KARACHI: A decade after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf has suggested that people in the establishment could have been involved in her murder.
The startling statement from a former Pakistani head of state came during his interview to BBC.
Asked whether rogue elements within the establishment could have been in touch with the Taliban about the killing, General Pervez Musharraf replied: “Possibility. Yes indeed. Because the society is polarised on religious lines.”
And, he said, those elements could have had a bearing on her death.
Asked whether he had any specific information about rogue elements in the state being involved in the assassination, he said: “I don’t have any facts available. But my assessment is very accurate I think… A lady who is in known to be inclined towards the West is seen suspiciously by those elements.”
Musharraf has himself been charged with murder, criminal conspiracy for murder and facilitation for murder in relation to the Bhutto case. Prosecutors say that he phoned Benazir Bhutto in Washington on 25 September, three weeks before she ended eight years in self-imposed exile.
Long-serving Bhutto aid Mark Seighal and journalist Ron Suskind both say they were with Bhutto when the call came in. According to Seighal, immediately after the call Bhutto said: “He threatened me. He told me not to come back. He warned me not to come back.
Musharraf said he would not be responsible for what would happen to Bhutto if she returned, Seighal told the BBC. “And he said that her safety, her security was a function of her relationship with him.”
Musharraf strongly denies making the call and dismisses the idea that he would have ordered her murder. “Honestly I laugh at it,” he recently told the BBC. “Why would I kill her?”
The legal proceedings against Musharraf have stalled because he is in self-imposed exile in Dubai.
The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in its judgment on August 31 had declared Musharraf an absconder in the assassination case and acquitted five alleged operatives of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul, Sher Zaman, Aitzaz Shah and Abdul Rashid — due to lack of evidence.
The court also ordered confiscation of Musharraf’s properties. Two police officers were jailed for 17 years each for negligence in Bhutto’s security.
Benazir Bhutto’s son Bilawal Bhutto has rejected his denials out of hand.
“Musharraf exploited this entire situation to assassinate my mother,” he said. “He purposely sabotaged her security so that she would be assassinated and taken off the scene.” – Samaa