A top police officer sentenced to 17 years in jail by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan in the Benazir Bhutto murder case was also the head of the security arrangements for the judge who pronounced the verdict. Senior Superintendent of Police Khurrum Shehzad was working as head of “Special Branch” and was responsible for the security of anti-terrorism court Judge Asghar Khan. Khan delivered the verdict yesterday, declaring former dictator Pervez Musharraf a fugitive and sentencing two senior police officers, including Shehzad, to 17 years in jail.
The judge sentenced former Rawalpindi City Police Officer Saud Aziz and Shahzad — suspects out on bail — to 17 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of Rs 5 lakh each. Since the trial was held in Adial Jail, located in suburb of Rawalpindi, the judge had to travel from Rawalpindi city to the jail to announce the verdict which he had reserved on Wednesday at conclusion of the hearing. As a militant linked with al-Qaeda was also accused of murder and held in the jail, it was feared that the militants might try to target the judge while on his way to the prison.
According to police official, Shehzad reached the jail early and was escorted by police and personally reviewed the security of the route. “He looked calm and confident unlike his former boss Saud Aziz,” the official said. Aziz was Rawalpindi city police chief and Shehzad was working as Superintendent of Police under him when Bhutto was murdered on December 27, 2007. Aziz, who retired last month as Additional Inspector General Police, came early like Shehzad to hear the verdict. Both officers waited for around six hours for the judge, who went to a special courtroom set up inside the jail after getting a green signal about security from Shehzad.
Later, Shehzad found himself at receiving end when he was found guilty by the judge and sentenced for 17 years along with the fine. Shehzad like his ex-boss was arrested from the court premises to be lodged in the jail. Both convicts, however, can appeal against the sentence in the high court. Bhutto, the Pakistan Peoples Party chief and a two-time prime minister, was killed along with more than 20 people in a gun and bomb attack in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh during an election campaign rally on December 27, 2007. She was 54.