In a hard-hitting report on the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry has outlined the need for a “serious, credible criminal investigation” by Pakistan. It has said that the probe should look into “the possible involvement of those who form part of the establishment.”
The 70-page report, which is a harsh indictment of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, especially its Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI,said “the military high command and intelligence agencies form the core of the Establishment and are its most permanent and influential components.”
The report, submitted to UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon on Thursday, said that “a discussion of the threats to Bhutto and of the forces that felt threatened by her potential return to power in Pakistan must include the following: Al Qaeda, Taliban and local jihadi groups and elements of the Establishment.”
Among the positions taken by Bhutto that “touched” the “establishment’s” concerns was “her independent position on the urgent need to improve relations with India, and its implications for the Kashmir dispute, which the military had regarded as its policy domain.”
It also said that Bhutto’s assassination “could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been taken.”
The chairman of the commission, Chile’s Ambassador the UN, Heraldo Munoz, said, “The responsibility for Bhutto’s security on the day of her assassination rested with the federal Government, the government of Punjab and the Rawalpindi District Police,” thus also placing blame on the regime of then President Prevez Musharraf.
Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007, while she was leaving a Pakistan People’s Party rally in Liaquat Bagh, in Rawalpindi.
The report said that Musharraf’s Government while “fully aware of” and “tracking the serious threats” to Bhutto, “did little more than pass on those threats to her and to provincial authorities and were not proactive in neutralizing them or ensuring that the security provided was commensurate to the threats.”
This was “especially grave” since there had been an attempt to kill her when she returned to Pakistan on October 18 that year. It also said that the failure of the Pakistan police to investigate the assassination was “deliberate”. It added, “The Commission was mystified by the efforts of certain high- ranking government authorities to obstruct access to military and intelligence sources.”
‘Pack of lies’
In reply, Rashid Qureshi, a spokesman for Musharraf said that the former president rejected the findings calling it a pack of lies and said that the blame would rest with the caretaker government. He also disclosed that according to the investigations conducted after Bhutto's killing, there were no bullet marks on her head and that 27 pieces of evidence were collected from the assassination spot. The Presidency, however, welcome the UN findings.
(With inputs from Imtiaz Ahmad, Islamabad and Agencies)