UN inquiry into Bhutto’s assassination begins

July 1st, 2009 - 5:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Benazir Bhutto Islamabad, July 1 (DPA) A UN panel began an inquiry Wednesday into the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto 18 months after her death.
The three-member commission - headed by Chile’s ambassador to the United Nations, Heraldo Munoz - is to examine the facts and circumstances of the murder.

Bhutto was killed in a suicide gun and bomb attack in December 2007 as she concluded an election rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.

The attack came barely two months after she survived a bombing in the southern city of Karachi after her return from eight years of self-imposed exile to re-enter politics in Pakistan.

“The mandate of the UN inquiry team is starting from today (Wednesday), but for some days, they will do their homework in New York,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said.

The UN team is to arrive in Pakistan in the third week of July and “consult all the evidence accumulated so far by the law enforcement agencies here” during its four-day visit, Basit said.

“They can talk to witnesses and functionaries, and the Pakistan government will facilitate that,” the spokesman added.

The commission is to submit a report to the UN Security Council within six months and share it with Islamabad.

The government of then-president Pervez Musharraf blamed the Taliban chief and tribal warlord Baitullah Mehsud for masterminding the attack.

Bhutto had reportedly annoyed the militants and Islamists with her statements against terrorism and extremism.

Bhutto’s supporters, including her widower and current President Asif Ali Zardari, demanded a UN investigation, alleging that rogue elements within the country’s intelligence agencies might also be involved in the murder plot.

Musharraf rejected the demand and instead invited Scotland Yard investigators but only to determine the cause of Bhutto’s death. She died of a severe head injury caused by an explosion, it found.

The UN team also includes former Indonesia attorney general Marzuki Darusman and veteran Irish police officer Peter Fitzgerald.

The UN commission has a limited scope, and it was not clear whether it would be able to appropriately address all the questions about Bhutto’s death.

“The duty of determining criminal responsibility of the perpetrators of the assassination remains with the Pakistani authorities,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in announcing the creation of the panel in June.

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