative paragraph of the verdict.

Mr Paracha told Dawn that since Mr Khosa was pursuing the case, he would discuss the matter with him. However, Mr Khosa could not be reached for comment, despite repeated attempts.http://epaper.dawn.com/DetailImage.php?StoryImage=01_09_2017_004_007

September 1, 2017   No Comments

Benazir murder case: Bilawal, Bukhtawar, Aseefa, PPP reject verdict

by Asim Yasin in The News, Sept 1, 2017
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, his sisters Bukhtawar Bhutto Zardari and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari and the party rejected the verdict announced by the Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC), Rawalpindi, in the Benazir Bhutto murder case.

Bilawal Bhutto on Thursday termed the verdict ‘disappointing and unacceptable.’ He took to Twitter to state that the decision was not only unjust but also dangerous and the PPP would explore legal options.

While the daughters of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto — Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari — in their tweets also expressed their reservations about the verdict. “There would be no justice until former military dictator General (retd) Pervez Musharraf answered for his crimes,” tweeted Aseefa Bhutto Zardari.

Assefa’s elder sister Bakhtawar also called for the arrest of Pervez Musharraf and she tweeted, “Musharraf ordered crime scene washed and doors locked trapping Benazir Bhutto inside vehicle.”

Meanwhile, the PPP in its formal reaction expressed disappointment and shock over the verdict announced that itwould also employ legal instruments to mount its claim to become a party to the case and file an appeal against the verdict.

“The party believes that justice has not been done, nor it seems to have been done,” said PPP Spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar while giving a formal reaction of the PPP after a meeting chaired by former president Asif Ali Zardari here Thursday which was attended by the top PPP leadership after the Anti-Terrorist Court announced its judgment.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the acquittal of al-Qaeda/Taliban terrorists against whom evidence had been provided was most surprising and raised several questions. “On its face, it seems a triumph of al-Qaeda militants,” he said.

The PPP stated that the two police officers had been convicted and sentenced. “But the question as to who had ordered them to wash out the place of occurrence and destroy crucial evidence has not been addressed. The conviction of the police officers will remain weak unless those giving orders to them are also tried and convicted,” Senator Farhatullah Babar said.

The PPP spokesman said it was worth noting that the prosecutor in the case Chaudhry Zulfiqar was assassinated just when he had reached the critical stage and set to oppose the bail application of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.

He said it might be noted that the FIR in the case was got registered by the Punjab Police without consulting the family and without making the PPP a party to it.Senator Farhatullah Babar said the party recalled the apprehensions expressed by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir about the plot to assassinate her. It was common knowledge and she had stated it in clear words that Musharraf had threatened her if she returned to Pakistan before the elections, her life would be in danger.

He said since the PPP was not a party to the case, it demanded of the government to immediately file an appeal against the verdict. “The PPP will also employ legal instruments to mount its claim to become a party to the case and file an appeal against the verdict,” he said. He said the party would give a detailed response after full judgment was made public.

Meanwhile, All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) Secretary General Dr Muhammad Amjad reacting to the ATC verdict said that the judgment did not fulfill the criteria of justice. “The ATC judgment is in contrast to the challan submitted by the investigation, testimonies of witnesses and material evidence. It seems that the judgment is either influenced or compromised. The court even acquitted those persons who confessed their involvement and some of the responsible for the murder of Benazir Bhutto were those who took maximum benefit from this tragedy,” he said.

General (retd) Pervez Musharraf at the time of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination was the president of Pakistan and he was not involved in dealing with the trivial district administration or security affairs. Moreover, the allegations related to non-provision of security to Benazir Bhutto were baseless and sheer out of malice, Dr Amjad said.

Pervez Musharraf’s name was not included in the first challan and the PPP government included his name just to soothe the sentiments of party workers and to decrease its ever-increasing embarrassment. At first it was said that the case of Pervez Musharraf had been separated but the way this judgment had been announced showed that it was issued in a hasty manner. Dr Amjad said that they would file an appeal before the high court against this judgment as the superior courts started adjudicating as per law and the Constitution. “We are hopeful to get justice from high court,” he said.

