- Ban Ki-moon - Benazir Bhutto - investigation - Pakistan - UNO
AFP - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pledged Wednesday during a visit to Islamabad to set up a commission to investigate the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Ban made the announcement at a banquet hosted by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto's widower, during his first visit to the south Asian Muslim nuclear power since taking office two years ago.
"I intend to establish very shortly an independent commission of inquiry headed by a very distinguished person, whom I'm going to nominate in a very short period of time," he said in comments broadcast by Pakistani television.
Pakistan had long asked the United Nations to establish a commission to probe the assassination of Bhutto, a two-time prime minister who was killed at a campaign rally.
"I have been in consultation with the government of Pakistan on its request for the establishment of a commission of inquiry on the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto," Ban said.
"This is a crime that shocked and offended the world, and I know this is a matter of great importance to the government and people of Pakistan," he added.
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 Pakistani government and US officials accused tribal warlord Baitullah Mehsud of plotting the attack, although he denies the charge.
"We hope that the three-member commission would soon commence its operations," Zardari told the banquet.
"People of Pakistan hope that this commission will determine the facts and circumstances of the assassination of former prime minister of Pakistan and my wife.
"We believe that the commission's findings will lead to exposing financers, organisers, sponsors and conspirators of this terrorist act, and bring them to justice," he added.
In December, a spokesman for Ban said the UN leader hoped a commission could be established soon but further consultation with Pakistan was needed to examine its structure, "including its scope and mandate".
Ban's visit came two days after gunmen kidnapped a UN official in Pakistan and as the country faces rampant unrest in the border areas, with Taliban rebels temporarily disrupting a crucial NATO supply route into Afghanistan and government forces engaged in bloody fighting in the northwest Swat valley.
The UN chief urged Pakistan to do everything in its power to recover John Solecki, the American head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in the city of Quetta who was snatched at gunpoint on Monday in an ambush that left his driver dead.
"I sincerely hope the Pakistan government will spare no effort to get Mr Solecki's release," he told a news conference and expressed his deepest condolences to the family of the UN Pakistani driver who was killed.
Pakistan condemned the "dastardly terrorist act" and launched a manhunt and offered a reward of one million rupees (12,610 dollars) for information leading to his rescue but officials say they have no idea who was responsible.
Criminal gangs, rebels and Islamist militants are known to operate in the southwest Baluchistan province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan.