Musharraf Regime Indicted for Benazir Killing
Jammu: In a damning report, a United Nations investigation into Benazir Bhutto's killing today concluded that the then military ruler Pervez Musharraf's government "failed" to protect the ex-premier despite being aware of the serious threats to her life.
UN-appointed independent panel report also slammed the powerful ISI and the Pakistani police, saying they "deliberately failed" to properly probe 54-year-old Bhutto's murder which could have been averted. "Bhutto's assassination could have been prevented," said the much-awaited 65-page report by a three-member panel headed by Chile's UN ambassador Heraldo Munoz.
Report has said that Pakistan's powerful spy agency ISI continues to have close links with Lashkar-e-Taiba and has used the terror group's services to foment anti-India passion in Kashmir and elsewhere. "The Pakistani military organised and supported the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan in 1996. Similar tactics were used in Kashmir against India after 1989," said the much-awaited report by UN-appointed independent panel to probe the killing of former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto.
The three-member panel concluded that such a policy of the Pakistan military to use terrorists as a tool to achieve its strategic objectives against its neighbours resulted in active linkages between elements of the military and the Establishment with radical Islamists at the expense of national secular forces.
Noting that the jihadi organisations are Sunni groups based largely in Pakistan's Punjab, the 65-page report said that members of these groups aided the Taliban effort in Afghanistan at the behest of the ISI and later cultivated ties with Al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban groups.
"The Pakistani military and ISI also used and supported some of these groups in the Kashmir insurgency after 1989. The bulk of the anti-Indian activity was and still remains the work of groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has close ties with the ISI," said the panel headed by Chile's UN ambassador Heraldo Munoz.
"A common characteristic of these jihadi groups was their adherence to the Deobandi Sunni sect of Islam, their strong anti-Shia bias, and their use by the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies in Afghanistan and Kashmir," the report said.
The report said Qari Saifullah Akhtar, one of the founders of the extremist Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami (HuJI), was reportedly one of the ISI's main links to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and is believed to had cultivated ties to Osama bin Laden, who lived in Afghanistan during that period.
"Akhtar's one-time deputy Ilyas Kashmiri, who had ties with the Pakistani military during the Afghan and Kashmir campaigns, had been a senior aide to bin Laden's deputy Ayman al Zawahiri," it said. "It was such links and connections between elements in the intelligence agencies and militants, which most concerned Bhutto and many others who believed that the authorities could activate these connections to harm her. Given their clandestine nature, any such connection in an attack on her is very difficult to detect or prove," the report said.
The investigators stressed that besides passing on messages of the serious threats to Bhutto, no proactive measures were taken by the authorities to neutralise the danger. However, the report does not reveal who killed Bhutto.
"The responsibility for Bhutto's security on the day of the assassination rested with the federal government, the government of Punjab and the Rawalpindi district police... none of these entities took the necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary fresh and urgent security risk that they knew she faced," Munoz told reporters.
"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," he said.
The panel pointed out that Bhutto faced a threat from several sources, including Al-Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban, other Jihadist groups and "so called establishment in Pakistan" that consisted of elements of military commanders, intelligence agency, allied political parties and business partners.
Bhutto, the first woman to become prime minister of a Muslim country, was killed on December 27, 2007 in a gun and suicide attack after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near the capital Islamabad.
The Munoz-led panel, which commenced its probe on July 1, 2009, was to have submitted its report on December 31, 2009 but its term was extended for another three months. It was tasked with establishing the facts and circumstances of the slaying and was not empowered to identify culprits.
However, the report, initially scheduled for March 30, was delayed after Pakistan made a request to the panel urging it to include input from former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Saudi Arabia. The report severely rebuked Pakistan's spy agency ISI for interfering in criminal investigations after her assassination, which subordinated law and order.