Criticising the ATC judgment, Dr Amjad said that the three out of five accused who were acquitted confessed to their involvement in this murder as facilitator. They told the court that some of their accomplices died while five of them arrested. Dr Amjad said that the arrested persons had nexus with the real culprits and masterminds.With the acquittal of five persons from the court, now the real masterminds of this heinous murder had gone far off and chances for their getting prosecuted minimised. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/227464-Benazir-murder-case-Bilawal-Bukhtawar-Aseefa-PPP-reject-verdict

September 1, 2017   No Comments

Five Taliban acquitted in Benazir murder case: by Khalid Iqbal in The News, Sept 1, 2017

RAWALPINDI: The Judge of Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC), Rawalpindi, Muhammad Asghar Khan, on Thursday while announcing the verdict in the Benazir Bhutto murder case acquitted five accused (Taliban), awarded 17-year imprisonment each to former deputy inspector general (DIG) Saud Aziz and former superintendent of police (SP), Rawal Town, Khurram Shehzad, for abetting the crime, and declared former military dictator Pervez Musharraf an absconder.

The court also imposed a fine of Rs500,000 each on both convicts.The police arrested the former DIG and the former SP from the premises of the court on the occasion as they were on bail.

The court announced the verdict in the Adiala Jail premises under tight security arrangements.In a landmark decision, the court declared former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf an absconder in the case ordering seizure of all his moveable and immovable property.

Five suspects who had been in jail for nine years, including Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul, Sher Zaman, Aitzaz Shah and Abdul Rashid were acquitted on murder charges. The investigation agencies failed to prove a link of the five accused with Baitullah Mehsood, therefore, the court acquitted them.

The two former policemen have been awarded 10 years in prison under Section of 119 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and 7 years each under Section of 201 of the PPC. They have also been fined Rs500,000 each; in case they do not pay the fine, they will have to spend another six months in jail.

Saud Aziz, who was the DIG police when the incident happened, had been facing charges of abetting the killing of Benazir Bhutto as he ordered the transfer of then superintendent of police Ashfaq Anwar from Benazir’s rally to Sadiqabad. The prosecution also blamed him for not conducting the autopsy of the deceased as it was essential for investigations.

In November 2008, the ATC indicted Aitzaz Shah, Sher Zaman, Abdul Rasheed, Rafaqat Hussain and Hasnain Gul for killing, hatching criminal conspiracy to kill, abetting the perpetrators, using illegal explosive material and spreading terrorism on Dec 27, 2007 when 22 people, including former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, were killed in a gun-and-bomb attack in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh, when she was leaving after attending an election rally.

After more than nine years of her assassination and hundreds of hearings, the prosecution failed to link those arrested and the main accused, including former Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a drone strike several years ago.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) prosecutors during the media talk said that former DIG Saud Aziz was a facilitator of the crime as he did not provide security to Benazir Bhutto on the occasion. Secondly, he did not allow to conduct the postmortem of Benazir Bhutto’s body, which was in police custody. Thirdly, on the directions of Saud Aziz, police had washed out the crime scene immediately, the prosecutors said.

To a question, the FIA prosecutors said that some of the accused recorded confessional statements according to Section 164 before a magistrate in Benazir murder case. But, in the last moments during the trial, the accused changed their statements and told the court that the police had taken their signature on a plain paper.

As the defence and prosecution completed their arguments here on Wednesday, the ATC, Rawalpindi, Judge Muhammad Asghar Khan reserved the verdict, which was announced on Thursday.

During Wednesday’s hearing, accused Aitzaz Shah’s counsel, Naseer Tanoli, gave his arguments and said that investigation by the FIA was full of flaws, adding that the accused in the case were not even asked why they were arrested.

Giving arguments, the counsel said that Aitzaz Shah was declared a suicide attacker while the seminary administration was not interrogated from where he got training. Tanoli also said that Ismail, who was declared an operator in investigation and had taped Baitullah Mahsood’s call, had fled the court.

The FIA Prosecutor, Chaudhry Azhar, in his arguments, said that the attack was carried out from outside of the vehicle and not from inside, so why interrogate those who were in the vehicle. He also said there were flaws in the dates of arrest of the accused on the part of police and not FIA.

An FIR was registered over the incident on the behalf of the state, following which the murder trial of five suspects began in February 2008. But when the PPP won the general elections in 2008, the investigation was handed over to the FIA.

