In what appeared to be a blow for Interior Minister Rehman Malik, the Supreme Court advised him to quit public office for an independent investigation into the Benazir Bhutto murder case.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court with Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in the chair said that a second FIR (First Information Report) should be registered as the previous one did not include names of some of the key suspects including Rehman Malik.

The bench noted that a transparent and influence-free investigation is not possible as along as high profile suspects hold offices. The Chief Justice asked, “How can a sub-inspector have enough courage to probe someone at the helm of affairs?”

He also raised a question on the intensions of the PPP-led coalition government, saying Rehman Malik and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi were creating hurdles in registration of second FIR in the case.

The court uttered such advice when Anwar Mansoor Khan, the counsel for Rehman Malik, sought more time from the court to submit a reply. Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said, “You want to create obstacles in the proceedings? How much longer do you want to linger?”

Later, he asked the lawyer that Rehman Malik should facilitate a transparent inquiry by appearing before the court himself to clear his position in the case. On this, the counsel said that his client was ready to appear before any panel.

The Chief Justice, however, observed that a fair investigation was not possible until the accused hold the government office. Justice Khilji Airf Hussain noted the trend was that probe teams were changed to hinder a fair probe.

While giving his remarks, Justice Tariq Pervez said that the interior minister had claimed in his written reply submitted to the court that the accused were already in custody and their charge-sheets had been produced before the courts.

The minister means to say that the case should not be heard anymore, the judge remarked adding that bench raised its concerns about the apathy plaguing the case.

He commented, “Why did the government not publish the UN report on which Rs60 million of the taxpayers’ money was spent? Why have no steps been taken in light of the report? Why was the murder of an internationally-acclaimed leader not taken up in the assemblies and relevant parliamentary forums?”