Pakistan under pressure to probe Bhutto death

By Zeeshan Haider

ISLAMABAD (BestGrowthStock) – Pakistan came under pressure on Friday to complete its investigation of the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto after a U.N. enquiry concluded the previous government failed to protect her.

A report by a United Nations commission of inquiry released in New York on Thursday said her killing by a 15-and-a-half-year-old suicide bomber could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been taken.

Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack after an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007, weeks after she returned to Pakistan after years in self-imposed exile.

The U.N. report heavily criticized Pakistani authorities, saying they had “severely hampered” the investigation.

The three U.N. investigators, who conducted a nine-month inquiry headed by Chile’s U.N. Ambassador Heraldo Munoz, believe the failure to effectively examine Bhutto’s death was “deliberate,” the report said.

Pakistani authorities arrested five Islamist militants in 2008 on suspicions of involvement in Bhutto’s assassination. They were being tried in an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi but the current government, which came into power after February 2008 elections, requested the court to stop the trial as it wanted to re-investigate the matter.

Police officials said the Federal Investigation Agency, the government’s main arm for criminal investigation, was now carrying out the probe.

“We are not oblivious of our responsibilities to carry out investigations,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Reuters.

Bhutto was mistrusted by parts of Pakistan’s military and security establishment and speculation has lingered she was the victim of a plot by allies of General Pervez Musharraf, the president at the time, who did not want her to come to power.

The report did not say who it believed was guilty of the crime, but suggested any credible investigation should also look at those who conceived, planned and financed the operation — and should not exclude the possible involvement of Pakistan’s powerful military and security establishment.

“The blame has been fixed on the previous administration, especially for those who were responsible for her security,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a political and security analyst

“Now the challenge for the government is to carry out its own investigations. There will be pressure on the government and even within the Pakistan People’s Party to proceed against those officers who are still in service.”

The UN report was also critical of Bhutto’s own Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) for failing to provide adequate security.

Farahnaz Ispahani, media advisor to the co-chairman of the PPP, said: “We expect there will be a proper criminal investigation followed by prosecutions.”

Bhutto had returned to Pakistan, a key ally to the United States in its war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, to contest an election under a power-sharing deal with Musharraf that Washington had helped to broker.

A staunch opponent of Islamist militants, Bhutto survived a bomb attack on a rally hours after arriving home in the city of Karachi in October 2007. Some 149 people were killed.

The toughly worded U.N. report said Musharraf was aware of and tracking the many threats against Bhutto.

But his government “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,” it said.

Stock Market Today

(Additional reporting by Augustine Anthony and Chris Allbritton; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Pakistan under pressure to probe Bhutto death