Bhutto's death 'could have been prevented'

Pakistan to hold its own investigation after UN inquiry condemns country's security

Pakistan has said it will push ahead with its own investigation into the murder of Benazir Bhutto after an UN inquiry into the former prime minister's assassination strongly criticised the country's security forces for failing to protect her. The UN team also accused the security establishment of failing to properly investigate the crime and even of blocking its own inquiry.

More than two years after Ms Bhutto was killed while attempting a political comeback, a three-member UN panel, asked to investigate by the Pakistani government headed by the late leader's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, concluded her death had been entirely "avoidable".

Without directly identifying the country's then leader, General Pervez Musharraf, the panel said a new investigation should look not just at the possible involvement of the Taliban and al-Qa'ida but also of a Pakistani establishment that includes the military, intelligence agencies and the business elite.

Announcing the team's findings at the UN on Thursday evening, its chairman, Heraldo Munoz, Chile's UN Ambassador, said: "It is clear that warnings were passed on, on various occasions, and Ms Bhutto also received information in this regard from outside Pakistan. Nevertheless, what we have found is that the passing of information was not accompanied by commensurate measures to protect her, particularly given the fact that an assassination attempt had been made against her the very day she returned to Karachi."

Ms Bhutto, 54, was killed in December 2007 while leaving a political rally in Liaquat Bagh, a park in the city of Rawalpindi, where she had been campaigning ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections. As she was being driven from the park, standing up through the sun roof of her bomb-proof car, a young man stepped forward and fired three shots at her before a large bomb detonated, killing two dozen people.

Investigators from Scotland Yard – called in by Mr Musharraf – subsequently concluded she had died after hitting her head on the car. Controversy has surrounded her death from the moment she was killed.

Police at the scene hosed down the area within hours of the blast, destroying evidence, and no proper post-mortem examination was carried out on the twice former premier. Both failings were highlighted by the UN team, which also criticised the security provided by Ms Bhutto's party – overseen by the now home minister Rehman Malik – as lacking leadership and "poorly executed".

But the investigators went much further, levelling damning criticism at the country's notorious intelligence agencies and the police. "The commission believes that the failure of the police to investigate effectively Ms Bhutto's assassination was deliberate," said their report. "These officials, in part fearing intelligence agencies' involvement, were unsure of how vigorously they ought to pursue actions, which they knew, as professionals, they should have taken."

After around a decade in exile, Ms Bhutto had returned to Pakistan to head the election campaign of her Pakistan People's Party after brokering an agreement with Mr Musharraf that granted amnesty to her, her husband and scores of officials who faced criminal allegations.

Yet her return was immediately rocked by violence. Flying into Karachi in October 2007 where she was met by hundreds of thousands of supporters, Ms Bhutto's convoy was subsequently attacked by a massive bomb which killed more than 130 people, many of them members of her party's youth wing. Her killing two months later thrust her husband to the forefront of the campaign and the PPP won the election. Mr Zardari was subsequently elected president by the country's parliament.

The UN team had not been tasked to investigate who killed Ms Bhutto. But it urged Pakistan to carry out a "serious, credible criminal investigation". Five alleged Islamist militants were charged in 2008 but their trial was stopped at the request of Mr Zardari's government to allow more investigations. That is likely to be restarted.

Meanwhile, an aide to the former president, Mr Musharraf, dismissed claims that the government had failed to act on warnings about the threat to Ms Bhutto and described the report as "a pack of lies". Speaking to the Associated Press, Rashid Qureshi added: "This chief UN investigator was not the relative of Sherlock Holmes."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Professional Services Firm - Oxford

£21000 - £24000 per annum + 21 days holidays: Ashdown Group: Technical Support...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor