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IN a nearly 12-minute video statement posted on social media, former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf says he broke his silence after PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari blamed him for the first time directly for Benazir Bhutto’s murder.
IN a nearly 12-minute video statement posted on social media, former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf says he broke his silence after PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari blamed him for the first time directly for Benazir Bhutto’s murder.

ISLAMABAD: Former president and military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf stirred the pot on Thursday when he alleged that his successor, Asif Ali Zardari, was the “murderer” of Benazir Bhutto and her brother, Murtaza.

In a video statement posted on social media, the former president also alleged that some senior Afghan officials, including former president Hamid Karzai, might have been involved in this conspiracy since “Asif Zardari had very good relations with Karzai”.

“It is a known fact that I wanted Mehsud dead. The government wanted him dead after his group had attempted to kill me,” Gen Musharraf said, adding that therefore he was not in a position to influence these terrorists.

PPP questions 10-year delay in levelling allegation; says claim proves Musharraf was behind assassination

“On the other hand, Zardari had a great relationship with former Afghan president Hamid Karzai — a link he could have used to influence Mehsud and his people,” he said. The former military ruler said that there was another “senior official” who could have used his influence over Mehsud, but added that he didn’t want to disclose his name.

Reacting promptly, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) questioned the “former dictator’s 10-year silence” on such an important matter and called for his trial in the Benazir Bhutto murder case after the issuance of red warrants.

The PPP says that Gen Musharraf’s statement proves that he was directly responsible for the assassination of the former PPP chairperson in a gun-and-bomb attack outside Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh on Dec 27, 2007.

In the nearly 12-minute video, Gen Musharraf claimed that there was no doubt that Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated by former Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud and his people. “But the question is, who hatched the conspiracy to use Mehsud [for this purpose]?”

Addressing Bilawal, Bakhta­war and Aseefa, the children of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari, the Bhutto family and the people of Sindh, Gen Musharraf alleged that Asif Zardari was responsible for the “destruction” of their dynasty.

The retired general called for Mr Zardari’s immediate arrest, saying that he had been forced to break his silence after the PPP leader “for the first time directly blamed me” for Ms Bhutto’s murder. “I cannot tolerate this. He [Zardari] has challenged me,” he said.

“Every time there is a murder, there is a need to see who has got the most benefit from it,” he said, adding: “In this case, I suffered the most as I was in power, and the murder put my government in a difficult situation”.

“There was just one person who had everything to gain from Benazir’s assassination, and that was Asif Zardari,” he claimed.

The allegations came a day after the 21st death anniversary of Mir Murtaza Bhutto, the brother of Benazir Bhutto. Murtaza was a member of the Sindh Assembly when he was killed in a suspected police encounter outside his residence in Karachi in 1996. The incident took place while his sister was the prime minister.

The latest controversy surfaced on the day when the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench accepted three appeals filed by Asif Zardari against a recent Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) verdict.

Last month, ATC Judge Asghar Ali Khan had acquitted five suspects allegedly affiliated with the banned TTP, but convicted police officers Saud Aziz and Khurram Shehzad for criminal negligence. Former president Musharraf was also dec­lared a proclaimed offender and his assets were to be confiscated.

In Thursday’s statement, Gen Musharraf said that every Pakistani had reservations over the judgement, where two of the most efficient police officers had been sentenced to 17 years and five hardcore terrorists were released.

He also denied allegations that he had not provided security to the late Ms Bhutto, adding that former interior minister Rehman Malik and “an inexperienced man” Khalid Shehenshah were in charge of Ms Bhutto’s security.

He also questioned why Mr Malik fled the scene immediately after the attack.

“Who took the decision to create a hatch in the roof of a bullet- and bombproof vehicle?” he asked. He said that Ms Bhutto had already addressed a public gathering and was safely inside the vehicle “before someone called her incessantly on her phone and got her to wave to the people out of the hatch”.

“The question is, who was in the car with her when she died? Naheed Khan, her husband Safdar Abbasi, Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Khalid Shehenshah — Zardari’s old jail buddy — were all in the car, but the court never summoned these people to record their statements,” he regretted.

“What is suspicious is that Shehenshah was also murdered under mysterious circumstances. And what is even stranger is that the man who murdered Shehenshah was also killed,” he said, asking: “Who is capable of doing all this, one should ask. The answer is Asif Ali Zardari”.

PPP reaction

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah was the first to react from the PPP.

Talking to reporters at Parliament House, Mr Shah questioned “why Gen Musharraf remained silent for 10 years in such a major case”.

He said the PPP was now sure that the former military dictator was “totally involved” in Ms Bhutto’s murder and asked the judiciary to take notice of the statement and called for the issuance of “red warrants” for the former army chief.

The PPP leader said if Gen Musharraf knew about the links between Baitullah Mehsud and Asif Zardari, he must have some proof.

Mr Shah said that the PPP had nominated Gen Musharraf in the case, as he had withdrawn Ms Bhutto’s security and all evidence pointed to his involvement in the case.

Senator Sherry Rehman, speaking to the media in Rawalpindi, said that if Gen Musharraf knew who the murderers of Benazir and Murtaza Bhutto were, why didn’t he speak up when the UN Commission came to Pakistan for an inquiry?

“Why did Musharraf’s own people try to wash away evidence and cover up the crime? Who was involved in this conspiracy? These questions are very serious and should not be forgotten,” Ms Rehman said.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2017