Investigators grilled former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for nearly three hours on Saturday for his alleged role in the assassination of two-time former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
Benazir was killed in a gun and suicide attack outside Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh on December 27, 2007. Gen (retd) Musharraf, who was in power back then, is blamed for not providing adequate security to the slain PPP chairperson.
On Saturday, a four-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) quizzed Musharraf at his plush farmhouse in Chak Shahzad, on the edge of the federal capital. The interrogation session focused on ‘unanswered questions’ and ‘missing links’ in the case. Musharraf, however, denied any role in Benazir’s murder. Reportedly, to most of the questions put to him, he gave a terse reply: ‘I’ve no knowledge’.
“Musharraf was asked about Benazir’s letters to the government seeking protection in the wake of threats to her life, but he denied having any knowledge,” said a source privy to the investigation. Musharraf was also reminded of US journalist Mark Segal’s earlier statement to investigators.
In the statement, Segal claimed that Benazir had received a phone call from Musharraf in his presence who asked her why she wanted to return to Pakistan before the 2008 elections. He warned her that it might have consequences. Benazir appeared a little disturbed following the call and told Segal that Musharraf would be responsible if she was harmed upon her return.
The former military ruler, however, denied making any such call, the source told The Express Tribune. Instead, he told the investigators that he had met Benazir in a ‘very cordial environment’ upon her return to the country.
Musharraf also maintained that providing security to Benazir was not the president’s responsibility. “It was the responsibility of the government, therefore the then prime minister would be better suited to answer this question,” the source quoted him as telling the investigators.
The JIT also questioned Musharraf about a high-level meeting he had chaired at his camp office in the Army House. In the meeting, then interior secretary Kamal Shah and heads of security agencies had reportedly informed Musharraf about Benazir’s request for security. Musharraf had allegedly said she would be provided security ‘in line with her relations with his government’. Musharraf, however, denied making such remarks.
He also denied giving orders to hose down the crime scene immediately after the assassination of Benazir, claiming that it was not his job to do so. The JIT, which comprises police and intelligence officials, will continue interrogating Musharraf until his physical remand expires.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2013.