Pakistan promises deeper investigation of Bhutto assassination

A more intensive Pakistani government investigation into the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto will follow a new United Nations report that harshly criticizes Pervez Musharraf’s regime for failing to prevent or effectively examine her death, authorities said Friday.

Farhatullah Babar, spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower, said the government would renew its efforts to determine “negligence or complicity in the conspiracy” to kill Bhutto. She died Dec. 27, 2007, in a gun and suicide bomb attack as she was leaving a rally in Rawalpindi.

The U.N. report, released Thursday in New York, takes special aim at Pakistan’s powerful intelligence community, which the special investigative panel said impeded its work. Bhutto had returned to Pakistan several weeks earlier after eight years in self-imposed exile.

Bhutto’s assassination devastated her supporters, who had hoped she would bring an end to Musharraf’s authoritarian rule and restore a true civilian-run democracy. Musharraf came to power in a military coup in 1999 and renounced his military post only a month before Bhutto’s death. Though the report does not attempt to reveal the plot’s masterminds, it lays bare a litany of security lapses.

The report also cites investigative failures by police, calling them “deliberate.” Investigators did not vigorously pursue the case, the report says, because they feared Pakistani intelligence was somehow involved.

As an example, the report cites Rawalpindi Police Chief Saud Aziz’s decision to have the crime scene hosed down less than two hours after the blast, washing away crucial evidence. U.N. investigators said a source told them Aziz was told to do so by a top intelligence official.

The report voices skepticism about the Musharraf regime’s assertion that Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mahsud was solely responsible for the plot. It also urges authorities to investigate whether anyone in the country’s intelligence community played a role in the assassination.