Islamabad: Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf has said he could not be held responsible for Benazir Bhutto`s assassination as he was neither the head of the government nor the army chief at the time of the Dec 27, 2007 incident.
Musharraf was of the view that those who headed the government at the time should be questioned about the security lapses that led to the former prime minister`s killing, The News said Wednesday in a despatch from Washington, quoting a close aide of the former president.
Shaukat Aziz was the prime minister at the time but Musharraf was all-powerful, enjoying sweeping powers that have only now been taken away from the presidency and transferred back to the prime minister`s office.
A UN commission has blamed Pakistani authorities for their failure to protect Bhutto, saying security arrangements were "fatally insufficient and ineffective" and subsequent investigations into her death involved a whitewash.
In its devastating report, the three-member panel headed by Chilean Ambassador to UN Heraldo Muñoz, reached no conclusion as to the organisers and sponsors behind the attack as Bhutto left a political rally in the adjacent garrison town of Rawalpindi.
But the 65-page report released April 15 notes that Musharraf`s government was quick to blame local Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and Al Qaeda although Bhutto`s foes potentially included elements from the establishment itself.
"A range of government officials failed profoundly in their efforts first to protect Bhutto and second to investigate with vigour all those responsible for her murder, not only in the execution of the attack, but also in its conception, planning and financing," the panel said.
"Responsibility for Bhutto`s security on the day of her assassination rested with the federal government, the government of Punjab and the Rawalpindi district police. None of these entities took necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary, fresh and urgent security risks that they knew she faced."
Musharraf`s government lacked a comprehensive security plan, relying instead on provincial authorities, but then failed to issue to them the necessary instructions, it said.
The UN panel took up the investigation July 1, 2009 at the request of the new Pakistan government after Bhutto`s widower Asif Ali Zardari became president.
On Monday, the Pakistan government suspended eight officials who were responsible for the former prime minister`s security at the Rawalpindi rally.
The suspended officials include Rawalpindi`s former City Police Officer Saud Aziz, former Inspector General Chaudhry Abdul Majeed and six others who were handling Bhutto`s security during the rally.
All the eight officials are expected to testify before the Joint Investigation Team that is probing Bhutto`s murder.