Pakistan sidelines some officials after Bhutto report

Last Updated: Monday, April 19, 2010 - 15:39

Islamabad: Pakistan has sidelined eight officials, including policemen, responsible for the security of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, after a UN report said she was poorly protected, a spokesman said on Monday.

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

A United Nations commission of inquiry released its findings last week, saying her killing by a 15-year-old suicide bomber could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been taken.

Seven police officers and a former Interior Ministry spokesman had been removed from active operations and designated officers on special duty (OSD), President Asif Ali Zardari`s spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, said.

"On the recommendations of the party, the government initiated a process and has made some officials OSD," Babar said, referring to Bhutto`s Pakistan People`s Party (PPP), now led by her widower, Zardari.

The government of the day led by allies of then President Pervez Musharraf blamed the then Pakistani Taliban leader and al Qaeda ally Baitullah Mehsud for Bhutto`s murder.

The UN team focused on the circumstances surrounding Bhutto`s death. Pakistan is still left with the responsibility of determining who carried out the assassination, one of the most dramatic events in the country`s turbulent history.

The UN team heavily criticised authorities, saying they had "severely hampered" the investigation.

The three UN investigators who conducted a nine-month inquiry, headed by Chile`s UN Ambassador Heraldo Munoz, said they believed the failure to effectively examine Bhutto`s death was "deliberate”.

`Conspiracy`

They called on the Pakistani authorities to carry out a "serious, credible criminal investigation that determines who conceived, ordered and executed this heinous crime of historic proportions" and bring those responsible to justice.

Top leaders of the PPP met at the weekend and called on Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, a top party member and Zardari ally, to take "appropriate legal action" in light of the UN report. A staunch opponent of Islamist militants, Bhutto was also mistrusted by parts of Pakistan`s military and security establishment.

Speculation has lingered she was the victim of a plot by allies of Musharraf, who did not want her to come to power. Musharraf had said he and his military and security forces played no part in Bhutto`s killing.

Retired Major-General Rashid Qureshi, a spokesman for Musharraf, said last week it was "ridiculous" to hold his government responsible for Bhutto`s murder.

Bhutto survived a bomb attack on a rally hours after arriving home in the city of Karachi in October 2007. About 140 people were killed.

Many people doubt whether powerful figures within Pakistan will let the truth behind the killing come out.

But Babar, the president`s spokesman, said his party was determined to expose the conspiracy behind Bhutto`s assassination.

Bureau Report



First Published: Monday, April 19, 2010 - 15:39

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