A long-awaited UN report into the killing of Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto two years ago has been highly critical of the government of the day.
It says Bhutto’s death at a rally near Islamabad could have been prevented if proper security measures had been taken by Gen Pervez Musharraf’s government.
The subsequent investigation into the crime was also sharply criticised.
It was noted that the crime scene in Rawalpindi was hosed down immediately after the explosion.
This, the report says, could not have happened without the knowledge of higher authorities.
The report, compiled by an independent commission appointed by the UN, concludes that the pervasive presence of Pakistan’s politicised intelligence agencies hampered the investigation.
The commission was set up in July last year in response to a request from Pakistan.
‘Profound failure ‘
Speaking at a news conference at the UN in New York, the head of the commission, Heraldo Munoz, said the authorities had failed to protect Bhutto and to investigate her assassination properly.
“A range of government officials failed profoundly in their efforts, first to protect Ms 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,” he said.
“Responsibility for Ms Bhutto’s security on the day of her assassination rested with the federal government, the government of Punjab and the Rawalpindi district police,” he continued.
“None of these entities took the necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary fresh and urgent security risks that they knew she faced.”
Better protection, Mr Munoz said, had been given to two other former prime ministers who belonged to the main political party supporting Gen Musharraf.
Mr Munoz said Bhutto would have not been killed had the Rawalpindi district police taken adequate security measures.
“The security arrangements for Ms Bhutto by the Rawalpindi district police were ineffective and insufficient,” he said.
Nor, the commission head added, had the police chief acted independently of higher authorities when the decision to hose down the crime scene was taken.
“The Rawalpindi district police actions and omissions in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of Ms Bhutto, including the hosing down of the crime scene, and failure to collect and preserve evidence inflicted irreparable damage to the investigation,” he said.
“The collection of 23 pieces of evidence was manifestly inadequate in a case that should have resulted in a collection of thousands of pieces of evidence.”
The UN report had been due to be published at the end of March but was delayed for two weeks at the request of Bhutto’s widower, Pakistani President Asif Zardari, who had called for the investigation.
The government said it wanted extra time to include input from Afghanistan, the US and Saudi Arabia, three countries that had apparently warned Bhutto of a death threat.
The three-member panel was mandated to investigate the facts and circumstances of Bhutto’s death, not assign criminal responsibility.
Gen Musharraf declared that the late head of the Pakistani Taliban, Beitullah Mehsud, organised the assassination.
Bhutto herself wrote that four suicide squads were after her, some linked to al-Qaeda.
But she also accused a group of senior politicians and intelligence officials of plotting to kill her, and many of her followers blame elements of the military establishment and Gen Musharraf’s government for her death.
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