Pakistani police deliberately failed to properly probe the 2007 murder of ex-premier Benazir Bhutto which could have been averted if there had been adequate security, a UN-appointed independent panel said Thursday.
“Ms Bhutto’s assassination could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been taken,” said the report by a three-member panel headed by Chile’s UN ambassador Heraldo Munoz.
The panel said responsibility for 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 the necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary, fresh, urgent security risks that they knew she faced,” it added.
The panel said it believed that Pakistani police’s failure to probe the slaying effectively “was deliberate.”
“These officials, in part fearing intelligence agencies’ involvement, were unsure of how vigorously they ought to pursue actions, which they knew, as professionals, they should have taken,” it added.
The panel said the Pakistani probe “lacked direction, was ineffective and suffered from a lack of commitment to identify and bring all of the perpetrators to justice.”
It added it was up to Pakistani authorities to carry out a “serious, credible criminal investigation that determines who conceived, ordered and executed this heinous crime… and brings those responsible to justice.”
The Munoz-led panel was tasked with establishing the facts and circumstances of the slaying and was not empowered to identify culprits.
Bhutto, the first woman to become prime minister of a Muslim country, was killed on December 27, 2007 in a gun and suicide attack after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near the capital Islamabad.
Bhutto’s supporters have cast doubt on an initial Pakistani probe into her death, questioning whether she was killed by a gunshot or the blast and criticizing authorities for hosing down the scene of the attack within minutes.
Munoz earlier Thursday turned over the report to UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon, who was to have addressed the press after receiving a copy of the report, canceled the press encounter and was to take the report back to Islamabad.
The panel unwrapped the long-awaited, sensitive report after complying with Islamabad’s request for a two-week delay.
Pakistan said last week it had asked that the release, initially scheduled for March 30, be delayed so that input from Afghanistan, the United States and Saudi Arabia could be included.
Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said he had asked the UN-appointed, three-member panel to include input from former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Saudi Arabia in its report.
He did not elaborate further on what information he wanted to be included.