UN begins probe into Bhutto killing

ISLAMABAD: A UN commission appointed to investigate the assassination of Pakistan’s former prime minister Benazir Bhutto began work today, despite scepticism that the probe will lead to convictions.

The panel has a six-month mandate and is led by the Chilean ambassador to the United Nations, Heraldo Munoz. It includes an Indonesian ex-attorney general and an Irish former police official.

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.

“The six-month mandate of the Benazir Bhutto

commission of inquiry has begun today. The commission is expected to visit

Pakistan but the dates are not determined yet,” Hiro Ueki, a UN spokesman in Pakistan, told AFP.

The United Nations says the panel will inquire into the facts and circumstances of the assassination, but makes clear it will be up to Pakistan to determine “the criminal responsibility of the perpetrators.”

Pakistan called for a United Nations inquiry after Bhutto’s party won a general election two months after her death, with Bhutto supporters angered by conflicting accounts of how she died and who was responsible.

They cast doubt on a Pakistani probe into her death, criticised authorities for hosing down the scene of the attack within minutes – allegedly destroying evidence – and questioning whether she was killed by a gunshot or the blast.

Then president Pervez Musharraf and the US Central Intelligence Agency blamed Baitullah Mehsud, an Al-Qaeda-linked warlord based in Pakistan’s tribal region bordering Afghanistan, for masterminding the killing.

Bhutto, a two-time prime minister, said in her autobiography she had been warned that four suicide squads – one sent by Mehsud and another by a son of Osama bin Laden – were after her.

She also repeatedly accused a cabal of senior intelligence and government officials of plotting to kill her, notably in an attack that killed 139 people in Karachi on October 18, 2007 when she returned from exile.British detectives said Bhutto was killed by the force of a suicide bomb and not gunfire, backing the Pakistani government’s controversial account.