ISLAMABAD — Unknown gunmen in Pakistan have killed the lead prosecutor investigating the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the deadly attacks on India’s financial capital, Mumbai in 2008.
Police and witnesses say that prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar was on his way to an anti-terrorism court in neighboring Rawalpindi when gunmen intercepted his car in a residential sector of the Pakistani capital and shot him to death.
Gunfire also killed a woman near the scene of the attack and wounded Zulfiqar’s official security guard.
Police have launched a massive search across Islamabad to try to capture the gunmen who fled the scene.
The co-prosecutor for the Bhutto case, Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry, said that he and his slain colleague were to appear before the judge of the anti-terrorism court Friday morning to present fresh arguments in the Bhutto murder case.
The former prime minister was killed while campaigning for political office in a gun and suicide bomb attack in Rawalpindi.
Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf is among the suspects because he was heading the country at the time of Bhutto’s assassination.
Chaudhry said prosecutors had been under pressure for the past few days and were concerned about their personal security. But he did not elaborate.
“Yes, we have been receiving the threats. Our witnesses are being threatened," he said. "Even the court was requested to pass a direction to the government to provide full protection to us but nobody listened to us.”
Chaudhry said the death of his colleague has thrown the case into disarray and a fair trial cannot take place unless the government provides them adequate security.
“Definitely, definitely unless they provide the security how I can appear in the court how anybody else will be in a position to prosecute these kinds of high profile accused,” he added.
Several alleged assailants are on trial in the Bhutto case, but no one has been convicted after five years of court proceedings.
The case has received renewed attention since Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March after four years of self-imposed exile. The 69-year-old former military dictator rejects allegations against him as politically motivated and insists Bhutto ignored his regime’s security advice that led to her killing.
The former army chief is currently under house arrest on the outskirts of Islamabad in connection with several court cases pending against him.
Slain prosecutor Zulfiqar was also the government’s lead prosecutor in the case involving suspects allegedly linked to the 2008 terrorist attack on the Indian commercial center of Mumbai.
At least 166 people were killed in those attacks and India accused Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group of planning the raid on Pakistani soil. Those on trial in Pakistan include the suspected mastermind of the plot.
President Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower, strongly condemned Friday’s assassination of prosecutor Zulfiqar and has called for a thorough investigation. In recent weeks Pakistan has suffered from a series of militant and election-related attacks ahead of the May 11 polls.