During Wednesday’s hearing, FIA Public Prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar also said that PPP leader Babar Awan was in Bhutto’s back-up vehicle, which was under the control of party leader Farhatullah Babar and added when the investigation was handed over to the FIA, the vehicle was recovered from Zardari House in Islamabad.

He also said that former president Pervez Musharraf had excused himself from appearing before the court citing death threats from al-Qaeda. “Of the 121 witnesses, only statements of 68 were recorded,” he informed the court further.

While suspects Hasnain Gul and Rafaqat’s counsel Jawad Khalid told the court that the statements received from his clients held Musharraf, among others, responsible for the crime. He also claimed that there was no solid proof against his clients and there was a conflict between investigating officers’ statements and the weapons recovered from the crime scene. “This raises suspicion,” he remarked, adding that the court should show mercy towards the innocent and highlighted that “the real culprits are not being punished for the crime.”

FIA Prosecutor Khawaja Asif accepted that there was no record of the suspects in the DNA report. He also claimed that “Bhutto was targeted for deviating from the US policy” and added that there were no explosives on the suicide jacket that the suspects had submitted for DNA testing. Moreover, the suspect’s DNA report had not been submitted to the court, he said.

On the other hand, the counsel for the other two suspects, former Rawalpindi CPO Saud Aziz and former Rawal Town SP Khurram Shahzad, said that nobody could stop a suicide attacker, but it could be investigated who facilitated the attacker.

The counsel pointed out that the statements of those injured in the attack had not yet been recorded, and the post-mortem of the bodies was not done.The court was also informed that out of the three mobile SIMs which were seized, two were not registered in any citizen’s name while the third SIM’s ownership was not investigated.

Pervez Musharraf remained an absconder since the beginning. A separate case was filed against his continuous absence, the trial for which was yet to begin.Meanwhile, after the hearing, talking to media persons FIA Prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar said that the police had submitted four challans while three had been submitted by the FIA in Benazir murder case.

Chaudhry Azhar said according to anti-terrorist clause, it was the responsibility of the investigation officer to cordon off the crime scene. He also said the FIR was registered at 8:20pm while the crime scene had been washed two hours before registering the FIR.

He also said there was sufficient evidence against the accused, adding Saud Aziz was a facilitator of the crime as he did not provide security to Benazir Bhutto at that time.The prosecutor said there were 121 witnesses in the case, while the statements of only 68 people were recorded excluding the statement of driver Abdul Rehman.

The counsel for Saud Aziz talking to media persons said that conducting postmortem of the Benazir was not the responsibility of former CPO, adding Zardari had not allowed him to carry out postmortem. He said that prosecution had not told the court why the crime scene had been washed. Saud said that Benazir did not come out the vehicle.

Concluding arguments before the ATC court of Rawalpindi, counsel for FIA Muhammad Azhar Chaudhry stood his grounds that former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharaff was behind the murder of Benazir Bhutoo.

He also rejected evidence of a telephonic conversation between former head of TTP and a cleric in which the chief of banned outfit hailed the terrorist for executing the attack successfully.He claimed that Musharraf through his close aide former director general of the National Crisis Management Cell Brigadier (retd) Javed Iqbal Cheema developed the fake evidence to save himself and mislead the investigators.

He also blamed the then DIG Saud Aziz for his involvement in the killing as he ordered transfer of then superintendent of police Ashfaq Anwar from Benazir’s rally to Sadiqabad, adding that Aziz did not conduct autopsy of the deceased essential for investigations. A total of seven judges in different times heard the Benazir murder case in 10 years.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/227462-Five-Taliban-acquitted-in-Benazir-murder-case

September 1, 2017   No Comments

10 `militants` killed in Harnai gun battle :By Saleem Shahid in Dawn, Sept 1, 2017

QUETTA: Ten suspected militants were killed on Thursday in a gun battle with security forces in a mountainous area of Balochistan`s Harnai district, some 164km nohheast of here.

Official sources said a military operation was launched on information about the activities of militants in the area.

They said that when security men entered the area they were fired upon by militants from their hideouts. The personnel returned fire and the exchange of fire between them continued for some time during which militants used heavy weapons.

