KARACHI: Former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf has been indicted along with the militants from al Qaeda and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), as the federal government on Tuesday briefed lawmakers in the Sindh Assembly about the findings of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the assassination of the country’s twice-elected prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Also named were the “elements of Establishment”, local jihadi groups, some police officials and the “forces” who, the federal government said, felt threatened by the democratic leader, who returned to Pakistan in 2007 despite being warned by her well-wishers, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.A video clip played in the assembly showed that all of the suicide bombers, aging from 12 to 15 years, were being trained by “Qari Hussain Masood” in Kotaki area of South Waziristan. They were all Pakistanis and were registered with NADRA, the JIT report said adding that some of the bombers, shown offering prayers wearing Sindhi caps, were influenced by the “Lashkar-e-Jhangvi”.
The provincial legislators were told that five of the accused of Benazir’s murder were students of the Jamia Darul Uloom Haqqania, a seminary run by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-S leader Maulana Samiul Haq in Akora Khattak, a town of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Musharraf, Baitullah Mehsud, Maulvi Faqueer Muhammad, Maulvi Fazlullah, Rawalpindi City Police Officer Saud Aziz, SSP Khurram Shehzad Haider, Ibadur Rehman, Saeedur Rehman, Muhammad Rafaqat, Husnain Gul, Sher Zaman, Aitzaz Shah, Rasheed Ahmed alias Turabi, Nadir Khan, Abdullah Saddam, Faiz Muhammad, Saeed Bilal, Ikramullah, Nasrullah, Abdul Rehman and a mysterious “Maulvi Sahab” have either been killed or are being absconders in Benazir’s murder case.
Of the above accused, Rafaqat, Husnain, Zaman, Aitzaz and Rasheed Ahmed are presently confined in the Central Prison of Adiyala and facing a trial in an anti-terrorism court. The two police officers, Aziz and Khurram, are on bail, while former army chief Musharraf was declared a “proclaimed offender” by the trial court.“Five of the accused were students of Jamia Haqqania. I don’t say Maulana Samiul Haque is involved, but I would request all religious leaders running seminaries to ensure such incidents don’t recur,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik said during, as Law Minister Ayaz Soomro called it, a “special meeting” of the Sindh Assembly on Tuesday.
With Sindh’s lawmakers demanding an investigation and arrest of all military and police officers suspected or involved in the murder of Benazir, the interior minister said Musharraf and militants led by Baitullah Mehsud eliminated the PPP leader from the political scene considering her a threat.“Musharraf, in the presence of Mark Siegel, had threatened Benazir that if you come to Pakistan before elections you would be responsible for the consequences,” the interior minister said. “I would not be responsible for your security,” Malik quoted then president Musharraf as warning Benazir.
Musharraf had been challaned in the BB’s murder case for “deliberately” denying VVIP security to Benazir, assisting terrorists to carry out a successful attack despite repeated requests for Benazir’s security, threatening Benazir not to come to Pakistan before elections, linking her security to the state of their mutual relationship and ordering a press conference (of Brigadier (r) Cheema) that prejudiced and hampered the investigation of the case.The self-exiled former president (Musharraf), Malik said, would be arrested and brought back to the country through Interpol anytime soon.
The interior minister said Benazir was also on the hit-list of the militants for her post-return statement that no state within a state could be tolerated.
“The conspiracy (to kill Benazir) was hatched by Baitullah Mehsud from Makeen. We knew that but could not previously declare this for want of solid proof that we have in hand now and are based on forensic methods of investigation,” the interior minister said.The interior minister dispelled the impression that Benazir Bhutto had ever endorsed the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).
In fact, she had been constantly demanding the formation of a “truth commission”, he said.Khalid Qureshi, the JIT head, told the House that then Punjab government’s measures like the washing of the crime scene, failure of the police to carry out post-mortem and press conference of Brigadier (r) Cheema had created a lot of doubts and controversies.
Further, Qureshi said the year 2007 was when the menace of terrorism was on its peak after the formation of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in December 2004 when 27 militant groups from seven tribal agencies and 24 districts of KP had reorganised under the umbrella of TTP. “Some 500 percent increase was seen in terrorist attacks during 2007 after the terrorists reorganised,” he said.
He said the suicide bombers had used a new method called Mechanical Triggering Mechanism in the Liaquat Park attack. In this method, Qureshi said, the “strikers’ sleeves” and not the remote control was used to explode the bomber.While the investigators and present government were blaming the Musharraf-led government for providing inadequate security to the PPP leader, one of the slides in the presentation read that the government had on “security grounds” turned down in November 2007 the PPP’s request for holding a public meeting at Liaquat Bagh.
Marvi Rashdi of the PML-F asked Malik to explain his then responsibilities as well as why the PPP was currently sharing the government with the people (PML-Q) then ruling Punjab.“My duty was to coordinate between the government and Benazir and I was not responsible for her physical security,” he replied. The interior minister, however, ducked the second query of PML-F legislator.
The PPP-led coalition government seems to have decided to wind up the chapter of Benazir’s murder case as the interior minister told reporters at Sindh Chief Minister House that: “With regard to hold an enquiry on Benazir’s assassination, necessary enquiry has been completed and all elements and persons, who were involved in the conspiracy, have been exposed.” Concluding the presentation, JIT head Qureshi told the House that the next hearing of the trial court was due on February 25 and that the case was expected to be decided “very soon”.