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Asia

Bhutto's murder still a mystery after three years

The murder mystery of Pakistan's former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has taken a new turn as recently arrested police officials have disclosed the names of the ISI officials who could be connected to her assassination.

Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi three years ago during a public rally

Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi three years ago during a public rally

Pakistan's former prime minister and leader of the country's largest political party Benazir Bhutto was killed three years ago on December 27th, 2007, in a suicide attack during an election rally in Rawalpindi. After her death, her Pakistan People's Party won the elections, and her widowed husband Asif Ali Zardari eventually became the president of Pakistan. However, more than two years after the PPP came into power, there hasn't been much progress on Benazir Bhutto's murder case, which is still shrouded in mystery.

President Zardari and Premier Gilani of the PPP have been in power for more than two years

President Zardari and Premier Gilani of the PPP have been in power for more than two years

"Wider parameters"

Veteran politician and PPP senator Taj Haider refutes the allegations that the government has not done much to uncover Bhutto's murderers.

"It was a very big controversy that resulted in Benazir's murder. We want to be on the right track, and we want to conduct the investigation on scientific lines. In the first place we involved the United Nations so that the wider parameters of the conspiracy behind her murder would be determined. Within those parameters, the UN has pointed to certain directions, and now we are proceeding in that direction," Haider told Deutsche Welle.

The recent arrest of two ex-police officials of the Rawalpindi Police, Saud Aziz and Khurram Shehzad, who were responsible for the security of Bhutto, is being hailed by the government as a great success. According to the public prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar, the two ex-cops have disclosed the names of four or five high-ranking army officials belonging to Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), with whom they claim to have contact.

But political analysts doubt whether the government could do anything against the omnipotent ISI.

"The civilian government is completely powerless when it comes to the army and the ISI, as we have seen so many times before. There is a huge cover-up, there is a lot that doesn't meet the eye," said journalist Kamran Shafi of Pakistan's leading English daily Dawn in an interview with Deutsche Welle.

Supporters of Bhutto burn a police vehicle and a bus after Bhutto's murder

Supporters of Bhutto burn a police vehicle and a bus after Bhutto's murder

The ISI 'connection'

Taj Haider maintains the government is capable of bringing the culprits to justice irrespective of their institutional links. He does not blame the ISI as an institution.

"There are intelligence agencies within intelligence agencies, and there are parallel intelligence agencies as well. Some retired ISI officers have made their own setups, and through these setups they are still propagating the same ideology of religious extremism that resulted in Benazir Bhutto's death."

A United Nations commission, set up to investigate Bhutto's murder on the request of the PPP government, revealed in its detailed report earlier this year that the security arrangements for Bhutto were seriously inadequate, and that some security agencies tried to hinder the initial investigations. Although the government considers the UN report to be an extremely important document, critics believe the government has not yet implemented the commission's recommendations.

Musharraf's 'questionnaire'

Pervez Musharraf was the president at the time of Bhutto's murder

Pervez Musharraf was the president at the time of Bhutto's murder

Another aspect of the case is the role of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. The government is under immense pressure to bring Musharraf back to Pakistan from England, where he is living in self-imposed exile. But Kamran Shafi does not see that happen any time soon.

"All we know so far is that the government has sent him a questionnaire. This is the second time we are hearing that. Musharraf said he never received such a questionnaire. But the actual point is that he was the president and the military dictator at that time. He may not be involved personally in ordering the assassination, but certainly the responsibility rests on his shoulders," said Shafi.

The government has planned several functions to commemorate the third death anniversary of its 'martyred' leader on December 27. But this might not be enough to satisfy the party workers as well as the government's critics.

Author: Shamil Shams

Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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