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Musharraf denies involvement of himself, military

Musharraf also says he had warned the former prime minister about threats to her life but she had ignored it.

world Updated: Jan 03, 2008 21:32 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar

Ruling out involvement of military and intelligence agencies in the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday said he had warned her about threats to her life but she had ignored that.

He also dismissed suggestions that he was involved in her death. Describing as "below my dignity" a question whether he had "blood on his hands", Musharraf said he was brought up in a very educated and civilised family with beliefs and values and believed in character.

"I am not a feudal and I am not a tribal. I have been brought up in a very educated and civilised family with beliefs and values, which believes in character," he said during an interaction with the foreign media for state-run PTV's "Aiwan-e-Sadr Say" ("From The Presidency") programme.

Musharraf said the government had in November stopped Bhutto from going to Liaquat Bagh ground in Rawalpindi - where she was assassinated on December 27 -- because of alerts from intelligence agencies about threats to her life.

Describing the ground ringed by numerous buildings as a "vulnerable place", Musharraf said: "This time she went of her volition, ignoring the threat."

The President, who on Wednesday sought the help of Britain's Scotland Yard to probe Bhutto's death, ruled out the involvement of the country's military and intelligence agencies in the assassination.

"No intelligence agency of Pakistan is capable of motivating or indoctrinating a man to blow himself up," he said, adding one has to find out who gained the most from Bhutto's killing. "Would I and the government be the maximum gainer? Or is there someone else who could gain more?"

Asked if there had been any shortcomings in the security provided to Bhutto, Musharraf said, "The lapse was not on the government's side." Bhutto had been given four mobile police squads comprising 30 personnel led by an officer she had hand-picked, he said.

Over 1,000 policemen had been deployed at Liaquat Bagh, there were about five walk-through gates and a bulletproof rostrum and policemen had been stationed on the roofs of nearby buildings. It was the responsibility of the PPP's leadership to have ensured that Bhutto did not expose herself to unnecessary risks, Musharraf said.

He pointed out that there had been 19 suicide bombings in the last quarter of 2007 in which 400 people were killed and 900 wounded, and all of them had been traced back to Pakistani Taliban commanders Baitullah Mehsud from South Waziristan and Maulana Fazlullah from Swat valley in North West Frontier Province.

Asked if the Scotland Yard team would be free to probe all leads, including Bhutto's allegations in a letter to the President about certain officials and provincial former chief ministers who posed a threat to her, Musharraf said: "I call these accusations baseless because I know the realities. There are certain political implications of certain things."

He said accusations had been levelled against political leaders without "anything happening".