KARACHI: Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Tuesday informed members of the Sindh Assembly that soon former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf would be brought back to the country to face trial in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case, following issuance of red warrants by the trial court to Interpol.
He also said that former Sindh chief minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim, whenever he returned to Pakistan, would be questioned about his remarks reported in a section of the press on the eve of arrival of Benazir Bhutto on Oct 18, 2007, from her exile. Dr Rahim had reportedly said that “during the day they will beat drums, but after sunset they will cry when lights will be switched off”.
The interior minister, in compliance with a resolution of the Sindh Assembly asking him to make public the findings of investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, in his three-hour briefing narrated details of the former premier’s assassination. He also explained delays in the completion of the inquiries.
There were no lapses on the part of the government as forensic investigation took time, Mr Malik said, and provided details and identified persons involved in the assassination, including planners, supporters, financers, associates and implementers who had been arrested and would be tried.
Probing questions were asked by some lawmakers, including Jam Saifullah Dharejo, Ghulam Mujadid Isran, Rafique Engineer, Agha Siraj Durrani, Sassui Palejo, Marvi Rashdi and Nusrat Seher Abbasi.
Briefing the legislators with the help of video clips, chief of the Joint Investigation Team Khalid Qureshi and Inspector General of the Islamabad Police Bin Yamin said Benazir Bhutto’s assassination plan was prepared by Al Qaeda leader Abu Obaid Al-Misri and was executed by Baitullah Mehsud through the Haqqani network, and Rs400,000 was provided for it. The suicide blast was carried out by Saeed alias Bilal.
Before her murder, five attempts had been made on the life of Benazir Bhutto, including one by Ramzi Yusuf in 1993 before the general election.
He said 16 persons were behind the gun attack and bomb blast of Dec 27. The conspiracy was hatched in the room of Anwar Shah in the hostel of the Akora Khattak Madressah. After addressing a public meeting, as she was driven out of the venue, a crowd gathered on the road and when she raised her head through the roof of the car to respond to the slogans of the crowd, Saeed alias Bilal fired three gunshots at her before blowing himself up. She was rushed to hospital, where she died.
Mr Malik said suspect Aitzaz Shah was arrested the next day by tracing his phone calls. He said the focal person of the conspiracy, Nasrullah, was killed. Abdullah alias Saddam, Nadir alias Qari Ismail and others were killed in drone attacks. Arrested Aitzaz Shah, Rafaqat, Rashid Ahmad alias Abdul Rahim Turabi and Sherzaman had recorded confessional statements before a magistrate.
He said so far 16 persons had been nominated in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto case. Five of them were arrested, six killed, and three were still at large.
The interior minister said the relevant police official who did not have a post-mortem carried out was arrested as the absence of an autopsy was a major lacuna in the investigations. In reply to a question, he said the crime of Gen Musharraf in the case was his failure to provide necessary security to the two-time elected prime minister despite knowing that Benazir Bhutto was under threat from terrorists.
He said a number of notices had been served on Gen Musharraf through the high commission in London and now the court would issue red warrants to Interpol to seek his deportation and return to Pakistan.
In reply to another question, the interior minister said Ms Bhutto was informed by President Karzai, a representative of another Muslim country and then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice that her life was under threat, but none of them was willing to record their statements in the case.
He said there was no role of Benazir Bhutto in the National Reconciliation Order, nor had she approved its draft as she was in favour of setting up of a truth commission. After her meeting with Gen Musharraf in Dubai, she had told him that Gen Musharraf was not going to honour his commitment.
In reply to another question, the interior minister said if the reports of Gen Asad Durrani and the diary of Younus Habib were opened, one could have an idea as to who were involved in the conspiracy.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, who also attended the briefing, recalled eyewitness accounts of the Karsaz tragedy of Oct 18, 2007 and said that despite their best efforts, including court orders, an FIR of the Karsaz twin bomb blasts was not registered by the Bahadurabad police station, its officials saying that an FIR had been registered on the complaint of a police inspector. Benazir Bhutto had escaped in the Karsaz blasts, but 170 party workers and sympathisers were killed.
He said the FIR was registered without consulting PPP workers who were on board the truck that carried the former prime minister.
Mr Shah also said that on the eve of arrival of Ms Bhutto, when letters were written for making security arrangements, the then home secretary had committed that he would make all security arrangement, saying that it was the responsibility of the government. But she was provided no security.
Speaker Nisar Ahmad Khuhro, conducting the meeting from his seat in the assembly hall, the place of the briefing, after the session was prorogued, tried to calm the members who wanted to ask questions. He said whatever material had been collected so far by the investigation team of the interior department had been laid before them in which the names of the people killed were mentioned. He remarked the meeting was not a court of law to decide the case.
Later, after a meeting with Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Rehman Malik said necessary investigations had been carried out in the assassination of Ms Bhutto and all elements involved in the conspiracy had been unmasked.
He said it was a demand of party workers, elected representatives and the public that the inquiry report be made public, and the government had fulfilled its commitment.
Mr Malik said Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah had constituted a committee which would investigate the incident of the Oct 18, 2007, and the committee would submit its report within four weeks.