Pakistan court issues warrants over Bhutto's death

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A Pakistani court has issued arrest warrants for two senior police officials accused of negligence in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a prosecutor said today.

Prosecutors accuse one of the officials of failing to provide proper security for Bhutto and the other of cleaning the crime scene before evidence could be collected.

Bhutto was killed on December 27 2007 in a gun and suicide-bomb attack as she was leaving a rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, where she was campaigning for parliamentary elections just weeks after returning to the country from years in self-imposed exile.

A UN commission in April said her assassination could have been prevented and blamed all levels of government for failing to provide adequate security. It also accused intelligence agencies and other officials of severely hampering the investigation into those behind her murder.

Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali said today that an anti-terror court had ordered the arrest of former Rawalpindi police chief Saud Aziz and Superintendent Khurram Shahzad at the request of the Federal Investigation Agency.

"We have filed an application for the trial of two police officials - one was responsible for deliberate negligence in Benazir Bhutto's security and the other was responsible for washing down the crime scene instead of preserving it," Ali said.

The UN commission said in its April report that the Rawalpindi police's decision to hose down the crime scene and its failure to collect and preserve evidence "inflicted irreparable damage to the investigation".

Ali said the two police officials could be arrested at any time and would be in court for another hearing set for December 11.

Presently five accused militants are facing trial for alleged involvement in the killing.

The government of then-President Pervez Musharraf blamed Bhutto's death on Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani militant commander with reported links to al Qaida who has since been killed. Officials at the US Central Intelligence Agency also said Mehsud was the chief suspect.

But Bhutto's party has repeatedly hinted that Musharraf or his allies were involved and demanded a UN investigation, claiming it was the only way the whole truth would be disclosed.

In its report, the UN commission said Musharraf's government, though fully aware and tracking threats against Bhutto, did little more than pass them on to her and to provincial authorities and did not take action to neutralise them or ensure "that the security provided was commensurate with the threats".

The commission urged Pakistani authorities to carry out a "serious, credible" criminal investigation that "determines who conceived, ordered and executed this heinous crime of historic proportions, and brings those responsible to justice".