Musharraf knew of plot to kill Benazir, reveals probe
Former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007.
Islamabad: Former president and military dictator Pervez Musharraf was aware that the Taliban was plotting to kill former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, but he did not pass on the information to the authorities concerned, said a team probing the 2007 assassination.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) found that Musharraf knew that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud was plotting the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, but withheld the information from agencies concerned, the Dawn daily reported on Thursday.
Sources said that JIT head Khalid Qureshi has briefed Interior Ministry officials about the challan submitted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Rawalpindi`s anti-terrorism court (ATC) earlier this week.
The challan contained 12 charges against Musharraf.
Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007, as she was leaving Liaquat Bagh in a motorcade after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi, the twin city of Islamabad capital. A teenaged shooter was seen aiming for her head in the CCTV footage before a powerful suicide blast killed at least 24 people participating in the rally.
The Interior Ministry at that time accused the Taliban of plotting to kill Bhutto while the doctors said as she was standing in her vehicle "her head banged against the lever of the sunroof of her vehicle, which caused her death".
The JIT questioned Brig (retired) Javed Iqbal Cheema, who then headed the Interior Ministry`s National Crisis Management cell, said sources.
Cheema said it was Musharraf who had ordered the press conference which he addressed on December 28, 2007 - the day after Bhutto`s assassination - without consulting the Punjab government.
FIA officials are of the opinion that Cheema` statement is corroborated by the statements of Brig (retired) Aijaz Shah, the then Intelligence Bureau chief.
The JIT believes that Musharraf`s insistence on holding a press conference was aimed at "influencing" police probe.
"Pervez Musharraf had prior knowledge of the assassination plan of Benazir Bhutto by accused Baitullah Mehsud, the TTP chief, but he (Musharraf) withheld this piece of vital information," the media report quote the FIA as saying.
Former president Pervez Musharraf`s name was on Monday included in the list of accused in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case.
Musharraf`s name was added to the list following a statement of former Rawalpindi city police chief Saud Aziz.
Aziz claimed that Musharraf had given the order to change Benazir`s security in-charge. He also claimed that the murder scene was immediately washed on Musharraf`s orders.
Musharraf ruled Pakistan for nine years after taking power in a bloodless coup in 1999. He stepped down in 2008 and left Pakistan. He now lives in London.
In December last year, Pervez Musharraf was sent a questionnaire by the interior ministry regarding Bhutto`s assassination during his presidency.
The sources claimed that the FIA, in its challan, said: "Based on motive, circumstantial evidence and statements..., it is prima facie established that Musharraf is equally responsible...for facilitation and abetment of assassinating Benazir Bhutto through his government`s unjustified failure in providing her the requisite security protection her status deserved as twice prime minister."
The FIA also claimed that the former dictator did not take any action against the police officers responsible for protecting Benazir Bhutto.
The agency said the fact that the former president didn`t order judicial inquiry into the assassination lent strength to their suspicions.