The controversy over the unanswered questions surrounding the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani Prime Minister, has taken another twist after the country’s Interior Minister reportedly said he would reveal the identity of the killers in a forthcoming book.
Pakistani media reported that the famously outspoken Rehman Malik said he would name Bhutto’s Pakistani Taliban (TTP) assassins and provide other new details about her killing in a speech on Monday to members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party in Chitral. He said the information would be made public on 27 December, the fifth anniversary of her killing. He also claimed his counter-terrorism efforts had resulted in the fracturing of the TTP and said he would offer an amnesty to militants willing to give up violence.
“It is a fact that the majority of TTP activists are those who do it out of poverty and unemployment,” he said, according to the Dawn newspaper.
Bhutto, who twice served as Prime Minister, was killed in 2007 after returning to Pakistan following a decade in exile to launch a political comeback.
She was being driven away after campaigning in Rawalpindi, when a man fired three shots at her as she stood up through the sunroof of her vehicle. Then a large bomb exploded, killing 24 people.
The assassination of Bhutto, 54, has been surrounded by questions. In a book written by the former premier and published after her death, Bhutto raised concerns about figures within the security establishment, while her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, claimed that the President at the time, Pervez Musharraf, was behind the attack, something he always denied.
Two subsequent investigations – one by a UN team and another by Scotland Yard detectives – also found huge lapses in security and said her killing could have been avoided. The team of British detectives concluded it was more likely Bhutto died after hitting her head on the lever that controlled the sunroof than from gunshots. A post-mortem examination was never carried out.
In the absence of hard answers, conspiracy theories have filled the vacuum. In a recent essay in the London Review of Books, BBC journalist Owen Bennett-Jones, wrote: “Bhutto’s supporters want to establish that there was a sophisticated, officially sponsored conspiracy; the state prefers the idea of a crude but unpreventable attack by Islamic militants.”
Last night, Mr Malik was unavailable for comment and his office failed to respond to calls. However, he took to Twitter to claim he had been misquoted. The minister claimed he had not said he would reveal the identity of Bhutto’s assassins but that “more facts” about the case would be made public.
Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a Lahore-based political analyst, believes Mr Malik may have been making a “sales pitch” but is serious about revealing some details. He said: “What is not clear is to what extent this information will be new and how much it will be a revelation.”