Pakistani authorities could have prevented the 2007 murder of ex-premier Benazir Bhutto and deliberately failed to properly investigate her death, a UN-appointed independent panel said
"Ms Bhutto's assassination could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been taken," said a report by a three-member panel headed by Chile's UN ambassador Heraldo Munoz on Thursday.
And the panel, which was tasked with establishing the facts and circumstances of the killing, 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 report also said the investigation was severely hampered by intelligence agencies and other officials who impeded "an unfettered search for the truth."
|The 2007 murder of Pakistani ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, pictured in 2007, could have been averted if adequate security measures had been taken, a report by a UN-appointed independent panel said|
The charismatic, Oxford-educated 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.
Her shocking death threw the world's only nuclear-armed Islamic nation into chaos, sparking violence and leading to months of political turmoil that ended in September when her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, claimed the presidency.
The Munoz-led panel said in its 65-page report that 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.
It noted that the Pakistani government failed to provide Bhutto with the same stringent and specific security measures it ordered on October 22, 2007 for two other former prime ministers who belonged to the main political party backing then president Pervez Musharraf.
"This discriminatory treatment is profoundly troubling given the devastating attempt on her life only three days earlier and the specific threats against her which were being tracked" by Pakistani intelligence.
The report 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 that 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."
Munoz told reporters that the probe, which began last July, "was not a criminal investigation."
He said his panel conducted more than 250 interviews, meeting with Pakistani officials and private citizens, foreign citizens with knowledge of the events and members of Britain's Scotland Yard who probed some aspects of the killing.
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.
Scotland Yard's inquiry ruled that Bhutto died from the force of a suicide bomb and not gunfire.
The UN report, which was requested by Zardari's political party, was turned over to UN chief Ban Ki-moon earlier Thursday.
The panel -- which also included Indonesian ex-attorney general Marzuki Darusman and Peter Fitzgerald, an Irish former police official -- enjoined Pakistani authorities to ensure that "the further investigation into the assassination of Ms Bhutto is fully empowered and resourced and is conducted expeditiously and comprehensively, at all levels, without hindrance."
It 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.
He did not detail what information he wanted to be included.