Confirming the gun battle, a security official said the militants killed during the operation belonged to a banned organisation and that they were involved in attacks on security personnel. He said the security men had destroyed at least three camps which militants used for hiding and carrying out attacks on security forces.

The sources said a huge quantity of weapons was seized during the operation, adding that the operation continued throughout the day in the rough mountainous areas.

September 1, 2017   No Comments

FC seizes huge quantity of arms, ammunition in Landikotal

Report in The News, Sept 1, 2017
PESHAWAR: The Frontier Corps, Khyber Pakthunkhwa, has seized huge quantity of arms and ammunition during a successful action in Landikotal, Khyber Agency.

According to a KP FC press release here on Thursday, under the Operation Raddul Fasaad, an intelligence-based operation was conducted by Frontier Corps, KP, in the Ashkhel area of Landikotal.

During the operation, a huge quantity of weapons, ammunition and narcotics were recovered including SMGs, rifles, pistols of different calibre, ammunition of various origins and a large quantity of narcotics (hash, opium). Two suspects were also apprehended. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/227438-FC-seizes-huge-quantity-of-arms-ammunition-in-Landikotal

Two terrorists held with explosives: Report in The News, Sept 1, 2017
LAHORE: The Counter Terrorism Department arrested two alleged terrorists belonging to a defunct organisation here on Thursday.
On a tip-off, a team of the CTD led by Tariq Mehmood raided the area near Sidhar Bypass and arrested the terrorists, Nasir and Hanif.
They were waiting for a Jhang-bound bus at the time of their arrest.
The CTD team also recovered explosives from them and shifted them to an unknown place for thorough investigation. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/227450-Two-terrorists-held-with-explosives

September 1, 2017   No Comments

Security threats make Shehbaz restrict movement: report

by Sajid Zia in The Nation, Sept 1, 2017
LAHORE – Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif is taking extra care of his security keeping in view recent terror threats to VIPs in the province.

The chief minister has been facing terror threats for the last three years due to his stance on elimination of terrorism from Punjab and every part of Pakistan. Recently, he survived a major terror strike when a suicide bomber blew himself up near Arfa Karim IT Tower on July 24. At least 26 people, including nine policemen, were killed in this strike, which was carried out on the route of the chief minister. The fact that Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif was target of the attack was vindicated by Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor, director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations, during an interaction with the media on counterterrorism measures and their outcome on August 21.

Previously, on a number of occasions, the media had flashed reports about terror threats to VIPs in Punjab. The name of the chief minister had also been mentioned in these reports. In view of this situation, the chief minister took some security measures, without compromising his inspections of development and welfare projects in Punjab. The chief minister has been in contact with bureaucrats and administrative officers of the province over the last two years, mainly through video link, and guiding them about development projects and law and order situation.

Shehbaz, who has been frequently visiting various development sites and public places, has cut his road travel short. Now he travels by air for most of his visits to public hospitals, kilns and wheat sale points. The chief minister’s last public appearance was on August 12 when he spoke to a PML-N gathering at Data Darbar on the conclusion of a four-day long GT Road rally of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Besides Chief Minister’s Secretariat on Club Road, Shehbaz holds meetings with officials at four other places as well. Tight security is maintained when he travels to these venues, which are equipped with videoconferencing facilities.

Despite limiting his outdoor movement, the chief minister stays in contact with the media for interaction on national and the provincial issues. The measures taken by the chief minister are precautionary and not due to any fear. A cabinet committee on counterterrorism has been set up on special instructions of the chief minister besides an anti-terrorism force and a full-fledged counterterrorism department in the province.

Earlier this year, a plot to assassinate Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was thwarted when counter-terrorism department (CTD) killed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s new leader Asif Chotoo in an alleged encounter.

According to CTD officials, the LeJ leader was planning to target the Punjab chief minister. They said Columnist Ataul Haq Qasmi was also target of the terrorists, who were demanding extortion from influential figures.

The four militants, including Chotoo were killed in a shootout in Sheikhupura by CTD acting on a tip that the group was planning an attack in Lahore.

“Big chapters of terrorism, target killings have been closed today,” the statement added. “These terrorists were merciless killing machines,” the statement issued by CTD said.

September 1, 2017   No Comments