The Pakistani government has formally asked Interpol to issue an arrest warrant for former military dictator and president Pervez Musharraf over the assassination of ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Sunday that he had "requested the Interpol for the arrest of Pervez Musharraf."
Pervez Musharraf has been living in self-imposed exile in Dubai and London since 2008 after being removed from his office as president.
In November last year, Pakistan's ex-chief of army staff promised to return to Pakistan to campaign for upcoming general elections due in early 2013. However, he later postponed his homecoming for an indefinite time.
Pakistani courts have already issued arrest warrants for Musharraf over the 2006 murder of Akbar Bugti, a Baluch separatist leader in the south-western Baluchistan province of Pakistan, and the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, whose widower Asif Ali Zardari currently heads the Pakistan People's Party-led government in Pakistan.
The Pakistani government accuses Musharraf of not providing adequate security to Bhutto on her return to Pakistan in October 2007 from a decade-long self-imposed exile. Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack on December 27, 2007 during a public rally in Rawalpindi. A United Nations' inquiry report also pointed out at the lack of security for Bhutto and raised questions about the role of intelligence agencies in her murder.
Was Musharraf involved?
A journalist who works for the Pakistani daily Dawn, Kamran Shafi, told Deutsche Welle from Islamabad that before her death Bhutto had named several people who she said should be held responsible if she was killed on her return.
"Benazir Bhutto had sent emails and messages to her friends in the West, including Wolf Blitzer of the CNN, telling them that if anything happened to her, Musharraf should be held responsible," said Shafi. Shafi also believed Bhutto was not given enough protection, which she was entitled to as former prime minister of the country.
"The place where she was assassinated was hosed down soon after the attack. On the other hand, when the Pakistan Army or the ISI are attacked, they close off the roads to collect evidence, which of course is a proper way of doing things," said Shafi. He said all these things raised suspicions about Musharraf.
But is seeking help from Interpol the best way of bringing Musharraf back to Pakistan?
Pakistani political and security analyst Ayesha Siddiqa told Deutsche Welle that contacting Interpol was the only method that had been used in the past to get suspects and criminals arrested from foreign countries.
"Besides Interpol, the government can also approach the governments of Britain and the UAE for Musharraf's extradition," said Siddiqa. She, however, added that one needed to look at the extradition treaties between Pakistan and these countries to seek Musharraf's arrest.
According to Shafi, the Pakistani government could also confiscate Musharraf's property in Pakistan. "I hope he will come back for that, which is not very likely," said Shafi.
The Taliban connection
The then government of Pervez Musharraf held Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud responsible for Benazir Bhutto's murder. Even in his recent interviews, Musharraf rebuffed the allegations that he was responsible for Bhutto's death, saying it was extremist Taliban militants who had been after Bhutto. The incumbent government has not denied Taliban's involvement in the murder.
"Musharraf was in power at that time," said Siddiqa, "It may still be Baitullah Mehsud, but who gave the orders? Why was all the evidence removed? These matters are part of the report of the UN commission as well. So, definitely, Musharraf was involved in it."
But political commentators say Musharraf's return to Pakistan could be as dangerous for him as it was for Bhutto, as the former president is extremely unpopular with Pakistan's Islamists. Musharraf has also said he has received death threats from al Qaeda and the Taliban. Musharraf was attacked several times by Islamists during his presidency after he pledged support to the "War on Terror" in 2001.
Pakistan's opposition parties claim the PPP government is using Bhutto's murder case to gain political mileage and to appease its supporters in next elections who want Bhutto's murderers to be brought to justice. However, Shafi disagreed with this perception, stating that the Zardari-led government was pretty much under control of things in Pakistan.
"The party's supporters have remained loyal to President Zardari. I don't think he needs this sort of thing to increase his support. There are other things for him to worry about in relation to the tensions with the army, the ISI," said Shafi.
Political analysts in Pakistan say the chances for the PPP to win next parliamentary elections are meager but they could improve if the rulers somehow manage to at least get Musharraf arrested.
Author: Shamil Shams
Editor: Sarah Berning