Benazir killing: Police officer changes stance

Posted by on May 6th, 2010 and filed under Indo-Pak/Pakistan, International, Terrorism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Islamabad, May 6 (IANS) In a curious twist to the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, a police officer assigned to her security detail who had claimed he was at the spot Thursday said his senior had sent him away elsewhere.

Rana Shahid Pervez, who was the superintendent of police in the Criminal Investigation Agency at the time, had told a UN commission probing Bhutto’s killing Dec 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi that he was present at the spot.

On Thursday, he told a Fact Finding Committee (FFC) that his senior, city police officer Saud Aziz, had asked him to leave Liaqat Bagh, where Bhutto was killed, and head to the Karal Chowk area where the cavalcade of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had come under attack.

Quoting FFC sources, Online news agency quoted Pervez as saying that under pressure from Aziz, he had not told the UN commission that he had left the venue of his duty.

The FFC was established after the UN commission submitted its report April 15.

The UN report has blamed Pakistani authorities for their failure to protect Bhutto, saying the security arrangements of the Pervez Musharraf government 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 Munoz, reached no conclusion as to the organisers and sponsors behind Bhutto’s assassination.

But the 65-page report released Thursday notes then president 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.

The Pakistani government said it was satisfied with the report. However, Musharraf’s spokesman, Major General (retd) Rashid Qureshi, termed it ‘a pack of lies’. Musharraf has said he could not be held responsible.

‘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.’

The then federal government headed by Musharraf lacked a comprehensive security plan, relying instead on provincial authorities, but then failed to issue to them the necessary instructions, it said.

‘Particularly inexcusable was the government’s failure to direct provincial authorities to provide Bhutto the same stringent and specific security measures it ordered on 22 October 2007 for two other former prime ministers who belonged to the main political party supporting General Musharraf,’ it stated.

‘This discriminatory treatment is profoundly troubling given the devastating attempt on her life only three days earlier and the specific threats against her which were being tracked by the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence agency).’

Bhutto’s assassination could have been prevented if the Rawalpindi district police had taken adequate security measures, it added.

Turning to the immediate aftermath of the attack, the commission found that police actions and omissions, including the hosing down of the crime scene and failure to collect and preserve evidence, inflicted irreparable damage to the investigation.

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.

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