Bhutto\'s Party in Pakistan Demands Action over Tapes
Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto's party demanded a probe into her 1999 corruption trial Tuesday after allegedly leaked phone conversations showed the judge had acted under pressure.
Britain's Sunday Times newspaper this week published transcripts of what it said were telephone conversations between high court judge Abdul Qayyum and key figures in the government of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
The paper said the tapes, made by a senior Pakistani intelligence officer, featured discussions between Qayyum, then-law minister Khalid Anwar and the chief of Sharif's anti-corruption bureau, Saifur Rehman.
According to transcripts published here, the senior officials were acting on behalf of Sharif to urge Qayyum to speed up the trial and produce a guilty verdict.
The judge and the former officials have denied any such conversations took place.
Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, were eventually sentenced to five years jail for receiving millions of dollars in kickbacks but she and her Pakistan People's Party (PPP) have always maintained her innocence.
Her appeal in the supreme court is due to start on Februry 26.
She has lived in self-imposed exile since shortly before her conviction but has recently promised to return to Pakistan to lead the opposition movement against military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.
The PPP on Tuesday urged Chief Justice Irshad Hasan Khan to "hand over the case to the Supreme Judicial Council," the body which investigates judges.
"The tapes reveal that the displeasure of Nawaz Sharif is invoked time and again and the judges were worried about (his) displeasure ... and about being sacked if they were unable to carry out the perversion of justice," the party said in a statement.
"Ms Bhutto had appealed a number of times that the judge ... be transferred from the bench on the basis of her strong apprehensions of bias and also on legal grounds."
Sharif and Bhutto, both two-time prime ministers, were bitter political enemies throughout the late 1980s and 1990s.
Sharif was ousted in a coup in October, 1999, and sentenced to lengthy jail terms for hijacking and tax evasion.
He was pardoned and exiled to Saudi Arabia in December last year -- ISLAMABAD (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)