Thursday, April 15, 2010

UN report blames Pakistan government in aftermath of assassination

Sometimes, the audacity of government officials who violate the public trust is truly breathtaking. How else to describe Thursday's conclusion by a United Nations investigation that Pakistan's political and law enforcement establishment deliberately failed to adequately protect former prime minister Benazir Bhutto after she returned from exile in 2007 or to conduct a proper investigation into her assassination in Rawalpindi two months later? This question has no doubt been asked millions of times in the Western-aligned Asian nation since the death of Bhutto, who was expected to oppose then-president Pervez Musharraf in the 2008 election. After her death, Bhutto's husband, Ali Asaf Zardari, took the reins of her Pakistan's People's Party and defeated Musharraf at the polls. Musharraf, who has since retired from politics, is the former army chief who seized power in a 1999 coup. The United Nations commission's report does not name any suspects but does blame the Musharraf government for failing to prevent the attack and for not investigating the assassination properly, according to the Reuters international news service. "While she died when a 15-and-half-year-old suicide bomber detonated his explosives near her vehicle, no one believes this boy acted alone," the report said. "Ms. Bhutto's assassination could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been taken." The three-person commission of inquiry, impaneled after a formal request by Zardari, was headed by Chile's U.N. ambassador, Heraldo Munoz. The 65-page report also blamed government officials for trying to obstruct the investigation. "The commission was mystified by the efforts of certain high-ranking Pakistani government officials to obstruct access to military and intelligence sources," the report said, and recommended that the new government conduct a new investigation. Speculation continues in Pakistan that she was killed by Musharraf supporters trying to prevent her from capturing the presidency, Reuters said, particularly after authorities in Rawalpindi did not collect evidence but hosed down the scene immediately after the assassination, and failed to conduct an autopsy on Bhutto's body. The Musharraf government blamed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud for the assassination, but Mehsud, an al-Qaida ally, was killed by a U.S. drone strike last year, Reuters said.

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