Did Pervez Musharraf really kill Benazir?

Earlier this week, Pakistan charged former military ruler Pervez Musharraf with playing a role in Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, indicting him for murder and conspiracy to kill. The evidence on which the charge is based hasn’t become public yet. In 2010, though, a United Nations commission held that the “Musharraf, although fully aware of, and tracking, the serious threats to Ms Bhutto’s security, did little more than pass on those threats to her and provincial authorities and were not proactive in neutralising them”.

In a forthcoming book, lead investigator Heraldo Muñoz says it is his belief “that the police deliberately botched the investigation into Bhutto’s assassination”. Muñoz suggests that the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate may have had some links with the jihadists who killed Benazir.

He’s however careful to add that while Musharraf may be guilty of moral and political lapses, there’s none of actual criminal culpability.


While Musharraf may be guilty of moral and political lapses, there’s none of actual criminal culpability. AP

The UN’s Benazir Commission report makes for gripping reading—highlighting the unanswered questions about the woman who seemed poise to rule Pakistan.

1. There was a mass of intelligence that made clear Benazir’s life was at serious threat

“… documents reveal significant threats to Ms Bhutto, particularly around three time periods – from just before her return to Pakistan in October, from early to mid-November, and from mid-to late December. For instance, on 20 December, the Military Operations Directorate informed Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah that Usama bin Laden had ordered the assassination of General Pervez Musharraf, Ms Bhutto and Maulana Fazal ur Rahman, a religious and political leader. Another warned that an attack on Ms Bhutto and Mr Malik could be launched on 21 December.

The Commission was told by present and former senior officials of the ISI that they had received intelligence regarding threats to Ms Bhutto from representatives of the Governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”

2. In spite of this intelligence being available, Benazir wasn’t given proper security

“The Commission has reviewed one Interior Ministry letter, dated 22 October 2007, which is clearly a federal directive. Sent to all provincial governments, it orders them to provide stringent and specific security measures for Messrs. Shaukat Aziz1 and Chaudhry Shujat Hussain as ex-prime ministers…. Despite a search of their archives, at the request of the Commission, Punjab provincial authorities could not find a similar directive from federal authorities in the case of Ms Bhutto, also an ex-prime minister.

The Commission finds that the federal Government did not have a comprehensive security plan to protect Ms Bhutto. It also failed to fix responsibility for her security in a specific federal official, entity or organization. Instead, the federal government expected provincial authorities to provide fool-proof security for Ms Bhutto, but did not issue the necessary, specific and detailed instructions commensurate to the threats and never followed up to ensure effective measures were undertaken.”

3. Things didn’t change even after the first attack on her—which wasn’t investigated properly.

“On 18 October 2007, Ms Bhutto returned to Pakistan from exile, flying into Karachi from Dubai…. Enormous crowds met her at the airport in Karachi and along the Sharea-e-Faisal highway, slowing the progress of her cavalcade to her destination at the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, where she had intended to deliver a speech. Shortly after midnight, near the Karsaz neighbourhood, an explosion went off near the armoured truck in which she was riding. A second, much more powerful explosion followed. Ms Bhutto was not hurt, but many others were, with the official toll put at 149 deaths and 402 injuries.

The Sindh police investigation of the attack never advanced.”

4. The government botched the investigation into Benazir’s assassination—even though it called in a Scotland Yard team to help

“In the Commission’s view, it is important to note that, in the Scotland Yard team’s view, there was no forensic examination of the crime scene by the police on 27 December 2007.8 The team found chaos and confusion understandable in the “immediate aftermath” of the blast and during the evacuation of casualties, but noted that there was never any organized or structured scene control or forensic examination that evening. For what evidence was collected, the Rawalpindi police often did not note their original location accurately. The Scotland Yard team was told by one police officer that the scene was searched for 45 minutes. Scotland Yard found that the scene was hosed down “within an hour” after the blast and, as a result, the “opportunity for a thorough forensic examination was lost”.

Dr Nathaniel Cary, the pathologist appointed by Scotland Yard, confirmed that the force of the blast caused Ms Bhutto’s fatal injury. However, Ms Bhutto did not suffer her injuries from hitting the latch of the escape hatch, as announced in the Ministry of Interior’s press conference on 28 December 2007. Rather, Dr Cary asserted that her head struck somewhere on the lip of the escape hatch opening”

5. Pervez Musharraf, as head of the federal government, was thus guilty of not responding to the threats to Benazir’s life.

“Responsibility for Ms. Bhutto’s security on the day of her assassination rested with the federal Government, the government of Punjab and the Rawalpindi District Police. None of these entities took necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary, fresh and urgent security risks that they knew she faced…. The federal Government under General Musharraf, although fully aware of, and tracking, the serious threats to Ms Bhutto’s security, did little more than pass on those threats to her and provincial authorities and were not proactive in neutralizing them or ensuring that the security provided was commensurate to the threats.”

Updated Date: Aug 21, 2013 12:58 PM

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