A UN commission probing the assasination of Pakistan's ex-PM Benazir Bhutto made its first visit to the country Thursday. Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack during an election rally in December 2007.
AFP - The UN commission probing the assassination of Pakistani former prime minister Benazir Bhutto began Thursday its first working visit to Islamabad, the United Nations said.
Bhutto, the first woman to become prime minister of a Muslim country, was killed in late December 2007 in a gun and suicide attack after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near the capital Islamabad.
The three-member UN panel has a six-month mandate from July 1, but faces scepticism that its inquiry will lead to convictions by Pakistani authorities.
Headed by the Chilean ambassador to the United Nations, Heraldo Munoz, it includes an Indonesian ex-attorney general and an Irish former police official.
During the visit, they are scheduled to meet Bhutto's widower -- Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari -- and other senior officials.
Supported by experienced staff based in Pakistan, the commission will submit a report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by end-December. The report will be shared with the Pakistani government and the UN Security Council.
The United Nations says the panel will inquire into the facts and circumstances of the assassination, but stresses that any criminal investigation is Pakistan's responsibility.
"The staff, working under direction of the commissioners, will gather information, collate relevant material and conduct interviews," said a UN statement released on Thursday.
The Zardari government called for a UN inquiry after Bhutto's party won a general election two months after her death, with her supporters angered by conflicting accounts of how she died and who was responsible.
They cast doubt on a Pakistani probe into her death, criticised authorities for hosing down the scene of the attack within minutes -- allegedly destroying evidence -- and questioning whether she was killed by a gunshot or the blast.
Then president Pervez Musharraf and the US Central Intelligence Agency blamed Baitullah Mehsud, an Al-Qaeda-linked warlord based in Pakistan's tribal region bordering Afghanistan, for masterminding the killing.
Bhutto, the first of whose two stints as prime minister began in 1988, wrote in her autobiography of warnings that four suicide squads -- including one sent by Mehsud and another by a son of Osama bin Laden -- were after her.
She also repeatedly accused a cabal of senior Pakistani intelligence and government officials of plotting to kill her, notably in an attack that killed 139 people in Karachi on October 18, 2007 when she returned from exile.
Munoz, the head of the UN commission, is joined on the panel by Indonesia's Marzuki Darusman and Ireland's Peter Fitzgerald.
Date created : 2009-07-16