LAHORE: The United Nations’ team probing Benazir Bhutto’s death met former president Pervez Musharraf during the investigation, revealed the commission’s head Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz.
This interview, however, was subject to the condition of confidentiality, says Munoz. In an exclusive interview with Express 24/7, Munoz also said that the commission was initially told that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and army were “off limits”. And only after the commission’s insistence did army and intelligence officials agree to be interviewed.
And of the three men Benazir named in her letter, Hamid Gul refused to be interviewed by the Commission. In another revelation, the ambassador called the disappearance of the black Mercedes, which was to be Bhutto’s back-up vehicle, “inexcusable, irresponsible”.
The UN commission’s report detailing the probable causes of Bhutto’s death has thrown government officials, intelligence agencies and the police into the spotlight as it highlighted various security lapses on December 27, 2007.
The report has directly blamed Musharraf’s government for failing to provide Bhutto adequate security in Rawalpindi, where a suicide bomber shot at the PPP leader during a rally and then blew himself up.
The report terms the government’s failure to protect Bhutto ‘inexcusable’. Musharraf’s aide Rashid Qureshi denied allegations that the former president was responsible for Bhutto’s death, and on Friday said the UN report was based on rumours. Qureshi said Bhutto exposed herself to the risks in Pakistan even though the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) warned her not to attend the Rawalpindi rally.
Musharraf’s government is not the only target of the report’s scathing criticism, as the report says police performance on the day of the assassination was ‘poor’ and goes so far as to say CPO Saud Aziz ‘impeded’ the investigation.
The commission said that the police was ‘subordinate’ to the intelligence agencies in terms of collecting evidence and conducting investigations. The report also states: “given the historical and possibly continuing relationships between intelligence agencies and some radical Islamist groups, the agencies could be compromised in their investigations of crimes possibly carried out by such groups.”
The report also mentions that CPO Saud Aziz was not acting alone and suggests that he was taking orders from Major General Nadeem Ejaz Ahmed who was director of Military Intelligence.
According to the report, the involvement of intelligence agencies in all spheres of Pakistani life has undermined rule of law and weakened political and law enforcement institutions.
In this light, Munoz’s allegation that intelligence agencies refused to participate in an UN sanctioned probe is striking. Munoz’s third assertion, that the black Mercedes’ disappearance was ‘irresponsible’ to the outcome of attack, hits out at President Zardari’s previous claim that the UN report had absolved the PPP of any blame. Senior PPP party members Farhatullah Babar and Rehman Malik were sitting in the bulletproof black Mercedes, along with Babar Awan and General (retd) Tauqir Zia.
According to eyewitnesses, the Mercedes left Liaquat Bagh, the site of the rally, before Bhutto’s vehicle and was nowhere to be seen afterwards. The commission said they found it ‘incredible’ that the occupants of the Mercedes drove all the way to Zardari House some 20 minutes away before they became aware that Bhutto had been injured in the blast.
In the fall-out of the UN report, officials named in the document are being investigated and have been relieved of their duties. Munoz’s assertions that the intelligence agencies refused to cooperate and that the missing Mercedes was key to the case, however, highlight areas where action is not being taken.
See former president Pervez Musharraf's explanation of what happened at Liaqat Bagh here.
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