New York, Apr 16: A UN investigative report on the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto has severely criticised the government headed by then-president Pervez Musharraf for failing to protect her despite publicly known threats.
Bhutto, twice a prime minister, died in a gun and bomb attack on Dec 27, 2007, when she appeared at an election rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi outside Islamabad.
Bhutto's widower, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, requested the UN investigation carried out by a three-member commission headed by Chile's UN Ambassador Heraldo Munoz. Munoz was joined on the commission by Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia and Peter Fitzgerald of Ireland.
Musharraf recently denied accusations that he failed to secure enough protection for Bhutto after she returned from exile to take part in domestic election campaigns. But the UN said relations between the two had deteriorated after Musharraf declared a state of emergency on Nov 3, 2007, suspended the constitution and imposed martial law in the face of instability in the country.
"The commission found that security arrangements for Ms Bhutto were fatally insufficient and ineffective," the 65-page report said in its conclusion.
It said the Pakistani police was "severely inadequate to the task of investigating the assassination of Ms Bhutto and lacking in independence and the political will to find the truth, wherever it may lead."
"The autonomy, pervasive reach and clandestine role of intelligence agencies in Pakistani life underlie many of the problems, omissions and commissions set out in this report," it said.
"The assassination of Benazir Bhutto occurred against the backdrop of a history of political violence that was carried out with impunity."
It said the failures of police and other Pakistani officials to react effectively immediately following the fatal bomb attack were "in most cases, deliberate."
The report said the crime scene was hosed down immediately after the attack and the "deliberate prevention" of authorities for a post-mortem examination of Bhutto had hindered the definitive determination of the cause of her death.
The report said authorities in the Punjab province and the Rawalpindi District Police where Bhutto campaign failed also in their duties to protect Bhutto, including not providing the full police force of 1,371 officers as planned.
"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," the report said.
It said neither Punjab nor Rawalpindi "took necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary, fresh and urgent security risks that they knew she faced."
"The federal government lacked a comprehensive security plan for Ms Bhutto, relying on provincial authorities, but then failed to issue to them the necessary instructions," the report said.
The report was handed over to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who gave a copy to Pakistani UN Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon so he can forwarded it to his government in Islamabad.
Bhutto's husband was out of the country at that time and arrived in Rawalpindi only seven hours after the attack that killed his wife. No autopsy was ordered and her body was placed in a coffin and taken to the airport upon his arrival.
"The commission is persuaded that the Rawalpindi police chief, CPO Saud Aziz, did not act independently of higher authorities, either in the decision to hose down the crime scene or to impede the post-mortem examination," the report said.
In addition to her broken relationship with the Musharraf government, Bhutto was facing "serious threats" from al-Qaeda, the Taliban and local jihadi groups and "potentially from elements in the Pakistani establishment," the report said. The report urged reform in the Pakistani police as well as its intelligence agencies.
It said the UN investigators were severely hampered in their duties to carry out their work by intelligence agencies and other government officials, which "impeded an unfettered search for the truth."