Chaudhry Zulfikar Ali, the prosecutor in a number of cases surrounding power and the reputation of the government in Pakistan, was shot 13 times Friday on his way to the bail hearing for former president Pervez Musharraf, and his death moments later raises questions about just who can challenge the status quo by law in the country.
Musharraf, as you might already know, is in deep trouble in the country he once ruled. He's facing murder conspiracy charges in the assassination of former Prime Minister (and widower of current president Asif Ali Zardari) Benazir Bhutto in 2007. Zulfikar was representing the Federal Investigation Agency against Musharraf in that case. And it sounds like he thought he'd win against the former leader when he appeared in court this week. According to the New York Times, Zulfikar said he had "solid evidence" against Musharraf that would "directly connect the accused" with the assassination.
Here's the Associated Press, describing the scene of his murder on his way to court:
The gunmen fired at Chaudhry Zulfikar from a taxi and hit him in the head, shoulder and chest, said police officer Mohammed Ishaq. Zulfikar then lost control of his car, which hit a woman passer-by and killed her, said another police officer, Mohammed Rafiq. Zulfikar's guard Farman Ali returned fire in the attack and believes he wounded at least one of the attackers, Rafiq said.
There's still no word on who was behind the attacks, but there are a few obvious possibilities. Musharraf's case was just one of a handful of cases Zulfikar took on that would lend itself to enemy-making. For instance, he was also the lead prosecutor in the trial of seven Lashkar-e-Taiba militants accused of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai attacks, also set to go to court this week.
Musharraf, who also faces charges related to the deaths of protesters at the hands of security forces, was in power when Bhutto was killed (which he blames on the Taliban). He's accused of not providing Bhutto with enough security, allowing the murder to take place. After stepping down in 2008, the former leader spent four years in exile before returning to Pakistan in what has so far turned out to be a terrible attempt to redeem himself in the public eye: he's already barred for running in the parliamentary elections in mid-May, and is under house arrest. And someone threw a shoe at his head.
Zulfikar, a longtime state attorney, wasn't the only government up-ender who died on Friday in apparent militant related violence in Pakistan. Next week's historic election, marking the transition from one civilian government to another, featured a leading businessman candidate, Saddiq Zaman Khattak, in the parliamentary race. He and his 3-year-old son were shot and killed after morning prayer.