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Fri May 3, 2013
Pakistani Prosecutor Investigating Bhutto Death Is Gunned Down
Originally published on Fri May 3, 2013 7:19 am
In Pakistan, police say two unidentified gunmen fatally shot the special prosecutor investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Friday's attack on Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali in Islamabad deepens the mystery surrounding one of the country's most politically charged cases, which remains open six years later.
Ali was traveling from his home to a court hearing in the Bhutto case when his car was sprayed with bullets. Local media quoted an initial post mortem report stating he had sustained some 14 wounds to his head, arm and chest, and that he died before reaching the hospital. Police say Ali's bodyguard was wounded and that a woman bystander was killed when the vehicle veered out of control.
Television footage from the scene showed a white car smashed on the side of the road, the front seat stained with blood.
Ali worked for Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency, which had fingered former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in the Bhutto assassination. Bhutto, a fierce critic of Pakistan's militants, was killed after a 2007 election rally in the city of Rawalpindi, weeks after she returned to Pakistan from years in self-imposed exile.
Earlier this week, Ali said there was strong evidence to suggest Musharraf's complicity. An anti-terror court trying the Bhutto case restricted the former president to his farmhouse shortly after he returned to Pakistan to stage an ill-advised political comeback.
In the wake of Friday's attack, Musharraf attorneys appealed to the court to exempt the ex-army chief from appearing in the Bhutto case, citing security threats.
The slaying of Ali comes at an especially sensitive time and adds to the atmosphere of trepidation in Pakistan ahead of general elections May 11. The country's first ever transfer of power from one civilian government to the next has been bloodied by militants who are killing candidates and targeting offices of three of Pakistan's secular parties.
While the motive for his killing is unclear, Ali prosecuted some of Pakistan's most prominent cases. In addition to the Bhutto assassination, he was involved in trying seven militants from the banned Pakistani outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba who are charged with orchestrating the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. That trial, conducted in secret at a jail outside Islamabad, is ongoing.
Lawyers from Islamabad and Rawalpindi shut down the courts with a boycott Friday in response to the slaying.
Ali's widow and two sons have taken his body to his hometown of Jehlum in the Punjab for burial. Buried with him are years of knowledge of some of Pakistan's most sensitive cases.
Read more of Julie's reporting from the region: