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In a historic first for Pakistan, a court has indicted the country’s former army chief and president for his alleged role in the assassination of the Benazir Bhutto, the country’s former prime minister.
The indictment is the most serious challenge for Pervez Musharraf since his return to Pakistan this March. It is also the first time in Pakistan that a head of the armed forces has been charged with a crime.
Musharraf, who is under house arrest, appeared in court to plead “not guilty” to the charges, which include murder, conspiracy to commit murder and facilitation of murder.
The government prosecutor told The Wall Street Journal that Musharraf “conspired with his subordinates and others to get [Bhutto] murdered. He was the main beneficiary. He denied her security.” Musharraf’s lawyers say “these are fabricated cases,” lacking any solid evidence.
Former Prime Minister Bhutto was at a political rally in 2007 when attackers with guns and bombs assassinated her. She was both a polarizing and deeply popular figure who had twice served as the country’s prime minister.
The case comes after the first-ever democratic transfer of power in Pakistani history, and it pits Musharraf against a long-time rival, current prime minister Navaz Sharif, the man Musharraf deposed in a coup and forced into exile in 1999.